PAV4N talks his vision for newly founded label 4NC¥
Kicking the year off in style with a very personal project, there seems to be no stopping for Pavan Mukhi and the stuff he’s involved in. After a prolific career as part of Foreign Beggars, Top 10 chart placements and festival gigs en masse plus the new-launched PAV4N identity he’s just lurking around the corner to present you his newest remarkable footprint in the international music landscape. I’m obviously talking about 4NC¥, the new-founded multi-genre platform which he launched right into the middle of what tends to be the worst year in the history of the music industry.
4NC¥ (pronounced ‘foreign currency’) will be a platform to bring together amazing artists from all over the world who’d have otherwise never met each other reflecting PAV4N’s taste and vision. In its pretty short duration the 4NC¥ label had astounding releases across many genres including Footwork, Alternative R&B, Grime and Hip Hop / Beats-oriented stuff paired with carefully curated artworks and videos. What’s to come next is all in PAV4N’s head and that’s why the both of us had a few words about his ideas for 4NC¥, the new alias and everything inbetween.
With PAV4N being your real name, I guess this new project can then be described as a very personal one?
Yeah definitely! I think for me it’s kind of an evolution of my rap career. Being a rap artist is interesting because it’s about creating a persona but it’s also very much about authenticity so there’s this kinda dichotomy there. But for me, having a rap career for 20 years, it feels more aligned to me coming out as a solo artist under my own name. I think it’s because it’s tied to connections with my heritage. Using my own name because there’s those ancestral connotations of what it means. It’s very central to who I am.
What does the name actually mean then?
The name means wind/air.
Nice, that’s pretty cool. My name actually means hope!
Yup! With you mentioning your Indian heritage and looking at your various posts about 4NC¥, the label will be featuring a lot of Asian based people?
Yeah, that’s right. I think, having seen the way the scene has developed in India and growing with the electronic scene for the last ten years maybe, maybe a bit longer, but generally the artists have come on their own and the Rap / Hip Hop scene having blown up in the last eight years as well. Now it’s at a point where it’s underground sounds come into the mainstream and wide-spread understanding of this music. It’s really beautiful to see a new generation of artists that have been inspired by people even ten years younger than me. So people who are 17, 19, 20 years old who are coming out now, they have their local inspirations of people who’ve made it. So there’s like a real opportunity structure for them and I feel like they can really be unapologetically original with their sounds and bring their influences.
I feel like in terms of an international scale there really haven’t been proper outlets or platforms for them to get out to. I think it’s harder for kids from India or Pakistan, those places, to get signed to bigger labels in a global context. Things have changed now because things are very international but I think geographical positioning has a lot to do with it. You’re not instantly bumping into so and so, you won’t be at this rave, you couldn’t start a conversation at those after parties. Just seeing loads of amazing artists making incredible work but also because the scene is relatively new there in terms of spaces to meet, share ideas and find inspiration.
A lot of the really niche finesse artistry falls between the cracks. Knowing that people are world class but not getting the recognition in India, I’m trying to create a bridge so I can really take their music to the world. Having done Foreign Beggars for nearly 20 years, having done Brapp App and Par Excellence Records and Management, I’ve got connections all around the world and I see this happens everywhere on a local level as well. It’s harder for local people to pop out but basically any kind of new music genre or new music subgenre starts from a local scene and things people are doing.
So for me to be able to connect all these little bourgening sub-scenes in different countries is a really beautiful thing. I have toured for the last couple of decades and I’m in this situation where I have direct contact with a lot of people so for me to do the A&R, to connect for example Yung.Raj from India with Jammz who’s a Grime MC from London is like two phone calls for me. Making those bridges and creating a proper platform or an ecosystem that I can actually help people’s careers … cause at the end of the day they can do things themselves but starting from scratch is very difficult these days because everything is so spread out. You have to be on fifteen different platforms, you have to be on a hundred different DSP’s, you have to continue to feed people, feed people, feed people. If we can build a platform that has like a symbiosis with the artists that’s where I like to see the label.
Yeah, obviously, it’s the job of an A&R person to connect the dots and bring people together. Otherwise they wouldn’t have made it but I think it wouldn’t be that easy without the help of the internet as well!
