Aril Brikha plays Do Not Sit on the Furniture on September 25.EXPAND
Aril Brikha plays Do Not Sit on the Furniture on September 25.
Photo by Krijn van Noordwijk

Techno Veteran Aril Brikha: "I Really Try Not to Follow Trends"

In the world of techno — a genre that probes the unexplored reaches of electronic sound to herald the music of the future — it's the stylistic innovators who pave the way.

Take Aril Brikha, a techno trailblazer who's been doing it on his own terms for a whopping three decades.

As a teenaged production wunderkind, Brikha would sign his auspicious first releases on Transmat, the seminal imprint of Detroit techno pioneer Derrick May. Of course, Brikha's singular creative vision would eventually lead him to found his own label, Art of Vengeance, a launching pad for productions as forward-thinking as they're rooted in Detroit's classic deep tech soul. 

Ahead of a rare Miami appearance at Do Not Sit on the Furniture on Friday, we caught up with Aril Brikha to chat about his 30-year evolution as a producer, Art of Vengeance, and new studio material in progress.

New Times: You were born in Iran but raised in Sweden. How does your multicultural background inform what you do as an artist? Do you have distinct cultural influences from either country?
Aril Brikha: Honestly, I have no idea. I came to Sweden as a 3-year-old and don't remember much of anything from Iran. Obviously, growing up in Sweden as a Iranian in the '80s, where there were hardly any immigrants, and I was the only foreign child in my class until I was 13 years old — to say that both cultures haven't influenced me would be to lie. The older I got, the more I realized I will never be Swedish, even though I speak the language better than most Swedes themselves. It is very sad to see the country you were once proud of coming from being a place where an ex-neo-Nazi racist political party is now the third biggest. I was going to Berlin quite a lot since 2008, and finally about two to three years ago, I've been based out of Berlin, where I feel more at home with the diverse mix of people and cultures here.

How did you first get drawn to electronic dance music, and particularly techno? Were there any specific artists, records, or scenes that were most formative for you when you were getting into this type of music?
I can't even remember that, really. As long as I can remember, I've always been very interested in the future and space. All my toys were space-themed: Transformers, space Lego — and naturally the music I came to prefer was more futuristic-driven than the more traditional rock music which was mostly what Sweden was into in the '80s. I was young enough to enjoy the glory days of MTV, when they actually played music. We also had satellite channels from the UK, so all that '80s music that was big then, and naturally Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Visage, New Order, and similar acts really made a big impact on me. Depeche Mode, even to this day, is the main reason I started making music of my own. I read in a music magazine that Martin Gore used an Atari computer as a sequencer, and having a keyboard bought by my parents when I was seven-years-old, I wanted to know more about the use of a sequencer, because I was only able to play one melody and chord at the time with my keyboard. So when I was 13, I took a summer job, saved up to buy an Atari, and my first song I learned to sequence was "Behind the Wheel," where I first recorded the kick drum, then bassline, and eventually the rest of the layers of the song. And through this, I learned the basics of making music. Around 15 to 16, the first raves I went to got me experimenting with harder electronic music than the '80s pop I loved. 

You've had a longstanding relationship with Detroit techno legend Derrick May and the Transmat label. How did you first hook up? What has Derrick May imparted to you as an artist and industry professional?
Well, after experimenting and finding my own sound from when I was 16 to 18 — which happened to be Basic Channel, Underground Resistance, and similar stuff — I was told this was called Detroit techno by my DJ friends. After trying to release my music on Swedish labels, then European labels, I took a long shot and sent a demo to Transmat, and they called me up after two or three days saying they wanted to release it. That was 1997, and I was 19 years old. Derrick is very driven and has his own strong opinions. These opinions clashed with mine, as I was equally stubborn and didn't want to change many things I believed in back then. So that was hard, but thanks to him inviting me to join a Transmat tour that took place during 12 months in places like Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Madrid, I got my first taste of actually seeing this hobby of mine as something I could make a living from.

Did you have a particular concept or vision in mind for Art of Vengeance when you first set out to launch the label? Is there a specific aesthetic or vibe you're looking for to define the label?
I had the idea already back in 1996, when I couldn't get my music out. But when Transmat picked my music up, I named my first EP Art of Vengeance. Around 2008, I wanted to re-release the album Deeparture in Time on Transmat, with remixes and remastered for its 10-year anniversary — so that was a good time to set it up. I only did it for my own music and any kind of music I felt like making or putting out. I never believed in the idea of having three different labels just because you felt like making house one day, techno the other, or ambient.

You've been going strong for some three decades now. How do you feel your musical outlook and creative process have evolved during this time? What has changed in your M.O. since the '90s. What remains the same?
I have never been a DJ — that's one thing that never changed. I am still only producing my music and touring with it, and only playing live sets. Back then, it was hardware. But since 10 years back, I've been mostly all software-based, but slowly getting back into the hardware setup again, because I easily get bored when staring into a screen, instead of having my eyes closed and making music like back in the day. The only thing that remains the same is that I really try not to follow trends, and I just try to make music that I enjoy for myself...the fact that other people seem to like is still a blessing for me.

So what do you have going on in the studio at the moment? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to?
I just moved my studio out from my bedroom and apartment. Never had a studio outside my house, but I felt the need to change it up and leave the house and "go to work." It's new and different for me, but there I don't have my WIFI on, and only work on making music. So along with a bunch of unfinished stuff and sketches I've had, but only played live, I want to spend this fall and winter finishing as much as I can in order to figure out if i should compile it into an album or break it up into different EPs for other labels.

We're excited to see you throw down at Do Not Sit On The Furniture on Friday. What can we expect?
I am very excited too. I will have my usual setup, based on Ableton Live, two controllers, and probably bringing my TR8 drum machine for some additional programming along with approximately three-plus hours of material I have in my live set which I can play. It is all live and improvised, in the sense that I choose which tracks I want to play and for how long, so it's usually up to the crowd and the feedback I get that takes the live set in whichever direction it goes.

Aril Brikha with Archila. 10 p.m. Friday, September 25, at Do Not Sit on the Furniture, 423 16th St., Miami Beach; 305-450-3809; facebook.com/DoNotSit. Tickets cost $10 to $15 plus fees via residentadvisor.net.

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