For someone so young, Kasra V’s musical knowledge stretches beyond most. Originally from Tehran, Iran, his move to London at the age of 17 marked the start of his musical journey. Since landing a slot on NTS Radio, his thoughtfully crafted shows that travel through trance, leftfield oddities, new beat and beyond, have cemented him as a mainstay on the station. Also a producer, 2015 saw the release of Kasra’s first EP, The Persian Prince, on Make Love In Public Spaces – a tripped out three tracker flaunting boogie influences, while summoning feelings of nostalgia. Now he’s heading up a new East London party, Domino Dance, inviting a special guest to join him for an all night long session, with previous guests including the likes of Zozo, Phuong Dan and Zaltan.
In this interview we chat to Kasra about family influences, his new party Domino Dance and his love for the bargain bins. This sits alongside a vinyl-only mix of his favourite cuts from the 80’s and 90’s.
Kasra V plays at Kala Festival (20th – 27th June) – Find out more.
DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey?
Records weren’t around that much when I was growing up in Tehran as I’m a child of 90s, so it was mainly tapes in my case. The only person that had records was my aunt as she is the sort of person that’s quite into collecting interesting books, films, music and art. I remember hearing Depeche Mode, Grace Jones and Tanita Tikaram at her house. My dad would mainly listen to Iranian music from 70s like Googoosh or old French classics like Joe Dassin. Music from his youth generally, I would say he is quite a nostalgic person musically.
My brother had a pretty important role in introducing me to new music, he is ten years older than me and you can imagine how much of a role model he was (still is!) to me, so I was listening to a lot of music second hand through him, stuff like Prodigy and Dr.Dre. You have to bear in mind it was really hard to come across new music in Iran back in the 90s!
As a child I would spend a lot of time listening to VH1. I loved those programs that would go through top 100 music of decades – I was obsessed with Guns n’ Roses. But I would say that my personal in depth musical journey didn’t fully take off until I moved to London aged 17.
People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
When I moved to London from Tehran I was DJing in bars and clubs straight away and it didn’t take me long to realise that a lot of the songs I like aren’t released digitally. I have to buy them on vinyl in order to get them in high quality. That, and owning something that was physical were the first motivation and still are.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I’ve just moved into a new flat so I haven’t fully unpacked yet but I store my records in shelves in my bedroom. The first two shelves are mainly the records I’ve been playing out recently, then there is one shelf for music I want to sample or use as inspiration for my own productions. There is also one shelf dedicated to CDs as I collect a lot of CDs too. The rest of the shelves are kind of divided into two sections, music I enjoy listening to for personal pleasure and music I want to play on radio or in clubs. It makes sense in my head but slightly hard to describe it!
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
My favourite spot in London was Lucky Seven (R.I.P). I loved the dusty bargain basement which was mainly acid house, trance and drum n bass. Every time I went there I would make sure I had a few hours to spare; I just found the randomness of the records in the shop quite exciting. I’m not really into boutique record stores and generally tend to like stores that have a varied collection and don’t care too much about what’s the latest release. I can find new releases online so I mainly prefer record stores that have surprises I can’t find anywhere else.
Outside London I would say my favourite spot is Rack & Ralls in Oslo, Norway. The place mainly specialises in music from 70’s-90’s. Sorted alphabetically by artist name and super clean. I always get so over excited when I visit that place because I’m certain that I can definitely buy 30-50 records without even trying hard. If you ever visit Oslo you need to go there!
Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out?
I really enjoyed visiting Kristina Records when Ashton Holland, Emmanuel from Nummer, Danny Bushes and Nick Murray used to work there. Sometimes I would just walk up to the shop if I had some free time – I still do if I’m passing by – to chat about new records and music in general. I knew all of the guys previously but it was fun times definitely!
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be illusive over the years?
There has been some for sure. What happens most of the time is that I put certain records in my want list and at the time they aren’t that rare. I forget about them for a bit and then few months later they become more expensive because they have been played in mixes by different DJs over that time.
Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with?
This hasn’t been a conscious decision but I’ve always gone record shopping solo.
Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after?
I go straight to the bargain basement! Majority of the music I’m into like acid house, trance and IDM are not really of value to most stores so they are just looking for ways to get rid of them. I can buy records that I know already on Discogs so at a record store I tend to try and look for songs I wouldn’t know about normally.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
A massive role. I’ve bought records solely for their artwork on numerous occasions. Sometimes they turn out to be as good the cover and sometimes they don’t, but that doesn’t bother me!
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
I went through my records and put music of various moods aside and recorded it at NTS Studio Two in one go. I guess it all kind of has a certain sound but it’s mainly music from 80s-90s and slightly more retrospective compared to my radio shows. Some of these records have been with me for few years so if you have followed my shows over the years you might recognise one or two tracks. Also I finally got to play Enigma and Sacred Spirit in a mix, because why not? I mainly wanted to do a mix that was up and down and not think too much about it. I hate overthinking and over the years of doing radio I’ve gotten really used to free styling rather than planning stuff before. It’s way more fun that way!
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
Sunrise by Midi Rain aka John Rocca. Love that guy! I actually have had that album for ages but never listened to that song properly prior to recording this mix, big tune!
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
DJs and selectors I admire, in no particular order, are Jonny Rock, Kim Ann Foxman, Zozo, Solar, Pandora’s Jukebox, Heap and Paramida to name a few. I think they all have pinned their own sound and you can hear the confidence both in terms of selection and technique.
And are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on?
My top tips would be Woody’92 aka the real woody and Spekki Webbu.
Your NTS shows are sometimes guided by themes or artist focuses. Is this spurred on by a passion to dive deep into a subject and explore it fully?
I only do that every now and then, mainly because there aren’t that many artists or bands that I wholeheartedly love enough to dedicate a full show too. You gotta keep in mind that not many bands have a solid back catalogue that could be good enough for a two hour mix. I do really really enjoy the process though. I haven’t done one this year so far but have a few planned so hold tight!
You’ve recently started running a regular night called Domino Dance at the Waiting Room. Can you tell us a bit about the concept? What have you got coming up?
The concept is that one guest per night joins me for an all night session. I’ve done three so far with Zaltan, Zozo and Phuong Dan. I think all three are amazing selectors and I can’t wait to announce the next series soon! I want to give a shout out to Karl for helping me out on the admin side of the parties and Morteza for the flyers!
Kasra V plays Kala Festival in Albania (20th-27th June). Find out more.