From performing for a pitcher of beer to living in a penthouse, we follow the Hyderabad-based producer’s enviable journey
Big cities have all the fun. Or at least they used to. Enter Murthovic, a Hyderabad-based electronic producer who is often credited with introducing the city to the world of beat music. He is likely one of the city’s most revered talents, capable of holding a room of sweaty partygoers in excelsis at will. Having performed alongside artists that includes the likes of Tiesto, Jerome Isma-ae,Infected Mushroom, DjumaSoundsystem and more, there’s every reason to believe Murthovic is just getting started.
The calm before the storm: Murthovic tweaks his equipment before a show
Best known for his brand of house, he has experimented with nearly every sub-genre of electronica over the last two decades. Speaking about how he got started, he says, “It has been a challenging, but fun process. For our underground gigs, fees were sometimes nothing and sometimes I’d play for a pitcher of beer, and maybe a burger too. Just because I wanted to play the music I’d been listening to.” Always experimental, he channels his entire catalogue of influences - techno, blues, rock, trip hop, funk, synth pop and whatever falls in between – into every show. His more recent work, produced using everything from a Doepfer Dark Energy to a homemade xylophone, takes on a more organic approach.Making music, at the end of the day, is therapeutic. He adds, “A new track has always got something to do with something that’s inspired me that day. It sometimes starts with something as simple as a drum loop or a vocal phrase, but it’s always about what I’m feeling at the time.”
We follow his journey, unravelling details from career’s unlikely beginning in 1998 to his exciting upcoming collaborations:
How long have you been a musician, and how did you first start out?
I have been a part of the music scene for the last 17years. In the beginning I was working part-time while I was in college, playing rock n roll, funk, blues and jazz. After 3 or 4 years, it had started to become lucrative and of course, I had this immense drive because of the satisfaction it would bring me.Eventually, I gave up on my PhD programme and started performing full-time.
What is the best way to describe your music?
It’s easiest to call it electronic music. But that often depends on when, where and who I am playing for. A sundown pool side set is a different from a late night club vibe. Personally, I have always tried to evoke emotion in people and curate moods via music.
Murthovic performs at the Soma Project in Goa last year
Tell me about Frequency, the underground dance movement that you founded.
Frequency started as a small club movement to encourage open-minded people who had been following us venues for different kinds of music. We could decide what music we’d play, and our friends would always be up front dissipating positive energy. People would see that, join in and learn about new sounds. We started being contacted by many hoteliers, club owners, etc. We developed a business model that would also give us the freedom to bring in other successful and renowned artist from other cities or countries. In the span of 2 years, we had a strong and ever-growing local community of over three hundred people. Over the next few years, we brought a lot of new talent to Hyderabad and for a lot of those artists; it was their first visit to the city.
How difficult has it been to push non-mainstream music in a city like Hyderabad?
It has been a challenging,but fun process. For our underground gigs, fees were sometimes nothing and sometimes I’d play for a pitcher of beer, and maybe a burger too. Just because I wanted to play the music I’d been listening to. I was giving away mix tapes on cassettes at after party sessions where clubbers would hang out and eat, drink, smoke, chill and discuss music. There were a lot of times I got music from people who had some interesting artists to recommend.
The music was cool, and it spread. But it had to happen;it was when the whole world was being taken over by electronic music. The underground became the new cool and it wasn’t a small number of people who were interested anymore.
Why do you think it’s important for the scene to grow in smaller cities like your own, as opposed to the metros?
The metros have always healthy music scene that’s in sync with the global market, whereas the smaller cities have not. Whether it’s a city like Hyderabad or any smaller city,people used to have to travel to other metros to see big, popular national or international acts. I’ve spoken to many sponsors over the years who have said that they don’t see enough audience in the smaller cities, which on the positive side has lead local musicians and music lovers to curate their own little self-sustained scene.
The producer, getting his gear ready before a promo show at a Quicksilver outlet
Do you think that now that Hyderabad is becoming a part of the festival circuit, the exposure to international talent and success will inspire a new generation of musicians?
Yeah,I think there is a lot happening in Hyderabad at the moment – whether big, small or underground. From the looks of it, the city is going to be an essential music destination in the country. That itself is inspiring a lot of young people to choose careers not only in music but also in production, events and other allied creative fields.
You’re considered a pioneer of the nightlife in Hyderabad. Could you tell me more about that?
Being part of the early breed of local DJs in Hyderabad, I’ve had the opportunity to nurture music styles and influence the taste of multiple demographics. At the time, there were very few night clubs with dance floors and was a fairly new concept in the city. It started small, with the people who were regulars but eventually it became possible to promote local underground dance music. I guess I was unknowingly educating a lot of the clubbers, and they started following me different venues. I was broadly playing house, hip-hop and reggae then.
In those times, there were few places and a very old school way of work – so opportunities for aspiring DJs was limited. I tried to change that by teaching anyone interested, and obviously picked a few and invited them to do guest sets at the venues where I was performing. Hyderabad in the late nineties was mostly into rock n roll. But with the opening of few new bars and a couple night clubs, the scene had already begun to change.
Murthovic performs with Arjun Vagale in 2013
Now that you’ve been in the industry for so long, what do you have to say about it and what advice would you give upcoming musicians?
The industry is vast and growing every day. I feel there is a little bit of something for everyone, and right now we are going through the whole disco revolution phase. I think anyone who is dedicated and focused on what they want to achieve, can do well. It’s a competitive market,but if you are good, there is nothing that can stop you. Today, thankfully, we have the internet where you can put your music out from home and still find a global audience. Don’t hesitate to search for How-To Guides on Google. There is so much information available, don’t shy away.
Would you do it all over again, and why?
I would absolutely do it again, but next time I’d like to meticulously plan my music career.
If you could change one thing about the music industry in India right now, what would it be?
I feel that enterprise taking over the whole music scene and that is something that worries me a lot. You can’t blame anyone; it is a good business for many. But there is intense competition between production houses, event companies and promoters to bring the biggest and best acts from around the world to our shores. While that's amazing, very few care about the home grown artists or are promoting local talent.
I would like to see more platforms where our own artists collaborate and grow together, learning skills from each other.It does happen sometimes,for example the Reset series by Unmute Agency.
The veteran DJ tears up the dancefloor with his beats at Reset Festival in 2014
Could you name other Indian artists whose music you like, or who you’d be interested in collaborating with?
There are so many great Indian artists at the moment, who are doing great job in various different styles of music so it’s difficult to list down a few favourites but I love the work done by S-Pot, TejaswineeKelkar, ArjunVagale, Audio Units, Blot, Pawas, Soulspace, Tribal flora, Tapan Raj of Midival Punditz, Kohra, Vipul, Ash Roy, Sandunes, Kini Rao, etc.
What are you working on next?
I’ve been working on a solo album which has been in the making for the last couple of years. I’m also working on a conceptual local show with my friends – it willincude a violinist, a guitarist, a drummer and a vocalist. We’re creating a hybrid between digital and acoustic instrument sounds and FX, and will perform original compositions and solo jams much like a band would.
All photos courtesy: Unmute Agency/Murthovic