It’s time we swung the studio spotlight on an Indian electronic music label that has since long, been a benchmark for techno and electronica releases in our country. Qilla records was conceptualized and brought to life by Gaurav Malakar (BLOT!) and Madhav Shorey (Kohra) in 2010 and are based in Delhi. A healthy dose of quirk is evident when you pop over to their beautifully minimalistic website that greets you with this message
An endless array of alternate realms.
Qilla is an anomaly, towering hundreds of feet above the surrounding flat land that stretches as far as the eye can see.
In each cardinal direction stand bastions, with a vantage point to observe unfamiliar and new movements from miles away.
The massive stone walls possess intricate art work, painstakingly constructed by skilled craftsmen.
Inside the fort are chambers for every mood and every state of mind with sounds that are gentle and fierce, euphoric and dystopian. A single personality shaped at the hands of hundreds over time and space, resulting in an endless array of alternate realms.
On rare but welcome occasions, the fort slowly opens its gates, the solid iron doors part to let people into a world defying imagination. This fort, built in 2012 is full of resonant sounds of times gone by and times to come, drumming a rhythm, a melody, a soundscape where you can lose or find yourself.
Over a span of seven years the record label has put out a slew of mind-blowing releases, supported and curated homegrown music and has served as a platform for international artists to showcase their music to an enthusiastic and curious Indian electronic music audience. Fast forward to 2017 and Qilla have consolidated their stand as one of the leading dance music labels in our country while also evolving into a full-blown artist collective. We catch up with the hard-working few, the crew whose painstaking work behind the scenes have well and truly put Qilla records on the International map.
“It’s not really a new direction as much as it is a continuation of the original direction” explains Madhav as he describes how the record-label renewed its focus with vigor and zeal last year. He says
We’re just finding new ways to be able to take our ideas forward, now as a larger and more efficient collective of dj’s, music producers, live-acts, promoters, graphic-designers and people with an interesting vision around nightlife and club culture as far as underground dance music is concerned. -Madhav Shorey
Anyone who has been following the growth and direction that Qilla has taken over the past few months would certainly agree that this efficient paradigm shift was exactly what the label needed. In an age where the listener is always on the prowl for something fresh and exciting, the need for any entity to reinvent itself is all but necessary. Elaborating on this he says “I don’t really look at us as an agency or management service, to be honest, but we’re working on building a sort of a DIY structure that becomes a one-stop shop and works as a collective of friends and like-minded individuals. I find this way of working more honest to the cause and helps us stay connected with everyone involved in the scene.”
The overall aesthetic of the Delhi-based entity has changed as its new edgy sonic and visual identity is perfectly in-sync with its auditory ambitions. Vipul Angirish aka SHFT heads Qilla’s A&R department and is credited with helping shape the envelope of the labels musical outlook and the overall aural quality of musical releases that are currently being released. Speaking about his approach, Vipul mentions that his role and A&R is two-pronged. “My role is to help find new content for the label. It also includes making strategies for the label with the given amount of resources at a particular time. We release new music once a month now and usually have 5 – 6 releases lined up in advance.” The success of any record label depends primarily on the music and Qilla records leaves no stone unturned. The introduction of upcoming Indian producers such as 8-Bit Culprit, Midnight Traffic, Film & Hans Seance alongside veteran established stalwarts such as Jitter and Audio Units have galvanized the position of the label, both in terms of reaching out to new talent and to help mold their sound.
Qilla next release is New York based Punshukunshu’s debut EP, further acknowledging their faith in breaking out new producers.
Talking to us about the process of selecting tracks Vipul explains
Technically it should be clean, tight, punchy and warm in the first place otherwise it will not sound good in a club. Tonality wise I expect the soundscapes to be sophisticated. It should not sound like a common preset from a popular synth. It should sound like something which surprises us. – Vipul Angirish
This approach enables Qilla to really separate the wheat from the chaff as on an average only 1 in 100 make it. This, however, is not meant to dishearten producers who are looking to make it onto the imprint as the feedback provided is almost always positive and encouraging. “Our feedback is optional and mostly positive and supportive of our content. When I hear something that has potential but is lacking in some ways, I try and give them advice on how to improve their music.” Vipul adds.
Qilla’s radical and slick visual outlook is also something that needs to be spoken about. The creative department is now headed by Aniruddh Mehta Aka ‘The Big Fat Minimalist’ whose work speaks for itself. The importance of assembling a core team who are on the same wavelength is emphasized by Madhav who says that “We’ve come to a point of sync now where we can almost work independently but taking things forward together, at the same time” and the impact is visible for everyone to see. The eye-catching and gorgeously conceptualized motifs that now form a part of EP/album artwork, stickers, t-shirts and visuals for gig-nights speak of the efficacy of an independent approach and the ideas it brings to the table.
Along with Sahil Bhatt (Decima), the pair have successfully helped diversify the language of the labels marketing instruments and avenues. “Qilla’s marketing is as organic as it gets. If we like it, we push it. If you’ll like it, you’ll take it” exclaims Sahil, who is also to credit for executing gigs on-ground with simplicity and precision. Anyone who is familiar with the Indian electronic circuit knows that taking care of logistics and on-ground details can sometimes be harrowing. But being a jack-of-all-trades, he handles artist management and helps with overall operations.
We are fortunate enough to have some of the most credible artists from the sub-continent and so we have a certain level of familiarity with most promoters and venues. Apart from this, the aim is to try and work with everyone equally and create a smooth working experience -Sahil Bhatt
he says when asked about intricacies in booking and managing club nights.
Qilla’s future is exciting and certainly one that the fans of this record label should be excited about. The overwhelming success of the label’s marquee showcase “Sacred Alchemy” in Hyderabad and Mumbai is something that the collective wants to build upon as they now target Bangalore and their home-turf Delhi. Madhav tells us “The whole idea of Sacred Alchemy is to put together all the important elements including all minor details for a great experience. So, the sound is obviously on top of our list and we try to make sure it’s always as best as possible and re-enforced from all sides to enjoy a great listening experience, with minimal ear fatigue and a well-balanced output. We had installed a TW-Audio stack along with my friend Dipankar (Sound-Redefined). It wasn’t technically a 4D sound setup though that would be great for us to eventually work towards.”
Sacred Alchemy – Label Showcase at BPM, Hyderabad
The future is certainly exciting for the Qilla crew as they continue to take giant strides toward establishing themselves on the International stage, fortifying their position as a benchmark Indian music brand and label.