Uwe Zahn, better known as Arovane, has been putting out music since the end of the 90’s-early 00’s until a period of hiatus. From his first years there are some memorable works on City Centre, and he took a broader path after his comeback on n5MD in 2013, with some remarkable collaborations in labels such as ASIP or Éter Editions. Porya Hatami hails from Iran and is among the most refreshing news in field recording in recent years. He started releasing music in 2012 and since then he made a prolific set of productions including several collaborations. Uwe and Porya already worked together on four albums, and it seems that there is more to come. Without falling on the cliché “when east meets west” we can say that these four hands together have made some astonishing works already. They both took the time to answer a few questions, and the result is a nice glimpse into their world.
Cyclic Defrost: Hi there, please introduce your colleague.
Porya Hatami: Uwe Zahn aka Arovane, musician and sound designer from Germany. He is a lovely guy who has an unquenchable appetite for gear, new software, and technology, especially anything related to granular synthesis. We both share a great love for musique concrete and jazz
Arovane: Porya is an open minded, forward thinking guy. He’s very interested in all kinds of music, technology, music philosophy, sound design. We have very interesting discussions about music, sounds and our projects. He’s enthusiastic and focused when it comes to new ideas and collaborations. Porya is a huge fan of Wagner and philosophical literature. He’s very into field recording to integrate that material masterfully and elegantly into his compositions.
Cyclic Defrost: How did you meet?
Porya Hatami: Actually, we’ve never met in person. We started chatting online and we began swapping sounds and ideas soon after. We realized that we are very comfortable working together as a team. I think it was a week after our first correspondence that we completed our first track which became resOnance, the fourth track of our first album.
Arovane: In 2015 I dropped a message on Soundcloud to Porya and we continued our conversation via e-mail. The idea for a collaboration evolved very quickly and we started the work on ‘resOnance’, our first album for the Colombian label Éter Lab. http://eter-lab.net/es/
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the best of working with Porya/Uwe?
Porya Hatami: The best thing is our respective understanding. The communication happens with minimal explanation. There are times when one of us sends the other one a sketch or a sound-file and without any discussion we start working on it. It is as if we already agree on what we want to do and what direction it will end up.
Arovane: Porya and me share the same wavelength regarding sound aesthetics, sound design and music. Over the last years we built up a huge sound pool. As I described above, Porya is highly interested in working with sound and musical structures. It’s a pure joy and easy to work with him.
Cyclic Defrost: Organism_evolution is your 4th work together. Did it have a different approach to the previous ones?
Porya Hatami: This one is more experimental. The tracks are more fragmented with less structure and we used less field recordings. The process was almost the same. We knew that we wanted to continue in the same direction as the previous one but dig deeper and experiment further.
Arovane: The work on ‘Organism’ is a continous evolution of sounds. ‘Organism’ and ‘organism_evolution’ are connected. On ‘organsim_evolution’ the sound is focused on pure electronic structures, influenced by musique concrete and advanced synthesis methods. Our idea was to use and combine granular synthesis, resynthesis and spectral manipulations to name a few. In ‘organism_evolution’ you’ll hear less field recordings as a direct sound source. Natural sounds were transformed into something new. It’s like a living but artificial organism.
Cyclic Defrost: Have you got a favourite track on this album?
Porya Hatami: glepph.
Arovane: My fave is ‘cplx nucleid’. I used a very short sample in a granular synthesizer to produce that track. Different parameters like grain duration and length where manipulated dynamically. Most people who know granular synthesis are thinking of soft clouds/ pad like sounds. Imagine, this is ONE sound, played back with a granular synthesizer. It’s simple on the one hand, regarding the source sound, and complex in the result. There’s so much going on when you listen very carefully. Frequencies are interfering, the sound structure is fading from a ringing tone, like a circular saw to rusty grain particles floating in space.
Cyclic Defrost: And a favourite among all your works together?
Porya Hatami: It’s hard to choose. I love ‘lifecycle’ and ‘specreture’ from the previous organism, I love ‘resOnance’ from our first album and ‘mii’ from Kaziwa.
Arovane: Hard to choose one.I would say ‘resOnance’, from the Éter Lab album. This track is huge, massive, impressive. I had a field recording session in the wood, near my house. You can hear me walking through the forest, around the microphone. This combined with a resonating bass drone and surrounding noises. I recommend to listen to this track with good headphones. I love this track.
Cyclic Defrost: Which would be the ideal context to present your works together?
