British-Armenian producer Hagop Tchaparian shares new single ‘Right to Riot’ off debut LP ‘Bolts’
Today, British-Armenian producer Hagop Tchaparian shares ‘Right To Riot’, the latest single from Bolts, the debut album due for release on October 21st, 2022 via Kieran Hebden’s (Four Tet) Text Records. From its title to the incessant bleating of the zurna, “Right To Riot” is like punk techno crying out for dissatisfaction.
Hagop’s debut album Bolts features ten tracks of hyper-personal rhythm music that mixes techno with field recordings of his journeys through Armenian and Mediterranean cultures. Early DJ support came from Four Tet, Gilles Peterson and Nikki Nair. Artwork for Bolts was curated by skateboard, music and sports photography legend Atiba Jefferson.
The August album announcement was accompanied by the single “Round” which followed the July release of “GL” and “Raining” also appearing on Bolts and already garnering attention from the likes of Brooklyn Vegan, DJ Mag, The FADER , Magnetic Magazine, Paper Magazine, Pitchfork, Resident Advisor and XLR8R, among others.
“May I say my friends call me Hagop? I don’t want people to struggle with my long name. I always liked it when Eminem introduced himself and said, “Hi, my name is…”. I think I want to be Hagop called so people find it easy to connect.”
“As a teenager, I made a pilgrimage to the Slam City skateboard shop – I couldn’t really afford to buy anything but Thrasher magazine. I saw Atiba’s photos and was super inspired and wanted to slide across the bridge and skate the Southbank. Below was Rough Trade Records where I could find the music from the music department in Thrasher and music I heard playing in the background of skate videos that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Atiba also photographed a lot of these bands so it’s absolutely a crazy dream to be able to work with someone who has been such an inspiration to me my whole life.”
The 10 tracks on Bolts combine audio evidence of a life experience with the notion that lo-fi techno can be the canvas to convey that experience. Hagop has been collecting these sounds and vignettes for almost 15 years and started collecting them before the smartphone in his pocket included a “recording” feature. He isolated sounds from videos his friends sent, like the Armenian wedding clip that showed members of the party jumping over a fire while a drummer played in the background.
He would stop street musicians and ask if he could record their playing, like the women playing the qanun, a harp-like Arabic stringed instrument; or he would record with professional musicians playing special instruments like the zurna. He visited places important to his family, such as the Lebanese village of Anjar, where his father’s family took refuge after being expelled from the Armenian-Turkish town of Musa Dagh in 1939, and documented his own footsteps on the gravel roads where his father once left.
The result is the sound of a man chasing his legacy around the world while scattering clues about his daily life amidst the rigged folk instruments of his ancestors. Between these rhythms there are aspects of tactile memories, sometimes the result feels explosive. “Timelapse,” which loops the music that accompanies the fire-jumping wedding ritual, stitches together seemingly connected images in a photo album that may physically disintegrate but its power remains.
Hagop’s past is the precursor to creating something meaningful with these recordings. As a teenager, Tchaparian played guitar in Symposium, a post-grunge punk band of the ’90s. Symposium had a successful couple of years, big enough to visit the States on the Warped Tour, play the main stage at Reading and open to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica; just long enough to become disillusioned with the music business and wind up in debt.
After the symposium, Hagop contributed to a composition called Hokis in 2000, which collected music from Armenian artists – but was mainly drawn to the London club scene, where he befriended Hot Chip and later became tour manager for Hot Chip and Four Tet.
“After wanting to get out of guitar bands and having a massive interest in all things dance music, my first job (mainly because I was broke) was flying around in front of a lot of London clubs. I got up in front of all the big clubs in East London from around midnight, ending in front of the Ministry Of Sound around 9am. I heard the noises outside and saw people coming out and really wish I was inside! I finally went in and checked out as much as I could and by a great stroke of luck ended up helping the likes of Hot Chip and Four Tet on tour. I’ve had the privilege of traveling and watching her and many others at festivals, clubs and shows to create those special, unforgettable moments.”
Hagop occasionally made remixes that friends like Kieran played in their DJ sets, but he wasn’t particularly passionate about working on new original music. He kept collecting these little snippets of rudimentarily recorded sounds. There was an emotional resonance in continuing to stitch these rehearsals into a storyline that made sense to him.
The rhythm tracks alone could successfully propel an underground dance floor, but the elements surrounding the beats were the undercurrents that helped push the music beyond party rituals. While playing some early parts and pieces for Hebden, the veteran musician encouraged him to go ahead and make a full work out of it.
“I love synthesizers and musical gear, but there are some noises I hear around me as I go about my life that make me sit up and really pay attention. These are the main building blocks of the album.” I need music that means something to me, otherwise I’m not that interested. It’s a bit like the younger days where I was just drawn to certain inspirations like oxygen – I just really need it.”
The album’s bangers serve an almost secondary, magnetic purpose. “Come for the beats,” they imply, “but stay for the emotional content.” With that in mind, these beats, great as they are, aren’t easy – Hagops’ globalized narrative complicates this party’s soundtrack beyond the confines of ethnocultural chillout comps. The beauty and storytelling here transcends any obvious genre or form: “Bolts is very special and this is Hagop’s excavation of his Armenian heritage through a lifetime of remote recording.
As Hagop started to see what he was making as more than a handful of crackers, more insights came from his own community. Ryan Smith, best known as the guitarist for Caribou (who also produces dance music as Taraval), assisted with production and mixing. Fellow Londoner Dennis White, who is developing the music for progressive house deity Sasha and BBC One mainstay Pete Tong, also added a few production touches. While visiting his sisters living in Belgium, Hagop worked with Michel “Shelle” Dierickx, a legendary old-school producer. All of this helped Hagop technically achieve what he heard in his head.
Hagop’s first show was at Finsbury Park in London this August. Next up is a set on Friday, September 23rd in San Francisco, California as part of a pre-party for next weekend’s Portola Festival.
“For me, the live set is an opportunity not just to weave sounds, but to try to take myself on a journey with the intention of hopefully recreating some of those moments that have meant so much to me. I really want it to be special.”
It is Hagop’s sounds, memories and experiences that we navigate through. But they end up pointing the way to a shared past. We can and should use them to chart away the dancing of our sorrows – a honorable use for music and one to revel in this summer when Hagop begins playing the Bolts’ music live.
Listen to the new single here: