In the early 2000s, while growing up as a 12-year-old in Iran’s capital city of Tehran, Kasra V (full name Kasra Vaseghi) had begun to explore the early stages of what would become an obsession with music. He found himself attracted to a diverse array of sounds, from local Middle Eastern frequencies to pop and electronic music coming from the UK, USA and further afield. But with Western music – and any other genres deemed to “corrupt public ethics” – criminalised and its distribution limited, he had to look wherever he could to find new tracks, be it traditional sources or more underground spots.
“I discovered a lot of music through MTV and VH1 because everyone had satellite TV there,” Kasra recalls. “And there were a lot of bootleg shops that would sell CDs, or you’d give them USBs or a hard drive and they would just fill it up with anything – it could be a really random mixed bag. Then I was downloading Essential Mixes, like John Peel and Sasha or John Digweed, but the internet was so slow that I’d put one to download on and by the time I got back from school I was able to listen to them.”
He would soon find himself “playing around” with Ableton and taking infant steps into DJing; upon moving to the UK in 2011 at the age of 17 he began to ingrain himself in the local scene and sounds. It would eventually lead to him landing a residency at NTS in 2014, while the radio station was still in its youthful, expansive stage. He’s held the slot down ever since, which has grounded his musical output and given him the platform to share his taste and development across the near decade he’s been hosting.
But despite having been in and around the scene for so long, it’s only been in the past couple of years that Kasra has felt that he has fully grasped his dancefloor sound – more proggy and groove-focused than before, which he credits to discovering a wealth of ‘90s and US sounds during COVID lockdown. It’s fed into his productions as well, something he’s done sporadically over the past decade, but only really started to enjoy recently. His recent ‘Hyperdelic EP’ is testament to his newfound energy – a wiggy, groovy jaunt through breakbeat and trance-flecked sounds.
Crowds have connected with it too, as well as his refined sets — he’s had a spate of bookings, playing from the top to bottom of the UK, but also Amsterdam, Berlin, Lithuania and beyond in the past 12 months. For his Impact mix, Kasra V moves through 70 minutes of peak-time heat, and sat down to chat with Mixmag about his journey so far, the power of radio, and drawing musical inspiration from all walks of his life. Listen and read below.
How did you get into music once you moved to the UK?
I was DJing from the second week I was in the UK. I have an older brother, who’s like 10 years older than me. [I was] just playing in bars, because he told me that instead of working behind the bar I’d make more money DJing. Coming from somewhere where there weren’t any bars or anything like that, it was pretty exciting. But it got more serious when I started to throw parties with a few of my friends, maybe around 2013, 2014, and when I started to have the radio show on NTS.
How did you get the NTS slot?
I think the first one I did must have been in January 2014. I had a really close friend, who was friends with everyone who ran NTS, like the main crew behind it. So I met them just through parties and going out, and I had [founder] Femi Adeyemi at one of my parties and he really enjoyed it. They used to have this guest show and I did one, and then two or three months later I joined as a resident. It was at the time where it was just shifting from local radio, to starting to have more brands involved and doing bigger things in general, so it was a really great time.
Around that time I was starting to produce as well. I had two friends who were older than me, one of them produced for a lot of rock bands and different things and I had a friend who made electronic music. I would just go round their houses and learned how to make music from shadowing them. And then later on I had another friend who was extremely good at songwriting, and I think meeting him really helped me get more confident. He used to say: “When you’re a DJ, you’re like a cover band, so if you want to have things that stay forever you need to start learning how to make your own music.” But although I’ve released music, I only really started to enjoy making music maybe from 2019, 2020 onwards.
Why didn’t you like it that much?
I think it was just I used to spend a lot of time making a song, like it would take four or five months for one song, and I think I was just pressuring myself too much. Then around 2019 and 2020, [I hung out more] with one of my friends, whose studio I use a lot. He was doing more jams, rather than arranging and overthinking, and I started to enjoy that more, also the editing procedure is different when you’re editing a jam session and add stuff on it or you change it a bit. Whereas when you make a song from scratch, everything can be really tedious. I think for some people that works out, but I did it for a few years and I think I enjoy just making a few jams and then realising which [track] is worth going into more.
Then when lockdown happened, I bought a new laptop. Before that I had a really bad laptop, nothing worked on it, and I was blown away by the amount that I could run on it. And I had nothing to do so I just used that time to write music – there was a period where probably for a few months I was just writing music every day, like a song a day or two songs a day. I still haven’t finished some of it, and a lot of things coming up is music written during that time. I have an EP coming out on Sepehr’s label, Shaytoon Records, that I wrote in 2020, and songs we wrote together as Flower Storm – which we’ve just announced – that’s all stuff from that time. I think also when you get older, you’re just a bit more like “fuck it”, I don’t need to be doing backflips every time I’m releasing music, and also you get to a point where you find your sound.
Can you tell me a bit about the Flower Storm project?
