UK-born Anil Chawla’s life has a rollercoaster ring to it. First he crunched numbers only to become a DJ by accident, before landing up in India and finding himself a Tamil fiancée. It has been two years since his Indian odyssey began and Anil—who arrives at The Park Hotel in Chennai, quite unassumingly in an auto—laughingly admits, “I know how to say ‘enga’ (where) and ‘evalo’ (how much)”, bringing home that Tamil is not his strong suit yet. Having opened for big-time music acts—The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim back in London, relocating to India has certainly brought on a world of change. But as it turns out, he isn’t quite ready to let go of the desi experience just yet.
“I used to hate the heat and now I’ve grown quite accustomed to it,” Anil says with a smile. He then adds fondly, “And I may not know the language, but I have specific auto drivers who get me from one gig to another... one phone call and they pick me up from home. They actually take good care of me.”
Backtracking into his story a little, the DJ spent some time recording music in Goa and Mumbai, before arriving on the Coromandel coast. “It all started post the recession in 2009,” Anil recalls. Friend and fellow disc jockey, Dale Anderson, had proposed the wild idea that they shift base to India. “Clubs in the UK were taking a real hit at the time,” the electronic music maker reveals. So, plans were made and the duo spent months together—playing at the festivals, recording music and partying well into the night.
Rather luckily for him, as he decided to move down South as part of his journey of discovery, the government eased up on club norms; and five-star hotels were allowed to keep their clubs open round the clock. Talk about coincidental luck!
“I’m a serial clubber,” confesses the British master of spin. It was probably this addiction that led him to becoming a DJ in the first place. “The energy you get walking through those doors, hearing that wobbling bass in your ears...” the excitement is back all over again. The next step it seemed was to re-work the same kind of energy by mixing tapes at home. “I would just do it for fun and give it to friends,” Anil reminisces.
Hours were spent with basic equipment trying to get the time signatures of two tracks to mesh together. His first gig, Anil laughs, was playing for a pre-party of a students’ union in a university. “It was just about eight to 10 students having lunch and I was so nervous that my fingers started shaking just putting the needle on the vinyl,” he remembers. But 12 years later, there is no doubt that the adventure has been well worth those initial nerves.
So what does he have on the cards for next year? “Oh, I’ve got about 10 original tracks up my sleeve... some of which are already complete,” he responds. “At the moment I’m just looking for the right homes (labels) for each one,” Anil smiles. As for collaborating with Indian artistes, the techno DJ tells us, “I absolutely adore Raghu Dixit. There’s something magical about his voice.” Then he adds quickly, “Although, if I do get the opportunity to work with him, there won’t be any techno or dance beats, but probably a mellower and ambient piece.”