atish is a DJ/Producer with a super distinct sound and a record label with the quality to match! We spoke to him recently to find out more, DHL and his plans for the rest of 2024…

Hey atish, how has 2024 started for you?

So far 2024 has been wonderful. Per usual, New Year’s Eve and Day are the most hectic times of the year for me, followed by a few weeks off to focus on studio work and family time. I’ve been in a good zone creatively, and grateful to have a few weeks off to focus on creating.

Any New Years resolutions you have started?

To be honest, no major resolutions this year. Just trying to balance all the spinning plates in life without losing my mind 🙂

About your style/aims when it comes to DJing – are you someone who likes to get people in a trance, or who likes a sense of fun in their sets, or who likes to shock etc?

The question itself touches on my general approach to DJing quite well, but it depends on the venue and context for how much I lean into each aspect. If I’m playing an extended 4hr+ set and I feel that I have a strong relationship of trust with the crowd (either acutely within the night or over the course of years), I’m more eager to get the audience in a hypnotic trance-like state.

If I’m playing a festival like Desert Hearts or Burning Man, I’ll definitely reveal more of the quirky side of my sound (and attire). On that note, I do think in general, dance music is often far too serious. Sometimes if I’m on the dance floor, I’ll look around and wonder if anyone is actually having fun here or just trying to be cool. I’ve never considered myself one of the cool kids, so I’m comfortable letting my inner weirdo out when it feels right.

Regarding shocking a crowd, more narrowly, I enjoy surprising a crowd from time to time. The most exciting art (music or otherwise) usually involves a fair amount of risk. Even if I don’t personally enjoy the outcome of an artist’s risk, I do respect their attempt, and will pay closer attention to what they are doing. In a perfect world, I’m able to nail both: surprise my audience with a musical risk and see it land well on the floor.

And where is your best environment? A small dark club or a huge outdoor festival stage? Late at night for the weirdos or early so you can play slow and eclectic?

I actually just played an intimate loft party last weekend, to a crowd of maybe 60 people. These types of gigs are rare these days, so I was reminded how much I love having the crowd so close to my face that I can smell the sweat. I’m extremely sensitive to my environment since my approach to DJing involves continuous reading of the room and adjusting accordingly. When I can follow every dancer’s own personal narrative throughout a night, it’s much easier for me to lock into the perfect vibe that the room needs.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have a place in my heart for playing massive festivals. That’s a special adrenaline rush for sure. But DJing a festival stage is a blunt force approach to the artform: play the big drops and the bangers, because if you don’t, even for just a minute, the crowd will move onto another stage that’s more stimulating. I’ll do this if the situation calls for it, but it’s not as exciting to me artistically.

A DJ could get away with pre-programming a festival set, but there’s no way that would fly in an intimate room. The latter is much harder, and perhaps counterintuitively, playing for a smaller crowd takes more experience to truly get right.

When making music, what are your aims, what sounds are you most found of, what is the aim of your tunes?

Earlier in my production career, I used to carry a heavy weight on my shoulders since I felt I didn’t have a signature sound, and I didn’t know how to go about getting there. Over the years, I’ve decided to drop that notion of obsessing over what I’m supposed to sound like or what others will respect.

Now my aim is to just surrender and let “God” (or whatever you want to call it) decide whatever sounds come through the speakers. Sometimes it ends up being progressive, sometimes minimal, sometimes dubby, even bollywood edits…frankly I don’t care, as long as what I’ve created is something I like and feels authentic to who I am.

With this approach, my sonic signature has revealed itself in ways I hadn’t originally expected and maybe in ways not everyone recognizes. But I’m happy to say that I’m finding much more fulfillment at this point in my creative journey, since I now operate with less fear and more confidence in my creative choices.

Tell us about your Manjumasi label – why start it, what was the motivation?

Mark Slee and I started Manjumasi back in 2016, but we have been collaborating on creative projects since high school, roughly 25 years ago! 2015 was the year I had left my corporate tech job to fully dedicate myself to music, so I had a lot of creative energy and interest in trying on some new hats. The idea of starting a label always sounded exciting to me, since I already enjoyed curation so much through DJing in clubs and releasing studio mixes. When Mark sent me his quirky/awesome Nocturne Belle demo, it wasn’t really clear which label would sign a tune like that. At that moment, it was obvious that we needed to start our own thing.

And how has the sound evolved and adapted over 35 releases?

The label’s sound has evolved by triangulating the evolution of Mark’s taste as a DJ, my taste, and the industry as a whole. That being said, there are two things that I think have remained consistent in our ethos:

1) The inconsistency of our sound (by design). One day, we’ll release a romanian minimal Silat Beksi record, another day we’ll do a dub techno Birds ov Paradise record, and now we find ourselves signing progressive house. We’ve been explicitly disinterested in being pigeonholed into a certain genre. This doesn’t bode well for us commercially, but it’s certainly more interesting and fun.

2) For the most part, we try to avoid falling within the “center” of a genre. Historically, our ears enjoy a bit of quirk, weirdness, or unpredictability. Sometimes we’ll decline to sign demos that we know would jump the charts and smash dance floors, because they feel too safe.

What makes you most proud with it?

Signing unknown artists, especially debut EPs, then seeing the artists go on to do bigger things. It’s the Dad in me.

What are the hardest parts or running it?

Chasing down remixers. Hah!

But more seriously, I think the hardest part has been staying disciplined about our ethos (which I touched on above), by resisting the temptation to sign a track that doesn’t have that unique, hopefully timeless flavor to it, even if we are confident that it would smash the charts.

What future projects do you have in the works?

Outside my own creative work, I have another dimension to my career, which is artist mentorship. I run a program where I help develop up-and-coming electronic music artists, and this has brought me deep satisfaction. My medium-term goal is to build a thriving community of artists who can support each other, and one day, host an in-person artist retreat.

What hopes and goals and dreams do you have for your career?

I want to make enough money to feed my family, doing what I love, in an authentic way, that entertains and improves people’s lives…all while having fun.

Whopper (atish Remix) is out now on Manjumasi
Grab it Here

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