Interview with Ireesh Lal: Diving into the 'Journey Through the Chakras'
Interview conducted on November 30, 2021 by Peyton Riegel
I have had the privilege to interview Ireesh Lal this past week and explore the inner works and origin story of his latest project 'Journey Through the Chakras.' Below is the transcript to said interview and the link to the full auditory interview. If you like what you hear and want to listen more and delve into this immersive and vibrant album click the link below!
Peyton Riegel 00:01
Okay, hi everyone. My name is Peyton Riegel and I'm here today with Irish Lal.
Ireesh Lal 00:08
Hi, my name is Ireesh Lal and I just put out a new album called Journey Through the Chakras.
Peyton Riegel 00:13
Okay, awesome. I listened to your album and a couple of other works from your discography and I really enjoyed it and I just wanted to get a basis for, who inspires you both musically and otherwise?
Ireesh Lal 00:30
There's a lot of different people but when it comes to this particular album, I could probably list a group of people: Talvin Singh and other various colleagues. There are basically European-based Indian producers that mix East Indian music with electronic western music is kind of like the people that inspired me to produce this album.
Peyton Riegel 00:57
How did you get into that genre specifically, what music did you grow up with, and how did you branch out to explore this more?
Ireesh Lal 01:05
Getting into this music has been relatively new. I mean, living in Los Angeles, we have KCRW, which is a local radio station, and they kind of play all kinds of alternative music on that station. And through that environment is where I was first discovering, you know, people mixing these two kinds of styles together, but then also living in Los Angeles I started performing regularly with other players and fellow players and people who play their sitar and all kinds of exotic instruments. And when I perform live, I DJ electronic dance music while I played the trumpet, and so a lot of it happened organically.
Peyton Riegel 01:44
That is literally so cool. Oh my goodness. So how would you say that this project, in particular, differs from your other past projects?
Ireesh Lal 01:55
So this project, we're writing it specifically for a show, and I'm so glad you complimented me on the album and you like listening to it, but the actual full version of the show is supposed to be life, experienced with live dance, and art happening. And so when we're putting this all together, doing the compositions for this, I really had to focus and do research on all the chakras and really focused on you know what it means to write for the Root Chakra. And you know, what's the difference between the writing for that one and the heart chakra, there's like certain kind of rules you're supposed to follow and it was the most, I guess, I would say, like an academic approach that I did to write an album that I have done. Usually, I just come up with a cool idea you know, go with that with songs. But I definitely had to do a lot of research beforehand and make sure I was following the right rules as I came up with the song. And so yeah, definitely, definitely took a lot more of a cerebral approach for this album.
Peyton Riegel 02:54
So because this is more of a concept album, what drove you to I guess, right it specifically going through the chakras, what was it about this aspect of the music and the type of mixing that you've been doing that really inspired you to go this route instead of maybe not as much of a cerebral display of the music?
Ireesh Lal 03:18
I think it came from... I perform regularly and we do these monthly shows where you know, I'll be DJing music and we'll have live guitar players and they'll be a cool session he will be dancing and enjoying it, but it's definitely when you come to the show it's you know what kind of jam you were just saying a bunch of songs, you know, one after another, and after a while, we kind of like had to discuss all the performers. And we kind of organically said, you know, wouldn't be great if we actually had a more kind of a narrative sort of show. So when people buy tickets, it's less of a DJ set, but you're actually watching a story being told. And so that's how it kind of organically began. And then we started developing ideas like, Ooh, what if we wrote a story about the seven chakras and we went through all of them and kind of developing that way. That's awesome. So when we perform live we have actually like live body painting and dancers and we have Indian dancers as well as you know, as West Western dancers. But recently, there was a music center in Los Angeles is where like the LA Opera and LA Philharmonic, it's kind of where the classical music is performed that they just featured the album. For us in the first series, they have called out for the love of LA. And for that, we had dancers performing that I've never even met before that choreographed pieces, two songs from the album. And that's kind of what we're hoping the eventual show and the eventual premieres to be like.
Peyton Riegel 04:45
So, because you said originally that it started off as more jamming, more conceptual. Does the recording differ much from when you go see a live set today? How much creative license do you guys take now when you perform it live after putting something concrete down?
