Have you always wondered who is Sanjoy Deb, the producer behind Victim of Love? We could sense your curiousity about Sanjoy, and hence today we bring to you an exclusive interview with none other than the Bangladeshi – American composer himself! In this heart to heart conversation, Sanjoy spoke to us about his musical career, his early life before making it big internationally and his future projects.
Sanjoy Deb is a popular name in the music scene, especially in Hollywood. Having worked with notable artists like Jaden Hossler, Elliot Yamin, Divine, Sid Sriram, Pritam and several Bollywood movie scores later, Sanjoy eventually worked with YoungJae of GOT7 that made him the talk of town in the K-Pop industry. His latest musical release is One in a Million with Mark Tuan of GOT7.
He gave us a lot of spoilers as well! Can you find them all?
(All images are sourced from Sanjoy’s official Instagram account)
“I don’t want my face to be on every Billboard, but I want our kind, the Desis to be known in the mainstream.”
KHIGH: Sanjoy, you’re a Bangladeshi-American, correct? We remember when we put up the news about Mark x Sanjoy release, one comment stood out in particular which said that you are part-Indian too. Is that true? Please, tell us more about that!
SANJOY: I was born in Bangladesh, yes. I am also part Indian because my mother’s side is from India. She was born there. Before the Partition, her side of the family lived in India. I still have some relatives from my mother’s side in Kolkata. My uncle lives in Tripura. We moved to the States in 2004. So yeah, you can say that I am part-Indian. Desis all the way! We all are one, after all.
KHIGH: That is great! You put it so well.
“Music was the centre of everything. There was music within ourselves.”
His Early Life
KHIGH: Talking about your early life, what got you into music? What served as your inspiration?
SANJOY: My mother is a very good singer. She was always performing and extroverted. I had learned tabla at an early age so that I could accompany her to all the family events and performances. I was not set on becoming a musician, but it was just an outlet.
Bengalis, you know are very much inclined to music. Music was the centre of everything. There was music within ourselves. There was a song for every moment – happy, sad, or even when praying. When I was a kid, I learned Hindustani Classical music and percussions.
KHIGH: That is true. Bengali culture and music go hand in hand.
SANJOY: Definitely. In the States, that musical environment was missing for me. I would just practice on my own and I found out that you could make music so that’s when my life changed.
“I don’t feel that success is a destiny. It is a journey. My journey till now has brought me here.”
Journey as a Musician
KHIGH: How did you get started in Hollywood? It is a very competitive industry and the risks are high too! Please shed some light on your journey!
SANJOY: Actually, it all started in college with my friend (now the manager and executive producer) Kunal. We used to make mashup videos and put them on YouTube. I like electronic music and Bollywood music so I used to make mashups of those and put them on my channel. It was quite random.
Then, I worked in Bollywood. I made some compositions for movies. The music in the movies is very much centred around the story and the script. We were given a script and we had to make a composition matching the mood of the story. I got calls at 4 am and the composition was made by 7 am before the actor came on set. It was crazy, it was fast. That is where I learned to work faster. I got a lot of connections and learned work ethics there.
KHIGH: You know, I (Nikita) have a funny story actually! When I was in school, I came across a video of yours. It was quite popular among my peers as well. I really liked what I heard and I thought to myself, this is a good jam. This kid is talented. 😀
SANJOY: Wow, that’s great. Aren’t we all still kids though? I don’t feel that success is a destiny. It is a journey. If you had told me back then that I would be working with one of the biggest K-Pop groups now, I would have never believed. I didn’t even know K-Pop back then. So, I think, all of my work till now has brought me here. My journey till now has brought me here. I believe that we are going to go on; on this journey and make wonderful memories and dope projects. That’s the whole idea.
“It is all about starting your own projects and making dope music, and people eventually get on board after they notice you.
On his work in Bollywood
KHIGH: Coming back to your start as a musician, you blew up on the internet! More and more people started noticing your work. Tell us more about your work in Bollywood too!
SANJOY: Oh, you are too kind. I won’t call it “blow up”, I’d say I got noticed by the right people who enabled me to get through the right doors. It was like a stepping stone for me. Kunal has been with me since the beginning. He is more like an executive producer who sees the work through a bird’s eye view. Gradually we got to writing songs together. He is like my other half, the other 50 percent. We started doing remixes and slowly gathered enough to visit Mumbai. All my work got me in touch with notable music directors who wanted a Western touch for the music.
