On 18th February 2022, MTTN had the excellent opportunity to interact with Zulex, an aspiring music artist and an alumnus of the Manipal Institute Of Technology.
Vedant Singh, better known as Zulex, is a DJ trained in music production from the Lost Stories Academy in Mumbai. He is an EDM artist whose passion led him to pursue production after finishing his B.Tech In Civil Engineering from MIT Manipal.
Zulex spoke to us about his journey as a growing musician, his fondness for the field and his overall experience traversing music as a new artist.
As he is based in Mumbai, MTTN spoke to him over a google meet to discuss his life so far and delve deeper into the lessons and advice he has to offer.
MTTN: What’s the story behind your newest production, Melodic Riot?
Zulex: This song was a combination of melodic dubstep and brostep by using the narrative of the melody being a suppressed character that decides to express itself in its most raw and aggressive forms on the drops, after which it calms down and goes back to its old self while reminding everyone about its capabilities as the song closes.
I produced it with a straightforward melodic structure, to begin with, before it goes fully electronic sharp saw and growl-type brostep sounds in the drop. I spent a reasonable amount of time with it, around two and a half to three weeks and added some changes here and there before mixing and mastering it.
It’s called Melodic Riot because of the story behind the song treating the melody like a character/human that riots and expresses on the drop; I was also inspired by the artist “Virtual Riot” in naming this piece.
MTTN: Where did your love for music begin?
Zulex: I had always had a penchant for EDM music and the entire genre, but my love started around 2013-2014. I started listening to artists like Martin Garrix, Skrillex and others. I moved from Dubai to India in 2015, completing my 11th and 12th here. My father is an electrical engineer, and my mother was a teacher at a school, so they used to go with my younger brother. *chuckles* I used to pretend I was also leaving, wait in the fire exit and then sneak back in since I had my keys. Once inside, I’d watch live streams and old concerts of DJs and try and understand their techniques and stuff. I used to sit down properly and analyse all their hand movements and equipment.
I initially had horrible taste in music; you couldn’t expect me to name five pop songs. Slowly I started leaning into EDM and electronic music as a whole; initially, I didn’t enjoy it much, but I grew fond of it over time. At its core, its rhythmic patterns are akin to what was considered “music” millions of years ago. It took me some time to realise what this entire genre was about, and it took a lot of experimentation. Before setting myself in EDM, I experimented with rock, jazz, pop and many other genres.
I specifically remember in March 2016; Ultra Music Festival was happening in Miami, with Martin Garrix closing the set. It was 10 AM in India, and I snuck out like I used to. I remember watching him play “Lions In The Wild,” Then, at the first drop, I went crazy *laughing* jumping all by myself in my empty living room watching the TV. Then the second beat dropped, and I remember standing there. I didn’t jump or react. I had a surreal moment, realising this was what I wanted to do.
MTTN: How much support did you get from your parents when you told them about your dream?
Zulex: I seriously wanted to pursue production and DJ right before I left for college. I had asked my parents about wanting to pursue something in electronic music, sound, or production, and they were apprehensive about the idea.
They wanted me to pursue engineering as a criterion if I were to go ahead and pursue music, so I joined MIT’s Civil Engineering department around 2017. Considering both my parents are from the STEM field, it made sense. My mother is an MSc graduate, and my Dad is an Engineer. I also took science in 11th and 12th and gave JEE and other competitive exams as it was the most streamlined path to complete the criteria. Being from Gurgaon, I was fine being away from home, so Manipal was always an option. I always knew doing engineering was just compliance I was fulfilling, so I was researching different music production courses and tools during my second year at Manipal. After college got over in 2021, my parents gave me about a year’s time to do whatever I wanted. So during that time, I came to Lost Stories Academy in Mumbai to pursue a one-year course in production.
And then I did a DJ’ing course for about a month after boards, and that sort of helped me in becoming a DJ in Manipal; I was the resident DJ at ZeroDegrees, and I performed there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and that became an escape for me apart from academics.
MTTN: Where was your first performance, and how did you get it?
Zulex: Surprisingly having studied in Manipal, I didn’t smoke, drink or go to clubs or anything; people still ask me, like *laughing*, “Oh, you studied in Manipal and produced music; how come you don’t smoke or anything?” and Its one of those things that I never really got into. One of my friends from school, who also came to Manipal, told me about how ZeroDegrees was looking for a resident DJ. It was very much my first gig, and Im honestly glad I got the opportunity as I learnt a lot about performing from there. I remember going for my interview where the manager, Rohit Kumar, asked me what genres I played, and I mentioned EDM and all, and then he asked me whether I played Bollywood. Now the ideal answer there should have been no because I didn’t, but I still went ahead and said yes because playing was all that mattered to me. He offered me a thousand bucks for 3 hours of playing from 8:30 to 11:30, and I just jumped at the offer. I learnt a very different side of DJing there; where else could you have people coming and requesting a Punjabi song in the middle of an electronic set?
After securing the job, I went back and started downloading as many Bollywood, Punjabi and Indian songs as I could in a day or two. I started playing those on my first night at the club, and eventually, I realised I didn’t have enough songs, so I just started repeating them *laughs* and this one girl came up to me and requested a song to buy myself some time I just told her I had a lot of requests lined up which she bought, and I gave her my phone and told her to just write down the songs that she wanted, and I had none of those, so I’d just download it and play it like ten or so minutes later.
This was probably the biggest challenge for me; I wasn’t very into Bollywood music or anything, so I’d tell anyone who asked for a request that I had some songs lined up and Id use that time as a buffer time to like turn on my hotspot and download the song they wanted and play it a few minutes later. Covid happened, so it stopped, but for a good amount of time, I learnt a different side of club culture and DJ culture as a whole. I learnt how to control crowds, what to do when the crowd wasn’t very energetic and overall, a lot of little things that shaped my craft.
