„The idea was to play weird, soundtracky monster music“
San Francisco based Mozhgan Shariat is alongside Solar and Jason Greer the co-host of the super well reputated We Are Monsters parties and a very profilic Dj herself. Under the imprint Mozhgan she is in search for the darker side of dance music and its mysterious and intriguing sounds. Just listen to her recent mix for Bunker New Yorker, dropped at the end of this interview and you know what I mean.
This conversation was conducted at a super sunny September day close to Mozhgans flat in the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco.
Mozhgan, could you say something?
That´s working. Do you remember the first music that meant something to you?
It was properly Iranian music. My parents loved and collected music. But I can´t think of the first one which struck a chord with me.
I guess it is easier to remember the first record.
I think it was an Outhud record, a single I bought in a record store in Dallas. I didn’t even have turntables at the time so it was kind of a random purchase.
Mozhgan, how long did you live in Iran?
Until I was five years old. Then we moved in the 80s to America. Iran was politically a difficult place to live, so my parents wanted to start a new life in America. My dad went to college in America and he had planned to come back anyway, so after the revolution he decided to leave. He found a job and we followed.
What was your dad working?
He was a chemical engineer, he worked at a private research company. In Iran he was a professor and taught classes at the university.
Do you remember how it felt for you as a child to come to America? Which city did you move to?
We moved to Stillwater Oklahoma, which was a big change. But I was so young that it didn´t affect me.
At that age the drama about losing friends disappears within a few weeks.
Yes, it does indeed.
When and how often did you go back since then?
We went back one time when I was a teenager – and that was it. Two years ago I went back for the first time since twenty years. It was incredible, it was beautiful. I was not sure what to expect. I live here in the US and by following the media I was a little bit nervous, but it was amazing. Everything about it was so beautiful: the architecture, the people, the food. I had a really good experience.
Could you communicate with the people?
Yes. I speak Farsi. It was unlike anything I ever experienced. Being home basicly, where you are from, and knowing the language and being able to communicate.
Suddenly this place exists where your language is belonging to.
It was unreal.
Would you say that your Iranian origian has an impact on the music you play?
Yes. I definitely connect with that middle eastern and arabic sound in music. I recently played a wedding for a friend and I played all night Iranian music and that was fun. It was cool to go back into the music I grew up with. I was actually getting help from my parents, suggestions for music to play.
Did you record it?
You are right, I should do an Iranian mix. I will!
When was the first time you were thinking of playing music in public.
The very first time I played music in public was for my going away party in Dallas. I didn’t play out again for several years. I was collecting music for some time and promoting and producing dj events, but I was not thinking of being a Dj myself until a friend of mine, Jason Greer, asked me to play this new party with him. He basically pushed me by saying : „You have good taste in music. You should do this.“ So I came up with the name and we started We Are Monsters. The idea was to play weird, soundtracky monster music, something different as everyone else played house music. I became obsessed with finding the art for the posters and creepy music to play.
So you jumped into the cold water.
You should do exatly the same with producing – and not worry too much, to come back to our conversation of last night.
Yes, maybe that´s how I should do it. A producer friend of mine recently said to me, „I don´t know what I’m doing myself. Have fun! Mess around! The idea will come around.“
In which town did you start to throw parties?
In Dallas, Texas. Another friend kickstarted that on a car ride. She told me simply to throw parties: „You love music more than anyone else and you know every body!“ At that time I was serving drinks at a bar Minc on the weekends for extra money. So I walked up to the owner and told her that I wanna throw a party – she kind of laughed at me. But I convinced her that I am serious. And so she gave me a chance and it was really sucessful and so I continued.
Who were the first people you booked?
A lot of people from San Francisco. Joshua Iz, Alland Byallo and Cle – a lot of house music people. Through these booking connections I ended up here in San Francisco.
But you went first to New York, right?
No, I moved to San Francisco for a year, then to New York – to do the next big thing. This was 2008, I was working on commission and the recession hit. It was such a rough time. I worked in high end retail which became a pretty dead industry. And so I ended up moving back to San Francisco.
How different were the scenes in Dallas, New York and San Francisco at that point?
It was funny: While living in New York I was traveling back to San Francisco every month as I hadn´t really found a scene there. When people went out in SF, they were there for the music, they were connecting with the Dj, the music and their friends, they danced – in New York I did not feel that at all. It was all about what you are wearing, they were only talking, it had nothing to do with the music. So I was not connecting with the nightlife at all – until a friend visited me and we went to a Wolf + Lamb party. They did all their parties at the Marcy hotel, their private space which they lived above close to Wiliamsburg bridge. It was more underground, about the music, it reminded me of SF. It was not superficial, it was genuine.
Living in New York made me realize what I had in SF and appreciate it more – so I came back here.
Are you able to describe your booking narrative?
We like to book artists that are experimental and push bounderies of music. We develloped a crowd that is up for everything, which is good for the artists. You can get pretty weird and the crowd is into it.
Do you dj the same way at home at the We Are Monsters parties as you do when playing outside of town?
For every booking I get, I try to find some new music. I never play the same sets. I try not to think too much about my sets before. This backfires. You think its gonna be a crazy party and prepare all with that in mind – and then nobody is there and you could not play the prepared records… I try not to do that. But I try to imagine the setting. I make a new playlist for every party, actually a few for different scenarios. But not too much into detail, I do not really plan the mood.
What sounds are you reaching out for?
The darker side of dance music. Mysterious, intriguing sounds. A lot of times my sets are a reaction to the energy that is around me.
How important is the community around you for your artistic identity?
Very important. Without the support of my friends and the people that come to our events I would not be where I am. People like Solar, Josh Cheon of Dark Entries Records, Jacob from Honey Soundsystem and collectives like Sunset Sound System & the Hard French Crew have been extremely supportive.
Are you involved in Solars Squirrels on Film label?
No, but hopefully I will have a release with them one day.
Mozhgan, you are already at a stage of touring the world for djing, but still you got a day job working in a clothing store. I talked about this recently also with Josh of Dark Entries Records who works three days a week in a bio-chemestry labor – and says this gives him the safety for running the label.
Do you also like the situation to have those two worlds in your life?
I really do. My boss is super supportive. She always says: „Don´t say no to anything!“ I like having this day to day job when I come home to San Francisco. They make it easy to travel and jump right back in.
Do you have thoughts of moving to Europe to push your Dj career, like a lot of other American Djs did in the past?
I think about that all the time. That´s definitely something I am interested in doing. If I lose my appartment here, it could happen. But I feel very comfortable in San Francisco, it is an easy and nice place to live. I don´t want to move all my belongings. But yes, at one point I would love to live in Europe.
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