Not necessarily. I’m open for people to experiment and also open to artists to break out of the normal cycle that they’re in. For example if you’re a House producer and you’ve been releasing on Defected or Hot Creations or whatever and you got a certain style and you put something that’s a bit leftfield that they won’t sign, bring it. I’m interested in artists that are developing like that.
Will 4NC¥ be bound to a particular style / sound?
Generally, for me, my sphere of influences, my connections and my tastes are in Hip Hop, Grime, Trap, Jungle, 140, 160 stuff, Drum & Bass but my tastes and signings also include some interesting Alternative R&B like KILLSWSH, and I have one House / Tech House project which is with Starving Yet Full who’s the ex-singer from Azari & III who sang ‘Hungry For The Power’ and a guy called August Jakobsen who used to play guitar for Trentemøller, who have come together to form a group called Cemetery Gospel and have made a fucking incredible album. So that’s purely on like a House vibe, like deeper, slightly minimal and industrial elements but very soulful House music. So yeah, that’s the flex!
I was quite surprised by that so-called Alt R&B EP you’ve sent me because, when I think about R&B I can only imagine this 90ies R.Kelly type of stuff and this was quite experimental!
I say Alternative R&B but if you listen to the drum programming it’s got elements of UK Garage, it’s got 140 drum patterns in there, it’s this Future Bass vibe, this whole Flume kinda style and this James Blake kind of energy in it. But it also got this slightly like post-rock vibes as well. People have all kinds of influences. They’re two kids making that. KLLSWSH, one’s a Pakistani kid and one’s a Brazilian kid. They met in Dubai, one of them lives in Doha, the other guy lives in Istanbul now. It’s nice, it’s kind of the essence of what the label is all about.
Bringing different influences together, I mean a Brazilian and a Pakistani kid together, what hell of a mixture is that, it can only be good!
And they come out making THAT music is like what the fuck!
I was quite impressed by the release! So the direction you’re taking 4NC¥ is pushing content through like videos matching to particular releases like with your single ‘Doom’, weekly mixes as well?
Artists on the 4NC¥ label do mixes plus artists we want on the label will do mixes, people who we respect and create and people whose sound we like. It’s all about connecting and exposing artists to each other. We’re gonna keep the radio thing going because I think it’s a really good opportunity for us to showcase lots of niche music from different people around the world. The aesthetic is very important for our sound, our 4NC¥ brand but also for the artists. I hate for a record to be let down by bad artwork or bad typography. It also gives us another area for collaboration because every release that we do we connect the artist with a visual artist from a different country or a different scene entirely. It brings those kind of combinations together that wouldn’t have existed before as well.
I’m totally on your side with artworks matching the release. When the artwork is shit most people won’t actually listen to the tunes! It’s important to have that representation!
We live in such a visual world now. It’s really strange, I shouldn’t say it but it’s almost like an intelligence thing. If your artwork is bad and it doesn’t match there seems to be a miscomputation.
I get that. Will there be vinyl releases apart from ‘Doom’?
If it was up to me, I would put anything on vinyl! Right now we’re actually growing 4NC¥ as a label and I’m growing a lot of the artists. So, it’s a little bit difficult because the way I’m approaching the label is slightly different. I’m not going for a few releases, I’m going for quite a lot of releases because there’s so much good music there. There’s a lot of artists who are brand new, they don’t have a network, they don’t have a presence. Say, in a year’s time it will be different because we’ll have a really good ecosystem with the label, we won’t be a new label anymore.
If we can get to that point I’ll be looking at more vinyl releases. My resources are a little bit limited and it’s a little difficult because we don’t have a base, we’re working completely internationally. I’m based wherever I am, I’m based in Dubai at the moment, my Social & Asset Manager Aditi is in Bangalore, my press girl Nandini is in New Delhi, label manager Aftab in Bombay, my designer Sanjana is in Bangalore.
For example for the KLLSWSH release, one is in Alanya, Adeus’ in Leeds, the visual artist Farah Lakoues is in London but for the remix EP we have like Visages, they’re from France. So it’s a bit all over the place. If you take Cemetery Gospel, which is the House project I’ve told you about, Cedric, the singer, he’s based in Moscow right now and the producer in London and the girl who’s working on all the graphic design and the video, she’s based in Dubai with me. Everything is just scattered.
