Published May 23, 2012For debut album In Time, Iranian-Canadian producer Amirali draws on influences as diverse as synth-pop, house, downtempo and ambient. Amirali's low-key vocal style and keyboard playing have as much indie influence behind them as dance, fitting in fairly comfortably with the later work of Germany's Apparat. There are also strong echoes of the experimental, ambient textures of Brian Eno and David Bryrne. In Time is an accomplished and accessible record that despite incorporating multiple styles of electronic music, from Depeche Mode to Ricardo Villalobos, doesn't let its eclecticism overpower the songs, making sure that all 13 tracks have the common thread of sounding like Amirali.
You grew up in Iran as a kid but spent your formative adult years in Toronto. How did that change impact on you as a 16-year-old?
I have so many great memories from Iran and I still enjoy going there to visit once in a while, if I get the time. My parents decided to move to Toronto just for my sister and I to have a better quality of life and better education. But we always used to go visit Canada every summer when I was much younger before actually moving there. Moving to a new country is always a big challenge, but I was able to adapt to it pretty well.
You now live in London. When did you move there and why? How do you find it?
Yeah, I moved here about two years ago to continue my education in architecture and I recently finished my degree, which I'm very happy about. But I also knew Europe was the place to be if I wanted to pursue my career in music and think about it seriously. Another reason was my girlfriend, because she lives here in London; I wanted to be close to her as well. So I had three solid reasons to move to here [laughs]. London has been very good to me so far. When I first moved here, I kind of became isolated and lived in my own little world. I wasn't socializing like I had before; it was a phase that was totally different than the life I had in Toronto. But this turned out to be a very positive thing for me and allowed me to focus more on my music and studies.
In Time is incredibly varied in tone, mood and style. There's almost as much indie influences as house or techno. Where do you see your music fitting, in terms of genre or audience?
That's very true, but I don't really like to tag myself with any genres. I just enjoy and love what I do and it seems there are quite a few fans out there for the music I make, and I feel very thankful for that. Making music within the same routine and boundaries makes me bored very quickly. Keeping things fresh and pushing boundaries are what keep me going – to not have to look back at my previous works and just keep going. I make music to make people dance or maybe even sit down and cry, so it all depends, really. I feel I always need to challenge myself in order to survive in music; otherwise it would be pointless for me, to be honest.
You are playing the Panorama Bar in Berghain at the end of May. Have you been to Berlin before? What are your impressions of the place?
Yeah, I've been there several times; Berlin is such an amazing place, with all the history and stories behind it. There's something special about the city that I love; it's got such a great vibe, the people seem very chilled and friendly and there are many great clubs too. Berghain is like a church to a lot of people – the first time I went to that club, I was totally blown away by the actual structure of that building. It's funny that I'm now playing at the Panorama Bar, because the last time I was in Berlin with a few friends, we tried to get in but the bouncers wouldn't let us. My name was even on the guest list, but they said I couldn't take my friends inside, so we ended up going back to the hotel [laughs].
Where's your favourite venue to play?
You can ask me this question again sometime next year, I'll definitely have an answer for you by then. But so far, Fabric Room1 just did it for me.
How did you get connected with Crosstown Rebels and how do you feel your music fits in with what they're doing?
When I first moved to London in 2010, I got introduced to my current management team through a very dear friend of mine. I had a couple of tracks completed and we started sending those tracks to very few labels that we had in mind and, of course, Crosstown was one of the top priorities. That's basically how I met Damian [Lazarus]. As soon as he heard those tracks, he told me to start working on an album for his label, which took me about a year-and-a-half to finish. I think Crosstown is all about quality alternative sounds and apparently Damian was looking for something "more alternative" when we met each other. From what I realized since joining the family, Crosstown is always looking for raw and unique talents, and I think that's why they have gained this amount of success and recognition within a short time. Damian really knows what he's doing; he has got a great vision for what he does.
What else are you working on right now? Any collaborations in the works? Remixes? Tours?
I just finished a remix for the Canadian My Favorite Robot label and I'm super-satisfied with the piece; it's more like a reinterpretation than a remix, which will come out sometime this summer. I'm also about to finish a remix for Bpitch Control, which I'm pretty excited about. I have two more singles coming out soon on Crosstown Rebels after my album release, so that's going to be very exciting as well. My tour diary for the next three months is about to explode; it kicks off from Bucharest this weekend and I'm actually doing a North America tour in July, which of course includes some dates in Canada as well.
What music have you heard this year that's excited you?
I'm quite amazed by the music of Portico Quartet. Check out their new album; I highly recommend it. Francis Harris's new album is pretty good too.
Can you briefly describe your live set up?
Sure, I'll make it short and sweet for you: I sing all my tracks live, play keys, add extra effects and loops, and re-edit my tracks. That's the kind of process I'm undertaking at the moment for the live shows.
Read a review of In Time here.