In person, Sajeeb Saha is a 20 year-old NYU student from Long Island who loves listening, and talking about music. However, online, he goes by No Pets Allowed, a producer/mashup artist who remixes and mashes up tracks using the image of a purple dog in glasses and a hat. Recently The GROUND had the pleasure of chatting with Saha about music, his future, and Donald Glover’s feelings towards dub step.
Where did the name No Pets Allowed come from?
It’s not as exciting as it sounds, but in high school I used to write down potential band names, like inside jokes or things I would observe. I saw a sign in the city, and wrote it down in my blackberry. When I started this project, I needed a name, and I didn’t want to have a cheesy DJ name, so I thought, “What’s something that’s not going to be taken so seriously?” No Pets Allowed?
Did you create your icon, the purple dog with the hat on?
I actually had a friend do that. He’s a graphic artist who went to Duke, and I said, ” I just need something that kind of looks like me…and make it a dog”. I usually wear a hat like that too, so I said to use the hat. I wanted to be a little more anonymous with the project. I wanted people to focus more on the music than the name or the face. That’s why I never really show pictures of myself.
How did you get started?
I grew up playing the violin, in high school I picked up guitar. I used to write songs senior year in high school, and freshman year of college, and then I hit major writer’s block. So I was trying to exercise trying to create music without the need to write lyrics. So I decided that I should start remixing and doing mashups. It started off as a joke, I would just make random mashups or remixes on my computer, but slowly I started learning more and getting better at it. Then fast forward a year and a half, I was getting blog attention, and I started networking with a lot of people on Facebook, like producers and mashers. Slowly the following built from there, people were paying attention and listening.
Did you think back in high school you would become this?
No, it’s kind of something you discover. The stuff I used to make was very guitar driven. I used to listen to a lot of pop punk, indie, a mixture of electronica, and guitar based stuff. Then my musical taste changed, I went to college, my friends were showing me a lot of different music styles. I started getting into dub step, mind you it’s not the Skrillex type of dub step, I mean I like listening to it, but it’s not something that I would necessarily make. When I make my dub step, I try to make it chilled out and mellow. A lot of people are trying to be copycats, and they’re 10, 000 Skrillex’s on Youtube, and no one is trying to cultivate their own personal style. I think that’s why people are starting to listen to what I’m doing, because it has a distinct sound to it. Any artist on Youtube can be replaced by another amateur artist in their bedroom. It’s so saturated that you have to make yourself stand out, you have to throw out your own nuances, and make yourself original
Who are your major influences?
There’s this dub step group from Canada called Adventure Club and they’re amazing. Very chill, very mellow, so they’re definitely an influence. In terms of overall general influences, I listen to Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Fall Out Boy, all that pop punk like All Time Low, Green Day, and then indie stuff like Two Door Cinema Club, MGMT, and Passion Pit. I definitely pull different elements from each, you might not see hardcore punk going on, but there are chord progressions or ornamentations I take from those type of artists.
What are you listening to now?
Childish Gambino. I saw him actually 2 or 3 days ago at Princeton University. He’s amazing, it was my third time seeing him. This guy named Madeon, he’s from France, he’s 17 years old, and he’s doing really cool things with house music and disco sounding stuff. I listen to a lot of remixes lately, stuff that I find on Hype Machine. I found a band called Now,Now, they’re acoustic and dark. They’re like a female Two Door Cinema Club, but chiller and slower. Foster the People, who I also love, I’m seeing them in Central Park next month.
How do you feel about the current state of music?
It’s the strangest thing, if you had asked me this a couple of years ago, I was very anti pop. I think the last two years I realized that I like pop. I’m very into the producers who do pop. I look up to Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Benny Blanko, those are the guys behind Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj. Those are the guys who are creating the music behind them, and I think I’m inherently just a fan of easy on the ears pop. The industry’s changing, it’s really cool to see artists these days breaking boundaries without record labels. You have to just keep putting things out, and making sure people are still interested in you, because if you just stop, even for a second, someone else out there will be doing the exact same thing and moving ahead. I think a good example of that was that emergence of the frat white college rapper like Asher Roth. Then immediately after him you had Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen and Sammy Adams who came on the scene doing all these shows, but not every single one of them could become what they are today. It’s really cool how the internet has changed how artists can contact and interact with fans. Sometimes you have to know the right people and process, but Youtube, Twitter, Tumblr, Soundcloud, are excellent ways to interact with fans, and build a fan base, and you can do it without a label.
