It’s a tough task to find DJ’s who flawlessly mix hits from every genre each time you hear them, and it’s even harder to find DJ’s who play songs that everyone enjoys. Thankfully, the DJ duo Lunatics– comprised of Dawood and Kisal, are ticking every box.
What drew me in about these guys, was how good their mixes were every time I would hear them. My friend would send me recordings of their stuff, and I would smile each time out of amazement. It’s pretty common to get DJ’s who start off really well, but then they throw that one bad song into the mix and it messes up the whole vibe. Another common situation is getting a DJ who has a flawless mix, but terrible transitions- which also throws off the whole vibe. That has not been the case so far with what I’ve heard from Lunatics, and that peaked my interest.
Tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Dawood: My name is Dawood and I work for a radio station.
Kisal: My name is Kisal. I work for a bank in Sri Lanka.
How did you guys get started with music?
Dawood: So, it started six years ago- I was playing at an event and I met Kisal. It was very abrupt, where he told me, ‘You’ve got to play for our college event,’ and I was like ‘Okay.’ But he couldn’t make it there- he had to go play for another event which was his first event, and when that happened I was like, ‘Okay fine, I’m just going to play at the event,’ and then what happened was I got a lot of good responses from his friends, and he was like ‘Hey, why don’t you come for my next event?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, sure,’ and eventually that happened.
Kisal: So basically, my side of the story is pretty in detail compared to him. I was never into DJ’ing or anything, and music was there in me because I used to dance back in school, and I used to make my own mixes for my dancing and stuff. So that’s where I come into the music field. But after college and everything there was in my school one of my main friends, and she asked me to play at her party but I had no clue about DJ’ing or anything, so I specifically told her ‘Hey look, I don’t know how to mix’ and she’s like ‘No, it’s just about ten people who are coming. Just play some music, but I’m ready to pay you as well,’ so I was like ‘I’m not gonna charge money if I don’t know what to do, but you can pay for the sound [equipment]’, and so she did. Ultimately forty people showed up, not ten people, which was very weird but it was ok at the end of the day. But somehow I managed to pass through the night. And where Dawood said- the birthday and he was playing at one of my college events- that came after my first initial experience. And in Sri Lanka we speak a lot of Sinhalese, and we have a genre called Baila, where people dance very fast and it’s like the main thing over here, so basically he did not have Baila in the college party that I hooked him up with. So then the organizers contacted me and said ‘Yo, your DJ’s great but he doesn’t have Baila. You have to come to our party,’ and I was like ‘I’m playing at this [event],’ but somehow I ended up at the college event and I ended up giving him the songs and got to know him specifically over there. But first when I met him was way back in school, where we had a mutual friend and she had a sixteenth birthday, so he was playing there so that’s about it. Then I actually proposed that we should start something together, and yeah that’s how it initially started.
Going back a little further, how did you guys get started with music? How did you realize that this is what you want to do?
Kisal: Well basically, we never had a long term plan.
Dawood: We actually didn’t have a long term plan because like back then in 2013, there was this massive event called SunFest. So there was this main act called the Sick Individuals who performed. And it sounded very attractive- two people, they’re sick, they play sick songs- and they’re two individuals who play sick music-
Kisal: That’s a good brand-
Dawood: That’s a very appealing name. And we were like, ‘Okay, so instead of using the term “DJ”, instead of using the more used names, why don’t we come up with something different where people will open their eyes and be like “Huh? What is it?”‘ So, when we started this, we never had a plan as to where we really want to be. We never knew where we are heading to, we never went behind events, but what we know for a fact is every event we got we always played, not for the money, but for the value of what we had as a passion.
Kisal: Yes, it was never yearly planed. It was maximum six months down the line. So we decided the next six months what we were gonna do, and after the six months we’ll see whether we achieved it. It’s not nothing big, it’s just progressing up the ladder in our own way. We never wanted to compete with the current industry because in Sri Lanka you get a lot of DJ’s- like so many- and it’s a small community so we know all the people who play. There are certain disputes which happen in the industry, so we thought of those happening and we really never wanted to compete with anybody. It’s just a six month plan.
So growing up, what kind of music did you guys listen to? Because when you DJ, a lot of your songs are really good. When I think about the DJ’s back home- I will go into a club and they’ll be DJ’ing and it’s just like- I hate it. The music isn’t very good, and it’s not stuff that I feel like I can dance to. So, growing up what kind of music did you listen to and how did that translate into the music that you guys use to DJ?
Dawood: When it comes to music, we were actually all over the place in terms of what we really like. Kisal liked more of dance-ish, progressive to electro house kind of-
Kisal: I’m a huge Micheal Jackson fan. I used to dance to Micheal Jackson in school, so like technically I have his whole discography and all his stuff so, I was just going around with his dance moves and the music. The passion towards it- he’s my idol. I know a lot of people have idols, but when it comes to music like how he produces all his songs, it’s pretty great. That’s what drove me towards listening to music mainly. But when it comes to him [Dawood], it’s a completely different story.
