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Arya Afshar is a Multi-Instrumentalist, Producer, Sound Designer and Film composer, born in Iran in 1990. He began playing guitar and bass at the age of 13, later in life becoming interested in Drums and Piano, as well as music production and audio programming using software like Max/MSP and Wwise.
Throughout his colourful career, Arya has worked in various capacities in the music industry, from Session and live musician to record producer, as well as working as a freelance sound designer for visual media, jingle writer, stand-up comedian, Game Audio programmer, and film composer. His story is interwoven into the history of rock music in Post-revolution Iran, the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, and the lack of gun-control laws in the US. As an Iranian musician, without wanting to, Arya’s musical career began as a political dissident, something he did not intend or wish for, and nevertheless something that informs his journey across many continents and alongside many fellow musicians from around the world.
Arya started his first band, Punk-Rock outfit Barcode, in 2003. Barcode had a short-lived run before Siavash Saffari, their lead guitarist, tragically took his own life in 2004. Later that year, Arya joined 'The Free Keys' as Bass player, with Arash Farazmand on Drums and Pouya Hosseini on Guitars and Vocals. Along with their sister band 'The Yellow Dogs', featuring ex-members of Barcode and Hypernova, they began writing original music and hosting underground live shows in Tehran. At the time, Western music of any kind was deemed illegal in Iran, then governed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose ministry of culture would deny permits for any musical act with English Lyrics. In defiance of the Islamic Republic, the Free Keys began releasing music online, which garnered a lot of attention on MySpace, and earned the praise of the likes of Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, and Trey Gunn of King Crimson. Arya moved to the UK in 2007 to begin organizing a UK tour for the band, but unfortunately the other members were not able to secure their visas in time to make it to the tour dates. However, while Arya was in the UK, the remaining members of Free Keys, along with The Yellow Dogs and a number of other underground Iranian bands, appeared in Bahman Ghobadi's 'No One Knows about the Persian Cats', a Grammy-winning movie documenting Tehran bustling underground Rock scene, which put the members further on the map, but also at an increased risk of arrest.
With Ahmadinejad controversially re-elected as president in 2008 with heavily disputed results, and cracking down harder than ever on everything western, The Free Keys moved to India to write their debut album in 2009, adding two members to the trio, Anthony Azarmgin on Keys and Ali Akbar Rafie on Bass, with Arya moving from Bass to Lead Guitar Player in the new Free Keys Quintet. In 2010, the band was invited to play a showcase at SXSW in Austin, Texas, following in the footsteps of Hypernova, who had moved there in 2006, as arguably the first Iranian Indie Rock band to make such a move to the international stage, and The Yellow Dogs, who moved there in 2009, The Free Keys moved to Turkey to apply for their US Visas. All members were granted a visa, except for Arya, who at the time had a pending military service back in Iran to fulfill, after escaping in 2007. This made him ineligible for temporary visas to the US, but also meant he couldn’t return to Iran. Stuck in bureaucratic limbo in Turkey, Arya started attending University in Turkey on Full Scholarship, to study 21st Century Music Composition and Production.
In 2011, Arya joined another Indie Rock outfit from Iran, called Matchcuts. Matchcuts had a short-lived career as well, playing shows around Istanbul and releasing one EP before dissolving due to financial issues. Arya was then brought on to Istanbul-based American/Turkish Reggae band the Iteful Ites, as lead guitar player, and founded IDDQD, a collaborative musical project focusing on one-time online collaborations with musicians in Iran and the rest of the world. IDDQD released music exclusively as singles in the first 5 years, with Arya focusing most of his time on his studies and other bands. During this time, Arya also found his new passion, music production, and began work as an assistant recording engineer at Fanus Studio in Istanbul.
The Yellow Dogs and The Free Keys moved to the US and sought refugee status, eventually settling down in Brooklyn, New York. The Free Keys played a handful of shows before becoming inactive, due to conflicts with Ali Akbar, and Arash joined the Yellow Dogs as drummer when Sina Khorrami, Founding drummer of The Yellow Dogs, moved to Canada. The Yellow Dogs released their first full-length album in 2012 and continued to tour in mainland US until November 11th, 2013, when a tragic shooting took the lives of Arash, his brother and founding Yellow Dogs member Soroush, and fellow musician Ali Eskandarian. Ali Akbar, disgruntled by the conflicts within the Free Keys, suffered a mental breakdown, which eventually led him to sneak a rifle to the Brooklyn apartment where members of The Free Keys and Yellow Dogs lived, shooting and killing Arash, Soroush, and Ali, wounding another roommate, before turning the gun on himself on the rooftop of the building. The remaining members ran a series of fundraisers to help cover the costs of moving the bodies of the deceased back to Iran, their final resting place.
