Kartik Pillai is a 27-year-old multifaceted producer & multi-instrumentalist from New Delhi who has had audiences captivated under his genre-bending solo project called ‘Jamblu’.
Since his debut back in 2007, a lot has changed when it comes to the ever-augmenting community of artists and new world thinkers. Kartik is also the guitarist, trumpet player and keyboardist for the Delhi based Indie band ‘Peter Cat Recording Co.’ and the front man and guitarist of the three-piece experimental rock band ‘Begum‘.
I’d heard about Jamblu’s individualistic ‘chance based’ approach to making music. However, it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to witness his live Boiler Room set at The Budx Electronic Music Lab that I actually understood why Kartik describes his music as his version of ‘freedom in sound’.
I saw this man in his element, merging different sounds, like a live trumpet performance during an ambient electronica set, later going on to belt out massive drone elements. It left me leaving eager to know more about the man behind the scenes. Read on for an exclusive BTS interview with Jamblu:
Akriti from Loudest: Your other projects are very different in the sense that they mostly fall on a spectrum of sub genres. Your solo project Jamblu isn’t quite like that. Who is Jamblu and what does he represent?
Kartik: Everything is a sub-genre I suppose, in Jamblu I switch a little quicker between them. Jamblu is a meeting point for all my influences, and just like many other artists that mean a wide spectrum of music. I end up rambling a bit sometimes. Its also because of my association with the other bands I play for that I’m able to step back and be able to inspect all my abilities and put them into a show when/if i want to. I’ve now been able to come up with various sets which I interchange between. Jamblu, as you’ve mentioned, is me just being me. Most of the musical narrative coming from an interest in the beginnings of the universe, micro-reviews of fantasy timelines, the human condition and eventually they want to transcend everything.
Akriti: I’m fascinated by your beginnings with REProduce Artists. Tell us how it all began.
Kartik: I heard of Rana for the first time when the Black Lips came down, and then when he and Audio Pervert helped resurrect Chiranjit Singh’s Career as the founder of Acid House. He was always around talking about what he wanted gigs to be like and eventually he just started doing them. At the time I had played at CEC and Disquiet Sessions which are kind of the predecessors to LR Sessions. The first LR I played was with two artists I admire a lot namely Hemant SK and Ravana. From then on I guess we just started working together more and more, eventually, Rana also worked with PCRC and shot a few Begum shows. He started doing LR’s and eventually, I started becoming a regular in them occasionally helping with production and stuff. Beyond that, we’ve now been working together for almost 4 years.
Akriti: What makes REProduce LR Sessions one of the most inventive and genuine spaces for artists to showcase their music and really make an impact?
Kartik: LR Sessions don’t have any rules to them, you can play the guitar and sing songs or you can cut into a strip of metal with a chainsaw to make drone sounds, there’s never been any limitation and if you want something and its on your tech rider chances are you’re gonna get it. When you have an environment that essentially asks nothing of you, no continuity, no pressure, so you don’t have to do what you normally do, it opens up a whole new part of your personality and you can delve into some forms of dream projects or little out of context things that you want to do so yeah it can go wherever you want it to.
Akriti: ‘Hundredth Monkey Initiative’ was founded back in 2013 as a music production company and this year you founded a Record Label called Simian Records. Tell us how and why you decided to take that plunge now?
Kartik: HMI is still very much a production company. We’ve mostly been doing commercial projects and as an extension of our noncommercial side. I have established a Record Label named Simian Records & we’re still in production phase with our artists, 2018 is going to see a slew of releases from them, I am very excited to see how people react.
Akriti: In your experience as a musician in the independent music industry, do you think the Indian audience, promoters & record labels are ready to embrace these unexplored forms of music?
Kartik: I’m not sure, to be honest, but I don’t think there’s any point in waiting for the audience anyway. The scenery will mold itself hopefully. The experimental music scene in India is growing much like other Asian countries(namely China/Japan/Indonesia/Thailand/etc) and I see a future in the exchange between these circuits.
Akriti: The one main necessity for an artist/band is a tight & transparent relationship between them and their record label. While labels globally are earning the megabucks, what’s the extent of rewards for labels, artists, and writers in the independent music industry?
Kartik: I think the reward is being able to create a culture and a community which fosters its artists and demands more than cookie cutter songs. The state of much of the music industry in India is lackluster to say the least. Physical sales or even digital sales are dismal and touring in this country has few rewards for artists who cant appeal to the lowest common denominator, that means small crowds small rewards but ideally, it opens up avenues by which they can find their place in the global industry. The artists on the label are artists I love, I love their music, I love them as people and that’s why to me its more than a label and its more than monetary rewards, money would be nice though.
Akriti: As an experimental electronica live act, do you think you pursued Jamblu’s soundscapes after making your mark in the indie scene because somehow the audience and the industry would be more receptive and embrace Jamblu’s vision of ‘freedom in sound’ with ease?
Kartik: I had been working on the music for Jamblu for a while before I released it. And live shows happened once someone asked me to play. I never thought about how or what the audience was gonna think because I didn’t really expect anything, to be honest. After meeting people like Hemant SK, Shankar Baruah, Lionel Da Saz, Rana, etc was when I was able to start playing in front of people namely at Disquiet sessions, CEC and then, later on, LR Sessions. But predicting the audience and the industry was never a thing. When I started, the industry was still barely an industry.
Akriti: What are the biggest developments in the indie music industry you’ve seen?
Kartik: I think its the numerous festivals that have come up and the setup of various labels and artist agencies all across the country. The level of quality music in India has also grown manifold with great artists popping up everywhere and how second tier and even third tier cities are being added to the touring circuit.
Akriti: How about the most challenging times?
Kartik: There were hard times which I’m not going to talk about much, cause they don’t pertain to my career as a musician either way the times are still challenging as far as I can see, I’ve been blessed with great friends and family so nothings ever felt like the end of the world. In terms of the industry I think right now is the toughest time, its a very important period in the Indian Music Scene because its carving out its legitimacy right now hopefully it wont be drowned by redundancy and commercial interests.
Akriti: What advice would you give to artists who are struggling to find the right platform or space to ‘just be’ and create music?
Kartik: Its almost always a struggle so be sure of what you want and think of the long game.
Akriti: What does 2018 hold in store for Jamblu?
Kartik: New releases and new tours. I’m hoping to be able to make it back to China and Europe and perhaps even beyond. Mainly I’m working on a new set of tracks and new live set concepts and some more developments i cant talk about right now.
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