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Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
Few acts stick to their guns like Darius Syrossian. The longtime house & techno stalwart has always been an outspoken critic of boxing his sound into a category, instead opting to focus on the ethos of each of his productions and their ultimate effectiveness on the floor when it comes to prompting footwork and euphoria. Not to mention, he possesses a perfectionist streak that ensures his own productions are as tight as a Roman aqueduct and that his mixing behind the decks is equally seamless. Such passion and drive equates to longterm success, with Syrossian earning high acclaim in leading the iconic Do Not Sleep series while also maintaining a heavy tour and release schedule. After a long and storied list of achievements over the past couple decades, however, the stalwart began feeling out of touch with the club scene and in need of something new to inspire his career.
Enter his solution: MOXY MUZIK, a brand new label and clubbing concept in which Darius’ aim is to “take clubbing back to clubs.” Launched in December, the digital/vinyl label is dedicated toward the cutting edge and underground side of house and techno. Its artists and releases are carefully handselected for their timelessness and ability to stand out as quality tunes well over a decade past release. Thus, it’s no wonder that Doc Martin, Cassy, Seb Zito, Dense & Pika, and more have been among those chosen to help break the label in. MOXY MUZIK takes on a Darius-centric route for its clubbing concept, with its founder choosing a new location each month to return to his early DJing roots and perform a extended sets each time. While he won’t be doing this in the states anytime soon, followers can at least get a taste through his upcoming Miami Music Week pool party with his Do Not Sleep camp on March 27. Tickets for that here. In the meantime, we picked Syrossian’s brain on his label, recent EP Dance Of The Shaman, musical philosophy, the meaning of “underground,” and more for this Techno Tuesday.
What elements make a song more ‘underground’ to you?
I was reading a tweet by Man Power the other day, he said the word ‘underground’ maybe isn’t the right word to describe his music and sets, and that maybe the word should be ‘Uncompromising’? Makes sense though, but either way, I think when we use this term, I think it means we are saying the music we are referring to is made as an art not to please the masses, there is always some kind of latest fad, and with every fad there is hundreds of tracks made to attract the attention of people who want more of that latest fad, for example, pop music is called that for the very reason that its popular right? And it’s made to be popular, so it’s not underground or uncompromising. So I’d have to say what makes a track more underground is when it’s made by any particular artist because it’s what they feel is their music coming out of them, and not to please the masses.
Can you expand a bit on walking the line between underground music and dance floor accessibility?
Well, I think there is certain sections of the industry where people who claim to be underground purists turn their nose up at anything that may be absolutely huge on the dance floor, this does not have to be the case, I mean tech house has a dirty name now, but if you think to when the term was started it was mid 90s at that particular time Tech House was music that DJs like Ian Pooley and Terry Francis (fabric) who were playing, and it was amazing music, loved by the purists, it was also music that labels like plastic city from Germany was releasing, again, it was labels that the purists loved, it had a bit more soul and depth to it, but essentially it was still Tech House, and I think right now, music that is maybe club friendly is frowned upon by those that claim to be underground purists. I just want to show that music CAN be made to make a dance floor explode, and it still can have soul and have some depth, and still please these purists. Not all underground music has to be abstract leftfield music.
I feel there is a big shift with too much generic tech house being forced on people who want to go to clubs to DANCE. While at the same time, a lot of underground music is becoming less and less dance floor friendly, so I want to show that underground can still be for the dance floor, and is not belonging solely to chin strokers who don’t go out clubbing!
How has your sound changed over the years?
I honestly don’t think it has, I’ve always liked a certain sound, which is both house and techno which has a strong emphasis on the groove and drums, quite minimal and is inspired by the early US house and techno sound but has darker European influences in it, and lots of Chicago influences when it comes to the drums, but having said all that, for anyone who listens to my sets that are at least three hours long, I cross over so many different genres, I’ll play house, to techno, move through prog, and even touch on some disco, I prefer to be a bit more balearic and don’t want to stick to one linear sound the whole set, I like to take it on a journey.
Tell us about your process for selecting the first round of artists to release on the label.
It’s about selecting artists who I think are making music because it is their art, and that will be music that I think will do two things to me, 1 make me want to dance, 2 be Music that I think ill still want to listen to in ten years time, and not just be music that is made to fit the latest fad, and make the top 10 sales charts, as I said in another interview, this side of things doesn’t interest me and its not why I started the Moxy Muzik label, most of my favourite music that I find when digging for music isn’t even in the top 100 charts, to me those things don’t matter.
What are some of your biggest goals for MOXY MUZIK?
I think to make sure I keep releasing music that I’m proud of releasing and that I can sit back in ten years and listen to it all again and still feel it not just in a nostalgic sense but in a way that it’s still music that I would play then as well. Also I’m putting out every release on vinyl which will also have bespoke hand drawn art because I want it to be something physical you can pick up, hold, and see, and not be disposable or digital music people play for a few weeks then it’s gone and forgotten about.
Did you already the remixers chosen in your head as you were making “Dance of the Shaman?” Tell us about what led you to choose these collaborators.
No not at all, when I’m in the studio the only thing I’m thinking about is how that track is developing. Only when it’s totally finished and roadtested and I’m happy with a track will I then begin to decide about remixers. But overall I have a list of artists I admire, and when a track is finished ill look at the track and then at the list and i’ll pick out artists from that list that I think would be good for that particular track.
Who are some artists breathing originality back into house music at the moment?
Well there are way too many to mention across the whole spectrum of electronic music, but since you asked about house music specifically I’d say Shanti Celeste is doing some amazing productions, everything she does has so much soul, but maintains a good groove, then there are artists like Ben Rau right now, Archie Hamilton, Spencer Parker.
I think some of the best artists don’t get any press, but if you really search you can find so many great artists who are doing amazing things musically, yes there are artists blowing up all the time but sometimes music isn’t the main reason they are exploding. There are other factors and social media has played a part in that, maybe in the past without social media artists were judged only by peoples ears, because the only way to judge a DJ was by hearing how good he or she played a set maybe or how good he or she produced a track? But with social media, the press can see that IMAGE can play a big role in how popular an artist can be and this is definitely playing a role.
Anything else big happening in your pipeline?
Well I’m about to go on a South America tour, when I’m back it’s a heavy schedule over Christmas and New Year period and then in 2019 the Moxy Muzik label launch parties start which is gonna be a series of shows where I play six hours, and they are all held in small intimate venues, like Mint Club Leeds, Joshua Brooks Manchester, 93 Feet East London, Kater Blau Berlin and loads more, the aim of this is to take clubbing back to CLUBS, and I love doing the big warehouse events, they are great but there is a distinct lack of DJs playing smaller intimate venues I feel, and they are some of the best parties, so I’m focusing on these kind of sets for the label parties and they are gonna be long all night long sets, so I’m excited to get these underway.