Back in the day, more than a decade ago, when tracks like Bass Down Low and Like A G6 captured the imagination of ageneration, one name stood out loud and clear. It was The Cataracs, an American production duo by Berkeley High School mates — David Benjamin Singer-Vine and Niles Hollowell-Dhar. Of them, the latter has sincetransitioned into one of the foremost names in EDM, performing and releasing music under themoniker of KSHMR, a title that’s a deliberate nod to his Kashmiri roots.
Known for his vocal-heavy tracks that brush genres like electro house, progressive house and psytrance, KSHMR has come to be known as someone who is always willing to reinvent, part of the reason why he has a loyal fanbase who can recognise his sound anywhere. Therefore, when Singaporean game developing company Garena announced that they have roped in KSHMR for a song-game collaboration, we weren’t very surprised. The 32-year-old DJ has not just created a song for Garena’s mobile game, Free Fire, but he also inspired a character in it, which goes by the name of ‘Character K’.
Talking about thisspecial collab, KSHMR tells us what it’s likeworking with Jeremy Oceans for the same, while also describing his evolution as an artiste and the relevance of his familial roots in his career. Excerpts:
Your unique collaborationwith Garena has received much appreciation from fans. How was the experience of working on a song that is meant to represent the culture of gaming?I worked on several songs for the Free Fire collaboration, and One More Round was a song that I loved. But I wasn’t sure they would feel it is fit for the game. So, I was really ecstatic they felt it was as special as I did. It has some Western influence in it that has been a big inspiration for me recently. There’s also a triumphant and unifying quality to it that I think works great for games.What are your thoughts on the idea of incorporatingyourself as a character in the game? What does this say about the future of music production with regards torepresentation in the gaming industry?It was a dream come true as I am a lover of games. I hope gaming and music can collaborate more often — the two are very intertwined. Mostmusicians I know are like big kids who like to spend their time in a fantasy world using music. Gaming is just another way to live out a fantasy.How was the experience of working with Jeremy Oceans? What kind of ideas did you both share while producing One More Round?I met him at a session for something completelyunrelated and we bonded over my interest inWestern-style music. I asked him if he wanted to do a Johnny Cash-style song and he was excited about it. He wrote something on guitar that ended up turning into One More Round. A lot of the magic in the song came from him and I’m grateful he did it with me.
KSHMR as Character K in Free Fire
On a personal note, the story of your meteoric rise as a musician has been much talked about. Where do you aim to be in the coming years with regards to your career? Are there any unfulfilled goals at the moment?My next goal is to put out an album that represents my love for dance music as well as my love for cinematic music and storytelling and showcases my ability to transport people to a different world through music. I am looking at this album as a way to establish where KSHMR is headed. I think this album has the best music I’ve ever made. I can’t wait for people to hear it.
In what ways has your approach to making music evolved?When I first started making music, it was more ego-driven. I wanted to put myself in front of everything. Now, I look at music as a way to paint a world that doesn’t necessarily have to do with me but is just something beautiful that could take you to a different place. The goal is less about making me look cool and more about evoking differentfeelings in the listener.
You have collaborated with both Indian and international artistes. How different are their work ethic and approach to songwriting? And, are there any similarities?There are a lot of similarities between artistes all over the world. Music is what binds people from any origin as it is a language of its own. I think many international (including Indian) musicians have a great work ethic. For example, when I worked with Sonu Nigam — we had a long day in the studio trying new things but he never fatigued. Another group I collaborate with, Lost Stories, also have a strong work ethic. They are always working and sending new ideas. Indian work ethic is very strong. My dad imparted that on me, and I do take pride in that.
In the song, Bombay Dreams, it was a pleasant surprise to see Kavita Seth’s voice in an EDM song. How was the experience of working with someone with her kind of vocal prowess? Does the talent of the collaborating artiste inspire you to raise your own game as well?Kavita was brought in by Lost Stories who had done the original demo before I came to collaborate with them to add my production. I have to give credit to them when I knew it was her, and I felt that was particularly exciting. She is my aunt’s favourite singer so there is a sense of pride merging generations. There’s a responsibility to fulfil the potential of such a collaboration.Has the pandemic affected your professional commitments a lot? Also, how have you been spending time underlockdown, besides making music?The pandemic has definitely affected my business in the sense that most of it is about me playing shows. Another part of it that’s easy to lose track of ismaking music, and experimenting with and learning from it. Often, artistes, as they get more established, have less time to do that. With all the time off from touring, I’ve been able to break through to a new sound and direction for my music. Aside from music, I’ve been spending more time outside with my dogs doing simple things, getting back into programming, learning to make small games, and brushing up on my Hindi and piano skills.
Lastly, how much of a role do your familial roots play in your growth as a musical artiste?The big turning point for me was starting KSHMR. It was the result of inward questioning of who I wanted to be and knowing you can only reinvent yourself so many times. My heritage led me to this name and I decided to paint worlds for people and help them travel there through my music.