Porya Hatami: Playing live together for sure. An interactive sound and light installation would be a perfect context for us to present our work.
Arovane: I would love to perform our music live with Porya. The ideal context would be a festival for experimental music. A huge, quite, dark room with a very good PA, multichannel. Smartphones would be not allowed to enable the audience to concentrate to the sound.
Cyclic Defrost: Don’t you think that somehow the reception to this kind of sounds got better on the past years?
Porya Hatami: I think so, people like to constantly indulge in new sound experiences. I received a lot of positive feedback on my recent albums Organism and Monads (my solo album for Line Imprint) but there are people who loved my previous works but didn’t like these recent ones. Some don’t like change and others like to experiment new things.
Arovane: Yes, I think so. People are more open and interested in new, unheard sounds. We are closely connected to technology, computers in our daily life. Nowadays it’s much easier to find interesting (electronic) music. I use Bandcamp as my platform and to explore new artists and music. Young people are interested in modular synthesizers. That’s a good sign. The reception for new structures and experimentation in the music is growing.
Cyclic Defrost: What’s the latest thing that blew your mind?
Porya Hatami: A book called Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis, brilliant economist and the former finance minister of Greece. It is a memoir, an inside story of Greece-EU bailout talks back in 2015, a shocking and disturbing account of the inner workings of Europe’s “Deep Establishment” (as the author calls it) and the real state of politic and economics today.
Arovane: It’s a piece of software technology, the Sequencer from Five12, Numerology4 http://www.five12.com/hq/N4 This thing is h u g e, truly. I’ve been using sequencers in my studio for a long time, hardware sequencers like the Yamaha QY700 and software sequencers but Numerology4 blew my Fuse. It’s modular and I mean complete modular. You can modulate each and every parameter. It’s a kind of holy sequencer grail for me. A fantastic playground for ideas to build up musical structures.
Cyclic Defrost: Which were your greatest experiences performing live?
Arovane: Well, I traveled around the world, played live in the USA, Russia and Europe but the greatest experience was to perform in Japan. I was there around 2003 and 2014. People were so friendly, enthusiastic and open minded.
Porya Hatami: I have never played live.
Cyclic Defrost: Have you ever faced a period of no inspiration?
Arovane: Yes, sure. Every time I feel uninspired I switch off the machines and hop on my motorbike to take a ride. Or I meet friends to have a nice dinner.
Porya Hatami: Yes, I go through such phases. For me, the creative process is not just about the time I spend on making the sounds . Various factors shape the idea behind a tune. Reading, listening and watching are all parts of the process for me so when I can’t make music, I simply switch to another activity for a while.
Cyclic Defrost: What was the hardest thing to overcome to dedicate yourself to the arts?
Arovane: I think the hardest thing was to find the time to create music besides my part time job.
Porya Hatami: I think the biggest challenge for most artists is dealing with the duality between the time they want to spend on their art and the time consumed towards financial needs.
Cyclic Defrost: Have you ever dreamed of a song and try to make it afterwards?
Arovane: Yes. It was the rhythm programming for Atol Scrap. I remember that I was on the way in Berlin with an s-train and dreamed about special percussion sounds and the rhythm programming elements. It happens quite often that I have specific sounds in my mind for my productions.
Porya Hatami: No. I never experienced something like that.
Cyclic Defrost: Which is the place that you feel most comfortable at?
Arovane: My garden and my studio.
Porya Hatami: I like to walk in nature and I enjoy my time in my studio.
Cyclic Defrost: Plans for the near future?
Arovane: I’ve finished the work on an EP with Synkro to be released this summer on R&S/Apollo. We have some more ideas and material in the pipeline for a second EP and maybe an album. My plans are to continue the collaboration with Porya Hatami and Darren McClure. There are some more people I’m working with, like Mike Lazarev from Headphone Commute. Maybe I will find the time to continue the work on my solo album.
Porya Hatami: I have a few collaborative projects that I’m working on at the moment and I recently finished 2 solo albums. I have planned to release them later this year or early next year.
Cyclic Defrost: Back in the day I was crazy obsessed with Atol Scrap, had Thaem Nue on a constant repeat for quite a long time. Now that your releasing periods had a break in the middle, which are your best memories from those times until Lilies?
Arovane: Glad you like ‘Atol Scrap’ and ‘Thaem Nue’. My best memory is the collaboration with Hior Chronik, the work on the two albums for ASIP and the return after my hiatus. So many people say ‘welcome back’ and were happy that I continued my music work.
Cyclic Defrost: Have you got a different perspective now about what you lived back then?
