In Conversation with Mizuchi
BOMBAY + BOSTON
We caught up with Varun Kapadia AKA Mizuchi - an artist, producer, creative director, and founder of his streetwear label, YV streetwear. Hailing from Mumbai, he is an artist that expands his work beyond the traditional world of hip-hop. Aiming to create a hybrid between hip-hop, house and dance-hall, Mizuchi aims to contribute to the growing expanse of independent artistry through sampling ethnic elements of Indian culture and experimenting with genre blends.
The following interview is an excerpt taken from our ‘Artist Interview Series’ where Harsha Biswajit, co-founder of BISKIT connects with artists and creative minds about their journey and process to uncover the stories of how they survive and thrive in their industry.
The text is juxtaposed with images of Mizuchi walking around Boston wearing the Limited Edition Biskit ‘Frequency Lavender Shirt'
Subway Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
HARSHA BIS (BISKIT): Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
MIZUCHI: My name is Varun Kapadia. I am 21 years old. I'm an artist, producer, creative director and founder of my own streetwear line called YV streetwear written as 'YV', pronounced as “Yeev”. I’m born and raised in Mumbai. I spent my whole life here I went to the same school, nothing crazy in terms of like, no switching schools, none of that moving around stuff. I'm currently studying at Tufts University in Boston, which is where I'm doing my undergrad. So I will be going into my senior year now this September, and I'm double majoring in psychology and music. It's technically not music - it's music, sound, and culture. It's a major that they have for the kids who are not so into the theory side of things. But it's not really a music school.
I'm not musically trained at all. I don't have any formal training. I didn't do any of those exams and all that shit when I was younger, I just totally kind of went the autodidact way and taught myself everything off of YouTube. And I remember when I was younger, GarageBand used to have - this is like 10 years ago-ish - built in lessons like pre-recorded videos of this instructor showing you how to play and like pre-recorded tutorials. And I remember watching those videos a lot when I was younger, then trying to play around with different instruments, like I moved around with a guitar mainly, then drums, keyboard, and a lot of random stuff in between - Xylophone, Cajon all that kind of stuff. So I'm very intrigued by instruments, how they work, live sounds, and even though I'm not formally trained, I always found myself just gravitating towards instruments in general and how I can find a new sound or experiment with a new style.
I've always been into audio gear or audio tech, so over here in Bombay there is Furtados, which is the music store near the metro cinema, and I used to go there after school and it was like walking into a toy store or something even better than that, like the biggest thrill ever. You go and test out guitars, like the smallest thing would get me excited, like some new strings they had or some shit like that. It would just always be a thrill. So that eventually moved from instruments to kind of MIDI instruments or like electronic production equipment. And I guess when I was about 16, I started to try and produce properly. Then by the time I was 18, I full on got into it and shit and here I am, I guess.
BISKIT: How did you start your music journey? Has this always been something you've wanted to do?
MIZUCHI: I started making music when I was like 16, 17, as I was saying, but I didn't really know what I was doing then. I still actually don't know much about production. I am not like any mastermind regarding production technique or anything. I'm very basic with it. But the thing is, I figured out how to get certain sounds to work together and how they could sound together. I'm good with just understanding rhythms. I'm good at understanding what works and that kind of stuff but when I started, I had no concept of anything. When I was 17 I started to get into rap, like performing rap, before that I was very into like singer songwriter, acoustic sounding ambient sounding music and very much on the pop side of things, and I was very angsty as a 16,17 year old so that anger kind of pushed me forward into hip-hop and rap and my friends always used to encourage me, “bro you should rap, like you know, don't sing, don't do all this 'Ed Sheeran' stuff, go into like rap”. So I ended up just trying it out while I was in school and trying to get into rap, English rap as a kid from Bombay, like, no one wants to do this; no one has even heard of this. Forget about career, like not even as a passion. It was not a thing back then. So, I was just like, you know, I'll just do it and see how it goes. So, I started to make beats on GarageBand, as I was saying, and I used to write my own raps, and then put it out on SoundCloud. And I did that in 2018 until I started to basically just get a little better at what I was doing. I always found it easy to write. Obviously, my old stuff sounds horrible now, but I found it easy to just pen down my thoughts and make it sound metaphorical, make it sound like you know, something that doesn't sound too basic. And I eventually just like decided, you know, fuck it, let's go to a studio.
Park Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
It was only in June/July 2019 when I officially kind of formed my solid artist alias. So around two years ago, I kind of announced I am Mizuchi. I just started to put it out on platforms because like, I didn't know it was that easy to put it out on streaming platforms. I always thought like, you have to know “some guy”. But it's not like that at all. It's so easy. Anyone can put out their music on major streaming platforms. And the thing is, a lot of people want to do this, they want to start or they want to start releasing music. And they've asked me like, “how do you start?” And I have no idea what to tell them because I don't remember what was going through my head when I started. I just kind of did it. I didn't overthink shit at the time. Now I'm a major over thinker, but at the time I used to be like, “oh, a new song, we'll put it out like RIGHT NOW”. Today when I have a song I have to give Spotify a couple of weeks, send it out to magazines and send it out here and there. That's the process. But at the time, it was just like, “what is the earliest date it can come out”, choose that day and wait for it to come out and send it to my friends. It was a very different process. But looking back, it's all fond memories.
