Fast making a name for himself in EDM circles, L.A.-based producer ASADI is the first to merge traditional Persian music with syncopated trap rhythms. With only a few years of production experience under his belt, he has already carved a unique space in the electronic dance music realm. The young producer has leant on his cultural heritage to combine traditional Persian instrumentation with modern electronic production tools. Labelled PTM (Persian trap music), the result is an expansive blend of cinematic Middle Eastern sound, driven by 808-derived sub-bass and elaborate trap rhythms.
MASCHINE is a vital component in ASADI’s production armoury. Numerous viral videos showcase the producer’s peerless finger drumming skills, performing his own tracks, remixes and mash-ups via the instrument’s audio interface and durable beat/sample pads. With his Persian trap aesthetic creating an entirely new listening experience, ASADI champions his sound performing live with MASCHINE at music festivals worldwide.
I’ve been making music all my life. I started playing piano aged five, and later guitar – a lot of rock and stuff. Eventually, I fell in love with producing. When I was 14, my dad gave me a Persian instrument – a setar. It’s totally different from an Indian sitar, it’s like a lute. Since then, my whole goal was to get better at playing instruments and producing. I was obsessed with combining Persian and modern music.
In order to perform electronic music and hip hop you have to DJ, but I didn’t really like it. The idea of playing out songs and messing with transitions was never really my thing. I didn’t care about creating a drop, rather how I could actually play something. I’d seen MASCHINE in all the stores and watched videos with beatmakers on YouTube, but always used to think I could do it way better than them.
From that moment, I was hardcore about how to figure out MASCHINE. I asked myself how I could play these beats and create live sets without all the sonic complications, and wanted to perform music with MASCHINE so well that I would compete with all the DJs – except it would be totally live. That was my goal from the age of 15, and it took me a few years to master that performance aspect.
Creating persian trap
I was getting better at playing Persian instruments, learning the culture and sampling. I’d visited Iran twice as a teenager, which was a great period of personal development and enlightenment, and I wanted to make something that represented my roots.
Eventually, I started getting everything together. I was getting really good at using MASCHINE and was so into this idea of mixing majestic Persian rhythms with the energy of trap that I started making what I called ‘Persian trap music’.
I didn’t listen to other world fusion artists. Fusion music was never taken seriously by mainstream audiences because it was always seen as too experimental. I wanted Persian trap to sound exactly like it is so that people would automatically get it.
Transitioning from MASCHINE MK2 to MK3
It was beautiful to work with the old MASCHINE model during my formative years, and I always had hopes for what the next version could do. As a performance tool, MASCHINE allowed me to play my music fully live, and I was stubborn about that. When MASCHINE STUDIO came out, I felt it was a useful extension of the MK2, but when the MK3 came out it was magnificent.
MK3 is so much easier to play live with. The built-in interface and screen is better, it has better functionality to change scenes and the macro assignments are way easier to use. I just felt it was a more functional, stable and powerful product. I don’t think MK2 was really designed as a controller that would be able to handle multiple groups. If you were to see my performance projects, they’re 10GB and contain all the songs I perform live.
New game-changing features
On the MK2, the Note Repeat button was too small and really easy to miss. When I’d play at festivals, the sun was so bright I couldn’t see my buttons and would accidentally hit Scene or Group Change during the middle of a performance. When I first saw Native Instruments talking about the MK3’s new features, the first thing they said was that the Note Repeat was way bigger. I was like, ‘yes!’
But the best part of MK3 is the screen, because when you play in daylight you won’t see your lights. At least now I can cover my hand over the screen, hold Scene Selection and know what group I’m changing to. Some might think these little things are no big deal, but they’ve made a huge difference to how I perform live.
Sampling, MASCHINE and Logic
I run MASCHINE as a giant VST in Logic. My computer CPU is running all the sounds and instruments from the MK3, everything else I do in Logic is related to audio, effects and textures. I’ll typically record my instruments into Logic, make them sound pretty then control everything with MASCHINE.
Sometimes I’ll pick up my guitar or setar, come up with a cool melody and record them into Logic – then I’ll add 808 sounds and snares. Other times I’ll sample instruments on MASCHINE first.
When I first made Persian trap, I wasn’t very good at performing melodies, so I’d sample from cassettes my parents had stored in a big box in the basement. I bought a cassette player from Best Buy and sampled the music in MASCHINE MK2. Now I’m actually trying to figure out if I can play the setar and sample it live in front of an audience.
Everything Native Instruments makes has been spot on. I honestly don’t think any other company can compete with the sonic quality of their gear. At one point I was thinking they could do better with their sound banks, then Sounds.com came out and I was like, get the hell out of here, this is awesome.
I use MIDDLE EAST all the time. Surprisingly, it’s not about trying to emulate real instruments. A lot of Middle Eastern keyboardists go crazy playing the kanoon on a keyboard, and that’s the feeling I got when using MIDDLE EAST.
You have these MIDI strings and crazy, awesome-sounding ensemble instruments, but when you play them on a keyboard it’s just like being on stage and sounds so close to the real instruments that it’s incredible. One of my favorite Native Instruments Expansions is called CARIBBEAN CURRENT. I used it to make the melody on a song called Resistance.
Practice makes perfect
There’s no university for learning how to play MASCHINE. A drummer can play drums perfectly, so if you want to compete and show you can play drums on MASCHINE, you’d better learn certain techniques from a drummer and figure out how to play what you’ve made live. If you tell yourself it’s not possible, then it’s not possible. These days, people can play beats live using MASCHINE in a way that was once thought impossible, and that gives other people the belief they can do it too.
I love using KOMPLETE KONTROL’s various controllers. The S61 can be used as a super-nice workstation, but if you want to make music on the road you need something that’s mobile and has a certain build quality. I loved the S25, but when the M32 and MASCHINE MIKRO came out, it was clear that Native Instruments was viewing things from the eyes of someone that wants to make awesome hits from a hotel room.
Thanks to them, music-making is no longer about sitting in a dark room with a bunch of keyboards collecting dust. Kids these days want the experience of going round the world and making music. The definition of what it is to be a producer has changed. It used to be about moving the quality of a project forward, and people who made beats were seen as a bunch of nerds shut away from society. Now, being a producer and a musician is indivisible. We’re just like rock stars now; we want to travel the world and play in strange places, like Led Zeppelin or Queen did.
Using MASCHINE live
Ever since I got MASCHINE my goal was to go beyond it being a controller and make people feel and see that I’m playing an instrument. I’ve had so many arguments with stage managers who try to put me in a DJ booth. I always say, absolutely not. My tech riders are very specific. I have to have a drum throne in front of the booth so everyone can see what I’m playing.
It’s so boring to watch someone playing on a counter top; people are getting sick of that. When you see a guitarist like John Mayer going crazy on his guitar or a Persian multi-instrumentalist, you want to see the sound that’s coming out and the look into the performer’s eyes.
That’s why I’m so passionate about the mobility of something like MASCHINE. It’s not the future; it’s where producers are now. To give an example, I was about to play a show in Budapest and was in a rented house chilling with three rappers. The TV system had an aux input, so I plugged in my laptop and MASCHINE and, because you can browse, preview all the instruments and play MASCHINE using the keypad mode, made something really cool in two minutes and everyone was going crazy.
I played the whole beat live and it felt so good that I could create a killer song and just play it through those Samsung TV speakers. It was a moment to remember rather than being about the 90th time some guy was in a studio making music. Even better, when I got home I had the option to finish the track!
photo credits: Dropkick Josh
Follow ASADI on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dannyasadi/.