Name: Stalvart John
Occupation: Producer, DJ, A&R at Wind Horse Records, founder at Dynamite Disco Club, where Farhan Rehman acts as A&R and Label Manager. [Read our Farhan Rehman interview]
Current release: 2020 was a particularly productive year for Stalvart John and saw him release three new EPs: Asha on Believe in Disco, Shake Your Groove on Springbook and Weekend Disco on Class Action.
Recommendations: My first recommendation will be “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life“ by Bill Brewster. It's a must read book for all DJs and music producers in the electronic music industry.
Second recommendation is “Unlocking the Universe “by Lucy Hawking and Stephen Hawking. This book will help us understand the universe and the language used in this book is very simple. If you have patience to understand these things I believe everything else will be easy.
My painting recommendation is “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee“ by Rembrandt. My sculpture recommendation will be “Blind lead Blinds “by George Martin PJ which is an Adaptation of a famous painting by Pieter Bruegel by the same name. I have a personal connection to the sculptor. He is one of my idols and he is also my uncle.
If you enjoyed this interview with Stalvart John, stay up to date on his work via his accounts on Facebook, and Instagram.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started my career as a DJ first and then started figuring out production later. During 2013 I started fiddling around on Ableton. Since I didn’t have any knowledge about music theory, it was very tough. Despite that, maybe I feel I was lucky as I signed my first track in 2015 on Wind Horse Records. My production style then was totally different from what I am doing now. I was trying to do more of experimental, deep, ethnic music then which was inspired by Nicolas Jaar, Acid Pauli etc.
[Read our Acid Pauli interview]
I was always into musically rich sounds even when I was DJing and was always looking for the infectious melodies and vocals in the track.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
When I look back at my journey as an artist, I find it quite chucklesome with the ups and downs and turn around – but l guess that is normal.
I started as an Uplifting and Euphoric trance podcaster which later gave me an opportunity for DJing as I started working as a resident DJ in a club in my hometown of Cochin in Kerala, India. That’s where I started exploring the depths of dance music. My style evolved into more club friendly dancefloor sounds. I learnt how to make people dance in this place. I was also mentored by the other senior resident DJs of the club and that was very helpful. I learnt the art and so to say, the science of DJing during these days, which helped me develop my own style.
Then, because of government interventions and strict alcohol policies, nightlife in my hometown came to a halt. So, I had to move to Bangalore to pursue my dream. This is where I started getting more opportunities and I started spending more time on production. I started meeting very interesting people and started working with some of them. This helped me improve my music production so much.
So, I would say people I meet, the books I read, the movies I watch the amazing music I hear made me the artist I am now and set an identity for me.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I believe when you have a vision and set goals, it helps to stay on point. I won’t end up wasting time on things that are not important. Meanwhile I started spending more time on going in depth on things that matter. Having an identity helped stay focused on these goals.
This sense of identity comes from getting your foundation right. If you have your foundation right nothing can break your identity because you won’t blindly follow trends. You will now know what you want to create. This will definitely increase your creativity.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I was a self-learner throughout my entire career. Since I didn’t have strong knowledge in music theory it was very tough for me to create music. In the beginning I didn’t even know I was doing things wrong.
The Internet was my main source for my education. With so much information out there, we might get wrong information and it was very tough to finish projects even though I had so many ideas. Then I started taking music lessons because all my colleagues pushed me and my production started to sound much better.
I believe we need to have good friends and a strong community to support you to overcome these creative challenges. That’s the reason why I started the mentorship programme and thought about giving back to the community. If I can help someone shorten their learning curve, there's nothing like it.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I always had limitations with equipment in my career.
I started my production with an early model of Roland RH-300 headphone which were borrowed from one of my mentors and my home speakers. In no time I realised this was so wrong and my next mission was to get a studio monitor. I got a Yamaha HS8 and started making music. Then I understood the speakers were too big for my room. Then I understood about how important the acoustics are to get that perfect sound. So now I work my music in a bad room with studio monitors and headphones and trying to getting used to the set up I have.
Tuning my ears to my set up by getting feedback from my colleagues who have a better room. And since the music I want to create has more of an organic style I never got interested in buying Analog Synths. I like more of organic instruments etc in my music these days. So, I started investing more in VSTs and Kontact Instruments.
I always tried to perfect the stage I am in before moving to the next stage. So, limitations always helped me doing this.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Oh yes. I am a big fan of technology. How these companies are investing time in their R&D is pretty impressive.
I started using Izotope Neutron 3 pack these days. Made my life so much easier. The A.I of that software is pretty awesome. Their mix assistant is a game changer for me. It cut short my mixing time into half.
But it's very important not to get lost in the wave of new technology that’s coming out on daily basis. You need to stay updated but also stay focused on your goals.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Working with Hamza Rahimtula, Farhan Rehman and Unnayanaa has changed my life in Studio and as an artist.
[Read our Hamza Rahimtula interview]
They gave me deep understanding on music and sound. I also exchange ideas with Greg Tomaz, even though we are totally different sounds.
Be it DJing, music production or life, you definitely need your core group of friend or colleges whom you exchange ideas and jam with. It will keep you motivated and inspired to move forward when you have a block. Most good music comes from a team working together rather than a single person. As always “Team work makes dream work”.