Occupation: Producer, composer
Recent release: The new ArtSaves EP Decay is out via Kopi August 26th.
Recommendations: A book from my favourite writer Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Also, here’s a piece of poem from Iranian contemporary poet and painter Sohrab Sepehri which I think is kind of relevant to your last question:
It is not our job to identify the secret of the red rose
Maybe our job is to dive into its magic
camp behind the wisdom
Wash our hand in the glory of a green leaf and go our way
If you enjoyed this interview with ArtSaves and would like to find out more about his work, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started making music about 8 years ago.
I was really drawn to the works of Nine Inch Nails, Telefon Tel Aviv, Justice, and also a lot of IDM, electronica, and trip-hop that I was listening to before I started making music. Going even further, to earlier influences, it was definitely hip-hop, rock and to be honest mostly the Western music that I was exposed to during my teenage years through satellite tv.
When I contemplate it now, it was the distorted, disrupted unapologetic new forms, sounds, and possibilities that was pretty liberating and inspirational to me.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Listening to music is a kinetic and feeling-oriented experience for me, whether it's a feeling of happiness, calm, anger, curiosity, nostalgia, or feelings that cannot be rendered in words. So, when I'm making music I always look for ways to provoke feelings. Sometimes through imagining visual settings and made up scenarios in my mind.
For example, my last album is a self-made story about a human chimera that comes to life: a combination of many things yet not belonging to anything. The story has five chapters starting with creation. The creator then presents the results and the whole town starts to celebrate. People gradually start analyzing the new creature and expect the Chimera to behave in a certain way according to the things they can see and relate to. The creature then decides to leave its homeland in search for similar creatures and to create an independent isolated colony. Before leaving, it plants a seed in the homeland with its DNA code for the future.
This all happens in a kind of post-apocalyptic setting but the idea is a reference to present time: to an artist in search for his identity or anyone who doesn’t belong to their time and place and hopes to achieve the impossible somewhere else in future.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Well it's an ongoing practice.
Over the years I guess I've developed a more laid-back and realistic approach to success. I've learned that there are always going to be challenges no matter what stage I'm in. That real development happens gradually during the process. That I should trust the timing of things and not try to push anything but keep working and adding to my archive when I am in creative mode.
As for searching for a personal voice, I look at what I do as a way of exploring and learning about music and myself at different stages of my life. I think at least part of my personal voice is constantly changing and recently I’m more comfortable with this fact and with who I am.
After years of struggle, trying to meet expectations, I am somewhat happy now that I am capable of producing something other than what’s expected from me; and I like art and music for providing this possibility.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I really don’t know and it’s not like I didn’t spend enough time on this question.
My last two albums were actually a response to these questions. Two autobiographical fictions targeting the concepts of identity, authenticity, and belonging, especially for those who experience immigration. So, let me quote from my album statement:
“We live in an identity-coded world. How we define ourselves in relation to our environment subconsciously rules our preferences and intentions; in an extreme view, we are nothing but a collection of broken mirrors replicating our environment. This environment used to be our local tribe where real needs were met, our local community where we naturally belonged. But today, in our ever-connected world, our broken mirrors detect a much larger radius and leave us with more unanswered questions: how much of our efforts here in the Middle East are a response to some sort of Western gap? How much of our artistic journey is walking towards someone else's carrot? Or moving away from the stick?”
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Continuity, patience, being humble, experimenting, trusting my intuition, relying on a story-telling approach, and focusing more on ideas rather than tools and techniques.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Making music in a sense is continuing the tradition in my opinion. We're all building upon what has come before us, so I don't think there's anything truly original about what an artist can do.
Innovation in terms of connecting influences in a way that reflects individual experience and creating something that looks like a unique creation is what is authentic. I'm not particularly interested in music from the future.
Timeless music far from perfection and beyond trends will leave its influence and make its mark through time. In that sense, any timeless music could potentially be the music of the future. Maybe it’s through making music that we’re avoiding the inevitable decay and seeking immortality.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The most important tool and my main instrument for what I do is my laptop and the internet and everything that comes with it.
Since the possibilities are almost endless in the digital domain I think the most promising strategy for using it creatively is through a simplified workflow and using smart tools and generative strategies as a playground which deliberately facilitates creativity and suggests new possibilities.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I can't say that I have a routine. Active listening and digging music is the only constant activity during my everyday life. I'm not an early bird / morning person and more of a night owl. So, most of the time I start my day late and I'd take my time. Probably check my email and socials while still in bed. Sometimes even start some follow-ups and other stuff right off the bed.
Whenever I wake up it’s the morning so I got to drink my tea and get something to eat. Then perhaps I'll experiment with sounds or get some music done depending on what I'm working on at the time, before I feel hungry for lunch.
Sometimes I get a nap during the day. Then perhaps working on something related to my music or my label (Kopi Records). Later in the evening depending on the wether I might go out for a bike ride and shoot some hoops or hang out with friends.
The rest of the day would be chilling and making dinner and watching a movie or something in bed before going to sleep.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
The whole creative process starts with an idea, image, story, feeling or sound that draws me into it and starts building everything around it.
In my recent works, I practiced ambiguously drawing inspiration from my Iranian heritage, specifically southern provinces which are historically connected and share a lot of similarities with African music and culture. My approach to the rhythms and motifs in particular was intuitive and more focused on my roots.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Creating music has been a solidarity practice for me all along which was not exactly by choice and was partly a result of the environment. I'm used to it now and prefer it because it makes me feel in control and gives me enough time to explore and experiment plus I don't like somebody looking over me while I'm making music. (laughs) So I guess if I want to collaborate I would definitely prefer doing it remotely.
But I really liked my collaborative experience during my time at Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin. It was a productive and fun experience and the end result was way different from what I usually would end up on my own.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
To me, making music or any kind of genuine art is a type of resistance against what is chosen for us and we have no control over. It's a reflection of our society and culture. The liberating act of trying to make sense of it all and regain control over chaos.
It’s also a very primal form of communication and a meditative practice which brings sympathy and connection among people and generations.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
As you can tell from my moniker "ArtSaves" I totally agree with you.
Although I have learned a lot from the whole ecosystem around music and the people involved, I would say music doesn't necessarily answer these questions. It merely acts as an overlay on life, making it easier if not more beautiful to live.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I see music as a natural living thing like language. The role of science is to investigate and describe this phenomenon to us to better understand it. Understanding the science behind music perhaps reveals some of its mysteries and could help us engineer and use it in a more intentional way.
But then sometimes we lose magic by over-explaining mysteries.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Music is a very abstract, non-suggestive form of expression and communication which I think you don't allow yourself in most other ordinary tasks. In cases where music is not created based on a direct commercial purpose in when it’s free and liberating.
Also, the feedback and amount of people that you can touch and influence by your work is something that makes doing it worthwhile.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
This is something that I still don't quite understand but I romantically believe that it has been innate to us and developed in our DNA like a gift. Why it has been there in the first place I don't know.
Maybe science can give us some explanation of why certain things happen when listening to music and sound, and will continue to discover more.