It is that time of the year again - only five days away from Beyond Wonderland! We know you're excited for main stage acts like Calvin Harris, Tiesto, Knife Party, and many more. But Beyond Wonderland is a big festival. Not EDC-big, but still big nonetheless. There are so many incredible artists from the main stage names like Calvin Harris all the way to the ones you've never heard of that will be playing at the beginning of the day.
Shameless Promotions & Media is going to be bringing you coverage on the artists that will be gracing the stages of Beyond Wonderland HERE all week long. We'll be talking with artists from all three stages, and we're kicking today off with an interview from San Francisco native SNR.
I recently chatted with SNR (Swapneel Ukhalkar) in regards to what he'll bringing to the Beyond Wonderland stage this year, the importance of visuals in a live show, his label Adrenalin Room, and much more.
What influenced you to start your own label, Adrenalin Room, instead of going for the typical route of shopping music out to another label?
I think it was a combination of two things. It’s a problem that some people have with me, which is that I tend to lie on the boundary of so many different genres. I don’t really affiliate with any one particular genre even though a lot of people would say that I’m a trance artist, but there’s just so many different influences that I can’t really define. I wasn’t really finding any success signing anywhere, but now I’m connected with some bigger labels, so things are better.
But in the beginning, it was just….I think my music has always kind of been there. At least that what people tell me, but you’re always your biggest critic. I think it was that issue, where I just wanted to create a place where similarly minded people can exchange ideas. I really just wanted them to create, what we call, a family and friends at Adrenalin Room. It’s a bunch of friends who exchange ideas. We just all seem to think very similarly, and so I’ve been collecting people in our little community of artists, and it’s been going pretty well so far.
I understand that you also do shows that are showcased around Adrenalin Room in San Francisco?
Yeah absolutely. I like to say that we do two main things. We do music and events. I have a business partner; his name is Ryan Rhodes. He’s kind of a guru in the event space, and I take charge in the music space. The reason that we work so well together is because we kind of meet in the middle. He focuses on what he does and I focus on what we do, and it’s been very successful so far. He’s been doing that model, so yeah! We kind of started in this really small venue. I think it was a dive-bar almost, like a 200-300 person thing. We kind of grew that over the past three years from venue to venue, and now we’re obviously in Ruby Skye quite often. Very much the face of a lot of the trance events that come in to Ruby Skye, among others.
We went from this really small venue (we did parties there for about a whole year, I think), and then we moved to a venue called Audio. It’s a fantastic venue, I love it. It’s equally tiny. Small space, but I really like the clientele. The people are all really good people. We’re all about not only good music, but good people. A lot of times, you’ll hear people going to parties and then walk away going “aw man, everyone was a douchebag there”, right?
*Laughs* Oh yes.
The music is important, but half of the thing is the people. One of the things that I like about Audio is that there are awesome people that come there.
Speaking of Ruby Syke, I’ve been going there, even just as a fan, for a really long time, and over the past couple of years it’s really changed for the better. There’s new management that’s come in, new promoters like us who have come in who are caring not just about bringing as many heads in, but the quality of everything.
Your music is very upbeat, like house music, but it’s got elements of trance throughout it. Trance music is starting to get more attention at festivals like Beyond Wonderland. What do you think this means, in your opinion, for the genre in general?
Definitely. Trance was my gateway drug, if you want to call it that. I grew up on jazz and hip-hop. Before I discovered the whole electronic realm, I kind of came in through the whole uplifting trance side. Most of my friends are trance snobs (laughs). Every genre has their own version of the snob. I like to keep my mind really open though. I listen to trap, I listen to dubstep, I love all kinds of bass music, house, deep house. So I try to combine all of those things in my music because, if you’re a snob, you’re like “oh, it’s only trance all day”. Or deep house, or whatever. (laughs)
Being with the genre for awhile now, and having seen it go up and down, I’d always had a feeling that it had its peak a long time ago, and then it kinda started dropping off. But in recent years, it’s picked up. I don’t want to say that it’s coming back because I think it’s always been there, but…I have a feeling something’s happening in California specifically. Kind of like a breeding ground for something bigger to happen, which is cool, because with genres they’re very location specific. I think we’re [California] really spoiled with events.
Most of my producer friends, wherever in the world they started, have been moving to LA. Everybody has asked me, “why don’t you move to L.A.”? Number one, I don’t like L.A., and even though most of my friends are out there, I probably wouldn’t move out there. I think that we’re so close in San Francisco here. There’s so much happening, and I think that California in general is just this hub for so much that is happening here, especially in trance. Like the DreamState party, right? That’s focused all around trance. It just blew my mind when I saw that.
Yeah! You mean the DreamState show that’s coming to Bill Graham Civic on New Years’ Day?
I don’t know the details, but I know there’s a second one here. The first one is happening in L.A.
That surprised me too. I think what surprised me about that Future Sounds of Egypt show that was here is that out of any city in the United States for the only USA show of the tour, they chose San Jose, California.