Ireesh Lal 05:04
That's where I would say we're a lot jazzier as we'll never play the same song twice. It's probably pretty much impossible. I don't think any of these musicians will be able to repeat any of those solos twice. And we also extend the timings of the song. Usually when we're playing it is like a dance that the songs aren't that short. I mean, we usually extend at least twice as long, maybe three times as long. And also it varies depending on the dancers or not because a lot of times we perform and we're watching the dancers and we're following them or vice versa, back and forth. And we also have painters that are happening and so when we're performing live, it's definitely watching musicians play and interact with each other. You know, there's electronics involved. We're not like hampered by the electronics or the arrangement that was for the album. We have actually a lot of freedom with that part of the music as well.
Peyton Riegel 05:54
That's so fluid. I love that. I noticed on the album, a lot of the songs cut off right at four minutes and 20 seconds or right at four minutes and 21 seconds. Was this intentional? When you see a show live you can really be like, Oh my gosh, like this is the experience I've been missing.
Ireesh Lal 06:16
So that was just more an album thing. We made all the songs exactly four minutes 20 seconds. That's not necessarily exactly how it is performed live. A lot of work that I was doing before I did this album is for film and TV work, and it's not out of the ordinary for directors and producers to tell you exactly how long they need a piece of music for and working to, you know, be dynamic or chill and you kind of get really stringent rules and how to do stuff. So I guess that's where it originally started, but then also was the whole four 20 culture. We kind of wanted to make an album that'd be fun to listen to for people who are in the cannabis culture.
Peyton Riegel 06:55
I love that. So then, what was it like collaborating on other musicians in the past as compared to collaborating with musicians on this piece, but then releasing it under your own name? Because I'd seen that you were part of other musical groups that had put out music. How does this project differ in that regard?
Ireesh Lal 07:18
Generally speaking, in the past, I've always usually worked with a vocalist. So whenever I write songs with lyrics, and I'm grateful this happens, but usually I find a recording contract. There's always a record company and it is fortunate living in Los Angeles. It doesn't take that long. I'm playing live and doing a few shows or you know, a demo getting around before someone hears it. So I've had three different bands where I've had vocalists, and yeah, I've signed record deals with all of them. So I would never really be under my name, it would be whatever we came up with the name of. And with this project, it was like initially, it was meant to be just, you know, seven compositions. That will be the music that's set for a live show that featured you know, live dancing as well as live artists and whatnot. So that's why originally I just kind of put it out as my own name. And then once I started working with, you know, our players and started collaborating and writing together, I mean, I know we want to do more stuff in the future. But when this originally started, it was just basically more of me coming from a composer's point of view versus starting a band.
Peyton Riegel 08:27
Very cool. So then I noticed in doing research that on the credits, it says programming under your name, can you tell me a little bit more about that and what that necessarily means?
Ireesh Lal 08:38
Yeah, so basically all of the electronic beats and all of the synthesized sounds, everything. That's all stuff that programs working on the computer using basically software synthesizers to produce that everything that's organic on this album, which is basically our dub, la trumpet, and acoustic bass, those are all done by live musicians. But any other sound that you hear on the album that was done electronically or programmed and so, that was all good. And basically, the process when I did this out there, usually the electronic programming was done first stuff and then almost everything else was layered on top of that.
Peyton Riegel 09:19
When the performances are happening live is it kind of the live musicians are jamming in their own way and then the program synthesizers are just playing in the background are those also mixed live
Ireesh Lal 09:34
That's all happening live. So I, when I perform live my right hand, plays the trumpet and then I've got a keyboard too. So I play keyboards together. And so my keyboards are what part for doing all of the electronic sounds that are happening. Very cool.
Peyton Riegel 09:48
I noticed the album cover is kind of like this, like a water-colored, very textured image. I think it represents the feeling of the album, really beautifully. Can you tell me a bit more about how you basically came up with the concept for the cover?