Arovane: Oh yes. The whole, so called ‘music industry’ has changed. The network of musicians, record labels, distribution partners has nearly dissolved. My perspective nowadays is that everybody stands alone. Musicians struggle to get attention. Everything and everybody is under pressure to bring profits. Music is just a click, a download to be lost on computer hard drives. Music seems worth nothing anymore, well, the digital streaming industry makes big profits with products for the masses.
Cyclic Defrost: About the comparisons of your work to some other artists that had a landmark in these type of music. I was wondering if you ever had to struggle to deal with such things.
Arovane: No, never. People need to compare music. They need to categorize it seems. ‘X’ sounds like ‘Y’ but ‘A’ sounds more like ‘B’, something like that. If you listen carefully to all my productions since my break, you will realize the broadening horizon in my music. There is experimental electronic, dub music, acousmatic music, piano music, ambient scapes, all kinds of. I would call it m u s i c. I don’t care about this comparisons. Well, I think you’ll hear the Arovane sound, you’ll recognize me. But the most people expect music that fits in the term ‘IDM’. I don’t like that term. What’s intelligent? Do the people h a v e to dance to?
Cyclic Defrost: You moved away from Berlin around 2013. How did you feel the scene over there until you left?
Arovane: I feel like I consider the ‘scene’ from a huge distance. It’s like all the noise from that world is under the radar, filtered away for me. I’m concentrating on my music. It’s a quiet area here, where i live. Sometimes I listen to contemporary music, to something ‘new’ and ‘hot’ from the electronic scene but most of the time it’s old wine in new bottles for me. I lost the feel for that scene and it’s good to be lost and to have found my own sound. The ‘scene’ for me are my friends I’m collaborating and communicating with.
Cyclic Defrost: I wanted to know if there was a sound in particular that turned out to be harder to record than others.
Porya Hatami: During the recording of Spider from Garden, I was looking for a particular sound that might nuance the noise made by a spider moving around. I tried many ideas but nothing worked. Then I accidentally recorded a sound from rubbing the back of my hand against an old TV’s PDP screen. After mixing it in, I realized it was just what I was looking for. There are other unusual recordings in that album. I have tried putting a recorder in a fridge or things like that but the spider sound was the most challenging task.
Cyclic Defrost: Could you give us some insight about the scene in Iran? People usually talk about electronic music being banned over there. Is this changing over time?
Porya Hatami: After the revolution in late 70’s music was generally banned except for a few genres that were approved by the new regime. Before the revolution, Iran had a lively pop scene which was feeding itself from the French pop music of the 60’s. After the revolution, these pop artists travelled to Los Angeles and tried to keep their touch with their audience and they had some success too until the regime tried to cut their influence by allowing a younger generation to publish new pop music. It was a successful move because these musicians were operating under a specific guideline. It also became an opportunity for the new regime to sell its favored ideology back to the youngsters.
Electronic music is a different story, it’s relatively new and there is no official ban on it; therefore, it’s somehow tolerated by the regime or managed to slip under their radar, especially experimental music, maybe because of its obscurity or the fact that most of its performances are in small cafes or art galleries with relatively smaller audience. In this circumstances, the electronic musicians were able to operate almost without much problem over the past few years as long as they were not crossing regime’s red lines.
Iran has a lively Electronic music scene nowadays. There are a few electronic music festivals here and some musicians have started to visit Iran to perform live in the past few years. Unfortunately, the one area that still haven’t seen any improvements is women music, they are still completely banned, especially from performing their work.
Cyclic Defrost: Wordless music is often too subtle or oblique to be perceived as an ideological threat. Do you agree?
Porya Hatami: It might be harder to spot, but I don’t think wordless music is subtle or that it can’t be political. We know that some of the most politically charged works of the 20th century music are wordless. There are great examples in the work of Schoenberg, Xenakis, Messiaen, Stockhausen, Nono and many more. Stockhausen once said that “I can’t use 4/4 time signature anymore because it reminds me of marching Nazi’s”, so the music form itself can become political or a resistance to an ideology. Also, we have many examples of wordless music that were perceived as an ideological threat. Instances of this can be seen in the challenges that came across Shostakovich’s work or other musicians who were banned by Soviets and the Nazi regime.
Cyclic Defrost: Could you recommend some artists from your region?
Porya Hatami: I recommend checking out this compilation on Flaming Pines records: https://flamingpines.bandcamp.com/album/absence You can discover some of the talented artists from Iran’s scene there.