A discerning observer of his time and what one may call a conscientious objector of club music, Emad Dabiri alias SARIN keeps blowing the winds of rebellion and awareness through impeccably chiselled EBM-infused techno hybrids, eager to make the voice of peace and truth heard amidst the torrential outpouring of bias and meme-worthy tall tales we’re being urged to gulp down on a daily basis.
On 15th November, SARIN returns to Phase Fatale and Florian Engerling imprint, BITE, with his debut long-player ‘Moral Cleansing‘; a fevered eight-track mindtrip pacing the back routes betwixt rust-eaten industrial, laser-guided 4/4 rhythmic ordnance and high-octane noisey outbursts. We caught up with Emad to discuss the defining moments of his life, the place of politics in music and his A/V creative process. Watch the video for ‘The Culling‘ directed by SARIN himself down below.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"It’s become part of my workflow to have a giant list of disorganized fleeting ideas and build something from there. I am constantly collecting these sonic ideas or furiously jotting down notes while watching documentaries and movies..."
Hey Emad, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Your debut album, ‘Moral Cleansing’, is coming out mid November via Phase Fatale and Florian Engerling imprint, BITE. Please tell us more about its conception and the concept behind it?
Hello there, thanks for having me. This album came out of a collection of sketches, basic patterns, sequences, samples and sounds I had collected since my last release, ‘Kuleshov Effect‘, also on BITE.
It’s become part of my workflow to have a giant list of disorganized fleeting ideas and build something from there. I am constantly collecting these sonic ideas or furiously jotting down notes while watching documentaries and movies or from something I read or overheard in public.
Basically the album came out of a collection of disparate ideas and artifacts that I would cobble together and flesh out later in my home studio – or “in the studio” to sound more pro, less bedroom composer.
Where did you draw your inspiration?
The news, media, films, articles, essays and the general Berlin milieu, inspired this work. I’ve been fixated with mass media, news, geopolitics and conflicts since a young age.
In Canada a lot of my most vivid and early television memories as a child were watching the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq on TV with that alien-like green and grainy night footage showing tracers and flak lighting up the skies over Bagdad, or coming home from school one day and watching the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing and scenes of kids being pulled from rubble…
Later being more fully formed I remember all our highschool teachers huddled around a TV at school watching 9/11 unfold and leaving us to our own devices for the day. I guess cable TV plus parents that had to work multiple jobs can let you expose yourself to a lot of things as a child but I’m very glad I have these TV memories.
A lot of my output is influenced by events like these and my work ends up as a way of me trying to make sense of the world around me. I think even children should know what’s happening around them. That’s maybe more the conceptual and subconscious side.
On the sonic side I draw my influence from heroes and icons I listened to during my formative years. Early Front Line Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Clock DVA, Portion Control, Front 242, SPK, Lustmord, The Klinik… etc. And looking at that list a lot of those acts also shared a similar world view, which was something I was also attracted to at the time.
I’m also influenced by a large group of very talented friends and collaborators. I draw a lot of inspiration, energy and knowledge from colleagues like Unhuman, Qual, Reka, Blush Response, Imperial Black Unit, Phase Fatale and several others.
It’s your first incursion in full-length territories, how did it effect/alter your approach to production?
Technically it was my first full-length vinyl, yes, though I did my first self-released full length cassette in 2015, that was later re-issued on vinyl by BFE Records & Fill-lex Records in Valencia. It was a huge challenge to make a full album.
While I did have some sketches and ideas I had become more used to producing 4-track EPs where I could spend more time focusing on making each track as precise and piercing as possible for the dancefloor. Creating an album I had to look at it more as a whole / complete composition with a narrative arc where the energy levels can fluctuate and vary – not just in one mode. In the end I’m happy with how it turned out.
"I want there to be this lingering feeling clawing away at the back of the dancer’s brainstem that they might want to investigate later during their hangover - “What was that about?” There’s so much that’s hidden away and buried from us, I want to dig it up and force it back up to be examined."
Were the tracks built and arranged correspondingly to a certain narrative?
I wouldn’t say I had a defined narrative in mind going into making the album. My outlook on the world crystalized by the time I was out of university. The general idea of my work is to make people dance and lose themselves but at the same time try to inject some conception of the cruelty and injustice of the world into the music whether subliminally or subconsciously with some form of intellectual content, a brief news sample or however else I can.
Ideally I want there to be this lingering feeling clawing away at the back of the dancer’s brainstem that they might want to investigate later during their hangover – “What was that about?” There’s so much that’s hidden away and buried from us, I want to dig it up and force it back up to be examined.
