Anil Chawla, the rising star of house music, plans to keep his day job while he works on his new album due to come out next year
Alter egos are often a necessary component of a DJ’s life ”“ they are a way of existing on another, more regular plane. Anil Chawla’s Clark Kent is a be-suited professional in London finance. His other persona, one that’s been around for the past decade, is far more nocturnal and has a proclivity to loud, reverberating bass lines. The latter tips the scales; he’s quitting his day job in December to focus on what he knows best ”“ music. Both playing and producing it.
A simplistic definition of Chawla’s music could be house music. “On the one hand, it’s helpful trying to define something you’re doing. But now there are so many different genres within the category that it gets difficult to pigeonhole a particular kind of sound,” he says. That dilemma could also be attributed to Chawla’s versatility behind the console ”“ something clubbers at the Sunburn festival in Goa last year were treated to (stories were told to the hordes that couldn’t make it to the raving beaches).
It all began with a deep-rooted fascination with vinyl. In 1998, Chawla, then a student at the University of Southampton, scraped together money left over from a student loan and bought record decks. He moved on from creating mixed tapes for friends to weekly gigs at the Student Union ”“ unpaid, apart from free beers. Chawla hit pay dirt when a friend landed a job at the legendary club Turnmills and passed on Chawla’s demos to the right people. Chawla landed an official two-year residency. “My stint there brought it all together. I went through some soul-searching and really found my sound. I also learned how to warm up the crowd there.” That found sound has everything ”“ it moves from ambient to hard progressive right up to heavy techno; which is what makes it hard to classify.
The club sadly, shut its doors this year after a massive two-decade run. “It’s a right shame ”“ they’re turning it into office blocks,” he says, adding, “They closed in style though. The Chemical Brothers came and played on Saturday night and the party was still on at 7 am. House music guru Danny Rampling came in the following night and started his set at 4 am and by midday we were still at it.” Apart from playing with the likes of Fat Boy Slim and Josh Wink, another important event took place at Turnmills. Chawla met his biggest collaborator (also slated with him as the big sound to look up to) ”“ Dale Anderson. The two met through common friends, figured out they had the same musical inflections and hit the studios, producing tracks that eventually got them signed on to the dance music heavyweight label, Global Underground. “I produced a track called ”˜Leftorium’ in 2006, but never really got around to sending it to labels ”“ I never do with any of my stuff. Dale sent it to Global Underground. We forgot about it and carried on making music, but they got in touch a couple of months later. It was fantastic for us because they’re such a cult label, and we continue to share a tight relationship with them.”
The GU signing was the cherry on the sundae, considering Chawla already had tracks out on other big labels ”“ Saved, Cr2, Kill Brique and Vapour to name a few. Sasha, John Digweed, Laurent Garnier, Steve Angello and James Zabiela have given him massive support over the years, and he’s had Adam Freeland and Francois Dubois get in touch with remix requests. Says Indian house enthusiast and DJ Nikhil Chinapa, “Anil’s set at Sunburn was unofficially billed as THE set of the entire festival. It was so well received that we wanted to expose his sound to as many people as we possibly could. He’s of Indian descent, he’s one of us and we’d like to support him in any way we can. We’re extremely proud of what he’s achieved so far (and what he will continue to achieve in the future). With Anil, we’re really putting our money where our mouth is Â – we (Submerge) went ahead and booked him with our own money, without knowing if we’d get any sponsors. He’s a phenomenal talent, and besides being a producer, he’s got what it takes to become a world-class DJ.”
Chawla’s signing off from the finance day job coincides with the release of a full-length album (co-produced with Anderson) under the Global Underground banner. “It’s far more eclectic and a lot broader that what we usually do. It has proggie, techno, lots of jazzy sound and breaks, but we also have some hardcore vocal tracks in there. There’s one with Justin Robertson that’s very ’80’s synth, and very catchy ”“ it’s pop electronica. We’re also really excited because Angie Brown is writing a track for us,” he says.
Chawla’s had a mad gig run in Argentina, Peru and Guatemala, coming back to play at the South West Four festival and Ministry of Sound with Sasha. There’s the India tour he clocked in too ”“ and that’s all been packed in just two months. How exactly will he manage the day job till the end of the year, sans sleep, and with lashings of jet lag? “I’m just a really grumpy person on Mondays and Tuesdays,” he replies.
CHAWLA’S TOP 5 HIT LIST
1. Anil Chawla & Dale Anderson – Makes Me Feel (Saved Records)
“This was the first track that Dale and I produced together, so it’ll always be a bit special. Nic Fanciulli signed it to his Saved Records imprint, and went on to put it on his first Renaissance mix CD. We were over the moon!”
2. Anil Chawla – Together (Kill Brique)
“My homage to my residency at Turnmills, it’s a Hardfloor-inspired acid workout.”
3. Anil Chawla & Dale Anderson – Leftorium
“This was the first track that we signed to Global Underground, which went on to be Beatport’s bestselling deep house track of 2007. When we made it, I thought it was a cool track but didn’t expect it to get such a huge response.”
4. Cevin Fisher – The Freaks Come Out [Anil Chawla Remix] (Subversive)
“I’ve just finished this mix today, but it’s one of my favourites. The original is a classic, so really nice to have the opportunity to work on it. I’ve taken it down the loopy techno route.”
5. Anil Chawla & Dale Anderson (Feat. Justin Robertson) – Are We All Together (Global Underground)
“Acid house legend Justin Robertson kindly provided his amazing vocals for our take on Eighties pop/electronica.”