Darius Syrossian lives and breathes house music, with the Iranian-born artist a regular fixture on respected labels such as Get Physical, Moon Harbour, Drumcode, Defected and Hot Creations, as well as rocking dancefloors around the world – prior to lockdown, 2020 already saw him chalk up appearances in Germany, Australia, Italy, the UK, Belgium and Bulgaria.
His latest track, Flashlight [click here to purchase] is released on 24 July on Hot Creations – a chunky house cut inspired by one of the pivotal figures in the US club scene, the legendary Junior Vasquez.
Elsewhere, Syrossian recently launched a new record label, Moxy Music (which already has releases by Steve Lawler, Ray Mono and Darius himself under its belt), while earlier this year, he saw one of his unreleased tracks re-packaged and re-released illegally by a producer in Brazil, leading to a social media storm.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Darius, thanks for talking to us. How has life under lockdown been treating you? What have you been up to?
Hi guys. I’ve actually been extremely productive – studio-wise I have made some amazing stuff that will all be coming out in the coming months. I was determined to make sure I turned this massive negative situation into something positive when it came to some things that I had control over, and producing in the studio was one of them.
With many of your productions, there’s a real harking back to the early beats and rhythms of house. What is it about that period that’s so influential?
I think the music that came out then was so pure, it was made and born out of passion. It wasn’t made to fit in a certain fad or scene, it was just music made to make people dance. We have to remember it wasn’t that long after the acid house explosion of the late 80s.
Also its the music that initially grabbed me the most and made me want to dance in those early days of clubbing, so it’s a sound that will always mean a lot to me.
Would it be fair to say that pretty much all your productions have the dancefloor in mind – that it’s all about making people move?
Well, I’d say that is 100% accurate. A few days ago, I was actually talking to a mate I hadn’t spoken to for over ten years. His name is James, and he was the guy who taught me to mix when I was 16, back in the 90s, and also who would drive me and our crew to raves every week in those days.
Someone had made a Facebook group about those raves and clubs we went to. We caught up on the phone and he reminded me that I would break off from the crew and go to the dancefloor by myself right at the very beginning of the night, and literally dance all night, non stop.
Some of the raves wouldn’t serve alcohol, and lets just say I had never done anything else either – ha ha ha – and I would dance ALL night.
For me, when making music, when people hear it in a club I want them to FEEL that same feeling and dance as much as I did in those days. Wanting to move on the dancefloor is not exclusive to really hard techno, you can feel that with house music too.
Junior Vasquez inspired your latest release, Flashlight. We had the chance to see him do a ten-hour set at Twilo a few years back, it was mind blowing!. In what way has he inspired you?
Ahhh, absolutely massive. I remember he did an Essential Mix in 1994 – I heard it and it blew my head off.
The deepness, the tribal vibes, hypnotic tracks, dark in places, soulful in others… but ALL of it has that tough groove and pounding kick drum.
At the time, everything I was hearing was big Italo house piano anthems. I’d love going to raves and hearing all this stuff earlier on, the deep, dubby tribal stuff. I wasn’t hearing anybody else play it.
Later, I discovered DJ Sneak, Danny Tenaglia, Masters at Work, Armand van Helden and so on, but the first guy to bring me to this sound was Junior Vasquez.
I always make sure in my sets there is at least one or two tracks from back then to throw in as a curve ball. None of these tracks came out on digital, as CDJs or even internet didn’t exist in the 90s, really, and when I play them they blow the roof off.
I have thousands of vinyls from that era, but I only take 10 or 20 from a section with me depending on which gig I’m playing. I had a gig on the DC10 terrace last summer, and I brought some to Ibiza to play. I played a record, a while label promo, one of Vasquez’ remixes, and it blew the roof off.
I put a video of it on my Instagram stories, and got bombarded with track ID requests.
Someone was begging me for the ID, so while looking for it, I stumbled on this mini documentary on YouTube on Junior Vasquez, from 1993. That’s where I sampled him from, taking the vocals for Flashlight.
