Ever since leaving a career in fashion design, he has been a front runner designing many musical schemes and revolutionary plots in the Indian electronic dance music scene. From Kolkata to Nepal, making his way across to Mumbai and then Amsterdam on to Ibiza, it’s been a long way for this child of the underground. I’m only talking about that guy whose machinations don’t stop at creating Techno bombers such as – Mayday and No Kontrol, he has founded and sculpted Ankytrixx & Friends in to a one stop entertainment business, on to the inception of CTRL ALT DANCE, India’s only home grown gathering that’s poised to take off on its third year this December 2016.
Collecting a global fan base by playing out electric DJ sets to a self-confessed albeit late production junkie, I sat down with Ankit Kocher to touch on those topics, to uncover news on the upcoming extravaganza, his future projects, and plans for releases and of course to talk us through some of the stories of his own professional career, down to how it all began. Meet the winner of ‘DJ OF THE YEAR’ & ranked No.1 in India for Electronic Music (2012, 2013) on the MyFavDj Poll two years in succession, he is the bass invader we all know as Ankytrixx.
Firstly congratulations on hitting your 100th show this year, plus the slew of pre-parties ahead of the main event CTRL ALT DANCE 2016 Dec, is truly underway. What’s cooking, how’s it going to be different from the other two editions?
Thank you for saying that.
Our main focus is on the visual aspect of the homegrown experience because we’ve already made an impression in terms of music. The event brought its ‘A’ game where underground music is concerned which was up until then only restricted to a few clubs, outlets, cities but after the 2014 edition of CTRL it spread like wild fire to uncharted territories with DJ’s cross travelling in India with much more regularity due to support we garnered with this vision. A major break-through came about with even commercial clubs ready to give their Friday nights to electronic dance music, booking local talent and the rest is history as the music kind of did the work we intended in 2014. We had to upgrade this year with the visual aspect of the whole presentation, also in the third year we are expecting a lot more people in Goa as it allows more volume.
We’ve asked the performers to come up with specially crafted sets which add to the CTRL vibe and maybe some decor or collaborations with other DJs that have never been seen before. We are going intimate with the artists at hand and their show-cases. It is not about playing one set after another anymore. Everything is different this time around, from the venue, to the production, down to what we intend to present.
We know there’s a change of venue in Goa, could you say something about the move and how it adds up to the CTRL vibe?
We decided on a bigger venue where one can really experiment with the look and feel from within. We have a production crew coming all the way from Amsterdam this year; they have designed big stages and dance floors, created structures for DJs like Maceo Plex and Solomun. They also made the design for Maceo at ADE. The production team will be designing two stages we call the village and digital areas. Their expertise will cover both day and night time settings. Vagator in Goa, as a location is excellent; it’s where the parties never stop and much more central. HillTop is fantastic regardless of the style of music and the place has amazing energy written all over it.
How did the CTRL ALT DANCE inception take place, what were the ideas running through your head for this property and the direction you want it to take in future?
The Indian music background till recent times had been driven majorly with commercial styles and there was a big vacuum for underground music. A lot of thought went in to filling this void, as we sat and chatted with several architects of the scene here to bring about change in that aspect.
It was a unanimous decision between team mates, friends, followers and supporters that we need to have a gathering dedicated to our homegrown talent. There was a sentiment involved to bring this to a bigger stage and thankfully the whole idea met with great success as was evident in the previous editions that I was able to host with such heart-warming support from everyone I was in contact with, whether close or far.
Can you run us through the production involved for the three days in December, and what we should watch out for?
Well it’s a surprise for you guys to see. We at CTRL invite you to come check it out!!
Your company AFE has several projects such as Deep In Dance, Sleepless, Extended etc, as a whole how are these concepts coming along?
It’s coming along fantastically and has managed to do some great stuff over the last 5 months. It’s unreal the way everything is coming together. For us to be able to program underground parties weekend after weekend is a dream come true. AFE concentrates on doing big parties with DJs and great music irrespective of which property; its main strength remains good music.
We’ve had crazy artists, back to backs and internationally renowned names, from Ellum and Lost & Found for example to come and give us that edge and push. All this has put us on a global map and we have started doing our own showcases in Amsterdam and Berlin. It’s a complete AFE ballgame where we take over clubs like AIR in Amsterdam, we book the clubs and we pay them a fee, we get promoters on board, get a great lineup, we throw the gates open, we stand on the streets sell tickets get people to come in and party with us. We are going in a speed that was unimaginable some time ago and its blowing our minds all at once.