What would you say is your favorite mashup that you did?
There’s one I did in December, “Dead Siberian Romance”. It’s Lady Gaga, Fall Out Boy, light Swedish House Mafia. It just went really well, I feel like if I did a show, I would end with that because it’s a very cool ender. Last year, before things were rolling really nicely, I did something with Two Door Cinema Club, Twista and Kanye. I used to listen to it all the time, and I wouldn’t listen to the original Two Door Cinema tracks, because I was very into what I was making. I’m starting to move away from mashups because I don’t want to be known for just doing that. I’d rather be known for being a producer at heart. So I’m going into remixes, and from remixes I would love to go to more original stuff, and collaborate with whoever is out there.
I would say my favorite remix of yours is the Childish Gambino – Heartbeat one.
Yeah, that’s the super popular one. I feel like if I did it now, it would sound so much better. I think that’s one of the tracks that brought a lot of attention. I went to his show and heard “Heartbeat” live for the first time and I went “this is sick, I have to remix this!”. So when I made it, I made it a dub step, I made it more synth-y, more aggressive. Then a lot of blogs were catching on, it did really well on Hypem. Since then I haven’t remixed anything, except a Katy Perry one from two weeks ago. That bar was so high that the expectation was that if I made something, it would have to top “Heartbeat”, and just sound sonically so much better. So I’ve worked on maybe six remixes since, but I just scrapped them, because if I don’t like it, I know my listeners wouldn’t. When “Heartbeat” was out, I think I had about 100 fans, and now I hit a 1,000 a few days ago. It’s really cool that there are so many people out there who are into what I’m making.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
Patrick Stump, he’s the lead singer of Fall Out Boy. I really look up to him, definitely one of my biggest influences. He’s a musician, he’s talented, he plays a whole bunch of instruments, like guitar, trumpet, bass, drums, and he’s an amazing singer. I was really into his solo project that he put out last year. It’s soul punk, it’s very r&b, and I would love to, if I could, produce a track with him. Of course Childish Gambino, though I did hear Donald is not into dub step. When I put out “Heartbeat”, someone from his record label reached out and said, “We’re putting out a remix EP for “Heartbeat”, we would love to see what you do”. When I did the remix, I used the actual track, and he heard it, and he sent me the separated stem, like the beats and the vocals of it. So he said, “Just redo it, we’ll listen to it, and we’ll see what we do”. I kind of reworked it and sent it back to them and they go, “Oh, so it turns out Donald doesn’t like dub step”. So they didn’t pick my remix for the EP. Honestly, I’m glad they didn’t pick it, because the ones they picked were very professional sounding. Maybe if I did something today, it would sound better. He’s someone I would love to do something with, I really respect his hustle, because he never gave up.
What are you working on now for the future?
A couple of things are happening now. I’m working on a lot of remixes, because the mashup genre is very saturated. So I want to move into remixes, and then from remixes to original stuff. I’m working on some dub step right now. The next step, in terms of being a musician, is finding management to do shows. I’ve actually never done a show before, which is something I really want to do in the future. I did a DJ set for NYU last month, which was really cool but i’d rather do an hour long or a half hour long thing opening for an artist rather than a three hour long DJ set. I don’t want to do something in a club where I’m just playing for three hours, that’s not my niche. So when I played at NYU, I only played three of my tracks among 60 or 70 tracks of club songs. So next step is doing shows, doing more dub step, and then eventually when you have enough listeners, then you can start making originals. The average listener, I think, are drawn towards mashups because they know the existing artist. They don’t really care about the name, No Pets Allowed, necessarily but they see Lady Gaga and Rihanna in the same title and they listen to it. Eventually when the fan base is large enough they will be willing to listen to original stuff.