Decoded Magazine writer Mandy Daniels caught up with Kaveh from Pleasurekraft during BPM Festival in Playa Del Carmen, in the middle of a three-story, architectural maze of a building that housed a few floors of music, including the Octopus Label Showcase. It was a sincere conversation punctuated by light-hearted insights and comical visits from people from a party next door. He brings us up to speed on what’s next for Kraftek, the evolution of their sound, his take on the art of DJing and what success in the industry should be versus what it often is..
Hey Kaveh, thank you for taking the time to talk to us here at Decoded Magazine.
Of course, no worries.
So from the beginning what was it that spurred your interest in becoming a DJ and producer?
Well, I never really got into club music or dance music until I would say, the early 2000’s. I liked electronic music, but I was never into club music until then. I had a buddy who had a huge vinyl collection, and I’d go to his house and he’d always be throwing these records on and I’d be like, “Man, this is pretty fun.” The music was cool and he basically taught me how to DJ on vinyl. I kinda just got bit by the bug. I lived in DC then, and every weekend we’d drive up to Philly to 611 Records, Josh Wink’s store, which is closed now, and drop way too much, our entire paycheck at that point, on vinyl – which is all collecting dust in storage now.
And then, you start playing house parties, and then you’re like, “Well, you know, let me try to get a gig somewhere,” and that leads to getting a couple gigs. Even at that point it was 2005, and it was pretty obvious that if you didn’t want to play a local circuit you had to produce. So I started on FruityLoops, then switched to Reason and then once I switched over to Logic on Mac it was just like the next level. I probably trashed the first hundred projects I ever worked on because you think it’s amazing and it’s really not, it’s just that everything is so new to you that everything seems like it’s amazing. And then in 2009 we finished Tarantula which, when it came out in 2010, opened a lot of doors for us and allowed us to work with some amazing producers and labels that we always adored.
Well, we love that version! We were actually going to ask about Tarantula – that was such a pivotal point for you guys and my addendum to that was since then have you had such a pivotal experience or has it been a steady consistent rise?
Ya, I mean we had a couple tracks that were kinda.. I guess you could say were quote unquote “hits” haha. Some of them I actually regret ever releasing because I don’t think they have anything to do with what I’m really into, and what we’re about, especially now. Carny being a prime example of that. I really regret releasing that track because even though it got our names in front of a lot of people and did a lot for us, musically it’s nothing like our other stuff.
It’s kinda hard because when you have a hit right away, like when Tarantula came out and it went to number one, that was beyond our wildest dreams at that point, so it was kind of a shock to us. And when your first track is that big, you judge everything that comes after it [as though that’s] the benchmark. So now, commercially some of the tracks that were the most successful are some of the tracks that I now find the least interesting. You show up to gigs and people are holding up their phones and it says, Carny or Got A Feeling, and it’s just like, man, I appreciate it because you know that’s the stuff that got us here, a part of what got us here, but I’m just not going to play it, you know?
What would be an example of an authentic sound these days that you’re excited about?
Well, fittingly here at the Octopus Party at BPM, the All Bite No Bark EP is much closer. The remix on Noir Music, and our next EP is coming end of February on Nicole Moudaber’s label. [Editor – You can buy the EP here] So it’s a lot harder, darker. So that’s kind of where the production’s going. More techno.
What kind of music inspired you originally and contributed ultimately to developing, like was it vast or ..
I kind of feel like when you sit down to make music, the producers who I think make the most interesting music are people who don’t listen to that type of music in their free time. The first several years of my life were in Iran, where having Western music was illegal. You’d be trading bootleg cassette tapes that were really warped because they’d been played so many times, and they were like gold in elementary school. So that was completely different. That was pop stuff, like Madonna. But it didn’t matter, like, “Oh my god, American music!” you know?
When I came to the States, one of my uncles had a huge record collection and he was really into metal and reggae so, somehow I kind of got into this weird metal and reggae thing, not combined thank god! But one of the first electronic pieces of music I heard, which he actually had on vinyl, was Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene’. Which is from ’77, I think. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before and that made an impression on me. I liked stuff growing up like Prodigy, and, I mean not modern Prodigy, I don’t even know what they do anymore, but like Aphex Twin, or Squarepusher.
I was into all that stuff, but never in a clubbing sense because all that stuff was more like electronica, it’s not like dance music. So my favourite bands are Tool, which is a metal band, A Tribe Called Quest, I love Kings of Leon. Kinda all over the place, I guess. I feel that the osmosis of all the music you listen to, seeping into what you make, makes for a much more interesting final product.
Can you talk us through how the collaborative relationship evolved to where it is now? We understand you met on MySpace!
Someones been doing their homework! haha. We just kinda started out sending wav files back and forth after we met on Myspace. Our first track that we finished together, Pete Tong ended up playing on Radio One. Neither one of us had had any kind of success like that solo, and that was kinda like, ‘Umm maybe we should do this more often.’ We did like three projects after that, and then Tarantula came out and that’s when we were like, let’s come up with a name for ourselves, because both our names are ridiculously difficult for the average person to pronounce. So, that’s how Pleasurekraft was born.
I do all the touring. I come from a DJing background first, and then production, and Kalle was kind of exclusively into production. Some tracks I work on more, some tracks he works on more, there’s tracks that are like Pleasurekraft tracks that I didn’t touch, there’s Pleasurekraft ideas that he didn’t touch. Sometimes it’s difficult when you have two people because you have two sometimes opposing visions of where the direction for a track should go. But I think ultimately having two people is a benefit. It pushes you not to quit and it pushes you for when you think something is shit, you have someone else saying “You’re fucking crazy” or vice versa when you think something is amazing and you’re like “No, actually it’s shit.” So that happens a lot.
