Malaysian musician extraordinaire Steven Chelliah makes his debut release in NYC
Through out the years music has changed. Before we used to have set genres; such as just R&B, just Rock, just Hip Hop, and so on. We weren’t seeing genres being intertwined as much before the 2000s. Now it is more of a norm for music to be mixed and guess what the people love it because it’s different and it brings cultures together from around the World. I recently interviewed Malaysian musician, Steven Chelliah, who is bringing a new style of music to the table entitled “FuzAsian.” This style of music can be heard on his upcoming EP ‘Supremacy-X’.
How did you get into music ?
I come from a lineage of South Indian court composers, and I naturally followed in those footsteps. It all started in church and when my parents enrolled me for piano and music theory lessons at the age of 6 (which I was forced to do). I will never forget the day I fell in love with music.. I was 8 years old, in my dad’s car, and he had just purchased a ‘Bee Gees’ greatest hits cassette. I remember listening to two songs ‘Massachusetts’ and ‘I Just Gotta Get a Message To You’, and from that moment on I was in love with music. The Bee Gees was, and will always be my ‘first love’ musically ! It was not until I was 13 that I discovered the electric guitar..and ever since that moment, I knew that I wanted to make music my career.
Do you do music full time or do you also have a day job ?
I graduated the prestigious Berklee College of Music in 2011 with two Bachelor’s Degrees in Jazz Composition & Arranging, and Contemporary Writing & Production. I do music full time and balance between doing freelance film scoring and arranging/production work, teaching at a music school, and doing music-director work at a church.
In your opinion, what is one thing that makes your music unique ?
I’ve always wanted to do something that explores new musical boundaries. In the quest of of finding my own sound during my Berklee years, I wore the hat of an orchestral Composer/Orchestrator, Jazz Fusion guitarist/composer, and music theorist experimenting and researching new theoretical concepts by employing the usage of Indian Ragas (scales) within and beyond the framework of Jazz harmony and theory. The result of this experimentation led me to develop what I call the ‘FuzAsian’ concept (pronounced as fuze-asian).
FuzAsian is a concept that documents all of the chordal/harmonic combinations that are derived purely from Indian scales and all the exotic scales of the East (that are not found in Western music). This creates new musical tools (chords, related chord scales) to write and perform music with. As a studied Jazz composer and performer, I bring with me all of this background and tools into the world of songwriting and popular music. This has become a part of my style as a composer, songwriter and a guitar player. In the songs of ‘Supremacy-X’, you will hear Eastern flavors in the compositional structures (the chords, riffs, scales), and you will hear unique Eastern/Indian twists and slides in the guitar solo sections. The culmination of the songwriting, guitar playing, and singing, infused with the touch of ‘FuzAsian’, is the signature of the Steven Chelliah sound.
What was your favorite part in creating your Supremacy-X album and single?
My favorite part of creating the Supremacy-X album, was spending hours and hours recording and experimenting in the studio. I love working in the studio, and don’t realize the time of day when I’m in one. The greatest joy in making a record, especially if you’re writing/producing/performing on it, is to sit down and to listen back to everything once it’s done. Making a record is like making a cake, you do layer by layer. I produced the ‘Supremacy-X’ album alongside Rozhan Razman of Riro Muzik Studios, who produced the album with me. The two of us had countless late nights and 12 hour sessions regularly, and it was a great experience.
What can fans and new listeners expect from your upcoming album ?
Fans and listeners can expect to listen to songs that are a blend of Alternative Rock and Pop coupled with elements of Jazz and R&B, interwoven with Indian/Eastern twists and flavors in the compositions and guitar playing.
Who would you love to collab with?
I would like to collaborate with Quincy Jones, and to produce my future album with him. That has been a lifelong dream ! Haha..I hope he lives for another 20 years or more ! May god Bless him with many many more years. Other artists I’d love to collaborate with include Paul McCartney, Daft Punk, Empire of the Sun, Pharrel Williams, and Esperanza Spalding. I would also love to perform with Barry Gibb one day, since he is the only remaining member of the Bee Gees.
Do you have any shows coming up?
I am in the midst of booking shows for the spring season, and a tour of the east coast and west coast starting from March for promo of the ‘Supremacy-X’ album. More information on tour dates and shows will be announced on my website soon.
What do you love most about creating music?
Everything. I am an Orchestral Composer & Orchestrator by default, so I love crafting organized landscapes of sound that bring about emotions. I approach songwriting as a composer, because the two are the same thing. Composition can be called sonic architecture..you are creating a sonic space within time and space, that evokes specific emotions and feelings. Pretty powerful if you know what you’re doing!
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I would like to be on a major label as an artist, and to break into the popular mainstream markets within the US and the rest of the world.
If you weren’t doing music, what else would you love to do?
There is nothing else that I love as much as music, to spend my whole life doing. If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a politician.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
When I’m not working on music, I love watching movies. I’m a movie buff ! I also love playing snooker (or pool, that’s what Americans play). Snooker is the original cueing sport that started in England. I also love cooking, and experimenting with new recipes whenever I have the inspiration, while sipping on some good wine and listening to music in the background. Very therapeutic!