There are only a few dj’s in the nation that can boast of a career that spans over 20 years. Manish Mendiratta aka Dj Mash/Mashter is one of them who belongs in that elite category. From winning the Mtv Dj Championships in 2010 to being arguably the most technically gifted Dj in the country, his Mashter persona has over the last 10 years has grown to be a fan favorite across the country. We got in touch to speak in depth about his beginnings, career growth and current take on the music scene.
Hi Mash. Thanks for taking time out to speak with us. There aren't many people in India in the electronic music scene that are not familiar with your name, but to dig a little deeper when did you make your debut and where was your first gig?
I started learning professional DJing in the year 1997. However, I played my first gig at 32nd Milestone, Gurgaon on New Years Eve in 1995. That was the time when I used to play music out of passion through tape decks and a mixer.
Did you start out playing Vinyl or on CD players?
Actually both. But eventually I switched to CD players as carrying vinyls was bulky. Also, buying vinyls in India in that era was an expensive affair. I still own a huge record collection of vinyls from the 90's, mostly filled with house music.
You have a couple of projects. Could you describe stylistically what those are?
I play under 3 Project Names: DJ Mash, Mashter and Pulse.
DJ Mash: Playing under this project name since 1998, I have come a long way. The project was born to play underground progressive house and psytrance. From 2000 to 2007, while I was in Australia, I only played psytrance as DJ Mash and performed at some of the biggest festivals in the Pacific. The project evolved over the years and now as DJ Mash I only play house music since 2008.
Mashter: My love for underground music has been the driving force to turn my passion into profession as a DJ. Where DJ Mash was widely accepted commercially, producing music was the next step in my career graph. Hence was born Mashter project that focused on underground sounds, mainly, techno and progressive. I released my first track in 2014 on Point Blank Records.
Pulse: Psytrance has always been my first love and I wanted to keep playing so it made more sense to have the psy project separate. So the project Pulse was born in 2005. Initially I was influenced by super dark psychedelic sounds so I was involved in setting up the label called Illuminati records in 2005, and then Omveda records in 2008/2009. However, my taste towards music eventually changed and I realized progressive psy is something that I wanna see myself playing and associate myself with. So I gave upon the labels. Under this project I have been playing mainly progressive psy, both dark and morning. And my sets are the representation of the sounds I dig and not limited to certain labels as such.
Your style has evolved over the years from especially what we heard 9-10 years ago, from the more progressive approach to a driving techno leaning sound now. Is this what we can expect from your future releases?
Definitely. We all mature with our music. Yes, I agree I was playing more progressive before. But my approach is versatile. Even though my sets and most of the releases have been very high energy driving techno, however I do not want to restrict myself to a particular sub-genre. I learn new tips and tricks everyday that I implement in my music production and Dj Sets. I look forward to producing quality underground music which is dark, Groovy ,twisted yet melodic at the same time.
You won the Mtv India Dj championship back in 2010. What was the experience like? Has it helped your career furthermore since?
This was my first ever award and I was overwhelmed. I realized the importance of my music and took it as a sign to further hone my skills as a DJ. It motivated me to give my best at every gig. It has surely helped boost my career graph, as instantly all my projects caught the eye of many big promoters, event organisers, clubs and festival organisers. Suddenly, there was a wave of big festivals and clubs across the country where I was playing. The management contract with submerge was an icing on the cake.
In our opinion you are arguably the most technically gifted Dj in the country. As someone who has been in the industry for more than 2 decades, having seen all sorts of dj gear, what is your current favorite setup while performing? Do you prefer the analog way, digital/hybrid or it varies from gig to gig?
My current setup is 4 Pioneer CDJ 2000-NXS2, Pioneer DJM 900 NXS2 mixer along with Pioneer RMX 1000 effects unit. In more recent times, I have also been experimenting with Pioneer Toraiz SP16 sampler. I would say my setup is hybrid. However, I refrain from incorporating the laptop.
You're also a product specialist with Pioneer Dj. How did this come about? What does your role with them entail?
My relationship with Pioneer started in 2010 after winning the Ultimate Dj Championship. Though the title for the Official Pioneer DJ and Product Specialist came in the year 2016. My role with them involves learning, specialising / testing all their technologies and Dj / Production gear. Furthermore, I take workshops and training programs across the country and share my insight about the product and software with the retailers, dealers, trainers, DJ's / producers and music schools. I also represent Pioneer DJ India at various gigs/festivals of which Pioneer DJ is an associate or a sponsor. Last year I played at Episode in Vietnam under the banner of Pioneer Dj .
It is still a much talked about topic as to what constitutes a real dj now. Purists mention that the newcomers have to learn the hard way through cdjs/vinyl. Or do you think it's not necessary at all today with the advent of technology with digital djing?
Times are changing and new technologies are coming in every day. One can either adapt and evolve with them or whinge about what was good in the past.
Where I feel it is important to know the basics and have a strong foundation, so do i believe that all the new technology are there to make one more creative and unpredictable as a DJ. We are in an era where one is not restricted to just beat mix 2 tracks. The overall concept of DJing has evolved beyond that. There are DJ's who prefer to play using a mix of the good old days and the new digital tools. Then there are DJ's who mix audio with video. Some of them use the vinyl functionality. Once you know the basic skills and concept then its just a matter of practise on any given set up in the world.
I would like to add, make the best of both the worlds. And at the end of the day whatever setup / technology you use it should make you a better DJ / performer.
How do you balance your demanding schedule and being a father of two kids?
My better half plays a pivotal role in balancing this out. She spends majority of the time with kids and ensure that they stay in touch with me through video calls everyday, share their daily routine, when I am travelling.
In life, everything comes at a cost. And I guess, the cost I pay for choosing DJing as a career is not being able to spend enough time with my kids. However, I ensure that I spend quality time with them on the days I am not travelling. And we vacation regularly.
To make life more enjoyable, I have introduced all the DJ gears to my kids as toys. This gives me more time to spend with them. It is equally amazing to see them use the equipment in a fun way, often teaching me some new things.
Please tell us a life changing moment in your career.
When I became the Official DJ for Pioneer DJ India.
Your current favorite national and international artists?
National: Skip, Ash Roy , Braindrop ,
International: Adam Bayer, John Digweed, Sasha, Gappeq
If you were asked right now to mix 4 genres in 2 minutes minutes, what would they be?
Progressive house, techno, tech house and house.
Tequila or coffee?
Coffee in the afternoon when I wakeup and tequila by sunset.
If Mash wasn't an artist. What would he do currently?
If I wasn't an artist, I would have been a Chef. Cooking is my passion.
An important piece of advice for the next generation of artists.
Dedication, honesty and hard work are the key to success. Never stop to learn. And do not get into this profession for the sake of glamour and fame. Your love for music, skills , practice and knowledge will take you a long way. Most important of all , Support your fellow artists and grow with each other .