Interview With Porya Hatami
Posted In: Gianmarco Del Re, Interview With Porya Hatami, Nephogram, Porya Hatami, Porya Hatami - Unstable
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Gianmarco recently caught up with Iranian sound artist Porya Hatami to discuss his latest album ‘Unstable on Nephogram…
Your latest work, Unstable has just been released by Nephogram as a CD. What was the inspiration behind it and what does the title refer to?
It refers to the fact that sometimes I feel everything in my life is so fragile and unstable. My relationships, moments of happiness, quiet times, my dreams and everything else. Even the software that I use is sometimes crashing when I make music, and this makes me think that how everything can change so easily and how everything can be so unstable sometimes. That’s a reality of life, in my opinion, so I wanted to transmit these feelings to music.
Unstable is a heavily textured work, which feels somehow darker than your previous album Land released by Somehow Recordings back in January 2012. Is it the flip-side of the coin, so to speak, or are the two albums unrelated?
It is the flip-side of the coin, yes. On one hand we have “Land” (that refers to nature directly), and it seems so static and stable and we think it never changes, but on the other hand there is the fact that nature is always changing and nothing lasts for ever. I extended this idea to other things in my life, and I even used it as a method for composing textures on Unstable. For example on Spoon, I recorded a small section of one of my tracks on Land (Winter), I processed it, and tried to use a fair amount of chance and unpredictability to create a main texture. So I think that it is somehow an unstable version of the track Winter.
Indeed Unstable features five tracks: Spin, Spoon, Transition, Uncertain and Unstable, which seem to refer to emotional states of mind, whereas Land looks at the environment and at a more physical rather than psychological state of being with titles like: Autumn, Rain, River, Sea, Storm, Winter, Snow, Bug. Have you been undertaking two different journeys with these two albums and do you feel you have reached the destination you had set yourself?
Those are not different journeys. I mean, the real adventure for me is my life and, as I explained, life can carry both of these ideas in itself. I want to follow my feelings and write music based on personal experiences, about the things that I see and hear, and the places that I visit, and I think the journey has just started for me, and I’m a long way away from reaching my destination. Although I don’t think I will compose music about the unstable side of things any longer and will try to remain on the bright side.
What appeals to you specifically about one word titles?
There is no particular reason for this. I’ve chosen them just because they are simple and I love simplicity, especially when I have this clear idea about the subject of my tracks (which I usually have). I prefer to use a simple, one word title instead of looking for something more poetic and articulated.
Your composition Concerto For Short Loop and Grains has a more “ambienty” feel to it compared to some of your other stuff. How do you go about composing the texture of your soundscapes?
I usually record some material as a starting point, then start developing it using many ways like running it through a tower of effects, processing it using max/msp and reaktor, and then layering them to create my main textures. This is the main part of my composition, and the rest is easy. The texture itself tells me where to go. I give it some time and when I came back to it, I start listening to it over and over and wait for thoughts and ideas.
You seem to be influenced by many musicians Fluid Radio readers are familiar with, people like Spheruleus, Simon Scott, Pascal Savy, Ben Frost, Lawrence English, Machinefabriek… If, say Taylor Dupree was to offer you to release a collaborative album on 12k, who would you choose to work with?
Yes, I’m influenced by many of these artists, but if I’d have the chance to collaborate with only one of them, I’d love to work with shuttle358. I’m a great fan of Dan Abram’s music, and he has a huge influence on me and my music.
Alas, my knowledge of new Iranian music is limited to the subrosa double CD Persian Electronic Music yesterday and today 1966-2006 dedicated to Alireza Mashayekhi and Ata Ebtekar/Sote and to Sohrab’s Hidden Places out on Touch. What is the current scene like in Iran in terms of electroacoustic music?
Honestly, I don’t know much about the experimental scene in Iran, I heard about some Iranian artists, but none of them live in Iran.
Would you agree with Alireza Mashayekhi, who has his own philosophical thesis on music, and believes that we can discover truth only through multicultural structures of artistic thought, this being the only way we can encompass the contradictions that “truth” carries within itself?
No, I don’t see music as a way of discovering truth, just because I’m not a fan of attaching philosophical ideas to music. For me, the only duty is to express my feelings through my music before thinking about putting a deep meaning on it, or drive it to a specific direction. Of course that’s just me.
German Iranian musician Sote on the other hand, “is interested in keeping the tuning of Persian classical scales (Radif) and melodies from old Persian folk songs within a new electronic framework. Since he has a firm conviction that rules and formulas have to be deconstructed and rethought, he alters some of these modal systems from their original tonality and rhythm (tradition). He does not believe in using traditional instruments or performances on top of electronic music but making a new form of (Persian) art music with ‘electronic’ gear.” In your case, you seem to favour keyboards as the lovely piano based track Awyer suggests. Have you ever been tempted to use any of the distinctive Persian instruments such as the tar (long-necked lute), the setar (smaller lute), the kamancheh (spike fiddle), the ney (reed flute) or the tombak (goblet drum) in your works?
No, not Persian instruments, but I’d love to, and I will use some of my favourite Kurdish instruments, like “Shemshal”, “Narma Ney” and “Divan”, on future works.
The linear notes to the Rough Guide to the music of Iran state that the long-term musical effect of the revolution has been a revival of Persian classical music, which had suffered in the face of heavy Westernization during the Shah’s regime. Granted that your work seems detached from any classical influence, has this legacy affected you work in any way?
No, not at all.
Sohrab is one of the few Iranian musicians to be known internationally. You seem to share with him a strong sense of place, and I am thinking here specifically about his piece Amookhtan Baraye Zistan. Do you feel a connection with his work?
No, unfortunately I don’t know Sohrab and his music.
You are from Sanandaj, capital of the Kurdish Province. How has living there influenced your work in terms of field recordings?
Each of my tracks, especially on Land, is connected to a specific place around my city, and I always collect my field recordings from that particular place. Like Awyer which is the name of a beautiful mountain in my city . The sense of place is very important to me, and I tend to use field recordings to approach this.
What are you currently working on and what is in store for the future?
Right now I’m working on a seven volume collaborative project with my friend Darren Harper. The first volume is ready and will be available in the next few months on a label from Lisbon called Heart and Soul. I’m also working on my third album for the next year.