Sparsh Chandan describes himself as a geek. But behind a console, he can churn a great mix and move from 80s to Bollywood with flawless transition. Playing for middle school dances and proms at NIST while still a student himself, he convinced his parents to get him a professional gear, promising in return to keep up his grades. Through word of mouth, he landed his first paid gig at the age of 15 and a few years later he became the youngest finalist at the renowned Denon DJ Championship in 2004. Currently working at his family’s chemical trading business, DJ Sparsh is also producing his first EP, which he hopes to finish by the end of the year. Here, he talks to us about the hardships of starting young and his frustrations with the music industry.
How was it starting out at such a young age?
It was quite tough. I was only 15 at the time, and it’s hard to be taken seriously at that age. Also, you don’t really have the option of playing at clubs because you are underage. So I built a huge collection of music. This allowed me to cater to a lot of people. Plus, I never ever said no to an event. It was all about getting out there as much and as often as possible. I had a lot of encouragement from a few key people around me. They know who they are. They made a sincere effort helping me get started by introducing me to the right people. I am very grateful for their effort.
How do you compete with other Indian DJs in this city?
At the moment, there is more than enough demand for “Indian DJs”—that is, DJs who know their Bollywood music and can cater to a crowd looking specifically for that. I don’t think there is direct competition as such. I do a lot of live remixing and create mash-ups on the fly, thanks to the hardware/software combo that I use. This makes my sets very dynamic and keeps things interesting for the crowd and exciting for me as well.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I draw a lot of inspiration from rock bands from the 70s and 80s. Bands like KISS and Van Halen and artists such as Michael Jackson and Phil Collins were the ones who turned simple concerts into real live performance. More recently, Tiesto, Daft Punk, Skrillex, and Deadmau5 have become the modern equivalent. They are all live acts, not just DJs. That is what I aspire to be.
What frustrates you most about the DJ scene?
Talent isn’t as relevant as knowing the right people. The majority of the crowd wants their Bollywood, bhangra, and top 40s chart hits. This limits me in terms of what I can play.
Which was your most memorable performance?
My first major event in Nottingham, England, in 2007 was very special. It was my first time in front of a large crowd—300 people at Gatecrasher club. There were meant to be three DJs, including me, that night. The other two backed out five minutes before the doors opened. So the organisers asked me to cover solo for almost five hours that night.
What are you working on these days?
For the past five years, I’ve been working with an Internet radio station in the UK, called SSradio. I have a weekly show on their Hard & Fast Channel called The Past, Present, and Future. The show has been a great opportunity for me to continue my romance with the electronica genre.
What’s it like working full-time when what you really want to do is be a DJ?
Because it’s a family business, you really feel like giving it 110 percent whether it’s a Monday or a Sunday, but I feel the exact same way about being a DJ. It’s a real balancing act! I had four different events lined up in March, but wasn’t able to take them on because I’m out of town for work. Missing out on four events means less money to spend on new equipment. But as a marketing manager, I’ve learnt so much. All of that knowledge is applicable to what I do as a DJ—negotiating rates and networking, for example.
For the original PDF, please click Voices from the crowd
Featured in Masala Lite April, 2013