TF Spotlight: KarmasynK’s Frantic DnB Artillery

Hailing from Mumbai and currently based in LA, Ruturaj Wankhede aka KarmasynK is one of the finest drum & bass exports from the Indian subcontinent.

Immersing himself around everything related to sound, KarmasynK’s Sound alchemist, interaction designer, acoustic expert profiles come together when he makes drum & bass. With a penchant for the light and dark worlds of DnB, KarmasynK has quietly bossed the art of differentiation in his sound at the flick of a switch.

KarmasynK’s deep, punchy, and delicate style of drum & bass has seen him take his music across the spectrum with releases on labels like C4C Limited, //DarkMode, Play Me Too Records, Delta9 Recordings, and Code Recordings to name a few.

The LA-based producer is now all set to make a return to //DarkMode for an EP. In anticipation of the release, we caught up with the man to know more about his beginnings, the shaping of his sound, his thoughts on the American DnB scene and lots more.

How did the KarmasynK journey begin?

KarmasynK: Well believe it nor not, I actually wasn’t  a big fan of electronic music when I was younger. I grew up playing guitars in metal and rock bands and always had this prejudice against electronic music – I didn’t fully understand it nor did I take the time to actually give it a chance. So when I was 17 or so, we had older friends who were into psytrance which was really popular in India – and honestly, was the only form of electronic music that was around at that time in India.

They invited us to this party – its the first time I was exposed to electronic music. The vibe, the music, the energy was totally on point and I immediately fell in love. I was recording and producing bands already, so I was somewhat used to working in the DAW environment – So I started looking into electronic music and the techniques people were using to make it and I began to dwell deeper and deeper until it reached a point where I would go days without touching my guitar.

My electronic music journey began with psytrance but when I moved to California from India to go to school at California Institute of the Arts for their Music Technology program, I was exposed to the west coast bass music. I found that the music here was still very much influenced by psytrance but it also did some cooler stuff with the lower frequencies which I felt was lacking in the straight kbbb psy. It was also “musical” in nature and so all the music stuff I was learning in school could still be applied here – unlike dark psytrance which is absolutely abstract.

That’s when my intentions for my music solidified and the KarmasynK project was born. I experimented with a lot of different styles – psychedelic bass, glitch hop etc. and when I was in California, I discovered the music of Tipper which completely changed my life. His music made me aware that the pursuit of this art on a complete level – something akin the lines of Indian classical music can lead to amazing things.

The potential that this music has when operated at the highest level was immense and that’s when I got really really serious about it. So couple of years into making bass music, I found Critical Music, obviously I knew Noisia before but I finally understood what they were about.

I think I fully got immersed in DnB through Noisia radio – after working with bass music for a few years – I heard dnb and I realized that all these guys were doing what I liked about the bass music and taking it to a whole new level. Plus, something about the ethnic Indian me identified with the worldly rhythms. Everything just seemed to be perfect. And since then, I completely switched over to dnb and that was that.

We’ve seen the sheer the depth in your production that can has an incredible range, but how would you like to describe your sound?

KarmasynK: Man, that’s a tough one to answer. If you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have given you a technical answer. But nowadays, I am trying to focus more on the emotional content of the music – and that doesn’t mean just liquid. I have been focusing more on life experiences and translating those emotions and feelings into my music – so my music is more like a personal journal if you will.

When I was younger, I would focus more on making really unique sounds, trying to make the fattest basslines and all that. Lately, its been more about how can I convey this emotion in dnb terms – that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a lack of anything technical. Its just that I am starting to think more about how to use technical tools to convey emotions – I do believe every artist strives to do this one way or another.

I think modern dnb has become much more about the initial drop reaction – and so the music has become all about the initial big reaction – and not about where the progression takes it. It might reflect the shortening attention span of people but I believe that a lot more can be said and felt if we consider how a track progresses.

Lately I am hearing way too many tracks that have the sickest first drop and then the song fails to take it anywhere. For me, its all about what happens after the initial 16 bars when the awe has faded – that’s when they story starts to unfold – and well, if you don’t have a story to tell, then what are we doing here?

Your latest two-tracker on Code Recordings is a move away from the pulverizing style of drum & bass. How was the experience while writing the EP?

KarmasynK: I think this goes back to the what I said earlier – I am growing as a person. The more I write, the more I experience life, more mature I become. I am not as angry as I used to be. I am a human being encompassing all sorts of emotions – so its only fair that its reflected in the music. I am not sure who said it but they were right – its easy to write pathos (darker stuff). But to write ethos that’s not cheesy – that requires really maturity and honestly I never paid attention to the subtle delicate side of things in life. COVID was an eye opening experience and I finally had the time and just mental space to explore the subtleties that makes us human and this EP is just a reflection of that.

I wrote “You” after a tough relationship – I kinda sat down and thought about what I wanted, what I expected out of relationships, life etc. This whole reflection was triggered by this one incident and the track kind of reflects me working through those feelings. While I was writing it, I found the perfect acapella that described what I was feeling. So I feel this is one of the tracks that universe just grants you – You don’t spend hours fixing it – it kind of just wrote it self. This is also the first time I experimented with vocals in my music.