MTTN: What was the highest and lowest point of your life?
Zulex: Initially, when I started making music, the problem was that there were a lot of students coming, and a large amount of them were very talented and had worked very hard, so comparing myself to them would leave me feeling down at times. There’s also this other insecurity that other DJs, such as Martin Garrix, have made it big at my age, so there was also that factor to consider. So comparison was a huge problem, and also, there’s this idea of not being “good enough” comparing yourself to bigger artists like Skrillex. The problem is everyone is on their own journey, and the way to achieve success is to be consistent every single day.
So for me, before, Id worked for like 12 hours or so and produced something of very good quality, and then I’d not work on it for four to five days. This really hindered my performance, so coming at now, I make sure to produce for four to five hours every day so that way my growth and everything happens very fast. That’s why Electric Horror was completed in a day, but Melodic Riot took two and a half weeks, just the production part. Mixing mastering took another two and a half weeks. It involved a lot of going back and forth, discussing with my teachers and more. And Melodic Riot is a way better song as compared to Electric Horror, or at least in my opinion.
It is because of consistency I can produce more tracks managing to stay consistent in producing or working on them every day. The academic scene was very bad for me *laughing* I had backs in double digits. When it came time to graduate, I sat and studied consistently and managed to do really well in those subjects. That also made me realise that consistency goes a long way in general, so I make sure to stay consistent.
MTTN: What life lessons did you learn from Manipal?
Zulex: I am personally of the opinion that degree-based educations more teach us discipline as well as the subject matter itself. Be it engineering, medicine, law or anything, even if you are interested in the topic you’re pursuing, there will be some parts that you dislike, and the course makes you do it. You learn a lot of responsibility and really mature as the course progresses. I can draw a lot of parallels between this and music as well; for example, there are certain parts of music that I do not like, such as promoting songs in a certain way or having to network with people by going to events; I just think it looks greedy.
And overall, you learn how to manage academics and social life as well; albeit my academics weren’t the best, I still keep in mind how important it was to juggle both parts of college life.
Otherwise, I met some great people in college, finding friends who actually helped me a lot in the music process.
A huge lesson for me was with respect to the whole idea of making music as an emotional beginning or being really into it, which, although obviously is great, It gets very easy to ignore the other essential parts of this industry like artist management, booking agencies, streaming numbers, record labels etc. It’s a huge chunk of your success in the industry. At the end of the day, no matter how good of a producer you are, if you cannot sell shows or get good streaming numbers, you won’t get much business because of the lack of traction. So for me, I want to build myself just by myself until a point where there’s no reason for an artist management or record label company to ignore me. That way, I will have the leverage, and I will be able to do things on my terms. Overall though, keeping the emotional side of things handy while making the music is the way to go, but once that’s done, it’s time to be quite cutthroat and heavily prioritise marketing, finance and all that.
MTTN: What’s the story behind the name “Zulex”?
Zulex: *chuckles* It doesn’t mean anything, let me tell you that. I remember this is from 2015, the day I realised I wanted to be a DJ. The concept was that all these big artists like Martin Garrix, Skrillex, Zedd, Zomboy of them had Z’s and X’s. These alphabets gave a very electric and techno feel to the name, so I started workshopping names keeping this concept in mind. Another thing I kept in mind was these names had to be simple to remember and didn’t contain any numbers, underscores, dots or dashes or anything. When I came up with “DJ Zulex,” I checked first on social media and everywhere to make sure “DJ Zulex” was available without any numbers anywhere. I was also *laughing* and a little OCD about it; I didn’t want any similarities anywhere, so I made sure there weren’t any.
I settled on Zulex since it had the Z and the X akin to EDM artists, and it also rolled off the tongue easily and wasn’t very complicated to say or remember. Another reason was my ambition, my logo is essentially a Z with an X clubbed together, kind of like a sharp hourglass, so I imagined that when I am a big artist, having my logo on a large screen while I am performing would look really nice. So I looked at it from a production setting as well.
MTTN: What’s the first song you ever produced?
Zulex: Oh god *chuckles* this was like a while back when I was just learning FLStudio and getting used to it, and I’d make some tunes here and there that were *chuckles* I’m not even gonna comment on that.
In 2020, I started learning Ableton. I decided to try and make a hip-hop beat. Most people know that hip-hop beats strive for simplicity, so I made a simple kick and snare pattern, put some high hats on that and then added a loop to it, and I had a very simplistic beat ready. I remember my Dad heard it, and he was like, “this sounds like music; you should try and make more of it”, so it was just a terrible beat that I got by messing around with the software.
My first released song was called “Electric Horror”, which I made in my second month at the Lost Stories Academy. I released it cause I felt it was complete enough to be released and did so for strategic reasons; so, if I released it, Id is able to get a Spotify profile so that my songs could get playlisted; I mean, I didn’t even promote it anywhere.
My second feature, though, Melodic Riot, is something I am very proud of. I have promoted it heavily on all platforms and have made sure to mention it on social media. It’s sort of like a gradual beginning for me; I have a couple more tracks lined up and some collaborative projects also coming up.
MTTN: Where can people find you?
Zulex: I made a linktree lists all my active socials, and am quite active on Instagram as well. I mainly use these platforms to promote my music and upcoming releases while also trying to include pieces of my life here and there.
Interviewed and Written by Advaith Gurunath for MTTN
Featured Image Courtesy of Akshat Chourasia