After the massive sucess of '2Step Bhangra'; The Bilz (Master D & Vicious) and Kashif are back to bring out a brand new album titled 'Turn The Music Up'.
Writing Exclusively for SimplyBhangra.com Tirusha Dave caught up with the talented trio!
The Bilz & Kashif are one three of the most talked about people in the South Asian music scene and now they’ve made their mark in Bollywood! So what’s really up with these Montreal boys?! It’s been almost a year that I always see DJ Vicious on Gmail chat and we talk all the time and in February I actually met Vicious and I was like “Whoa! We’re not talking behind a computer screen anymore!” Well, that in its own thing was an interesting experience; but recently I put these boys to the test and had the chance to interview DJ Vicious, Master D, and Kashif… it went something like this…
For those who are totally oblivious to the music scene (and God help them), tell us a little about yourselves?
Vicious – Well I’m just a down-to-earth individual who’s just really passionate about music & business. I love meeting new people and I’m really driven to make a difference in the music industry. I got my first break as a DJ when I was 17 and ever since never looked back. I’ve developed the ear for the streets and the clubs always keeping the DJ in mind so when we hit the studio, we always creating hits!
Kashif – I’m a singer/songwriter/performer and an entertainer. I strive to be innovative and creative while staying humble and passionate about music now and throughout my journey. Music and my family are my life. I want to inspire and touch people all over the world with my gift.
Master-D – I was born into a musical family and grew up with a passion for all kinds of music. I am continuously striving towards creating new and unique sounds by blending different genres and working on innovative concepts. My life and family are my inspirations. You can ask me to produce music from House to Bhajan, to dirty South to film scores; Master-D’s got the keys on lock. I wear many hats when it comes to working in the studio as a composer, producer, arranger, percussionist and a singer.
Both you (Kashif) and DJ Vicious went to the same high school? Did you ever think to yourselves that one day you might just be performing together across the country?
Kashif – Never in a million years. But I’m a firm believer in destiny, everything happens for a reason. We’ve always had mutual respect for each other though and we’ve been family friends since we were kids. Since we’ve been working together it’s definitely been a blast.
Vicious – Honestly, no. I knew Kashif had talent and he was on his way to the top when he got signed locally. But I wasn’t really in the phase of producing and taking him to the next level. He was already charting #1 across Quebec!
Looking back at the past, do you (Kashif) think that being in the French boy band helped you get where you are today? Do you still keep in touch with your old band members?
Kashif – Being part of Inmotion was an amazing experience. The group taught me the true meaning of teamwork and the business side of music. I’m still very much in touch with the guys. We’ve shared great memories. We’re always gonna have that bond. I wish them all the best in their future endeavors.
What about you Vicious…when you and Master D met in college, what was it like? Did you know from the beginning that you two had a great future together, or was it something which gradually came to you both?
Vicious – Well, Master-D used to be in a band. He was the lead singer, and I noticed how he just captivated the ladies at all the south Asian college shows. They were at almost every event! (Laughs) So that must have been a sign but it only materialized when I also found out that he produces original music. We actually got into the scene together when we both got fed-up of cheap, horribly Hindi remixed Cds that were in all the desi stores. So Master-D said, hey we can definitely step it up. So we released Insomnia 1, 2 and 3 which sold over 7000 units just in Montreal, Toronto & Vancouver. Then released a Tamil Remix Cd that sold over 1000 units/week! From there, Master-D said lets break into the original remix scene, and I then I soon started digging my contacts. We then got chosen to remix BMG’s recording artist, Keshia Chanté’s single - “Does He Love me” featuring Foxy Brown that was distributed all across Canada. We then exploded on AV8 Records and released – “Get Converted in the Club” which sold out record shops all across North America and Europe! Now, we’re both are making history!
Your album has a large variety of sounds, something we don’t hear too often. There’s Spanish, English, Punjabi – everything! How long did it take for this dream to turn into a reality and what made you guys want to touch all aspects of music?
Master-D: Well that’s what I always try to do. Sometimes people are scared to take risks exploring musical sounds and me being trained in classical music and also having a passion to play Tabla has also probably played a bigger role in expanding my views on music. When I approach projects I want to give it a fresh feel and an experience that’s diverse to the ears, and I meet so many musicians that want to work with me, so I take advantage of that. When I did “Balle Balle” on the album Vicious’ wasn’t too sure how it would sound but once he heard the harmonica laid on the beat it was a definite hit. That’s why even in the new album, we are taking it to new heights and creating a lot of emotions not just in the lyrics but in the depths of the music too. It’s going to be a crazy album!