Another thing is when you have big records everyone expects you to keep doing that kind of record, and for both of us that is extremely boring from an artistic standpoint – to repeat yourself just because you wanna sell records, which a lot of producers do. We get comments all the time on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Comments like, “I prefer the old Pleasurekraft from four or five years ago.” And it’s like, that’s fine, that’s great that you love that stuff but, you know, at the end of the day we look at ourselves in the mirror and we wanna be into the music we’re making now. So to make a long story short, we push our own boundaries to keep ourselves interested.
Back to DJing – what’s the most important mindset do you think for a DJ to have? LIke going in with an intention or seeing it as an art form or is it an art form?
I do think it’s an art form. I think with digital music technology, everything from production to DJing has gotten so democratized. You don’t need to know how to beat match anymore to go get a gig in a club, right? A lot of people that don’t come from an older DJ background, they just think DJing is beatmatching. I mean, you can tell they just care about beatmatching and there’s no art, there’s no narrative.
To me the whole art of DJing is telling a story through your music. I really enjoy playing extended three, four, five hour sets because you really have the chance to build a vibe and build energy, and go through peaks and valleys. I think a lot of that stuff is just kinda lost. I hope I’m not sounding like the old grumpy guy here. haha, but yeah, that to me is what the art of DJing is; it’s not beatmatching. It’s taking the listener on a journey, as cliche as that sounds, I mean, ultimately that’s what it is, right?
And one reason why I hate when people put their phones up and request any song is because if you paid your hard-earned money for a ticket to come see me, at least have a little bit of faith that you may hear some stuff that you have not heard a million times on your iPod that you may like. And when you’re standing there with the phone for an hour in my face, or in any DJs face, and not paying attention to all the amazing records, much better than anything we’ve ever done, because you wanna hear that one record you’ve already heard a million times in your own house, is just kinda like.. I mean, the whole point is experiencing new things and opening your self up to music, and I think that kinda cheapens it in a way.
So what inspires you in general?
Other musicians, film. I was a film major so I kinda tend to see everything in visual. I’m a very visual person, so music to me naturally lends itself so easily to visual narration. When I’m listening to music I’m always picturing things in my mind, and to me it’s like the mood and ambiance and what I see – that’s what makes different tracks compatible with each other.
In your opinion, what do you think it takes to be a success in the industry today?
I mean, I think it should be doing something different that not everyone else is doing. But, the more you look around it’s like, whether you’re looking at EDM or the underground, there’s so many people just doing things that other people are doing. It’s like you have the one, two or three trendsetters and then you have everyone in their wake that’s just like, copycats. All of it just sort of becomes noise and filler after awhile.
The true artists I think in electronic music and dance music are the ones that push the genre, and I think that’s rare. I think that a lot of people who don’t push the genre, that do the same thing over and over again, get a lot of hype and publicity so.. I don’t know, maybe have really good marketing? Have a good marketing team around you, maybe that’s the secret? Cynical, but whatever..
Who have you been listening to that you think the world should know more about? Other producers or..
As far as techno producers go? I love and adore almost everything Tiger Stripes does. I also love Traumer, he produces under a few different aliases. Yeah, Traumer and Tiger Stripes are kinda my two favourite producers right now who I play the most stuff from, I would say. After those two there’s a big drop off.
With your record label Kraftek – what inspired that and where is it going?
Well, being a DJ’s kinda like.. When people say ‘Oh I love this DJ” or ‘I love that DJ,” that just means your taste is compatible with the music that they filter, right? Because there’s millions of records that come out and that DJ happens to filter out the tracks and play the tracks that you find is most compatible to your taste.
Having a label is kind of an extension of that if you’re DJing because you’re kind of putting your stamp of approval on other artists, whether they’re established or not. Like “I really like this guy” and I think that listeners should know more about this artist. And if you have the privilege of having a platform where you can bring up other people I mean, why wouldn’t you, right?
I mean I know why you wouldn’t – it’s a lot of fucking work for very little money back in digital sales because no one buys records really that much anymore, unless it’s pop music or something. Yeah, it’s a labour of love. But when you love music and you love turning other people on to it, a label is just an extension of that.
Its been awesome to meet you Kaveh, thanks for the interview, and best of luck for the future. And congratulations on the remix of “We Own The Night” that you did for Florian Kruse and Hendrik Burkhard. So what’s next for Pleasurekraft ?
Ah cool. Thanks… like that’s a perfect example of a record that I think musically is one of the best records we’ve ever made, and I think it didn’t even break the top 75 of techno. There are so many tracks like that, that I’ll play from other producers, like “Oh my god, this record is orgasmic.” And you look, and it didn’t even enter the charts. And then you look at sometimes what’s on the charts, and it’s just mind-boggling that some of these tracks just don’t find legs, and other ones that are not deserving at all get all this hype. But you know, we obviously don’t live in a perfect world so..
We have an EP coming out on Nicole Moudaber’s label end of February, and then we have a remix, we’ll be putting out on Kraftek. We’ll be doing another remix for Octopus as well. So ya, that’s kind of immediate release schedule. And we have on and off been working on album stuff, there’s a couple collabs. Something with Re.You, something with Thomas Gandey, who did some incredible vocals, he’s on Get Physical, he’s on Kompakt. He’s got an incredible voice.