Interview with Fuzzy Logic

I first met Arfaaz Kagalwala aka Fuzzy Logic when he was part of the band Slow Down Clown. They were launching their debut EP at a club in Mumbai and towards the end of that gig the stage had become a big old jam session. After playing drums for all the songs off the EP, he got up and performed a searing rendition of Sting’s Roxanne. That was our first clue that this was a multi-talented musician. We have since watched him play live as a drummer with several bands and as a solo electronic musician.

He recently released a new EP and we think you should check it out. Read his interview with us first.

Guerilla Monsoon – that’s an interesting name. Tell us about how the EP came to be called that.
Guerilla Monsoon was actually one of the names I had suggested (which didn’t make the cut) for an awesome band that was just forming (but eventually didn’t) in Mumbai around 2011. I remember being asked at the time if it had anything to do with the WWF wrestler ‘Gorilla Monsoon’ [smiles]. Back then it was the monsoon (off) season that brought the band together, inspiring ideas as much as it brought with it a sense of gloom and hopelessness. The very unexpected nature of its onslaught coupled with the force of its fury reminded me of guerilla warfare. With the EP I was hoping to be able to interpret the “Guerilla” nature of the monsoon using a palette of electronic sounds that I have currently been dabbling with and so the name seemed fitting. My previous band members had no objection to me using it anyway so I did.

What was the song that set the tone for the sound of this EP?
The first track, Guerilla Monsoon was actually the one that set the tone and I felt the need to extend the vibe into an EP.

You’ve said in other interviews that you were making experimental music and finding it hard to get booked for live gigs and then you made the Money Talks EP and things changed. Tell us about that period.
I guess ‘experimental’ is not the right word to use. Let’s just say I’ve dabbled in a range of electronic music and I can see how this might confuse people. Booking agents and venues need to know what they’re getting when they book an artist and Fuzzy Logic’s genre is… well.. fuzzy [Smiles]. So I can understand their reasons for being skeptical. That being said, this period was also a very difficult and frustrating period in my life. Almost all at once, my plans to go abroad didn’t materialize, I had to vacate my home in Bandra, my relationship ended, and I had taken a break from commercial work. I needed to support myself somehow in Mumbai with my own music and I think the businessman in me sort of engineered the music I made with Money Talks, based on the need at the time. It worked I guess… in the sense that it definitely kick-started my dormant gigging career.

How has performing live shaped you as a composer?
I’ve never thought about it that way but it’s a great question. I think through live performance I have been able to learn about energy flow and what keeps people engaged and what makes them tune off. I cannot say that I have implemented these findings entirely but I have made mental notes and have let these concepts filter through while composing. It’s a never-ending process though, and a complex balance to maintain between trying to push the boundaries of music at the risk of losing audience, and giving people what they expect.

Tell us about your live gear set-up – laptop, controllers, other toys.
So up until now, I’ve been performing what I like to call hybrid DJ sets with laptop, MIDI controllers and live vocals but I’ve been slowly gravitating towards live analog performances. My current live set up now employs the Korg Volca Beats, Bass and Keys synth/sequencers and a Monotribe. These are now my main tools for creating and layering sounds live. Additionally, I am also running my usual laptop-MIDI rig i.e. the Novation Launchpad to trigger clips/samples and a Nocturn controller to send effects to various channels, create beat effects, etc. Finally I have my vocals running into my soundcard, which is also effected using the Nocturn. I have everything running in and out of Ableton Live, which also provides the master sync tempo to all devices via MIDI.

Do you worry about electronics freaking out while performing live on stage and there being that dreaded moment of silence? How do you safeguard against that?
YES. This fear haunts my dreams and my waking life. I’ve come to learn that electronics are more like humans than we think. They’re temperamental and they don’t always work the way they’re supposed to in practice. The only real way to safeguard against that is to spend countless hours working with and getting to know them inside out. So basically troubleshoot, troubleshoot and troubleshoot until you’ve hit every possible problem and found every possible solution. And even then, there might not be a 100% guarantee that things will work the way they should. Music purists may think electronic music is all easy and inhuman because it’s always in sync and machines are doing most of the work. But I would disagree. It involves as much if not more practice time and becoming one with your instrument. That’s the only way to safeguard against those dreaded moments of silence. If things don’t work, it’s your fault for not working hard enough to understand your tools.

When you compose, what are the tools you use? For example some electronica producers start on keys, others begin on guitar – where do the songs start to take shape for you?
Usually I like to start with making beats. I guess this comes from being a drummer and so my electronic music is very ‘beats’ driven. However, this is not a standard formula. There have been many times when I have begun noodling on synth/keyboards and came up with melodies and riffs before bringing the beats in. It really depends on whether I’m making dance floor electronic music or composing something for film or a mood based situation.

People are always complaining about how electronic beats can never be as good as beats by a live, human drummer – you are the perfect person to address this issue, on account of being both a drummer and an electronica artist:
– Tell us your thoughts on this idea that people have
– How do you make a programmed beat come alive?
– Who are your favourite beat makers (electronica and others)

People always complain. That’s what we do best. And in most cases it’s because something is beyond the realm of our comprehension and this bruises our ego. I say beats are beats whether they are electronic or real. And those who decide to live their lives making distinctions are truly missing out on all the fun. I don’t even bother with trying to convince people who say things like this. I just feel bad that they cannot enjoy music without having to find things to complain about. Boo-fcking-hoo basically.
Having said this, a simple programmed beat loop over and over again can get monotonous. It’s the job of the producer to make the beats dynamic and evolving. With most 4×4 electronic music it’s easy to slip into a monotonous rut, but with a clever use of percussive elements, poly rhythms and swing, a beat is sure to come alive.
Some of my favourite electronic beat makers are Trentemoller, Pretty Lights, Bonobo, Chemical Brothers. And “real” beat makers, Stuart Copeland, Jon Bonham, Matt Cameron and Chad Smith.

What have your experiences in the indie music scene been like in India? What is your one wish for the scene?
It’s been a long roller coaster ride for me having been in the “scene” for over a decade, first as a drummer for rock bands and then as an electronic music producer. I’ve dealt with praise and criticism alike and I’ve gone through periods of frustration, depression and angst as much as periods of absolute elation. But it’s been a journey of constant learning and development. I have seen massive changes take place over the years and I’m hopeful for the future of the Indian indie music scene. The sheer growing numbers of quality music producers and musicians out there is heartening. So is the growing professionalism of bookers, agents and music managers. However, it’s still a very small and undefined scene, which can barely be called a scene in an international context. Power is in the hands of a select few bookers and organizations and they seem to be controlling the “scene” we speak of. There is a fair amount of favoritism, arm-twisting and biased agenda pushing that happens and I would like to see this change. I believe it will in time.

You’ve been composing for film and ads as well – what is the biggest challenge with that industry?
The biggest challenge with that industry is having to deal with morons in positions of power. That’s when you realize that this game not about talent as much as it is about understanding human psychology and being able to sell your product convincingly to these people who ultimately have control over the money. Letting go of some of your aesthetic ideals is also a challenging part of the process but it comes with the territory and I believe if you want to make the money doing commercial work, you’ve got to play by the rules of that industry. Play people. Not music. That’s just how it works; like it or not.
Fortunately, I have also had the opportunity of working with absolutely amazing and inspirational people, but these are mostly on independent film projects, which struggle to see the light of day.

Five essential songs that you love that you recommend to our readers.
I’m going a bit old school with this list. These are just some of the most inspirational songs to me:

For more from Fuzzy Logic:
Bandcamp – Download the Guerilla Monsoon EP

Photo: Romain Gaudin-Spira