Music producer Karan Kanchan talks working with DIVINE, Naezy - "More than great rappers they are first great human beings."

Desi hip-hop is at an all-time high at the moment. Post Gully Boy, the once niche genre blew up all across the world and one of the catalysts behind the movement, DIVINE formed the Gully Gang to take it a notch higher. But, how can be one part of GG?

Trap and bass producer, Karan Kanchan tells how he ended up working with the best of the best in the business and explains multiple ways of being a part of the Desi hip-hop universe beyond rapping!

Hey Karan! We finally caught up for a conversation! How is it going and what have you been up to lately?

Yo Sid! Super glad to be a part of this. Thanks for doing a producer edition of OnRecord, which means a lot!

For the past few months, I have been really occupied in and around music. I have been writing a lot of songs with some of the best rappers in the game, thanks to GullyGang! 

September was a month full of 6 releases that I was involved in: 

I am also producing a new EP for the talented young boys of Bombay, Aavrutti, which is gonna be out this year. It’s really a great experience to work with such a group who individually have very different sounds and styles, but when they come together straight up sounds huge!

In the meanwhile, I have been making a lot of beat ideas lately, also a lot of J-Trap ideas waiting to be finished!

How was it touring with Naezy in Australia?

The Australia Tour with Naezy was unbelievable. Still not able to digest the fact I was able to go abroad because of my music! Never imagined the song that I made on a broken setup in my college hostel in Pune will one day be performed in cities like Melbourne and Sydney! Each moment of the trip is bright in my memory!

I made “Aane De” in October of 2017 when hip-hop was catching up the buzz and Gully Boy was being shot! I still remember when I came to know about this track featuring on Gully Boy just 2 weeks before the release!

Before we begin, there’s something we’re pretty curious about; almost all artists have a stage name but you go around with your real name! Is there any reason behind it?

My mom always knew I’d be a producer so she kept my stage name ready… lol jk!

Just like all EDM artists I also started off with an alias, funny names. I have had three aliases from when I started one being a duo. Under all of them, I was trying to be someone else in terms of the music. 

Everything changed for me when I went to my first concert – Mad Decent Block Party in 2015. The lineup featured Girrafage, Big Gigantic, Gorgon City and the legends Major Lazer. On the train ride back home I had the realization about what I have been doing, was to try being someone else in terms of the sound. All the artists on that stage had a very specific sound that defined their music. 

Then I decided to spend my entire year of 2016 to firstly, perfect my software skills, also at the same time I started to hunt for my sound. I tried more than 15-20 genres that year. That helped me improve my skills in production overall and also made my sound library pretty vast.

Towards the end of 2016 I was also listening to a lot of Japanese classical music and at the same time had a very specific interest in trap and bass sound designing. I tried to put those two things together and then did my research. Luckily, I was also learning about visual communication in my college which helped put in place the whole branding behind the J-Trap thing.

When it came down to the name I couldn’t think of anything better than my own name as I wanted my sound to define me rather than some alias name of me trying to be someone else. Plus, Karan Kanchan more like Karan-Kan-Chan haha!

We love your latest releases with DIVINE and Naezy! How is working as a producer with the pioneers of Desi hip-hop? 

In one word – Blessing. There is so much experience and knowledge that DIVINE and Naezy have being a part of this scene for so long and changing their passions into a movement! Being able to witness and be a part of a musical evolution of this country is more than a blessing. I am really grateful to be able to contribute my art to hip-hop in India.

More than great rappers they are first great human beings, the vibe around them is so positive and provide a comfortable artistic zone. There is no forced creativity involved, everything has space for discussion and improvement and experimentation.

We saw a couple of stories on your Instagram about you co-arranging and doing additional production on some of the most popular desi hip-hop tracks at the moment. Can you please help us understand what this exactly means? 

A music producer’s job is to get all the elements for a song in place in the right way. Usually, a lot of the big producers have arrangers under them who do the work of arranging the track elements. I work alone as a music producer, I arrange my music myself, so I have an idea about doing both at a fast pace.

Sometimes when artists have completed a track but get stuck and aren’t sure about it sounding finished, they like to get a co-composer to do some additional programming. My job as an additional producer is to take the track higher than where it already was. This can also involve taking out some of the already existing elements to make it sound right rather than an overproduced track.

Most of the time I have been got on board as an additional programmer for drums and bass elements of the track and overall percussion rhythms and small melodic fills that add a lot to the track. Some of the tracks that I have co-arranged /additionally produced are Raftaar’s “Main Wahi Hoon,” “Yeah Yeah Yeah” by Shah Rule, Naezy’s “Fatke” name a few.