Everyone knows that the UK scene is popping off like crazy. Everyday there’s a new artist, but they are getting that radio play and attention. What do you think can be done to help improve the urban Desi scene here in North America?
Vicious: Well in North America, there still isn’t that FM radio platform that U.K has for South Asians. So it will take time. Until you have serious budgets to break mainstream radio then you’re in business. We’ve managed to do that in Canada but it was extremely hard but we relied on our music to speak for itself. Now we have all kinds of people calling in to request “2 Step Bhangra” & “Spanish Fly” on Radio. U.K’s audience has already accepted South Asian culture because there has been many generations that’s established there. In North America, everyone’s used to hearing what they hear on radio and if it’s South Asian, it’s only at culture shows or Desi record shops. But from what I’m noticing is that American media presence is growing since (like you guys) the newer generation is more positive on the movement. They’ve also been born into this Urban Desi scene and they look at North American and U.K artists (mind you they have to be good) as their favorite artists. In the U.K, yes there’s been a mass explosion of “tom-dick and harry” artists lately. But for me, if the artist can stand out and continue delivering hits, then you’re made for the game and that’s why we believe in Kashif tremendously. He writes hits, very creative, open to new ideas, down-to-earth, an amazing entertainer and performer, and is always looking to be ahead of the game. That’s exactly what The Bilz envisions, so I’m going to make sure there’s nothing that will stop him.
Kashif – besides the radio platform thatdoesn’t exist yet, I think it’s just a question about the right talent and delivering consistent quality music to the Asian people. We’re talking about competing with mainstream artists here. The only way to be taken seriously is to be great. That’s exactly what’s in store for the new album.
When “2 Step Bhangra” was released, everyone was feeling the song. It was one of those tracks that you just couldn’t stop listening too! How did the attention make you feel?
Kashif – It was a really, really cool feeling. To be honest, I had a gut feeling inside of me telling me that this was going to be a smash. But I just want to thank every single person that called, played, requested and that had anything to do with the success of the song. The bottom line is the song became a hit because of our fans. Now its also time to “Turn the Music Up”!
The Bilz – Well the cool thing about the single was the response it generated with the teaser on our site. When it dropped, everyone went crazy. 2 Step Bhangra just grew to be a household & club phenomenon, and with supporting mainstream radio play, having non-south Asian fans calling in to request the single, made it even bigger. We charted #3 on the radio station just below Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake for 3 weeks straight. We didn’t have any major collaboration nor did we have radio promotion budgets, but it was all because of our fans we made it to the top. MTV Canada licensed it for a commercial, and the greatest achievement was winning “BEST VIDEO OF THE YEAR” at the 2007 Bollywood Music awards.
Taking a step back and looking at where the urban Desi scene is right now, are there any artists you would want to work/collaborate with?
Kashif – I have great respect for Rishi Rich. We’ve spoken a few times and talked about collaborating. I just think he’s great at what he does. It would be fun to work with him on the new album or future projects. Let’s see you never know?
The Bilz – As producers we’ll keep on growing our networks. Producing and composing music for talented artists and producers is what we are looking forward to. Also, we’re getting more into movies and many other aspects of the entertainment industry. Master-D plans to touch genres like World and film scores soon.
So Kashif, is there a solo album in the making?
Kashif – The solo album is in the works but for the future. Right now, The Bilz and I have decided to join forces for this next album. And the result is crazyyy. I have never been this excited about music.
Alright Kashif, while I have your attention, it won’t be any new news for me to tell you how much of a heartthrob to hundreds of girls out there. So…is there a lucky lady or are you still waiting for the one?
Kashif – I’m still waiting…lol… Unfortunately, I’ve just been unlucky when it comes to love. However, the 3 ladies in my life right now are My mom, my sister and my music lol
Well, now that we got that out of the way, tell us a little bit about the making of your videos. You guys recently did videos for “2 Step Bhangra,” and “O Meri Rani (Spanish Fly).” How were the concepts developed and how did you get in touch with everyone who made it possible?
