Electronic musician Ash Koosha creates unique combinations of virtual reality, visual art and sound in his performances. Arrested for arranging a festival outside Tehran, and following the release of a film on the Iranian underground music scene, he relocated to London.
Ahead of his live show at the ICA on 4 June, Maya Caspari caught up with him to hear about his inspirations, why he believes virtual reality is the future and growing up as a musician in Iran.
What first prompted you to begin playing and composing music?
I started making music at the age of 14 by playing an interpretation of the melodies I heard in songs on a nylon string guitar. I always think I’ll never find out why I started playing music or hearing melodies in my head. I dug deep into the realm of sound and found myself lost in endless possibilities. The desire to create something that sounded fresh and had never been heard before charged me to push myself into learning and making music.
How do you start composing a new track and how does it usually evolve?
I have an empty audio room that defines space in my head. I decorate this room with sound and movement, and as I float into this space I position everything based on the random geometrical value of the sound object/melodies.
"Virtual reality is one of the technologies that I think would help us to create an entirely new form of art."
For me, it's always an impulse, a feeling, a thought - it has to come out in the momentum, or it's gone. In a way, I am my own first audience experiencing the narrative of a song; beyond that, everyone will join me on the journey.
You have described yourself as a futurist. What do you mean by this? How does this relate to your use of virtual reality?
I’m very interested in the subject of the future of humanity in general - reading and researching how we will survive as a collective in the future and how we plan to improve our life in this universe. In art also, I think of new platforms, new ways of experiencing a creator's vision, ways of closing the gap between a creator's mind and the audience’s experience. Virtual reality is one of the technologies that I think would help us to create an entirely new form of art - the art of multi-sensory experience. To hear and see and feel a rumble at the same time is the full immersive experience that VR will be able to offer in the coming years.
How did growing up and developing as a musician in Iran shape your music, and your attitude to music’s political significance?
I grew up in an environment where its difficult to be a progressive thinker or creator. Even though it's not my intention to do anything political, working against those boundaries gives my work a political identity.
"Growing up in a place where you’re going against a system in order to make music and create art makes you a very determined person."
I feel like growing up in a place where you’re going against a system in order to make music and create art makes you a very determined person, looking at the world and its values in a very analytical way.
You have previously spoken about your experiences of synaesthesia and your performances are themselves audio-visual collages. What excites you about these audio-visual combinations and what do you hope audiences will take from them? Do you seek to challenge conventional expectations of what music might be?
I have been using synaesthesia in making music, I would EQ my tracks by closing my eyes and seeing the frequency move to the right place. I think the ultimate goal is to make everyone experience synesthesia via VR experiences - to see sound and hear visuals.
What would your desert island track be?
Winter by Vivaldi ■
We're keen to improve the appearance of the ICA Blog and we want to hear from you! Just fill in this quick survey - you'll even be in with the chance of winning some great prizes.