Interview w/ Rishi K
He’s the long haired, vegetarian, yoga-practicing, tree-hugger of house music. He loves prog-rock: Pink Floyd, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer. He played guitar in a heavy metal band called Behemoth and believes music is “a powerful tool for connecting ourselves with a higher vibration or a higher version of ourselves.” Traxsource takes a trip with Producer / DJ Rishi K.
Dance music has always been viewed in opposition to the world of rock –because it broke the rules of what an artist should be, of how a performance could be delivered and it valued the recording of its music over the live performance of it. However, it also has a long association with the hippie ideals and extended experimentation of progressive rock. Acid House and it’s genre-offspring were happy to pick up the torch of inclusiveness and tolerance from the hippies and the love of a cosmic jam is shared by both the rockers and the tech-heads. This sweet spot, the blend of electronic dance music with the experimentalism and musicalism of progressive rock, is where Rishi K finds himself at in 2014, although it took a while for him to reach this position. Prior to Rishi’s first rave attendance in Montreal in 1999, electronic music was anathema to him:
- Honestly, I hated electronic music for the longest time. I think I just found it corny and could not relate to it at all. When I was studying Economics at McGill University in Montreal in 1999 a friend of mine convinced me to go with him to a rave. I really did not think I would enjoy myself at all but I grudgingly agreed to go. Before I knew it I was having one of the most amazing experiences of my adult life. I could not believe how free and connected everyone at the party felt and I must admit it certainly felt like a spiritual awakening of sorts. I get emotional just remembering it. Since then I have always loved electronic music in all of its various forms.
Musicality – chords and melodies – have been a defining feature of Rishi’s style, and is where you can draw the most obvious line of influence from his Prog-Rock musical roots. Not for him the single atonal chord stab or the track that’s just a beat and a b-line. That initial transcendent dance floor experience of his first rave has filled his music with euphoric warmth and an uplifting musicality which have become his trademarks. As he says:
- I believe that music is a powerful tool for bringing people together and helping new ideas emerge. It is also a powerful tool for connecting ourselves with a higher vibration or a higher version of ourselves.
So there’s Rishi’s mission statement. It’s clearly working for him, his release schedule has made him one of the most prolific house artists around. Inevitably any conversation regarding Rishi K will eventually turn to the volume of releases. It’s something we all know about him – he releases a lot of music. But it’s quality stuff, not just churned out. How does he do it? Unsurprisingly, like perhaps 99% of electronic music producers, he starts with a beat:
- I think it just makes the most intuitive sense for me to start with a beat. First of all it is just a fun way to start a track, because there is no pressure to think melodically or musically as such. You can just focus on a fat beat and then later on try other musical things. I do use lots of samples, however, I try as much as possible to make them my own by using filters, SFX and lots of automisation. I always cut them up and mix and match them especially when using them for percussion. I just find that as a musician who wants to enjoy making tracks, samples really help me out with creative ideas and also I don’t have to worry so much about the sound design aspect since I think that is a whole universe that I am not quite ready to explore. I just use VST samplers.
So what exactly does Rishi have in his studio?
- My current studio setup is Ableton Live 8 (Because I did not like 9), with a Virus Polar, and Monitors. I still use mostly VST’s such as Nexus, Predator, FM8, Massive, and so on. I really like simple synths to be honest because I feel like I can manipulate them easily without being intimidated so for example, Sylenth is good like this as is predator. Something like Massive I think is awesome but has such a steep learning curve that I prefer to use simpler ones so I can focus on making music rather than learning how to make sounds. I do intend to learn more about sound design but I feel now is not quite the right time for me to focus on that.
A focus on the simpler synths? Using one of the most instant, direct DAWs? Sounds to me very much like a Producer who used to be a DJ:
- Yes I have been DJing longer than I have been producing actually. I just use USBs or CDs and generally focus on the track selection and order rather than SFX or any other special things. I like to keep the DJing faily simple. I think too much focus on DJing techniques and “The DJ” takes away from what a DJ is supposed to actually do. When there is too much focus on the DJ at a gig for example, people forget about the music, and each other, which I think are as important as or more important than the DJ. That is why I keep my approach to DJing as simple as possible. It is hard enough picking the right tracks, travelling all day, interacting with others, staying humble, etc. without having to think about what special SFX or tricks I will be pulling out of the bag. People, the music says it all.
And there seems to be a fitting place to finish, with a perfect encapsulation of exactly what Rishi K is about: “People, the music says it all.” He was preparing to become a yoga teacher but never completed his studies because “…I found that it didn’t quite resonate with my deepest truth. That music is my highest”.