Meaning is sought in the voice of childhood curiosity, flowing like a stream of question following question. The search for meaning is nurtured in its childhood googly-eyed enthusiasm, but that search predictably falls into the rigmarole of the existential during adulthood. Like a jaded question looming over us, we begin to think of meaning within the abstractions of what the word conjures in our preconditioned, tainted minds. It is – in its tangents, its peaks, its undertones, its overwhelming demands – a burden. But every so often, some step aside from the linearity of a structured life to see life as a circle...to curl into the abyss, only to find the googly eyes of their childhood looking back with innumerable questions. I found myself in a similar loop of questions, asking and answering, getting side-tracked and having to rein in, during multiple conversations with Aniket Dabholkar, a.k.a Sticky Note, a video game designer and music maker based in Bangalore.
Aniket Dabholkar: Hey, be you free?
Meenakshi Thirukode: Hey Aniket, I’m at work but can chat.
A: So I've kind of come to the conclusion that I've made a few (6 odd) mellow/light/chill tracks, and then a bunch of dark ones. Now I don't want to mix them up for a single release. I think I'll release the light toned ones as an EP and the dark ones maybe later.
M: Tell me a bit about your dark pieces…
A: Well, I spend the chunk of my time alone. There are moments of alienation. When I’m in such a mood I feel a need to vent, you know, let it out, be done with it. And that's when I get to it, digging up obscure samples based on the mood I'm experiencing at the time. I find it easier to make darker tracks than happy ones. It definitely starts in the head. I’d like to think I’m eclectic and my work is project based. As of now I’m working on an album made entirely of sampled content. It’s just something I want to do at this stage of my life. Sampling aside, I play classical guitar and am also taking my own sweet time learning synthesis. That’s something that interests me in the long run.
M: I am all for dark…it’s more comforting. It’s our human condition to be forever alone and so it’s like life is about this perpetual search for why we feel so alone. So at least 'dark' feels more authentic.
A: Yes...although, I wouldn't say dark feels more authentic. I think both states of mind are equal. You know, yin and yang, balance, etc. Except it's not constant. It comes and goes, so as individuals, it's up to us to either dwell on it's passing or look to it's next coming. I found happiness for a bit. I left my education and moved to another city. I was happy, free, etc. Struggle did kick in eventually. But I'm glad I made the decision to move. Nothing is constant except death.
M: Well, angst is constant, wanting is constant, searching is constant, longing is constant...
A: I think we're capable of being content with what we have (albeit temporarily). We devise systems to live in, right? As per our needs and 'perks'...
M: But the devices are so flawed. How we should look, whom we should love, what we should eat, how we should work...
A: Well one could be lonely from childhood till old age. One could just give up. Or one could just not care.
M: I guess one should let go. I’ve done that with my work, so more than anything else, I know it gives me happiness. I wouldn’t even call it work...
A: It’s not like I go out seeking inspiration everyday. I like being at peace with the way I approach music making. There’s no competition. There are no expectations. It’s just me biding time doing something I love, with tons of trial and error to keep me busy. What’s even better is that music’s been a key to my finding inner peace. I feel I’ve healed from within, fought the chunk of my demons. The feeling is quite ecstatic: to have found a purpose in life. And I don’t regret double clicking on the Ableton Live Desktop Icon for the first time, not one single bit. When not helping design games or making music, I like, well, playing video games, especially the indie ones, and I do gain inspiration from that particular spectrum. My most recent track, ‘Dusk’, was an attempt at making a nice laid out track to listen to whilst driving around aimlessly in GTA Vice City or Sleeping Dogs.
A bit tangential. But are you, like, of Maharashtrian origin?
M: No. Why? I look Maharashtrian?
A: No, the surname is a bit misleading.
M: I like that…my last name is misleading. Ok so you talked about inspiration, how about influences and process. Tell me more about that.
A: A lot of the people I look up to in this industry as of now – Flying Lotus (and the LA Beat Scene in general), Four Tet, DJ Shadow, Blockhead and Animal Collective, to name a few, do indulge in a lot of sampling. ‘Endtroducing’ by DJ Shadow had not a single instrument played on it and yet was revolutionary. Animal Collective’s ‘Merriweather Fair Pavilion’ had its fair share of samples and recently I’d read an interview where Four Tet stated that ‘Rounds’ in its entirety (well, almost) was sampled off old records, and that did kind of bring a smile to my face.
I prefer working on music, at length, during the weekends. I do my share of crate digging for samples during the weekdays, but the bulk of my music is made on the weekends. I do have to balance two passions of course – video games (I’m a game designer by profession) and music, lest I risk a mental burnout. The two do seem to aid each other so I think this system works best for now. In terms of gear I use a midi controller, a sound card and a mic. I kind of need to move to a better place, live too close to the road so too noisy, can't record much good quality stuff. A hindrance actually…the location.
M: What are your future plans?
A: I think my plans for this year involve me just getting this album out of my system. I haven’t decided on a name for it yet, and it’s not near completion. I’d say it’s at about 60%. There are a bunch of laid back tracks aimed at inducing a chilled out mood, and there are a few dark ones too. And there’s one track with vocals by friend, the only track on which I've played a wee bit of instrumentation – just a few open notes on the guitar, mangled and sliced to sort of form a coherent collage of sound. I'm not keen on performing live as of yet, though I'm in the process of slowly but steadily assembling a mini-studio at home. Have a wish list ready. And since I like video games too, and sound is very much a core aspect of video games, I very much see myself working on an amalgamation of the two in the future.
Meenakshi Thirukode, a.k.a Em Tee, is a writer, cultural producer and recently appointed head of the New Media Department at Bushwick Film Festival. She and her three alter egos live in New York.
Aniket Dabolkhar, a.k.a Sticky Note, is a musician and video game designer based in Bangalore. A mind different from the rest of the crop to whom music was an escape that turned to passion.