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Worlds Collide: Sandunes Collaborates with U.K. Drummer Richard Spaven This Week

The Mumbai electronic music producer and Spaven perform improvised shows in Mumbai and New Delhi

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Anurag Tagat Feb 22, 2019

Mumbai producer Sandunes (left) and U.K. drummer Richard Spaven will perform two shows this week. Photo: Sachin Soni (Sandunes)

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Although it’s only been less than a week since they met, a lot has ensured a collaboration between Mumbai electronic producer Sandunes aka Sanaya Ardeshir and U.K. drummer-producer Richard Spaven. When asked about the six degrees of separation between them, Spaven notes “it’s probably a lot less now.”

Ardeshir adds, “I was chatting with someone who was on the same tour, an amazing arranger and plays horns in Bonobo’s band, Mike Lesirge. He also plays in [London-based producer] George Fitzgerald’s band. And when I mentioned this project to him, he told me he had played with Richard in a band 10 years ago.”

The real catalyst, however, was a Sandunes set that was scheduled right before Dutch electronic act Cubicolor, which Spaven on drums, at Vh1 Supersonic in Pune earlier this month. The pair took the opportunity to get together and will now perform two shows in Mumbai (February 22nd) and New Delhi (February 23rd), presented by Red Bull Music.

Ahead of the shows, we spoke to Spaven and Ardeshir about reinterpreting each other’s material and the idea of collaborations in general. Excerpts:

How did the collaboration come about? Had you heard of each other’s music before to this or is it all completely new at this point?

Sandunes: So I have been familiar with Richard’s work for quite a few years. Over the course of the last couple of years, having discovered that collaborations with drummers and percussionists is a very fertile space, Richard had been on my wishlist of drummers to work with at some point.

It was in August or September last year when I was mixing some stuff in a studio in Berlin, at UFO Studios that the engineer suggested that I work with Richard. He said, “Your music reminds me of this drummer, Richard Spaven, I don’t know if you have heard of him.” And I was like of course I have but how I can connect with him. This engineer told me that Richard had recorded at the studio multiple times and he could just introduce me. Richard and I started talking and we were both keen. When we were trying to figure logistics of making this a reality, Red Bull Music stepped in and hosted the project, and was able to help us connect all these very difficult moving parts considering we don’t live in the same country, and are tied up with other commitments.

Richard Spaven: She had been trying to get hold of me for a while, I’m glad she did.

How much preparation is going into something like this and how much do you leave to improvisation?

Sandunes: I don’t think I have expended more energy on a project. This opportunity, and the way this project has come together has been mind-boggling. Things coming into place”¦ Synchronistically, if you will. It’s an extremely limited time period, four days to put up a body of work that is performance-ready is a large ask for anyone. Initially we were wondering how to balance the combinational being pure and intentional, and making our workload a bit easier by adhering to mechanisms of performances from the past or previous material. It just so happened that we are feeling that foundations of this are indicative of a longer collaboration so we don’t want to lean on any past content. Anything that has been played, rehearsed and performed in other set-ups, frameworks. So we are doing everything from scratch. It has been days of falling asleep at the computer by midnight and waking up by 5 am. There are perfectionist tendencies in both our approaches and we are on the same page from an intention point of view. That felt pretty good.

Richard Spaven: There is just the seriousness with which we have taken this. We definitely have time pressure upon us, something we are constantly aware of. We are trying to turn it into a positive thing. We launched into a kind of opening preparation before we’d met. The first thing we decided to do. Sanaya has been listening to my album, Real Time. There was a track “Faded” on there that she was really into and we decided that would be a good starting point, so she actually did a re-version of the track that we are actually gonna play and re-record it sometime. It’s a beautiful arrangement by someone who clearly loves the piece, it was a really beautiful way to kickoff the collaboration and set the bar really with something we’re both, how do I say it, it’s really relevant.

In terms of the performance itself, I wanted to know how lengthy it will be and what kind of rig/gear you’ll be working with?

Sandunes: I have gone back to a lot of keys. I will be playing with a Fender Rhodes, thanks to Island City Studio. My synthesizers, couple of vintage bits and bobs, some pedals. Combination of sound design tools and straight-up playing keys. I am feeling very encouraged about just playing and less hiding behind production and technology.

Richard Spaven: We are monitoring the length the set is going to be but we are not actively looking to fill time. It’s not about duration, it about what we are playing. What gear? A drum kit, no surprises there. With my cymbals that eventually turned up that got left behind in London, my case got all smashed and it’s been fixed by an Indian craftsman, so I have no doubt that it will last forever now. For Sanaya – a new keyboard arrives and disappears every single day. There’s a grand Piano here and it would be hard if it disappears before the show, we’ve been utilizing that.

Sanaya, you also programmed for Nico Radio, a new initiative by Nicobar. How does working on something like putting together a radio show/set further your thought processes as a musician, if it does at all?

It was put on a curatorial hat, nice to think about things from a curator’s point of view, which I hadn’t done in a while. It has inspired me to start DJing again which I am going to start doing more of in the coming months. The cultural education that I referred to earlier needs a lot of tools or vehicle to live in. I am not implying that I am in a position to educate anyone but if I have access to musicians and their music that have moved and inspired me as a listener. I want to share that.

What else is coming up for you through 2019?

Sandunes: Releasing the music that I have been working on for the past one year and sharing it with the world. There is so much music now! Moving parts are in place from a management point of view, which has left me free to developing my music. So a lot of releases, more shows, some collaborations in the UK and Europe. And a lot more workshops, educating, making music accessible through camps and workshops to demystify the world of Ableton Live.

Richard Spaven: Hopefully, we will record this at some point. It maybe that there’s a UK edition to this collaboration, so we will see about that. For me, I have some records coming out. I’m looking forward to [multi-instrumentalist] Jordan Rakei’s records coming out, I’ve played a few tracks which I’m really proud of. I did a collaboration with the pianist Alfa Mist – that’s another thing to look forward to. I’ll be back to doing some drum shows and back with my band as well which is my favourite thing to do.

Red Bull Music presents Sandunes and Richard Spaven

February 22nd – G5A Foundation, Mumbai (tickets here)

February 23rd – Shed 9, New Delhi (tickets here)

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