Nihal Ramchandani (Hotflush, Halcyon) brings his impeccable taste to the Dubspot Podcast series with “Innigkeit,” a heady mix of ambiance and experimental sounds that he holds close to the heart.
Nihal Ramchandani is one of those people who just seems to get it… someone with the right attitude and impeccable taste in music who everyone seems to love. He’s not one to promote himself but simultaneously he’s one of those DJs who gets credit constantly as a result of his unique style (and a sick collection of tunes.) Nihal made his way onto the scene as part of the Hotflush team and simultaneously worked for Halcyon records, sharing his love for vinyl with other record junkies. Over the past several years, he’s refined his sound and has become quite popular amongst the industry’s tastemakers with his live DJ sets and numerous mixes online. His podcasts for Table Tennis and Hotflush have yielded interesting combinations of deep mood, hints of techno, a dash of dub, and a critical ear for electronic music without regard to genre. We are very excited to bring Nihal into the Dubspot family with this podcast, a special blend of sounds that he holds close to the heart. Nihal explains the mix in his own words:
“The title of this mix is “Innigkeit,” a German word I came across in my studies. Its meaning harkens back to the Romantic composers of the early nineteenth century who started feeling secure in their expression. Social forces from the church and aristocracy became weaker, so composers felt less pressured to impress an audience. Essentially, they started making music for its own sake, looking inward, and reaching toward the ineffable. All of the records I’ve selected for this mix take me personally to that place beyond (you know the one), so the name “Innigkeit” seemed appropriate. Some of the transitions may sound a little awkward; only two of them are beat-matched, but hopefully you enjoy the music. Throw it on your headphones. Many thanks to Sougwen for creating the beautiful artwork.” – Nihal Ramchandani
I see your name on flyers all the time for events in NYC. What parties/clubs have you played?
I feel fortunate to have played at some amazing parties. There are a few that stand out in particular: the first edition of Dave Q’s party named Twisup; the first edition of a dubstep party named Reconstrvct; Juan Gaviria’s Den of Thieves; Opening for SBTRKT at Electric Zoo; Tagging with Nooka Jones at Percussion Lab.
What styles of music do you usually play?
It depends on the context. Some crowds are open to weirder, more psychedelic music. Other crowds just want to freak to some booty bass. Playing in different contexts always excites me. The challenge of figuring out what the crowd likes and then leading them into territory they usually don’t explore never gets old. My record collection extends well beyond what I play out in clubs. There is a wealth of fresh sounds developing in the different scenes around New York and beyond. I don’t see the point in genre discrimination. I go to and play at very different parties. A footwork tune made in 30 minutes with pirated software can work just as well as a finely-crafted heady techno record made with tons of analog equipment. Again, it just depends on the context.
What’s your DJ aesthetic?
Well like I said, the context doesn’t always allow certain styles of music to be played. In an ideal situation, though, meaning the crowd is open-minded and willing to dance interesting sounds and really listen to the DJ, I would just play my favorite tripped-out records. Music with psychedelic qualities really messes with your mind when everything is correct at the venue. I once saw Donato Dozzy and Nuel play an 8-hour back-to-back set at The Bunker. The sound system was fantastic, and the room was spare and dark. There wasn’t a single moment when I felt like leaving. Their aesthetic has had a massive influence on me. The transitions were smooth and simple – subtle work with the faders and EQs. Through careful, sensitive selection, they slowly and gently ease the crowd into a trance. At the risk of sounding cliché, It really was all about the musical journey, the trip. That set was probably the most inspiring night of music I’ve experienced. Way out in deep space is the place. Trippy music for losing yourself, a quality not specific to any one genre or mood. It can be dark and pounding, or deliver something groovy and floaty. “Innigkeit” goes through many different moods, but all of the music retains these psychedelic qualities (to me at least). Variety is important. I try to connect the dots among different styles into something sonically coherent.
How did you get involved with Hotflush and what do you do with them?
I had heard a few opening sets from Alex Incyde at Dub War that I really liked; he was a resident when the party was still around. We met at The Bunker one night and started chatting. He mentioned that Hotflush needed an intern. We have similar interests in music, so it just made sense. He lives in Maui now, but spending time with him while he lived in New York was always something I looked forward to. It’s made me happy to see how he has progressed with production as well. He introduced me to a lot of new stuff – music and beyond. I used to do different tasks for the label here and there: things related to licensing, fighting piracy, social networking, promoting new releases, etc. – basically whatever Alex asked me to do. He and Paul handle much of the work now. I did a podcast for Hotflush, which was a cool opportunity. Now I just rep them and don’t do as much.
How did you get involved with Halcyon and what did you do with them?
In my previous visits to New York, I had stopped at Halcyon to go record shopping. I met the owner Shawn at a DJ night and asked if they needed any help around the shop. I started interning there for a while and eventually became an employee helping out customers or doing data entry and the like.
How old were you when you started DJing?
My older brother got me into electronic music. I got my decks when I was 13 and played my first gig in Houston at 15. The local techno crew there let me open one of their warehouse parties.
How did you learn about so much music at a young age?
Ah well, I don’t think I know that much about music compared to some other young people I’ve met with some insane encyclopedic knowledge. I really struggle to keep up with new releases haha, but then again most people do now. I guess one thing I learned from early on is to be open to all music. Even if you think some particular musical sub-culture is stupid, try and make an effort to understand why others enjoy it. Learning about the qualities of a specific style may help you foster an appreciation for it. Like with anything I suppose.
Why did you decide to release this mix without a tracklist and if we freak out about a track on the mix will you tell us what it is?
I want people to listen to it without knowing what’s coming. After they listen to it, I have no problem identifying a record for them.
Who is inspiring you in the realms of electronic music these days?
Too many to mention! Surgeon, Peverelist, Donato Dozzy, Raz Mesinai, Adrian Sherwood… the list goes on. There is too much incredible music out there.
You mention juke music in one of your responses. Are you into the juke/footwork scene that is happening?
Yeah. I used to be dismissive of it because of how rudimentary many of the tracks sound, but if the criteria we use for judging art only focuses on the craft, then we would all be listening to Rachmaninoff or something, you know? The WALACAM videos on youtube are awesome. The music makes total sense in that context. What interests me in particular is that the stylistic qualities of footwork music are dictated to some extent by the dancers themselves. The main reason why it’s at 160 bpm is because people just got really good at dancing and needed faster music. Inventive use of polyrhythm also creates some really bizarre grooves that work so well with that style of dancing.
Do you make music? If so, what platform do you work with?
Yes, though I haven’t made anything I’m happy with yet. Three main tools: Ableton, Maschine, and my guitar.
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