Standard Sounds

Meet 'Master of Ceremonies' Arman Nafeei

Standard Culture: Where did you grow up?
Arman: Between Cologne, Germany and London, England.

Play any instruments growing up? Naughty choir boy?
Gave up on the piano after two years. One of my few regrets...

What's your first musical memory?
Performing as Michael Jackson at the age of 7 in front of 800 people.

How did you get into Music?
Music was always a vital part of my life. Cliché I know. I did actual mix-tapes for school mates when I was 10, eventually started to DJ, and then consult companies and brands on Sound Design and Music Branding.

How did you first come into the world of The Standard?
André Balazs heard the work I did in London for Jay Jopling’s White Cube Gallery where I did the soundscapes for him, his artists, and friends; Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Kate Moss... Then André and I met at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach three years back and it was the beginning of a wonderful journey.

What was the most memorable night DJing at The Standard?
The “Unofficial” Met Ball after party in 2011 at The Top of the Standard. I’ve played a lot of fancy events around the globe, but that night topped it all. I've never seen so many familiar faces in beautiful gowns and tuxedos dancing as if it was their last night on Earth, celebrating life in this carefree bohemian manner in the golden cage that we call The Top of the Standard. It was marvelous.

How would you describe the vibe you try to create at Sunset Beach?
I had quite big shoes to fill last summer, replacing the lovely and eccentric Patou who had been doing the music for 17 years. The core of his sound and eventually Sunset’s was world music, which I used as my guideline, however I felt the sound needed a contemporary update and shift.

André’s vision for Sunset was always 1960s St. Tropez and I can see that. This island [Shelter Island] really has this Balearic feel, so I merged world music with 60s French Pop and mellow electronic beats that you could hear at the Blue Marlin in Ibiza.

Any tricks to filling the dance floor?
Read your audience! There’s nothing more annoying than a DJ who is self absorbed. If you don’t find a connection with the audience, don’t continue with what you’re doing. Break it. Play something slow and unexpected. Once you've got everyone’s attention you can re-build your set. My break song is Edith Piaf’s La Foule. Always works!

What are some artists we might be surprised to find in your library?
My latest obsession is Psychedelic Rock & Funk from late 60s Africa and Asia, mainly from Ivory Coast, Mali, Iran, and Turkey. Artists such as Kukumbas, Mulatu Astatke, Kourosh Yaghmaei and Ersen were way ahead of their time. You can hear their influence still in today’s music.

DJs you admire?
Too many to count, but I’d say John Talabot, Todd Terje, Erol Alkan and Kolkoz. I had the honor to play alongside James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem at the Top of the Standard once, which was quite surreal as I’ve been a great admirer of his work for many years.

Hypothetical: Our civilization is about to be wiped out by the North Koreans. What albums would you take with into the bunker to ensure the future of good dance music?
“The only good System is a Sound System”

What's your favorite club in Europe?
Tricky one, it would have to be in Berlin. I had my Bar 25 (RIP) phase, but I’d say the Kingsize Bar. It’s tight. It’s hot and never ending.

Where's dance and popular music headed do you think? Do you feel positive about where the music industry and culture is headed?
I could start by complaining like a music snob about how awful and generic popular music is or became, yet enjoy pop music from ten, twenty, or thirty years ago and just label it a classic. Pop music is made for the masses and it's produced to trigger certain emotions in all of us. Yes it can be generic, and yes it reproduces itself, but it serves its purpose. I hear a lot of 90s 2Unlimited in Gaga’s music or Chris Brown is an incarnation of Bobby Brown, now is that a bad thing?

Anyhow, dance music, especially in the States is going through a similar process now as hip-hop did in the 90s, from underground clubs into stadium stardom. Technology plays a key role in this. You don’t need years of experience and expertise to become successful. All you need is your laptop.

Take Avicii for instance, he came out of nowhere a few years ago. He produced music from his bedroom. Now his official rate to perform is $1 million…

No matter where popular music is heading, you will always have a string of alternatives that are great, just keep your ears open.

What's your motto?
Don’t die wondering!

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