Interview: Ardalan Talks Vibe Curation, AI & The Bay Area Underground

Tehran-born producer and DJ Ardalan Noghre-Kar – better known as Ardalan – has seen it all in the nearly 13 years since his debut track, “Mr. Spock” helped put Dirtybird Records on the map in 2010.

The industry has changed considerably since then. Social media campaigns accompany music releases. New tech like AI threatens age-old creative processes. Even Dirtybird now hosts its own festivals.

But through it all, “The Tiesto of Modesto” has remained a creative force in house and techno – constantly evolving – just like the industry that changed his life at the age of 19. 

Ardalan’s 2023 is off to a roaring start with tour dates galore, the release of his latest EP, The Maniac, and a second full-length album coming soon. His successful Ardy Pardy events are popping up in cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Miami.

A true spokesman for the culture, Ardy was kind enough to chat with EDM Maniac after his set at The Caverns for John Summit’s Off The Grid event – a venue seemingly tailor-made for his no-rules, underground swagger:

EDM Maniac: Hey Ardy! Since we’re in a cave, I have to ask… Does it get any more “underground” than this? Where does a show like this rank among the many unique venues you’ve played?”

Ardalan: I think it’s amazing that what John Summit is doing with an event like this, is bringing out the younger generation, the older generation, and bringing them together. Playing a cave and bringing his friends and doing something so grand feels very special.

I consider myself kind of a chameleon. I like to play big shows, but also small shows. I just like it all. It’s like a buffet for me. I just want to make music and have fun and get it to as many people as possible. 

EDM Maniac: Your signature Ardy Pardy events have been picking up steam, and you’re no doubt a host with the most on the decks… What makes a good party?

Ardalan: There’s a lot of work behind it, but it’s so fun – the dedication and everything and making sure everything works right – you need a little bit of that organization, but I’ve been keeping the same formula since I was 17. I just want to have fun.

For me, it’s about finding new music, getting with friends, and getting everyone together. It’ll be like a house party vibe, but in a bigger setting. Very natural. It’s never felt like work, but you definitely have to be on top of it. And it’s really fun now to curate a program of music for the night.

EDM Maniac: You came up in the Bay Area scene, at a time when new technology and the internet were shaping the modern music industry… What did your time in the Bay Area teach you?

Ardalan: For me, living in San Jose, going to Burning Man for the first time when I was 20, meeting all the people doing underground parties – like the Sunset crew and then early Dirtybird – they’ve really been a huge inspiration to me.

No matter where you are, no matter how much control you have, it’s a playground. I always stick to that formula of what they taught me.

The first time I ever DJ’d, it was on a rotary mixer at this club called 222 Hyde in San Francisco. It was where Miles Davis used to do his afterparties in the 50s – some sick history.

When I was 19, I went to this festival called Symbiosis in Yosemite and I got a ticket by being a merchant—giving water to people—and that blew my mind.

And the next year I had my “Mr. Spock” release with Justin Martin and everything changed. So I feel fortunate and lucky, but I was also so determined to do this – and not just for myself.

The energy you get from people and seeing people dance is just—I don’t know how to describe it—but it’s the main thing about everything. It’s not about me. It’s about them.

I feel a privilege and appreciation for being able to bring what I can bring. That’s what I learned from early Bay Area culture and dance culture. 

EDM Maniac: So much culture. Do you feel like the true underground has gone by the wayside at all?

Ardalan: A lot of the techno and house stuff used to be underground and now I feel like it’s mainstream. I feel like the younger generation—they just love every type of music. So that’s great for me because I love to play everything.

It’s like going to a buffet —“Oh, I have options! Thank you!”—I think we’re in a place where we have the freedom to do a lot more creatively and it feels great.

EDM Maniac: In comparison to your own rapid rise with Dirtybird, have you seen any changes in the process of coming up in the industry?

Ardalan: I feel like there has been some change, especially with social media. It makes sense that people want to see more of the entertainment factor, but in the long run, the music is the answer.

I feel like everyone in the world, since the dawn of age, wants a story. Stories are what take us around the world. Some stories will take us in the wrong directions, some stories will bind us. Now we’re getting hella philosophical, but that’s as deep as it gets.

The process of making music is the most genuine thing to me. That craft of working. Being ADHD, you never feel present, but that’s the moment when you make a song, you make a kick, or a synth line that reminds you of a friend—like synesthesia—and I love that feeling.

EDM Maniac: With all of these stories in mind, what is the story behind your new EP, The Maniac?

Ardalan: So, I went through some catalogs of songs that were almost complete and each song is from a different era of my career. I wanted to go like Hans Zimmer—cinematic. A lot of analog, digital, all cinematic sounds. 

I feel like the EP is basically about how everything is changing to AI, the noise, and everything. The track, “The Maniac” really reflects that. Full techno terminator vibes.

I love that whole dystopian thing. I love that 80s thriller sound. you’ve got all these analog synths playing. I was born in 1989, so to be able to do that and make it a story, and then use AI to promote it is like a paradox. I love that stuff.

EDM Maniac: What can you tell us about your upcoming album?

Ardalan: I’m really infatuated with early 80s sounds. Like analog, post-disco, pre-house music, italo. Trevor Horn, Yello, Kraftwerk, to like Detroit stuff. It’s basically the ingredients of what happened to house and techno. So I’m going back to that.

This album is going to be a very personal message. Making good, fun music. Making songs. I’m singing on it now—writing lyrics, doing songs. My dad played the sax on one of the songs. So I can’t wait.


Feature photo from Jonathan McDonald (Soul Clap Mothership). All other images from Ardalan.

Written by
Peter Volpe

Journalism student at The Ohio State University with a passion for culture and fat basslines.

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