Self-Portrait: Sepehr

Making music is an intrinsic part of live artist and producer Sepehr‘s life; he describes it as a daily routine, and a sacred one at that.

These musical explorations, which also form the backbone of his explosive live sets, have found their way to labels like Darwin’s SPE:C, Adam Shelton’s EON, Klakson and the inimitable Dark Entries, for whom he released his most recent LP, Shaytoon, a title that he would soon extend to his own label.

At the end of last year he launched Shaytoon Records (the farsi word for devil), as a space for his own productions and a platform for Iranian and Middle Eastern electronic artists. Kicking off with a release of his own, ‘Crown Jewels’, he set a precedent for the elegant, psychedelic sonics that will continue to grace the label in future.

With plenty of unreleased music in his locker, his Self-Portrait mix charts the productions that haven’t yet found a home, and teases some of the new aliases and projects that he’s been working towards sharing with the world. This sits alongside an interview about his production and mental processes and what he has planned for his label in the future.

Crown of Jewels is available on Shaytoon’s Bandcamp.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

My earliest musical memory is listening to ABBA and the Bee Gees every time my family had people over. They were really into that stuff and I remember it being the soundtrack for every mehmooni at our house. (A ‘mehmooni’ is an Iranian word for gathering, when your family and family friends meet to socialize). I guess they were Iranian disco-heads, haha.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

Not necessarily. My parents loved music but they weren’t freaks over it. I remember all of the tapes and vinyl they still had they just kept under our family room TV tucked away, and I would always look in there and sift through them and be enamoured by the artwork. But I did quickly fall deeply into music and started playing guitar when I was 15.

What led you into music production?

I was playing guitar and trying to legitimately start a band in high school, and then when I discovered electronic music (namely listening to Villalobos’ fabric 36 and some other minimal stuff that was big at that time) it obliterated my mind and I decided I wanted to mess around and try to make beats.

Back then I used a cracked version of Frooty Loops on an old ass computer and just twisted and turned knobs until I learned what they did. Back then, there was no Soundcloud or “Instagram DJ culture”, no social media and EDM, so it was pure freedom. No rules and just twisting knobs and getting delighted at what came from it.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

So many, too many to name. Drexciya was a huge influence on me, as well as others from when I first got into music like James Holden, Villalobos, the old Minus stuff. But now I get inspired all the time from different people. When I lived in San Francisco, the DJs there like Carlos Souffront, Solar, Mozhgan, Tyrel Williams and others were probably the biggest influence on me and left the biggest mark on my production style.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

None at all. Because I work on music almost daily it’s just part of my everyday routine. I also usually have a bedroom studio, and sometimes a real studio. Sometimes I lay in bed with a laptop and make three tracks in a row. So it’s all a routine — a sacred one — but a routine.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Sometimes I have a certain record or certain concept that is really giving me tons of ideas that I try to bring into fruition, but usually when you try to be something, it ends up being the opposite. So I basically just follow whatever comes out. My ideation is basically like a Jackson Pollock painting. I throw a shit ton of paint at the wall and see what looks good.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

Absolutely an impulsive creator. I hate arranging music and it’s rare but sometimes it flows perfectly and the track almost arranges itself. I don’t like to be a perfectionist because I move on to the next idea and track so quickly and I get over things easily. When I’m in the middle of making like an EBM/post punk inspired thing, sometimes I will all of a sudden think “you know, I’d much rather be making a 180bpm drum n bass track right now”, so it’s really sporadic.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

It depends. Sometimes I start with old stems of mine from live sets that I haven’t used in ages and try to repurpose them. Sometimes I start by opening up a synth vst, or turning on a piece of hardware and just messing around and recording tons and tons of random sounds, pads, etc. Then I save those for later or immediately start working on something from them.

I basically produce enough random bits of sound at all times so that I always have a huge library to play with. Once I have a really good idea flowing, I make one attempt only at trying to lay it out. If it doesn’t flow automatically, I walk away from it for a bit.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

Thats hard to say; sometimes I use a lot of samples but at other times it’s all original. I guess 50/50? I sample things to be mangled beyond the point of being able to recognize where it’s from so no one will be able to tell anyway, muahahaha.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Sepehr track?

In your face and gives a physical sensation. Psychedelia. Potential moments of beauty. Freeform and free spirited with a strange color palette.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Sepehr material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

The idea for this mix was to play a bunch of tracks that don’t necessarily have a home, as well as some bits from some new aliases I’m working on that I’ll probably launch next year. I am still experimenting with their concepts, etc.

I wanted to showcase some tracks that never get shine and are hard drive jams that show different shades of myself, without caring about what anyone thinks. Pure DIY tracks that I just spit vocals all over, melodic stuff, balls to the wall acid, and everything in between!

Congratulations on the launch of your new label Shaytoon and your recent EP Crown Jewel. What’s the idea behind the label? Can you take us through the production process on one of the tracks from the release?

Thank you! I am really excited about the label. The idea behind the label is to showcase three things: 1) a vessel for my original music, 2) a platform for Iranian artists 3) a platform for the Middle Eastern dance music underground. I eventually want it to be a full on collective for Middle Eastern electronic artists.

Sure, I’ll take you through the process for “The Night Is Young”. I had an idea in my head to try and make a sort of early 00s house number that had disco stylings for the bass line, and would maybe be something that Francois K would edit. It ended up being a very distant relative of that covered in acid. I started by trying to craft a funky disco bass line, and wanted to have some pads and chords that felt “timeless”. I guess this isn’t necessarily the production process, but more of the mental process. I don’t really think about it too much. I put the idea in my head and just let loose and see what happens. 🙂

Crown of Jewels is available on Shaytoon’s Bandcamp.

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