Interview: Iran, influences and the making of Shallow with Porya Hatami

Porya Hatami is up there with one of my greatest musical finds in 2013. He follows a long line of ambient producers that use field recordings and live sampling as the base of their work, but there is something especially inviting about his music. The Iran-based producer has a relatively young discography, but his keen ear and attention to detail have his tracks echoing trademarks of the most revered sound artists of our current decade. And where other artists aim to challenge the status quo, Hatami demonstrates restraint, leaving a much more accessible and emotional experience at the forefront.

His upcoming release for Baltimore’s Tench is a half-step away from his recent experiemental efforts. The 43-minute, 3-track, album presents a serene collection of sounds that enduce tranquility and peace of mind. Soft pads, fluttering chimes and recordings of flowing water create a zen-like enviornment that seems to conclude as nearly as quickly as it starts. I caught up with the producer to discuss the album, his homeland and what we can expect to hear from the budding music-maker this year.

“Shallow” is set to release on February 18thPre-oder the album on Tench.


For anyone discovering you the first time, tell us a bit about yourself and your musical background.

I was born in Sanandaj, Iran and that’s also where I grew up. I actually never had any formal musical training, other than a few piano lessons when I was 14. I’m pretty much self taught. I studied many different forms of music before starting to produce, but not until 2007 did I start experimenting with music making software.

Field samples seem to play an lead role in your music. Has it always been the goal to incorporate your environment into your work? Can you elaborate a bit more on your process?

Yes, my environment is a major source of inspiration. I’ve always felt it was a good idea to collect the sounds from the places that I write about. My process depends a lot on the project that I’m working on, but I usually start with a simple sound, it could be a recording of an instrument, a pad, a sound from a synth, or a field recording, then I start to build a track around it. I usually let my tracks sit for a few weeks, then I’ll go back to them and start working on them again. Usually the last phase of production is where I delete parts of the track to come up with the most minimal version possible, while still feeling true to the original concept.

You’re currently based in Sanandaj, Iran, a country not predominantly known for electronic music. Can you lend some insight into cultural life there and how that pertains to, or influences, your practice?

Sanandaj (Sine in Kurdish) is located in the Northern West side of Iran and is surrounded by mountains. There is a historic castle on one of the mountains that’s around 6000 years old. Having several hills spread over the city provides beautiful and unprecedented views from every point. We speak Kurdish and wear traditional Kurdish clothing.

There are so many forms of Folk music here, most of them are vocal-only, with simple rhythms, for example “Domana” and “Bartonana”. There are also some very  unique instruments, my favorites being the “Shemshal” and “Narma Nay”. My cultural background definitely affects me as an artist, but it’s mostly the nature and environment here that influence my music directly.

Where have your other musical influences come from?

My earliest influences were classical music, especially Richard Wagner, who I still listen to all the time. Then came jazz and blues, artists like Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Pink Floyd also had a huge impact on me.

Later, I got into 20th century avant-garde music, Morton Feldman, Stockhausen, Milton Babbitt, I learned about John Cage and indeterminacy, the minimalism movement and artists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Brian Eno, Harold Budd and William Basinski were a major source of inspiration too.

I ultimately discoverd more experimental music from Warp records, Kompakt and ~Scape. Jan Jelinek’s Loop Finding Jazz records, Taylor Deupree and 12k had a huge influence on my work today.


Your debut album was picked up by Canadian imprint Inner Ocean Records, re-mastered and released alongside a remix package featuring prominent sound artists, how did that project come about?

I was asked by 2 artists for the stems to remix some of the tracks on Land, which lead me to the idea of compiling a remix album. I decided to ask some of the artists that I knew and liked to join the project. Fortunately, they all agreed to contribute and that’s how the album came together.
Regarding Inner Ocean Records, I knew Cory was interested in releasing it because he was a fan of  the original album. We talked about it and he agreed to release the original album as well, I wasn’t happy with the first edition’s packaging, so it was a good opportunity to have it re-mastered and re-issued alongside the remix album.

Tell us a bit about your latest album Shallow, where it was recorded and how your relationship with Marc Ostermeir came to be.

“Shallow” was recorded last Spring/Summber in Sanandaj. I captured all the field recordings around the city and the idea of writing this album came from this fen in a small village near Sanandaj. I’ve spent so much time there with friends. I used to go to record the frogs , but didn’t end up using any of those recordings on this release.

When I finished the album i was looking for a label. I didn’t know Marc personally, but I knew his music and I knew the label well. I sent the album to Marc, he sat with the release for a couple of weeks and then let me know he was happy to release it. He’s a lovely gentleman, he did the mastering and artwork design for “Shallow” too.

Aside from your upcoming Tench release, what other projects do you have lined up this year?

I have 2 collaborative albums finished and ready to release, one with Lcoma (Liam Coleman) for Unknown Tone Records and the other with Lee Anthony Norris for Carpe Sonum. They’re both coming in the first half of 2014. I also have 2 solo albums this year, one is finished and will be release this May/June on Dronarivm and the other will come out on Time Released Sound around September/October. I also joined the collaborative project called The Angling Loser (Lee Anthony Norris, Sir Cliff ) and we may release something later this year. I’m also working on a 3 way collaboration with Darren Harper and (Josco) Gerry McDermott.

Visit his personal Bandcamp page.