Name: Sharooz Raoofi aka Principleasure
Current release: Principleasure's Of Love & Loss Ft Mønölitio is available now.
Recommendations: Piece of music - “Shores of Easy” by Royksopp - it’s a track that hasn’t left my imagination for years and is perfect in every way
Art - Pretty much anything Jon Rafman has done but particularly his short film “Legendary Reality” for Leonard Cohen.
If you enjoyed this Principleasure interview, visit his personal website for more information. He is also in Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started properly around 16 years old. I had a cassette four track and everything just got recorded into that.
I grew up in Belfast were there was an amazing techno and punk scene. The two scenes sort of met in the middle. It was the anarchy, the non conformity and being able to sneak into clubs as a very young lad with no questions asked. David Holmes ran a club at the Arts College and we got to see all the big techno DJs of the time in their absolute element. Those were great days.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Well in the early days it was easy to ‘emulate’ others - you just needed the same machines - you could buy an original 808 or 909 for a few hundred dollars and a cheap mixer. So if you had the same gear as techno or house legends you could make an authentic track like that very quickly.
I sort of deliberately went backwards with my learning when I started Principleasure - reprising vintage technology, and limited myself to working in an archaic manner, with MIDI clock, DIN sync and primitive step sequencing. It was so much easier to get a result with finite technical possibilities.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I don’t think it does so well or authentically enough. I’m working on that. My sense of identity is forged of being born to Iranian parents in civil war era Northern Ireland and now living in Los Angeles. Unfortunately I suppressed my identity and culture in order to blend into that society unnoticed.
The music I make is in parts chaotic and moody and I’m sure there’s some subconscious identity in there. But not enough.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
A lot of them have been technical to be honest. Usually the frustration of not having the tools to authentically express what’s on my mind. It’s an ongoing problem and I’ve tried to solve that by making plugins.
Creatively, it’s difficult to try to just do what you like without being too heavily influenced by iconic records, or leaning too much on one particular tried and tested formula, especially in electronic music.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I’ve always been heavily obsessed with gear, particularly vintage analogue stuff.
I started with all the basic iconic hardware pieces - Roland drum machines, Boss pedals, Junos etc. I still have and use all that stuff, and as I’ve got to know each piece inside-out I just keep adding to the collection. Now I’m really into 80s hardware digital reverbs like Lexicons and Eventides, there is a gritty weirdness you just can’t get from plugins.
With the new album I’ve got deeply into the larger multisample libraries. It’s getting faster and easier to disk stream mammoth libraries and the products developers like Spitfire have made over the years are phenomenal.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Plugin technology and the quality of software DSP has got exponentially better. Cheap plugin effects like Valhalla are insanely good, but also soft synths are getting to a different level of realism, especially that stuff that’s not trying too hard to emulate classics.
Sometimes I feel like I should be ‘doing more’ technically to get to the limits of what is truly possible. But then, does anyone really care when they’re listening on a phone or laptop? Not really. And spatial technologies aren’t as profoundly exciting as some would have us believe. At least not when played back on a typical sound system.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Truthfully I hate most electronic music collaborations. One person is behind the computer and the other is standing beside them dictating - there are challenges with different workflows, software etc.
When I set up Principle Pleasure studios I laid out these three massive synth racks where everything was synced so each person could simultaneously take command of a side and nobody got stuck behind a computer. The laptop just acts as a tape machine to record the jam. It’s worked really well, its face-to-face and I miss it.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Usually it starts with emails and procrastination and as the day progresses starts to get towards actual music making. Of course it’s always at some ridiculously late hour that things start coming together in the studio, so there’s always a restriction in terms of noise, socialising and sleep.
Everything I do in life is linked to music in some way, so that’s a huge bonus and I’m very happy about that.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I think finishing the debut album ‘I’ then releasing it as physical product that people organically took notice of. Everything was DIY - the recording, mixing, mastering, through to the release, publishing, distribution and the rest. It was so much more rewarding doing it this way. Some big labels were interested in the initial masters and I turned a few down - the absolute worst case scenario is spending 3 years on something and then having a label sit on it for another 2 years before releasing it. No thanks.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Yeah for me they’re quite specific. Ideally no external noise, no other studios in close vicinity, no meetings or calls in the day and no phone and no social agenda. This is of course an almost 100% unrealistic scenario but in the rare instances I can get this I work so much more efficiently.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Yes of course. Everyone can relate to a song that brings them immense joy or sadness. I think any music that can rouse strong emotions, especially in an age where music itself is almost not seen as enough (it’s almost viewed as an accompaniment in lieu of visuals, art or games) the craft of creating work that solicits an emotional response is even more critical.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I stay out of this. I create what I think feels authentic to me and don’t overthink it. As someone of Iranian ethnicity I can’t profess to trying to bring those cultures into my music authentically by using a Kontakt instrument or something like that - it would need to use musicians actively working in that country and it’s difficult to initiate these sessions ... but I’m working on it.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Any music that stimulates another sense is worthy of validation and that’s completely unique to the end listener. Like when you see an infant or animal or someone who is gravely ill respond to music it’s incredibly inspiring to see. Sometimes they’re aware of sound and melody before they have even gotten full control of their other senses. So yeah there’s definitely something ethereal there.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
As long as what I do connects with someone on any emotional level that’s enough for me. I’m not intentionally trying to do anything more than that. If one of my songs works on the dancefloor, in a soundtrack or while you’re playing games, having sex or whatever that’s more than enough of a reason to do this for me.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
I’m not sure it can to be honest. Nobody knows why we react to music as we do and the only thing I know for sure is it helps remember those that have passed, or relive other memories, sometimes profoundly. That’s very powerful.