American producer, musician, and EDM DJ Niles Hollowell-Dhar, better known by his stage name KSHMR, recently rocked the stage at Electric Jungle Fest in Foshan, China. He chatted backstage with Billboard Radio China’s host Doomkitty to discuss his road to becoming one of the biggest names in EDM as well as the influence heritage has on his music, and his admiration for China and its people.
From a young age, KSHMR found himself obsessed with music and computers. It was a fairly sure bet while growing up that you would find him seated behind a computer at some point during the day. Initially, games consumed his time until programs were developed that allowed him to make music.
“I really loved the idea of being able to make a song and put it on a CD and go to my school and say ‘Hey, this is me’,” he recalls. Learning “through trial by fire,” as he put it, he got better and better and before long started producing for friends.
KSHMR’s first real taste of success came as one half of the hip-hop production duo The Cataracs. However, the partnership fizzled over time, and the pair eventually parted ways. He described the transition from being part of a team to a solo artist as a very scary point in his life, “when you have something that is working for you, it can be tough to abandon it, it feels very risky, but it really was where my heart was, to go and start KSHMR and to do something I felt reflected more of my heritage.”
The transition wasn’t easy, and building confidence was a bit of a process. “I had to sort of feign a look of confidence and believability that this was going to work.” By putting up this confident façade, he was able to come into his own and suggests this approach is, “a helpful policy for people trying to make it, to sort of fake it until you make it even if you don’t feel fully confident, even if you are not 100 percent, act like you are and you can get great results that way.”
As a solo artist, KSHMR had more license to explore the type of music he wanted to make. He describes his style as very “cinematic,” music that tells a story. He began to pull from his Indian heritage and its instruments as well as instruments from all different parts of the world and challenged himself to find a way to make real recordings of these instruments fit with dance music. The results, he says, are something really fresh that allow him to take pride in what he does.
“What you have to do is look at the scene as a little more abstract than the surface level of whatever genre is in, and look at what drives people at these shows. When you look at it that way, there are Indian sounds that can drive people in on a more visceral level. There’s a lot that can be done to get the same effect using different instruments that nobody is using; a different palette entirely. So, when you look at it in that way, it’s a little bit more visionary and it kind of takes the weight off of you.”
When the conversation turned to China, KSHMR did not hold back in showering praise, and his adoration was apparent as he described China as being like a second home to him. Every time he is in China, he meets many fans that are touched by his music and it’s always unexpected and beautiful.
He is happy every time he gets to come back to China, as he has a particular fondness for the food and the people. “Every time I am back, I feel like I am discovering something new,” he said. “Many people don’t understand China and that’s a shame because it’s such a big and beautiful place.”
In the near future, KSHMR plans to take a bit of time off from touring and work on some new music. He is particularly proud of the next few songs he will be releasing. The next will be entitled “No Regrets.” He describes it as big room but slower, with the same energy as other big room songs he’s produced. Feeling like he is at a point in his career where he can continue to try new things, he sees no point in letting up on pushing the boundaries. To listen to the full radio interview, visit Billboard Radio China.