Are your hands on with day to day activities with your company AFE India and what’s your specific role in it?
My role on a basic level is in the business development and to see ideas find fruition. I dream a lot, I have these visions in my head that are not just relegated to playing music and that’s how I took steps to initiate all this to come to life. I found that there was a space that I could fill and that dictated I should stand up and do things not out of being driven by money or personal goals, but to do things from the heart which engulfed our entire talent and music scene in general. AFE welcomes everyone from friends to well-wishers to followers that help create and meet our dreams.
Let’s talk about you, for a bit, you started producing much later in your DJing career, what took you so long to get in to it?
DJing has and always will be my first love. If you know your music and the people around, I believe it’s more than just mixing two tracks together, it’s about building journeys and making your audience feel something special.
For the longest time, I was lost in DJing, the incredible high one feels from weaving all the great music that the world has to offer, is indescribable. Till a point came where I started to see that there is an intense world out there which makes that music, which reminds me of my friendship with 16 Bit Lolitas that helped open up the flood-gates for producing music.
Ariaan sat me down a few nights where we worked at a friend’s studio, and that is where it all started and he changed my perception and I must say I got more comfortable with it. Considering I was a bad student back in my school years, I was skeptical that I would ever be able to understand the theories behind making music, but he explained a lot of how it works and that’s when I saw the beauty behind those forms and that not all of it was mathematical.
You spend a lot of time in the studio off-late, much more than the years when you started out, can you tell us what we can expect in terms of releases?
My whole angle of releasing music is very different, I do follow a lot of artists and I personally have the privilege of knowing a lot of big superstars and getting their advice. It’s not really about releasing music, I do believe one needs to build a channel. There are millions of producers making phenomenal tracks but it’s not about releasing a new track it’s about having that one track that people can’t get over and making it to a big guy’s playlist or a chart topping number on Beatport.
I built certain relationships with DJs, promoters, agencies, labels and for years and years we are doing gigs and helping each other get bookings and all of that has nothing to do with me selling my music. We’ve built a channel and set it up and now anything I release is very easy for me to take to those big guys or to their charts. One just has to understand when the product is ready you have to find the right kind of taker for that offering and you don’t have reintroduce yourselves cause you are already friends with them.
Are there any specific methods you apply in to starting a track?
I can’t tell you I can show it to you.
Can you run us through your studio set up and any other machines that you may be eyeing at the moment?
I have an Arturia analog experience lab 6 which takes care of all my leads, syncs and melodies. I have a drum machine TR 808 which takes care of all my drums, hats and kicks. Then I have the big daddy Moog which is the bass monster where I make my entire bass from. Then I have an Nord Lead which also helps in building my leads and those weird sounds, and then I have a Maschine which goes around my arrangement in my current setup. What I’m eyeing currently is the Roland Jupiter 8, analog synthesizer.
You seem to be a regular in the Amsterdam DJ circuit, are you enjoying the stints abroad and can you tell us how different it is there, in comparison to when you are performing in your home country?
The only thing different is the probably the reaction quotient, that the crowd brings apart from that everything is pretty much the same I think. I’ve been lucky to find a similar circuit here where we both speak the same language and we operate the same way but if I were to break it down, maybe the energy, the knowledge and exposure the dancers bring to the stage/club can differ a bit.
Having played in numerous venues across the globe, which is your favourite club in terms of sound system, vibe and overall experience?
Let’s go back a little, where it all started in a relatively lazy environment of Kolkata, what records were you listening to back in the day and do you ever sit back and think that hell yeah! You’ve come a long way and also tell us of your earliest influences.
I remember listening to Stephane K, John Creamer, Sasha and all the Global Underground greats such as Dave Seaman, also the Nu Breed series. I was quite hooked on to the Orbital sound. Plus a lot of it began with Trance and some names that come to mind are Chicane, Veracocha, Darude. My earliest influences would be Sanjay Dutta, John Digweed and Sasha.
You’ve been awarded several honours in a DJ poll of India not too long ago, winning DJ of The Year and then Best Electronic DJ two years in a row, tell us about how you felt when you were bestowed by these accolades and how you may have adapted to the changes it must have brought in to your career?
