Darius Syrossian is a self-proclaimed dancefloor destroyer. As a house music maverick, Syrossian dedicated himself at the tender age of 14. The 90s gave him his first set of decks and a bevy of Chicago house pioneers while the noughties, particularly 2008, gave him his first break.
Veteran producer Steve Lawler saw something Syrossian didn’t, and with this faith invited him aboard the VIVa MUSiC train. From there it was full steam ahead.
Jasmine Phull listened as the UK based producer and house music devotee went back to the beginning.
You’re quite obviously inspired by Detroit and Chicago house pioneers such as Derrick May, DJ Sneak and Carl Craig. How does the scene of today compare to that of the 90s? Can the present ever compete with the past?
Well I don’t see it as a competition, but I think today’s producers need to give a nod to the past pioneers who inspired them. Since the mid 90s, when I got my first decks and realised what I liked, I have never once changed my sound. All the Sneak, Tennaglia, Masters @ Work and Derrick May stuff truly inspired me, and no matter what fad came along, I never once jumped ship. I don’t want to play what’s cool just to fit in. This is how I see it: if what I like isn’t liked by anyone else and I get no bookings or nobody buys my music, then so be it, but right now its going great. In fact this week I had a call from Richie Ahmed who told me Jamie Jones and Lee Foss shortlisted one of my tracks to sign to one of their labels. It’s the same Darius sound that has led me to sign to labels like Get Physical, as well as VIVa MUSiC. So for those guys to be in touch and sign something that has always been my sound is great! But I’ve never once forget where my sound came from, it was from going to Cream back in 1996 and seeing Sneak play 4 hour sets of thumping jackin house on vinyl, and thinking - wow, WTF was that?!
One thing about the music industry that rubs you the wrong way?
One thing I do dislike is when some new DJ’s bio says they’re changing the face of house music with their sound and so on; it really grates on me. How arrogant can you be? House music is bigger than all of us; no new fad is going to change house music, simple. Have respect for the past that allowed you to be here now.
You’ve played all over the world but is there another place, other than its hometown, that’s really digging the Chicago house sound?
It's funny, I played Chicago, and also Detroit, in May. If I’m going to be honest, everyone I met there told me it’s not like it used to be and so on. I don’t care if I’m playing in Indonesia or China - if people are digging the beats then I will love it. There is a whole new generation of clubbers, the younger generation who this year especially, seem to be really into this sound. I’ve had some mega gigs in UK lately where the crowd has been super young but super vibin - like really going for it on the dancefloor, you know? It’s refreshing to see because there was a three or four year period when the younger kids weren’t into proper house music. For example, on a Thursday night in Leeds, I was playing before Steve Lawler at Mint Club, it was only 1am in this video and the atmosphere was electric. I was playing tough jackin house with heavy beats, no slow bassline, no fad music. I’m doing my thing and it’s going down a storm.
See what Darius is on about here:
- Date: Thursday 5th April 2012
- Event: KALUKI - HEIDI PRESENTS THE JACKATHON at The Warehouse
- Venue: The Warehouse
- Artists: Heidi, Lee Foss, Darius Syrossian
I have played all over Europe lately and what was once dominated by the dark minimal tech stuff, is making way for really bass heavy house with phat drums and energy, it’s great to see.
How integral was your initial involvement with Steve Lawler’s VIVa MUSiC to your career trajectory? Did that help widen your listener base?
Steve Lawler has truly been amazing to me. I ran a vinyl record shop from 1996 to 2009; I was always involved in house music as a job; I DJ’d locally and did a few out of town gigs here and there, with some big names, but it was when I started producing in 2008 that Steve Lawler noticed me. He believed in me more than I believed in myself. I knew I could do it but never pushed myself, because I thought 'yeah I have seen some amazing DJs and producers who have got nowhere because they don’t know the right people; why would it be any different for me?' Steve gave me a platform to prove my talent. He said: 'you need to go and graft in the studio and make those big tracks, not just average tracks or good tracks, but BIG tracks that make people sit up and notice.' He saw that in me. When I look back now, I am so thankful to him, over the last 12 months I have featured on four compilations including: Heidi Presents The Jackathon, on Get Physical, DJ Sneaks’ Fabric compilation, Cocoon Heroes and 5 years of 8 bit for Nick Curly. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Steve Lawler believing in me.
