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2011/06/13 / monteurhulot

INTERVIEW // Ranvir Bassi

English producer Ranvir Bassi has emerged in the past six months with a dizzying array of intriguing and somtimes difficult styles of electronic music, most recent on the still-evolving collection There are no maps to find me. We spoke with Bassi about ideas, using words.

Ranvir Bassi: I can’t judge what the album is. Maybe because I am too close to it…my process of music making/creativity has changed a fair bit from how I used to do it.

O(h): How did you start making music? What hardware/software did you use?

RB: Hardware.. PC, nothing else… and then some DJ software. No musical background really. Used it to make some strange remixes, that only I ever heard. Didn’t even use a MIDI keyboard back then.. I didn’t even know what MIDI was back then.

O(h): What was your first musical purchase?

RB: First album was – a ripped copy of Toxicity by System of a Down.. First musical equipment was probably my MicroKORG.

O(h): Do you use samples, or purely digital, synthesized sounds?

RB: I use digital sounds via MIDI or my synth. I don’t use samples.

O(h): Did you write and speak the words for “Not in a Zoo, in an Office, in New York?”
RB: Yes, all the lyrics are my own, but I never write them down. I put my microphone on, put the music on, and then on the spur of the moment, I say whatever comes too me. Totally unplanned. Another thing with me is, that I never do second takes with anything. If my singing or keyboard playing isn’t how I want it, first time, then that is my hard luck as I never do second takes.

O(h): What’s your favorite track of 2011 so far?

RB: My memory is selective but a recent track that I love is Lofticries by Purity Ring.

O(h): Do you have a favorite full-length album?

RB: The album which really stuck with me, at a certain point in my life was Parachutes by Coldplay. I was in California at the time, and it resonated.

O(h): I noticed that you’ve also done a fair amount of visual work in the past, and you’ve made videos for your tracks…do you think about your music in a visual way; do you build particular tracks around visual ideas?

RB:  I am very visual in a way, as when I get an idea, I hear or see what it would sound or look like before I’ve done it. My creative process for both visual and audio is exactly the same. It’s kind of like, whatever comes too me, from the universe, is whatever I am meant to make…creativity is my meditation.

O(h): There are a lot of references to places and spaces in your song titles, and you chose to name the album “There are no maps to find me” – do you associate your songs with particular places or kinds of spaces?

RB: This album.. is where I am at.. a bit lost. A bit forgotten. Missing old places, where I fell in and then out of love. Imagining where I’d like to be again, but kind of feeling, my sanity is beyond redemption. Kind of feeling like, I am on my last chapter of something. Maybe I can see the first trickles of the new dawn.

O(h): Do you feel your music has a political content?

RB: Tough question. I want to live my life the way I want to, but it’s hard not to conform. It’s a struggle financially, and my reputation in my community has taken a knock because of that. I quit a well-paying job to do my tapasiya (meditation). No cave… just a makeshift studio and the occasional silence.

O(h): There is a lot of your music that feels meditative or almost ceremonial.

RB: It’s hard to look into the mirror and find clear answers. My immediate response too that was… It’s a funeral, but I can’t explain why. It’s not sad. It can be joyful. It’s cyclic.. highs and the lows. Maybe like an elastic band.. being pulled outwards.. the more force used to stretch it, the more it want’s to go to the centre. I don’t know if I am making sense.

O(h): The analogy of the elastic band is an interesting one.

RB: Yeah, I feel like an elastic band, being stretched and stretched… being forcefully drawn to both extremes, but finding the centre out of it. A centre containing both/all. Maybe enlightenment is when the elastic band snaps.

O(h): As creating music is a meditative practice for you, do you think of yourself as part of a particular movement or subgenre, or do you not connect your work with the work of others? Were you inspired by any local musicians?

RB: No, I don’t tell many people what I do. I’m not part of a movement or subgenre. I lived in Berlin a few years ago, Minimal techno greatly influenced me. I like to dance. Not very good at dancing, though.

O(h): Is there any particular individual who has most influenced how you think about music?

RB: My Guru, OHSO (Rajnessh.) Never met him.. but in my heart I feel I have. I love the fella.

O(h): So would you consider yourself culturally Sikh but spiritually more independent, or a follower of Rajneesh?