How did you end up with the Gully Gang? If someone wants to be a part of the crew, what do they need to have in them? 

I had made a hip-hop beat in 2016, which had a very Indian vibe to it. It wasn’t specifically hip-hop, as it was my first go at it. But had a really different groove to it. This was around the time when Spindoctor, an old friend of mine, had just started DJing for Gully Gang. I played this beat to Spin and it stuck to his head, he told me he will try sending it to DIVINE and he actually replied saying that he likes it and would want some changes on it. But later he got busy with his releases and I didn’t get a chance to be in touch. 

Later I sent the same beat to Naezy through DJ Proof and Naezy liked that beat too. But he first wanted to work on a new beat which ended up being “Aane De.” But surprisingly, it was one of my J-Trap tracks that turned out to be the reason I got a chance to work with DIVINE!

I usually send out promos to the music people around the trap and bass and electronic zone when I release a new track. During //The Machine// promos almost a year ago, I came across DIVINE’s email ID and I was like, “he probably wouldn’t even see this” and laughed it out but still, I sent it. Six hours later I got a DM from him on Instagram saying, “yo my g send me some beats.”

That was the start, made some beats back and forth, then he got me on board for the Red Bull BC One Anthem and the Puma cricket World Cup anthem, “Sock Them.” When these projects were going on he invited me to be a part of Gully Gang as a record producer.

I think if someone wants to be a part of Gully Gang, they need to keep doing their art giving their best and being real about it. If the vibe and the quality of work matches, you will be invited by them! As simple as that.

Is rapping the only way one can be the part of the Desi hip-hop universe? What are your thoughts on this? 

There is so much more to hip-hop than just rapping and even beat making. Hip-hop has a lot more elements as graffiti, DJing, B-boying , beatboxing and more new forms to express oneself! Music production is just one part of the hip-hop movement. 

Finally, Producers in India are getting some recognition because of the rappers being open to grow the culture by crediting every artist involved in creating a piece of art. Desi hip-hop scene is actually better as internationally a lot of beat producers are not given credits on the track or track description, so they have to be dependent on the beat tag. Unlike in India, where most of all the tracks have credits to the producers.

Apart from all this, you dropped “//Black Belt//” too! Talk to us through the production and inspiration behind this one?

“//Black Belt//” is my new single featuring a Jamaican artist I met online and have been wanting to work with for a while, VinDon. This track is the one I’ve spent the most time on because I really wanted to improve my overall production quality and it draws inspiration from Dojo, a place used for practicing martial arts, hence the name.

I also wanted to improve the way to put out music rather than just stream audio, so I also collaborated with a Mumbai based artist, Rugved Pawar (Noiz_x) for the visuals as I wanted to be able to present an overall content piece alongside putting out the track.

Since both these projects are poles apart, do you believe you’ve had to work harder since you’re juggling between the Gully Gang stuff and your independent music? How different is the creative/production process for both?

Well honestly, as a career stance, I want to be a successful Music producer and composer overall. Not specific to any genre. J – Trap is something I love to do what comes from my passion. It also helped me to describe my production skills and the ability to combine styles together.

As an artist with the same alias, that too my real name itself, it’s been a fight with myself about the branding of my artist profile. These projects might be poles apart but the tools used for both of them are literally the same.

The problem is that people have just seen my J-Trap and hip-hop songs. Until last year I was also involved in the ghost production of some Punjabi songs. Also, I have made a couple of pop tracks too. And my personal unreleased vault consists of house, jungle terror, metal/Djent trap, tapori trap, retro wave/ 80’s pop, moombahton, chill music and some weird experimental stuff too.

As a producer I’m able to pull my experience in all these styles and combine them as and when needed. I was able to learn and try out these styles when I was trying to find my sound and J -Trap made the most sense to me, so I went ahead with that as a passion project.

For the uninitiated, what is J-Trap?

J-Trap is basically a combination of Japanese classical sounds and Trap music. Trying to obtain a combination of Japanese wagakki instruments and drums and bass rhythms and synthesis from trap and dubstep music

I would not say that I was the first one to combine these sounds, as there are many tracks that have a Japanese influence in a trap rhythm but my motive was to explore this genre and in with more and more variations. If you check all of my tracks each track has a connecting link of the Japanese sounds to establish the feel. But each of my tracks has a different direction in terms of rhythm and overall composition and flow

What about Japanese culture that attracts you so much?

