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Electronic dance music (EDM) has steadily garnered a devoted following in India, but there are still relatively few EDM producers of bass-heavy music. Akshay Johar is one such person. Using his EDM avatar MojoJojo, the 26-year-old musician has been releasing his own music and remixes over the past couple of years. Recently, he released his full-length debut, Shots Fired.

Like an increasing number of electronic music producers, Johar cut his teeth in the live music scene. He has been a bassist with several Delhi rock bands such as Barefaced Liar, The Doppler Effect and Gravy Train. As MojoJojo, he focuses on his love for bass music, which includes styles of electronic music such as drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep. Generally, the music is characterized by its distinctive basslines, rhythm and groove.

On Shots Fired, Johar has enlisted the help of several vocalists—Tanya Nambiar, from his erstwhile band Gravy Train; the classically inspired Mahima Dayal Mathur, Chetan Dominic Awasthi, from the rock band Soul’d Out, and rapper Krishna Kaul, aka KR$NA. Johar about the making of the album. Edited excerpts from an interview:

You have been a bass player with several bands. Was that a reason why you gravitated towards bass-heavy music?

Precisely. Anything without that much low-end isn’t as exciting. That rumble of the low-end that you feel in your gut when bass music is played, is completely unparalleled.

When and how did you get interested in electronic music?

I was casually listening to a lot of it through middle school but the transition happened when I heard the original soundtrack of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and discovered how powerful electronic music can be. Artistes like Fatboy Slim, Aphex Twin, Portishead, Zero 7, The Chemical Brothers, Groove Armada really got me hooked.

Electronic music over the years has spawned so many genres and subgenres. How would you describe your music for the layperson?

My music could be best described as powerful, emotion-stirring music, with very strong melodies and rhythm. Especially this album, it’s a journey of moods through the music.

Is there any particular reason why the album is called ‘Shots Fired’?

It was just a provocative way of announcing my arrival. So that haters, doubters, armchair critics can take note.

The album has been released by Times Music. Any reason why you opted for a “major" label and did not try to release the album independently?

A label is important for a debutant like me, who’s still garnering a fan base. Had I released the album independently, I don’t think I would be able to have that kind of a reach as far as distribution is concerned. Apart from that, I think people realize that once you have a release on a label, you’re a force to be reckoned with.

The album features a track called ‘Nepal’ and you are also performing in Kathmandu at the end of October. What’s the story behind it?

I was supposed to play in Nepal a week after the earthquake struck. Hearing the stories of devastation and misery really tugged at my heart and affected me deeply. So as a tribute to the Himalayan nation, I wrote the track. I’ve included Kathmandu in the (album release) tour, as I want to go back and play that gig which never happened and play my song for them.

Many songs have intriguing titles—‘Thar Bomb’, ‘Greed Is Good’, ‘Storm’.

Thar Bomb, the first track on the album, has samples of Rajasthani folk chanting that I had recorded on a trip to the state last year. Storm reflects the internal turmoil I was going through while writing the track and features a folk raga sung by the fantastic Mahima Dayal Mathur. Nepal features Buddhist chants that I had recorded a couple of years back at a monastery in McLeodganj. Yogic Jogging contains vocal samples of a popular Indian baba at one of his rallies.

You have also described ‘Greed Is Good’ as “genre-defying". Could you explain?

I co-produced Greed Is Good with Nanok, aka Jai Vaswani, from Mumbai. He brings to the fore a very avant-garde kind of sound, which no one else is pursuing in the country. So together, I think we have created something that is absolutely global in its appeal. The song title comes from a popular catchphrase in a video game that me and Nanok liked playing.

The album also has a number of guest vocalists.

I think this was part knack and part fate. I had approached three vocalists prior to Mahima Dayal (to sing Storm) and it wasn’t working out with any of them, for which I was ultimately grateful, as she is a stellar vocalist. On the other hand, Tanya Nambiar (Rise And Fall) is someone I’ve worked with very closely. So I knew exactly which track to put her vocals on. KR$NA is a highly respected rapper signed with Universal music and I had heard his music before and was a fan, so I decided to work with him on the title track of the album and Jungle Raj.

With your electronic commitments, does it mean that you will devote less time to your “live" bass playing or working with bands?

Yes, definitely, because I am writing another chapter of my life right now. My musical journey is evolving and moving on to another space where I love being in control of every aspect of the creative process. I am still collaborating with musicians, something I have learnt as a live musician, but there is a greater joy for me right now in being a producer than in playing with bands.

Shots Fired, 90, is available at www.timesmusic.com

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