Machinedrum Returns to India For Disrupt Festival 2019
The seasoned American producer talks about his processes and his previous trip in 2017, when he performed at Magnetic Fields Festival
American producer-DJ Machinedrum aka Travis Stewart has lived and traveled all around the globe in the two decades that he’s spent making music. Whether it’s Los Angeles or New York, Berlin or Florida, Stewart says over email that a new place “has been the instant inspiration [that] a new environment creates.” At the same time, he’s quick to mention he learned that “your environment is not responsible for your creativity, inspiration or happiness.”
As someone who’s had his fair share of struggles with mental health and creative blocks when it comes to writing music, Stewart offers a profundity when he says, “A lot of people move to new places because they think that they will finally be happy when they change their environment when in fact nothing will change if you don’t change yourself internally.”
Ahead of his second visit to India for the Disrupt festival in Mumbai – he made his debut in the country at Magnetic Fields Festival in Rajasthan in 2017 – the producer talks about his processes as well as India memories. Excerpts:
You got to play in Tokyo almost 20 years ago, right? Are there any other places you went to for the first time that really blew your mind?
My first time playing in Tokyo was in 2001 with Jimmy Edgar (later his co-creator in electronic project Jets). We were both blown away by the experience and it has created a great bond between us. My first time in India playing at Magnetic Fields festival was also quite mind-blowing. It took nearly 10 hours to drive to the palace in which the festival took place. That in itself gave me the opportunity to take in the scenery and small towns so that I could even more appreciate the experience of performing at this incredible festival. The lineup was amazing, I met so many interesting people, the production was fantastic and it created an unforgettable experience. Another incredible moment in my life was playing side by side DJ Rashad in a favela located deep in Rio De Janeiro. It was a free party that attracted people of all ages, I’ll never forget that!
As someone who’s worked with different genres, from hip-hop to IDM and even a bit of pop, it’s still fair to say you work with live instruments like piano and guitar in your creation process, right? How important is it, for example, for you to be a guitar player?
The piano was technically my first instrument, but the guitar I would say was my first love. I grew up mostly listening to metal, alternative rock and post-rock. Being able to incorporate guitar in my music isn’t necessarily something that I have to do. With some songs I hear a guitar part in my head naturally, in others, I don’t. I think the way I play guitar is influenced by electronic arpeggios and that may have something to do with it meshing well with my tracks. The way I write and record guitar parts is also a lot like how I write melodies using a MIDI keyboard. I tend to add chords and melodies bit by bit by punching them in until I have a full idea formed.
You performed at Magnetic Fields Festival in 2017. What was the experience like?
Like I was saying earlier it was such an unforgettable experience. The lineup was very thoughtfully curated and offered a quite diverse range of music which was a great way of exposing people to new music they might not have heard before. I loved seeing the palace lit up in projection-mapped visuals at night and then appreciating the beauty of the architecture during the day. It was also amazing seeing musicians from Northern India perform on the rooftop and the prince [Abhimanyu Alsisar] was introducing and educating us on the history of each instrument that we were hearing. It was magical!
What was one memory – mundane or super philosophical – that you took back from your India trip?
I would say that driving through the small towns on my way to the festival was quite memorable. I would open up the car window from time to time and smell these incredible fragrances coming from the many spice markets we would pass by.
And this time around, it’s a different environment, an indoor festival in this big warehouse-style space. What do you have in mind for this time around in India?
You can expect another high energy set, this time a bit more drum n bass leaning. However, I have been known to change things up last minute based on the vibe of the crowd and hearing other people’s sets so you’ll have to be there to find out!
What else is coming up through 2020?
I have quite a busy schedule with my label IAMSIAM with many releases coming up. I have an EP on Vision Recordings dropping in January as well. I’m also writing all the music for a new TV show which will be an exciting new experience for me.
Machinedrum performs at Disrupt in Mumbai between November 23rd and 24th. Event details here.