Sciahri has been on the run as a producer and DJ since his discography debut in 2014. Having a significant number of releases and one full-length album, each with its own impact and dynamic, he tirelessly strives for further, more refined explorations in the electronic music spectrum. No stranger to the “burdens” that come with leading a creative life, such as stress and exposing oneself, he reaps with utmost delight the fruits of his labour. Through personal expression and commitment to the genre’s culture, he achieves balance through his passion and aiming for what’s best. After the release of Paralyzed EP on Sublunar on the 7th of November, we had, for this occasion, a very insightful discussion in an attempt to cover the tracks of his almost-a-decade career til his recent activities, including his appearance at the Tehran Contemporary Sounds Festival where he introduced something new.
As a producer, you have made your debut in discography in 2014 with the EP Mysterious Love. How has your sound shaped compared to its start?
Let’s start by saying: a lot of things changed in the last 8 years. I have changed in the way I produce and approach to music. My influences too evolved through time and lead me to challenge myself. I moved towards a less orthodox/ordinary sound than the one of Mysterious Love. However, I absolutely love the techno classic sound of Mysterious Love and I’m working on future projects that have this as an inspiration. I always try not to set too many limits for myself.
Additionally, you formed UNKNOT together with Emanuele Porcinai. What can you tell us about this project and what have you gained by it and the collaboration in general?
Emanuele is one of my dearest friends. We’ve known each other for over fifteen years and have two different musical backgrounds: acoustic and electronic. As our two worlds eventually crossed, it was inevitable: it was fun to watch this materialize for the both of us. We started our label UNKNOT in 2015 and sometimes struggle to follow our work plan exactly as we want with Emanuele living in Berlin. It takes us years, but we finally manage to develop the recent Sublunar EP Body of Water. I’m very proud of this project because it made possible for us to create something that we wouldn’t have been able to express individually.
As to collaborations in general, I find myself enjoying them more and more over the years. They challenge me in exploring and creating. I consider a personal/human connection transcending musical affinity to be key to this process. I loved working with Desroi and producing two EPs for Semantica and Non Series. I’m currently working for a collaboration with my good friend CONCEPTUAL, we have already done several very strong tracks in my opinion. I have new collabs scheduled for the future too, only time will tell.
Where do you find inspiration? Are there any personalities, activities or something else you’re looking up to?
Inspiration does not always come easy, especially after many years working in this industry. Besides, I would say music has become irrelevant compared to other realities such as social networks and the virtual world. This is something that makes me sad. Personally, sometimes inspiration comes from my inner self: I try to get it from my ambition, my passion and my intention to push my limits. It is also to look for new inspirations that I have started collaborating with some friends over the years and try to start new music projects.
What would you like to convey through your sound? How do you design a track and, consequently, a release?
Well, I try to reveal my personality through my sound. I want people to recognize the way I express myself musically and differentiate myself from other artists at the same time. I consider my work and the way I work as a continuingly evolving shape. If I had to think about something risky as an artist, I would definitely mention referring to past artists. Because I believe this to be like wielding a double-edged sword: it holds potential, but if too central, it can be threatening to an artist’s uniqueness. This is something I do not wish upon me. I will keep researching my style with this purpose.
As to the way I design tracks, my mindset sets the tone. Usually, I start recording with a modular or use recordings of old sessions. Then, I search for the best parts, insert effects and vsts to process and mold the sound into something authentic. I can see how this isn’t probably one of the fastest work methods, but it’s definitely worth the effort for the track. The connection of the tracks is really important. Sometimes the link lies in my most recent work, sometimes in projects from the past. Finally, when I am closing a track list for Sublunar I often find myself putting more pressure on my work than I do when working on other labels.
Sublunar started as a label in 2017 with you as its co-owner. What led you to create it and how things have changed for you since then?
I have always wanted to be a label manager. The idea of working with and for artists I admire AND to be able to release their music always excited me a lot. I would say my dear friend Francesco and I created Sublunar in the most natural way. Our shared passion for techno music definitely lit the spark the label needed to start. Sublunar definitely took different forms during the years, and I’m confident in saying we fulfilled many of our goals.
We had the chance to collaborate with some of the best artists on the scene for example the Corpora trilogy is one of the projects I’m most proud of. Before becoming the sole owner, I have took some time to re-schedule and plan all the work for the future. That’s why the label was inactive last year. This label means so much to me. It allows me to express and work on my perspective on music. Hopefully, it will always be a main project in my career.
How would you define the label’s aesthetic and focus? What can we find there and who is invited to join its catalogue?
I am honestly obsessed with the label’s aesthetic. The essence of Sublunar can be found in endless transformation. It reflects my vision on techno music: a never-ending flow, a disruptive force that can’t be ceased. I am a very careful decision maker. I’m always looking for artists whose sound design would stand out, and with the ability to range in production. As to the way I choose tracks, it is hard to put it into words. This is where feeling and perception join the game. This connection can happen instantly for me, I let my instinct guide me. The essence of Sublunar is constantly evolving, it’s rooted in the music of the artists who have been part of it and reflect my vision of techno.
A new EP called Paralyzed was released recently. Does this creation capture any part of you? How it reflects your current creative status?
I was really determined to explore a new variety sounds with this record. Also, a big fan of Birmingham’s groovy and rough techno style. I wanted this record to catch this kind of vibe and to maintain a personal sound at the same time, it was fun! This record, however, is not reflecting my current creative state because I feel like I am constantly evolving. I am already working on some material with an even different direction. This is what techno means to me: evolution in constant motion.