At the same time we are so inundated with media manipulation that I also take those examples cultural detritus and try to bring them to their extremes, which comes out more in the video aspect.
You’ve stayed true to a certain sonic tradition, one that considers techno as a political weapon and powerful vehicle for thought and change in society – which some will argue was an inherent part of the movement, and shall not be dissociated. Don’t you feel today’s scene lacks some guts at times?
A lot of it does lack guts. Techno and a lot of its related iterations have been commodified for a while now. Hyper selfie commodity culture has diluted a lot of the relevance it once had as an alternative form of expression.
The popular fad is now to superficially point towards basic human emotions such as hate, anger, alienation, hedonism and sex in an attempt to be edgy and “underground” without any attempt to go beyond that most basic surface layer is also damaging the spirit and history of dark electronic music that has existed since the late ’70s.
That being said there is a lot of amazing and talented producers and acts who dive really deep into the rich history of these sounds and ideas and also into their emotions and their surroundings to create with authenticity. With that also comes a large base of loyal and knowledgeable fans and collectors who can see right through the hype and superficiality.
The video we’re sharing today, which you directed from stem to stern, reflects upon the diktat of images, the constant acceleration of “information” fluxes, and how easy it is to distort reality through distinct combinations of symbolic elements. How was the idea for this video born?
I come from a video sampling / editing background before I came to making music. I learned to edit in a way where looking at existing media I know immediately when a small piece jumps out to me as gold. It’s a kind of subconscious approach to sampling where I will create a large palette of fragments I find useful and merge them together to create something that’s meaningful to me.
I sampled everything in this video from motion pictures, documentaries, to vintage makeup commercials and even American Gladiators. I built up a contrast between the top frame and the bottom frame – the top is mostly inconsequential commercial adverts and the bottom fluctuates between abstract dreamlike fragments mixed in with disturbing images of actual conflicts.
For the conclusion, I decided I wanted the world to end so I sampled footage of a tsunami enveloping a city. I love NYC by the way, it just happens to be one of the cities that gets destroyed the most in the apocalyptic fantasies of Hollywood cinema. I thought the concept fit with the theme of the track – the overall idea that we are imploding on ourselves and perhaps we deserve to disappear as a species at the hands of nature.
"The popular fad is now to superficially point towards basic human emotions such as hate, anger, alienation, hedonism and sex in an attempt to be edgy and “underground” without any attempt to go beyond that most basic surface layer."
Is it safe to say both your visual and musical universes are natural extensions of one another? Or do you see each as a distinct vector for rebellion against the establishment?
I see audio / visual work and music as complimenting one another. I began solely from aedgyn A/V editing background. When I became disenfranchised with the art scene in Toronto I was attracted towards the more honest and pure world of dark dance music. I try to retain the visual side to compliment and reinforce the ideas I have for music.
Having grown up in Iran, lived in Canada and now being a resident of the ever sleepless Berlin for some years, what city do you most naturally call home and why?
Toronto will always be my home. Most of my childhood memories are from there and it’s where I cut my teeth doing my first performances and events with some really amazing pals. My “adult” home is Berlin let’s see how long that lasts. I can definitely see an expiry date living here however.
The album will be followed by a remix EP in early 2020, featuring the likes of Broken English Club, Privacy, Teste and Phase Fatale on remix duty. How did you proceed as to the artists selection?
It was a decision made between Hayden and Florian, who run BITE, and myself. We wanted a variety of different styles from artists we respect and cherish. I’m excited to see what they’ve done.
What was the last record store you visited and what did you bag there?
The last record store I visited was probably Paradiso in Barcelona, a great place that I hope to go back soon. I got ‘Surveillance And Punishment‘ by Slovenian legends Borghesia, a sealed copy of ‘Mind Slaughter‘ by the late Zex Model, and also a cool blue vinyl of Fast-Head-Unendlich’s ‘Reunion On The Missing Channel‘.
What makes you happy?
Fulfilling my dreams and having them realized and executed well. That’s a personal thing to do with motivation, self-respect and accomplishment. Also creating great things with great friends and collaborators makes me very happy.
What never fails at pissing you off?
That I get pissed off and stressed over inconsequential shit and lose the big picture sometimes.
What are your plans for the end of the year?
I’m looking forward to returning to KHIDI in Tbilisi soon with the BITE crew and relaxing after a wild up and down year.
Moral Cleansing is released via BITE on 15th November, pre-order a copy from Bandcamp.
A1. The Culling
A2. Psychic Driving
B2. Exocet II
B3. Images in Your Mind
B4. Inextinguishable Fire