RDB have been part of the music industry since the late nineties. They have founded their own record label, worked with artists including Akshay Kumar and Snoop Dogg and even made their own TV show. The music they make mixes genres and has earned them fans all over the world. I caught up with Surj during a sound check in Dubai to talk about We Doin' It Big, piloting helicopters and starring in Bollywood films.
You've been in the industry a long time and you released your last album in 2005. What have you learnt since Three?
Learnt a lot to be honest because our last official album was for the UK bhangra market only. I think from there we started doing more of the Bollywood stuff. We have been touring a lot more. We did the Germany tour, that tour was a big thing, the IIFA Awards. I think it's amazing that we haven't officially released our own stuff but used our music to other people's advantages and that has made us bigger than releasing our own stuff. Doesn't actually make sense, but in terms of what we've learnt from it? Oh god, I can't even explain! The Germany tour was a big eye opener, the Snoop deal and was a big deal and the IIFA Awards were big thing and just generally touring across India. I think India is a new market that we weren't really planning to go into it just happened. From there we’ve learnt a lot.
Because bhangra, Indian music, has its own industry now. I don't think there's a need to bring it into the mainstream into any more because the underground market has become more well known internationally and not just in the UK. India, America, everywhere. Asian music is becoming bigger in its own industry rather than using the mainstream to make it bigger.
Do you think for artists the main stream Indian market is more important than the UK pop charts because it's such big market?
For Asian artists yes it's very important to break into the Indian market. That music generates from there, it’s the original source of our music and I think it's becoming even bigger and better than what it ever used to be. Not just Bollywood, the actual independent music scene is becoming bigger so for artists from wherever, India should definitely be on their list.
We had a lot of feedback when Kuly our eldest brother passed away. There was a lot of support from all these individual artists and their condolences. Everybody that phoned us, those were the guys who were at the top of the list. After that it was literally anyone that we knew, anyone that we had contact with. It was unfortunate that we couldn't get everyone that we wanted because it’s such a massive industry in the UK especially among the bhangra artists. It was hard to get all the timings done because we had to shoot in four different locations. So it was very difficult but we managed to get everyone we could.
Why wasn’t Nindy in the in the video?
The original plan was for her to be in the video. We actually composed the song with her vocals in there and she did a part in the song. But she was releasing other singles so it didn't make record label sense to put her in there and she wasn’t really available from the video shoot either. So she thought, well if I'm not in the video there is no point me being in the song so we all made an executive decision and said okay let's just leave it at RDB and get all the boys in there.
You've diversified more than other artists in terms of music and business ideas. Why?
Diversity comes with each artist’s natural progression. You have to adapt with music, you have to go with the times and look at different areas. So working with different artists, working with different styles of music is just a natural progression for us. Today we’re making Bollywood music, we’re making youth music. Tomorrow we might change the whole game, we might be making qawali music. You have to go with the times, you have to cater for the crowds.
What drives you to get up in the morning and make music?
The unity of us guys doing it together. More so now than ever before. There was a time when all of us guys we used to work hard at it and every morning we used to get up and make music. I used to run the business, Kuly and Manj used to do the production. Now that bhaj has passed I think me and Manj have been motivated even more to make sure his legacy, his music that he started with us, lives on.
Through the record label and your tours you have nurtured a lot of new talent. How satisfying has that been as an artist, who has so much experience in this industry, to help all these youngsters?
It's pretty satisfying. We've seen so much talent out there sometimes we think why haven’t these guys had a chance? We didn't really have a chance and we had to build up what we've got but some people like this with so much talent need the opportunity to get on their platform and show the world what they're capable of. At the same time we run a business, and the record label is a business, and we think how can the business benefit from such an artist. So it's benefiting if the artist is a success: firstly the person has got off his feet and the second is we're going to business to a bigger a level.
What are you going to do next?
We have many plans I mean right now Bollywood and independent music is doing really well Nindy Kaur, bhabiji, is doing really well. We’ve signed a new artist to our record label called Raftaar and he’s doing well. So it's releasing albums, singles doing soundtracks and music videos. We've been asked many, many times to feature in a Bollywood film or make our own Punjabi film but we said no. Never!
Right now it doesn't even make sense. We can't really speak fluent Hindi. Punjabi is not a problem but fluent Hindi is very difficult for us and I think it's just a bandwagon thing. Everyone's making it so why would we be jumping on the band wagon? If we make something we're going to make it because we want to and not because the industry says. Plus we can't really act!
You don’t need acting skills for Bollywood! You've done a bit of acting in in your music videos, surely that is enough to do a Bollywood film?!
I’m sure it would be! But no, not yet. Maybe a villain role at some point, but not just yet! Right now music is our forte, we will keep on doing music until a good opportunity comes along where a film will help our career. We don't want go into acting, have people say “oh they’ve turned into actors” and then flop! The project has to be right, our look has to be right. We’re from the UK. We can't just go into a Bollywood field and run around with a couple of Bollywood actress and things like that it just doesn't work for us. For me there has to be realism, there has to be meaning to a film. I think that's how we could maybe do it. We’ve got to see!