While Aman Haldipur wanted to set up his studio, he sought with the super talented popular successful music producer and remix master – Jatin Sharma for help. For not having licenses, funds and other essentials in place, Aman suggested I work with Jatin until he put things together.
Working with Jatin, learning from him and his talented team of Assamese guys who moved to Mumbai to pursue their dreams in the music business, hanging out with the best DJ’s in the industry, partying until sunrise with them were some of the best days of my life. I grew up slowly, doing the same thing over and over again, waited long for opportunities where I could grab the mixer to record and often asked the master whether I was ready. I became fat, I needed a push.
One day, someone approached with a studio setup in need for an engineer to run it. I quickly grabbed the opportunity as the guy wanted to create content for large sized companies and media houses and not egoistic famous un-talented Bollywood stars, who gained public reputation via media on one hit, but lost their self-respect selling their soul to the devil and giving up their families to lending their bodies other similar people.
Unfortunately, for him things didn’t go as planned, he didn’t enough customers as he wanted me to spend time in an empty studio rather than finding customers without social media or proper internet back then. Over the course of six months, he paid me only Rs. 12,000/- asked me for a cheque of Rs. 20 lacs and I recorded two gospel albums without sleep for three days at a stretch and not even a clean toilet.
The best thing about working on the gospel albums was, I could get as creative I wanted with them. They didn’t pay much, so didn’t have much of say in what they wanted. And the nuns from the Church accepted everything given to them with a smile. The music director was a known industry veteran doing this for charity and so were the artists, although quite popular even back then, their belief for doing something good for the Church and Catholic community was on top of their list. So, they allowed me to make things sound different, spend a good amount of time on the mixes to perfect them and experiment with them. I loved it. It was exciting. The musicians, the professionalism, the causes, etc. excited me far more than working on commercial albums in a factory like record-in-the-day, mix-by-night, release-next-morning manner for recognition in the industry.
But, soon after, I quit!
As you know the media business mainly works on connections and recommendations, I often heard of the name Daman Sood. People spoke highly of him and everyone I knew with media connections told me, that I was pursuing something great and that one day they would introduce me to Daman Sood, the best Sound Engineer in India for decades and someone I yet consider the best by far, by just listening to one of his mixes. He was the only engineer for Jagjit Singh, another legend I didn’t recognize by face until I was introduced to him after spending an hour with him alone.
After my job with Octavious and my charmingly egoistic first employer, I wanted to reach out to Daman Sood. Innocently, I picked up the phone and called the studio I heard he worked at and asked for him. What could be better than him getting on the phone and asking me to come over to meet him immediately?
Wait, there was something much better!
I was waiting outside the studio with another old gent while Mr. Sood was working on a mix. We chatted for some time, but my Hindi not being so good and my eagerness to meet Mr. Sood kept me quite disinterested for small talk. Only about an hour later, the door opened, Mr. Sood asked us to come on in, made me listen to a track and introduced me to the gent I was sitting with outside all that while, as Jagjit Singh. That was quite a moment.
But, the real moment arrived later.
During the course of our conversation, Mr. Sood told me he was looking for a job! He said he wanted to retire and become a teacher. My mind went blank. Here’s a legendary engineer I went to meet, to learn from him and to ask him if he had work for me and instead he turns around and asks me if I had work for him?! I said it would be great to retire and that I would look around for opportunities for him.
And, two months later I did.
In return, we developed a friendship and he introduced me to my next employer. Another talented violinist who dreamed of creating his own state of the art studio.
Moving back to Mumbai, after your best days as a student, within’ a week I found a job, and started my professional life. It was in a well-known studio, Octavious, in Pali Market. For Rs. 3K a month, I took it up happily. The owner, Nikhil Kapoor gave me the first task to set up the new studio by Octavious with another in-house engineer there. I couldn’t be more overjoyed than to setting up a new studio, wiring it the way I wanted and working with industry talent.
A month and a half later, I gave up.
