Artist Feature: Atish & his Music

You might have heard about him and you may not have.. either way, Atish is a musician and artist that you must know. He carries a unique sound that’s relevant to the present yet classic in it’s own fashion. When listening to his music, you will experience a fun eclectic journey that he takes you on… some personal, the rest an excellent mix of grounded beats. You’ll find glittery, cultural, deep and trendy elements.. making his events truly enjoyable.

Atish is originally a product of Chicago’s suburbs. With hard work and discipline he worked himself up in both the California tech and music industries to the success he is today.  We’re proud to feature him this week, right before one of the world’s largest festivals at which he’s always performed at – Burning Man. Chatting to Atish made me realize a depth and intelligence that makes him stand out from the crowd. He holds up conversation with wit and wisdom of Silicon Valley, yet in touch with his creativity and art. Very approachable and humble, Atish is raised with South Eastern (Indian) and Midwestern culture that is hard to miss in both his character and music. Here’s a quick chat with our star:

Your humble beginnings?

My parents immigrated to Chicago from India in the early 80’s, and I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs (Elk Grove Village + Schaumburg)…My parents forced me to play violin at a young age and in parallel, I was really into computers, which probably stems from my dad being an electrical engineer. For a majority of my life, music always played second fiddle (sorry, couldn’t resist) to my career path as a computer nerd. I headed to California to study computer science in college, then took on various software engineering jobs in California for about 10 years. I’ve been a San Francisco for the last 8 years, and just a few months ago, I made the transition to drop the software thing and go full-time with music, which thus far feels like the right choice. I’m loving this!

Stark Trek or Star Wars?

I was a big Star Wars nerd, so any characters from the original trilogy. My fondness for Star Wars was pretty bad. I had a subscription to Star Wars Insider, the monthly magazine dedicated to the trilogy, and my pet gerbils were named Luke and Darth. I even recreated Star Wars scenes on video with the gerbils as the actors and myself doing the voiceover. I hope these videos never get released.

(we will try and hunt those videos :D)

When did you get into electronic music?

My interest in electronic music started in high school with big electronic acts of the 90’s: Orbital, Aphex twin, Chemical brothers, and so on. One of the people who introduced me to this kind of music back in high school was Mark Slee, who is the same Mark Slee who I DJ with from time to time now as an adult. Magically, our taste in music has generally remained aligned for the last 17 years since.

What’s special about electronic music?

One thing that separates electronic music from most other genres of music that I enjoy is that it’s music that’s largely texture-based. For the most part, a violin sounds like a violin and a piano sounds like a piano. But electronic music is composed of highly configurable synthesizers that can create vastly different soundscapes. This means there can be 20 songs sharing similar melodies or chord progressions that evoke vastly different emotional reactions, which I find really fascinating.

What’s the best aspect about your job?

The primary answer is that I can play music that I love that (hopefully) creates meaningful positive experiences for others. I like to believe that facilitating a feeling of freedom through dance is net positive on the world. More selfishly, performing for people is a drug that I’m addicted to. The feeling of building a relationship with an audience over a few hours and knowing that we are all on the same wavelength going towards the same place is an indescribable rush, and it’s that dragon that I’m chasing every weekend.

Photo Courtesy Jamie Rosenburg
Photo Courtesy Jamie Rosenburg

The thing I like about DJing is that it never gets old. I’ve played in various music groups growing up (rock bands, jazz bands, marching bands, symphonic ensembles). Performing in those kinds of acts surely has thrills of its own, but they differ from DJing in a fundamental way since they involve largely the same repertoire of music over the span of a performance season. Like most DJs, my music catalogue is changing almost every day, so I’m always injecting new music into my performances. This means I never play the same set twice and every gig is a fresh experience filled with lots more unknowns and excitement.

Your thoughts about the music community?

To be honest, I struggled with this question for a while and this question is the reason it took me so long to submit my answers!

It’s just too difficult to make broad statements about the electronic music community since “electronic music” encompasses so many sub-styles of music: EDM, underground house and techno, Burning Man-style breakbeats, drum n bass, and many others. Each one of these sub-styles has its own community and culture, so the only blanket statement I could make about the electronic music community as a whole is that it’s a one that’s diverse, which is great.

Seems like there are a lot of Djs on the scene at the moment, how can an aspiring DJ stand out? 

Standing out is really tough. There are so many talented DJs out there and access to music is so easy in the digital age. Whether we like admit it or not, it’s a highly competitive playing field.

Atish 2

As a highly analytical person, I think the best place to start when trying stand out against the rest of the pack is observing what the rest of the pack is doing. Go out to club nights even if you’re not playing and see what those DJs are playing. If you are playing that night, spend extra time before and after your set to listen to the other acts. Listen to as many DJ mixes as you can at home. This last point can be unrealistically time-consuming, so at the very least just jump through mixes to get a general feel for what’s popular. Poke through the Beatport top 100 track lists. Take all these data points into account and critically ask yourself if you are bringing anything new to the table or if the music you’re playing would just get lost amongst the noise, so to speak.

Beyond that, remember that art is only as relevant as the context in which its presented. Think about your “voice” – are you giving people a way to feel connected to you as an artist? Include personal descriptions with your releases, describe your intentions, spend time being thoughtful on social media, make yourself vulnerable to your audience. To me, a DJ set sounds 10x better when I feel connected to the DJ behind it. Once a DJ is humanized, once people feel connected, once the artistic identity is developed, it’s much easier for him or her to stand out against the rest.

Finally, if you want to stand out, you need make things happen on your own – don’t just wait for things to happen. Throw your own parties, start your own record label, create a community and bring people together, seek out collaborations with others whom you vibe with and are already making waves. Position yourself as a leader rather than a follower to prove that you’re not just like the rest of the group.

Has early Detroit and Chicago tech/house music influenced your voice/sound?

I’m really glad I grew up in the Midwest. I find that midwesterners are generally very approachable and down to earth. Movement (formerly DEMF), the dance music festival in Detroit, has always been one of my favorite music festivals because the random people I meet on the dance floor (mostly midwesterners) are so damn friendly!

As far as influences, I do remember listening to house and techno music on the radio when I would stay up late at night on the weekends, and that music always intrigued me. Sadly I was too young to catch the glory days of The Warehouse (the club where house music originated), but I like to think that those vibes somehow permeated into my own skin…

Atish Chicago

Has Chicago influenced your career in anyway?

Growing up, I hated the bitterly cold winters – in fact I discovered that I have an allergy to extreme cold. In retrospect I’m thankful that I spent those frigid months indoors, since my friends and I spent those months being creative and making music together in our parents’ basements. If I had spent all those winters playing sports outside, who knows if I would have the same love for music that I have today.

Do you have a quote to live by?

“What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a better place than we found it, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

       – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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