Back in 2009, I had composed a single with Sunidhi Chauhan. I stayed in India for almost a year and a half. I worked on the movie ‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects’ with Arijit Singh. It was right around the time when his song ‘Tum Hi Ho’ was getting a lot of attention.
“‘Blowing up’ isn’t the destination. I have learned that along my journey so far.”
About his solo projects
KHIGH: Tell us about your solos and collaborations, how did they come about?
SANJOY: I wanted to release solos since the start. I wasn’t signed by any label. I have been pretty independent my entire life. It is a very Californian mindset. It is all about starting your own projects and making dope music, and people eventually get on board after they notice you.
In India, I was working with Bollywood but still recording with Sunidhi Chauhan, Jonita Gandhi, Benny Dayal and the likes, for a project. As I said, Bollywood is a machine. When you have so many people and a huge amount of money involved in any project, you have to work that way. But at that moment I didn’t feel like it was made for me. I was barely 21 or 22 back then. I felt like, if I was going to be deeply involved in any project or creation, then why not start my own project.
‘Blowing up’ isn’t the destination. I have learned that along my journey so far. Then I moved to LA and started touring. There were 30 people, then 40, then 60, and it kept growing with each release and now here we are!
KHIGH: That is true. Big industries and big labels have a whole meticulous plan for the music releases and they scout people accordingly for the same.
SANJOY: It is good actually. It creates a balance. When you see an artist perform his own music and when you see a whole produced package, you get a glimpse of both. You can see the real form of the artist’s music as well as a detailed and decided form of music production. You’ll see the real form of the music with our next release ‘One in a Million’ and future projects too!
KHIGH: Can you please share a personal anecdote from any of your encounters?
SANJOY: Arijit Singh is super talented and genuine. I didn’t feel like I was an outsider. He made me feel like family. In fact, all the popular names I have worked with are like that. They make you feel like family. I learned a lot from them.
Mark is from LA, and I have met his family too. At GOT7 concerts, I have sat next to them and they have always treated me like a son, as family. So not just Youngjae, but I am in touch with the members too. We are comfortable around each other.
More on “One In A Million”
KHIGH: On that note, a simple question – Why didn’t you keep the date 14th Feb for the music release? It is Valentine’s Day after all!
SANJOY: Maybe Mark can answer that better 😉 Have you thought about it like that? Maybe there is something [for the fans] on February 14th too. Honestly, we aimed for Friday’s release to join in the New Music Friday list on Spotify. It helps for the song to chart if it is released on Thursday or Friday. But then again, who knows, there might be something in store for later too 😉 I don’t know! *smiles sheepishly*
KHIGH: Oh, now something is definitely up! We are sure. The way you are dodging the subject is evident enough!
Amidst the serious talk about career and the new single, the interview was slightly diverted to a friendly banter that in turn gave us further hints for future releases! Sanjoy revealed about it in ‘are they-aren’t they’ manner, which only left us guessing further but with a slightly brighter ray of hope.
Read on to find what is in store!
KHIGH: You should just release all the singles one by one; you know!
SANJOY: Oh should I? Why didn’t I think of that? *laughs comically* I even gave you a spoiler earlier you know! It is so much fun to reveal the spoilers! I learned it all from Mark and Youngjae. They shared their knowledge about sharing spoilers and teasers!
“I try to not let the negativity get to me. I let that fuel my power to see how I can push the envelope even further.”
On his work at Hollywood
KHIGH: Being an artist in the US, who is also a person of color, how does that affect you, or has it affected you in the past?
SANJOY: I stay very optimistic in every situation. I embraced my culture even more after coming to the States. There are people like Mark, Youngjae, who like that pride you have in your culture. I have met many people, and the right kind of people like to embrace the culture.
I try to not let the negativity get to me. I let that fuel my power to see how I can push the envelope even further. These times are good times, with so many brown people like Hasan Minhaj, BFunk, getting recognition. We are such a cool culture, you know. Look at our dresses, ornaments, music that we listen to, the food that we have. I mean why would you not want to share a piece of such a cool culture? There are so many people that are not aware. That is what sets my music apart. I seamlessly try to blend in traditional music with Hip-hop. I don’t want to slap the music in my records.