Roger Waters was playing in Bangalore, I had backstage access, thanks to a friend of mine – Santana Davis who was doing the sound & lights for the show, asked for a 2 days leave over the weekend, had no work in the studio at all. But, Nikhil never allowed me leave! That was the most ridiculous thing in the world! After I returned, he gave me some shit like I wasn’t available for a sudden two hour shift late in the evening when someone walked into the studio and wanted to convert his tracks, hence he felt like I was a liability. He called me over for a joint meeting with his business partners, but before he could explain further I quit.
He thought I was stupid and would learn a lot from him.
Dropping out from college, not knowing what to do next, a friend of mine now a music director, Chirantan Bhatt, told me he was studying Sound Engineering and suggested I go with him to Chennai to understand what it was. Back in early 2000 it was something unheard off in India especially. As most of my buddies were pursuing their MBA degrees, studying computer science abroad or working towards getting better grades to choose subjects and careers they would be accepted in next, I chose to do what I loved – exploration. Not the deep sea kind, but for life.
I loved music so much, I would give up on anything for it. I always wanted to become a musician, but couldn’t play a single instrument or read or write or even understand notes for that matter. I was never attracted to the business of it, but spent a lot of my childhood mastering tapes compiling and recording songs using various tape decks and techniques mastering them for all songs to sound the same quality and crisp. I never knew that it was a sound engineers job until I went to Chennai for a short trip.
Luckily, my father always encouraged me to do what I loved, he often told me that he wouldn’t mind me being a sweeper, as long as I’m interested and would work towards being the best in the world. After all, every profession is a respectable one and is valuable to you if you truly love it. No matter what others think of what you do. Chirantan always wanted to become a music producer. His father fought with him and pushed him to do his MBA. Chiru, lovingly and respectably obeyed, completed his MBA degree and gave his father the certificate and went to the newly opened Australian franchise of SAE (School of Audio Engineering) in Chennai to pursue his dreams.
From Columbus to Chennai in three weeks, changed my world. After spending a year bathing in hot water smelling like eucalyptus, walking around the world’s largest campus, discovering new music with a diverse set of friends, having subs by the lake and another year and a half; being haunted by ghosts at home, sitting on one side of the bus or negotiating with auto rickshawallas, bathing in chilled water under the terrace tank, not getting decent food to eat and moving in auto-pilot mode without sleep for days together.
Those were some of the best days of my life. The United States broadened my horizons and vision, Chennai taught me adaptability and a subject I loved most – Sound & Music.
I wrote songs, I produced them with my very talented buddies playing for me and I boldly scored for them, although I never tried anything brown, green or white. We got along in the studio like a house on fire, there was always a humour and jokes on even the most senseless things, just like creative minds do together.
It’s hard to take time off when you have exciting days life like mine. I’ve had meetings outside airports, in trains in less than 7 minute commutes, sold goods by lugging around many suitcases on the streets in the Indian summer, travelled dangerously across cities in China thru the night and made friends partying like a rockstar in Hong Kong.
Living abroad, often alone, I decided to start pursuing another hobby. Something I love doing - adding value to other’s lives. I know this may sound like a cliché, but it’s important. I love working with people who love to learn and those who love to teach. Although, often many get attracted to those who fish for them, I feel your life is more meaningful when you know how to fend for yourself. Not just monetarily, but in so many other ways. The more you know, the more valuable you are. But, it’s no use unless you share it largely.
Being an early dropout from well-known American college, a sound engineer in the music business for a few years, then in manufacturing for two and then founding my first startup, a gadget developing company - www.hitplay.in that is now a self-sustainable, boot strapped and profitable business, there’s a lot I’ve learned by doing wrong & right things, living on the edge, being overwhelmed by small success and learning to overcome failures. Starting up by dropping out of many things and holding on to what I believe is changing the world rapidly, has gained me insights and experiences so enriching, I’m sure there maybe something for you to benefit from in the pursuit of holding onto and following your dreams.