There is no denying that Darius Syrossian does things his own way. In the modern world, even the freshest faces in the scene have managers, PRs and social media teams all working for them. These teams orchestrate every post, every interview and every word spoken by their artist. Although it’s nice that some professionalism has come to the all-too-often lackadaisical dance world, it can all get a little too stale. Too often people keep their mouth shut in order to make friends with people in high places. Too often they suck up a bad experience in order to not rock the apple cart and risk being chewed up and spat out by the system. But not Darius.
Few people know the exact age of this UK house head. Years before he hit the big time back in 1995, though, he was toiling away behind the counter in Leeds record shops and knows plenty about every facet of house dating back to the eighties. That, coupled with his famous online real talk, has made him a proper people’s champ. He has legions of adoring fans who seem more hardcore than any other, always popping up to defend him or laud him whenever it is needed.
And in the last couple years he has had his fair share of turmoil. After many years of being a key part of Tribal Sessions and Sankeys (and before that Viva Warriors, with whom he also suddenly parted ways), a very public falling out threatened to leave him high and dry. But it wasn't long before another brand saw what Darius offered, and soon they snapped him up. That brand was Do Not Sleep, an edgy Ibiza party known for its no-frills house music. He was installed as resident and also helped start the label of the same name which he now A&Rs for while Matt Tolfrey (Leftroom boss) runs the remix and distribution side.
“It was four weeks before the season started and everyone said I was mad to join a party nobody had heard of,” says Darius of the hook-up. “Mad to go to a Privilege, a venue nobody would touch at the time, and mad go up against three big parties and legends on a Sunday night, but we pulled it off.”
They sure did, because now the party is fully established and regularly sells out, as it does when it tours the UK in the off-season. “I think people connected with the no frills, old school style that we brought. It was just about a dark room, a good soundsystem and our kind of music, always before the money.”
YEAR OF THE ROOSTER
2017 started well for Darius, with a big party in Manchester on New Year’s Day and then the end of a tour that took him across nine time zones in a month, including North America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. “The people were so friendly and passionate about the music,” he says before explaining that he doesn't write music on the road but does toy with ideas on his computer, ready to process them when back in his studio. He also uses the time to dig for new music and looks everywhere he can, both online, at promos and in record stores, and always tries to look at upcoming artists and support them where possible.
The rest of the year will find him putting out remixes on Mobilee and Kaluki Muzik, a new EP on 20/20 Vision, something on Riva Starr’s Raw Cuts and more on Do Not Sleep. “I always try to get the drum programming right,” he says of where and how he starts on a track. “And then have a bassline that sits alongside the drums and compliment each other: that’s what we dance to, the drums, it’s human instinct and I try to give the feeling you get when listening to techno but in a house way.”
He continues. “I was inspired massively back in the '90s by the way Armand van Helden would manage to have just a kick, a snare and a bassline and it would grab you and make you want to move. So simple but so effective. For me it’s about making you want to lose yourself to the rhythm. I’m not writing songs, I’m writing tracks to be used as a tool for a DJ to make people lose them selves on the dancefloor.”
One thing that helps to keep him grounded against that backdrop of screaming fans and endless high-profile gigs is his girlfriend. The pair has been on the road together for a couple of years now. “It’s great to travel together and enjoy the music together. She's really amazing and I’m quite lucky that she also genuinely loves the music because I know a lot of other artists who find it difficult balancing the relationship and the job.”
In March, Darius will play at our party in Miami during Music Week. It promises to be a special one, especially given that it is the first time he has been to the annual WMC since 2013. “It will be great to mix up business with pleasure,” he says when asked, before explaining that he has lots of new music on his hard drive that he intends on debuting at the party.
On the subject of his own DJ sets — rock solid affairs full of kick driven, no-nonsense house and tech — he is reflective. He reports he is always critical of his own performances and recognises he made a name for himself with a certain sound, but at times he feels he is a slave to it rather than a master of it.
“As you get bigger and then start playing big festivals, it’s easy to get dragged off and think you have to drop a banger. Maybe this happened sometimes, and when I was playing the three way back2back2back thing [with Do Not Sleep peers Sante and Sidney Charles] I realised the wrong kind of crowd was now following in huge numbers. I felt like it was a bit of a gimmick and didn't feel right.”
It means he has taken stock, spoken to management and is back to being his old true self, playing subtler music, solo, rather than giving people the obvious anthems they want as part of the trio. “I was perfectly happy all those years running a record shop for hardly any money, so I’m more than happy touring the world for good money, I don't need to be this brand that goes for the kill, cashing in at all costs.”
With so much to say on so many topics, we quizzed the house man about some extra-curricula subjects...
“Andranik Teymourian — Iranaian Armenian captain of the Iranian national football team. He’s the first christian captain the Iranian national team have had, but he’s a great ambassador for showing sport unifies people and can bring people together and can help people rise above politics. I have a lot of admiration also for Mesut Ozil. He’s done so much for charity and helping children, and sometimes you see these footballers become out of touch with reality but it’s refreshing to see one that is not only a great player but puts so much into charity work.”
“I cannot accept bigotry. Seeing some of the people supporting Donald Trump but thinking it’s ok to do it by being racist, sexist, xenophobic or homophobic is so wrong. I’ve responded to some of his tweets and some have had a few thousand retweets but I make sure there is no personal insults, no swearing, just stating some facts. It’s funny seeing so many people come to his defense, but they only respond with vile and crude language and insults.”
“I absolutely love my cat because she is more affectionate than your average cat and loves to just sit with me or on me when lying on the couch. After you’ve been away on a gruelling tour and you get back it’s just what you need’"
Words: Kristan J Caryl