Photo: Press (Sepehr)
You’ll find plenty of producers whose body of work feels like a mixed bag, a joyful chaos of different styles spread out over their releases, but only a handful will also give you the feeling that such a kaleidoscopic approach is their true and only modus operandi. Sepehr is one of them, though he readily admits in the following interview that he held himself back early in this career. These days are finally over for good however, and after releases on institutions such as Dark Entries, this year’s Survivalism LP on the New York City-based producer’s own Shaytoon label proves that the former San Francisco resident is just as able to speak in different rave argots as he is capable of lending every venture into UK-inspired sounds or psychedelic techno his very own voice. The same can be said about Sepehr’s mix for our Groove podcast – a small, diverse showcase of the sounds he’s absorbing right now.
First off, how have you been doing these past two years?
Oh you know, one day existential dread and the next day petting a dog and having that completely make my day. Ups and downs, and then big ups and then big downs again. Learning about who I am, trying to live in the present, confront fears and focus and sharpen my artform as much as possible. I guess that is a simplified version of it. The world continues to be a very tumultuous place, so I’m just trying to stay balanced and embrace the small joys.
After making a name for yourself with mostly house-leaning releases, your stylistic palette has significantly expanded in recent years. Looking back now, were there any key experiences that changed your musical course?
I think that I’ve always been interested in a really wide variety of sounds, but was too afraid to actually try and produce or release them because I wanted to follow the standards of the music industry. “Are they gonna book me if I change my sound now?” The less I give a fuck about that now, the better I feel though, so now I am trying to release as many different sounds that I like as possible. I think at the core I’ll always love the psychedelic and low-slung acid and techno-tinged punk sound I was schooled on in San Francisco, but all of the drum’n’bass records, experimental stuff like Coil and Future Sound Of London, and tribal B-side cuts I’ve always loved are finally coming out in my productions more.
In 2017, you have started playing live more and more. Did this have an impact on how you approach things in the studio?
Yes, because I think playing live really put my productions directly in front of audiences for the first time. I started to see patterns in the way that people would react with certain things in my live sets that gave me a new perspective on how to arrange music and how to harness energy. It made me realize that there were a lot of one dimensional aspects to my production that I could evolve way more. So I think this was a catalyst to releasing more “intricate” music too. Sometimes you gotta clear the floor to learn new things!
Your latest release was the LP Survivalism. The press release states that “[c]onsuming music, dancing to music or creating music is a form of survivalism, and a purpose to serve.” How exactly did you try to translate that idea into music?
I’ve been really thinking a lot about meaning lately, and sources of meaning that you could pull from without religious dogma or something you falsely idolize. I read a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and it made me realize that part of what can give life meaning is something that you work on forever, your life’s work. I immediately thought that for me it was producing music. But then I realized that taking it a step further, even just consuming music can give your life meaning and purpose … dancing, etc. As far as the music itself, I tried to give the sonic palette of the LP feelings of both existential comfort and chaos, with moments of beauty and moments of discord. The track titles all allude to existential themes.
Survivalism was released through Shaytoon, the label you had launched in 2020. What is the philosophy behind the imprint, and what are your goals with it?
The goal of the imprint is to shed light on the Middle Eastern underground. I feel that there are way too many underrepresented and unseen Middle Eastern artists in the electronic underground and there isn’t a big enough network linking us all. My goals for the label is to eventually grow it into a full on collective, booking agency and party series. I want to do lineups at festivals with all middle eastern artists. So far, I’m working on the first label nights in the US next year, and hoping – if the COVID-19 situation allows it – to do some in Europe and worldwide as well. I want to give exposure to people who are still living in countries that restrict them, but would make their life if they reached Western audiences with their music.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not the pandemic will have an impact on the club scene in terms of the music being played. Having played a slew of gigs after the club reopenings, would you say that things have changed – also in your own DJ and live sets?
I think that we are still in the midst of this pandemic, which is an era, and that we can’t fully grasp what has changed yet. The party scene definitely does not feel like what it did before the pandemic. There is still anxiety in there and I can feel it every time I go out. But overall, I don’t think that has changed what people play as much. I am grateful for New York City where I live now, because out of all the places I have visited, the energy here still feels electric. I think what changes the music being played more, besides the general mood of the world, is honestly the older generations starting to slow down and not play out as much. I see lots of people playing bigger parties now that are in their mid 20’s and didn’t get a chance to hear what the previous generation was playing and don’t have that much to reference to. Not to sound like a boomer raver or anything, but I could see that being the main thing that changes the sound.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
I wanted this mix to showcase some newer flavors i’ve been introducing into my sound, tribal and psychedelic drum cocktails as well as some of my own unreleased productions. I wanted it to feel quick and to the point, draw you in, and then release into some beatless potions that bring you into a meditative state. All crammed in 1 hour sounds like a lot, but I hope you’ll be able to feel what intended you to feel as the listener.
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
I want to contribute to society more. I want to grow my label as much as possible. I want to grow my discography as much as possible and reach new heights with my productions so that the influence lasts long after I’m six feet under. Also, I want to cook more Persian food.
Stream: Sepehr – Groove Podcast 319
01. Sinew – Impermanence
02. Haruomi Hosono – Spinning Spirits
03. Erika – Xenon Moon
04. Principia Audiomatica – Eliminate Programming
05. XCOR – Adelaar
06. Porter Brook – True Belief
07. CZN – On An Asset Tip
08. Kaval – Moving Lianas
09. Space Drum Meditation – Chatter
10. Thodén – Third Eye
11. Sepehr – Diaspora Simalucra
12. Soulwatcher – Demonika
13. Alonzo – Shitto Maltese
14. Urban Electro – Urban Electro (Short Edit)
15. Si Begg – U R D Best
16. Jonquera – Odsives
17. Rhythmic Theory – The Bridging Effect
18. Rhythmic Theory – At What Cost
19. Andy Stott – Hard To Tell