By simply setting foot in Damien’s world in Berlin, I was astounded by his openness and almost carnivorous need for constant melody. Young and passionate, Damien has cut himself a world that seems almost apart from the rest of Berlin, creating a fierce and driving energy of his own. His contagious laughter and high spirits make a fleshly, wild concoction, while in his studio or behind his turntables he strikes a dapper figure in combining sounds from the four corners of the world. Far from colorless, bland productions, Damien’s musical universe brings you in an intricate jungle of tribalism, deepness and honeyed vocals. Through soothing, relaxed arrangements, Kamil’s music is able to carry us to a lolling atmosphere, trailing back to the chill-out, primitive roots that lie within each one of us.
And you can listen to so for yourself through this exclusive set made especially for this blog: “Berlin My Heart”.
Graziella Buontempo: Who is Damien Kamil Sahri?
Damien Kamil Sahri: It’s just me.
GB: What is your earliest childhood memory when it comes to music? At what point in time did you decide that you wanted to be a musician?
DKS: I don’t know if there was a precise point in time at which I realized that I wanted to be a musician, but my desire for creativity has always been really strong and not only for music. My earliest important childhood memory related to sound was probably when scratching my first hip-hop records at house parties in the late 90′s.
GB: If you had to choose 5 words to define your music, what would they be?
DKS: Five Words Is Not Enough
GB: You lived for a long time in NYC and you currently live in Berlin. Both cities are extremely vibrant and energetic both from a social and artistic point of view. What are some of the differences you have noticed among the cities? How have these cities empowered you as an artist?
DKS: NYC and Berlin are the most influential cities of the planet for me and they both teach me equally a lot, but in their own ways.NY is tough. It grabs you by the guts and pushes you to swim faster than one another in a big ocean of competitive challenges. Berlin is not so rough, it’s completely the opposite but it’s also dangerous…I would say that in NYC you have to be careful not to spend too much time working and in Berlin not to spend too much time chillin’.
GB: What makes Berlin so special to you?
DKS: Salvador Dali once said that freedom is like intelligence: it is a nuisance to people.After spending some time in jail, Dali found himself completely redirected through his own freedom because it was taken away from him. The same happened to me. After having a lot of freedom in NYC, I was restrained and had a lot of time to think for myself, so when I was free again, I knew exactly where to go in my inspiration, and Berlin was here for me.
GB: Berlin is a relatively young city. It is full of young people and great vibes. In the last 5 to 10 years, tourism has boomed, mainly attracted by the freedom and music scene that Berlin invites to. Do you have the feeling that certain types of music that were once labeled as “underground” have become highly commercialized (even in a city like Berlin that lives of art and music)? Do you think that now is the perfect opportunity for music to evolve into something entirely new and different?
DKS: By definition, underground doesn’t have the same incentive as commercial. A song can be famous and still be underground, but a song can also be commercial and completely unknown because it doesn’t “sell” enough so I suppose underground means: music that is created by a precise array of artists for a chosen elite of listeners and their evolution within that genre. Commercial means: music made for a maximum amount of people, success in meeting standard for social and entertainment expectations, and acquisition of financial compensation.Of course, it isn’t black and white. I don’t believe in radical changes and I think that music, like any other artistic activity, involves a lot of research and cannot only include the desire to make something new. Since our primate ancestors were hitting rocks on hollow trees, people have been creating new ways to make music and assemble harmonies and rhythms. I therefore believe that Music will continue its evolution according to the ongoing technological development over time, but only through acknowledgment of its history and its purpose to life in general.
GB: How can artists differentiate themselves when so many productions sound almost the same?
DKS: By pushing their style to next level! You can be influenced, but you have to be able to influence as well. I think it’s amazing when you can touch someone’s soul as much you have been touched by someone else’s music before, but listening to your own stuff all day doesn’t make sense. So by going out, meeting people, exploring and collaborating you can open up yourself to other varieties of sounds and find what you really want. Forge your own appreciation of music and define that one message you want to spread to your audience so that they know what you stand for, always.
GB: You have a residence in Berlin at Stattbad, a unique place inhabited by artists of all kinds. How is it working with so much diversity surrounding you? How does it influence you?
DKS: It’s amazing. After living across the street from Stattbad for one year now, I can say that my friends are having a hard time getting me out of the neighborhood. I’m not only resident there, I’m also the proud member of a beautiful team. Whether it’s a simple breakfast with the skateboarding crew before a competition, a street art exhibition in the disaffected olympic swimming pool, or a heavy underground party in the basement, it’s always pure Berlin energy and it feels just like home.GB: What are some of the best artistic collaborations you have had until now?
DKS: In my travels I have been meeting artists of all kinds and they continuously bring me new ideas and show me different ways to think about them, but apart from all my New Yorkers (that pretty much taught me how to party) and all the ever-changing artistic influences I receive from my current environment, my most recent and best collaborations are actually from Romania: Tzinah Records, on which I will release an EP (with remix by the highly appreciated: TBF ) and VA in the next months, Hungary: Budapest crew of very talented young artists called “Private Business” for which I am also releasing an EP and finally, France: for the coming out of my first vinyl and music video on Parisian label: Coton Tige with remixes by Sonja Moonear, David K. and Seuil which stand for me as some of the best French underground figures you can find.
GB: When producing your music is there something that is always on your mind? A particular sound, a special ingredient, a peculiar bass line?
DKS: Acoustic and analog is always in my mind when I make digital music, I love these square rhythms but they have to have some soul. Nothing better for me than the contrast of a charismatic acoustic instrument such as a harp or a vibraphone to make a heavy bass line come alive. To be honest, I think I am still looking for this “one” sound but I also know that it is going to take me a while to find it and that’s just perfectly fine with me. As a matter of fact, when I will find that special sound, I will probably make an album, change country and find another unique sound somewhere else.
GB: Are there any differences between Damien producer and DJ?
DKS: Yes, I’ve always played harder as a DJ than as a live performer, even though I still use the same insight. When on turntables, I like to switch from various energies to catch the crowd at different sonic highlights and it’s always easier to play another record than to play your own sounds. When live, there is a lot more love, work and patience in my music so it’s not necessarily slower, but definitely more soft, careful and intricate.
GB: Do you have a particular affection for one of your tracks? Why?
DKS: I have a weakness for “Flyin” released last year on Coton Tige also. My friends (Coeurs & Arts) have introduced me to the first singer I officially put out and recorded myself: Rokhya. She definitely stands as one of the best recording sessions I have had. I will always remember how pure her voice came out when I first met her and will always remain thankful to such an inspiring and successful collaboration.
GB: What are some of the artists that have inspired you the most?
DKS: This year I was very impressed by the work of Robag Whrume and more specifically, his album: “Thora Vukk”. I have only very rarely come across such organic-sounding pieces. Not only as individual tracks but within a whole, this whole release was for me an absolute revelation.
GB: At such a young age, and with the world being what it is today, do you feel it is hard to live only of one’s music? Is it maybe easier in a young city like Berlin? What advice would you give t to another young artist?
DKS: Of course it’s hard. Berlin or Timbuktu it is hard to make it as a musician, it’s like any other worthy accomplishment. Whether it is politic, ecologic or artistic; nothing comes with nothing! So yes, I do have an advice to other young artists: Work your face off and get what you want!