You’ve probably heard Nucleya’s version of “Laung Gawacha” at the tail-end of a wedding reception, when the DJ’s trying to get the young crowd onto the dance floor, or like me, maybe you’ve danced around to it all around the house.
With a sound that’s described as “frenetic, loud and unabashedly Indian,” Nucleya has become a genre unto himself, which you can hear on many Bollywood soundtracks peppered with dubstep beats and bass music. Nucleya (aka Udyan Sagar) brings a distinctive fusion of Indian sounds from street drums to Punjabi classics mixed with bass, dubstep, and electronica. This irresistible mix is heard throughout his albums like Koocha Monster, Bass Rani, and Raja Baja, his latest EP.
This year for the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration (VIBC) festival, Nucleya will expound on creating electronic music, how to DJ and more lessons at the Desi Music Incubator. We got a chance to chat with Nucleya about how he developed his sound, working with his son on tracks, and the desi music scene.
Q: What was your journey in becoming a DJ?
It’s been quite a journey! I began producing electronic music way before I started performing live, almost 20 years ago now. Back then, I lived in Ahmedabad where there were no clubs that you could go and play at. This is around the same time that I co-founded my first band Bandish Projekt and along with a few other friends we started throwing our own parties at farm houses around town. After a couple of years our music started getting heard in other other parts of the country and soon we were invited to perform at clubs all across India.
Q: I’ve really enjoyed your music since 2010’s Horn Ok Please, which was more remix style, but how did you arrive at the new sounds on Koocha Monster and Bass Rani albums?
Around 2008, I moved out of Bandish Projekt and started my solo project NUCLEYA. I was experimenting with multiple genres at this point and I tried almost everything but nothing was working out. Somewhere in the middle of all of this I started sampling Indian street sounds in my music and I loved what I could do with it. This is when I knew I had found my sound and it inspired me to write my debut album Koocha Monster.
Q: All of your albums feature Indian sounds from across the country like remixing Laung Gawacha to the street drums in Bell Gadi. What was the process like in creating albums that appeal to these disparate audiences?
In all honesty, it was an extremely refreshing process. It challenged me because there were no boundaries and I could experiment as much as I wanted to. It was also scary because I didn’t know how the audience would react to it at first.
Q: You’ve worked with rappers like DIVINE, singers like Avneet Khurmi, and Gagan Mudgal. What is it like working with this fresh crop of talent?
Gagan is one of my oldest friends and he’s someone that I really look up to. Avneet and Divine are some of the finest musicians that I have been fortunate enough to work with. Each of them has immense amount of talent.
Q: Do you feel like you’ve found your crew in working with these same artists on different albums?
I’ve worked with multiple artists and there’s no formula to it ever. Every body brings something unique to the table and it’s all about what’s best for the song.
Q: Predating DJ Khaled, and Asad, you’ve actually worked with your young son on some of your tracks. What was that like getting him in the recording studios? I imagine you probably had to tell him not to swear after!
He was about 2 or 3 years old when I used to just leave the mic recorder on while he was playing. He would just be mumbling random words and I ended up sampling it in one of the tracks from Bass Rani. I still remember when I made my wife Smriti listen to the track, both of us got very emotional listening to it.
Q: There are a lot of misconceptions about being a DJ and you’ve toyed with that hilariously in the opening of Chennai Bass. What do people get wrong about your work?
A lot of people think it’s really easy and that DJs just go on stage and press a few buttons. But in reality it’s not just that, there’s a lot more to it.
Q: You’re also taking part in the VIBC Desi Music Incubator, what advice would you give your younger self if he was just starting out now?
It’s important to be original and love what you do as opposed to give people what they like already. It’s going to be hard and might take a lot of time but this is the only way you can be true to yourself and your art.
Nucleya will appear at the Desi Music Incubator for VIBC. Grab your tickets here.