This is from a set of interview questions I sent to Karsh Kale on July 9th, 2003. I have transcribed the responses verbatim from the textual communication, so all responses are sic.
Could you tell me what life was like growing up and what major musical influences and events have shaped your style today?
KK - I grew for the most part on Long Island. I was one of the very few Asians within a 20-mile radius and my family made the slow transformation from being immigrant to becoming an "American Family". I watched as my mother went from wearing saris to wearing tennis outfits all the time. Musically I was first effected by Rock and Roll...first The Beatles then bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd at a very young age.... It was through my interest in drums that my father decided to take me to Indian Classical Concerts and soon I was hooked. Although I did not have many outlets for this new found inspiration, I was very experimental and spent many a day after school experimenting with and studying Indian Music.
I read in one of your interviews that your father played a role in your musical development. Could you tell me more about that?
KK - My father is a great musician. He is a vocalist as well as a harmonium player. Instead of forcing music on me, he just made it available and allowed me to explore. He was also very encouraging about my love for rock and other styles of music that I was playing. I also have been accompanying my father on tabla for years and family and community events.
What inspires you to create music?
KK - I think that for me, making music is a form of therapy. Growing up in the 80's with an immigrant family presents a great deal of challenges and later in life you find yourself lost in a void between worlds and cultures. Spending all of my life in a country that I love but yet does not acknowledge my artistic and cultural existence compels me to create as eloquent of a description of who I am and what I feel as possible. If I did not have this outlet, I would go mad.
In your Jazzdimensions interview you stated that the Asian Massive movement was more of a cultural than musical movement. Could you explain some of the main themes in this culture?
KK - When I say cultural movement, I am addressing all of the inspiration and artistic offshoots I see emanating from even the club scene. This identity of being a 2nd generation is being expressed not only through electronica, but through writing, film making, dance, poetry and spoken word...It has become a way one dresses and presents themselves, DJs, political stance as well as other forms of music. All of which inspires each other. The movement is not exclusive to South Asians, only to the influence that South Asia is having culturally on the world.
Have you had offers from other artists in India to collaborate on new music projects?
KK - I have been collaborating with artists from India for years. The thing is that at this point, some of the best Indian Classical musicians are here in America and some of the best Western Musicians and Producers that I know are in India. It has mixed and spread in all directions.
On your latest album "Liberation", you stray from lyric-led music to tracks with more emphasis on the beat. Is this the natural progression you see your work taking or are you exploring something different?
KK - I wanted to express something more subliminal ..more of a soundtrack to the undercurrent of American culture. It is not obvious and must be uncovered. I was very careful in not being so literal allowing for a myriad of interpretation from the listener.........I did not want to make an album with English lyrics purposely to challenge the listener a bit...as opposed to " I'm a brown boy...on a steel horse I ride"
Do you foresee yourself incorporating more styles from around the globe like samba or reggae or do you feel there is more to explore within Indian/Asian music?
KK- I am not a world music artist in that way in that even though I love and am inspired by many styles and cultures around the world...Indian music is part of who I am not just what I like. As much as rock, hip hop and electronica. These are not experiments....they are self portraits....this does not rule out experiments and collabs within other forms of music but my main musical objective is to say who I am. I have however collaborated with artists from all walks and cultures including Baba Maal(Senegal), Hasaan Hakmoun(Gnawa), Gigi(Ethiopia), Sussan Dehim (Iran), etc.
Do you have a preference as to what type of venues you perform at or the size of the audience? Do you find playing outdoors to compliment your style of music?
KK - It depends on what I presenting...when I am with the Realize band I love to vary the venues...one night in a club, then the next day at an open air Festival etc. It is always nice to change it up both as a live musician and as a DJ.. ...it's nice to play in front of 16,000 people and then go to club and play for 500.
With the opening of Apple's music site iTunes and the consumer's ability to download one track off of an album, do you think this will effect the way musicians create music? Do you think more artists will try to produce the one great hit single over a more complex album?
KK - I can't say that artist have not been trying to write that one song all along......it has always been about the single..for me I have to shut out how something is packaged and distributed..I grew up on great albums and will continue to approach my work that way. People can then break it up as they see fit...I will make the whole....
Huge hugs, kisses and vibes of endearment go out to The Custodian and ueni for editing and format suggestions, Posmella for enduring this whole process with me, Fabian Alsultany and of course, Karsh Kale.