You owned and ran record shops Global Beat and also Crash Records, from 1996 to 2009. How important were those shops in terms of solidifying your appreciation for dance music?
HUGE, absolutely huge, I dealt with all forms of electronic music, not just house. On a daily basis I was listening to jazz, funk, vinyls, real disco from 20 to 30 years ago, electronica, drum & bass. All this really inspired and influenced me. The way I approach a gig has been directly impacted by the whole mentality of DJs, being around them every day and my days spent in the record shop.
Vinyl is obviously a favourite with many veteran DJ/producers. Can you list a couple of reasons why vinyl trumps mp3?
1. Music is so easily disposed of these days. It’s crazy, people get a track on mp3 and then after 3 weeks they stop playing it. When it was vinyl, you bought five records a week, not 25, so you learnt your tracks more, you played them more, and in your sets they became more fluid.
2. DJing with vinyl is truly an art-form, though I have no problem with people playing digital if they are mixing. If I use CDJs, I hit the vinyl mode and mix manually; I’m not a big fan of laptops in clubs - if the laptop is mixing, what is the point of the DJ then? Just track selection? That’s pointless. I say, get your head out of that laptop screen and look at the crowd and the floor in-front of you; feel what your doing; use your ears for the music and your eyes for the crowd, not your eyes for the laptop and waveform.
Vinyl has been heavily phased out since the invention of the weightless audio format, the mp3. Why do you still release on vinyl? Is it a marketing tactic or something more nostalgic?
It’s like this: would you rather receive a hand written card on Valentine’s Day from your lover or an e card in your email? Same thing, it’s a real thing. Also in five years time, you can sit there and go through your vinyl and be like 'wow, I haven’t heard this in ages', then you play it and remember all the fun you had to that music. With digital, the laptop you had your music on five years ago will be long gone. Plus vinyl gives something back to the artist and label.
How inspirational were conversations around the dinner table during your childhood?
(Laughs). Funny question! Well when I was about four I thought everything runs out, so surely if I talk too much my voice will run out too. (Laughs). I was only. (Laughs). I am one of four boys, and come from a huge family; it was always busy at dinner- time with uncles, aunties and cousins. We always had music on, my uncle used to have tapes of Eurythmics, Alison Moyet, Human League, and all the 80’s music that had a lot of analogue synths. I used to use the ‘tape-to-tape function’ to put all my favourite songs one after the other on one cassette. I guess they were my first mix tapes in a way.
How important do you think the live gig is? Do you think listeners can gain a totally different perspective when simply listening to you via their speakers?
My stuff is always aimed at the dancefloor, it’s one of the reasons I haven’t done an artist album. I know I make dancefloor stuff and that it doesn’t work as well on the home cd player or in the car. But my stuff is amazing on the dancefloor; when I’m making tracks the main thing I go for is energy, bass and drum programming. So no it isn’t the same really. I think working in a record shop for 15 years has given me a good ear, when I’m producing I know what is gonna be a killer on the floor. One day I will sit down and make more friendly listening house music, but right now, I don’t want to; I am hungry to make dancefloor destroyer after dancefloor destroyer. There is plenty of music out there for people to chill to at home, my mission is to tear up dancefloor. (Laughs).
How often are your tour shows based on improv and feeling the crowd?
It is always about feeling a crowd. Every gig is different, that’s why I never plan a set. I know my first couple of tracks then I take it from there, see the crowd and feel what they are about and then adapt my music to fit that crowd. After a show with legend Chez Damier from Detroit, he said: ‘you have to feel it in your heart, if you feel it, they feel it, they see you feeling it and they also feel it’. I will never forget that.
Who are you currently listening to?
To chill I listen to Clutchy Hopkins - it's actually two guys who were around before Nikolas Jaar was with his stuff. People who like down tempo electronica should also check them out! Also Little Dragon! But if we are talking house music, Deetron’s new balance mix CD is ace. Producers to look out for are Andrade, Cozzy D and Fabio Giannelli. I’m gonna stop or I will go on forever. (Laughs).
Interview: Jasmine Phull
Catch Darius Syrossian at The Warehouse in Leeds on April 5th for Heidi's Jackathon. Tickets are available below.
Tickets are no longer available for this event