The track is a kind of homage to him and his residency at the Sound Factory in New York. A lot of the mixes have this big, chunky warehouse vibe, with a thunderous kick.
You spent 14 years working in a record shop – do you think that experience helped you when it came to putting together your own productions?
Yes, massively, but it also helped my DJ sets. When you spend that long behind the counter serving people who are buying records, you kind of develop a good ear for music and what makes people tick. I think it might also be why I’m more Balearic with my sets, mixing house and techno, deep and minimal more than what is expected.
To me, it’s all house and techno, and I don’t really care for genre names. I think the key to playing a good set is reading the crowd, and always applying your sound to that particular crowd in front of you, but also knowing which direction to take it and when.
With regards to productions, yeah there are many of my tracks that have been inspired by records I’ve heard over the years, even if it’s small little things that happen in the track.
In what ways has the launch of Moxy Muzik enabled you to broaden your horizons?
In many ways, the label parties give me a chance to play long extended sets – there have been many six-hour sets which is not something you normally get a chance to do. In terms of productions, it’s somewhere I can release my own productions and not worry about what genre it is, be it deep, minimal or house, or more thumping stuff.
It’s just my sound and I can bring in other artists I really admire to remix tracks, which I think will be on my vibe that I’d play out.
You recently discovered that somebody had taken one of your tracks and re-released it under their own name on Beatport, Soundcloud etc. [Click here to see his Facebook post about the incident] Do you think that there needs to be more protection offered to artists to stop this sort of thing happening?
I still cannot get my head around it. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of bullshit in the industry, for example, artists who have bought their way into the scene and become huge overnight without really doing anything, or hearing about people you would never have guessed using ghost producers and so on, but THIS is on a whole new level of ridiculous!
This guy from Brazil literally took one of our Moxy Edits tracks – this was one of the biggest tracks that I had been playing last summer, and was released as a vinyl only white label, never to be released on digital – and he PUT IT OUT exactly as it is, as himself, all over Beatport, Soundcloud, Shazam, etc. I know it’s hard to believe, but that’s exactly what he did!
I think because our release on Moxy was as a vinyl only, unknown artist unknown title thing, never to be released on digital, he thought he could maybe get away with it.
Or, my only other conclusion I can draw is that he bought the track off a ghost producer who claimed he made the track, and then, after being found out, he was too ashamed to say he bought the track off a ghost producer.
I still can’t understand how he thought he would get away with it, but what is frustrating is that this release was never scheduled to come out on digital, and was a limited white label press.
The ONLY way to get it on digital was to get on Twitter one day in April, make a donation to Manchester Children’s Hospital, direct to the website – and tweet me with a screenshot showing your donation – and I would inbox you a private download link. I did this for a few hours and raised a few thousand for Manchester Children’s hospital – we literally had hundreds of donations, the minimum amount was £15 but some people made £50 or £100 donations.
I mean, it’s one thing to steal a track but to do it to one that’s raising money for charity compounds the ridiculousness of the situation.
I think, for sure, huge websites like Beatport, Soundcloud and YouTube, which make lots of money, should provide some sort of protection to artists and labels, so that this can’t happen again. I know if something is released as white label vinyl only it’s not registered as digital, but there should be some way of uploading a copyright, not for release version, so anyone trying to pull this stunt again can’t. It seems to be happening more and more.
Do you think that the dance music scene will re-emerge post-coronavirus as a much-changed industry? In what way?
For the better, absolutely. Throughout history, in times of hardship, people have turned more towards house, techno and all music as a form of escapism, as a way of helping get through the hard times.
As we all know, the industry has been hit really hard. One of the last things to go back to normal will be our industry; everyone involved in it has been hit, not just clubs, promoters or DJs, literally everyone involved in the scene, from top to bottom.
But I genuinely think that when things get back to normal, everyone in the industry will come together and make the comeback absolutely unforgettable. The parties will be incredible, and everyone coming back will be glad to just be doing what they love once again and will be raring to go! It’s going to be great, I think.
[Thanks to Darius for talking to us. Flashlight is out now on Hot Creations, click here to purchase]