Jun 2, 2023
7 min read
The 80/20 Rule was first proposed by mid-nineteenth-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. It states that 80% of the results will come from 20% of the action. Iranian-born, UK-based producer Darius Syrossian has a dance music version of that famous rule he explains to me over a video call from his kitchen.
"Don't try to please the masses," is his advice for house music ride-or-dies. "If you look at the spectrum of people that go clubbing, 80% go because they think it's the thing to do," he continues. You know the type. They only ended up at the rave because Instagram said so, and after two years, they've settled into "normal" life while you're still chasing the beat.
"Make music for yourself. Stick to your sound. Don't keep jumping on bandwagons or fads. Make what makes you in your heart feel it. And then that will connect with the other 20% of people who are searching to find artists like you."
This core principle is the key to Syrossian's years of success. After decades in dance music: first as a raver, then spending 14 years working in record stores, and finally, as a multi-hyphenate that has DJed almost every major club and festival in the world, released on esteemed labels like Defected, Hot Creations, and his own Moxy Muzik, and sat at the epicenter of several dance music institutions, his passion for house music is relentless. A man of fierce opinion, Syrossian holds fast to the core ethos of the rave movement and its counter-culture roots. "It's getting to a point where lately there's a lot of people going to the raves, and they claim to be into the music and stuff. But if you don't understand the culture of this music, you shouldn't be into it. Because this music is about forgetting my problems and bringing people together."
It makes sense that someone with this kind of unwavering dedication to the culture and music had an early life that coded dance and electronic into his musical DNA. There was seldom a time in his childhood that music wasn't somewhere nearby. He remembers his parents playing funk and disco and his uncle, who he says "used to drive around in this big American Buick," listening to New Order, The Eurythmics, and other 80's electronic on cassettes. He eventually got a dual cassette deck, where he would record rudimentary mix tapes, the beginnings of putting a DJ set together.
His brother, however, may have had the most significant impact on young Darius. "My older brother was friends with some people that used to do security at illegal raves. I used to listen to their tapes and cassettes, and it was like early acid house kind of music. I knew that it was more than just music to me. I just wanted to know more about what this music is."
When he was 16, he got the chance when his brother's friends snuck him into a rave they were running security for. At the time, big beat acts like The Prodigy and Italo house inundated the UK. Syrossian found his way to a side tent playing US house and fell in love.
And while the music was the driving force, the raver ethos of acceptance made living in England a more bearable experience. "It was more than the music for me because when I first came to the UK, I used to get quite a lot of racism at school...I knew that when I went to the rave, people did not treat me like an outsider," he explains. Syrossian was born in Iran and emigrated to the UK as a child. Growing up in conservative-led England of the 80s was challenging. The rave scene provided solace. "It was a mixture of all kinds of people. And I realized that with this music, it was bringing people together, so that in itself was something that I really liked. But I also love the fucking music!"
Beyond the sanctity of the dancefloor, Syrossian learned some of his most important lessons in the next phase of his life. For over a decade, he worked in record shops in the North of the UK, most notably at the celebrated (And now sadly closed) Leeds shop Crash Records. For six days a week, he absorbed music from every corner. It wasn't just house and techno. He picked up an education in garage, disco, and everything in between.
Widely known for his range as a performer, he says a lot of what he understands of how to read a dancefloor can be traced back to learning how to read his customers.
"So you're coming across all different types of music, but you're selling it to people and you're learning what makes people feel something about a record."
That understanding has served him well. While he may not appear on top 100 DJ lists (not that he cares to either), he's regularly called upon to play at the world's most respected events. He's held residencies at the legendary Sankeys with Steve Lawler's ViVa Warriors Tribal Sessions, Amnesia with Do Not Sleep, and was a part of Space Ibiza's historic closing season. And when I speak to him, he says he recently went B2B with Jamie Jones. He humbly mentions that while Jones usually goes "back to back with the absolute top-end DJs," Jamie cited Syrossian's range as the reason for the set.
For all the plaudits and accolades, Darius is unphased yet grateful for having spent so many years as the cornerstone of so many brands. However, in 2019 he felt it was finally time to do something of his own. After wrapping up a 19-show run to close Space Ibiza with Carl Cox, he got more offers than ever. "I was getting these gigs, where it was massive capacity, I was going all over the world. But I realized that the bigger the capacity, the less people are fully into [it]. And you get under pressure to play bigger tunes, things I necessarily didn't really want to play. And I just thought, 'I want to go back to playing what I want to play.'"
Moxy is an extension of the ideals and musical footprint that Syrossian initially fell in love with. As a label, Moxy Muzik exposes fresh talent, dropping records from Demuir, Luuk Van Dijk, Fleur Shore, and Sosa. As an event promoter, he's bringing back the chase of the underground. In his early days, he remembers parties that required everyone to show up to a secret location so they could caravan to the rave. At the same time, a fake meet-up was scheduled to take the cops in the opposite direction. Moxy Muzik parties have taken on a similar mystique. His "secret sessions" feature no flyers and no announced lineups. Just a pin dropped on a map the day of the party.
Syrossian understands that dance music has changed since those halcyon days of the open-air rave. However, if his 80/20 rule holds firm, its spirit is resolute. And despite underground cultures diminishing with more access to choice, he says house music will never die.
"So imagine the scene is a tree, right?" he explains, holding up his arms to form a trunk. "Every year, you get different flowers and blossoms. And then it goes. And next year, new leaves and blossoms come and go. These are the fads that come and go, but the trunk of the tree that's there every year, this is house and techno. That's how I see it. And these give birth to the other fads you know, the minimal, fucking garage, nu disco, fucking this, breaks, trance. But house is what gives birth to all of those things. And what I love is that it's never going to go out of fashion."