The main reason why I like to work with artists from different cultures is that there is so much to share and learn. You can bring out a dope track when you club the music seamlessly. Timbaland takes so much inspiration from our culture, it is like he is paying homage. I don’t want my face to be on every Billboard, but I want our kind, the Desis to be known in the mainstream. So that’s the only reason for the way I write the titles. I want the music to be a bridge between cultures and to make it truly international.
“It’s like when the stars align, the journey just takes you there.”
Working in the K-Pop Industry
KHIGH: Coming to K-Pop, how did it all begin? First your single with YoungJae and now One In a Million with Mark. Please walk us through that journey!
SANJOY: I had released a song called ‘OBVI’ with Elliot Yamin. Youngjae loved it and he had posted about it on Instagram. He in fact sung one of Elliot’s songs for his GOT7 auditions. Our fanbases were overlapping and they flooded the comments. We got in touch and co-incidentally he was in LA at the same time. It’s like when the stars align, the journey just takes you there. My destination would have not been in K-pop if it wasn’t for the fans. I could have not been making a track with Yamin, and this would have not happened. But it just happened somehow; the stars aligned!
I looked up GOT7 then. I didn’t understand the lyrics but the music literally sent a shockwave through me. It was like Backstreet Boys but on crack, you know. I contacted YoungJae and he replied to me asking to meet at his fan meet. The energy in the fan meet was crazy. The fans started to recognize us there because of the track that YoungJae shared.
It was all fun banter when we met backstage. We spoke further and after almost a year, he came to New York and we worked on the song. That’s how Victim of Love came to be! We have met several times after that and we have met up often whenever we were in the same area.
Mark’s mom is a pianist and one day she just casually mentioned that it would be great if we both collaborated on a track. So, this was back in June last year. Me and Terry wrote and composed the track and sent him an idea of the song. Mark has a very husky voice, but we don’t come across that tone when he raps. So, I wanted to bring out his husky vocals in the song.
One in a Million has a bass beat and I wanted to give Mark an edge with real instruments. We have mostly seen him as a rapper, but this track is going to be different. Anything that we do, we do with a lot of passion. So I am glad we both got to collaborate on this track.
KHIGH: We are excited to listen to the complete track! Tell us more about the track One in a Million. Is it inspired by your personal life? How did you come up with it?
SANJOY: I started with the bass first and made a sample and sent it to Mark. There is a hint of Indianness too. Me and Kunal came up with an idea to incorporate the idea of the ‘what if’ moment. It is all about that ‘What If?’ moment – what if you meet someone next to you on a subway, or a coffee shop is your ‘One in a Million’ person? You never know when you will meet that person! I’d say for us, that ‘One in a Million’ person is our fans. We are making the track for the fans, for whoever is listening to our music.
Me and Mark went over the song and recorded it here in LA. I am very thankful to the team. Mark, Trey, Kunal, and even Mark’s parents for making the whole thing happen. This is just the beginning. There’s a lot more in store. We hope to keep on bringing dope stuff for you guys!
“Let’s see where I end up. As long as I enjoy the ride, I don’t care where I end up!”
KHIGH: Please tell us more about your plans for working in the K-Pop industry. Are you looking to work with more K-Pop artists? Any dream collaboration?
SANJOY: As I said, my current plans will open the right doors for me. I think you can say that I have plans to work with other GOT7 members too. Keep an eye out! I’m a fan of the K-Pop industry but I would want to be involved in the making of music. If I get the same love as I did with GOT7, then I am definitely up for it.
I just want to make dope stuff and I look forward to it. Working with these boys is my dream collaboration happening right now! Let’s see where I end up. As long as I enjoy the ride, I don’t care where I end up!
KHIGH: Lastly, what do you have to say to your Indian fans? Any special message for the Desis out there?
SANJOY: You guys are a part of who I am. I hope I can make you all proud with the work that I do. Anything that I work is an ode for you guys for always giving me the guidance and strength. You are the reason why I am doing it. You are going to see more and more of our Desi culture integrating with other cultures. I hope things keep on going forward that way!
“I want the music to be bridge between cultures and to make it truly international.”
Thank you for releasing amazing tracks and adding the dynamics of Desi music to the multicultural musical diversity. We are proud to see our Desi culture coming closer to the K-Pop community. We look forward to your future music releases!