Interview with Akshay Johar aka MojoJojo

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Akshay JoharAkshay Johar aka MojoJojo

MojoJojo is the alter ego of Delhi/Dubai based musician and producer, Akshay Johar.

He started playing the piano at the age of 10 but switched to the electric bass and hasn’t looked back since. Currently he plays bass for Barefaced Liar, Gravy Train and The Doppler Effect when he isn’t indulging his musings. Over the course of his musical journey, he was introduced to EDM and immediately took to its bass heavy division due to his artistic disposition.

In 2011 he released 3 singles, ‘Lucid Dreaming’ and ‘Party Girl Dub’, that were featured on several independent blogs, mixtapes and podcasts including the likes of NH7, Stupid Ditties, Little Black Book Delhi, Whatsthescene and several more.

MojoJojo has also been storming the decks across the country, playing at all the EDM hotspots and major festivals, sharing the stage with the likes of Dualist Inquiry, Nucleya, Sound Avatar, Alter State and Swaggamuffin. He plans to release his debut album sometime in the fall of 2014.

Q. Tell us a little bit about Akshay Johar?

A. I am a Delhi boy through and through, born and brought up in a middle class Punjabi house hold, my childhood was spent watching cartoons, playing outdoors with friends and getting reprimanded by my folks, so nothing out of the ordinary there.
I went to DPS RK Puram and all in all, had a great time in school. Did well academically, was pretty ‘cool’ for a while which changed drastically to being ‘uncool’ for a couple of years.
That’s when I took to music.

Q. When did your musical journey start?

A. I started learning the Piano in Class 5. Learnt it slowly for a few years, didn’t love it, didn’t hate it.

Then in class 7, I don’t remember why but I really wanted to learn the guitar, so my folks gladly bought me one and that’s when I really started listening and enjoying music. Thanks to P2P and MP3, ventured into music that any growing teen would identify with. Songs about angst and not being understood. Then I would take those same songs and learnt them on the guitar.

Q. What was it like at home? Did you face a lot of opposition from your parents or were they supportive of your endeavours

A. Initially my parents thought that I’d lost the plot completely. They had dreams of me becoming an engineer/doctor/lawyer and to them music was at best a hobby. However, I stuck to my guns and wore them down eventually and they started supporting me, quietly, grudgingly. Although in the last couple of years, they’ve seen my success as an independent musician and are more vocal about it.

Q. You studied to become an engineer, then obtained a diploma in microprocessors, and then made the shift to Mass communication and advertising. Tell us more about that?

A. I pursued engineering merely because of my dad thought it was a ‘good idea’. Surprise surprise.
Also at the time I didn’t have the resolve and conviction I have now so I went ahead and did it anyway. During those 4-5 years I realized what my true calling was and decided to pursue music full time post graduation. I finished my engineering and started producing and playing music but felt that my under grad was a complete waste as that wasn’t something I really wanted to do or would ever use practically. I had always been fascinated and interested in Advertising and PR since it’s a vital element in the entertainment business, so I went ahead and applied to JNU for their AD and PR course which was a year long degree.
I’m so glad I did that because it gives me great perspective to compose and produce new music as being an artist is also about the way you connect with audiences.

Q. When did you realise you wanted to be a musician?

A. During my under grad, in 2nd year when I realized what I was doing was a total waste of time.

Q. Tell us about the early days of Music? How have you seen the music scene evolving?

A. The scene is evolving at a breakneck speed, of course some aspects of that evolution aren’t exactly desired. Every year, the number of festivals happening is exponentially increasing. Venues that host live gigs are burgeoning. People are becoming more aware and open to independent music. However, live music is being over shadowed by generic, run-of-the-mill EDM.  Live gigs are few and far between because electronic music, especially the repetitive, disingenuos kinds, is extremely popular right now. I’m not too worried though, it’s a passing trend.
Q. When did you really turn Pro. How did you transition from being in college bands playing at college fests to being the headlining act at venues nationwide?

A. I don’t know if I’m pro yet, I think there’s still some time before I can feel comfortable using that word for myself but I think it’s been a transition over the last 2 years. Since the time I graduated college, I’ve been working hard at putting out all kinds of music with my bands. We made a concious effort to make music seriously and not just for fun. So we could put it out there and have people enjoy it. Once people started appreciating it, we started playing at more venues, eventually started getting booked for festivals etc.

Q. How did MojoJojo come about? Are you a PowerPuff girls fan?

A. I was a huge fan of Daft Punk, Aphex Twin, Moby and Portishead growing up and was always fascinated with the mind bending sounds they managed to create but I remember listening to this artist called Blu Mar Ten in college and finally decided I wanted to produce electronic music myself.
I’ve always found naming songs and bands a rather tedious activity.
Having been a fan of the character and being called Joe/Jojo as an alternative to my last name, I decided to use the moniker MojoJojo.

Q. It was obviously not always a bed of roses? Tell us about the obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

A. Obstacles are a regular feature for an independent artist in this country. I think the first major obstacle which was the biggest IMO, were my parents. Had to break them down over several years and made sure my resolve didn’t break in the process. I just had this single minded vision of being a musician and playing music for a living and never let anything influence my thought process. It was a very tedious journey filled with self doubt but I think one has to be a little stupid in one’s pursuit of one’s dream to make it happen, where you don’t let the usual issues like bank balance, a stable income, society’s judgments bother you.

Q. Did you ever feel like quitting? What kept you going?

A. When you see your peers getting cars and houses in stable, secure jobs and when your own path is rife with the risk of failure, a modest income and societal pressures, it gets very easy to lose heart and let yourself lose sight of the dream.
What kept me going was just that single mindedness and that hope of achieving what I’d dreamt of for years.

Q. What has been the turning point in your career?

A. Still waiting for it actually but I think last year as a whole was when brilliant for me. Played dozens of gigs with my bands Gravy Train, Barefaced Liar and also kick started my solo project as MojoJojo.  Played festivals like Nh7 weekender, MAD festival, Escape, EVC, City of M etc. Also shared the stage with the American rock band, Hoobastank.

Q. Words of wisdom for people trying to decide their careers?

A. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

Gursartaj Nijjar

Gursartaj is a mathematician, former investment banker, and wannabe standup comic. He loves technology and looks at his phone more than he looks at the mirror. He is also an avid gamer and spends hours playing Assassin’s Creed. He is a fitness freak and loves to run marathons, and wishes to climb Everest one day. He knows several languages including French and Spanish, and loves to talk in an Italian accent. In his spare time, he is found matching his turban with his tie.

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Manvir says:

Fantastic perspectives, Akshay! The path you’ve taken is admirable and inspiring, ! Hope to see inspiring a lot of young folks who lose their passion due to societal, parental pressures and the “placement” season :) ! Cheers.