Interview | KSHMR

From creating his own newly minted label, ‘Dharma Worldwide,’ to teaching classes in his hometown of Berkeley and touring across the world in trying to unite diverse sounds and people; Niles Hollowell-Dhar, aka KSHMR, is on a mission to learn even more about his craft. His recent show at the Avant Gardner in New York brought together an orchestra along with his sonic electronic beats.

As a former member of the ‘Cataracs,’ KSHMR has worked to develop himself as a solo-artist. His viral songs like ‘Megalodon,’ ‘Burn,’ ‘Karate,’ and ‘Wildcard’ have reached heavily streamed proportions and have even won accolades from DJ Mag for ‘Best Live Act.’ He is commonly known in the electronic dance music scene for producing with sounds from his homeland of India into diverse sets for his fans.

Let’s catch up with the artist on how shared learning can inhibit shared sounds.

You’ve mentioned before that a lot of your music has cinematic elements; and that being able to play with a live orchestra enhances that motif. What was it like ‘orchestrating’ and composing all of this together? 

It’s amazing. I get to benefit from the incredible talent of these players who have mastered their instruments as they join me onstage with versions of my songs being put together by myself and Kevin Hastings, who is the music director. It really brings to life the cinematic quality of KSHMR that I’ve tried to include in my songs. When you have people who are truly masters of their instruments, you get a result that was previously unimaginable to me. 

Are you classically trained in any instruments?

I wish I had. Now, as a producer, I have started to take piano classes. I feel like I would’ve saved a lot of time.

Thoughts on when you’re now working alongside these instrumentalists?

We work together in understanding each other with the common language that is music.  

KSHMR with his classical instrumentalist team at the Avant Gardner in New York City
Photo Credit: Cory Hammons, Altamira Film Co.

What were your thoughts into creating the programming of ‘Lessons of Dharma?

The ‘Lessons of Dharma’ really is integral to what ‘Dharma’ as a label is. It’s a home for songs, and I’m hoping that people will like the songs. It will offer young producers a place to succeed and thrive. The producer community is the one I feel the most at home with, and one that I want to give back to. I want them to remember my contributions. 

We are helping to set the tone that production techniques don’t have to be hidden away as there’s always this paranoia that people will copy you or steal your sounds. This encourages them to release and be revealing about techniques that they use. I feel like that’s a more open and encouraging community. I don’t think anybody can replace your sound just because they have some techniques.

I want this to be the best destination to learn how to make music.

What brought you to make your own label; ‘Dharma Worldwide?’

Initially, I wanted this to be a place for collaborations. I wanted to give those a platform.  This seemed like the best way to do it. 

This branched my imagination into things like tutorial and templates that make it more than a label. It makes it a community. It makes it more interesting for me as a user – not only having songs advertised to me – but to have a place for me to share. It is to give more than they are asking in return.  

What were your thoughts on creating the programming for your master’s classes in producing at Berkeley?

I find that when I teach those classes, if I get too technical, some people will already know what I’m doing but some would get lost. There’s not really a lot of time to apply super technical applications – but to apply philosophy. It is to create an artist process, one for them to succeed. It is an evolving art in itself – to market yourself – ‘who are you’, ‘what is your story’, ‘what makes you unique’ and ‘why should people care’. 

It starts with an inward journey before finding a manager, before having a successful Soundcloud or Instagram – really finding who you are. It’s finding what the universe wants you to be, then the likes and followers and money will come later. 

You will be headlining Imagine Festival and Moonrise amongst other greats. Who are you most excited to see and potentially work with? 

I’m always open to working with other producers. It always makes my life easier. Collaborations always make it quicker as when I’m stuck, my partner can meet me half way. 

Currently, I’m working on a song with Sam Feldt and it’s great. 

Do you further see yourself making music with David Benjamin Singer again under the ‘Cataracs’ emblem? 

David has launched his own project that’s doing very well. It is inevitable in some way we will work on music again. At this point I can’t say how or when.

Any other collaborations you have in the pipeline? 

I would like to collaborate with more artists from India and China. These are places that I’ve found a lot of fans and support. 

The next song I’m releasing is with [Kas and Kara]. [Kas] is an amazing producer and [Kara] is an amazing singer. 

As you’ve come from humble means to now topping DJ charts, what do you want to tell young producers just entering the game? 

The best thing you can do is look at the scene, and see what’s missing. You should see what you have, and who you are, and what your story is and how you can fill the void. It’s tempting to emulate producers as you’re learning. We’ve all done it. It’s a great way to learn. 

Ultimately, you have to be the first of something or you will be quickly forgotten. It helps to have your friends around to help you when you stumble into something unique and awesome before you go fix something in your attempt to emulate something that already exists. 

It helps to have a friend’s ear. The ears of who you surround yourself with is important.