Pedals, modulars and all things Industrial with the Animal Factory Amplification founder.

In a country with a massive pool of artists, it is indeed strange that for the longest time there was never any inhouse brands that would make world class...

In a country with a massive pool of artists, it is indeed strange that for the longest time there was never any inhouse brands that would make world class tools for independent musicians. Thankfully the landscape is changing and leading the way is Animal Factory Amplification based in Mumbai whose products have now found its way to even award winning musicians such as Trent Reznor aka Nine Inch Nails. We caught up with the founder Aditya in an indepth conversation discussing all things about his brand, industrial music and his upcoming event.

Hi Aditya. Thank you for taking your time to speak to us. Could you tell us a bit about your background with regards to music, technology and engineering?

I don’t really consider myself a musician, but like every other 18 year old at the time was really interested I learning how to play the guitar. However, I was more interested in understanding how to get the sounds I heard on the classic rock and metal albums I was listening to than playing the actual instrument (I still can’t play to save my life). This wasn’t restricted to guitar, electronic and effected sounds would grab my attention immediately. Don’t get me wrong, I have deep respect for great musicianship and playing ability, but it’s interesting sounds that make me tick. Unsurprisingly, they’re usually distorted. The tipping point for me was listening to Nine Inch Nails’ “broken” EP, which I still consider the most important album for me personally. It took me down an industrial rabbit hole, discovering Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, Nitzer Ebb, Throbbing Gristle, Prong, Foetus, that entire industrial/avant garde space. It was more extreme and terrifying than metal at times and lacked the attitude around metal that I’d become disenchanted with. That sonic exploration is a fundamental part of Animal Factory. In terms of engineering, I actually did degree studies in medical engineering and later a master in cognitive systems and interactive media. Definitely a weird mix, but I guess you could say the former taught me some hard skills and the latter opened me up to the scientific method, the experimental mindset and the humanities behind usability.

To our readers who may not be aware of, what is Animal Factory ? What kind of products do you make and who is it for?

A way to give people who are interested in making music new directions and attitudes to their sound, and for them to discover new sonic approaches and strategies, to push the envelope a bit further every time. That is how I would describe Animal Factory. I currently do this by designing pedals, mostly distortion, for bass, guitar and other instruments (they’re actually more popular with electronic musicians!). I also make these in the Eurorack format for modular synthesizers. The focus at AFA is completely on designing products with an identity – I don’t do any custom work or modifications/repairs of other brands at all. The distortion or saturation circuits I design are unapologetically brash, very individualistic and do not aspire to sound like other pedals (the usual suspects beingKlon, Tube Screamer, DS-1, Rat etc.). They’re for musicians who do not aspire to sound like other musicians. I’m lucky to be doing this at a time when even beginner musicians are looking to create their own sonic signature.
In a nutshell, you can sum up Animal Factory as “Why be quiet?” – if you want to sound like more of yourself, my products are committed to getting you there.

You are perhaps the first in the country to go down the road of manufacturing modular kits and pedals? In such a niche area, what made you go down this path? What were your challenges?

Far too many challenges to get into in detail, but the big ones remain cash flow (AFA is completely self funded from my savings hitherto) and creating a demand in a very crowded, saturated market. The other challenges are imports – the first rule at Animal Factory is to provide an exceptional customer experience, and I can’t do that with locally sourced parts. Customs duties in India are simply brutal, and I’m a stickler for doing things by the book. It’s fun for sure, but a very difficult business to break into and sustain in. Within the niche of Eurorack modules, I operate in an even smaller niche – distortion (I also have a delay module which also has a nasty distorted sound). I don’t foresee myself getting into the broader Eurorack space (oscillators, filters, CV generators etc.) anytime soon; I believe the supply far outweighs the demand at this moment, the consumer sentiment is fickle and one should generally tread very carefully here before taking financial risks of any size.

We've noticed you had some good features and reviews or your products outside of India. Any particular ones that was a key achievement for you personally?

I feel extremely lucky to have incredible artists who I personally look up to making records using my stuff. Two stories stand out in particular, the first one being Flood and Alan Moulder buying five Pit Vipers – two for themselves and one each for Ed Harcourt, St. Vincent and Trent Reznor. I spent a good part of my teen years listening to the albums they produced and engineered, Downward Spiral and broken in particular were lifechanging. More than the musicians, the two of them were my heroes, because I wanted to manipulate sounds like they did. It felt like things had come full circle.
I recently met the duo for a tour their London studio, Assault & Battery, and was genuinely thrilled to see my pedals in the proximity of the consoles. Alan Moulder told me that he uses the Pit Viper overdrive to clean up and give prominence to any part that isn’t sounding right. I
couldn’t describe that feeling in words if I tried to.

The second one was sharing a stage with Alexander Hacke, founding member of Einstürzende Neubauten, one of my favourite bands of all time. It felt unbelievably surreal that he was demoing my Godeater bass distortion for me in front of an audience at Superbooth – this was upon his suggestion because he loved the pedal so much. He’s just a lovely human being, incredibly warm with a clean positive energy around him, and I feel very fortunate to have experienced this and to be in contact with him.

