Bursting onto the global stage in 2005 with his debut album ‘4 Da Loverz', German/ Iranian electro-house producer Sharam Jey immediately consolidated his standing with a 2 year non-stop DJinh world tour.
Calling a (semi) halt 12 months ago, he returned to the studio to work on new album In My Blood and as 2010 starts is about to unveil it on his own label King Kong Records. Including contributions from electro/ rock stalwarts Princess Superstar and Tommie Sunshine, the album features a vary selection of high energy big room electro-house stompers with a distinctly maximal, pop flavoured accessible vibe. Chatting to Skrufff this week, Sharam’s focused and enthused and upbeat about his new album’s prospects.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): It’s 13 years since you started: how much does it get easier (or not) as years go by?
Sharam Jey: “Actually I’ve been doing this professionally for about 16 years now. On the one hand it was much more difficult to produce high quality music when I started because the equipment was much more expensive. You would need to work a lot of vacation jobs just so you could afford a new synthesizer. On the other hand it was easier because not that many people produced music then so once you got a record deal, everything started. And of course people were willing to spend money on CDs and vinyl back then.“
Skrufff: How much do you see ‘Sharam Jey’ as a brand? And how much do you see yourself as being alternative/ underground and an artist and/ or entertainer?
Sharam Jey: “I think every musician to some extent sees himself as an entertainer; you want to give the people a good time. And as far as the term ‘brand’ is concerned, I don’t really know if I see myself as this. It is just that when you are doing this for some time you start building up a fanbase and doing that is what it’s all about. And concerning alternative/underground: I actually don’t like these kinds of labels. Styles are becoming more and more mixed up and you have a much expanded range to work with. And that is quite good.”
Skrufff: You worked with Tommie Sunshine on your new album who has arguably the best beard in music: how much are you tempted to emulate him beard-wise? How important is image for you generally?
Sharam Jey: “Yes, he is world-famous for his super-beard. And whenever I bump into him wherever it is in the world it’s always great to see him. We always wanted to work together but when we finally started this collaboration I was surprised when he told me that he wanted to sing a song. But when the result was finished I was really happy with it. I think it’s one of the strongest songs on the album. And yes I think an image is important to some extent because you need to create a whole package to present to the people.”
Skrufff: Why do you have a beard personally?
Sharam Jey: “Mhm, I don’t actually know. Maybe because I don’t have so much hair on my head anymore. I change my style of beard from time to time. I’ve had a moustache now for some time and now got a complete beard-this is my winter-look… Once I got it completely shaved off and I didn’t recognise myself anymore.”
Skrufff: Germany remains the country of stripped, ‘deep’ tech beats: how important is the German market for you compared to the rest of the world?
Sharam Jey: “Actually my music has been better received outside of Germany, maybe because I don’t generally produce much music with deep tech beats, not in the last few years under my own name anyway. But having said that I never really specialise on any particular genre, I’ve also released many tracks under different project names purely for fun. This latest album features a varying kind of styles.”
Skrufff: How much did you feel alienated by the whole minimal thing?
Sharam Jey: “That’s really not my cup of tea. I passed it by to a large extent. Of course there are some cool minimal tracks but I am using these mostly as a starter-track in my sets. I am more into songs that tell a story. With big sounds.”
Skrufff: Many, many producers have moved to Berlin in recent years, what’s stopped you?
Sharam Jey: “I was asking myself the same question just the other day.. Berlin is of course a great city. But my city Cologne is definitely a great one too. Electronic music has a long history here in Cologne. And of course my family and friends are here.”
Skrufff: The music industry is changing dramatically quickly in recent years: how has King Kong been affected? How much is releasing music no longer about making money?
Sharam Jey: “Yes, it is like you said, the industry has changed drastically. It is really difficult for a small independent label to earn money with music. I am happy to run King Kong Records for about 7 years now. We’re still doing well but these days you certainly need to adjust to new situations to survive. And I am happy to have the label as a platform to release my music without having to make any compromises. This has been the case for the new album though it’s coming out on Bandroom in Australia. But yes, releasing records is not making any money anymore.”
Skrufff: I know you grew up in Germany and don’t remember Iran but have you found yourself curious to explore your roots as you’ve got older?
Sharam Jey: “I was 10 when my family moved to Germany so I’ve spent almost my whole life here. I am really happy that I grew up in two different countries so I got to know two totally different cultures. Hopefully sometime there will be the possibility to visit Iran again and explore my roots more.”
Skrufff: Has being of Iranian descent ever caused you problems at airport immigration? (eg in America?)
Sharam Jey: “Yes, I can tell you that it certainly has. But it was even worse when I still had my Iranian passport. That was really annoying, being at airports every weekend. But that is not just a problem in the US. Since I got my German passport a few years ago it has improved dramatically though.”
Skrufff: Have you ever encountered racism: as a teenager in Germany or since?
Sharam Jey: “No, not really. I mean I know different stories from other people who’ve got in trouble with racists. Especially in some parts of Eastern Germany it could be sometimes difficult. But you also have that situation in other countries too.”
Skrufff: You’re playing high profile gigs relentlessly: how easy is it to resist the temptations week after week, year after year? (of sex, drugs, danger?)
Sharam Jey: “Well, sooner or later you develop a routine of how to avoid all those temptationsm but it is of course still hard. After my first album came out I toured constantly for nearly two years and that was very much my ‘rock & roll’ period. So I needed a serious rest and I took time out to work on this new album. And I’m really excited about it so ready for 2010.”
Skrufff: What’s been the most dangerous situation you’ve found yourself in when travelling?
Sharam Jey: “Wow, of course when travelling a lot, a lot of situations can happen and I’ve certainly been to some strange countries but luckily nothing bad has happened yet. Just the usual stuff, such as a bomb alert or when I was touring Canada I was on a ferry which was evacuated. That felt a little like being in an action movie.”
Skrufff: How big a role has luck played in your career? (what’s been your luckiest break?) and your unluckiest?
Sharam Jey: “What’s luck anyway? I am indeed lucky that I did and still doing the stuff I like for the last 16 years. I am happy that I’ve had the opportunity to turn my hobby into my profession. And unluckiest were the moments when I wished for more luck. But life ain’t a wish-list.”
Sharam Jey’s new album “In My Blood” is out in March on King Kong Records.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)
SHARAM JEY ARTIST PAGE: http://www.trackitdown.net/artist/105912/sharam-jey.html