RB: OSHO and Sikhi to me are one in the same. A journey to find oneself. I would never have found OSHO if other Sikhs hadn’t introduced me. Sikhi or Sikhism is not what Wikipedia says it is. There are no tenets, tenets belong to the Khalsa, a different though related entity. I am the son of the Khalsa and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my Khalsa ancestors ensuring our existence… the Khalsa is technically an army. The spiritual path of the Khalsa is of sacrifice. I am not very good at explaining all this stuff. I could say a lot more, but probably get no closer too what I mean.

O(h): What aspect of the 21st century are you most looking forward to, and which aspect are you least?

RB:  I am most looking forward to when serfs (which we all are) become more than a commodity on a spreadsheet. I dream of hacking Google and putting some crazy shit on their search page. I least look forward to the increasing anti-minority attitude which I feel is becoming more pervasive and accepted.

O(h): There has been a disturbing increase in representation for explicitly anti-immigrant parties in a number of European countries in the past decade…do you think there are any particular ways to combat that trend? Do you, personally, feel English? Does being “English” even having a meaning for you?

RB:  I am English.. whether I want to be or not. My blood is of, and synchronized to, England even if genetically it is not from England. Whenever I come back from a time abroad, I always feel uplifted once I step off the plane. Something spiritual about it. Sometimes it hurts when you know many people in your country don’t want you there. How to challenge it? Speak up. Represent yourself, to counter the propaganda. It doesn’t have to be in the media, it could be when you hear ‘benign’ bigotry at work or elsewhere. My cousin the other week spoke of all the trouble at her workplace, centred around Muslims. I asked her why.. she said they want a place to pray. Ultimately I am of the opinion anti-minority sentiment is not just from far-right parties. Mainstream parties know they can win votes that way. Divide and conquer is a tried and tested method with which to control people. There’s more than one way to be (and look) British or French or German or American or Indian or Chinese… etc, etc. We are all individuals.  Nationalism is dangerous.. in India.. during the 80’s and early 90’s there was a genocide against the Sikh minority. 100 thousand dead and the world knows nothing about it. Why did the government do this? Not because of separatists or terrorists… it’s because the political parties needed to give the masses someone to hate and someone to be fearful of. Why does India hate Pakistan and vice-versa, when just 50 years ago they were literally often in the same family? Hate can generate nationalist fervour and nationalism is a useful tool when trying to gain votes and control the masses.

O(h): I was wondering if you think the Indian subcontinent would benefit from, or could possibly develop, a system like the EU?

RB: Theres no point me saying India or Pakistan should split up into smaller states. But the system should become more federal (as initially intended), with a weak centre. So a system a bit more like Germany’s, where the individual regions have power. In UK democracy means 100% of people controlled by a party with only the votes of 20-30%. I don’t know a solution. The EU rather than taking power away from the centre is bringing power into a new (even bigger) centre. integration shouldn’t mean assimilation. By assimilation I mean taking a variety of spectrums and making it into a uniform grey. Berlin is great for its variety. I went there expecting a slightly interesting internship but found something that leaves me a bit speechless. But I when I visit it leaves me with a tinge of sadness. Relationships/emotions come and go but something I found there has unfortunately found a way of hanging onto my heart.

O(h): While the music you make doesn’t have the usual markings of Dubstep, it does sometimes feel that it has some of the same attitudes…do you listen to much Dubstep, do you feel at all connected to it? Do you think it will be an important sound/movement/idea in the decades ahead, or is it near its breaking point?

RB: I have a big problem knowing what genre is what. Even though I make music, I don’t know what a bassline is. I’ve heard other people talk about it, and I probably created a few but I don’t have a good capacity for naming sounds. I’ve made hundreds of beats, but couldn’t name you which drum is called what. The only thing I take notice of is the sound which it makes, and then I put them together the way I want to. I listen to a lot of stuff but the way I am wired up, I almost immediately forget the artist name and genre. I either like something or don’t. It can be structured in any way. Everything I hear influences me, but I never have a conscious motivation to create music that sounds a certain way. I let the universe decide that and how it passes through me. A lot of the time, I don’t decide whether I’ve created something beautiful, interesting, cool or even good, it is simply as it is. I’ve created tracks which have been influenced by minimal techno, but those track are not minimal techno, because I don’t know and don’t want to know how to technically construct minimal techno. Silence and sound constructed intuitively – that’s ‘s what I do. I have no idea what the future will bring. Maybe it’s a canvas covered by the paint of all history, for us to piss on now (leaving our mark, then tomorrow someone else pisses on us).

Well, in my ramblings, I’ve probably contradicted myself tonnes of times, but that’s me.

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