If you’re a fan of Punjabi music, you’ve likely heard the name “Intense” alongside some of the biggest names in the industry.
Intense is responsible for producing hit tracks like Sip Sip, Illegal Weapon, Suit Suit, song of the summer Excuses with AP Dhillon and Gurinder Gill, and of course, Diljit’s latest release, “RiRi” which was produced in less than 5 hours with Intense and lyricist Raj Ranjodh.
While he has created quite the name for himself, and proven his ability to repeatedly create hit tracks that manage to fuse together East and West, bringing a mass appeal to Punjabi music -- Intense has never forgotten his roots.
Speaking from his music studio, which is only a stone's throw away from one of his former high schools in the heart of Surrey, Intense says his music career started as early as the age of 12.
Starting with remixes he sent to his friends over MSN, to DJing gigs at weddings and birthdays, he says he tried to take in as much musical knowledge as he could, whenever he could.
“When I turned 16 or 17 and I started doing more shows, I got to to perform with the likes of Bally Sagoo, Jassi Sidhu, Malkit Singh, Punjabi MC and many more” he says in an interview with 5X Press.
“I was doing club gigs, and was having to sneak into the places. I got to do those at a young age, and as my remixes progressed I wanted to get more into music.”
From there, Intense started producing beats and found artists to work with locally. He says when he dropped his first track “Dil Dangdi," he received a ton of great feedback.
“It was the first time I had ever done something like that, and a lot of people really appreciated it. They really liked it, and they didn't think that a guy that was just a DJ could go to that,” he says.
From there, the upwards trajectory began for Intense after he produced his debut album “More than Just a DJ,” which featured wedding reception anthem “Launian Pendhian” with Jup Gill.
“That was my first big break locally," he said.
From there, he was signed with a label called IMM and he had the opportunity to go work in India with some major artists.
Three months after releasing Launian Pendhian, the Surrey born and raised former DJ was in India, creating music for Bollywood films, and rubbing shoulders with some of Bollywood’s biggest stars.
How does someone who has achieved so much so young, gauge his success?
It is definitely hard to quantify, but there are moments which put it all into perspective.
“The first moment was when I got to go to Shahrukh Khan’s house,” he said.
While working with Mika Singh on some music for a movie he was working on, Intense went to an awards show in Bombay and then joined Mika at an after party at Shahrukh Khan’s house.
“I don't get starstruck, but Shahrukh Khan is Shahrukh Khan.”
After chatting up a number of big name megastars in India and speaking to Mr. Shahrukh Khan himself, Intense did a few more tracks in Bollywood before returning home, realizing Bollywood just wasn’t it for him.
One reason he felt this way was because he also noticed a gap between the kind of music that was popular in India, and that which was popular for a diasporic audience.
“Songs like Launian Pendhian weren’t that big in India, and there was that culture gap and I wanted to bridge that,” he says.
“I started experimenting with more artists here and this is when I was working with GS Hundal and we did Diamond Koka, which did really well here as well. But it still wasn’t crossing over the way I wanted it to.”
He adds that some of the music he did in India, no one knows about here, and vice versa, because they have such diverging interests and tastes.
But “bridging the gap” is definitely a good way to describe what Intense’s music is known for, in the way that it appeals to a Punjabi and even non-Punjabi audience that enjoys Punjabi music that is influenced by trends in music here in the West.
“Nobody ever had a rise up and a beat drop in a Punjabi song. I brought something different to the table because I made it sound more Western, as opposed to sounding more Indian,” Intense says.
Songs like Sip Sip with Jasmine Sandlas, or Khat or Suit Suit by Guru Randhawa really captured this new kind of sound that deviated from the kind of beats you’d usually hear in Punjabi songs.
“With Suit Suit, that whole thing with Major Lazer was in, and I was like, I want to make something that's going to be like that, that people can dance to,” he adds.
“I feel like I pioneered that sound. That's all I ever tried to do was pioneer that sound [and] everything I've ever made was to make it be something that people from here could understand.”
A song that epitomizes that crossover sound that Intense says he goes for is the song of the Summer from 2020, Excuses, that he did with AP Dhillon and Gurinder Gill.
"People like AP and Gurinder, they bring something new to the table because they understand what the dynamic is over here,” he adds.
"I've always wanted to do that Miami Vice sort of 80s thing -- and it just happened.”
The music that Intense produces appeals to the generations of brown kids who grew up in the diaspora, because for many of us growing up, Punjabi music wasn’t always known for being cool.
“I'm trying to make music now for that generation of people who growing up were embarrassed to represent Punjabi culture because the music wasn't known to be cool. You'd be cruising downtown having Punjabi music blasting and you’d see someone next to you, and you shut it off because you feel embarrassed,” Intense says.
"Every single person has done that at one point in their life. I needed to change that whole stigma."
He adds that he wants Punjabi music to have more of an appeal internationally, similar to the way that Latin music is popular worldwide, even among people who don’t speak Spanish.
“I want Punjabi music to be like that.”
One way Intense is doing this is with his new record label, Double Up Entertainment, where he wants to develop talent both locally and abroad.
“We want to take Punjabi music to that next level.”
When it comes to taking it to the next level though, remembering his roots and helping out local talent here in Surrey is something that Intense says he will always try to do, especially with his record label.
“When I started I was trying to fit in with the older guys and they weren't really giving me the time of day because I was just so young, but it's on me now to pave the way and give people the opportunity that I feel deserve it, because if I have the capability of doing it, why wouldn't I?” he says.
“There's so much amazing talent here. I want to put everybody on here that deserves a chance.”
Even someone with a profile as big as his, who has worked with some of the biggest stars in music, and who was literally inside Sharukh Khan’s house -- Intense has never let it get to his head.
“Everything I’ve done to this point I've just been going with the flow. If it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't. That's the mentality I've kept my entire life,” he says.
“If it doesn't work, throw it away and go do something else, do the next one. That's the reason I am where I am at this point.”
Nothing is a better testament to this than his work ethic, but also his commitment to his community.
Take for example, sitting down for this interview. After producing a track for Diljit, Intense finished mixing and mastering the song, creating the cover art and sending it off in just a few hours, and then sat down to give this interview his full attention, as if he wasn’t about to break the internet with one of the biggest stars in the world.
And break the internet he did, with the song amassing over 2.5 million views on Youtube in less than 24 hours.
Amid the ongoing Farmer’s Protests in India, Rihanna added her voice to the millions around the globe spreading awareness about the human rights abuses in India.
Diljit, Intense and Raj Ranjodh came together to create a Rihanna appreciation track, and as always -- they didn’t miss.
Listen to the track below: