A one-on-one with Dualist Inquiry's Sahej Bakshi.
We’ve heard that you maintain a word diary. Why do you feel the need for it when your music doesn’t?
Even though most of the songs I've written so far don't have words or lyrics, every song is still about something in particular; it's a direct reaction to some form of stimuli or emotion that inspires me to write the song. The song title is the one chance I get to express the meaning and intent of the song. I love words that are both simple and exotic at the same time, that are easy to understand and pronounce, yet somehow ignored in our daily use of the English language. Finding the one right word to complete a song is really easy at times and very challenging at others, and so whenever I have a few free minutes, I go dictionary-diving, and get quite a kick out of it most of the time.
Was it disconcerting for you to make the move from your comfortable setting in LA after graduating from Thornton Music School to the unexpected in India?
My setting in LA was indeed very comfortable, but at that juncture in my life (22 and just out of college), I was looking for the most meaningful pursuit I could engage in, as opposed to being the most comfortable I could be. There were many reasons for me to have stayed back in LA, but really, there was nothing that held greater personal meaning for me than coming back to India and being part of building the fledgling indie and electronic music 'scene' that had started to emerge around 2009-2010. I'm so glad I did it. I missed India while I was away, and being part of what we have going on here is so special to me at a very personal level.
Has the move paid off? People do know about Dualist Inquiry after all.
Well yes, I think I can finally admit to myself that the move really did work out well. I've always been really cautious and hesitant to admit that I've actually done anything of any real value so far, and still feel very much that way on a day-to-day basis. But at some point in the last year, when my schedule started getting completely booked months in advance and nearly all my gigs started selling out to capacity, I couldn't help but crack a huge internal smile and feel so grateful for the way things worked out.
What’re your thoughts on the music scenario in India at the moment, and any local contemporary artists that have caught your eye?
I think I was extremely lucky to make my way back at a very special time - in 2010, when the framework that holds our scene today was just taking its current shape. I didn't have many peers at the time, just the big established names to look upto, so it felt a little lonely at the starting block. But today, there are several great new artists whose music I really dig, and no shortage of exciting new artists. I highly recommend Sandunes and Madboy/Mink from Mumbai, and Frame/Frame from Delhi. They're all putting out EP's and albums out this year, and all three of them sound fantastic.
You’ve been playing the guitar since the age of nine, what is it that pushed you into electronica?
I think it was just the natural flow of things, the way things had to go for me. In 2006, I was thundering down this path of trying to be a rock guitar-shredding virtuoso like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and actually managed to get pretty far along that road, actually learning most of these impossibly difficult songs, finger gymnastics and all. But I suddenly felt this strange emptiness when I realized that for me, playing that sort of music was way, way more fun than listening to it. So I decided to strip down my style and just make the kind of music I'd want to hear in my own personal time, and that was also when I accidentally discovered electronica. It all just kind of fell into place, really.
Sahej, you’re a good looking guy AND you’re a great musician AND you’re popular. Girls must be throwing themselves all over you, aren’t they?
Haha what can I even say to that? I was surprised enough when people reacted so positively to my music early on, and even more so when I felt all this appreciation and warmth on such a personal level. The plan was for people to enjoy my music and be familiar with the concept of 'Dualist Inquiry', but not know or care about the individual behind it. At some point though, it slipped out of my control and I just submitted myself to the situation. Now I just try to give what I get, which means I feel a whole lot of love for everyone who brightens my day by listening to my music and letting me know they're with me on this journey.
So if we’ve got it right, you named your solo band, Dualist Inquiry because you think that extremes are always balancing and cancelling each other out. Could you explain this philosophy to us? Have you experienced this dualism in reality?
I realized at some point not too long ago, that individuals exist in starkly different realities from one another, and that they are very rarely able to communicate these baseline differences effectively to each other. I realized that pretty much my entire way of looking at the world was a product of seeing opposing dualities in every place I looked, and I still see everything that way on a daily, moment-to-moment basis. Even though I know the importance of the middle ground, I don't think I've actually learned to walk that path. Instead, I constantly bounce between all kinds of extremes. I like it that way. It's hectic but inspiring; unpredictable yet comforting.