T.H.E Interview – Arjun Vagale


Arjun Vagale has been the flag bearer of the Indian electronic music community for years. An illustrious career spanning two decades, has seen him widely celebrated as the pioneer of Indian Techno.

From headlining festivals, setting up a successful booking agency (UnMute), a blooming music school (I Love Music Academy), a solid record label (Mak.Tub) and another budding one (Odd Records), winning DJ awards and playing multiple gigs at top venues across the country, there’s nothing Arjun Vagale hasn’t done.

Arjun’s ability to read the crowd and not just play to it, has taken him to legendary clubs like Tresor, Womb, Baum, and Paradiso, and key festivals including BPM, Sonar, ADE, Fusion, Awakenings, Sunburn and Supersonic, playing alongside the genre’s most prominent artists such as Richie Hawtin, Dubfire, Adam Bayer, Josh Wink and Sasha, to name but a few.

Arjun is known for his intense, driven and raw sound, Arjun is one of the most prolific artists to come out of Asia, and as one of India’s most acclaimed DJs, his cutting-edge productions have seen a massive globe reach. A man with a serious passion for the underground, he has received numerous awards for his DJing and production skills, as well as being named one of “Asia’s finest Underground Music Exports.”

The announcement of Arjun Vagale’s inclusion to the Awakenings Festival line up along with fellow country-man – Ash Roy, was a massive piece of news for fans across the country. Awakenings Festival is largely known as the largest outdoor techno festival in the world drawing over 70,000 visitors every year. We sat down with the big man to know more about his views on the announcement and his previous experiences.

Sagar – From being one of the pioneers in progression of India’s booming electronic music scene with Jalebee Cartel to being the driving force of Indian techno or shall we say Indian electronic music scene, you have been one of the most successful electronic music acts in the country. How would you like to describe your journey?

Arjun Vagale – Thank You! Its been an amazing adventure to say the least. I’ve had a career that spans over 20 years now, so naturally there have been many low’s & highs , but that’s part of the journey, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sagar – We really dig the emotive, dark and raw approach to your music but for a career that has spanned over two decades, how do you think your sound has evolved over the years?

Arjun Vagale – For me, evolution is key! Without that, you will be stagnant. Its not about following trends or playing / producing what is “cool” right now! You have to try and formulate your own path, be confident in your approach and eventually be known for YOUR sound. I see many DJ’s and producers trying to be different by just simply copying the current trend, but in truth, they all sound the same. For an artist to be recognized as unique, you need to have a unique way of playing or making music.

Sagar – You have shared stages with some of the biggest names in industry such as Josh Wink, Adam Beyer, Richie Hawtin etc and also dished out your music at some of the biggest festivals in the world such as BPM, Sonar and Supersonic. Tell us more about the experience?

Arjun Vagale – Naturally playing with one’s heroes is an unreal feeling. It’s even more satisfying when you hear them play your music. In a way it comes full circle – they inspire you to make music, and then they discover you, and start playing your music … it’s pretty unreal when it first happens.

Sagar – Moving to the United States in 2014 was certainly a bold move in your career and I remember you mentioning that the idea was to understand the scene and whether it worked for you. How do you think the move has panned out so far?

Arjun Vagale – The whole plan was to take myself out of India for a bit and be thrown in to the world’s biggest market, which is the US. It was scary, I will admit, but also challenging at the same time, which for me is exciting. I was fortunate enough to have support from many of the top NYC players, they helped and guided me and I’m glad to have played at some of the best venues in North America.

Sagar – How would you like to characterize the Indian Techno scene?

Arjun Vagale – Its on fire at the moment – we have a long way to go, but you can safely say the world is watching us very closely!

Sagar – You have released loads of fantastic music over the years but would you regard Terrakoz or She Said as the defining tracks in your career?

Arjun Vagale – Yes, both those tracks really propelled my name in the international market. Carl Cox championed both tracks – infact he played Terrakoz probably for an entire year, in EVERY set, at every club or festival around the world. Richie Hawtin played She Said right through his first season of ENTER at Space, so both tracks got me a lot of recognition, and many DJ’s and labels started taking notice of me. Funnily, Terrakoz was the B-side of the release, and initially didn’t get much traction, but after Carl started playing it, it exploded.

Sagar – You co-own one the finest booking agencies in the country which boasts a monstrous roster. How do you plan to expand Unmute in the future?

Arjun Vagale – The UnMute plan is a long-term one – we don’t look at what’s hot at the moment, but rather, at quality artists who have a future in the business. Its about nurturing new talent, giving them a platform to take their ideas and develop them. Dev, Sanil & Ayush are all extremely hard working people – who always push the artists to do more and evolve. I’m really proud of the crew.

Sagar – Odd Recordings was another defining point in your career. The Indo-Spanish touch to the label is very exciting to see. How did the collective idea of a label along with Ramiro Lopez consolidate further?

Arjun Vagale – ODD is our new baby! Before this, I ran MakTub Music for about 5-6 years, so I know what it takes to run a label. Ramiro and I have been talking about starting a label together for a really long time now, but both our careers took precedent. Early last year, we began discussing the idea again, and we thought it was a good time to start. We naturally wanted to do something unique, that we could call our own – and the first release had to reflect the ideology – I’m so happy our collaboration “OddBall” really defines the label.

Sagar – After headlining the Awakenings stage at Vh1 Supersonic, you are all set to make an appearance at the Awakenings festival along with Ash Roy. How would you like to describe the feeling?

Arjun Vagale – It’s hard to put it into words … I was thrilled to hear I was closing the Awakenings stage in Pune –after all these years, we can safely say us Indians can close a major festival! Personally, it was a major accomplishment, that I’m headlining Awakenings on home turf.

As for Awakenings Festival NL – well … it’s one of the biggest Techno gatherings in the world, with the finest lineups of artists and I’m humble, excited and so ready!!

Sagar – Thanks Arjun and wish you the very best! :)

Arjun Vagale – Thanks for having me, and see you on the dance floor :) 

Sagar Deshmukh
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