An Interview with Arian Sarrafan
Several months ago, The Hippo Collective announced a mission to support young, creative and innovative artists and contributors by providing a platform through which they might engage in conversation and debate over modern culture. In these last few months, my contributions to this mission have evolved rapidly. I have therefore spoken with photographers, art curators, musicians and artists from all over the world.
Bearing this progress in mind, The Hippo Collective is proud to present a new series of interviews. Over the coming weeks, we will bring you a collection of conversations that we have conducted with artists in York, UK. This series will act as an assessment of the ‘State of the Arts’ in York. A quick word on York: while London may possess an artistic monopoly in the UK, numerous extremely talented and brilliant young people are creating extraordinary art in the north.
The first instalment in the State of the Arts series focuses on Arian Sarrafan, young producer and DJ who lives and studies in York. With an impressive musical knowledge and several successful projects, Arian has been re-defining nightlife in York. Through his latest project ‘Drop’, Arian took the risk of creating a club night that does not cater to more popular or mainstream tastes. Instead, Arian looked to the underground and found a strong audience by playing trap, grime and bass. For the most recent iteration of Drop, Arian invited the well-known London grime rapper D Double E to play for an extremely full house. I had a chat with Arian about his musical influences and background, setting up Drop and plans for the future. Enjoy!
The Hippo Collective: Hello Arian, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me. Could you please briefly introduce yourself?
Arian Sarrafan: Thank you for having me, Giacomo. My name is Arian Sarrafan. My parents are Iranian but I was born and brought up in London. I am in my third year and am studying accounting and business finance management (which I don’t like very much).
THC: I was wondering, do you want to explore a more artistic and creative career once you graduate?
AS: I’m not entirely sure. Up until very recently, I felt a lot of pressure to go down the finance path. Many of my friends are planning on working in finance after they graduate. It seemed like the rational and normal thing to do.
THC: It seems safe doesn’t it?
AS: Yes, safe and worth it. I know that it involves a lot of hard work but in the end, a financial career seems to pay off. The ratio between the time that you invest and the money that you make, compared to other jobs, it seems to make sense. I decided recently that I am not going to try that career path.
THC: Would you term the idea of exploring an artistic career path as ‘irrational’?
AS: No, I think it’s actually more rational over the long run. It will definitely lead to more happiness and might even pay better. I think that I won’t try to find a job in the financial sector nor will I apply for some shitty job at a music company. I’m going to do my own thing!
THC: A third way perhaps?
AS: Yes, I have the ability to start ventures and make friends or contacts along the way. All I have to do is repeat that process.
THC: Is that what you have been doing here in York? Do you find that the people you have met here and the musical scene have allowed you to complete that process?
AS: People always talk about universities in general terms but it’s a bit like talking a country. There are 13,000 people at the University of York. There must be people that relate to what you’re doing. During my first year and in part during second year, I thought that the University was boring but that was because I was sitting on my ass in my room. I was wasting the opportunities around me.
THC: What changed?
AS: Well, I started taking things more seriously. When I created Drop, I found that working on a club night project provided me with a routine. Even if it only was for a few weeks or a month, it lent some sort of structure to my day. While seminars and lectures provide that sort of structure, working on Drop was something I actually cared about. I was excited to get up in the morning. I’ve found that if I’m not motivated to do something, it won’t happen.
THC: We will talk about Drop later. Could you please tell me about your musical upbringing and influences? Are your parents musicians?
AS: No, my parents are not musicians but they both possess a deep love of music. My father has a great selection and he has had a huge influence on my musical taste. I began showing interest in music from a very young age. I learned how to play the piano when I was five and had many teachers until I was 16. I didn’t practice enough and so they usually left me!
THC: Do you play anymore?
AS: I don’t really learn to play pieces. I mainly use the piano to create small snippets or sequences for the songs I produce. My father listens to a variety of music, especially Latin music. My parents aren’t musicians but they are musical.
THC: It started with Latin music and it developed from there?
AS: Latin music was very important. Iranian music played a big part in the development of my taste and styles. I listened to a lot of Jack Johnson’s music from age 11 to age 16.
THC: How did that evolve into DJing and producing? How did that all start?
AS: At the end of year 11, I switched school and ended up with my best friend. I met many people, some of whom study here at York. In my first year of sixth form, I became friends with someone who had a midi drum machine. I thought it seemed cool and we made a few basic beats on it together. I eventually downloaded the software made songs with that for a while.
I focused very heavily on jazz and eventually shifted to hip-hop. From there I jumped to synths and until the end of my first year at university, I had a very dark and slow-paced sound. My songs reflect my mood; as I started working on Drop and as my life became more eventful, my music became much more danceable and upbeat.
That concludes the first part of our interview with Arian Sarrafan. On behalf of The Hippo Collective, I would like to thank Arian for taking the time to speak with us. To stay in touch with Arian and to learn more about his work, please follow him on SoundCloud and like his Facebook page. Stay tuned for part II. Thank you for reading!