Poison9 is a producer and occasional rapper from Malappuram, in the south of India. I got the chance to check out his music and then correspond with him through email after the great Djemba Djemba reblogged one of his songs.
Can you tell us about your spiritual beliefs?
At this point, I see myself as a person on a quest. I can’t say for certain, but I’ve had experiences that make me believe that there is a force beyond my human rationale and logic. I am not giving it any names because I am not sure what to call it and I don’t think I have to. There have been times where I’ve clearly felt as if I were being guided and pulled up when I was going down but I can’t explain it in words. I used to be a hardcore atheist when I was younger and something wasn’t right about it. As soon as I opened my mind, I felt quite peaceful and I still keep that mind open for anything that comes in my way. I am just going with the flow and not questioning things because some things really can’t be explained. My spiritual experiences are unique to me and I think everyone has their own ways of thinking that they can’t just put it in words. It’s like tasting a delicious dessert. You can only explain certain known characteristics but you can’t explain a hundred percent what is going on. You can’t feel how that taste makes someone else feel.There are unexplainable, unique things in this world that are better left for personal realization, when you’re ready for it.
How do these beliefs affect your music -if at all?
My music is influenced by this principle too. I am just going with the flow. I could be just lying down on my bed at 5 in the morning but something or someone tells me that I should be sitting in front my computer making music. I start with a blank slate most times and have no plans about anything. It gets into tiny details like what made me choose that particular kick? What told me that this snare needs another layer on it? What is happening in my brain to cause me to play a particular melody? I don’t know. I am not a trained musician. That is why I feel like I am being guided and I enjoy it. I don’t question those actions. In the end, it all makes me feel connected to a higher self or a better me. The final product is like a portal to take myself away from this world -to somewhere you can’t explain.
The name Poison9 is highly spiritual too. Back in 2011 when I felt like I needed a new concept to keep me inspired, a string of incidents led up to this point where I picked up a book that was lying around my home for years. I read the first chapter in it. That first chapter, to my surprise is exactly what I was looking for. It was about this ancient temple in South India which houses an idol made out of nine different minerals. This specific combination has a healing effect on humans but taken individually, they are deadly to you like poison. I thought that was amazing and at that point I felt like connected to it, like we were the same. As a normal human being, I could be of no use and my different qualities or traits could be negative to some others, I decided if I just combine all my energy into making music -which can bring you unexplainable joy, then I can be greater than the sum of my parts, there is nothing like it. However I do believe that all belief systems and concepts change over time and this one too will change to the point that I won’t be inspired by it anymore. It’s like an abandoned ship in space. I can see that already and I am sort of transitioning to a new phase.
Can you tell us a little more about the music scene in Kerala?
The music scene is predominantly regional commercial music. Music in the movies has been a huge thing here since day one. So first choice for an average person here is the music from movies that are released here. Where I am from, the south of India, it is really a huge thing. Each state has different outputs in terms of aesthetics, language, cultural history etc. Apart from this, Bollywood has always been there and still is huge among people from all sides of the country (Bollywood is in the west side and the influence is spread across country).
International pop is a favorite among people that are slightly more open minded. However the younger generation in the urban areas are exploring more artists and embracing all types of genres. As for the clubs, dance and house music mixed with Bollywood have been staples all through the years. These days there are more events where they allow djs that play music other than house. So it looks promising. You can’t forget heavy metal though. In every part of the country, there is a strong scene for metal and rock. Every state has a few really good bands. Local bands are now more diverse and bringing in a lot of variety in their expression, which breathes fresh air into the scene. Hiphop, rap, reggae, etc have grown too but they still need to find stable ground in terms of quality material and good venues.
Do you see a lot of mixture between modern music and traditional indian culture?
Yes there is a really strong bond between the traditional and modern sounds in almost all the platforms such as movies, local pop music, rock bands etc. Traditional rhythms and melodies are sweet and help connect people to their roots while at the same time making them feel cool because of the added modern sounds. The traditional music has stayed within the religious and cultural framework for a long time but now anything can be done to any style of music, however you want it. If it is good –people will support it regardless of what tradition/religion its roots come from.
Aside from the internet, what methods have you used to share your music?
As a matter of fact, I don’t think I have shared much music outside the internet except maybe friends carrying some of it on their phones and playing it to their friends haha. One reason being, there is no local or national hub, radio station, or label executive to whom I can submit my music. Before the internet, whatever I made was of no one’s interest except mine and couple of my friends who thought it sounded cool. There was no such thing as underground at all. So all I could do was put my music up online hoping to get global recognition. Another reason as to why it was hard to get the music out is because I started as a rapper, while making my own beats. Those times rap was so strange to people. It was a commercial-heavy music scene, so no one cared.
What was the initial reaction to your rapping from friends and family and the public at large?
Oh it was crazy, people thought I had gone mad. Sometimes when I hung out with my friends, I would accidentally spit a rhyme out because I wanted to hear how it sounded, they’d just be like “What did you just say?” It was such an alien art form to them. Later on they started listening to rap partly because I played a bunch of rap tunes to prove that I am not yelling gibberish haha. Family and friends were always supportive and I really owe it to my close mates who spread the word around. Because of them, I met a bunch of good people and also did get some good exposure into the local entertainment scene. They still want me to rap but I am not as into it anymore because I don’t like how my voice sounds and I always wanted to focus more on production than rapping. I do enjoy writing but not much into rapping these days. Also I absolutely dreaded performing live. I always forgot my lyrics and was never confident. That is when I decided maybe it is not my thing. Like Biggie said, only make moves when you’re heart is in it. My heart is totally into production and live sets now and I love it.
Tell us a story from childhood.
I really hated crowd and going out. My parents would take me to these amusement parks and I would just cry my butt off all day not wanting to go on any of the rides til they would say “okay, we’re going on the ride, you stay here” at which point I had no choice but to go with them.
What’s a funny joke.
Indian politics. I can’t think of anything better than that now haha.
What movies, books, television shows, and art pieces do you consider especially inspiring to you?
Man there are loads of them. It really depends on how I feel. Sometime I watch classic comedy like Seinfeld or A Bit Of Fry & Laurie or other times a Reggae documentary or stories about amazing people like Rabindra Nath Tagore or just random movies on Vimeo that are just about anything in life. I sometimes watch old cartoons online because there is nothing like them! I love things that are related to outer space and ancient life. When it comes to reading, I hate the idea of finishing a book. I go like, ‘Okay. I am going to read just till this portion of the book because after that it’s depressing’. Or I will choose random sections of the book and make my own stuff related to that portion haha. I know it’s crazy.
How do you create meaningful experience in your life?
Personally, I think life becomes meaningful when you find something that drives you forward and keeps you constantly motivated and emotionally rewarded. For me, it is creating music. It took me a while to discover that force because I was caught up with what the world around me wanted me to be. Now, I have found out that through music I am able to transcend to another dimension. When people feel my music, I believe they’re experiencing the same but maybe in their own personal way, which is like a form of magic!
Lastly, can you bless us with a “selfie”?