CHIN INJETI Eclectic.
It's a word that keeps recurring in any conversation with Chin Injeti, the ultra-talented producer associated with two GRAMMY Award-winning projects, who is also a multi- instrumentalist, co-founder of innovative JUNO Award-winning R&B trio Bass Is Base and current Universal Music Canada A&R consultant.
And no wonder: the Vancouver-based Injeti barely has enough fingers to place in the various stylistic musical pies he's juggling, including his fourth and brand new solo joint for Sparks Music entitled The Reverb.
Named after a long defunct Toronto nightclub club that offered a wide palate of musical diverse in its weekly programming, the 14 funky and euphoric tracks of delightful groove-a-liciousness that comprise The Reverb reveal Injeti's adaptability as a musical chameleon.
You'll find a little bit of everything in the 40+minute opus: a smattering of trip-hop during "Around The Outside;" rock exuberance to "Throwback;" a touch of floating ambience to the dreamy "I Don't Know Where We Are" and some gritty funkiness to "On the Run."
Basically, Injeti is a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge, and he's constantly tapping into his own brain to source it.
"One of my biggest tools is my knowledge of music, more than my beat-making or my playing abilities," Injeti admits. "I'm one of those people that when I produce a record, I could tell you what I'm trying to do, reference it, tell you who played on it, when it was recorded, why it was recorded. I'm a nerd like that. It really helps me when I make records."
It's a task that has not only served him well on his own work, but the impressive list of clients he's amassed in the past few years, many with his production partner DJ Khalil.
Among the superstars that they've recently written for and produced: Detroit rap icon Eminem (the Grammy-winning Recovery & COD: Ghosts track ‘Survival'); Houston Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae (the Grammy-winning Gravity); multi-million-seller Pennsylvania pop doyenne P!nk (The Truth About Love) and Miami party rapper Pitbull (Rebelution).
There's been Injeti's work with Toronto rapper Drake (So Far Gone), California hip-hop producing icon Dr. Dre, New York rapper 50 Cent (Before I Self-Destruct), Atlanta hip- hop trio The Clipse featuring Kanye West ("Kinda Like A Big Deal), Vancouver's Swollen Member contributor Mad Child and upcoming projects by California soul singer/rapper Aloe Blacc and Edmonton electronic duo Purity Ring.
Plus, there are projects by rappers Nas, Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes, Organized Noise and Canadian-African soul artist Zaki Ibrahim – and he participated in the JUNO-Award winning Young Artists For Haiti project, joining other Canadian stars for their fundraising version of K'naan's "Waving Flag."
And that's not including the projects he's working on as A&R consultant for Universal Music Canada, bringing them such discoveries as The New Royales (the supergroup featuring himself, Khalil, Liz Rodrigues and Erik Alcock); Sophia Danai (whom Injeti describes as a folk artist cross between Lykke Li, Portishead and Mumford & Sons) and Omar Khan ("my version of Cee-Lo.")
"I do what I do for everybody," Injeti explains. "But I work with higher level artists more than up-and-comers. It's incredible! I facilitate ideas and whatever visions people have, but with those kinds of artists, I have a sound that they like. I have a sound with Khalil that's kind of organic rock, hip-hop, but it's not really one genre. It just feels natural the way it happens, and I feel very blessed. "
Injeti's humility and optimism come naturally, partially due to taking nothing in life for granted, and partially through staging an amazing recovery from a crippling disease.
Born Pranam Injeti in India, Chin contracted polio at an early age and was wheelchair- bound for most of his young life, moving to Canada at the age of 5 because of the country's acclaimed national health system.
Thanks to his devoted mother Ellen, who refused to accept the hand the disease dealt her son, and treatment from some of the best medical professionals in Canada, Injeti eventually walked again.
"It wasn't like I wasn't going to get out of the chair," he recalls. "Despite what people said, it was like, ‘No. We're going to walk.' My Mom did that thing that only Moms can do: she put all her faith and strength and just lots of prayer and exercising and stretching and that kind of thing. They got some circulation going and some surgeries helped as well.
"It was a transforming experience."
Injeti says his fight against and ultimate conquering of polio offered some realistic life lessons.
"It made me realize that I have to work harder than most people do for anything," he admits. "Everything I do in my life – from fixing something to eat to grabbing something from the studio, it wears on me. But I realize that I probably work harder than most people. That's one of the reasons all these incredible blessings have come into my life.
"Not everything is possible, but anything is possible if you work hard. I work really hard to do what I do. The trick is to stay and not have to work as hard, but make it a labour of love."
It was during one of his hospital stays that Injeti discovered his affinity for music.
"It was my first escape from reality," he recalls. "I was at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, in the isolation ward, all these tubes in me, and I remember the house cleaner came into my room and she was vacuuming. I can remember the vacuum sound, closed my eyes and I was harmonizing with it, even though you don't know you're harmonizing. It kind of felt really peaceful. I had a lot of moments like that. I spent a lot of time by myself.
"Years later, it was the 25th anniversary of Motown, when Michael Jackson performed ‘Billie Jean' on TV. When I saw that, I thought, ‘okay, I have to do this for a living.'
"It was my defining moment."
Injeti listened to anything and everything, but it was progressive rock and one album in particular that drew him to learning how to play the bass.
"I can pretty much blame it on Geddy Lee," he laughs. "I love Rush. I wish I had a sexier story, but when I heard Hemispheres I thought, wow, I want to be able to do that. I just followed them for years, and then everything came to me."
Injeti found the bass an ideal anchor for his R&B leanings.
