Interview: 5 minutes with Hashback Hashish

Ashish Sachan aka Hashback Hashish is an electronic artist and producer currently based in New Delhi, India. With over 10 years experience performing and recording, Hashback Hashish has released countless singles, remixes, EPs and albums throughout the years, has since received support from prestigious publications such as XLR8R, Rolling Stone, Clash, NME and Red Bull.

Dabbling within the realms of dark techno, Hashback Hashishs sound could be best described as a fusion of rhythmic, darkened techno and experimental industrial-esque electronics, complete with gritty, pulsating basslines, eerie melodies and firm, invigorating percussive beats.

We caught up with Hashback Hashish on art discipline and how to read an audience:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Matisse said ‘Creativity takes courage’, and Merton opined that “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” The common ideal between all these famous, celebrated – even revered – people seemed to me that they were all artists. They all used art in their discipline to crystallise what they couldn’t express by other means, or were not allowed to express for fear of being too radical or out there. Art normalised a lot of instincts that were previously taboo.

Most of all, art is the only thing I can do to pay my bills without feeling icky about it, so long as I am honest about it.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

The idea is always first arrival. Whether it remains the same or even similar during execution is beyond my control, as I try to let things develop off the cuff. More often than not in the end it does not resemble the original concept at all by the time I’m through. At any rate, what comes first is not crucial to what I finally make. I try not to worry too much about it.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

There is a momentous inflow of singular sounds in the Indian underground right now and it would be a travesty for me to proceed without at least taking note. An increasing amount of my work features collaborations with local (and international) talent, because this is where the opportunity to have a dimension added to my work that I did not previously conceive of presents itself. It’s a refreshing experience, and I value my collaborators’ inputs just as much as I do my own. Recent times have seen me join forces with Lifafa, 5volts, Da Saz, and Audio Pervert.

What’s on your current playlist?

It’s a constantly shifting ever-changing monster that I don’t let interfere with my work if I can. That said, there are some constants that will feature in forever playlists, as forces outside of my control, due to nostalgia, remembrance, early inspirations who knows? I keep finding myself returning to Tangerine Dream, Christine Newby, Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Pauline Oliveros, Venetian Snares, Charanjit Singh. It’s incredible how many early electronic sound pioneers were female, and even more so from outside the ‘First World’. A reckoning is slowly taking place, though, I think and rightfully so. Some of the most interesting electronic music acts right now, including the Discwoman collective, Umfang, Amelie Lens, are female, even as more spaces open up and recognise the sheer brilliance present in the queer community. I am hopeful for an inclusive atmosphere, one that gives credit where it is due.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

Every time I perform, I find myself being completely engrossed in what I am doing, to the point of becoming oblivious to the audience’s presence. I know there are features out there, dime a dozen, panning DJs and producers for not reading their audience better and clearing out dance floors in the process, but I find it easier to relate to a single audience member who feels a direct connection to what I am trying to convey through my music than a horde that expects something I just can’t deliver. It is not a matter of undercutting the audience’s importance, it’s just I think there are more than one type of audiences and I have encountered my kind often enough to not be disheartened by when I don’t.

Sometimes I look up from what I am doing and witness people having a great time, because of the music, and not other external elements – their friends, conversations, the drinks – and can’t help but smile.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

There are some sounds that I automatically veer to – throbbing bass lines that sound like urgent, aggressive missives – and time and again these will make their way into my work, 808s and heartbreaks included, haha. I try to get my synths to sing the tune I have in my head, have them manifest so they can be experienced by another. Practicing, although in my case I suspect it may be more like solo jamming, is key.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

A studio I suppose sounds too grand, although a section of my living room is drowning in instruments and is in dire need of a bigger table – lest it collapse under the combined weight of my expectations and synths. I find mornings very amenable to this end, and brew myself a nice pot of coffee, and attempt to recreate patches akin to the ongoing sound in my head. The rest is defined by my ability to play each instrument to that groove and construct the layout of the entire piece.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

It’s impossible for me to piece it back to a singular moment, to point at an image suspended in time and go – “This is the day I knew!” It’s the outcome of a complex, layered, progressive experience spread over decades, evolving over time, becoming more urgent with each satisfying performance, each time I found that I was able to kindle something similar in those who came to see me perform.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

My live set up includes MFB Tanzbar and Roland TR09 drum machines, Roland TB03 bass machine, Future Retro 777 monophonic analog synth, Roland Space Echo pedal, and Korg Kaoss Pad, all synced with a Pioneer DJM 900 or above. I also keep a glass of Jack and Coke handy, to keep my wits about. Standing in front of a weaving audience can be a heady feeling, and sometimes let things get away from you. I like to be able to maintain some objectivity, but that is optional, too.

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Several! I’ve been a part of Reproduce Listening Room sessions happening all over the country for past two years that has in a way given a platform to electronic music producers to explore the boundaries of their creativity. Toymob, IJA, Aerate Sound, Cosmic Attic, Kumail, Flux Vortex, Fuzzy Logic, A Maze, Sawhorse, PILLS, D80, Riatsu, Jamblu, Lifafa, Hemant SK, 5volts, are all really great acts that I have enjoyed in the recent past. _RHL’s Bangalore based label Consolidate and Bombay based collective Jwala are putting out some exceptional productions that are consistently fresh.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

I hope you know that I say this with all the earnestness I have at my disposal, that if I could zero in on a singular thing, or experience, or person that made creativity surge through my veins, I would probably – no – most definitely, consume it to the point of my own end. For now, I am reliant on those fleeting instances that leave a big/small imprint on my consciousness for reasons mysterious sometimes even to me.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

Future Retro 777
MFB Tanzbar
Roland TR09
Roland JU06
Roland TB03
Roland Space Echo
Arturia Minibrute SE
Korg Volca Drums
Korg Volca Bass
Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator Drum Machine
Korg Kaoss Pad
Allen & Heath Zed10FX Mixer
Focusrite Scarlette 18i8 soundcard
Macbook Pro and Ableton Live with Max MSP
These units cover the bases between, and complement each other in, bas and lead synth, noise percussion separately or help connect them together, but most of all they all have a sound unique only to them, which never fails to make things interesting.

Any side projects you’re working on?

I curate and manage the Circuit imprint full-time, promoting left-of-centre local techno sounds, sometimes collaborating with international acts, too. I am collaborating with Lifafa and 5Volts again, all this not counting a new album soon to be on its way.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Looking back, I have a very visceral awareness of what I thought of the process that goes in creating electronic music. Somehow the messages I was receiving from the scene was that everyone was building and custom-rigging own modular systems by hand and that’s what made it serious, that’s what gave it value. Time has dispelled that myth in its entirety, even as I expand my capabilities by acquiring more skills, educating myself further – not in order to be taken seriously, but to satisfy increasingly esoteric sonic needs. I can now make something that fulfils my vision entirely, without having to make compromises along the way, going further along with my ideas to their very end. I am not an advocate of puritanism in electronic music, but I am all about doing what brings you joy on a personal level. I am glad I recognise the distinction now, and I am even happier that I can live it.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

12 new songs. These will take all of my focus, and the entirety of my time. I have never been very sociable, having made feeble attempts during my start on the scene, but to nobody’s benefit, least of all my own. Unburdened by the need to socialise, I will be where I am the happiest – making a new record – precision-engineered to my heart’s content, and touring again soon.

For more information follow Hashback Hashish on Facebook