What kind of music are you usually listening to?

No straight answer for this - all sorts, really. Lots of techno and industrial, lots of 80s and 90s cheese (far too few people are playing Bon Jovi these days), EBM and darkwave, some prog rock and metal, Delta and Hill Country Blues, some classical. I tend to go through genre phases or chunks and also dabble in genres I’m not familiar with. Weirdly enough I don’t listen to nearly as much music as one would think, particularly not when I’m at work, so I’m often a bit behind on my listening. It’s a gamble though. I might just play “Escape” by Enrique Iglesas on repeat to mess with your
head. You’ve been warned.

What is exciting for you about the Indian music scene at the moment?

The gradual move towards some sort of identity feels exciting to me. We do have to keep in mind that the scene in India is still extremely young and has a long way to go, and will take a very different path.

I feel like we’re entering a very interesting space as compared to when I was growing up. The scene feels a bit less derivative than it used to. Not just the fact that there are practically no covers played at gigs anymore, but you see more artists going out of their comfort zones, coming up with their own sound and and breaking the rules of their genres ever so often. There’s a sense of openness that didn’t exist earlier.

With the growth of a scene come challenges – venues being limited and the policy on nightlife being what it is, I feel that you have to work thrice as hard to get noticed now amongst a plethora of very talented peers. Either that or you carve your niche for yourself. Audiences are wise to BS and expectations are a lot higher. As a result, either the quality will improve (as it has – the production value of gigs today has come a long way), or the diversity. This trend will evolve further as the number of artists grows.

As the stakes get higher, one can only assume and hope that stakeholders get more professional, organized and ethical. I sometimes read about horror stories on a Facebook group which I think could have been avoided by some sort of common contract between bookers, venues and artists.

That stuff really needs to fall in place ASAP, and I don’t see it happening until there is a precedent of clear communication, punctual payments and a general professionalism set throughout the independent scene. My gut tells me that this will increase competition for the better and when better organized will provide incentives to policy makers as well to promote nightlife. There’s definitely downsides to all of it too, but I guess I just look at the positive outcomes.

You have an interesting event lined up this weekend. In what could be one of the only Industrial
music focused event here in the longest time, or perhaps the first one ever. Could you tell us
more about this event and the scheduled program? 

A gig 20 years in the making! Who would have thought it – 100% live industrial and hard techno in Bombay? As far as I know, this is indeed a first – I’m personally bored to tears of dance music getting too soft, formulaic and melodic over the years, of overhashed vocal stabs and pretty sounds, of ambient music becoming all about bird chirps and waterfalls, of fast BPMs being associated solely with psytrance. I feel this gig is the first assault against these trends, and a celebration of the physical intensity and purity of aggressive electronic music.

Just to put it into perspective: I’m two weeks away from the biggest life commitment I’ve made to date and would have never said yes to play any other event at a couple of weeks notice, let alone support it with a free AFA distortion workshop. There is a deep shared belief in what we are doing here – we are all extremely invested in making this gig a reality, and I think it’s going to reflect in the performances.

Nivid is a band from Gurgaon, the most polluted city in the world (probably!) who are looking at the world around us through the medium of synth-heavy industrial rock. It’s really exciting to see a young band pick up on an electronic-driven ultra-heavy rock sound that is so close to my heart and have the spine to sing in Hindi too. I’m enthralled by the depth of their vision and excited to see what they have in store for us!

If I needed any more convincing, CIRCUIT boss Hashback Hashish will be putting down his signature style of minimal and industrial-laced techno, probably with the incredible intensity that I’ve witnessed on a couple of occasions. People should come ready to dance and sweat.

Finally, the wizard Varun Desai is handling live visuals, and I know for a fact that his stuff will be mind-melting. Varun and Hashback are two of the realest people in the music scene in the country, I’ve seen them work tirelessly for the underground for years and had the pleasure to work alongside them on events and workshops in Bombay, Bangalore and Calcutta. Their energy and sense of purpose is always inspiring.

All of this is incentive to me to put on an uncompromised representation of industrial techno on modular synths and a drum machine. Expect a hard techno sound that people haven’t dared to play here yet. If the crowd can keep up, I’m also hoping to break the unspoken bpm limit for
techno in the city – so I hope your readers bring a ton of gabber energy and appropriate dancing shoes with them!

PANDEMONIUM AND GAIN STAGE this Friday Nov 15th in Mumbai. Event details below.

15nov(nov 15)8:00 pm16(nov 16)1:00 amPandemonium: Nivid, Hashback Hashish, Aditya Nandwana, varundoThe Habitat, 1st Floor, OYO Townhouse, Rd Number 3, next to Khar Station, Khar West

Workshop details & free registration: https://animalfactoryamps.com/products/gain-stage-interactive-distortion-workshop-nov-15-2019-mumbai

Coupon code ANIMALFACTORY for a 30% discount.

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