Karachi-based DJ, audio engineer and producer Bilal Khan aka Rudoh is a wizard who combines his influences of hip-hop, LA Beats, House, Soul and Jazz to spin lush soundscapes with “squelchy” bass lines and heavy polyrhythms. India hosts him next week, as he performs at the Magnetic Fields Festival in Alsisar, Rajasthan. Excerpts from an interview:
What was it like growing up in Karachi in the ’90s? How did you get into music?
Growing up in Karachi has always been quite the trip. I’ve had some terrible experiences here, but it’s still home. I grew up in a very South Asian family setting. Dad has always been working and mum’s been a housewife. My childhood mostly consisted of playing video games and watching anime. I was 17 when I started hanging out with some friends who were in a band called Mole. I had no inclination towards music till I met these guys but soon I was playing drums for the band. Karachi has never had much going on, it has always been about being at other people’s houses chilling, or making music.
Which was the first piece of music that really made an impact on you? How did your moniker come about? And because you’re South Asian, how did your parents react to your decision?
LA-based producer Daedelus’s 2006 album Denies the Day’s Demise is what got me into learning how to produce. The moment I heard it, I was thinking “how did he make that? I need to figure it out”. I remember going to my friend Nawksh to learn how to use a DAW (digital audio workstation) and I’ve never looked back.
My moniker has a strange story. As a child, I played a lot of ludo and for some reason I had really good luck in it. I’ve rarely lost in ludo, so I started calling myself Ludoh and that became Rudoh, maybe because of my undying passion for anime.
I decided to go to the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) in London for a degree in audio engineering around 2011. Around that time I thought of making music a bit seriously. My parents have always been hard on me, but they’ve grown to accept it and understand it. But sometimes I’ll hear a lecture about how I should’ve done my BBA.
How would you describe your sound? Who were your early influences and who are your influences now?
I’m a huge fan of beats coming from Los Angeles, especially Brainfeeder and Soulection. During my time in London, I got into the bass music there, so now I’m always trying to combine these two influences. After my recent trip to Berlin, I’ve been getting into
techno and house, I’ve always liked that stuff but never thought of producing it.
You did a thesis on projection mapping and visual synchronisation at SAE. How do you intend to use it? Is it a part of your performances?
Yes, I programmed something to trigger randomised visuals through MIDI files. At that time I was trying to figure out an audio/visual set. I really wanted to use it for live performances but some things didn’t go as planned. I programmed something similar for an art exhibition called Dreamscapes and it’s happening in Karachi this month.
Will this be your first time in India? Are there any Indian DJs and producers or vocalists you would like to collaborate with?
I have some relatives in India, so I’ve had the chance to visit. My last memory of the place was being very sick and being driven to Lucknow or maybe it was somewhere else. I remember going through this one stretch with a lot of woods and monkeys chilling out, and I was lying in the back of a jeep and just remember gazing at monkeys through the window. I can’t wait for Magnetic Fields, I’m actually looking forward to working with SOULSPACE and When Pandas Attack (both Delhi-based producers). I’ve been in touch with these guys for a while and I’m digging the stuff they put out. Pandas and I’ve been talking about collaborating, and the festival sounds like the perfect opportunity to exchange some loops.
The Magnetic Fields Festival at Alsisar Mahal is from December 12-14. Tickets for three days cost Rs 5,000. Contact: email@example.com