A prolific producer of experimental techno, Sciahriar Tavakoli, is about to begin an explorative journey with the ambitious Devotion EP trilogy. We begin by discussing his background, how he came into electronic music and producing, and what the scene of his hometown Florence is like. We then dive deeper into the concepts regarding the new releases, the format he has chosen, his participation in duo UNKNOT, as well as the establishment of the new record label Sublunar.
Hi Sciahriar! Firstly, thanks for finding the time to do this interview, it is much appreciated. So can you tell us when your project, Sciahri, took off?
Hi. My pleasure, I’m really grateful for the opportunity you’re offering me. “Sciahri” is just a short version of my full name, Sciahriar.
As for my music, the project started in 2014 with my first release on Ilian Tape. With every release I have been trying to tell a different story about my musical evolution, always somehow connected to my vision of techno.
What is your background on electronic music? How did you get into techno and started producing?
It was a very slow process. I started producing and doing my first experiences as a DJ at the same time, when I was about 17. That was my first sort of background, I was really into the powerful energy of electro music.
It took a few years before I managed to define what it was exactly, the musical thing that I wanted to pursue. I began with a more classic techno sound, similar to Detroit techno, to then move gradually towards a more personal sound which also has more experimental nuances and which is more based on sound research.
You are based in Florence, if I am not mistaken. What can you tell us about the local scene? Are there many different artists and projects in experimental electronic music?
Yes, I live in Florence and, unfortunately, this is not one of the most fertile cities for experimental music. Some interesting events do take place every now and then, but not so regularly.
If I had to mention some of the artists based in Florence who are, in different ways, exploring unknown territories, these are definitely Herva (already on Delsin, Planet Mu) and my good friend Lorenzo Fortino. Of course there are many other good DJs and producers, especially in the house and techno scene in Florence, but I don’t believe we reach the standards of other cities in Italy in terms of quantity.
You are releasing the Devotion Trilogy on EPs shortly. Can you expand on the concept surrounding the releases? Why did you choose an EP format, rather than a single full-length record?
We have been thinking to release a trilogy for a long time; we had this idea stuck in our mind, to immerse the listeners into my own world and let them live an hypnotic journey divided into three EPs each one with a lead characteristic of sound design. Each record is independent but also completely related to the others so they made perfect sense to us in this format. They also set the point of departure of this musical project that will focuses on deep and textural techno with releases that will range from club effective productions as well as more experimental excursions.
I felt that there was a descent into a strange rabbit hole as I was listening sequentially to the EPs. Part 1 is fairly straightforward, yet still experimental, but things get more surrealistic with Part 2 and even more with Part 3. Was that a conscious decision?
It definitely does somehow work like this, and I’m glad you noticed it.
None of the artwork on the EPs is left to chance; in fact, they create a sequence that can be explained in three different phases: the beginning/departure, the journey, and the arrival. We wanted the listener to experienced these three phases. The more you go further, the more sounds become surreal and direct.
You have a very good grasp on the different elements of techno, and are able to produce both tracks that follow the norm, but also be more experimental and adventurous. How do you go about choosing the different elements that will go into the final tracks? What is your production methodology?
Lately I’ve been recording jams with my modular system. In a second stage, I cut out the most interesting parts and then I work with those, trying to enhance and build this material into some kind of narrative. I like to work with this technique rather than having the elements already laid out before the recording stage. Mostly because I can work more in depth on the details of the sounds. The elements are chosen by paying attention to how I feel about them.. That’s quite hard to explain in words, but you can definitely feel when you’ve found the right sound to use.
How different an approach production-wise were you taking from one EP to the other? Did you use different setup to make the sound more diverse?
I try always to make something different from what I’ve done previously. I never set any any specific limit and maybe it’s for this reason that some of my records are really different, but I believe that most of it depends on my state of mind when I’m making things. I really like techno music in all of its shades, and this probably influences the fact the there is such a diversity in my output, but my way of working has remained almost the same throughout the last few years.
What are the themes that you are exploring in Devotion? How are the three releases connected thematically?
The name Devotion represents my tribute to techno music. With this trilogy, I want to express a part of me that I haven’t shown before, a slightly darker and harder one. The genre also somehow creates the connection between the EPs, since between a Part and the other there may be a significant difference in terms of sound, but the genre stays the same. Another thing that somehow relates the content of each chapter is the fact that all the tracks were somehow produced in a relatively short period of time.
The Devotion EPs are also the first release through the new label you started alongside Dagdroom, Sublunar. How did you come to the conclusion of establishing your own label? Will we see releases from other artists from Sublunar in the future?
It was a natural consequence, since for a few years now I’ve had the idea to start my own label where I could express myself freely and propose my idea of music and work on this with friends. My friendship with Francesco (Dagdrom) and the big respect that I have for him for what concerns music, made all of this possible in a very natural way.
As for the second part of the question: yes, of course the idea is to involve other artists in the future too, this will definitely happen from the second half of the year, for which we have scheduled several releases including the debut EP of a new talent. It is also our intention to propose other releases in the form of trilogy. Our idea is to collaborate with the artist and to make him part of the project in a way that goes beyond the simple act of releasing a record.
You are also part of the UNKNOT duo, and you have recently released the excellent UNKNOT03 EP. What are the areas that you investigate with Sciahri, which you do not in UNKNOT?
Unknot is a project run by me and my friend Emanuele (WSR). Me and Emanuele have been friends for about 10 years now, we are very close and not just musically, so it was a natural consequence to meet up one day and to try to do some things together. It ‘s always a lot of fun because with Unknot we can somehow combine our very different influences and what comes out is sometimes very surprising.
When considering the production process, what are the differences between working on your own as Sciahri, and working as part of duo in UNKNOT?
I think that the factor that makes most difference is time. Emanuele lives in Berlin so we see each other not so often, and even fewer are the times that we manage to meet in a studio, so when it does happen we need to maximize the time available and therefore need to work much more instinctively. When I’m alone in my studio it’s completely different as I have all the time I need, sometimes I even leave things to settle and return on the project even after days or weeks.
Do you have any more releases, either under Sciahri, UNKNOT or anything else, that are coming up?
After my Devotion Trilogy I have another EP on Opal Tapes in June and something more is most likely to come out in the second part of the year. For what concerns Unknot at the moment we have a lot of new material ready, so let’s see what happen next.
Alright Sciahriar! Thanks again for finding the time to answer my questions. All the best to you!
It was a pleasure, thanks to you..ciao!