For example the Frenquency release, he’s based in Holland and the collaborators, one guy is in Rotterdam, one guy is in Melbourne, one guy did his remix in Bangalore, the guy who’s done the artwork is in Bombay, the girl who does the graphics in Banaglore as well. The guy who did the videos is in Bristol, the MC Redders is in Bristol too but they’ve never met. It’s just super-fragmented at the moment. I think once we got our systems in place, we’ve just signed to a badass distribution company, once I get full understanding of their capabilities and we have everything in motion then I think the vinyl release will start coming through.
Cool, I’ll definitely buy something in the future! I think it’s great that you take a huge workload for artists nowadays off of them like a real label should do! I mean some artists choose their artworks, but at the end it’s mostly the labels job to curate, what do you think about that?
I think it comes down to every particular situation. Every situation is different, like some artists that I’m working with, Dizmack for example, he has his guy who’s doing his artwork and he has everything laid out just the way he wants it to be. That’s fine! We make the deal to reflect that. I think curation is very important, I have quite a strong vision of how all should be done, but we are open to everyone bringing their Ideas to the table. I’m just lucky‚ cause I’ve had one foot in the art world for most of my life and it’s just a possibility to collaborate more.
If an artist has a specific person that they want to work with then it’s fine that they can bring them something to the table. We got so many resources that it’s also an opportunity for me to work with lots of different people I wanted to work with as well. Again, it’s just showcasing different talents from different places, a release is an opportunity to showcase & contextualise unique and interesting work.
Great to hear that! How did the idea for the ‘Doom’ video come about? If I’m correct, you’re imagining one of the gods of the Indian mythology right?
I think with the video, it’s part of the whole persona, like everything I’m doing with that persona is blue and it’s certainly inspired by the Hindu mythology with the skin colour, ancient architechture with CGI and modern music, fashion etc. The energy in this track is a bit more rowdy, it’s a bit more destruction so I went with the Shiva inspiration. Basically the inspiration for that was just has a lot to do with the aesthetic. It wasn’t a direct, specific thing we tried to achieve with the video.
What we tried to achieve with it was, especially with the snake and the kundalini energy associated with the snake with understanding the power of the subconscious and communication understanding that these powers are dormant in us. Like, awaking them is dangerous if you don’t do it with the right intention and the right understanding. Basically, harnessing your own power and using it in a conscious way as opposed to just blindly tapping into things. It’s like dabbling in mythology, dabbling in energy as opposed to really understanding what you’re doing.
Sick! One personal question, too. Sukh Knight’s name, is it a reference to the actual Suge Knight from Death Row?
It’s just a flip on the name, yeah! Some Hip Hop ish, flippin the game, making it Indian.
Despite the current situation, have you thought about doing 4NC¥ events as well?
Of course! 100%! By this time I was supposedly touring my PAV4N project you know.
I definitely want to be able to do 4NC¥ nights. It’s very important for me to be releasing Indian artists to the world also Indian artists in India but also bringing international artists to India. I think by having this worldwide network we’re gonna be able to a lot of the interesting things with the live touring side of things as well.
Have you thought about making 4NC¥ an agency at some point? It reads like that, you know.
At this point, I’m just keeping the energy focussed on the record label. I think as we grow and we’re a bit stronger we may consider making a managment arm but I don’t know if we’ll be able to operate as an agency, You know what I mean? It just depends on how much we grow. If 4NC¥ actually becomes a powerhouse in about three or four years time then we can consider it.
I could consider it being an agency, not right now but if I meet somebody who is the right partner who thinks they can head up that department or the vision opens up to do it I have no problem in doing it. I already think there’s gonna be a publishing arm in the company and I also think there will be a management arm once the label is strong enough but until then it’s very simply the focus on the record label.
Yeah, I mean, it’s like learning new stuff and focusing on one thing to get it properly running and then you can expand the universe. What stuff is coming into said universe? Frenquency’s just out!
Yeah, Frenquency is out, Yung Raj is out. I’m very excited for the Frenquency video, it actually went live. Yeah so his EP is out which I’m very very excited about. We got incredible art from India and there’s KLLSWSH. There’s just loads of releases coming bro. The ‘Dizmack’ EP, a really good rap project from England, the aforementioned Symmetry Gospel is very important for me as well. Then we’ve got this guy called Don Piper who’s got like a Beats album which is kinda the 20/20 / Shades stuff.
That sounds more than nice!
There’s a full variety of action coming in the approaching months.
I’m excited man! Thanks for participating in the interview!
Much love my brother!