Back in Turkey, Arya mourned the death of his friends. The events left him shocked, devastated, and unsure of his future, which he always saw as eventually moving to New York to resume making music with the Free Keys. It was during this time that he began to reevaluate his career prospects, focusing on production and taking a short break from making music. During this time, he assisted a number of local bands with recording and producing records, and travelled to Kurdistan with Filmmaker Metin Cetin as field recordist, documenting the musical stylings of the Kurdish culture. The Turkish government banned the film, halting all funds, and eventually led to the cancellation of the project.
In 2014, Arya joined Turkish Psychedelic Rock band ‘Kinesis’ as bass player, with Yigitcan Akcelik on Guitars, Aykut Ozen on Vocals and Synths, and Rauf Kose on Drums, and began releasing records and playing live shows with the band. Kinesis released their first EP ‘Lavdanom’ in the same year, and won the prestigous ‘Roxy Music Competition’ in 2015, which earned them a record deal with WeMuzik. In the same year, they released their second album ‘Miasma’ and continued to tour in Turkey until Arya’s departure from Turkey. They also performed a number of studio sessions, namely in the fifth episode of Ehveniser’s second season, a show featuring local bands a la KEXP.
Arya was also the founding member of ‘Rubber Walrus’ an Indie Rock band with American singer/songwriter Lewis King, Belgian Drummer Gijs Witdouck, and Turkish Bass Player Goktug Candan. Founded in 2014, Rubber Walrus went through various line-up changes during its 3-year life, as Gijs and Goktug moved to Europe, and replaced with Temmuz Gurbuz and Ceren Bettemir on Drums and Bass respectively. In 2015, Rubber Walrus successfully crowdfunded a series of live performances in Europe, culminating in a main stage performance at Boomtown Festival in Ghent, Belgium. Rubber Walrus entered an indefinite hiatus when Lewis moved back to the US following years of political unrest and a rise of authoritarianism in Turkey, which came to a head in a 2016 coup attempt.
Arya graduated from University in the same year, and released his first EP, titled ‘The Last Year on Earth’ in 2017. He also began working as a session/touring musician, playing live shows with a variety of bands including the Wingmen, The Cuckoo Coup, Fat N’ Wet, Skata, and Vostok-6. Along with Ahmetcan Gokceer, he also co-producer the debut album of Vostok-6, an El Salvadorian/British via-Istanbul Punk Rock duo, titled ‘Lost July in Istanbul’. His vast music portfolio and various papers focusing on the philosophy and psychology of music, earned him a full scholarship to continue his studies in Berlin, Germany, but his visa was once again rejected due to his military service issues back home.
In 2018, Arya moved to Vancouver, Canada to begin a one-year program in Sound Design for Visual Media, and began work as a Freelance Sound Designer, Film Composer, and launched his YouTube channel where he continues to publish tutorials and host live music feedback sessions for aspiring producers.
In 2019, Arya co-founded ‘Bad Neighbor Productions’ with Adam Dekleer, Cuillen Sander, Nova Rakhmanina, and Sandra Savicheva, hosting weekly jam sessions in Vancouver, which were also livestreamed on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook. Bad Neighbor Productions was eventually shut down due to complaints from neighbours and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Arya moved to Montreal, Quebec in August 2020.
While working on Films, teaching music production online, and performing occasionally as a stand-up comedian, Arya also began writing new material for IDDQD, and continued to remotely collaborate with musicians local and abroad, which were eventually released as IDDQD’s second record, ‘Mutations’ on September 2nd, 2020. Before the release of the album, Arya released a number of singles, and released his first music video for ‘Platypus’ directed and produced by Nova Rakhmanina, who also designed the artwork for the album.
Arya hopes to continue making music with IDDQD, while also producing more records for local Montreal bands, working on films and animation as sound editor and post-production mixer, and creating more online content.
In September 2020, Arya won the Sounds of Essen Sound Design contest with his submission, and launched his latest YouTube series called 'Rapid-Fire Tutorials'.