Considering the state of the world right now, you wouldn’t need to stretch your imagination too much to paint an accurate picture of what dystopia would look like. Immediately, your brain will want to shun the images, and you’ll find yourself wanting to go back to the happy, the calm and the ‘positive’. And it is this denial of the darkness, that allows the darkness to grow unrestricted. Perhaps, if we stopped denying the darkness and accepted it as a part of who we are, we’d be able to harness it into the beauty that it is innately capable of.
This short parable on darkness is inspired by the latest album by Watashi, titled Euthanasia Coaster, and released under Regenerate Music. Bringing influences from punk-rock, metal, Watashi’s music traverses around the magnetic fringes of Drum & Bass, Techno, Jungle and Ambient. Taking his penchant for the eerie and the atmospheric, he has taken his neoteric UK Underground material to labels like XCPT, Regenerate Music, and Hyperactivity Music which has hosted heavyweights like DLR, Wingz, L-side and many more.
Euthanasia Coaster is a welcome addition to the growing roster of diverse talent in the industry who are breaking genre-barriers with every release. Watashi’s expertise here is two fold: an appreciation for the art of storytelling with music and the skills for a clean and creative production. With Euthanasia Coaster, he aims at telling the story of a journey from the dystopia of depression to promised land of hope.
[bandcamp width=400 height=406 album=3966964967 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 artwork=small]
Perhaps, one of the biggest achievement by the album is its ability to put the listener in the shoes of the album’s protagonist, lending a first person narrative to their sonic exploration. The first track, ‘Stasis’, recalls the moments of awakening, as if soundtracking the first moment when you look up and realise the full weight of the dystopia you’re living in. The next two tracks ‘System Failure’ and ‘Dread’ paint the picture of someone trying to break free out of the dystopia, with denial, anger and finally acceptance that a long journey lies ahead of them. Sonically speaking, Watashi is a master at using drums, bass and breaks in advancing the story.
A mark of the coherence in his thoughts is that Watashi is able to create a flow of tracks that build tension and those that release it. The next three tracks ‘Perilious’, ’Two’s a Crowd’ and ‘Spectral Fire’ move from high intensity to speculation. They are representative of our proverbial journeys in life – full of obstacles, adrenaline and contemplation. This brings us to the penultimate track the titular ‘Euthanasia Coaster’ which is truly a masterpiece in its own. The track plays with time signature, a constant intense bassline and layers of drum patterns and samples. The track mirrors the coexistent darkness and light that are the signature of the last leg of every hero’s journey. The last track ‘Corpse Dance’ is a powerful conclusion to the journey at the end of which you discover a new world and the credits roll in.
Building stories with such detail is an art that is fast losing its relevance in a world that is chasing increasingly short-formats of content. To understand deeper into how Watashi approached this album, we spoke with him and here’s what he had to say.
(Answers are edited for readability and clarity)
It is great that you’re telling a story with your music. When did you first start thinking of this album and how did it develop as you kept working on it? Did the story come first or the album?
Thank you. The whole idea of the album was realised when I was finished with a couple of songs. Somewhere around mid 2020 during the pandemic I was trying to write as much experimental stuff as I could. I didn’t think I was capable of writing an album so with these songs I was aiming for an EP. But Bhish from Regenerate encouraged me to send as much music as I could.
The main inspiration was when I came across The Caretaker – Everywhere At The End Time. It’s a more than 6 hour long piece of work that portrays a person’s descent into dementia in various stages. It’s not an easy thing to listen to and I’ve never finished it but it gave me the idea to use the same concept in a different way. The theme is depression in my album and I added a twist to the story with the Euthanasia Coaster as an escape. When I had the story in my head the last few songs became so much easier to write.
Another album that I was hugely been inspired by is Overlook – Smoke Signals, it just has this sinister vibe that is hard to describe.
The album oscillates between darkness and light. How do you think the music you make represents the vibe you want to communicate? Do you think it is a conscious decision that can be taken at the part of the artist, given that so much of what a listener perceives is coloured by their own biases?
I think it’s a conscious effort. I feel much at ease writing darker stuff, it’s taken me a lot of years to realise that. And I love movie soundtracks that create tension, so I try to implement that sort of approach to my songwriting now. And yes, I agree that a listener’s experience to any piece of art is their own and I don’t want to influence that experience by revealing too much about the story of the album. With no prior information about the music it’s a different experience, that’s raw emotions where you can imagine your own story. I’m just happy if the listener is able to go through the whole album without skipping any songs.
What was your set up for producing this album? What is your process for producing music usually?
I’m a complete software person. It’s the way I’ve learned to make music. But I use certain ways to make the music sound a bit organic by using lots of different distortions on everything, by using drum breaks which just add that feeling of natural drumming to your songs, and by sampling a lot. I sample old movie soundtracks a lot and mess around with them to make them unidentifiable. But that being said some songs used a lot of synthesis as well.
The title track “Euthanasia Coaster” is about 80% made out of Ableton operator, even the drums. I would definitely like some analog synths and real distortion pedals for my studio though. To achieve the similar quality sound in software you gotta have a chain of plugins which can be a drag at times.
What is in store for future?
I’m not really sure yet. I’ve lots of unfinished music which will take some time. I really want to just make some dance floor oriented stuff for a change.
Maybe finish my drum and bass EP this year and write some more experimental techno and breaks stuff.
I’d like to play some gigs too. I’m not too concerned about that though cause I feel a little detached from the whole thing now after the pandemic but it would be nice to get behind the decks.
Could you share your thoughts about the Indian independent electronic music scene? Any artists you really like and think people should listen to? Who inspires you?
I’ve always been on the fringes of the scene so I don’t want to be too critical of what it is or what it has become. I’m not entirely aware of how much it takes to organise a gig or make it profitable. But from an artist’s point of view I’d like to see more diversity in the style of music, it’s nearly impossible for everyone making music to make a living out of it. But that being said look at how many new artists we have now, it’s nice to see the growth in both numbers and the quality of music coming out of India.
There’s quite a few artists that I really like: Arjun Vagale, of course, quality techno, I really love his newer stuff with Asymetrik as well.
I also really like what Film does, he’s very diverse and no holds barred with his approach to music. Disector is another guy who’s sort of a savant with analog gear and the music is just quality. Stain, Miredo, Tanzen, Npstr all really good at what they do, very forward thinking.
I want to mention this artist I recently got to know from Bangalore called Inskape, his LP on Diffuse Reality last year blew my mind. It’s very unique meditative style of techno that I hadn’t heard from India at all.
I’m missing quite a few other names but these should do for now.