Update: We inadvertently left out some answers while publishing the second part. This error has been corrected. The updated answers are marked with an *.
The Editors of varnachitram.com had a long conversation with Music Director Deepak Dev recently. We discussed his songs, sound design, orchestration, the equipment he uses and generally about how the music industry. We woke him at midnight and fired off all these questions. He very graciously answered all the questions and spend more time with us than we expected. Finally as the interview progressed it became more of a conversation with Deepak asking our opinion on his music and what people on the net thought about him. Part 1 of the interview was published yesterday.
varnachitram.com: We think if you switch between categories you can try various styles. In Malayalam what we have noticed is that actors, directors and music directors get typecast. For example when you think of Raveendran, you think of classical songs. For lovers of Malayalam Cinema it is quite frustrating as there has been no change of scenery in the past 15 years.
Deepak Dev: The positive thing about our cinema is that it is very authentic and tied so much to our culture, but a little open mindedness would help to ease the whole scene. People love Tamil music, but if you try to do the same thing here, they say you are trying to change the culture.
varnachitram.com: We really are looking for some change. These days we get to hear a lot of electronic instruments than the manual ones. You mentioned you keep the natural sounds to reduce the artificiality. But on the whole what is your take on it?
Deepak Dev: I would put it this way. Using too much of electronics for saving the budget is not a good deal. When you use electronics, you should have a passion for electronic sound design. For example, when you try to generate all the string sounds using electronics, it does not sound good. It is like you are compromising the quality of music. Sometimes it is intentionally done, for a techno effect. Then I wouldn’t go against it. Nothing can substitute live instruments even though there are some high class samples available. It should be used in the right manner, a blend of the samples with the live instrument and it should sound very musical.
When you are working with lot of constraints and Malayalam is a very small industry first issue is how do you save cost and who is the most cost effective music director In my case it has been a blessing because I am a programmer and I don’t have to spend much on a programmer. I use more live instruments because I can do that at the cost of my programming. Usually Music Directors are put under pressure and they have to make a call in the beginning itself if they should use live instruments or finish the song with a keyboard player and a drum programmer.
varnachitram.com: We have heard that you worked with A R Rahman on orchestration. Can you talk about that experience and the songs you worked on. What was his influence on you?
Deepak Dev: I have worked with Rahman, but not real lot to be saying that I learned a lot from him. I did my schooling in Dubai and from those days I had so much of craze for the genius Rahman. My wish to meet him got me to him. He liked my programming from the jam session I played with him for the film Rhythm. I played for the background scores for Rhythm which was a very limited experience with him, but then I got to learn a lot of things. It was not just music that I learned, but from the way he worked and the perspective. I was very comfortable working with him because the approach he gives to music itself was different. I learned that when I have people working with me, I should make them comfortable, then I would get the best out of the musicians.
I have also worked with Sandeep Chowta, Anu Malik, Aadesh Srivasatav, Keeravani, Mani Sharma and Vidyasagar. With Vidyasagar I have worked on lot of projects from Devadoothan, Meesha Madhavan, Run, Gilli, Pattalam, and Kilichundan Mambazham. Working with him gave me lot of real experience and all my trial and error was with Vidyaji. Sometimes when you do some programing initially it sounds good, but later after production you find that lot of quality has been lost. So many such incidents happened when I was with Vidyaji. I really owe a lot to this man – Vidyasagar.
varnachitram.com: We love Vidyasagar’s Malayalam songs a lot more than his Tamil songs.
Deepak Dev: Even he is under pressure. He is full of him when he is making Malayalam songs, but when he is making Tamil songs, he is under pressure with various people giving him references of various Tamil hits. For hit survival he is also forced to do these things. I told you in Malayalam there are budget constraints, but when it comes to Tamil there are other kind of constraints.
varnachitram.com: Something we cannot reconcile as viewers is the fact that sometimes the voice of the playback singer does not match the voice of the actor in anyway. When the actor on screen breaks into a song, there is an utter disjoint in the voice. For a movie goer this is a bad experience. How are the singers selected?
