Interview, photo: Elena Savlokhova
How did your music journey start? What’s your story?
I was 10 or 11 and started with a guitar I got from a pawn shop. The real fun started when I started using computers to create drum loops and other parts.
Are there any musicians in your family?
Not really. My maternal grandmother is a painter, other than that my family had little involvement in the arts.
Does your family like your music?
(laughs) Yes. I am very lucky.
Do you think an artist’s work should overshadow a repulsive personality?
I think everyone involved in any way with music sometimes asks that question. ‘Do we need to separate the art from the person?’. Sometimes it feels like it’s healthier to just keep them separate, but sometimes you can’t, or it’s just hard to do so. Music is just too much of a human thing. It’s like food: if you know it came from a farm where it was tortured, then you kind of don’t want to eat it anymore. Even if it might taste good.
Give an example you have witnessed of the strongest or most memorable influence music had on someone or yourself.
In general, we all hear the stories about how music saved someone’s life, and even though it sounds cliche, I think it’s very true at various different levels for everybody. I think to a lot of people music is extremely important actually. It’s just so personal. Me specifically? I can’t imagine life without music. It would be a too quiet world.
Do you have an understanding as to why it’s so important to you?
I have no idea. I just don’t feel good without it. It’s an inexplicable obsession and I think that’s how a lot of people feel.
What is the best gig you’ve attended as a viewer?
I’ve been to a lot of really great stuff, so I’d have to go with something that was very recent, which was watching Ancient Methods play his set at KHIDI. It was insane because it was relentless – it wouldn’t stop. Yet at the same time it was very musical and I thought it was really interesting – seeing simultaneously that level of intensity and musicality was fascinating. A lot of artists when playing, go fast. Right now it feels like it’s very popular to go very fast: change a lot, cut things up and just be very aggressive. To me personally, that sort of thing doesn’t sound very musical and I feel like the phrasing of the music is not respected. They’re just sort of taking a painting and cutting off the side. So seeing the way Ancient Methods structures his set and the way he plays it, the way he moves through the songs and keeps it high intensity, yet still musical, which is a very hard thing to do, was interesting. So yes, that’s something recent that made me think, ‘wow, that’s possible’.
I’m very into artists that explore those kind of extremes in certain directions. Keeping that level of musicality and also having a flawless, relentless, aggressive, yet smooth set, is extremely compelling. And just to think of another and very different extreme, I saw Recondite, maybe two years ago, and his set was in a lot of ways the opposite. In a sense that it was quiet, very dynamic, with very quiet parts. He slowly and smoothly went through all of his songs and it sounded like one composition in the best possible way. It was very pleasant and nothing was distracting at all. It was basically his music with a bit of added percussion, but all in all it was a different type of musicality. I dare say that his music is delicate and fragile, because it’s very melodic and emotional, but at the same time it was adequate, so everyone was very stimulated. It was proof that you don’t need to play loud or fast to engage people. I like Recondite because of that.
How did you come across Ancient Methods and had your release on Persephonic Sirens? I remember a number of people thinking that AOUD was actually his alias.
Yeah I know. One of my absolute best friends… Or it was my brother? I actually don’t remember now. They might have both sent my music to him and a few other people at different times. Everyone responded and was very cool, but I guess Ancient Methods identified it as compatible with what he was working on with Persephonic Sirens. He also had the opportunity to play the songs and familiarize with them, so I think in the scope of what the label is he just saw it as a good fit. And again, I only imagine this, I can’t speak for him. He was willing to do the release and eventually he got my e-mail address and we started corresponding. He is a very courteous and cool guy, he more than understands music and it’s very easy to speak to him about that sort of thing. We definitely connected on that level, so when he asked me, I said of course. I was honoured obviously having listened to his music for a long time. He himself has been musically evolving: with the label and everything that he is doing. All fantastic work and interesting to follow.
What is your advice on where not to go and what not to do in Miami for someone who has never been there before?
In Miami, and I say this with a little bit of hesitation, because it’s not always going to be true, but in general – avoid Miami Beach. It’s not very interesting, unless you go during the day to see the beach. Then it’s cool. It’s not always the case, because there have been promoters that have done good events there, however, overall if you’re going without an agenda or an itinerary then you probably want to avoid that place. It’s kind of touristy and there are not that many high quality things to do that you’ll feel very good about. To actually do? We do have music events from time to time. Miami is a little seasonal and I would say it’s mostly popular at the end of November to beginning of April, so if you go during that time there is a lot more music and art world events. If you look those up and you do a little research then you will find some things of interest. And something else that a lot of people don’t talk about, but what I think is really cool about Miami, is the culinary revival. We have a lot of really good restaurants and we also have some very good cocktail bars now. So yes to music and food, avoid South Beach, and you should be ok.
