Big City Life

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We got chatting with Rohan Hastak aka – Big City Harmonics, Pune based outfit, fresh out of the oven, promoting a style of music (straight up our street) the surface of which hasn’t yet been scratched by any other setup on the circuit.

Although this sound hasn’t been pushed in the scene thus far, his music is bound to generate a nostalgic wave for you to ride. Sublime elements of old school hip-hop meets nu school electronica, strung together rather tactfully.

He gave us a sneak peak of his live set, setup and workflow:

We heard about your live debut @ The High Spirits Cook Out in Pune, how did that go?
I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start things off. I’ve been going to High for years and it was always going to be the venue of choice for the first gig. The turnout was amazing, the people were great, the sound was just right. I’m definitely looking forward to playing there again.

We’re going to go ahead and club you into our favourite ‘live/electronica’ category. Could you tell us what makes your act ‘live’?
Since things are just starting out we’ve decided to keep it simple for a few gigs. I play live and collaborate with Sidhant Naren from Oozeundat. DJ’ing is something I’m new to so his mad technical skills come in handy when we’re trying to prepare for a gig . As of now its a straight up DJ set where we’re nodding into our laptops but I cant wait to add more to it.

In that vein, could you shed some light on your on-stage setup/ routing and what’s planned? (and unplanned!)
At High we had an NI Maschine and a Pioneer DJM 900 mixer and a Traktor audio 6 to run it all through. A friend lent me a 25 year old Marlin bass which I ran through a Laney bass amp. We’ll just keep adding to it as we go along.

What do you think your biggest challenge would be in transposing these studio gems into live-versions? 
Since I sample a lot of real instruments, I suppose the best way to do justice to the music is to have musicians actually recreating those sounds. While DJ’ing it’s all about playing as much as we can off the pads to give it a more spontaneous feel. I never think of my music as being made for dancing, although people are more than welcome to! My aim is to create an atmosphere where the music is something you can actively listen to and engage with, or let it hang around in the background like a soundtrack to the evening.

Your music is unlike any other that’s being produced in the country. Shed some light on your production process?
It’s better for me to work within certain constraints when I’m trying out ideas. For all my tracks so far I’ve used a laptop to work, headphones to mix and only the stock synths and plugins that come with Logic Pro with a couple of added favourites. I have a sample library which isn’t very extensive but has all the sounds I like and need.

Sometimes I start a track with an idea I came up with while messing around on the piano. Other times an entire track will flow nicely from a sampled sound. I’ll cut and chop different beats and sounds, throw everything onto the timeline then put it away for a week, then come back and start editing. As soon as it starts to feel like a chore I have to stop. I like cutting and stretching samples to make them my own, trying to use them in unconventional ways.

Studio Sneak peak:

DAW?
Logic Pro to compose the track, Ableton Live 8 for the stage.

Monitoring?
AKG K514 headphones. Mixes are checked on a pair of Yamahas at Sidhant’s home studio.

Headphones of preference?
I’m so used to the 514s that I don’t know what I’d do without them. Wouldn’t mind some AKG 701’s, love that sound.

Loads of interesting samples in your tunes. Your sources? And your sampling methodology? 
I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of what I want to be able to do with samples. Loopmasters.com is a good place to get free stuff and the rest of the sounds come from whatever music is on my laptop at the time. Right now I’m digging through a Chinese Orchestra album for ideas and a lot of background scores from films. Oh and Apple Loops are great for really extreme stretching. I’ve recently started looking through some found sound collections, and recordings of peoples’ voices that I’ve been capturing on my phone.

We’re thoroughly excited to catch your act live. What more can we expect from BCH in 2013? 
More gigs, more live elements, EPs and collaborations. This is a great time to be playing independent music in India so we hope to stay pretty busy.

Make sure you Bombay folks catch his live set on the 18th of this month @ blueFROG.

written by Sanaya Ardeshir

NEWS - 16. April 2013   CITY - Pune ARTIST - Big City Harmonics

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