Photo: Liv Torkell (Maral Salmassi)
Maral Salmassi has never been gone, but she’s more present than ever. Having left the techno community after the death of Christian Morgenstern, the Konsequent founder worked in different fields under different aliases and released on other imprints before reviving the legendary label for a Morgenstern retrospective followed by new material by herself. Hot on the heels of 2016’s Omni and her 2017 collaboration EP with d_func., she is now putting out the 177X through Konsequent and already has more releases in the pipeline. Her mix for the Groove podcast explores the darker facets and psychedelic qualities of techno by the likes of Pan Sonic, Reeko or Paula Temple: sinister, lysergic, intelligent and powerful music to cling on to in uncertain times.
First off, how are you doing and what have you been up to?
I’m doing very well thank you. I’ve just released my Arya Zappa debut album, my new techno single 177X, and finished the upcoming single 177Z as Maral Salmassi. Currently, I’m promoting the album and already back in the studio working on the second Arya Zappa album. Additionally, I’m doing the mastering and artworks for Konsequent and also working on two new CGI videos for Konsequent records. My schedule is pretty packed.
After also having produced music under the name Kali, you’ve recently also made your debut as Arya Zappa. What’s the concept behind this project?
Contrary to Arya Zappa, Kali was a political statement to be understood as an experiment. Arya Zappa isn’t an experiment and not political at all, but rather dealing with identity and the bigger questions of our human existence. Since no-one gets to chose parents, gender, name, religion, nationality, skin colour, etc., the identity question was always my main concern. Who are we? Are our choices truly ours? Essentially, Arya is the result of my ongoing metamorphosis dealing with important life events, involving death, heartbreak, recovery, and my life long struggle concerning my voice, which in fact is a great obstacle considering that the voice is a direct expression of our identity. To cut a long story short, I had to become my true self which I called Arya Zappa in order to create something of value and to be able to sing and perform.
You have also worked as a producer for other artists and bands. What does this work entail and what’s most important to you when producing someone else’s music?
Working with other artists is always very exciting and taught me a lot. It’s a process that gives you a lot of insight into the workflow of other musicians and is consequently a great source of creative input. But currently, my main focus is my Arya Zappa project and Konsequent Records, which only allows me to do mixing and mastering for other artists.
Besides that, you have been scoring documentaries and adverts. How does your working process differ from working on your own productions when you are doing such commissioned works?
I have a big library of samples, loops, and templates which I have created over the last years for these kinds of jobs. It’s a very different process than composing personal music. The clients have detailed ideas about how things should sound. These kinds of jobs are all about functionality with a little space for your own creative input. Ultimately it’s all about the client’s vision which I of course always try to achieve as good and close as possible.
In 2016, you have reactivated your Konsequent label and released an extensive retrospective of Christian Morgenstern’s releases but also new music. Having focused on different kinds of music as Kali and with your label Television Rocks, this also marked a step towards techno again. What drew you again to this type of music and the culture around it?
Christian’s back catalog wasn’t accessible until 2015. He passed away in 2003, when the digital format was just starting to take over. His death marked a great turn in my life, forcing me to retreat from the techno scene and anything connected to this painful experience. But over the last years, I often received emails from fans asking where his digital catalogue was available. Around 2015, I finally had the strength to go to the basement and open the old boxes. One lead to the other and I decided to make his catalogue accessible and restart Konsequent Records. But without the generous support and help of my friends at Kompakt, Alexander Kowalski, and Lorenz Thierse of Dystopian Records it wouldn’t have been possible.
Your new single 177X is being released at a time where the club scene has come to a grinding halt. In your opinion, what role does techno and electronic dance music in general play in a world when there’s no chance to celebrate it in the ways we are used to?
Unfortunately, techno and electronic dance music have become consumer goods. We have reached a level where labels, press, or artists have no saying in how the music biz should work and which artists get to make careers. It’s now the booking agencies and festivals who make the rules and decide what gets exposure. Sadly, we have hit the tipping point of capitalism on steroids. The so-called “underground” doesn’t exist anymore. Techno plays by the same rules as EDM. I think Corona is a great chance for detox. I deeply hope that the focus now will shift to local artists and the smaller festivals and clubs. It’s time for corporate agencies and festivals to go in order to heal and grow in a healthy manner which would benefit everyone involved and not only a few corporations and their crowd puller.
For 177X, you’ve enlisted Inigo Kennedy and Oliver Rosemann, who has previously released music through Konsequent. Why did you choose them to remix this particular track?
I love how Inigo works with samples. The sharp simplicity in contrast to the emotional complexity of his sound was exactly what I was looking for. What I love about Oliver’s sound are the raw energy and dense textures. His sound has a more robust simplicity which is both hypnotizing and invigorating and exactly what I was looking for too.
What was the idea behind your contribution to our Groove podcast?
I aimed to hit the sweet spot between techno’s darker margins and its psychedelic realms.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
Releasing the next single 177Z including a Psyk remix, finishing the second Arya Zappa album and producing the next video trilogy and a second musical short film for Arya Zappa plus touring in 2021.
Stream: Maral Salmassi – Groove Podcast 268
01. Pan Sonic – Murtoneste
02. Abdulla Rashim – Ocean Drive
03. Reeko – Massive Garage Meetings
04. Abdullah Rashim – Vestal Witness
05. HD Substance – Antenna
06. DJ Deep – La Grande Brasserie
07. Cari Lekebush – C Theories (Damon Wild Remix)
08. Rote – Rote 1 (DJ Nobu Remix)
09. Jokasti & Nek – Ektroma
10. Jonas Kopp – Starbst
11. Maral Salmassi – 177X
12. Kernel Existence – OPI (MESSIAHWAITS Remix)
13. ANNA – High Contrast
14. Matrixxman – Full Clipp
15. SHXCXCHCXSH – PCTSTSS
16. Pfirter and Kriz – Malice
17. Maral Salmassi – 177X (Inigo Kennedy Remix)
18. Paul Birken – Funnel Fiends
19. Katsunori Sasa – Perimeter
20. Paula Temple – Gegen
21. Michael Wells – Three Fates (SHXCXCHCXSH Remix)
22. Giordano & Pabla – Synonym
23. Selection Natural – Transmutation
24. Notzing – To send the Listener Out Of The Physical Plane
25. SHXCXCHCXSH – Stämma
26. Reebok – To The Sun
27. WHT MOTH – Canaglia
28. Reeko – Damage 1
29. Danny Rodriguez – Spirit (Michael Jonsson Mix)
30. Advanced Transistor – Silicio