* Deepak Dev: Something very funny happening in the industry i feel is ‘superstition’by film producers and directors. A singer in most of the cases is blindly selected for the sad reason that his previous sung movies have been making good money. Such situation leads to entry of new singers difficult,and also music directors not able to get the right singer for his song, resulting in a ‘wrong portrayal’ because of superstition related compromises.
varnachitram.com: We are almost at the end of our questions. We wanted to know what equipment you use.
* Deepak Dev: I prefer using more of hardware than software as hardwares r always safer n better in delivering a thick fat beefy kind of sound. The kind of tech sound I get from hardware, I have never been able to get it from software. But these days softwares play such a vital role in music production that a perfect blend has to be maitained between softwares and hardwares.The platform i work on is Cubase SX. Giga Studio sounds sometimes used since its real handy but i should admit that its not all that safe. I mix my session on Pro Tools. Pluggins keep varying from project to project.I work on the Korg Oasys. I have got a E-MU sampler, Roland 2080, a VP900 for my vocal processing where I do all my gimmics. For my voice recording, I use a Neumann mike for I love the voice on this. It is a M149. I have always got very good vocals using this mike.
varnachitram.com: As a music director sitting in the studios what is your opinion on going in for live concerts ?
* Deepak Dev: I love doing concerts. It is so nice to see people react to certain hit numbers face to face. For a music director initially as a movie releases it is only from the TV channels playing songs by demand can it be realised that a song has started to work. But boy! when its live I get to see people singing my song all around he stadium or wherever and ,for a moment I thank God for making it all happen. That reminds me of my hand held chordless midi controller (guitar lookin keyboard) which is my best friend on stage. I feel so free to move around and interact with the crowd since its meant for that purpose
varnachitram.com: The last question you can answer very briefly. During the program “Superstar” in Amrita TV, you promised that you would use many of the top contestants. Will you keep your word?
Deepak Dev: I will be having a tough time. As a music director sitting in the seat I have committed to various people. I should introduce them in the right place, but I will give then an opportunity in spite of all the difficulties I face as a music director.
varnachitram.com: That would be a noble thing to do. Recently there was this movie Anachantham which had introduced lot of new singers. This was a Jayaraj film and had a new music director Jason J Nair and new singers.
Deepak Dev: How were the songs?
varnachitram.com: Melodious and it had lot of traditional instruments used, you know like percussion used in temples..
Deepak Dev: It is really nice to hear it.
varnachitram.com: Another thing which is happening on Internet is the blogs. There are lot of talented singers and they are putting their songs on their websites. Recently some of them got together and released an album called Blogswara. It was done by a group of people sitting in various countries who have not met each other yet. The whole composing, mixing, singing was done over the net.
Deepak Dev: Is it? Please send me the link to it.
varnachitram.com: Also another funny thing. Last year we wrote a profile of you because we liked the Symphony songs and this article became like the Internet worship center of Deepak Dev.
Deepak Dev: Oh my god. What was this article about?
varnachitram.com: About your style of music and how much we like it. Lot of people started posting comments assuming that you are there. They think it is run by you and started sending in resumes. This Superstar program has become like a cultural phenomena.
Deepak Dev: What do people think of my music. What do they like and what don’t they like?
varnachitram.com: We liked most of your songs from Chronic Bachelor till Naran. We think your tunes are excellent and sound quality is just awesome. You stand out among the current set of music directors with your different style. In Rashtram, we liked Puthuvasantham, but had some difficulty with the theme. In Kilukkam Kilukilukkam, we did not like the English and Malayalam lyrics combined together.
Deepak Dev: Do you notice similar comments from various people on the net? Have other people also felt that the usage of English is irritating to the song?
varnachitram.com: So far no one else has raised that point. There are lot of fans for Panimathiyey and we think Symphony album was a trend setter.
Deepak Dev: When you tell so much about Symphony, I feel motivated to get into that kind of music. I gave my best in Symphony in spite of the story being a kind of sensual one. It had problems with the censor board and lot of songs were not allowed to be picturized. It was bad luck for me. When it did not work, I thought that was not what people wanted and decided to change the format of my composition. I didn’t do Symphony kind of songs because I thought people didn’t like it. Now after listening to you, I am thinking of giving such songs for a good movie this time.
varnachitram.com: We thank you much for spending so much time with us.
Deepak Dev: It was nice talking to you.