From where did you draw influence to compose it and how was the process? Were any expectations fulfilled during its course?
As I explained I was very into Birmingham techno at the time and wanted to do something different from the other Sublunar records I had released. The process of this release was more fluid than other times. In fact, excluding “lake of Snakes” which is the oldest of the four, the others were conceived in a very short period. Later, when I mixed the tracks in a studio in Berlin, I realized that this was the final tracklist. Expectations are always high, but I’m happy with the work I’ve done. I think I’ve given my personal touch to all the tracks.
There’s also a release regarding the war in Ukraine. Was it easy to organise this initiative and how did the audience respond? How did that make you feel in general?
As soon as I heard about Ukraine, I knew I wanted to do something to help. I played in Kiev some years ago. I could not believe what was happening and thought about a way to help the people there. These kind of projects require a long networking phase. More often than not, the timeline requires extension in order to meet the needs of all the artists collaborating. I am happy to say I was very satisfied with the result, also musically. Probably one of the best compilation released in the scene in my opinion. The audience responded quite well, too. We have donated about €2000 so far and the compilation keeps selling almost daily. I want to take this opportunity to thank again every artists involved, my friend Neel who took care of the mastering and my graphic designer Margherita Baldi for the fantastic work as always.
What do you think is an artist’s responsibility? How can one inspire action in topics related to sociopolitical issues?
If you are an artist, the connection between your work and any sociopolitical issues it is almost inevitable. I believe that this is especially true for artists taking part in the underground scene, because it has always had a central role in taking a stand on social and political matters. Artists should speak up, festival and clubs should speak up even more. These environments have such a great influence on the scene and should show more courage in supporting social causes. These are not times to be afraid of exposure. Any kind of discrimination and action that compromises individuals’ peace, physical and mental well-being should always be confronted and stopped.
Following the previous, would you like to share a little bit of your personal values? And how electronic music and its culture helped you shape or, even, enhance them?
I’ve always considered myself open-minded and being part of this community has made me even more so. Sharing your passion with so many people is a privilege and introduces you to precious friendships and inspiring connections. Social networks like Instagram haven’t brought benefits in preserving the scene and I wish in the future they will have less and less relevance. Sometimes I think how fun it could be if artists had no social network at all. Then we would be forced to put the music at the center of everything once again.
Recently, you also played at the Tehran Contemporary Sounds Festival showcasing your first live of ambient, experimental music. Would you like to tell us how this was organised, its purpose and your experience?
It was an event that included some of the best Iranian artists, with debates throughout the day about what is going on at this historic moment in Iran. So, when they asked me to take part in this project I was eager to participate. It’s important to give a voice in any way to these people. Especially to women who are fighting and risking their lives for freedom. This experience has been amazing. I had some material that could fit the theme of the night, I worked on creating a flow between these tracks.
The live consisted of almost entirely unreleased material except for a couple of tracks released years ago as Unknot, a mix of ambient / techno / experimental music. It’s been exciting and stressful at the same time. I didn’t know if people would understand my work, that’s why I was so happy receiving such a great feedback and support. The event planners did a terrific job. You could tell they’ve been taking care of every detail thoroughly. It was an unforgetful experience and I will definitely try to keep this path of live performance in the future.
How do you achieve balance in your life between DJing, producing, lives and label running?
It is not always easy to find this balance especially when it comes to producing, because this is the process that requires more time and focus. In general, the challenge is trying to do everything for the best. For example if you get close to a gig you have to concentrate on that but it’s the label that takes you the most time, respecting some deadlines which are independent of everything. Obviously, I’m always driven by passion I feel for my profession.
Have you ever reached your limits or been challenged somehow? What did you do then to return to your normal?
I think it happens to anyone who finds themselves in the situation of having to overcome their limits or difficult situations. Many think they can do it on their own, but in my view getting help from someone in certain circumstances is the best thing. This is my thought: we are human beings and not machines. We can try to carry the weight of many things but we all have a limit and exceeding it can be really dangerous for our health.
What else interests you besides music? Is it somehow related to the sound you’re making? Like a circle, where one point leads to another and then back again.
I have many other interests besides music. I’m a big fan of art and exhibitions and the aesthetics certainly influence me in the music or in the graphic concept that I look for the label. I also love sports like NBA, football (I’m an Inter fan) and many other things that don’t necessarily influence my music but rather allow me to disconnect and relax, sometimes I live it in a too stressful way.
What do you like most in what you do and what gives you confidence?
There are many things I like. Meeting new people, visiting new places, having the possibility to share my music with others and feeling part of a scene is something that it makes you feel good and I hope to continue living. What gives me confidence? Well, as now many years have passed since my first release, I know well my value and my abilities but surely having the support of many good artists and fans of my music gives me the incentive to continue my musical path.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
For the future I have several plans. Some gigs in places I haven’t played yet. I have finally closed some big releases hoping they come out next year. I have a track for a beautiful double vinyl compilation out the next month on Duna, the new label from my man CONCEPTUAL and, as I said before, some nice stuff from our collaboration will see the light next year. Moreover, I want to dedicate myself to improving my live set and trying to have other opportunities to propose it. Concerning Sublunar after my recently EP Paralyzed and the last part of the Corpora trilogy, it’ll be the turn of Paleman’s LP in January. A record that you absolutely cannot miss!