Back in April, Arca turned New York's Bowery Ballroom into a sexually charged tangle of limbs—on-stage, projected on-screen, and in the audience. When the lights went up, there was no chance anyone was ready to go home, so most of us hot-footed it over to Elvis Guesthouse a couple of blocks over for the afterparty, which turned out to be just as sonically inspiring thanks to the DJ behind the decks: Sadaf. Born in Iran, raised in Canada, and now based in NYC, Sadaf is a performance artist turned producer with a nose for thrillingly unexpected club sounds. She's got an LP in the works for Hoss Records, but in the meantime, her FADER Mix provides a whirlwind tour through her musical interests, from Persian trap to Angolan kuduro. Listen below, and scroll down to find out Sadaf's survival tips for playing shows in the city.
Where are you right now? Please describe your surroundings.
I'm in my work studio in Chinatown. I started oil painting again and the smell is pretty distinct, like living inside a bottle of nail-polish remover. In the corner I have my gear from the last show I played, and I haven't untangled all the cords yet. I've got plastic tarp scotch-taped to the wall and have a fan going, and Im currently slumped over a desk with my headphones on. I'm listening to this mix one last time before sending it to you.
Tell us a bit about this mix. What do you imagine people doing while listening to it?
The mix begins with a voice that keeps repeating: "Bark to the future" and "Where is my pension?"… so I imagine everyone is going to be thinking of future retirement plans before being thrust into hardstyle Slipknot remixes and Angolan kuduro rhythms, Persian trap and trance, raggatek and Ghanese dancehall. I would say it's a very eclectic mix, designed to broaden the listeners perspective on what is acceptable at the club and what constitutes club music. It's definitely not easy listening, and that element of surprise abrasion is what I develop in my own music. I have an LP coming out on HOSS Records this year, which I've been working on for a very long time, and I'm constantly battling between hardcore and pop tendencies. This mix I think is about unexpected pairings and focuses on curation. It's a mix of international dance music discovered mainly through a kind of "internet archeology." I think its really important for DJs to be aware and interested in what is happening globally, what new genres are developing and dialoguing, how traditional cultures are being modernized through popular music, and what that reflects about their targeted listeners. For me that is infinitely more interesting than perfecting one genre.
What's your earliest musical memory?
My parents signed me up for this music class as a toddler—it was called Orff, after Carl Orff's musical education methods for children (as I found out much later in life). I played the xylophone; I don't remember that much about it, except that there were a lot of kids in the class and sometimes I couldn't hear my part. My favorite song as a toddler was Keoma's version of "Lambada," I listened to it daily. I would also listen to very loud Persian pop music in the car with my cousins—and I still DJ some of those songs! Around the age of six, I finally took piano lessons but only learned to play one song: it was called "Golden Dreams," and it was extremely melodramatic and melancholic. Then at age eight, I switched to violin and was introduced to the constant dread of having to practice scales, when in reality, I just wanted to be Madonna in "La Isla Bonita."
You have a background in performance art. What prompted the move into music?
I still do performances, and would really like to continue. I think that my music and my performances are inextricably linked. I wouldn't want to choose one over the other. I recently finished my Masters in Performance Studies, and just did a collaborative performance and installation at 47 Canal gallery with Joe Heffernan that was somewhere in-between the two practices. The installation was sound-based and we used materials which worked both visually and sonically. I explored body movement and constraint, sheet metal and chain, as well as vocal improvisation and violin; I was accompanied on drums and piano. It's nice to see the two worlds overlap and become something new!
You've been gigging hard in the city this past year. What's your top tip for staying happy and healthy when you're grinding so much?
I am very extreme, in both over-productivity and absolute laziness. It's either back-to-back gigs and projects, or total immobility. I definitely need the two extremes to balance each other out, and even though I have a lot going on there are days where I need to turn my brain off: which means watching three or four films in one day and never leaving my bedroom; recovering from late nights.
What's the must-have record in your DJ arsenal and why?
I'm in love with a record I no longer have. It's something you have to have on vinyl. It's Sammi Smith's "Help Me Make It Through The Night." It's an old country music record from the '70s. I know that's a confusing one to point to right now, but it had huge sentimental value for me: my roommate at the time had stolen it from a radio station in Ontario, and I must have played it that summer everyday over and over again. Sammi Smith has a very sad and fragile voice, and I lived in this bizarre loft in a field, by the train tracks, overlooking a highway exit. It was a very romantic soundtrack.
And finally, what's the last book you read that had a big impact on you and why?
It would have to be a tie between King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes, La Maladie de la Mort by Marguerite Duras, and Stupidity by Avital Ronell. I really like to read women who push buttons and boundaries and take risks in their writing. I also really enjoy reading layered, dense writing, and poetic theory, which is very similar to the type of music I strive to make, and the kind of music I enjoy listening to. Also, all three of these women have succeeded in working in more than one field, which is inspiring.
SADAF - Bark at the Future (Where is my Pension?)(Acappella)
DVBBS & Borgeous - Tsunami (Synlax Music Hardstyle Remix)
Eiffel 65 - Blue (KNY Factory Remix)
Os Lambas & Dav Raro ft DJ Dix - Skinny
Slipknot - Psychosocial (Metalstyle remix)
DJ Cinco - Dominican House 2
DJ Abu Sahar- EHD - 'DCJ (H1- ........'(H3G1
Missy Elliott - Work It (R4 Remix)
Tanya Stephens - Such A Pity (Vandal Remix)
Shatta Wale ft Davido - Wine Your Waist
Suzanne Vega - Tom's Diner (iNFaNiST Remix)
DJ Marcio Feat. Fidel Mazembe & Tania - Lento By NeKo
Nega Fyah - Armada
Ashkan & Kooshan - Breaking Out (Ft Base)
Chimpo and Trigga - Gaza (Dub Phizix Remix)
Javier Solis - Esclavo Y Amo (RCP7604 remix)
€urosoundzZ - New Kuduro 2012i
Ali Sam - Persian Trap
Mohammad Razi - Persian Trap
Hardwell - Spaceman (Stefan Padden Hardstyle Remix)
SADAF - Fast Pins (Instrumental)
Astrud Gilberto - Berimbeau
Martin Heidegger - Being and Time (Audio Book)