How a Broken Leg Caused Sid Vashi to Write a Space-Themed Concept Album
The bed-ridden Mumbai producer worked on genre-bending tracks last year which now feature on ‘Azuma Kazuma’
Just a few years ago, U.S.-born multi-instrumentalist Sid Vashi was embarking on his life plan to become a doctor. He had moved to India with his family in 2008 from Detroit, Michigan, where he grew up, and returned Stateside in 2011 to pursue a pre-med degree in neuroscience and philosophy at Boston University. When he returned to India after graduating in 2014, he took on an observership at JJ Hospital in Mumbai, and had a job where he edited medical research papers. Today, however, the 25-year-old Vashi is a full-time music producer. He partially attributes his dramatic change in profession to meeting Rohan Ramanna of live electronic duo Nicholson, who taught him the ins and outs of music production.
Vashi has always been musical: while he was growing up in the U.S., he picked up the saxophone at the age of nine, and when he was around 14, he attempted his own Weezer-style rock opera. While working at his medical jobs in India, he taught himself rudimentary production skills by watching YouTube tutorials, which he was able to refine and expand upon with Ramanna’s help. In 2013, he released an EP titled Motherland Tourism, comprising eight diverse tracks, some of which featured Bollywood and Indian classical samples. Vashi, however, dismisses the release as a “not-so-serious” experiment. “It wasn’t really an album, but a bunch of singles put together before I was serious about music. I took it down because of personal reasons. I’m remastering it and will put it out eventually,” says Vashi, who ultimately quit his medical career when record label Only Much Louder signed him in 2015.
What pushed him to record this new album, Azuma Kazuma, was breaking his leg and being bed-ridden for six weeks. “I was just figuring [out] the next move ’cause I was relegated to this one place,” says Vashi. He cooped himself up in a friend’s extra room for two months to try and work through his creative ideas. “I started playing around with demos and loops and creating the beginnings of the songs on the album,” he says.
Vashi designed the new record, which he worked on for eight subsequent months, as a space-themed concept album which follows the trials and tribulations of a fictional character named FT 1089. He eventually intends to release a visual animation of the album’s storyline. Musically, the record spans everything from pop, rock, hip-hop, jazz and more. “When you have a narrative it’s not so much that you need to stick to a certain style [of music], you just have to do something that fits the story,” says Vashi. Though the album’s narrative is a space odyssey epic, Azuma Kazuma’s run-time is a short 29 minutes: “I hate albums that are 18 or 19 songs long,” Vashi explains. “I’m a really moody guy: there were so many songs I cut out to make the final seven.”
Azuma Kazuma is a varied record and includes down-tempo songs, complex rhythm sections and a few upbeat tracks as well. On “Ghost Don’t Follow Me,” Vashi wanted to combine Afrobeat with an outer space sound. “I wanted to see what it would be like to create a live [music] atmosphere electronically,” he says. “The main character has had a near-death experience and is returning back to his colony where he lives and works,” he explains. “He has to hijack his own ship from this pseudo- government.” The final track on the record, “Hauz,” features vocalist/guitarist Josh Fernandez from Chennai rockers The F16s. “He came up with a beautiful melody and lyrics for this song,” says Vashi. “It’s like a break-up song. In the arc of the story, it’s like a lucid dream sequence.”
Vashi recorded a larger portion of Azuma Kazuma at his Mumbai home studio and mixed most of the record at Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studio and some parts of it at singer-songwriter/electronica artist Sohrab Nicholson’s studio. The album was mastered by Cicely Balston at Air Studios in London. “She killed it,” says Vashi.
Vashi is now all geared up to play three live shows in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru between May 27th and June 9th to promote the record. The producer will be joined by keyboardist Rohan Rajadhyaksha from Mumbai alt rockers Spud in the Box and drummer Viraaj Saxena.
Listen to Azuma Kazuma below:
Azuma Kazuma Launch Tour Dates:
May 27th – Antisocial, Mumbai
June 2nd – The Humming Tree, Bengaluru
June 9th – OddBird Theatre, New Delhi