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Salim Ghazi Saeedi

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Salim Ghazi Saeedi from 2010

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music?

Until the age 18, I was merely a music fanatic and had never played any instrument. During my childhood, Iran was at war and so the art scene was generally deprived. So all the music realm that I had been into during my childhood solely relied on my own discovery - which of course in a sense was beneficial; because I never became exposed to any advertised mainstream music!

In 1999 I bought a guitar and started self-teaching music. In 2004 I joined the band Arashk and composed three albums there (Abrahadabra, Sovereign, Ustuqus-al-Uss), ranging from progressive rock/metal to jazz fusion. Arashk had a few concerts in universities and since western music is not supported in Iran, the band's activities did not go further than that. Meanwhile I self studied music production and built up a home studio that later developed into a commercial sound recording studio.

In 2010, I started a solo project and composed Iconophobic album. Among various reviews this album has received wide range of titles including progressive rock, avant-garde classical chamber, progressive electronic rock, art rock, experimental and RIO...

MSJ:

If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

Poetry. Once I wrote in an unpublished poetry book of mine: "Man's utmost endeavor is to be a poet. Indeed it is!"

MSJ:

What is the music scene like in Iran?

Iran's music scene is mostly centered around Iranian traditional music. And like the music, the music industry is also traditional. TV and radio mostly play traditional music and national TV does not display musical instruments due to complications around religious stuff. Besides the concerts are limited. Internet and satellite TV are the main resources for people's access to contemporary music scene.

MSJ:

Are there social or legal constraints on your music based on being in Iran?

Western music is not generally welcomed in Iran. Maybe because traditional culture and beliefs still dominate among many people... Just imagine the degree of bias in this old Iranian expression that at least has existed for 1000 years: "The art belongs to Persians and nothing else!”

MSJ:

Who would you see as your musical influences?

First of all, Kurt Cobain. When I was a teenager, in an inexpressible way I deeply felt an affinity with the teen spirit he recognized in my generation. Of course I have no idea why an Iranian teenager, whose social environment has been so different from American youth generation of the ‘90s, should assimilate with words and music of a Seattle based band... Well... Music works in mysterious ways!

Other important influences include Jeff beck and Thelonious Monk. They are both masters of innovation and both constantly push my limits of imagination further and further. I think Monk was truly the unity of a man and his instrument.

MSJ:

What's ahead for you?

I compose non-stop. There will be another solo album in 2011 in which I am composing and playing all instruments. Besides I have started a collaboration with an established Oud player, Negar Bouban. We will have a few collaborative compositions released in the upcoming year. Meanwhile I'm preparing my 2010 album, Iconophobic for performance by middle-sized band outside Iran.

MSJ:

I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

Actually I have invented a term for my music, that is "pictorial rock.” I chose this term because it seems that my music is capable of evoking a mental show in listener's mind. Besides, I always try to condense my music ideas in a minimalist way. For example when it comes to "catchy parts" I usually do not prefer to repeat them and instead try to exaggerate them in one place.

MSJ:

Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?

I like to work with masters of improvisation regardless of the instrument they play.

MSJ:

Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

I think no musician can blame a listener because of listening to his music. Finding illegal copies of a specific work has no straight-forward process; so I think if a listener puts himself into trouble of finding and downloading a copy, he is more than an ordinary fan. So, however financially hard for musicians, I think they are obliged to accept the fact that a noticeable part of their fans is consisted of "pirates" and at least as fans, they are valuable. So musicians should seek alternative sources of income.

MSJ:

In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

The point is, by trading music, fans are spreading artist's name and it is usually done very enthusiastically. When a listener is excited about a show or tune, he likes to immediately share his excitement with people he loves. By performing shows, musicians essentially try to excite and entertain people. So it would be against their own purpose, if musicians try to attenuate this excitement...

MSJ:

If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Edwin Howard Armstrong, FM radio inventor, has a saying that is directed toward some people in broadcasting industry. He says: "Men substitute words for reality and then argue about the words." These "men" were those who fought against FM radio for years, because it would revolutionize and destroy their businesses. As a superhero, such men would be my arch nemesis!

MSJ:

If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

That would be Jeff Beck on guitar, Thelonious Monk on piano and Stanley Clark on double bass! Because that is wild!

MSJ:

If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

It is a really hard question. I like a lot of bands from far apart styles... To name only a few: Marty Friedman, Chet Atkins, Sinéad O'connor, Karftwerk, Tool, Derek Sherinian, Al Di Meola, The Prodigy, The Ark, and at least 50 others!

MSJ:

What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

I have recently started listening to microtonal music. Among them, I have enjoyed the album Electric by Churzkia Jrakavla.

MSJ:

Have you read any good books lately?

I'm constantly studying books on music industry that are essential for working as an indie musician. Among literature I am reading Nietzsche's collected poetry.

MSJ:

What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Kayhan Kalhor, an Iranian Kamancheh instrument virtuoso.

MSJ:

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

My guilty pleasure is that I admire beauty in music absolutely regardless of the genre. This way, for example among world music lovers, I cannot discuss about the profundity of Kraftwerk.

MSJ:

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Since I have had a few concerts, I have not had the chance to experience real Spinal Tap moments! Hopefully in the future!

MSJ:

If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

Janis Joplin, Omar Khayyam and King Solomon... LOL!

MSJ:

What would be on the menu?

Fesenjan, my favorite Iranian dish!

MSJ:

Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Close your eyes, shut your brain down and listen to the sounds emerging in the void. That is music composing.

Having this approach in mind, I say a "progressive" musician knows no border... Not geographically, not earth-wise... Since the rapture within music cannot be confined by anything concerning "reality.”

 
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