Dawood: Yeah, it’s completely different because I was actually an underground DJ. Like it’s all about minimal/deep house kind of music-
For how long?
Dawood: It didn’t last long because the industry started to turn to a very negative place. There was a lot of negative vibes involved, which really didn’t appeal to me personally. But in time to come before I met him [Kisal], I had the passion for R&B. And not 90’s, but R&B, and it moved past it. Basically what happened was, when he and I got together in terms of music, at every event it’s always a combination of both that came. Which we were still trying to figure out for the next one and a half years, ‘Okay, what is our real ID? What will our brand- what will Lunatics represent? What kind of genre?’ But what I know for a fact is with his combination and mine, it’s more of a funky house-ish, where you know, people could sing along to and at the same time dance to. And the beat also, we try to always make it more funky where there are-
Kisal: We like a lot of groove in music because without groove there’s no music. Specifically- these days it’s pretty common, the genre- you call it the Moombahton genre. And basically, One Dance- Drake’s One Dance- you get that vibe-
Kisal: Yes exactly. So that’s the main genre that we both love specifically. Like that’s one main thing that actually agrees on each other, otherwise a lot of things don’t go.
So, who are some of your favorite artists- other than Micheal Jackson- that you draw inspiration from?
Kisal: So basically it depends. It divides when it comes to me cause when it comes to DJ’s- when I look at a lot of DJ’s, specifically with the age, Martin Garrix, Hardwell- I look at a lot of documentaries, you know? It’s pretty inspiring. But that’s on the DJ aspect. But basically when it comes to normal, day to day music, there’s no specific artist that I personally follow. It’s just that all these artists are pretty talented and everybody has good music, so whatever I feel is grooving, I go for it.
Alright. So, your name, Lunatics- you touched on it a little bit earlier, but how did you guys come up with the name, and why?
Kisal: We wanted to be unique. That’s the number one main reason. And as I said previously, Sri Lanka has a lot of DJ’s, and over here a lot of DJ’s go by the name “Entertainment.” For example, if it’s AB- AB Entertainment or AB DJ’s. So we wanted to eliminate that fact from Sri Lanka technically. Because right now when we say our name “Lunatics,” some people are in question. Some people know us, some people don’t know us, so the people who don’t know us think, ‘Okay, who are they,’ you know? We want to create a question mark in the head. But that’s a very risky move that we both took because see, when you say “Entertainment” or “DJ’s,” automatically the client settles down in his mind saying like ‘Oh ok, they’re DJ’s,” you know?
It sounds more professional.
Kisal: Yes, exactly. But we wanted to go on a reverse aspect of that.
Dawood: And to add to that, like he mentioned earlier- we just gave a span of six months. And that was something we always took it step by step rather than thinking, ‘Ok, we’re gonna do this in six months. We’re gonna do that in six months,’ it’s like an every weekend kind of thing. So if you take us back to five years ago, every time Lunatics have an event, they’d know that [we’d] make their event a good atmosphere for the client. And always- it hasn’t been money but it has always been escalating and staying one step up from the rest.
How do you do that? How do you stay one step ahead?
Kisal: See, the thing is- everything depends on the time I guess. Because we don’t want to be on that upper stage but automatically it happens to us and I think it’s because of the name- A, and I think it’s how we interact with the crowd. Over here a lot of DJ’s don’t interact because DJ’ing isn’t just standing behind a console and just looking down and just playing some songs. You need to interact because we are only human at the end of the day. So, I guess because over in our brand we interact a lot with a crowd- so even if it’s a small crowd, Dawood takes the mic and he bugs the people-
He hypes everyone.
Kisal: Yeah, which is really good because it doesn’t matter whether you know the client or whether you know the people personally or not- it’s just that connection that you can try through music. I think by doing that- it’s not deliberately done, we just do it with our passion. And because of that, people look towards us I guess. That’s what we personally think.
How long exactly have you guys been doing this together? How long exactly have you guys been “Lunatics”?
Dawood: Lunatics is exactly 5 years. 5 years and 3 months-
Kisal: 2013 March we started. So now it’s 2018 September.
How drastically have things changed from the beginning of Lunatics to now?
Kisal: Very much! From the T-shirts to the shoes to everything. Cause we used to wear the same thing because our logo was completely different. Because when we started this we were in a very-
Dawood: Teenage kinda like-
How old were you guys when you started?
Kisal: We’re 24 now, so 19. So basically we wanted a logo up- like a really fast logo up, so like I call up one of my friends and was like ‘We’re starting this venture so we need a logo,’ and he came up with the logo- I’ll probably share it with you- where this dude is there like that (gestures) and it said “Lunatics.” And that went on the T-shirt, right? But still like we were really hyped up and that logo went for about a good year I guess-
Dawood: A good two years.
