The less-than-loquacious Koushik would prefer to let his dreamy soundscapes do the talking.
KOUSHIK spinning as part of Stones Throw’s MOVE party with JAMES PANTS, DAM-FUNK and TAKTIKS at Wrongbar (1279 Queen West), Friday (August 15). $15 advance. 416-516-8677.
It's not unusual for beat makers and remix producers to maintain a low public profile. Most hip-hop fans wouldn't know Just Blaze, Cut Chemist or 9th Wonder if they were flipping through records in the bin right next to them, and many backroom sound sculptors like it that way.
For some, being stealthy provides a sense of freedom and makes good business sense (the price of sample-rich records at second-hand shops tends to vary directly with a buyer's notoriety), while for others the desire to remain anonymous is just a character quirk that can turn into an obsession bordering on paranoia.
Enigmatic sound scientist Koushik is an intriguing case. Having released a couple of critically lauded but modest-selling EPs and completed a few remix jobs for mid-level artists that weren't heard outside the range of your local college radio station, the Dundas-raised McMaster computer science grad's biggest claim to fame is being the first Canuck signed to the Stones Throw label, home of Madlib and the late great J Dilla. Well, that and being a hometown buddy of Dan "Caribou" Snaith, neither of which would suggest that our boy Koushik is in any imminent danger of overexposure.
If anything, he could probably benefit from a little media attention, especially since he's got a full-length album, Out My Window, set for release on September 30, which finds him changing direction from his typical brooding soundscapes toward more song-oriented structures that focus on his sensitive vocal stylings. Yet on the phone, presumably to promote his new work, he seems uncomfortable or perhaps unwilling to discuss anything in depth, offering brief, cautiously vague responses to each question, as if he were being charged by the word.
A simple question like "Where are you calling from?" might seem like an innocuous way of opening a friendly conversation. For Koushik, it's a tad too probing. After a thoughtful pause, he allows only, "The East Coast."
"Rhode Island?" I ask gamely.
"No," replies Koushik.
"Nope," he answers.
Checking the call display, I notice the 802 area code, which places his number in the Burlington, Vermont, suburb of Essex Junction. When I ask if he's calling from Vermont, he responds, "Umm... not quite. Let's just say that on a map, I'd be just below Montreal."
Considering that Essex Junction is the birthplace of Trey Anastasio and the home of IBM's microelectronics lab, you'd have to be a serious computer geek or Phish head to want to live there. Either way, you'd probably want to keep that shit under wraps.
It would be great to get some insight on Koushik's apparent change of musical direction, but throughout the interview he remains strangely evasive, his comments ranging from guardedly noncommittal to a blunt "no comment."
Some artists just aren't keen on revealing their creative process. But with Koushik, even when the topic turns to his DJ sets, he's no more forthcoming even though he typically doesn't drop any of his own productions into the mix.
When I ask what sort of stuff he likes to play out, he says, "Funk."
That descriptor covers a broad range of music. "Would that be late 60s funk inspired by James Brown? Or possibly 70s indie disco? Or maybe 80s electro boogie?" I ask, trying to narrow it down.
"Yeah," Koushik allows.