SoManyDJs: DJ Siavash Ashrafinia rises from refugee to international performer

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      If Siavash Ashrafinia ever decided to give up his day job, the DJ could write one hell of a memoir.

      Born during the brutal Iran-Iraq war, the musician was smuggled as a young child out of Iran by his father. Travelling under forged passports, the family somehow managed to negotiate its way to Madrid, Spain, under the pretence of attending an international sports conference. Choosing America as their next destination, the Ashrafinias were declined refugee status in the States before being accepted by Canada—the country that they still call home.

      Music remained a passion for the artist during that upheaval. Buying a Radio Shack mixer, belt-drive turntable, and tape player at 13 years old, the “lonely little fat kid” (his words) discovered how to record continuous music, optimistically convincing himself—and, apparently, his middle-school class—that he’d invented DJing.

      After getting hooked on electronic music, the young performer started his career as a resident at Tommy Africa’s in Whistler—back when, he assures us, Whistler’s nightlife was actually worth braving the hotel fees. With individuals stripping off their clothes and dancing on tables to his eclectic blend of deep house, techno, drum ’n’ bass, electronica, and trance, Ashrafinia and his idiosyncratic beard quickly became a staple in the town.

      Having been a professional DJ for 23 years now, the artist has played shows across several continents and scored a number of residencies, including the prestigious Bar Americas in Guadalajara, Mexico—a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that both his parents, who sacrificed everything to give him the opportunity to pursue music, are completely deaf.

      Best gig ever

      “Guadalajara has a famous festival called 212, which is enormous. They block off the city centre and set up outdoor and indoor stages, and they all close at 2:30 a.m. Bar Americas, the number one club in the city, was the only venue that was licensed past that time—and, by some crazy stroke of luck, my set started at 2:30. There were thousands of people looking for an after-party, and we were the only place providing it. The line outside was two blocks long, and the entire club was packed. It was crazy. I walked onto the stage wearing my big hat, rolled up my sleeves, and people just started roaring. It was like I was Tiësto or something. I played for nearly six hours, because the people were just chanting and chanting for one more song.”

      Top track right now

      “I haven’t played electro music for a long time. It used to be fresh, but it lost that quite quickly—now it’s too aggressive, and too edgy. It doesn’t promote longevity on the dance floor because it wears people out too fast. But I love ‘Use It or Lose It’ by Vitalic, featuring Mark Kerr. Vitalic is Europe’s electro god currently—he takes the cheese right out of the genre. Holy dick smoke, it’s an anthem. It’s encouraged me to bring a little bit of electro back to try and squeeze it into my sets.”

      Song that cleared the dance floor

      “I’ll say this. When in Guadalajara, do not finish your set with a drum ’n’ bass song, ever. Or else receive death threats, and potential banning of your residency at Bar Americas. I played a flawless five-and-a-half-hour set, and I was feeling a little bit cocky at the end. I tried something that I would do in North America, which is end the show with this jamming drum ’n’ bass track to create this weird vibe. Bad idea. People started making signs that they were going to cut my throat. They did not ask for another song.”

      Favourite local producer

      “I want to shout out everyone who decides to sacrifice comfort, money, and happiness to play the music that they love. If you’re mixing hip-hop, house, techno, electronica, dubstep, or whatever you’re working with, I’d say that if you’re doing what you love, and you’re sacrificing every day to do it, rain or shine, then you are my favourite Vancouver producer. Everybody out there who’s living the struggle in the music world, you all deserve a tip of the hat.”

      What’s up with creating an entertainment company?

      “After the Lotus Sound Lounge nightclub in Gastown closed, there was a disappearance of consistent and quality underground events, and I decided to take things into my own hands. Seeing so many of my talented peers without a space to perform their art inspired me to try and reunite our dying underground community—so I created You Plus One. I wanted to make something unique and nonelitist, just like my set. If you play obscure dark techno, bring it on. If you have an electronic band, let’s do it. There’s a slot for everyone, if you be who you are, and love what you do. We are trying really hard to make unique spaces and curate very special vibes that aren’t ruled by profit-making.”

      Oddest request you’ve ever received

      “Whenever someone gives me an annoying request, I tell them that I’m playing it next, for the entire set. That way, I get an excited dancer on the floor for hours, eagerly awaiting their song—even though it’s probably never coming.”