Kisal: Yeah, a good two years, and yeah so- it was like we were driving towards a lot of new things which we never knew and-
Dawood: But one thing is, Kisal is a very- in terms of promoting and giving more brand awareness, he was really into it. So, we went through a whole revamp rebranding the whole thing- the logo-
Kisal: And the shoes- we had red shoes because our logo was red and blue. Everybody was like, ‘You guys are wearing the same shoes,’ and then I was like ‘Yeah,’ you know? So these kind of little, small things actually mattered for the first one and a half years. And then the whole thing changed cause then we started realizing, ‘Hold on, wait. Our logo looks babyish man, like it’s just crazy, we can’t take this up there,’ so then we came up with the black and white theme where it just says “Lunatics” and so it’s just a black and white thing and it’s not the same shoes anymore. We wear different types of shoes.
Dawood: That is for only private events though. It’s still the same thing for main events. Now instead of red it’s white.
Kisal: Basically, the main thing- actually, we forgot to tell you this- is the mask. We had a mask which we used to wear at all gigs. Even at private gigs, even at birthdays, even at- I mean like mainly everywhere. And that mask was a clown, so like some people did not like clowns because it’s pretty freaky, but some people were like ‘Look at them,’ you know? So like those aspects I think change a lot but right now we don’t use the masks. But sometimes we do, but we’re actually planning to use it pretty soon because that’s where we started, you know?
Yeah, I think it’d be a cool five year anniversary thing- to bring that back.
Kisal: So basically for that, last year- not an anniversary thing, we launched our website. So for that we had a party. It was like a website launch, we invited all of our very close clients and even our parents and we launched it officially.
Oh, cool. Tell me a little bit about that. Your website- what do you guys have on there?
Kisal: So basically it goes as “www.djlunatics.com”. And on the site when you go to the home page, you see a-
Dawood: A description and then you have videos of events we have played. It’s just, you know, 2 second snippets of every event we’ve played. So basically that’s just the way how Lunatics started and whatnot with a little bit of our pictures from the photoshoots we have done. So that would be like the homepage. Moving to the gallery, where we have the videos, so it’s basically recaps- after videos of big gigs we have played.
Kisal: So you get around 5 tabs, and testimonials is also there. So because over here it’s all about word of mouth, so people wanna see the website and then they get the idea. So basically the testimonials site is there and there’s also a “Contact Us” page. It’s like a basic thing but people can get an overview of who we are actually through the site I guess.
What do you guys hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
Kisal: We want to produce. We want to produce, produce, and produce. Our music.
Kisal: Yes, because we’ve actually released our own music- like one track called The Ferris Wheel. Basically it’s not that complicated. It’s not dancehall or anything because for dancehall you need vocals and stuff like that but this is like mainly towards like, tribal music? Tribal/tech kind of a vibe. So we’ve worked on that and we released it actually around six or seven months ago. And we incorporate it at a lot of our gigs, but not main stage events because that type of genre does not get played. But we are planning to, you know- since we are in Colombo, we meet a lot of people out there. There are so many ideas and requests that are coming for collabs and stuff, so the next 5 years definitely we’re gonna work on a lot of music because I think that’s the next step that we were talking about at the beginning of this interview. So I guess yeah, we’re gonna work on a lot of new music. And around two or three songs we’ve made, but we are planning to release them pretty soon as well. So, you know a lot of things are happening but we cannot comment on that specifically right now when it comes to music. But the plan is that because that’s how you can enter the main market.
So, to kind of wrap things up, what would you like people to know about you guys and about the music here? Feel free to share anything.
Dawood: Feel free to share the music and yeah.
Kisal: Many people don’t know us by our names and we don’t want to go on that avenue. We just want people to know the brand. That’s the main important thing because it’s pointless knowing who are the individuals who actually are behind the brand. It’s just that we want the brand to go up there-
Dawood: To represent the two of us.
Kisal: Yeah, so we will be representing the brand. So I think what we want personally is, because we are completely different from- because we are actually a performance I could say. We perform a lot, it’s not just about DJ’ing. So it’s a performance and for people out there who don’t know us it’s always- because when we play, we think ‘If we were dancing to another DJ, what would we want next?’ What would we want next? What would he want? What would Dawood want? What’s the next song? So that’s what we incorporate while playing. I think that’s the key where, like a lot of DJ’s are fixed in their set and like ‘after this, this song plays’ we never do that. If it’s a main stage event, to know exactly where to speak and where not to, but I think that’s the main thing that we are personally looking forward to. We want to go out of Sri Lanka also since this is a very small community. There’s no states to visit to and play. A lot of the community is not Westernized or some parts are cultural, some parts don’t listen to music- a lot of things. So we want to go out of the country to go see avenues and stuff.
Where would you like to go first? What would be your first major stop outside of Sri Lanka?
Dawood: Well our main aim right now is towards Bali and Australia. Those are the two main places that we want to target in the short run. So short run as in less than a year. We really wanna play there. And, you never know, but in time if it becomes good, maybe to the European side as well. So it’s basically at the end of the day, hard work and the amount of time you put in while you do all your other work as well. It’s hard, but it’s all about the commitment and passion you are having for music.
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Atlanta-based music editor and interviewer who loves the idea of introducing people to great artists they may not have heard of yet.