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Anil Chawla climbed his way to the top of electronic music world with a steady stream of ear-catching, high-quality house music demos that he passed around London’s promoters, which led to securing a residency at the acclaimed Together nights at Turnmills. Dance music bastions Global Underground soon picked up on his skill across the board and after a series of singles and the stunning debut album ‘Roadhouse’ (with studio partner Dale Anderson), the label has taken him around the world on tours to Argentina, Peru and Guatemala (on his headline tour of South America). A global fan base was soon established, and looking to the future, Anil continues touring across the globe – with everything from deep melodic funk and freaky acid house still all part of his repertoire. In this freewheeling chat with Hennessy Artistry, he reveals for the first time to his Indian fans his early days as a DJ, his amazing residency and his move to India.

Tell us about your first DJ gig at university.

I was shitting it, big time. It turned out after two beers I was fine though, funny that. It was a whole new experience for me. I’d never even really played a set in front of my friends at a house party, let alone in front of a crowd, albeit a lunch- time crowd (it was a pre-party in the student union cafe), but still a crowd. So yes, I was a nervous wreck, but somehow I managed to get through it and by the end, I was really quite enjoying it. I’m not sure I can say the same about the people chomping down on their lunch, whilst I was drowning out their conversation with my favourite plastic.

What was the competition you entered for a monthly slot at Ministry of Sound radio? Who was your most engaging guest / memorable show with?

Wow, you guys have really done your research. To be honest, I’d actually forgotten about that show! It was a long time ago (around 2002/2003), and Ministry were running a competition whereby a bunch of people did a one-hour demo in the radio studio, and the shows were all put up online where people could vote for their favourite show. Subsequently, I was chosen as the winner. I was actually working full-time in London at the time, so every month I’d take a half-day holiday, and head down to the Ministry of Sound offices to do the show. It was really good fun, and I managed to get some really nice guests on the show at the time – Justin Robertson, Tall Paul, King Unique and Paolo Mojo, to name a few. I’m not sure about engaging but I remember the phone-in with King Unique was particularly difficult as there was some awful phone reception, so I just read out my question, heard lots of noise/crackling, and when it stopped, proceeded to asked the next question. Ever the professional.

You were part of the Mongo Bongo Soundsystem…was there an actual bongo involved there and what’s the story behind the name?

Again, I must commend you on your research! Around 2002, me and a friend of mine decided to start a club night in a town called Maidstone (which is around an hour from London). It wasn’t really rocket science behind the name. We were quite into bongos at the time and looking for a rhyming word. Mongo seemed like the obvious choice, considering its association with the clubbing fraternity! It was clearly quite a fun night with a name like that, and what fun we had. Nic Fanciulli and Mark Knight were regular guests for us back then. And yep, there were several actual bongos involved as we often had a percussionist along for the parties too.

What was your residency at Turnmills like? Could you describe some of the nights that particularly stand out in your mind? What is the challenge of doing a residency?

Wow, well there really so were many nights there… I was resident for around five years, so really, it’s hard to pinpoint any particular nights. I guess the New Year’s Eve parties always stuck in mind as being the most fun/sordid, and we always ended up going straight through to Trade on New Years Day until some ridiculous hour. Pretty much every year, The Chemical Brothers would play NYE, so it really was quite an honour to open up the night before they came on. And one year in particular, I remember playing after Simian Mobile Disco and before Mylo to a rammed main room. Most enjoyabl

As for the challenges, well the bookings were quite diverse at the night I used to play for (Together). One month I could be opening for Francois K/Josh Wink, and the next month it could be Todd Terje/Prins Thomas/Lindstrom, so keeping a varied selection of music was always essential, but that’s the job of being a resident. I wouldn’t even call it a challenge, it was always a good excuse to dig a little deeper and find out new sounds.

What did signing on Global Underground do for you and Dale?

They did a huge amount for our career. From signing our first single ‘Leftorium’, that topped the Beatport charts for weeks on end, to going on and mixing a GU compilation, and doing a full length feature album. They gave us the backing and support to do what we needed to do, and it was definitely a game changer. I toured every corner of the world with GU back in the day. It’s sad that the brand hasn’t been given the attention and credit it deserves, but such is the way of the industry. It’s sad to say that they’re not really functioning any more. Ministry bought out the company a few years back, and since then, there have been several changes in management, so there was always a lack of focus/direction. From what I can tell, and barring any resurgence, it’s just been left there now to die peacefully. Maybe it’s for the best..

GU also had this thing about going to…may be exotic is not the right word…but far flung destinations like Tel Aviv to begin with, Uruguay, Bogota…did you ever suggest an India edition to them?.

Honestly, I think it could’ve been a possibility, and it has been brought up looselyin conversation before. With India getting the kind of global attention it is now as a major force in the clubbing world – had the brand still been going now, I could really see it happening..

What’s it been like moving to India? Do you miss the diversity of clubs and sounds and nightlife options that cities like London offer? What keeps you here?.

It’s getting better and better here, especially for the kind of music I play. The crowds are becoming more knowledgeable about music, and are slowly opening their minds to new sounds. There’s also a lot of sponsorship happening, which is healthy for any scene, and the interest/excitement amongst the party goers is huge. There aren’t a lot of places in the world where more than 100 people would drive more than five hours (Chennai > Bangalore) to see Richie Hawtin, so that alone is testament for what is happening right now, and I’m happy to be a part of it. I’m still back and forth between here and the UK/Europe – I should be back for a few shows in May, and then again in August, as well as my international agent working on some shows in east Asia, so it’s always good to see what’s happening elsewhere at the same time..

Richie Hawtin has been playing out several of your tunes in the recent past, hasn’t he? Did you have an opportunity to interact with him? What was it like opening for him?.

The guy has been an inspiration to me and many others through the years. His whole journey is quite incredible, so it was really a pleasure to meet him (for anyone who doesn’t know his role in Detroit et al – please watch the ‘Slices’ documentary on Youtube). We had a chance to speak on the panel regarding music and technology, and then managed a dinner with the whole M-nus crew the night before the Mumbai gig too. It’s great that he supports so much of my music. We’ve spoken before on email so it was good to actually meet up and have a chat. The opening in Mumbai was great…I’ve never seen that kind of crowd at Royalty, and as for Bangalore, well, they know how to party..

Who are some of the Indian producers whose work you dig?.

Loads…with plenty more coming out all the time – Kohra, Praveen Achary, BLOT!, Arjun Vagale, Ash Roy and there are lots more I can’t think of, off the top of my head. Also, on a completely different vibe, I love what The Raghu Dixit Project do. It’s music for the soul..

What do you think of the Hennessy Artistry series?.

It’s good that major companies like Hennessy are getting behind our scene, and investing time/money into it. It’s great that you have the ‘Artistry’ concept too – that really builds a brand known for quality, rather than just throwing money at a night to have a name on the flyer. I’ve been to quite a few of the shows you guys put on. Apache Indian in Bangalore was a lot of fun!.