Asad Khan is a bit of a night owl who makes the most of his time in a studio he built in the basement of his parents’ Newton-area home.
In there, it’s been a productive, career-changing year for the man known in music circles as Khanvict.
“These lights are synced to the music, and so those are all going at night,” Khanvict said while giving the Now-Leader a look at his workplace, in advance of performing at the 2018 Surrey Fusion Festival, happening at Holland Park this weekend (July 21-22).
“I find I work well at night, and not in the morning,” he added. “When it’s 11 p.m. and everybody goes to bed and my phone stops ringing, that’s when I really get into the zone and start writing. I can write a full song in one night, but I can spend five days on one during the daytime and get nothing.”
Khanvict spent the early years of this decade building a career as a DJ for Indian weddings, mostly. The gig took him around the world — to places like Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, all over the States — and earned him awards.
That job also marked a career change for Khanvict, who had previously worked as an electrical engineer.
“I always loved music,” he noted, “and that’s what I wanted to do. I left the engineering stuff and went full-time into music, but I’ve found DJing limited me to just the wedding industry. I want to play big mainstream festivals and, you know, take my sound onto those stages. That requires production, so for the last year I’ve been in this room learning how to produce music, and it’s a whole different ballgame. But now, after months and months of practice, tutorials, learning and picking other producers’ brains, I’m getting to a point where I’m starting to release my own original stuff.”
The DJing thing has been lucrative for Khanvict, who years ago set up Decibel Entertainment to become a full-service production company for weddings and special events.
“I started that and it’s grown to become a huge DJ collective that does, like, a thousand events a year,” Khanvict explained. “That’s done really well, and I’m still involved, but I’m bored from weddings, to be honest. So this is my last year of doing that. It’s a busy business, and it’s difficult to leave because the money’s good, right. In a night I was making what I was making full-time as an engineer in a month, and that was three or four nights a week.
“But this doesn’t feel like work to me,” he continued. “I wake up, take a shower and come in here and make music. I’m here all day and, you know, bang my head against this thing until I figure something out and it sounds good,” Khanvict said with a smile.
Born in Pakistan, he came to Canada with his family at age 13, in 2001. The folk music of his birth country was an early influence on him, mostly because of his mother’s love of those sounds.
“I think that’s where I get it from,” Khanvict said. “You know when you’re a kid and your mom is listening to all this old music and you don’t know what it is? It’s through that osmosis, just registering in your head, and developing a taste toward a certain type of music.”
There were certain instruments that always stood out for Khanvict, including the violin-like sarangi and also sitar.
“I live on the West Coast and I like West Coast-based music — hip-hop and moombahton and trap — and so it’s kind of the two worlds I’ve lived in, taking those sounds, the influences of my Pakistani heritage, and blending it with my current tastes in music, and making it my own. I also do it in a way where it’s not so lyrically heavy, Indian or otherwise, that one or the other audience can’t appreciate it. So there’s Western structures and chord progressions with instruments — maybe a sitar where there might have been a guitar, with a sarangi instead of a violin, and kanjira, which is a little shaker, instead of a high-hat — little things like that, differences.”
This year, with an increasing number of original songs and beats, Khanvict’s gig calendar has included an outdoor festival during JUNO Awards week in Vancouver, a Decibel Entertainment-hosted 5X Block Party at Central City Plaza in Surrey and a Canada Day event at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby. In September, he’ll play Seattle’s massive Bumbershoot festival and also Victoria’s Rifflandia event.
Sunday (July 22) at Surrey Fusion Festival, Khanvict will open for headliner Ranjit Bawa on the Concord Pacific World Music Stage, starting at 8 p.m.
It’s a long away from last year at Fusion, when he was given an afternoon performance time.
“It was an early set, at around 3 p.m.,” he recalled, “but I have a really good draw in Surrey because of the wedding scene, and I used to put out mash-ups and stuff. So when they found out I was playing an outdoor festival, a free event, they came, and at 3 o’clock there were a few thousand people there at Fusion Festival, which I was not expecting at all. I was thinking like, man, there’d be 10 kids dancing in front of me, but it was great. I think people started to notice that, the promoters.”
Over the course of his career in music, Khanvict has taken some heat for his stage name.
“It’s funny,” he explained, “because when I first started out in the wedding industry in Toronto, where I lived for a year, in 2011, and I was just starting out, getting gigs, one of the main guys in the industry there said they didn’t hire me because my name wasn’t appropriate for the wedding industry. I was like, ‘Well, what does that have to do with anything, what I call myself, as long as I’m playing good music, not swearing at anybody, it’s just a name.’”
Khanvict started getting the gigs — enough to eventually make him one of the most sought-after DJs in Canada.
“I always look back at that and think I could have taken that and said, ‘Oh, maybe this isn’t the right name,’ and changed it,” he said. “But I stuck with it. And just recently at the Canada Day show I did, someone made a similar comment about my name. She wondered if it could be offensive to people who had been convicted, or something, but that’s not my intent. I come from a place of love and I’m not about offending anybody. It’s just about the music and it’s just a name, and most people understand that.”