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February 24, 2017

Why Nucleya Is A Force To Be Reckoned With

Text by Simone Louis. Photograph by Irina Usova

Udyan Sagar, better known as Nucleya, discusses his unique brand of desi dubstep, his inspirations and musical inclinations

“I acknowledged at the outset that my music was for a niche audience,” he quips. Although there might’ve been no doubt about that a year ago, it’s ironic coming from a man who recently released his sophomore album at a highly ambitious launch with 15,000 fans. Jam-packed and practically overflowing, the NSCI stadium in Mumbai saw Udyan Sagar revel in the culmination of years of hard work and experimentation. The Delhi-based producer has been building a fiercely loyal fan base ever since he introduced his stage persona Nucleya, along with his Koocha Monster EP in 2013; but it wasn’t until the wonderfully unique launch of his first album Bass Rani that he achieved viral status. With a string of quirky videos and social media plugs leading up to the event, Sagar brought together an impressive group of indie artistes to put on a power-packed performance atop a truck at a Ganapati visarjan in Mumbai. From that moment on, it was a snowball effect.

Today, he plays mega gigs on home turf and abroad, performing at music festivals like Glastonbury and Edinburgh Fringe Festival while producing hit songs for Bollywood. Merchandise is in high demand, and fans go so far as to get his signature phrases and album art tattooed for life. Undoubtedly, Nucleya is an unstoppable phenomena and his time is now.

People sometimes mistake you for being a newcomer, when in reality you’ve been around since the ’90s. What has the journey been like?
“That’s right; I was a part of Bandish Projekt before I became Nucleya. It’s been a crazy ride. I started playing around with electronic music around the 11th grade. I was listening to very glitchy, broken-beat stuff by Funkstörung and also an amazing artist called Mukul who ran a website called ambientTV.NET — he introduced me to a lot of the unusual sounds I fell in love with. My dad bought me a computer and I got some pirated software, and that is how it began. I would experiment with beats, trying to understand the kind of sounds I had the capacity to create. Then I met Mayur (Narvekar), with whom I founded Bandish Projekt. He was a tabla player and knew a lot about the mathematics behind beats, which he taught me. Our first manager introduced us to Bhavishyavani Future Soundz, a collective based out of Mumbai, and we did a lot of cool drum and bass stuff with them which also triggered inspiration for me.”

What inspired Nucleya?
“Towards the end of my time at Bandish Projekt, my notions of music had completely changed. So when I moved out on my own, I wanted to go in a contrastingly different direction. My music has never been mainstream; I wasn’t expecting anything big. I started experimenting even more, looking for sounds that I still hadn’t explored — street music caught my interest. That’s how Koocha Monster came to be. For me, the genre already existed because it was basically dance music; I just added the electronic factor. ‘Koocha’ means ‘street’ in Urdu and the second half was inspired by the face masks that are hung to ward off evil spirits in doorways across the country. Plus, the bass line is where I imagine monsters go to fight. As for my name — it was simply my email password back in the day!”

How have things changed for you?
“Well, it’s getting hard for me to move out of the house, to be honest! I never imagined this would ever happen to me. I was on a flight from Jaipur to Kolkata and after I walked onto the airplane, people started playing my music from their phones and Bluetooth speakers…it was surreal.

At the baggage belt later, there was an actual ruckus and airport security had to step in. I went to an ATM recently and a group of people gathered. The guy in front of me said, ‘Dude, you’re Nucleya, you don’t have to wait; go ahead.’ I’m just an independent artist, so this is all very odd to me.”

What do you love about the music industry and what do you wish you could change?
“I feel radio stations should support indie musicians more. Also from a financial point of view, the royalty aspect is not in place. I don’t think anyone makes money when their songs are played on Indian radio, but I make a decent amount when my songs are played outside the country…which shouldn’t be the case. What I like now, though, is the variety. The complete bias toward Bollywood music has changed — no offense to the genre because it’s amazing — but other artistes are getting to step into focus now, which is a great thing.”

How does it feel to know that you’re inspiring so many types of people?
“It moves me. I get calls all the time from people who tell me their mother’s favourite song is Laung Gawacha or their father loves Scene Kya Hain…a genre which that generation wouldn’t usually listen to is bringing families together, which is so cool. One of my songs has the tagline ‘tumhari beti ke andar ek bhayanak atma hain’ and I got a message from a fan telling me that her father says that line to her mother!”

What’s on your bucket list for 2017?
“Right now there’s just one thing and that is to spend more time with my family. It’s been non-stop for the past couple of years. I enjoy it thoroughly and my wife and son have been an integral part of my music, but I miss home.”

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