Abstract Logix's Souvik Dutta: From Living Room to Center of the Universe

Ian Patterson By

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Machacek would send copies of his CD Featuring Ourselves (Next Generation Enterprises, 1999) from Austria, and Dutta would sell it. The relationship grew and has continued to grow and bear fruit to this day: "He was writing a new record called [sic] (Abstract Logix, 2006) and he had just moved to the United States," relates Dutta. "Nobody knew who he was and no record company had any interest in releasing his music." Abstract Logix put out [sic] to great reviews in the music press, announcing the arrival of a major new voice on electric guitar. Machacek has since released a number of critically acclaimed CDs on Abstract Logix, including the extraordinary 24 Tales (Abstract Logix, 2010), an ambitious, recomposed work based around a 51-minute drum solo by Marco Minneman. The range and depth of the music—recomposed and improvised—attests to Machacek's status as one of the most innovative and daring composers/musicians on the jazz/fusion scene. Not for nothing did John McLaughlin say of the guitarist: "Alex Machacek's music starts where other music ends."

People were gradually getting to know Abstract Logix, largely through the label's distribution of John McLaughlin's DVD, though another tour selling merchandise for Remember Shakti—this time through Asia— enabled Dutta to spread the name of the label still further. "I worked very hard to make Abstract Logix known to people who like this kind of music," explains Souvik. "I would take out little ads and make postcards and give them to people at the McLaughlin concerts, and that's how I spread the word about the company." In addition, Abstract Logix built up a relationship with distribution companies in Japan as well as Europe, and the music began to gain a wider audience. Today, around 60 percent of Abstract Logix's business is outside the United States.

Musicians too, began to see Abstract Logix as a good company to represent their best interests, as Dutta explains: "Things started to happen, man; I got a phone call from Scott Kinsey, and people started to approach me who maybe didn't have a large record company to release their stuff, and I just started to do it one by one."

Former Tribal Tech and Joe Zawinul Syndicate keyboardist Kinsey found exactly the type of support and appreciation of his music at Abstract Logix that is rare to find in larger record companies. Having waited years to make a solo album, Kinsey was somewhat surprised with the speed of Dutta's response once he had heard the music, as he explains in this excerpt from a 2006 interview with All About Jazz: "Within a day he [Dutta] had a release date for me. He had the distributor saying that he had some art work started. He had all this stuff happening. Everything moved extremely fast and that was the main thing I was looking for. I wanted things to happen ASAP because I had waited way too long. For years, people have been asking me about it on tours and I kept saying, 'I don't know.' I was sick of that. Souvik just made it happen."

"The situation was very good from the start," continues Kinsey, "because he didn't want to buy the record like every other label on the planet who will give you a certain amount of money to own the master. He never wanted to go there. He realizes that this is your music, you've worked hard on it and you should own it. I just like the guy, the organization. Even though they're small, they care. They're interested and they put the time and effort in. I'm very happy with that."

Kinsey put the word out to his old Tribal Tech buddy, bassist Gary Willis, who contacted Dutta with the result that his own CD Actual Fiction (Abstract Logix, 2008) was released on the label, preceded not long before by Slaughterhouse 3 (Abstract Logix, 2007), an exhilarating collaboration between Willis, drummer Kirk Covington and Spanish saxophonist Llibert Fortuny Electric

Kinsey is hardly alone in his praise for the way Abstract Logix is run, and indeed, all the artists on the label's roster speak glowingly of the way they are treated. For Dutta, the philosophy of the label is a simple one: "The love of the music and the fairness of the business collaboration are the two fundamentals," he states firmly. "I was aware that the relationship between an artist and a record label was not usually great due to the unfairness of the business. I didn't have much of a financial motivation in creating Abstract Logix. I wanted to make sure that a major portion of all the profits went to the artist that made the music, because there wouldn't be any point in me even existing if I was doing it the way the rest of the world was."

"Firstly, I have to like the music, because I am the only one who makes the decisions. If I don't like the music, I just don't put the record out. Secondly, the way I approach the business is as a partnership between us and the artist. It is always a collaboration, because there is no point putting records out if the artist doesn't feel good about it. I don't want any artist to work with me if they feel they are not getting a fair deal. It has to be a very fair collaboration. Then we work as hard as possible to get the word out on the music. "

Dutta has a dedicated team of people around him, all of whom share the same philosophy, and first and foremost comes Dutta's wife Shweta: "She's my right arm in this whole operation ," says Dutta. "She handles a lot of the logistics and the financial side." The day-to-day operations are run by John Angelo, the current Director of Operations who Dutta describes as "a big part of our success." Then there is Troy Cole, who's going to be launching Abstract Logix's new digital initiative in partnership with DIY Media. This means that the website will offer its own version of digital downloads, though like pretty much everything else at Abstract Logix, this too will be something out of the norm, as Dutta explains: "Musicians will be able to price their songs or albums themselves, control it based on the various geographies, and be able to see sales and activity instantly. We are going to be able to provide total transparency."

For those who would prematurely mourn the passing of the CD, Dutta has some comforting words: "As long as people still want to buy hard copy, we want to have hard copy."
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