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[Artists, Events]

Arjun Vagale is arguably one of the most in-demand DJs in India. As one of the country’s biggest EDM exports, he plays over 100 gigs a year, touring regularly in Europe and Asian, often spends his summers in the world’s techno Mecca, Berlin. A man with a true passion for underground music, which he relentlessly plays, produces and promotes.

Never one to play Top 10 tunes, Arjun’s always scouting out fresh underground tracks – the man never sleeps! His latest venture has been to found and manage a young record label, Mak.Tub Music, with partner Logistic Soundz. Over the last three years, the imprint has an impressive roster of artists. Vagale has also recently set up UnMute Agency to represent techno and house DJs in India.

In a freewheeling interview with Hennessy Artistry India, Vagale discusses his foray into artist management, the Jalebee Cartel journey and some memorable club gigs this year.

What would you attribute the continued success of Jalebee Cartel to? Is it tougher to be united as a group initially or when you’ve reached a kind of peak?
The music is the main attribute for sure. It’s only through the music that people all over the world know the name Jalebee. That has allowed us to travel across the world and play gigs at some incredible venues. It is tough, for sure. There are too many factors that come into play, and not everyone is on board with everything. You have a phase when things are super, and you take advantage of it, and when they are not, well, you just move on to new things.
What is the dynamic within the group like and where do you see yourself fitting into that?
Jalebee Cartel’s on a break at the moment, as we are all working on solo projects, trying to explore new avenues.
How different is the Arjun Vagale sound compared to Jalebee Cartel’s?
When I decided to do my solo project, I wanted it to be totally different to what Jalebee did. I’ve probably produced 80 per cent of Jalebee’s discography, so I really had to put serious thought into what direction I wanted to head in. I’d say it’s a lot more underground, deeper at times, and a bit more free spirited. I do what I like basically but stay within a specific vibe I have in my head.
Do you see a lack of representation for talented Indian DJs in India?
There is immense talent and equal representation for it, but it needs to be more streamlined. An agency specialising in trance gigs can never represent a techno DJ because they don’t know what the sound is about. This is where the difference needs to be created: we need people who are not looking at the money angle, but focused totally on music.
How did the idea for the UnMute agency come about? And what are its immediate and short term goals?
Dev Bhatia (Jalebee Cartel’s manager) and I have been planning this for the past three years, but it’s only now that we decided that the time is right. The idea is pretty simple: to push techno-house in India in a big way and unite the key players in the scene. It’s a full-service agency where the artist’s needs come first. I’m delighted with the caliber of artists we have on the roster.
What was the best gig you’ve enjoyed so far this year?
I played in Bangkok a few months ago at this totally underground club called Glow, it was mad. It felt like a little club in Berlin. Funnily enough, it’s owned by a German, and the promoter, Sanju is a great DJ himself. He’s set the night up really well where it’s all about deep and twisted sounds.
Are you looking forward to any gigs/festivals in particular in Europe this year?
Tresor in Berlin is always an exciting gig for me, I can’t wait to get back. I also love this tiny club in the city of Bochum, Germany called Eve Bar. It was the best gig of last year’s Europe tour. And of course, there’s the Fusion Festival to look forward to on the outskirts of Berlin.
What is the toughest hat to wear – DJ, producer, mentor, pioneer, husband?
Juggling all of these responsibilities is the toughest task. My weekends are spent on the road and in the clubs. On weekdays I run the ILM DJ Academy and UnMute as well as spending quality time for the wife. I do love my job though and I’m extremely grateful for all that I have so I work really hard in keeping all these aspects in a comfortable space.