In this day and age, where it never seemed easier to reach an audience with whatever take on art you think you need to spread, it must be soul-crushing to still live under repressive exercises of violence such as censorship, restriction and despotism. Your general feeling of powerlessness and frustration then easily exponentiates when there’s a) an actual demand for what you have to offer and b) these needs actually could be fulfilled by real talent. Enter Anoosh and Arash aka Blade & Beard.
Anoosh and Arash are two DJ/producers from Teheran, a place that isn’t necessarily known for being the most tolerant one for any kind of Western influence - however a pop cultural resistance is boiling in the underground for many years already, even though constant surveillance sure doesn’t make things easier. The documentary “Raving Iran“ follows Anoosh and Arash through their daily struggles, from breakneck missions such as organizing illegal raves in the Iranian desert to legally trying to get their music accepted by the local authorities. Life seems to be a constant battle for physical and psychological integrity in the view of an omnipresent theocracy for them. Things then change drastically when they get invited to Zurich’s “Streetparade“, one of the biggest European festivals for electronic dance music. Against all odds, they’re receiving an official travel permit - culminating in quintessential questions about freedom of expression, homeland and opposition.
Director Susanne Regina Meures filmed a lot of the material in Teheran with hidden cameras, she had to blur quite a lot of faces in the post-production process and needed to change a few names as well for the sake of protection. It’s a very urgent, close and personal film, which once again proves that oppression - regardless in which way it actually is executed - will only accelerate the urge for individuality and a lust for life that’s “different“. In the end Anoosh and Arash are fleeing their home country - let’s just hope that the procedure for granting them the right of asylum in Switzerland won’t damage the ambitions and spirit of Blade & Beard. Lodown had the chance to catch up with them in mid August.
Guys, would you say that being an artist from Iran - regardless if you paint, make music, etc - automatically implies that your work will be viewed as being political, since the consequences - personal and socio-economic ones - of the revolution and its related theocracy will somehow be forever present in your creative DNA?
We think that's a very complex question and we don't feel that we can answer it. We cannot even know if every kind of art is perceived as being political, it depends on so many different things... who perceive it, where do they come from, why are they perceiving it like that. Everyone got their own sensibility, we can't generalize it... and if this actually is part of our creativity or not, we just don’t know.
I was wondering if the equipment you’re using (or have used) to produce your tracks is actually legally available in Iran? And if so, why is it then forbidden to do electronic music?
We have some stores and shops for buying hardware or software to produce music, but they are not really big and well-equipped. Still these shops don’t sell music like techno or Western music in general, because this is just forbidden. So it is kind of absurd that we can buy equipment - but the music itself is not allowed.
How did you get in touch with Susanne Regina Meures in the first place? Was it a hard decision for you to decide to agree to being the subject for her first documentary, you know, in terms of actually trusting someone to that degree?
She found us trough Facebook after seeing some photos of our "Mini-Burning Man" in the desert, and many other illegal rave parties in Tehran. She asked if she can follow us with her camera because she felt that we both have a very interesting story to tell. Though it was a bit hard to trust someone to tell our story in the beginning, we accepted her offer and started to work with her. We also felt that we had no other choice then to tell our story.
The scene in which you were at this particular administration in order to ask a lot of questions about what is and what isn’t forbidden in terms of releasing music is an impressively intense and weirdly absurd one (from a Western p.o.v.)... it must be really strange for you to revisit this place when watching “Raving Iran“, right?
Of course, every time that we're watching the film we've got flashbacks to our life in Iran... but to be honest, right now we have lots of work to do to improve our music career, so we're just thinking about the future, not the past life.
There’s no way I could ever imagine how it must feel like to live under constant stress and fear... what made you decide to organize these illegal raves in the desert nevertheless?
In our opinion, when you missed something and you like to have it, you should try to have it . We haven't had legal festivals or rave events in Iran, so we tried to start a rave party 1000 km away from Tehran. We were ready to deal with all the problems because we felt that we need to have - like every human being - some happiness and fun every once in a while.
How did you actually learn about contemporary electronic music in the first place? I can imagine that the Internet is heavily censored in Iran, right?
There are some international electronic artists in Iran who sometimes give a workshop (most of them illegal), and you can learn something from them. But when you want to use the Internet you certainly need VPN for crossing the filters. We used VPN all the time, and then were able to watch some stuff related to our music.
Would you say that Teheran is changing for the better these days? Is there hope for music - electronic or not - to not be put into any kind of political context? Do you feel that the kind of civil disobedience - which was also portrayed in the film - is growing?
We have been in Switzerland for two years now, and we can't really talk about living in Tehran today. Unfortunately we hear through weekly news about people being arrested at parties all over Iran (from West to East) and sent to jail. But we think the new generation is unstoppable and won't stop trying to have happiness and parties and freedom.
Please tell me a bit about how your life changed, now that you’re in Switzerland? How do you experience the people? And how does it feel to have to deal with the authorities on a constant basis once again?
We try to fit in with the new life, try to learn German - which is really necessary here in Zurich - and try to find an apartment, which really is like a nightmare for us. But during our past two years here we were living in a refugee camp on top of a mountain, we haven't had that much contact to Swiss people so far. We are still new here and it needs more time to make any comments about the people.
Can you tell me a bit about your future plans? What’s on your menu as soon as you’ve left that procedure for granting the right of asylum behind you once and for all?
Our plan is to improve our music career, release some new EPs, give performances all around Europe. and show the people all over the world the power of electronic music.
And as a last one: what’s on heavy rotation at your place at the moment? What tracks/producers do you find the most interesting these days?
The tracks/producers that we 're really interested in these days are Recondite, Tale Of Us and similar artists.
Raving Iran directed by Susanne Regina Meures
The film will hit German screens on September 29, 2016.
The Berlin premiere will happen at Volksbühne - the director and Blade & Beard will be present.