“Electric Blue” was written when I began seeing this new person – it kinda of encapsulates what its like when you start seeing someone new – the excitement – but the happy kind, but slight nervousness. Also the hopefulness and the longing for it to last. But also the playful nature of it. That’s why I think this tune works great on the dance floor as well even though its not really “heavy” or mainstream dance floor – but it still teases and plays with expectations – something I learned from the psytrance days.

Who were your biggest influences when you started making drum & bass?

KarmasynK: Noisia and Tipper straight up. But I also really got into dnb when Emperor and Mefjus were doing their collabs on Critical. The “Hello World” EP was such a big influence on me. And then once I was really into dnb, I really fell in love with the C4C sound. I liked the neuro sound but some of the neuro was way too heavy metal for me – C4C was where I found the right balance – it was intelligent, it was sharp and it had a motherfuckin fuck you attitude. RIP OPTIV, we miss you!

What are the genres that you would like to listen to or would like to make, other than drum & bass?

KarmasynK: I am a huge fan of Hindustani classical music. I am student of Ustaad Aashish Khan, grandson of the great Ud. Ali Akbar Khan. I also learned tabla under Pt. Swapan Chaudhari – both of whom were my teachers at CalArts. The depth of emotional understanding, the nuances of human feelings and their musical association is supreme in hindustani music.

Even though its all about practice and technicality, it all comes to together to identify and portray an emotion. From this culture I learn that Music is a lifelong discipline that requires ultimate sacrifice. I still think its one of the purest forms of music. I would highly recommend everyone to watch this film called “The Disciple” on Netflix. Its originally in Marathi but its amazing.

Apart from that, I really like some of techno and house. Stephan Bodzin is freaking amazing. Guy J is one of my favorite DJs ever. I love how much space is available when you are writing music in slower tempos. DnB is awesome, but also incredibly hard to fit abstract ideas into. So sometimes I am really drawn to the space and emotional range that is easily accessible when writing music that’s not as fast.

You have been a part of the United States’ drum & bass scene for quite a while. How do you think the scene has progressed over the years?

KarmasynK: Ahh, the million dollar question. Honestly – it all depends what you consider progress. Yes its gotten really popular here in the United States, literally all producers are abandoning their ship and jumping on the dnb wagon. So yeah there are lot more shows and promoters putting on dnb events, but the new wave of dnb listeners is still yet to develop a taste to be able to tell what’s what.

So I don’t know if there is actually more opportunities for core dnb artists here in the US because the promoters are safer booking the dubstep acts to play dnb – all of these dubstep acts have a bigger following than most of the dnb scene put together so its really hard to beat the financial viability and guarantee that comes with booking such a n act. The underground OG dnb nights like Stamina in SF and Respect in LA is still strong and have an amazing vibe.

But the vibe seems to be lacking in the high profile events thrown by promoters because of the dnb hype. For me, I do love DnB as music, but I also really love the culture and what it stands for. For me, it has always been the music that stood against the oppressive entities – whether it be a particular government, or an idea or principle. That’s what makes this music so full of passion.

And there are soldiers who have given their life to keep the genre as real as it is now, and quite frankly I just don’t see that yet here in newer dnb wave. Maybe that will change, we’ll see. But in short, its still a hype trend and we’ll just have to wait and see how the scene progresses to make a real judgement. If I had to take a guess, its going to go through the same thing that happened to dubstep – The Americans will like the idea, they will take it and water it down to meet the commercial standards – and then it will turn into something different and it will live in its bubble here in the US. Sort of like bro step and riddim.

But that’s just America and the mentality that exists here. And its impossible to study music without its environment. However America itself is going under a huge change in demographic – and that will bring about a change in mentality as well. So as America becomes more and more diverse, and the mainstream will soon demand different things, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

What are KarmasynK’s plans for the rest of the year?

KarmasynK: Busy year for me release wise – been sitting on a lot of music because I didn’t really put out anything during the COVID years. Honestly, in a way I am glad COVID happened because I had gotten so comfortable doing the same hard neuro music that I was doing and I had no intentions of taking the time to slow down and explore different ideas and emotions.

Since there were no shows happening, there was no real pressure to constantly put out music. So I took the time to rebuild my style from the ground up.  So what you are seeing now is KarmasynK 2.0. I have a darker EP coming up at the end of July on Pavan’s DarkMode.

Then in August, we have something really special and unexpected on Delta9 – one of my special releases for sure. Really love how far Delta9 has come – for me it represents what dnb is about. Yes there are big labels, but then we still value quality – and it comes from smaller labels as well and its noticed. Shout outs to Diego – we have been hitting the Beatport charts with all the small artists.

In September I am back with another EP on DarkMode and in October I have an EP with the Russian powerhouse Ignescent Recordings.  Then in November, we have a little single with Ireland’s finest Booey Audio.

5 tunes you are feeling at the moment?

KarmasynK: Emba – Mirrors
Iyre – Retired Replicant
Airglo and Deekline – Dubplate
That New Nami on Overview is pretty sick
Tweakz – Schizo (Delta9) This one f*cking goes offf

Listen to KarmasynK’s latest tune on //DarkMode here:

Full discography:

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