There’s some venues that have been popping up in the South Bay, like PureLounge, some of the places in Downtown San Jose, or even at the City National Civic where they did the FSOE show, there’s been stuff that’s been happening over the past three or four years. The fact that there’s event of that scale happening in a non-big hub center, like a secondary area of San Francisco, tells me that this is a pretty big thing that’s happening.
Speaking of Beyond Wonderland, congratulations on scoring a slot on the lineup. This is going to be a great event. In your opinion, since fans are going to have different sounds being thrown at them left and right, what do you think is going set you apart from the other artists performing out there?
Well some of my friends like to tell me that I’m the only Indian producer that they know, so maybe the fact that I’m brown? (laughs)
Well, my background is actually in software engineering. I’m a coder by heart. I kind of approach production, as well as performance, in a very different way than a traditional musician would. It’s very much in blocks and stuff, in the way that a programmer would program a piece of software or something. That’s kind of forced me to look into different visual experiences and stuff like that. I even used Google Glass for awhile. A lot of people know me as the “Google Glass guy” here in San Francisco because I used to use it while I performed, but mainly as an overdramatized video recorder, but you can use it to do a lot of other stuff with it like hack into its accelerometer, and link that to MIDI-CC parameters and controllers and stuff like that.
I’ve always liked mixing different technological things together. That’s why I don’t do traditional DJing. I use all sorts of controllers like Madeon might use with all the light-up grids and everything like that. My DJ set up is actually two, sometimes three, Launchpads; one or two different software mixers, all connected through my laptop; and I actually just integrated these Myo armbands into my sets.
They’re basically these electro-sensitive armbands. What they do is they sit around your arm, and it senses the electricity going through your arm. Not necessarily the muscle movement, but the electricity, because different movements in your arms have different electrical patterns. So whether you’re squeezing your fist, or moving your arm left or right, it senses it. By doing that, it’s immensely more accurate than regular movement stuff, like if I was to use an Xbox Kinect or something.
The cool thing is that we’re actually pitching a tour to a couple of cities in India right now. I’m working with a VJ in India. I did a show in Shrilanka a couple months ago, and I met this really awesome VJ who works a lot of venues in India. We’re working on this concept where we are linking my arm bands into his VJ software and doing this kind of dual-controlled visual thing, where all of my movements control whatever visuals he’s doing. It’s still kind of in the prototype-phase, but the basic idea is that my movements will influence, or if not, completely control, whatever he’s doing in his VJ thing. So it’s like a collaborative visual experience.
There’s a couple of people that are jumping on the Myo band, but it’s very early so I like just messing around and tinkering with stuff. If I had more flexibility, I think I would do something at Beyond too, but their stage production is insane anyways. (laughs)
That’s an answer I’ve never heard before. I’ve tried to tell other musicians how important the visuals are in a show.
Yeah! A purist will tell you that it should be only about the music, and of course it should be all about the music, but it is also, at the end of the day about the visual, and why not do as much as you can and get creative with it? Because that itself is a creative tool. If you see the visual as a creative tool, then it completely changes the perspective on it.
What does music mean to you?
To me, I think it’s always come down to the connection, really. It’s kind of like a tool, actually. It’s like a means to a separate end, you know? And at the end of the day, all we’re really trying to do is connect with people. I’m a very spiritual guy. I don’t really affiliate with any religion, but I’m very spiritual, and I always look at the way different things in the world are connected, and that is what really fascinates me. I think at the end of the day, I’m just trying to connect with people. I like learning about people and I like showing people about myself through music. I guess I’m what you’d call an extroverted introvert? I don’t really consider myself an extrovert. Like, if you’d meet me at a party, people would be like “oh he’s an extrovert!” But not really; my recharge time is being alone. That’s the sign of an introvert right? But it’s a hybrid thing. Based on the nature of what I do, it’s kind of forced me to be like this, but it comes down to the connection.
I think it comes back to the whole reason of why I started Adrenalin Room. I didn’t just want to be my own artist, I wanted to create a family of people who don’t just work together, but become lifelong friends. It sounds kinda cheesy, but it’s turning into this thing where people have moved across the country to come and be in San Francisco with us and just be part of our label family.
There’s this crazy thing, and it blows my mind, but there’s people that have met at our parties. There’s one story about this couple that got married, and they met at one of our parties about a year or two ago. It blows my mind with these experiences we create. (laughs)
I think we’re still kind of in the infancy stages of the label. We’re just getting around to finishing our very first label compilation. It’s going to called “Adrenalin Room: Chapter 1”, I believe. It’s going to be all original material from ten or fifteen core artists right now. It’s going to be our first very big statement about who we are musically and in the industry, so I’m pretty excited about that.
It really just comes down to the connection, just making meaning out of it.
Be sure to catch SNR's performance on the QUEEN'S DOMAIN stage at Beyond Wonderland this SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27 from 2 PM to 3 PM. For more information on the festival, visit www.beyondwonderland.com. For more information on SNR, visit www.facebook.com/snrmusic
This has been another Shameless Promotion.