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Artist Focus: Heckmat(t) – #IranUKSonics

heckmattAs part of our #IranUKSonics residency running until Dec 20th, we feature a series of interviews with each of the five selected participants.

Born in Shiraz, now a street artist and producer in the capital of Iran, Heckmat(t) is part of hip-hop label Maktab-B and has collaborated with DJs and MCs, and DJs himself. With influences as far apart as Wu-Tang Clan, Iranian pop singer Haydeh and German Kraut-psyche band Faust, he also releases under the moniker Planet Seed, while other side projects include performing live, improvised  music for theatre, photography and creating graphics that are heavily informed by his work with aerosols and his experiences on Tehran’s streets.

What’s you very first memory of being interested in music?

I was really young when I listened to my uncle’s Persian music mix tapes. It felt so magical the way that one artist sang a song and the next track was by another artist.

Who were your influences as youngster, what were you listening to?

My sister gave me some cassettes of Modern Talking and Cher and I was listening to them all the time, constantly. Later, aged 12, I fell in love with heavy metal music; bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.

How has that changed, how much has the internet made that change possible?

The internet has had the most important role. I found so many new artists when high speed internet came to Iran, which wasn’t so long ago because before that I remember waiting for a single track to be downloaded, it took about an hour.

You’ve worked a lot with aerosols, and have a very visual imagination, to what extent can images charge the dimensions of listening, if at all?

I believe other senses affect each other but not in a way that we can separate them. Of course visuals change the way we listen, they affect each other but I feel it as a whole when the senses come together.

What would you say to people that sit together in a room to listen to music, without any visuals, are they avoiding distraction or are they trapped in modes of traditional listening?

Everything which is new becomes interesting to people. Mixing media is a level of making art most are currently exploring but one this is one way to experience music and not always necessary. Sometimes the combination works well and makes a masterpiece but it doesn’t mean we have to leave our listening habits behind.

As a sensory experience, how does clean sound and dirty sound, both of which you explore, affect us? There are those who feel irritated by sounds that comes across as lo-fi or as poor quality mp3s. Is this something we need to get over, or are they right to?

Yes I believe we have to get over it. Clean music doesn’t mean good music, and a poor quality mp3 doesn’t means it’s not professional or it’s bad music, it can be intentional. Its just because we have used to listen to hi-fi everywhere and it has became a sort of value for the music just because it sells better. I think if someone is exploring music they have to open their ears to any kind of sound instead of limiting themselves to high quality only.

What do you think the benefits are of being self-taught in sound?

I feel self-taught artists are often more experimental and experimenting is the whole thing for an artist to be able to create an art form that we might call ‘pure’.

What do you think of what’s being made in Iran at the moment in terms of music?

Most of the people making music here try to make some sort of music which they know they will catch more of an audience. Most of them copy each other; or foreign musicians because that sells better.

Catch Heckmat(t) live in London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre at 6pm, Friday 14th December 2013.