When I won the award it was my second year of living in Mumbai, before that I was living in Nepal so definitely that got a lot of highlight and it was easier for a lot of people to connect and that made me take the decision of moving to the city and believing that the decision was solid and that I’m really going to push for it. It also gave me a lot of confidence and I’m glad that I did. A lot of the connections between the people who came and heard my sets were actually starting to follow my career in some ways and I guess they are the ones that voted which means all the hard work I had put in was getting attention for which I am grateful.
If I were to look back to when you started out, it’s obvious how you’ve experimented with different styles and or switching through genres over the years, which have inadvertently let’s say been trendy, keeping your Psychedelic moniker – “Firefly” which has been dormant for some time aside, what was the guiding force that made you jump to one or the other? And do we see a resurrection with the Firefly project?
Even though I knew I was going to try a global sound, I had to choose and stick to a particular style, as places such as Europe or South America prefer to know the artist through the sound he or she specialises in and then book you at a particular time to play, unless I did that it would be difficult to create a mark. It’s happened to me when a promoter thought for some reason that I was going to play Psychedelic at a Techno gig and without even informing I was put off the roster. Big enough reason why I looked at that aspect on a serious note, and taking all of the agencies and or people that market you in hand decided to stick to one thing and not dilute the sound in order for me to create a niche.
I think when you jump genres what may happen is that managers, or booking agents, then there’s the promoters may get confused themselves and therein cannot take what you do seriously. For example a Techno party promoter won’t in all probability be able to comprehend Deep House, let alone Psychedelic. Unfortunately the market is still not that open to a performer playing multiple genres as yet, but who is to say that may change in the near future. I am a Psychedelic fan at heart and I am sure I might just play it someday, just don’t know when.
Are you the kind to plan your DJ sets or do you go on the fly which keeps the audience and environment in mind in that moment?
It’s always on the fly, always searching for tracks.
Part of the very remaining few DJS who have a classical approach to the art of playing music, what would you say to going digital, ever thought of switching your source of playing?
No. I cannot get out of my love for those turntables, the mixers, the CDJ’s. Going digital definitely gives you room to do 10000 other things but if you are going digital you might as well only do digital with your own stuff. If you are making your own music, want to put your own music out and put a lot of stuff to it then please do but if you are playing tracks from other artists/producers then it’s only that much you can do add to the thing. For me it will always be about the original form of 2 CDJ’s and a mixer or 2 turntables and a mixer.
In an age where finding or downloading a track is as easy as it can get, a DJ needs to be current and get with a stack of tunes before anyone else can, by that I mean it’s tougher to keep the attention span of followers and or audience’s excitement going, true or false?
No it doesn’t matter what music you are playing old or new as long as you are playing good stuff and building a story.
I must ask, as you happen to be an integral part of this country’s dance music scene, not only as a DJ but also spear heading a cutting edge company that advocates the right spirit and parties and support many a talent. India overall, may be taking big strides in catching up with different styles and artists from around the globe touring regularly all year round and some would say it’s all great in the industry at the moment, but do you think it is all rosy and fantastic. Would you say there’s room for improvement or certain aspects of the scene that need polishing that could lead to better night-clubbing ethics and party culture, your thoughts on this?
We grow everyday where we learn something new. In India it is no different from how it is in Europe or America the amount of intensity, the amount of money spent, the amount of business done, the magnitude of events, almost on the same level. The promoters are doing their bit as hard as anyone else in Europe or internationally anywhere else in the world. It’s the same thing yes the only thing I can think of in terms of improvement is our time restriction bit, it’s the only thing we cannot change as an artist I have no control on it. That’s the only area we could definitely do wonders.
Currently looking at the way the world is and the way India is shaping up with so many international properties coming in it would do great to have longer hours of parties. I see a huge amount of benefit to our country if only we could get that working.
Your top 3 tracks.
Fade – Ankytrixx
A couple of unreleased tracks from SPANK, as of now remain untitled.
Lastly, leaving aside sharing Pizzas with Guy J, what’s exciting you for 2017 in terms of gigs and or releases, something you could leave us with?
For now it’s all about CTRL ALT DANCE, looking forward to see the main event come through. It’s the final imprint of the year and all the hard work we’ve done, not just me all the others involved with the project, the artists in the country in many ways are a part of this as much as I am. I’m just spear heading this movement, but then all of it is happening very organically. All our minds and hearts are currently to make this homegrown movement a global phenomenon and I really can’t think beyond that now.
Wishing you the very best for CTRL ALT DANCE and thank you for chatting with me at Decoded Magazine.