Hailing from India, Suchdeep Juneja is a multi-instrumentalist and an avid player of the Didgeridoo. His ability to create unique musical landscapes that transcend genres caught our eye, along with his fondness of mixing rare instruments together.
We sat down with this software engineer by profession and musician by passion to have a conversation about his music career and his long relation with Freedrum.
How did you first hear about Freedrum?
My story with Freedrum is that at the time it launched I was done with my engineering degree and I was shifting cities for a job opportunity. I had my full traditional drum kit at the time, but I couldn’t take it with me because of the size. So I was looking at the options of buying an electronic drum kit. First, I got to know about Aerodrums, while I was researching I learned about this product called Freedrum that was launching soon. I got really excited about it and signed up for the Kickstarter campaign. I then think I got my kit in August of 2017.
Since then I’ve been playing it, at first it was a bit difficult learning where to hit and how to map and so on. I researched a lot on how to connect to MIDI and so on and realized there wasn’t much information online because you know it’s a new thing and this was the early days of the product. So eventually I made my own tutorial video on how to set up Freedrum.
I feel like the forum helped me a lot both to learn more about the soft and hardware of Freedrum as well as styles of playing. I was very active in the beginning, helping people out as well as taking notes from other people who play Freedrum. I used to play the drums. I know how that feels, but here it’s on air. It took some time to get into it, but now I feel comfortable with playing Freedrum. One thing I encountered when I play in front of people is that they think I’m doing an act, they don’t realize I’m actually hitting the notes. They call it magic drums.
What first got you into music?
I used to play the tabla for a while in my childhood, which is an Indian instrument. I then stopped playing and it wasn’t until the college years that I picked up the drums. I’ve been playing now for 8-9 years and Freedrum I’ve been playing for about 3-4 years.
While researching your music it seems like you enjoy playing a wide range of instruments for example the didgeridoo. What is the story there?
Yes so I was playing a show and there was another artist there that was playing the didgeridoo. He asked me to join him on stage, I was playing the drums and he played the didgeridoo. After that experience, I got so intrigued by these big wooden instruments that I felt I needed to learn more about it. After a lot of research online I eventually went ahead and bought one. I learned how to play from online forums and YouTube.
Eventually, I got an idea that I could play the drums at the same time I was playing the didgeridoo. This took me a lot of practice since the didgeridoo demands you use a specific breathing technique called circular breathing. Eventually, it started to work for me and I could enjoy playing traditional drums with the didgeridoo. Traditional drums take a lot of energy while playing and it was when I discovered Freedrum it really helped me develop in this style of playing using less energy to hit the percussion.
What is your creative process like?
I always start with the bass sound as a reference. Then I build by adding a loop with the Freedrum playing the beats and then continue the progression increasing the intensity. My interests in music and genres keep on changing. I have some tracks on Spotify which are more towards techno and trance and sometimes I play Bollywood style, a kind of fusion.
So my genres keep on changing with time, but the main thing is that I like to experiment a lot and Freedrum has increased the power of experimentation for me. The flexibility to quickly change my sound and kit is perfect for me and opens up new dimensions in music. Actually, I recently combined percussion and piano. So the idea is that when I hit a drum note a piano note is also released, this kind of experiment is all possible by using Freedrum.
Do you seek out new ways of making music?
In India there are many organized gatherings in different cities. I was invited to perform at one of the events and the organizers got really happy with my show. They sparked the idea and motivated me to do an India tour. The idea was to do a 15 city tour playing didgeridoo and Freedrum together. That tour really helped me in my career and a lot of people got to know about these two very unique instruments. People were intrigued with me fusing the oldest instruments in the world with one of the latest.
This tour eventually led me to get an invitation to talk at TEDx.
I would say Freedrum gave me a few stages that helped me to increase my musical knowledge. As well as if I see another musician playing I can join him, I can carry around my kit and if an opportunity comes up we can just start jamming. This would've not happened if I wasn’t playing Freedrum. So that is helping me increase my musical sense, because music is all about practicing and uniting with people. Freedrum gave me a pass to access any jam session.
What other soft- and hardware do you use?
I use Logic Pro as my DAW and then I have a plugin called Addictive Drums. I have a lot of my kits ready and then I use them with the sensors. For Freedrum I don’t have any other hardware than my microphone.
What downsides do you feel Freedrum has?
Sometimes the calibration goes off. And it can be tricky to re-calibrate while playing live and get back on the beat. It restricts me sometimes in my playing style, knowing it will go off if I play too far to the left for example. That is about it, Other than that I’m very happy with it, there is no lag whatsoever.
I’m really looking forward to Freedrum 2. The update with the haptic feedback sounds really good to me and it’s something I have been wanting for my playing. What I really enjoy is that I’m able to play anytime with my headphones on. I don’t have to worry about making noise and disturbing my neighbours. And that is really helpful since I live in an apartment setting.
Do you collaborate with other musicians?
I play a lot with other musicians, both known and unknown. It’s a mix of friends of mine as well as people in my band and if I meet new musicians I’m jamming along with them. Freedrum helped me to get to know many new people.
What other musicians inspire you?
My inspiration comes from a lot of different genres. Western music like rock and electronic music as well as the classical and fusion music from India. I also enjoy soulful music using a handpan and didgeridoo. A drummer that has inspired me a lot is Aahad Nayani from the Pakistan band Strings. Malte Marten from Germany is also a big inspiration of mine, he plays handpan. As well as the handpan and didgeridoo duo Yatao. Another didgeridoo player I like is Zalem Delarbre. There is also a techno duo called Artbat that also is exciting to me.
What's next for you?
This September I will relocate from India to the Netherlands to do my masters degree in Embedded Systems. I want to keep a balance between music and technology since I see they complement each other so well.
Actually, I made an instrument, or more like a controller that I could control through the air. I made a knob interface for my DAW Logic Pro and I figured I could make the levels and parameters controllable by hand in the air. The base I used for making the instrument is called Arduino, I believe that was used to make the first Freedrum.
Currently I’m really into jamming and practicing with my band. It's funny because my band really enjoys playing Freedrum. Before I was playing traditional drums and they could never hear themselves while playing, always asking me to play more quietly. Now with Freedrum they are happy they can just turn a knob and lower my playing and they can hear what they play themselves so much better.
I’ve bought a pair of neon drumsticks that I want to perform with, I think it can be very impactful in a dark environment to add as a visual layer of me playing Freedrum. I will try and make a nice video of this and upload soon. The gig scene here is picking up slowly and I hope we can play some gigs in the near future. I’m really looking forward to that.