Ireesh Lal 10:03
Yeah, so that came up with working with a couple of different artists and live performers. I've got a live photographer that I perform with and it's amazing. He uses fire, he does portraits into the wood. And when we were basically kind of coming up with concepts for the album. We took a selfie as right live in Venice Beach. And then he had this idea of like, let's get rid of the whole background and put you in a crown. And though you know, some artwork and some digital stuff. He really came up with that cool background and put me in there. And then, of course, we had to put some effects and filters onto my face, but it wasn't like a realistic image. It has a little bit of like washed out and had some stuff on it. But yeah, thank you. I mean that was one of those things whereas a musician, sometimes you get so close to the music, no idea what you want to do for artwork for a cover. But when you reach out to other artists that you know I'm fortunate enough to perform with regularly they come up with amazing ideas like this. It was his first idea and he goes What do you think about this? And it was one of those things like I didn't have to think twice like oh my gosh
Peyton Riegel 11:14
I think it represents the concept of the album really beautifully. Especially how there's kind of you know, this heart imagery and like almost butterfly flower coming out from your chest, which is reflected in the music. It's really cool.
Ireesh Lal 11:29
Yeah, and I forgot to mention that. Yeah, that was actually I forgot about those painters before that. Yeah, my other friend and I performed as body painting artists. That was kind of her identity or who would it be body paints you and then you take yourself. So it's cool that multiple artists, friends of mine, and when you see us perform live, we do have we set the musicians on stage but we also have the live art going on simultaneously. So a lot of the people that help with the album are also involved with the live performances.
Peyton Riegel 11:54
Oh, that's awesome. I love how this project is just about bringing all different cultures and styles of music and art formats together. I think that's really beautiful. And I think that it needs to be you know, talked about more because a lot of time you go to an art show, you go to a concert and those things are very separate. And nobody really talks about the importance of integration. And then and I think this is like a really beautiful project, it brings out the wholesomeness of it all it's awesome.
Ireesh Lal 12:27
Thanks so much for saying that. We're actually going to integrate one other part to it, but because we haven't done it yet, I've not described it so much, but I am meeting with a gourmet chef, and we're going to add a seven-course Indian meal with this show. So before every movement, we talk about the chakra a little bit and the food gets served. And the food of course is paired and it matches what the chakras explained. So it's kind of I mean, we're not really trying to do so much of a lecture, but rather explaining what the seven chakras are, but it's kind of a way for it to be an immersive art experience, and also involves cuisine.
Peyton Riegel 13:01
For each of the tracks on the album, obviously, you're talking about a specific chakra individually and even though the style of music is in tandem, so you can definitely tell each of the songs are on this same album. How did you I guess distinguish what each chakra would sound like obviously, you did your research, but what was that feeling process like for you personally?
Ireesh Lal 13:28
Yeah, so it started with the research, and like there are basic rules like the first chakra was to be based on the first note of the scale or seven notes in the scale and if they're seven chakras, they pair accordingly that way the second chakra does that and then as I read a little bit more, I got into like, what the chakras are supposed to convey, like the feeling. That's where I got a lot more creative. And there is a difference between me doing it and just you know, following a bunch of rules and numbers and stuff. But in the beginning, I was kind of limited by the rules that you don't have to follow the chakras as these foods and things like that. And then after that, you know, then I went to get creative with it. So for example, the seventh chakra, I wrote it, I mean, the seven degrees of the scale is what it's what that's the tonal center is but then it's also written in tempo, seven, eight. So that was kind of like how I was trying to convey that this is the seventh chakra. The fourth chakra is the heart chakra, and for that, I had a heartbeat that is like the heartbeat that goes underneath that. So that was kind of trying to convey that. The music is also supposed to be conveying moods that come out with a support structure, which is you know, love and empathy. So that's kind of where I went. That was like the process of how I went through the compositional process.
Peyton Riegel 14:50
Oh my gosh, I love how it's so layered. It's kind of like, the more you examine it and the more you look at it, it's like Easter eggs, the more you can find out about how everything was very intentional. And I think that's really beautiful. Like you took time in your craft and that's awesome. Did the others like musicians and then the artists that you currently work with within the performances do they have this level of, I guess you could say, background knowledge with all of this, or are they more there for the performance of it all?
