Mar 26, 2021
KSHMR's 'Harmonica Andromeda' Exclusive Mix
Today we’re toasting to a milestone moment in the storied career of KSHMR. Only one week ago, KSHMR delivered on his most ambitious project to date, a 14 track debut album that takes listeners on a true journey. In honor of 'Harmonica Andromeda,' KSHMR’s crafted a celebratory Exclusive Mix and taken some time to go in-depth on the album creation process, highlighting his newfound inspirations during the pandemic, some of his favorite instruments included in the productions, his new live show, and much more!
Niles, thanks so much for joining us to celebrate your new album! Can you discuss your decision to name your album Harmonica Andromeda? How do the tracks on the album reflect this title?
The name came from one of the first songs I worked on that featured the harmonica as the main instrument. Eventually it became the name of the album because I liked the juxtaposition of something so modest like a harmonica and something so massive like andromeda (like a galaxy). The name evokes a sense of wonder and this album is me exploring my own wonder and seeing how far I can go with music experimentation. Bringing to life this abstract vision, I wanted to combine elements of a movie score that's dark and cinematic (like the movie 300) but also fun and light (like The Lion King) and it was fun seeing if I could put some of that into a dance song.
As an artist, where have you been drawing inspiration from over the past year? What has it been like without a dancefloor to test your music on and connect with fans across the world? Did this influence the type of music on the album at all?
I drew inspiration from some of my favorite scores like Gladiator and in some ways from my favorite band, The Beatles, specifically what they did on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There were definitely times when I was thinking what The Beatles would do if they were around today. Not to say it's as good as anything The Beatles have done, but I admire how fearless they were at trying new genres and incorporating elements that seem counterintuitive. They were always having fun and the great melodies always made it work. There were times in this album that I had a vision that was really hard to accomplish, but quarantine afforded me enough time to try different things on each of these songs so I feel like I accomplished the vision I set out for. I suppose the pandemic did influence the album in a way because I really didn't think about the dancefloor that much at all when I made it. I wanted people to move to it, but the songs that have worked well for me live have been EDM bangers and this album is really anything but that.
In previous discussions about the album, you’ve mentioned that the story reflects the journey of a kid after his mom dies, and he realizes that his mom wanted him to go live life to the fullest and experience all it has to offer. Can you talk some more about where that story and message came from?
I have a close relationship with my mom and it feels like so many of my stories have a mom figure playing an important role. I guess I think of mothers as selfless and really close to the child inside of you, whereas your dad maybe is more of a representation of the man you are supposed to become. There is a lot of conflict as we grow up and try to become men and sometimes try to push down the childish feelings we have. My inner child is pretty strong and probably influenced my pursuit of music. All of that is to say this mother in the story, I imagined, wanted her son to go and see the world. That was the most important lesson that she had for him and it was iconically selfless of her. This sets the backdrop for the various places we follow the boy to (carnival, jungle, wild west, etc.).
Can you pick out two tracks from the album and tell us about the production process that went into them? How did you go from the idea/sketch to the final version for these tracks?
One of my favorite songs to talk about is “The Little Voice.” This started with a little vocal sample and it was so small and only had a little nylon guitar accompanying it. So to counterbalance the smallness, I added this really dirty growling bass and it started to get a little meaner and when searching for where it could go next, it opened up and became something much more optimistic. So out of this small dark voice almost humming to itself, this African choir emerges. It becomes a celebration. This really lovely melody returns and it just gets bigger, the choir kicks in, Karra assisted with vocals which kicks in and it just unleashes into this Lion King/Porter Robinson esque climax. Each section was really difficult to decode and once the vision was there, it was for me, at least as a producer, ambitious to accomplish. To make this combination of tribal vocals and live instruments and dance elements all work together and have the emotion I intended was really challenging. With songs like these, I'm often working on 4 or 5 different projects because each action has so much going on.
The other song is “Midion Lion Walk.” I wanted to invoke the feeling I had on Lion Across The Field one more time, so I imagined a lion taking a walk at midnight when he can't sleep and is surveying the land. Once I had this idea in mind, a lot of different sections emerged. It was fun to do a lot of hip hop in this one. A really talented producer, B3RROR, helped me out with the first drop. The second drop is a vintage record sound. For the last drop, I was a little inspired by Krimsonn, who is an artist on Dharma, to do something mid tempo, but that's hard so the climax is the most badass thing that could happen in it.
It’s clear you’ve recorded a ton of different instruments in the studio for this album. What was one that you really liked?
I was on tour once (while shows were still happening) in Istanbul and I had fallen in love with string instruments that came from Turkey. I extended my stay and a friend there allowed me to use his studio and brought in a Turkish violinist. He just jammed and played all these melodies. Some of them made it into Sounds Of KSHMR Vol. 3 and one of them made it onto the album. It's just this beautiful violin melody that makes the song.
Is there any song that is especially meaningful to you or one you are particularly proud of? Why?
There's a song on the album called “Paula” that I wrote for my mom and I sing on it which is something I've never done as KSHMR. It's a very personal song to me. It's me going through the thoughts of what it might be like when I don't have my mom around anymore and thinking about her and what she means to me. I thought about the weight of all the experiences we've had together and tried to put that in a song.
Undoubtedly, everyone who sees a KSHMR show is enthralled and impressed with the accompanying visuals to your music, so what can you tell us about what you’ve created and have planned for the Harmonica Andromeda live show?
Definitely. I have often played a fairly predictable set in terms of my own music because there have been songs from my past that have stuck, they work, I'm proud of them. There was just a great period in my career where I felt I was really crushing dance music. I've fallen in love with music all over again for this album and I know the live show needs to reflect that so I've totally reworked it. Some of my fans will notice I've completely restructured the show to reflect where my love of music has taken me.
Do you have an intended mood, location, or time for people to listen to your album?
I hope they listen on a good system, on headphones, or if nothing else for sympathy for me in a car ride when you have time to picture whatever movie or story occurs to you when you hear the music. That might be the best way to enjoy it, these songs are aspiring to tell a story, each one of them.
What’s one track that you can’t wait to play live when shows are back?
I would say I can't wait to play “The World We Left Behind” because it's just everything I love about the dance music scene [Check out KSHMR together with “The World We Left Behind” collaborator Karra below]. It's free from judgement and free from maturity and in many ways it's very pure. It was very important to me when we were writing the song that it remained free from modern jadedness and modern references. I wanted it to have the sense of wonder that you find inside of yourself when you're younger or at your best.
As people in all industries, but especially in the electronic dance music world, seem to fight a daily challenge to find creativity and positivity in their lives, do you have any advice to share for those struggling to find both productivity and balance?
When you're not productive it's generally because you're not excited. You have to try new things and fall in love again or remind yourself what that feels like to want to stay up all night working on something. If you're not feeling that, you need to be honest with yourself and stop the loop that you're in and force new external influence on yourself. Oftentimes, getting excited involves a period where you're not good at something because you're trying something new. I found the key to happiness is to fearlessly suck at new things.
And as we look ahead, what’s keeping you excited and driven?
This album has been a big driver of happiness for me and since all the work for it is coming to a close, I've taken up a few hobbies. One of them was getting back into making games on the computer which is something I did when I was younger. For my best friend's birthday I made him a game based off an idea that he had using the application Stencyl. I've also gotten into video editing born out of the fact that we shot this amazing video in India that needs special effects and I thought I would at least try and it started an obsession for me. Some of the effects that I've done have made it into the final video.
Download/Stream 'Harmonica Andromeda': https://kshmr.fanlink.to/HarmonicaAndromeda-dl-stream
short link 1001.tl/pubc1l