If you missed Soundscapes’ nine-hour party last Friday, you missed out on quite the experience, even more so if you didn’t attend Atish’s intimate info session at Malja Bahrain the night before.
The San Francisco-based artist sat with us at Malja and provided insight into his personal life and his musical journey as an internationally popular DJ. A five-year career definitely makes Atish look like an overnight success, but he started big since day one when he found out that his idol, and globally renowned DJ, Lee Burridge was in the audience of his very first performance! Talk about pressure...“I actually wish Lee wasn't there. Having your favorite DJ watch you train wreck mixes at your first gig is nerve-wracking! But, as nervous as I was, it felt really good to have an actual audience around to hear me play.”
Long before Atish’s debut in 2010 at a small bar in San Francisco, he had paved a career for himself working for Facebook as a software engineer, and actually worked on the Messenger app that most of us use today. From a software engineer at one of the most revolutionary companies in the world to a DJ who tours the world, it’s quite a shift. "There are a few different angles that lead to that decision. One was that I kept asking myself, 'What's my potential for growth here?' By the time I started working for Facebook, I'd been a software engineer for ten years, and although I was constantly learning new skills and improving my ability, in the big picture, was there really anything I could create or add to the industry? On the other hand, I was also exploring myself as an artist (during that time) and I asked myself, 'What is my potential as an artist, and how close am I to reaching that potential?'" He was forced to eventually choose between an established career and a completely new one, because Atish was working full-time at Facebook while occupying every second of the rest of his time outside of work traveling for gigs, ultimately spreading himself too thin, missing a lot of opportunities, and just feeling exhausted. "There was a lot of stuff I had to say 'no' to (for lack of time), and taking it from an abstract to a practical level: I just had to make more time for the music."
In fact, his first time in Bahrain was deducted from his Facebook vacation days!
"When I'm 85 or 90 years old reflecting on my life from my deathbed, am I going to wish that I spent my early 30's sitting at a computer making money; doing roughly the same thing that I'd already been doing for 10 years, or am I going to wish that I spent it seeing the world, connecting with people, and being creative? This type of lifestyle will get more and more difficult as I get older, so I don't want to look back wondering, 'What could I have done?"
It was quite the jump to make, one full of risks that seem to have paid off instantly. When asked on the elements behind his success, the DJ noted that "there's a lot of luck involved (in my success). There have been many milestones in my career (that depended on luck) where, for example, I got to open for Lee Burridge at WMC because the previous opening DJ had a family emergency and suddenly had to swap out at the last minute. Just after that gig ended, Lee invited me to play Robot Heart later that year. I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time, with the right people hearing me."
There's obviously more to it than that, though! "One thing that I found has helped me a ton during my career is my good personal connections with people." Atish knows it's crucial to honor positive traits and "be friendly with everyone, maintain connections with everyone, and just be easy to be around!" It’s simple but effective advice, especially in a time when successful people are expected to boast egos. "I realized that many good things that have come my way came because I either treated people well, or did someone a favor without expecting anything in return."
After giving us an introduction into his humble beginnings and his humbling present, it came time to ask the traveling musician about his future. So what does 2016 look like for superstar DJ Atish? "I got caught up gigging and touring in 2015, so in 2016 I definitely have to start releasing my own music. I want to have at least one, if not two, EPs out by the end of the year." When asked about why he would risk a career in music production after finding huge success in DJing, the artist confessed he'd thought about that question before. "I feel pressure, because I know that there are expectations, but at the end of the day, it comes back to the fact that this is something I want to do, so I'm going to do it. If it doesn't make everyone happy, at least I'm expressing myself in my own voice, and it's artistically what I want to do. I just need to put my ego aside and just do it." Soundscapes' Nezar Kadhem noted that their team got a chance to listen to some of Atish's upcoming music and it sounds fantastic so, we can't wait!
Finally, Nezar couldn’t let Atish go without having him share some advice with the Bahraini DJs in the audience. "If you want to be known as a DJ, you have to make it easy for people to hear you. Even if you're playing every single week, that isn't enough, you have to put out mixes so everyone can hear you as a DJ. You have to constantly publish work." Another thing that Atish pointed out is our favorite 'C' word, "Collaboration; this has been really good both artistically and from a reach perspective. For example, after playing B2B with YokoO earlier this year, some of his fans were turned onto me, and vice versa.” To conclude, the dance music mixer brought all his tips back to one core element that shaped his career, “The biggest thing for me is to find a way to connect with people, whether it's collaborating with another DJ, talking to people on social media, or treating people well at parties. I find that just being authentic with everyone really pays off." Sound advice for all creatives out there.
Oh, and Atish's dream gig? The Labyrinth music festival in Japan!