What is one thing you’ve never done but you really want to?
Not have to sleep for one year straight so that I could do even more things. But then the other side of that desire that I have to understand is that sleep is important. Maybe I don’t even want that. After thinking more, I actually don’t know now.
What recent trend annoys you the most?
There’s a lot of vanity. Or it just feels that way sometimes. Yet maybe that’s always been happening and the internet just made it a little more obvious now. I wish people focused more on themselves and their close friends, instead of obsessing over other things on the internet. I think everybody already knows what I’m thinking about. It’s strange. But in general, if talking about arts or culture related trends, I’ve decided for a long time now that I don’t want to know what’s cool, or I don’t try to care too much. It’s a lot easier when you’re not even trying to think about trends. Some people really focus on them and I understand that. Even in music, sometimes promoters, as well as musicians, get obsessed with what’s coming next. I think anyone who has been involved in music for a long time realizes that if you think something is a trend now and if you are trying to get on that trend – it’s already too late. It’s actually ridiculous to try and even chase trends. I’ve learned that sometimes trends are even pointless to try and analyze because, for example, they can be so geographical. Maybe the place you’re in is all that matters, so why would you care what’s happening somewhere else. Going back to the internet, it’s cool to find things that you enjoy on there but you have to be careful not to follow things that are toxic, or things that you shouldn’t be wasting time on.
Did your reality ever exceed your fantasies?
I don’t really dream, so technically yes. (laughs)
Is your personality a trauma or a blessing?
People say I’m easy going so maybe that’s good. I don’t know. No one calls me a pushover so if I’m easy going then that’s a good version.
Would you say that you stand in the way of your own success somehow?
No, I don’t really have any hang ups or whatever. No demons.
So no confrontation with your dark side.
Not really. I’m actually not that dark probably. (laughs) Sadly.
What film would you recommend and why?
I can’t say it’s my favorite, because I like a lot of movies, but if I had to pick one I saw recently then it would be ‘Tangerine’. It was very simple and the message was very clear. I don’t quite know how historically accurate it is but at least the good part of the message was nice. It’s a movie about the Georgian area during the war, about everyone leaving… I think it’s a good movie to watch and I think things like movies are really beautiful. They give people that were maybe born after certain events a perspective on them. Not everyone is going to read a history book, but at least they can watch a movie about the past.
How do you overcome creative plateaus?
By starting with a new concept or central idea. Sound exploration and design is a good way to take a break when composing isn’t working. Sometimes finding the right sound will set off a new piece of music.
What’s coming up for you?
New music. I played at KHIDI and my live set consisted of mostly new music and I’m still working on new things. At some point this year I’m going to start thinking about what’s next about that specific music. I really enjoy writing and with my new music I hope to keep evolving my new live set. I also enjoy DJing. I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about music from DJing more. It’s also a lot of fun.
How was your experience of performing in KHIDI?
Where to begin? Many say it is the best club in the world. I understand why after performing there. Tbilisi and its people have fostered the perfect environment. The KHIDI family is amazing. The residents are world-class. My experience was a very wonderful one. KHIDI is a music-first venue which made Qual and Ancient Methods’ performances the night I played extra special. The balanced and loving energy everyone has for each other at KHIDI can restore your faith in humanity. I really look forward to going back.
How do you want your music to echo in the culture?
If it echoes at all then that’s already great. I’ve noticed that everyone that messages me or who I’ve spoken to about Aoud is very cool, positive, and intelligent. It makes me happy that they enjoy my music so much, it makes me want to create more. I don’t think anyone can really control the impact their music has on a culture or anything like that, so it seems kind of crazy to even try and think about it. Yet if I want anything then I just want people to maybe have something different to listen to, to listen to more types of music.
What question would you like to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
That’s actually a funny one because recently a lot of people asked me how my music alias is pronounced. And the truth is it doesn’t matter at all. I stole the word from another language anyway. It comes from arabic. I probably don’t even know how to pronounce it myself, so people can pronounce it however they want. I like the idea that the name can be pronounced as one wishes and as it sounds good to them.
So what does it mean?
It means something like ‘wood’. I’ve heard it pronounced in a lot of ways and I think that’s what’s great about it. I wanted to use a name that was a ‘non-name’, something that didn’t have too many associations with anything. The one thing that I like about it is that a lot of perfumes have a scent of aoud in it and it’s a specific wood with a mold scent, so it’s a very distinct smell. Nothing else smells like it. I really liked that it was a word meaning wood, a name of a scent, and that it’s also kind of organic, natural. It felt timeless to me.
What’s your favorite tree then?
That reminds me! The Iranian movie ‘The Willow Tree’. Must watch. I really like willow trees. Doesn’t everyone? They have infinite detail…