"It's the bottom," he admits. "It's the groove. It's the feeling. The bass makes sense for me because it's the foundation. It gives me an edge when I make beats, because the drummer and bass player always play together. And if you really study it, like I have in the past, you find that it's more than just hitting low notes, there are also beautiful chords you can do on it. It's amazing."
It wasn't until a few years later, at the MuchMusic Video Awards in the early 1990s, that he met Roger "Mystic" Mooking (nowadays a Food Network celebrity chef and restaurateur) and later struck up a friendship with Ivana Santilli.
The trio formed Bass Is Base, and spent a few years on the top of most tastemaker lists for their hot new sound.
"Bass Is Base really stemmed from hip-hop, and my biggest influences were all the eclectic DJs of the day like Johnbronski and Paul E. Lopes," Injeti remembers.
"We were a combination of The Ohio Players, The Meters, sometimes (Jimi) Hendrix, sometimes folk music...everything."
After releasing three singles on their own Soul Shack label, including "Funkmobile," the trio signed to A&M Records Canada in 1994, and released the JUNO Award-winning First Impressions for the Bottom Jigglers.
One more album – Memories Of The Soul Shack Survivors and a top 30 hit with "I Cry" – would follow a year later before the trio imploded.
Devastated, Injeti left his beloved Toronto for Surrey, B.C.
"I just had to rediscover myself. I had to figure out what it is I wanted out of the business of music," he states. "As I was figuring myself out, the business of music was slowly dwindling into a downward spiral. It was a perfect time because all we had to worry about was the music and not the business of it. Then, one day, it all just started coming together."
He spent time producing a few artists like Ridley Bent, whose innovative hick-hop drew critical acclaim. He also spent years traveling solo to Los Angeles to assess the music scene there.
There were days he felt frustrated, days he felt like he got nowhere.
But his fortune turned around, and professional circles expanded substantially, when he met Khalil Abdul-Rahman, better known as DJ Khalil.
"I had moved to Vancouver after Bass Is Base and I had gone to L.A. for three years by myself, staying in shitty hotels and trying to get to know the scene and work with different producers. That's when I met Greg Johnson. He helped me get my whole thing started, and then he said, ‘You've got to meet Khalil.' So Khalil and I met, and our first session was terrible. We worked with a girl and we sucked."
"After the session we both apologized to each other, and then we started laughing. I remember saying, ‘I'm not really this bad all the time. I really didn't know what to do.' He said the same thing, and asked me, ‘What kind of music do you like?' I started going through my collection and we resonated when I said, ‘Oh, I love (Detroit underground rap producer) J. Dilla and (‘60s singer and songwriter) Eugene McDaniels.' We went down the list and realized we really like the same kind of music. We realized we wanted to do the same things in music, so why don't we work together?
"Now it's been four or five years and he's one of my best friends and like my family. Khalil saved my musical existence. As soon as I connected with him, it took off. I was meant to work with him and he was meant to work with me."
That relationship has also helped forged the outlook Chin Injeti, the artist, who had just met Khalil when he released his 2010 album, D'Tach – a project that reflected a much different headspace.
"I made D'Tach when my Dad was dying," explains Injeti, who followed it up a year later with Re'Tach. "I couldn't deal with anything but my family: the ups and downs and things I was going through. I was questioning myself and who I was as a father, a person, a musician, a man, whatever. I just basically said...I literally used a microphone, a pre- amp, a pad and a pen and an acoustic guitar and that's how I made that record.
"Later, I put what I think is minimal production on that stuff. Unfortunately, nobody heard that record – it didn't do anything, and I don't know whether it's good or not, but I like it. I got something out of it for myself."
Which brings us to today and the new album The Reverb.
"I am in a really good place now. I made a Chin record – really eclectic, but it's full of good songs, and I rarely have anything bad to say. I'm a positive person. I don't have cold lyrics. I'm not writing anything bad about anybody. I just come from a good place."
With special guests such as rapper David Banner and his own protégé Sophia Danai contributing their talents to the album, Injeti said initially he was unsure what he was going to end up with when he started working on The Reverb.
"I was trying to figure out what kind of record to make," he admits. "After a heavy, heavy year – I don't even know how many artists I worked with – you kind of lose yourself in the process. That's because you're giving yourself to everybody and you're taking them on. I worked with everyone from Purity Ring to Aloe Blacc, you know, and it's just kind of all over the gamut, and then I had to make this record and I realized I'm all of those things: Growing up in Toronto, I listened to Tones On Tail and Skinny Puppy, and then I'd follow that up with Anvil and Gordon Lightfoot!"
"In America, it's so hard to be eclectic because people only associate themselves with ‘This is what I do' and ‘This is how you sell it' and ‘this is what's going to work,' right?"
"I thought, I'm just going to make a record that I think is me, and that's what came out – everything from ‘80s Police-type stuff like "Walkin' All Over Me" to Gorillaz-type stuff – an amalgam of a bunch of records that I loved. I really believe those records can live on one master, because I'm the glue."
Since Chin Injeti is the glue that holds The Reverb together, he's looking not only to uplift the human spirit, but unify listeners who refuse to place borders or barriers between their favourite music genres.
"Music is a universal language more than any other language to me," says Injeti. "Everyone speaks it. Everyone loves it. Everyone feels something from it.
"You can really hear it. It's inspiring. At times it can put you down. At times it can empower you. It can change the world if we let it."
The first single "On the Run," with four accompanying re-mix videos plus a digital EP with mixes by DiRTY RADiO, Barry Morgan and Girls-on-Synths will be launched in January 2014. "The Reverb" will be released in the spring of 2014 through Sparks/Universal Music Canada.
The Reverb: where eclectic meets electric.