Ireesh Lal 15:23
That was one of the fortunate things I was actually going to say. So as I was doing research and everything the players were asking me questions like, Oh, why did you do this? Why'd you done that? It was so cool. To know that they are completely knowledgeable about it. When it comes to the artists, they say the same thing. They said, You know, this story or this concept has been told for 1000s and 1000s of years. You know, they're obviously going to do their own interpretation, their modern interpretation of you know, how they want to convey the chakras. But one of the things that we enjoy is that like mentioned earlier, we never have two shows that are alike we really go into that when we perform live. I mean, we stick to it, we know that we're playing the third chakra, so there are certain rules you have to follow, but because you know that third chakra is about pushing your confidence and is supposed to be energetic and forthright. Everyone plays their solos that way to the dance performances. The paintings are done that way because the third chakra is based on a different color. It's based on the color yellow, and so you know, they're making sure colors are painted yellow, and it's really cool. How you know, we're trying to do all the five senses ideally, and you know, as people are experiencing the chakra.
Peyton Riegel 16:40
Yeah, definitely. So then because it's such an amalgamation of all these different art styles, what about sharing this experience with people that come to your shows or people that are completely unfamiliar with this? What is that like for you and the musicians and artists that take part in it, what is the gratification like?
Ireesh Lal 17:05
So that's where we're kind of finding, finding the balance right now. Usually, the bookings that I've been doing have been either at, like dance nightclubs, or they've been at like traditional theaters where you sit down and kind of quiet and we're trying to find a place that's somewhere in between both because while people are into the music, we want people to be able to talk, communicate, enjoy themselves, like you're at a nightclub, but then also be able to really focus it and get into music and see the art as it's been happening. So that's kind of a constantly evolving thing that's happening right now. I'm actually having a meeting this Friday with a theater in Santa Monica and if things work out that might be the absolute perfect location for us to be able to do our shows because it allows the patron who comes to the show to really have an immersive art experience. So for people that want to, they can even personally get body painted and you know, really be involved in the show, versus just sitting there and watching. And a lot of these concepts are really kind of hard to do unless you actually see the way the stage and our theater and where the people are set up. So I think we finally found a black box theater that's gonna let us do it. So once I conduct my interview this Friday, so we'll see.
Peyton Riegel 18:17
Fingers crossed and I wish you the best.
Ireesh Lal 18:20
Thanks so much.
Peyton Riegel 18:21
Yeah, so then I'm kind of going off of that. When people come to the shows what kind of age demographic have you been seeing? I feel like this is definitely something for people of all ages. It sounds like something that children to the elderly can get involved in and really connect with their community. So based on your previous show experiences, what was the age demographic that was showing up and how did that mesh well with the art style and the music?
Ireesh Lal 18:48
For sure. So a lot of our performers are in their 20s so when they bring their friends we've got a lot of people in their 20s coming there. But our painters range, in age a lot so we do definitely have a lot of people, seniors that come to our shows usually because of the venues that we're booked at. So we played at art galleries out in Palm Springs and in Los Angeles. And usually, those have an older clientele that can go to it. But whenever I advertise to my email list or to our fan base, of course, you also get the young people so definitely goes all through the ages. I hope kids like it, but so far we've only been playing in places that are like 21 and over or private events or galleries. We haven't yet had the experience of having a bunch of kids that are at our shows yet but like I said this album came out in during the pandemic so we haven't really had that much experience being able to do it in a live setting. So I think all of that will start happening early next year.
Peyton Riegel 19:49
Going off of that then with the pandemic and how this has really put a blundering kind of on live music and just like communal interaction as a whole, was the intent with the kind of the live performance of to bring people together after such a long bout of isolation, how did you guys navigate that?
Ireesh Lal 20:09
This definitely was always supposed to be a performance and a live event. And like everybody else, you just had to be patient and you know figure things out as it's happening. It's just that this project is just so different than anything else that I've done. As I mentioned earlier, usually it's just about you know, playing music that makes you feel happy or whatever the crowd is dancing to jam out to, because this is more closer to like theater where there's a narrative, there's the beginning and a middle, there's an end, there are concepts for every movement, we got to focus on it. It's just, it's, I really am focusing on the kind of venues where we can have the show, so yes, there will be people but it's not so much about selling a whole lot of tickets because I really want people to be able to see the art and be immersed in the experience. So it's really creating an experience in a show that I guess I've never really done before because like I said, usually, all my stuff in the past has been really similar to like what a DJ set is or what a band would be doing on stage. Everyone buys tickets and dances and this is a little bit closer to the theater.