So I guess my process has just been like, learn a little bit of producing on YouTube, get better, get better, eventually get better with like word flow, diction, that kind of stuff. Then, you know, album artwork, and it's like a whole process. A lot of stuff goes into a song because I'm also producing my own work, which a lot of people kind of don't know about my music. But that's a different aspect of the game entirely so I have the perspective of the producer and the artist which kind of is double the stress, but I also feel more secure as an artist because I know I made this beat I know how it should sound. But it's because I just started doing everything by myself. I just started doing everything on my own and it just went from there. And I’m still doing the same now.
BISKIT: In the past when we have spoken, you've said that you are exploring different genres of music. Can you talk a bit about that and how do you weave between them?
MIZUCHI: This phase I'm in right now, my artistry is fully connected with my personal life.
Park Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
I feel that I'm starting to move away from hip hop, but it's a very organic shift away. It's not like I'm leaving the bitterness away from hip hop and its sound. It’s just that I've naturally started to gravitate towards more Deep House, Techno, and Low-Fi House sounding music. Just more electronic in a lot of ways.
I love hip hop, but I loved it a lot more when I was like younger, like maybe three or four years ago, I was obsessed. I'm not obsessed today. I still love it, but that obsession kind of drove me a lot to make a very hip-hop sounding sound. It's not even like this shift happened a long time ago, its kind of like I've always known that I want to do different genres of music. And I've been very intrigued by dancehall, afrobeat, hip-hop, and electronica, but my exposure to different kinds of music happened as I kind of ventured out into my college life in 2018. So like, two and a half years ago, I started to explore electronic music. I'd always been like listening to deep house and EDM and shit when I was younger, but you kind of see it from afar and you appreciate it, but you don't choose to dive into it. You might dip your toe into it, but you don't really dive into it. Then to swim around and see these random new artists that you never thought would ever appeal to you, like, that process was very eye opening for me. Because I thought, rewind to like when I was 17/18, rap is everything. No genre was ever going to touch what I feel for rap and hip hop. And I've fully accepted that. So it's not even like I had an open mind. I was just like, rap is it, other genres will come and go, but rap is my pinnacle. And that's all I can make. Then I started to figure out that, you know, maybe it's not the case. And now I'm in this phase where honestly, I'm having a full-scale artists crisis. I don't know if I want to be making hip hop anymore because almost all my music so far, primarily is very hip-hop sounding. In December 2020, I decided to put out my first house sounding track, which is a song called ‘Rogue Planet’ for, which I also did some visuals for, was very inspired by lo-fi house, which is like a very soft chill genre of deep house that I really enjoy.
The thing is, I got into music because I like making music. I didn't get in to make rap. Nor did I get in it for like fame or anything. I don't give a shit about any of that. I'd never thought I'll be here, people knowing my music and all that kind of stuff. I never thought that ever. But it happened through rap. So, I thought, okay, maybe this is my thing. So, I have to stick to the rap. But thing is like, I don't feel the need any more to stick to one genre of music at all.
With my EP last year, which had Bombay on it, it also had some elements of dancehall, poppy kind of sounds to it. But now I'm in this place where, I basically only want to put out music that makes people feel something. And that's the reason why I got into it in the first place. Along the way, I kind of lost myself in the thrill of chasing popularity and streams and this and that and getting more people to listen and becoming the next thing. So I went through that whole process and stuff and I'm here now with a certain amount of presence, but it's nothing crazy. Like, I'm not like the next hugest thing here in India or anything. But the thing is, I'm okay with that because I'm still trying to find out what kind of music I'm trying to put out.
Right now people just know me for rap. They don't know that I can give my listeners a lot more in terms of just emotional value. So I want to make people feel a lot of emotions when they listen to my music and I have to figure that out. I haven't been able to like tap into that. But when I released ‘Rogue Planet’, and songs like ‘Ocean Floor’, people definitely understand this next wave that I'm trying to move into and channel that kind of emotional ethos regarding my sound.
Frequency Lavender Shirt Details, Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
So what I'm honestly dealing with right now is the shift from away from hip-hop. It's mainly just a mental thing within myself. It's not even like I am looking back on hip-hop as if it's like, ”oh, that's in my past” or I'm not looking back on hip-hop, like I don't give a shit about hip-hop anymore. I'm trying to deal with this internal shift to a new kind of sound, without feeling guilty about leaving hip hop. So it's more like a thing within me. It's not even like my listeners are gonna care that much. It's more of like how I choose to present myself as an artist after I have this shift and I'm secure with myself, after knowing that there's no guilt involved in in moving away from this genre and into a new territory.
BISKIT: The last year has been challenging for most of us, but it also in a way gave us some time to be more introspective. Im curious, how, if at all, did your time spent during the quarantine impact your work?
