Striking a chord
The darling of MTV— all the way from the 1990s to 2012, a DJ who believes that the music is always bigger than the musician, a self- proclaimed EDM fanatic and Festival Director of Goa’s Sunburn Festival, Nikhil Chinappa has his finger in many pies. He’s currently touring Europe, Berlin. Nikhil gained popularity as the host of MTV Select and Splitsvilla, and a judge in the shows Roadies and Rock on. The music lover gets candid with SIMPLY CHENNAI.
When did your passion for music really begin? What did you grow up listening to?
I don’t even remember how it all started. I have been fascinated by the idea of good music for as long as I can remember. I used to collect a lot of cassettes; grew up on Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, ACDC, Poison, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. I then discovered dance music and there’s been no looking back ever since.
What is your idea of dance music at its best? What are your inspirations?
The amount of joy that dance music has given me is unparalleled. I want to hear music that entertains me and challenges me at the same time. A club is a place you go to, when you want to discover new sounds and artistes, when you want to get inspired. I travelled abroad and saw that there was a sense of community among people visiting a club. Everyone wanted to listen to new, emerging artistes, fresh sounds, great variety and that’s just what they were playing at their clubs. Playing that one popular song over a period of 20 weeks again and again is not what club music is about. This was also the idea that led to my electronic dance music company, Submerge. It was started in 2002 and has grown into a big promotions and events com- pany for dance music in India. Nowadays there is awareness and interest among people in India too and it’s good to see that.
How has MTV evolved from catering to a generation in the early and mid- nineties, to now?
What has evolved primarily is the programming, not the philosophy. We have evolved to focus on more shows for the youth of India and their entertainment. In the 1990s, when I wanted to listen to Madonna or MLTR, I would switch on MTV and get back to what I was doing. But today, you would log on to Youtube or listen to your favourite music on your phone. MTV has changed because your consumption patterns for music have changed. Now, we have shows like Sound Trippin’ and Coke Studio, which focus on non- Bollywood music.
Q. What do you miss the most about the MTV of the 90s?
A. I miss MTV Select like crazy. I did the show for 11 years and never got bored of it even once. Even though it involved me throwing around a silly basketball and doing crazy things in a studio ( laughs). I got to speak to people from different parts of the country and I would look forward to it every day for 11 years. That’s the beauty of call- in shows. I’d love to have the show back on air.
Q. What’s it like to have a wife who’s also a DJ?
A. Oh, Pearl’s constantly inspiring me to do better. In fact we first broke the ice over a dance vacation we had in Europe. She’s my best critic and she pulls me back on track when I play something that’s not up to the mark. While I’m very laid back about my music, she’s extremely focussed and disciplined!
Q. You’ve had a short tryst with cinema with films like Snip and
Shaitan. Can we expect more of you on the big screen?
A. I have come to realise that I am not cut out for acting. I don’t plan to take up films in a big way. However, I might be doing a short role for Bejoy Nambiar for his upcoming film. It has not been fixed yet, though he has told me that I’ll have to get fit for the role. I am sure I’ll enjoy working with him.
Q. The nightlife in Chennai has always been considered mellow by some. Now, with the government’s 24- hour liquor permit to five star hotels, which is particularly aimed at visiting tourists, do you think mind sets are going to change?
A. I think it’s certainly going to be beneficial for people. However, allowing people to drink for 24 hours is not going to change their drinking patterns and habits. Drinking responsibly is a choice an individual has to make. We do need strict laws in place for instances like drunken driving, but I don’t believe a permit such as this will make anything worse. It’s an individual’s call. Q. What are your future plans? A. Currently, I’m devoting my attention to my radio show – In the Mix with Nikhil Chinappa that airs on Radio One across Chennai, Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Delhi. The show intends to be as entertaining as it is educating about music.
( Nikhil Chinappa was recently in Chennai to play at the Sundown Party at Pasha, The Park)