Peyton Riegel 21:14
I mean, personally, I've never heard of anything like this coming to a smaller scale within communities. Have you guys only done California-based shows or have you branched out into other states in the US?
Ireesh Lal 21:28
We've played in other states in the US but it's been like we played at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. And I played in Florida, but they've been really specific to people that have seen it and they have really big events that are happening. And that you know, it's like the 25th anniversary. We haven't booked an actual tour and set that up just yet. A lot of that also just didn't happen because for the past 18 months, you know, no one's really doing anything. Yeah. Next year.
Peyton Riegel 21:59
Yeah, that's so exciting. Then moving forward, because this is like a different experience from what you've done in the past. Is this something that you're more intrigued in than your previous work or do you think that you could release other projects of this scale and caliber, or would you like in the future, to go back to some of your older styles?
Ireesh Lal 22:20
I think what we like the most about, potentially in the future of taking this project and growing it to the next level of silica combining of mixing electronic music with with with musicians, but I think what we'd like to do now is do collaborations with other artists. So instead of me writing the electronic or the programming parts, you'd be working with more established artists that what we want to do is we want to take electronic dance music and then add like a world remix to it. Like I released music in the past or they've taken my world saw a DJ and put like a dance remix to it. We want to kind of take that in reverse. And we think that would be a cool idea for the next project that we do now. This one is still a show. So we this is still gonna be something that we want to talk about for a little while. But a lot of times people want to keep hearing music like after the last song or something before and that's the kind of music that we're playing. We're like doing the live remixes of you know, a song my basement jacks or whatever. But then we're adding sitar satellite trumpet right on top of it and we're doing these cool remixes, but you can't really buy that album because you can't hear that song anywhere. So the idea is maybe taking some of those songs and actually doing it professionally and releasing those.
Peyton Riegel 23:39
Yeah, I mean, I think that's awesome. I'm the world and jazz Director here at Camp student radio and it's really hard to get our members to listen to the world music like when I run our reports at the end of the month or whatever it is so disheartening how people are so like, deterred from trying new things sometimes and I just really was gravitated towards this project because it like it combines what like, you know, the youth of today are listening to which is more of house music and music. And it integrates like the world artists so beautifully and that's why I'm you know, happy to promote it. I think it's great it's a great movement.
Ireesh Lal 24:17
Thanks so much. Feel like when I listened to my album compared to what I DJ my album definitely called for the world category. The stuff that I DJ definitely was the electronic dance category. And I think like when I hear the stuff that I DJ, that's what it's like. You know what I would like to take, you know, my approach to revisiting this. Yeah, it's sort of a way of introducing worldviews to people that probably would never be into it. And that's what you hear when you see us live, but as I said, I haven't released an album of that stuff yet. Basically an album of just complete collaboration. That's, that's, that's hopefully what's gonna be coming up next.
Peyton Riegel 24:57
That's exciting. So I mean, that's all the questions that I have for you today. Are there any parting thoughts or anything our campers or greater listeners should know? In for the future and for you know, this upcoming journey?
Ireesh Lal 25:12
Well, I'm gonna be sharing probably upcoming news soon once I get to them having a meeting this Friday, and we'll see if I can get with these theaters. I'm gonna be have some exciting news because not only will we have a venue to perform our live shows, this theater will have the capability to do live broadcasting. So hopefully everybody will be able to, I mean, it's not the same thing as being there, but you'll kind of get our shows. And so that is stuff that like it is right around the corner. I should have news coming out soon. But we'll be posting everything on our websites and whatnot.
Peyton Riegel 25:44
All right. Awesome. Thank you literally so much for your time. It was such a pleasure to speak to you. And I will definitely be in contact with Jordan and you in the future. This was great.