MIZUCHI: I feel like my quarantine time was extremely pivotal in almost all senses of my artistry because in this time I was just basically thinking about my entire journey a lot. And I was just kind of lost. I was trying to look for the next way to become big and at the same time preserve my own sound. But then along the way, I realized I didn't enter this for, you know, this kind of stuff. I totally came to terms with the fact that chasing streams, chasing fame, chasing attention is not my thing at all and it was never my thing. And I had to accept that this is not an organic way to grow as an artist. I basically had a lot of lows in quarantine, as I guess everyone did, and at one of my lowest points, I decided to push forward for a new project.
So I was working on an album at the time, I had a whole album ready. And then I scrapped the whole album because I was like, “this is shit and all that”. And then I decided to start from scratch, and I put together this EP, which is my myth EP. I decided to play around with some Indian samples, some ethnic sounding beats, which I hadn't done before. And people have always told me like, “Why don't you involve some Indian-ness? Why don't you get some Hindi rap?” and I don't know what to tell them. So this time I was like, you know, maybe production-wise, I can bring in some Indian sounding beats, but not too tacky and not too in your face kind of stuff, so that's when I made Bombay.
I made the Myth EP and then I put that out and pretty much my whole life changed. It was only four short songs, not like a big body of work, not very ambitious, but still people started reaching out to me from all sorts of different streams telling me they've heard this EP and they really liked Bombay.
And I was like, “what the fuck”, I was sitting at home, in quarantine, like, I made it on this desk where I'm doing this interview, I din't have any equipment, I didn't have anything. I was just using my laptop and, you know, I released the EP and it just really put me out there in ways that I never thought I'd be put out. After this EP and after Bombay, I was able to connect with people who had already heard of me and even now when I talk to people they have heard Bombay, which is still very surreal to me. It's very surreal to me.
Deli Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
BISKIT: You just launched your own label YV Streetwear. Can you tell us a little bit about it? What inspired you to do this?
MIZUCHI: So, my partner on this, his name is Yudhi and he's basically like my childhood best friend. We were in nursery together; we grew up together and he studies in New York and I study in Boston. So, we would meet a lot and we both are very passionate about streetwear, street fashion and just fashion in general and we thought, you know, why don't we start our own thing.
When we started, we were actually under a different name, which we weren't really feeling. And in 2019, April, we were in New York, and we were just talking, you know, we were smoking and blazing downstairs outside some hotel. We were talking about how we weren't happy with the name and we're having some completely different level cosmic conversation about ourselves, our journey as young creators and what it really means to harness the creative energy within yourself as being part of the youth, and how much things have changed since school, and now we're here in college and things are just moving so rapidly, it's hard to keep up with this with the pace of life. We wanted to basically put forward an identity, which kind of expresses this and at the same time, weaves itself in in and out of different themes that we wanted to showcase through future designs. So, our brand is a lens, that's how I look at it, it's a lens, in which people can view things in a different way, not through like any opinionated way but a lens through which you look at things in a more artistic way. And that's what gave birth to Eve.
Finally, after like one and a half years of conceptualizing and trying to figure out what we wanted to do. We created these four designs, which are inspired by inverted states of mind and inverted colors. And that's when I came back this summer, like literally like two weeks ago, we launched the official collection because we had everything in place finally after working on it through the pandemic and remotely. It was definitely a challenge, but we managed to somehow pull it off and now people are buying and stuff which is very surreal to me.
Subway Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
Flying Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
BISKIT: How much of creativity is down to instinct - a moment of inspiration - and how much of it is down to consistent action, habits, and repetition?
MIZUCHI: I have always thought it was like a moment where it just hits you, and you feel inspired. But in quarantine, as I was saying, when I was feeling inspired, I kind of I disciplined myself to sit every day and try to make beats. I just told myself I have to put out a project this summer. And my album got scrapped, so I have to work on the new EP now. So I'll sit every day whether or not I like it, and I'll try to put some shit together. And the thing is, like, very often when I'm looking to make a new track, I don't have any idea of what it's going to sound like, every millisecond feels new and interesting. It's a very erratic, extremely, mood-based process where it completely depends on the way things are flowing. But in a lot of places in quarantine last year, I would find myself pushing myself, even when I didn't like the way that things were sounding, just to try and fix things that I thought in other ways would be unfixable in terms of how the sound goes with one another. this leads me to basically believe that, because I've experienced this whole repetition and discipline and like practice kind of wave through quarantine, it definitely works and it definitely pushes your own mind to take in inspiration from things that you didn't think would give you inspiration. So that's what I think but as a person myself, by virtue of who I am, I feel like I get inspired kind of like in the moment.
Street Mizuchi, Boston, 2021
YOU CAN FIND MIZUCHI
About Harsha Bis:
Harsha Biswajit is a new media visual artist and Co-Founder of Spacebiskit currently living and working in Berlin. His work primarily explores transformations brought about by technology. Before he entered the world of art, he was once dabbling with economics before deciding to make the dive as a full time artist in 2010.
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