A Sit Down With DJ Sharam

Meet Sharam, native Iranian DJ and producer of house-inspired music. In 2002, Sharam won a Grammy for his remix of Dido’s “Thank You”, made with Dubfire when the two worked together as Deep Dish. Now, Sharam seems to have arrived at the pinnacle of perfecting his own unique sound, by returning to his early influences. His album “Retroactive” drops this Friday, and we had the chance to ask him some questions about his inspiration, the trajectory of his career, and how the music that has played such an active role in his life has evolved over time.

 

 “It’s one life to live and regret is not an option”.

 

You’ve recently toured Brazil and we know you’re very popular there! What’s the state of Brazil’s club scene like in your opinion?

It’s very healthy. Brazil right now is one of the top regions in the world in terms of awareness and support for electronic music and DJs. A majority of the club promoters and owners GET IT and bring in a variety of acts which helps in educating the crowd. Brazil’s club scene, I’m happy to say, is not a ‘too cool for school’ or ‘this artist doesn’t sell tables’ territory. They are very open-minded and the crowds are well educated in music and have a variety of options to choose from – which makes their scene very healthy.

The last GREAT, new location or club you discovered this year?

NYC. Believe it or not my last 3 shows in NYC at Marquee, Provocateur, Space Ibiza NY has been phenomenal. I’m looking forward to going back.

When did you first start mixing?

I was mixing in Iran, except they were not really mixes, they were “chops”. When I came to the U.S. I started making these tapes but they were mostly pop before I discovered dance music. Then I discovered this thing called a turntable and a mixer, where you could mix this stuff together. I would make mixtapes, and I wanted to be a DJ. I would throw school parties just so I could DJ. I got a bit into promoting in D.C. at George Mason University. Throw parties, make a hundred bucks, spend a hundred bucks on records so that the next party you could play ten new records. Import records were like 10 bucks, which was a lot at the time, while domestic records were four bucks. So you would wait for some of the records you really wanted, the import ones to become domestic for a fraction of the price.

How do you feel about the ways in which the dance music scene has changed since you began your career? Do you find it more difficult to find inspiration in the kinds of sounds being produced now

Music goes through these ‘trend’ periods. Someone does something unique and cool that works and then in comes the copycats followed by the inevitable back lash. We’ve seen it throughout the years with Chicago and NY House, Acid House, Deep House, Progressive House, Techno, then Minimal techno and now with EDM and its off shoots. Through all that, people still make amazing records that break through – or sometimes they don’t breakthrough but that’s the beauty of the underground. You can always find great music if you really want to spend the time and look for it. I enjoy that process and through those records I find my inspiration as a DJ and producer. And I tend to combine that inspiration with what’s already in my head from my early influences and that’s how you end up with an album like Retroactive.

Who are your top musical influences? We saw a video of you busting out a bit of Pink Floyd at Green Valley so wonder if you have a taste for a bit of prog rock.

I was heavily into Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Asia all those innovative and progressive ‘70s/early ‘80s rock bands. Later on it was Depeche Mode, New Order, Yaz/Erasure and The Cars. Of course that’s one side of it. The other side of was all the soulful stuff like Jackson 5, particularly early Michael Jackson, and Boney M. When I moved to America I spent all my money and all my time catching up with all this amazing music that I didn’t have access to in Iran post-revolution. Of course when I discovered house music in ‘87, it was all over. I knew where I needed to focus on for the rest of my life.

What has decisively influenced your shift from earlier Deep Dish’s house sound to darker techno and tech-house sound?

The early Deep Dish sound WAS tech-house in many ways. But the term hadn’t been invented yet. We always took inspiration from Techno records as well as other genres like trance, industrial, reggae and rock. For me that process hasn’t changed. Each record goes through its own identity based on what’s in my head and what’s influencing me that particular week.

What’s some of the pro’s of being an independent artist and compared to being signed to a major label? Do you have a preference? 

Being able to do whatever you want as an artist – from look and feel of the artwork to the track selection. Also, the flexibility that you can get if you are not happy with something like the title of the album or how the track is mastered. You have full control. Also, the attention span you’d get from an independent is much longer than a major. – Cons: Money and resources. You don’t have access to the rich pockets and rich contact list of the free samples of viagra majors. So it’s a lot more work from the independent label and yourself to bridge the gap. I had to spend a lot of my own money to get all the moving parts synching together. So far the label and my team have done a great job. We debuted in Top 10 first week and now we are about to release 13 singles with remixes from the album.

Your last album was released in 2009, and this album is comprised of works you’ve created since then. Why wait six years to put it all together and release it?

Well, that is not entirely true. Since the last album I released a series of EPs called Mach EP series – I did 3 of them and released a few records here and there after that. I’m more comfortable releasing records under a concept. Even though I didn’t release a lot of music compared to my peers I kept producing and was waiting for them all to make sense under one concept. Retroactive gave me that concept. I probably have two albums worth of material that didn’t make this album, and I’m already putting a plan together to finish some of them and add some new ideas and release another album in about a year. I’m not gonna wait too long releasing another album because in this day and age, people’s attention span is too short and I have too many ideas brewing in my head to wait around that long.

Over the years, has your live setup changed at all?

I used to play vinyl, then I went to burning CDs, then Traktor came along, which for me was revolutionary. Taking music, burning it onto CDs, writing what it was, that was a whole process. Traktor eliminated that, you could take a lot more music with you. By the same token, the more choices you have, the more confusing things can get. I love the idea of vinyl because you can only put 50 records in your box. Back in the day we used to travel with two of them. The idea was that to add five new records, you had to take five out. You were always optimized, the best records were always in your box. 

How was your first WMC like? Anything exciting happened?

My first WMC – Ali and myself drove in my Dodge Colt for 18 hours from D.C. and stayed at my friend’s house in Ft. Lauderdale. We would drive to Miami daily, go to the conference itself, and check out as many clubs as we could get into. We’d soak up some inspiration, drive back to my friend’s house late and get up in the morning to do it all over again. Five days straight we did that. We left Miami charged up and spent the next year making records that we thought those great DJ’s that we looked up to like Master at Work, David Morales, CJ Macintosh, Toddy Terry, and Murk Boys could play at their parties. A few WMC’s in we got the hang of it and never looked back.

Electric Brixton has become the go to place for many of our superstar producers of late, Marco Carola, Loco Dice, Carl Cox and Eric Prydz all love it here. What is it about this venue that you all love?

I haven’t been to the venue myself but have heard many great things. I’m looking forward to coming back as Deep Dish as its been a few years and we’ve had some of our greatest memories in the UK. This should be fun.

Questions? Comments? We want to know:@djfollower