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Artist Spotlight

Dec 22, 2022

Harry Levin

7 min read

The Piratebay, the world's most resilient torrent site, is actually a real place.

Ardalan's been there.

Many years ago, somewhere in Tehran, Iran, there was a mall. In this mall, there was a room. In this room, there was a man with a computer filled with compilations of music, and for a nominal fee, he would burn that music onto a disc for you.

It's where Ardalan Noghre-Kar, a premier house and techno artist, would buy music growing up. Covert missions to buy music engrained the gritty, clandestine, and illicit nature of the underground into his musical DNA. He continues to honor that upbringing with his eclectic DJ sets and productions today.

"It's all about that raw feeling you get the first time you make music or you look for music. I've never wanted to forget that feeling,'" Noghre-Kar says from a studio in a barn somewhere in Los Angeles. "For me, it's always that feeling. It's always going to go back to that feeling. It's that excitement that keeps me wanting to do what I'm doing."

The real-life Piratebay wasn't Noghre-Kar's only source of music in his early days. In Iran, where Western music was banned and there were no legitimate record stores, he had to rely on two primary sources.

The first was his family. His father was an avid saxophonist. And his brother sparked his interest in house music when he gifted Ardy a cassette tape that featured Daft Punk's "Around The World" on one side and Tupac on the, which explains the significant hip-hop influence in Ardalan's music.

The second was new technology. As an architect, his father was one of the first people in Iran to work with CAD programming giving Noghre-Kar early access to computers and the internet. Ardalan's interest in technology drove his interest in music.

"I was really into computers since I was 6-7; downloading games and music. It was a really interesting time because I grew up on the internet. I would find so much music [by] downloading illegally because you didn't have anything else in Iran," says Noghre-Kar.

He perused now-ancient platforms like Winamp, which included a section called SHOUTcast with different web-streaming radio stations playing genres like drum & bass, house, and techno.

Noghre-Kar also spent a great deal of his younger years in the Bay Area (which he would eventually call home as an adult), and through those travels, his love of music and technology evolved.

The Bay Area was always an affluent hub for tech. And when he first arrived, he fit right into that culture. He attended De Anza College (the same school Steve Jobs attended with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak) and took an intro electronic music course.

"They taught some really cool tricks with programs that I use like Reason and Ableton," he remembers. "That class made such a profound effect on the rest of my life."

As he was engaging with music production from a more academic perspective, he also attended notable electronic music parties in the area. He attended Sunset parties thrown by the mythic Wicked crew. He went to Drum & Bass shows thrown by Haight-Ashbury outfit Compound Records. But most influential on his life trajectory was the regular Dirtybird BBQ in Golden Gate Park. These parties birthed the globalized record label, clothing line, and event brand that Dirtybird is today.

Noghre-Kar attended his first BBQ when he was 17. It was also his first real music event in the US. Founding members Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, and Christian Martin were all there playing great music as the late Grillson served up great food.

"Doesn't get any better than this. This is the direction I want to go," Noghre-Kar says of the first BBQ. "They all took me in and got me really excited to make music."

He skipped his shift at Cold Stone Creamery to go, got fired the next day, and the following year he debuted the unmistakable "Mr. Spock" on Dirtybird with Justin Martin,

"It was a really interesting and fun way for the universe to tell me you're doing what you're doing. You're doing something for yourself," Noghre-Kar says.

That track would launch a close relationship with Dirtybird that persists. He's had numerous releases and compilation offerings on the label, including his debut album Mr. Good. Ardalan (or Tiesto of Modesto as Dirtybird's most passionate members lovingly call him) is still an expected and very welcome name on the lineup for the summer-camp-themed festival, Dirtybird Campout.

"It's always fun. It feels like you're back in high school in some ways when you go. All your friends are there and you can interact with the fans. Very homie vibes," Noghre-Kar says.

That sense of fun and community is something Noghre-Kar carries into numerous activities, including his nascent party brand, Ardy Pardy. In a relatively short life span, Ardy Pardy has expanded all over the US, popping up in San Francisco, Chicago, and Art Basel in Miami.

"I just always wanted to throw a party. Curate the sound and have that simple element of wanting to throw a fun party where I can have a good time and not necessarily DJ the whole time. Have my friends who I really love play my parties and be able to enjoy it with other people," Noghre-Kar says. "It's a very fun experiment where I can be creative visually or I can make the party super fun in a simple way. Being silly but also having really good music. Now it's become something where I need to take it to the next level."

Ardy Pardy isn't his first mission in community building. With the help of other friends and musicians with Dirtybird associations like Walker & Royce, Justin Martin, and VNSSA, Noghre-Kar helped to start a Twitch channel over the pandemic called GoodTV.

The pandemic was jarring for Noghre-Kar, but it also afforded him the opportunity to revisit his love of tech by learning all about streaming.

"I went back to feeling like I was 10 years old learning something," Noghre-Kar says.

Like taking that electronic music course in community college, learning streaming presented new opportunities for him to express his creativity and connect with his roots. The first stream he did was with Deep House Tehran, a collective of artists living in Iran.

"There were all these Iranian fans and that was the most beautiful thing ever because I hadn't played for people from Iran ever," Noghre-Kar says. "I started curating nights where I would showcase artists specifically from Iran and it was really amazing to be able to open that door for people around the world—creating new fan bases for them because there are so many talented artists in Iran. For me, it was an experience of learning about people from my homeland and seeing their art and having a platform for them."

Noghre-Kar is determined to continue supporting artists from Iran either through more streams in the future or a record label he intends to start.

He acknowledges that he is blessed to be in a position where he can travel the world playing music or shack up in a barn making a new album like he was doing just before the interview (expect Tarzalan sometime in 2023).

But he knows now more than ever there are so many artists in Iran who have the potential to do the same, and many of them are probably still hitting The Piratebay to get their new music the same way he did.

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