Arjun Vagale - Leading by Example
Widely celebrated as one of the pioneers of techno in India, Arjun Vagale continues to steer the course of the country’s underground electronic movement. Known for his intense, driven and raw sound, Arjun is one of the most prolific artists to come out of Asia. His productions on labels like Planet Rhythm, Drumcode, Tronic, and his own ODD Recordings and AsymetriK, have had massive global reach. Receiving numerous awards and named one of “Asia’s finest underground music exports,” Arjun is an artist, DJ, producer, live act, label owner, radio show host, and all-round music entrepreneur.
When did you take up DJ'ing or producing as a career? At that time, what is it that you wanted from your career?
I started DJ’ing in 1995/96 and producing maybe early 2000. When I started DJ’ing it was purely as a hobby - I mean, there were just a handful of DJ’s in India at the time so when I started it was mostly playing house parties for friends.
But word quickly spread and I actually started making a little money playing ‘shows’ and even got my first residency at a small bar. Its only a few years later that I thought this could turn into a proper career. My goal from the very beginning was to make music, DJ’ing was just a conduit.
How long did you take to have your first single released?
To be honest, I probably produced maybe 40/50 tracks before I even thought of releasing music - like anything in life, practice is important, and even back then I was making a LOT of music, in various genres just to learn and understand the process. I think the first international release was in 2007 - naturally it was a huge deal at the time, as the “digital” age was just beginning, and having a release available worldwide was a big deal for us.
An equipment in your studio that you do not use as much in music production, but you can't part ways with it. And why?
I have Gear Guilt - so if there is something I don't use, I give it away to ILM Academy or find a better home for it. Pretty much everything I have gets used at some point. Less is more, and I tend to learn/use each piece of kit to its fullest capacity.
You have a well established studio that is equipped with the latest gear that many dream of. Your advice to counter the gap for those who are still producing from their bedroom studios?
A wise man once said “Its not the Gear, its the Ear” - You can do everything in the box, and honestly you don't really need any external gear at all. A computer and headphones is enough to make music nowadays. For me, my studio gear are like my toys, and I’m always excited to play with them. Its taken me many many years to be able to have a studio like I do now.
You released an Album last year, but you have been producing for over two decades. How did you decide it is time to put one out?
For any artist, their first album is a major milestone in their musical career, and I wanted mine to be special. I’ve written a bunch of albums in the past, but decided against releasing them - for some reason or the other - it didn't feel right at the time. But this one, just happened organically,
and everything fell into place without trying too hard. That made me realise, now is the right time.
What was the driving parameter in having Axis Release your album?
Well… Axis is the pinnacle for any techno artist worth their salt! With so much history behind the label and frankly Jeff’s artistic vision, it was a no brainer.
If the album was an emotion, what would it be and why?
There is a concept to the album, but just like any piece of art, it speaks differently to different people - so I'll let you decide.
Is there a Trend in the industry that you have identified post the pandemic that is positive for artists and industry?
I was hoping there would be more inclusion, but in truth, its back to where it was. Not much has changed.
If there was a program where you would have a protege or a student who will learn the craft under your direct tutelage for a year rather than spending months with a music school, would you welcome that initiative?
Yes, if I see something special in her/him, absolutely!
Five producers whose music you are currently playing a lot and suggest everyone follows and supports them.
An artist from your country who you believe will be a headline in music news for releases and performances?
All of the above! They are all exceptionally talented.
Even though this is your genre and forte, what kind of music do you listen to at home or during leisure, while on vacation or off from work?
I rarely listen to Techno at home - its mostly Jazz, old Rock albums, newer broken beat electronica, obscure experimental music - its a pretty wide space of sounds.
Lastly, this space is for you to pen down any message you have for those who will read this.
Just do your thing - believe in it and make magic happen. Your time and effort that went into this interview is as much respected as appreciated.