Vicious – Well since we wanted a hot video, and NuFilms did the first, we went back with them. As for concepts we just all combine our ideas together and focus on a lot of details. We wanted to focus a lot of Kashif’s dancing talents in both videos, so that was stressed with the director so it would come alive in both videos. I also took care of scouting all the models and extras. I reached out to all the promoters, DJs and heavy MySpace hunting to get those hot Montreal girls. (laughs) It was fun but hard because we had to make sure they knew how to move! And lady politics, isn’t always fun. I also made sure everything was done on time line that we had. It’s a lengthy process making a video, especially a quality 35mm video ;)
Kashif – Videos are such a fun part. I love that stuff…It’s what connects you to your audience. The concepts were developed by a combined effort of the Bilz and I and the Video director Mathieu Grondin.
Master-D – Yeah it was my first time too, and we learnt a lot from it. It’s really important to know the direction you want to go in your videos. With time, we know what we want; we’re ready to work on the new album videos so expect a lot of input from our end.
With every artist and producer I meet & interview, it’s always the same situation: no label wants to sign new talent, especially South Asian talent. Why do you think that is the situation? Do you think that this is ever going to change?
The Bilz – of course it’s going to change. For labels it’s just new for them. They obviously want to see what we can do on our own. It’s no more the days to become an overnight celebrity. (Vicious) Every industry rep or label A&R I’ve spoken to, look for individuals or a team that’s achieved a lot independently. They want to know if you’ve worked your deal of grass root marketing, and worked at building a fan base. Big shout out to Jay Gatzby and the Komposit family. I also come across people who strictly focus on making a name via MySpace or Youtube. That phase has passed too. Labels will sign you if you have something better to offer. That’s why we invested into everything from artwork, videos, focusing on making hits for the masses and marketing on our own to build a name in the industry. If you know how to use your contacts right, you can definitely work your way up and make money. But it obviously will take time. But it’s a matter of 2-5 years that you will see south Asian artists on majors.
Kashif – I feel like people categorize Asians to be known for being doctors, lawyers, engineers or having restaurants. To be taken for real and to be considering a South Asian as a next big pop star is kind of unthinkable for a mainstream western record label, despite the evolution of Asians in this world. We’re here to change that. You really have to be a leader if you want to make a difference. I think people are tired of hearing the same thing. I know I am. This is why we make international pop music. We want to reach all ethnicities regardless of race, skin color nor should your language be important. It’s all about the music and making it universal.
What has been your most memorable musical experience till date?
The Bilz – Jumping in car on your way to the hotel and you hear your song on the radio right after Rihanna and Sean Paul. Then you hope back in the ride for sound check and hear your song on the radio and when you head back after dinner, you hear it one more time! 3 times in a day, now that’s memorable for us. I know there will be more to come!
Kashif – For me, I cherish moments very seriously. I’ve been there before and I know that you really have to savor the moments because you never know when it comes to the music business. I always take a deep breath for every experience. One that I will never forget was performing in front of 25,000 people singing to the song I wrote in my bedroom. Everything is important and everything counts for me. I remember a fan hyperventilating and telling me that my music makes her happy when she’s sad. Now that is an amazing feeling.
Now this is something which I have to ask everyone I interview? What are your thoughts on piracy? Do you honestly think it’s helped or hindered your career as an artist?
The Bilz – Well piracy does hurt. Its driving CD sales really low and labels don’t see profit in marketing acts properly if there aren’t any real returns. You can’t stop it because it will always be there since we live in a digital era, but what we can enforce is making quality music that fans realize its worth purchasing. Also, focus on better marketing strategies that will drive them to support the sales. I mean we suffered from piracy, but once everyone notice how heavy the album was, they all went and copped it. If we weren’t bootlegged, then there’s a problem with your music because it does help spread the word.
So how does the future look for The Bilz and Kashif?
It’s going to be unforgettable. Check out the new single “Turn the Music Up” from the new album on our myspaces, our singles from our last album in a 3D animated Bollywood movie – EKEH 2.0 with Fardeen Khan, some crazy show dates in the works and mind-blowing videos set to release soon. Hurry up add us on MySpace and Facebook you won’t want to miss out!
I wish you the best of luck with your future! You guys are amazing and are going to go far! Any final words for the readers of Simply Bhangra.com?
The Bilz & Kashif – Thanks Tirusha for taking the time to do the interview. We’d really like to thank you guys for supporting our movement. And to all the fans we love you, big up to Simply Bhangra and keep spreading the word and The Bilz & Kashif will come and tear up nightclubs in your city.