Caro Meets Music Interview

Nitin Sawhney: Dystopian Dream

By | Published on Thursday 18 September 2014

Award winning DJ/composer/producer Nitin Sawhney takes to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday to showcase tracks from his upcoming new album ‘Dystopian Dream’, as well as to air a few more retrospective pieces.


I sent some questions over to the renowned music multi-tasker ahead of this weekend’s gig, to find out what to expect from the show, the new album, and the future.

CM: We’re looking forward to hearing work from ‘Dystopian Dream’. Is the album finished, and what can we expect from it?
NS: No, the album is still in the works. It feels a lot darker than previous albums. I have been very influenced by events in my personal life and changes in the global political landscape over the past couple of years. Some of the lyrics and music reflect that. I am very happy with the musicians I have been able to bring in and some of them will be appearing on the show on Sunday.

CM: How does the new material compare to past albums?
NS: Every album I make is a snapshot in terms of my feelings about myself and the world, so that just changes every year. I try to be as authentic and honest about what I look for in music and expression with each new work.

CM: Do you approach new albums differently today than in the earlier part of your career?
NS: I probably write more songs than I used to. The first few albums were almost completely instrumentals. I also collaborate a lot more with artists and other musicians. I really enjoy writing lyrics and finding metaphors that encapsulate thoughts and feelings.

CM: You’ve obviously created music for a number of TV programmes, films and ads over the years. How does that work compare to and influence your own music?
NS: I often try to find projects in dance, theatre, film and television that complement my own work, ie scoring the ‘Human Planet’ series for the BBC was a celebration of human diversity and resilience. Scoring ‘The Namesake’ for Mira Nair was partially inspired by the empathy I had with the main character, and the current BBC series I have just finished scoring, ‘Monsoon’, is about the struggle for life for people and wildlife from Australia to India, both countries I have visited many times. With the world of dance I have worked extensively with Kathak choreographer, Akram Khan, and I am very proud of the work we have created together over the years. Many of the projects that I undertake feed back into the compositions for my own albums.

CM: We were really interested in last year’s ‘One Zero’ project, a live recording going straight to disc. How did it turn out?
NS: It was wonderful to record direct to disc. I think the whole band responded well to the pressure of doing everything in one take and it was great to have Joss Stone as our special guest. I am a huge fan of vinyl and this was a great way to commemorate our back catalogue and the evolution of the band over all these years.

CM: Were you pleased with the result? Was there anything you would have changed about the recording if you could?
NS: I felt the album sounded really warm and spontaneous. Since the whole idea was to capture an authentic performance from the band, I am really happy with what came out.

CM: We also enjoy your programmes for Radio 2. Do you enjoy showcasing other people’s music as much as your own?
NS: I am so privileged to be able to play other people’s music, and work that has influenced me throughout my own career, on the Radio 2 show ‘Nitin Sawhney Spins The Globe’. Not only do we try to contextualise music through anecdotes and detailed information about the artists we play, but I have the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with a whole range of artists who come into the show. Highlights have included Joss Stone, David Arnold, Basseku Kouyate, Buika and Mala from Digital Mystikz. But to be honest, everyone who has come in has been exceptional and really open.

CM: Are there any other radio projects in the pipeline?
NS: Yes there are, as well as a couple of TV projects, but at this stage we can’t say any more than that!

CM: Other than new material from ‘Dystopian Dream’, what else can we expect from the Albert Hall show?
NS: We will be showcasing specially commissioned video material from digital VJs Yeast, and featuring a lot of material from my back catalogue, some of which I have not played for a very long time. I am extremely happy to be supported by a young singer whose work I have played on my radio show, Eva Stone. I think she is a fantastic young talent with a great voice and a real gift.

CM: Do you have a busy live schedule planned for around the release of the new album?
NS: Not yet – all of that is yet to come!

Nitin Sawhney is on at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 21 Sep, see this page here for more info and tickets.

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