The idea came about when I spoke to Sepehr in 2020. We had this idea of fusing Iranian traditional [sounds] with modern electronic music. It’s a combination of like both of our lives – we come from somewhere and then live somewhere else, and you wonder if it’ll be cool if there were some songs that had these elements, but you were also able to play them in a club, and there were very few examples of stuff like that. So we decided to do it ourselves, and we spent the first two or three months just making a sample library. I was recording some stuff, sampling – there were movies I was cutting [from], and then playing with them by running them through effects. We wrote a lot of music and have three EPs coming in the next year.
How important are those childhood Iranian sounds to your music?
In my career as Kasra V they’re inspirational, but I’m inspired by a lot of other things as well. Yes, it’s part of my personality but also I’ve lived in London for half of my life as well. I’m inspired by a lot of different producers from around the world, like Junior Vasquez, Sven Väth, Tony De Vit – early ‘90s stuff. But also loads of movies I watch, just different things, it’s not just where I’m from. For Flower Storm it’s different, because that’s focused on combining that with electronic music, and as a DJ it is part of what I play but it’s not the only thing I play – if you’re coming to see me play a Middle Eastern techno set it’s not going to be that.
What are the most memorable sets you’ve seen from other people?
There have been a few people over the years that I’ve really enjoyed. I saw Jonny Rock once in East London in a warehouse, and that was amazing because it’s always really nice to see someone and you don’t know anything that they play. And one time I hosted a party and Tzusing played, and he was mind blowing – music from so many different places, but so good. And seeing Marie Malarie at Adonis is always amazing, because they're so cool and the energy levels are so high.
Obviously you’ve been DJing out since you were 17, how has your style changed over the years?
Yeah now I’ve been DJing for 13 years, but I guess professionally since 2016. It’s changed a few times over the years, but I feel like in the last two or three years I’ve finally found my club sound. I feel like the stuff that I play and the stuff that I’ve found is really sticking with me – I know that a lot of stuff that I have discovered is the sort of thing that I will play for a long time. Weirdly a lot of it is similar to the type of music I was listening to when I first started discovering music, like early Sasha sets that I used to download. Obviously those sorts of sounds are having a revival, but in general early-to-late ‘90s sound from Europe and the UK, and the US with Danny Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez stuff, I like.
We mentioned your NTS residency a bit earlier, but what does radio mean to you?
It will be 10 years next year since I joined NTS. It’s pretty much taught me how to DJ. It was my practice ground for many years. I’ve met a lot of new people who I’ve ended up becoming really good friends with. There were times when, because I’d been doing radio so much, that when I played in a club I almost forgot that I was playing in a club. There was a period where I would spend a lot of time making it almost a listening experience, though in the past two years I’ve been doing more club mixes – things that are more for dancing – but I think that’s just because I want to focus more on being a club DJ.
My relationship with it has changed a few times, there was a period where I used to do it every other week, but it got to the point where I didn’t enjoy listening to the music – it made me feel neutral – so I decided to take it down to one hour, once a month so I can focus more on making music but also be more excited about it.
Read this next: An oral history of NTS Radio
Do you feel excited about it now?
Yeah, in the last two years I [have been] feeling excited about music in general. Since lockdown ended and clubs opened again – being paid money to go and [DJ], if you told me when I was 12 that was going to happen I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s strange, when I was young I would buy DVDs of festivals, and watch people DJing and all my friends would be like: “What the fuck are you watching?” I mean where I grew up none of this would happen. So I would watch a DVD of Paul Van Dyk and get really excited about it.
I’ve tried quite a few different career paths, and think music is the main thing that I never feel distracted whilst doing. Whenever I’ve tried different [avenues of work] my mind is always like in five different places at the same time, but whenever I do anything in music I can really stay on it.
What was the most memorable gig you’ve ever played?
There’s probably a few, but Adonis New Year’s this year was insane. I played for two hours at the new space that The Cause has, and they have this room upstairs that has low ceilings, loads of lights. It’s really intense, it’s so hot there’s literally sweat dripping, everyone’s topless but I like it because it’s dedication to be there in that room – you’re either going to be into it or not. It was so good that when I stopped playing one of my friends hugged me and I cried a little bit because I was just so overwhelmed.
What’s next for Kasra V?
Actually good [things]. This year in general is the first time I have months where I’m DJing every week. I’m travelling a lot, Adonis again in May and doing Circoloco in Ibiza. And I have three releases as Flower Storm, two solo releases and a few remixes here and there.
And finally, can you tell us about your Impact mix?
It was recorded in my house on two CDJs and two vinyl decks, which is pretty much my setup, and my flatmate’s rotary mixer. I don’t normally usually use rotary mixers, I actually just prefer Pioneer – for me they are actually the best. But the mix is kind of retrospective musically, and I am retrospective personally and I’ve come to terms with that in the past year or two. I was listening to a lot of Danny Tenaglia’s Twisted America label and Global Underground’s mix series and this Tony De Vit 12-hour mix from TRADE, which back then must have been like what, 500 records? And also going out a lot at the time and listening to friends who I find inspiring every time I see them DJ, like Marie Malarie again, Byron Yeates, Alex Kassian, THC – so it was probably a mix of all of that.
Isaac Muk is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Twitter