People usually mistake me for being inspired through anime but it’s not true. I haven’t watched much anime at all. For me. the link came out via Japanese classical music that I found out online while surfing randomly. I have always been inspired by Japanese technology, Japanese cars (Skyline GTR particularly), Japanese infrastructure and their culture overall.

What motivated you to take up music production and that too genre, which is not commercial in nature?

As I mentioned above, for me, music was an accident. It came to me out of curiosity. A start I would have been someone trying to be someone else. But I had the realization about it at the right time, that’s when I started working on my sound. Honestly, I don’t mind making commercial stuff, but I really want to present myself a sound that keeps evolving, as the definition of commercial never stays the same either. I want people to say, oh that sounds like a Karan Kanchan track.

What did you learn most about yourself and industry while working independently as an artist?

There is so much I have learned about life, most importantly being myself. The main principle I have followed is to let the music do the talking. You shouldn’t need to explain your music to people. Ever since I started my 2017 project as Karan Kanchan with the J-Trap branding, I have had the opportunity to spend time with legends like Apache Indian and I am blessed that it was possible. 

I learned so much about being a good human first then a good musician as anyone can be trained to be a good musician with years of practice but being a good person comes from within. 

If you could go back in time, what is one thing that you’d want to change about yourself or your career?

I believe in the butterfly effect and that everything happens for a specific reason. So, I wouldn’t actually want to change anything because if change can affect me or a thousand more people drastically (in a very good way or bad way) because of the butterfly effect. So I would love to keep it the same!

You’re an entrepreneur too, your venture Neck Wreck Crew is working towards bringing the best underground acts to the country! When you launched this concept, what was your original goal and vision?

Neckwreck started a year ago when I met like-minded people who shared the same love for dubstep and bass music as much as did. Gokul and Pratik from Quadscore and I as Karan Kanchan started this property with a vision to bring the headbanging community together.

Neckwreck didn’t start out as a property to make money honestly therefore I wouldn’t call it specifically an entrepreneurial venture. It came out of the need for bass music producers to get a platform where all the people who share the love for bass music come together and are served with a proper bass music experience.

All I saw was people complain about not having enough gigs like these featuring Indian artists since most bass producers would get to play this kind of music as an opening set for an international trap/bass artist.

Clubs in India didn’t specifically understand dubstep and bass music, we had to take the extra step in finding our own way to program it. Our motto was to give DJ sets to specifically bass music producers and not just DJs to create a platform where producers could look up to share their music in India to an audience that really understands it.

Most of the artists who have performed with us have played their debut shows with us, and that’s how we want it to be. When I did my first show, it wasn’t at all like this. If I am able to provide something like this to the producers of today, it definitely makes me happy!

How have you seen the scene evolve over the years?

We are living in the golden era for independent music artists right now, with the internet and streaming services made so simple, anyone can create and express their art all around the world and get paid for it. It wasn’t the same 6-7 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of information available about making and distributing and marketing music online. Even the audiences weren’t open to accepting new styles of music. It has definitely evolved over the years and honestly, it depends on one’s self to change something rather than crib about it. 

So many artists get discouraged while climbing the ladder, do you have any advice for the talented artists out there that are having trouble getting their sound heard?

This is something every artist has to face at the starting point (about getting the sound heard). Honestly, you have to share music with people with the same passion you are making it if you are dedicated enough.

A lot of people just make the music and then think the world is entitled to hear it, and just copy-pasting their links to everyone; that’s not how it works. I was in the same phase in 2014 but I understood my mistake and then in 2017, I started giving importance to conversation skills. Your first audience as music producers would always be your other music producer friends. I started to message about 50-60 people in a day and if you want someone to hear your music, you should also be open to hearing his/her tracks.

The way you make conversations is very important, you can’t expect favor from anyone. You need to be able to give something to get something. Slowly, the audience will start growing once they start liking your music. That’s how I got my music heard at the start.

About getting discouraged, I still get discouraged on the smallest things. But it is important to use it as a motivation rather than sitting in one place and blaming it on situations.

Ending this interview with your future plans and what can we expect from you in the coming few months?

A lot more music, of course, a sample pack on the way for the producers, producer meets which I started in Delhi – now time for Mumbai soon! More Neck Wreck gigs soon (also trying to get metal bands onboard), more J-Trap audio and visual content. A hip-hop EP, a lot more “Different Beats” and rest wherever this road leads me to! 

Stream your favorite Karan Kanchan and other Desi hip-hop songs only on JioSaavn!