28-year-old Saam Farahmand, a former Goldsmiths student, has directed ace music videos for Simian Mobile Disco (yes, that 'Hustler' one with all the Girlcore ladies going at it), Janet Jackson, New Young Pony Club and his mates Klaxons, for which he has won awards. Now signed to Partizan, there are big projects ahead. I caught up with him to chat about his love of New Cross, his heroes and how people need to "wake the fuck up".
(Interview conducted for Time Out magazine's 40th Anniversary London Heroes Issue, published 24 Sep 2008)Who are your heroes?
Erol Alkan's a massive hero of mine, when you look at what he'd done for London. He's been present the whole time I've been in London, he's a figurehead and as much a part of London as Big Ben. He's defined a part of culture in London with his club night Trash and what he's doing now with his production. He brought attitude, spirit and an 'anything goes' philosophy to dance music, which at the time nobody was doing. But he's never lost integrity and he's never stopped working. What he's done with The Long Blondes, Mystery Jets and Late of the Pier is incredible.
What's the biggest thing that's happened in your field in London in the last forty years?
The rise of Young British Art scene – Angus Fairhurst, Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst – was the biggest thing for me and that was centred on Goldsmiths College. They took art into their own hands and created a scene, a movement, independently. At the time I was a teenager at school and it encouraged me to give up science, go to Goldsmiths and follow what I wanted to do. And then I was in Goldsmiths, in New Cross, and I was surrounded by all these amazing people. It was my entrance into London and my honey moon was in New Cross, which I still love to this day.
When I arrived in New Cross it was like the party had ended, and for the duration I was at Goldsmiths, the spirit of what had happened there ten years before was still in the air. Ultimately we were rave chasers at the end of the party, rooting through the empty cans for an unopened beer. But that in itself inspired countless people. There was an amazing time towards the end of my degree in 2002, and people were deciding to leave. But some of us stayed and started bands and record labels. Joe Daniel started Angular Recordings, which became a really important London label that gave birth to so many good bands. People started clothing shops and all these club nights and parties appeared and suddenly people started flocking to New Cross. It was like we brought it to life again.
What's your favourite place or thing in London?
It changes quite often, but right now it's this place called Mama Thai on Toynbee Street, which is a tiny little family-run place that serves massive heart-warming food for £3. It's the best Thai you can get in London and you're served by this 'Mama', literally the mama of this family, and she knows that you want and they give you so much it's ridiculous. It's the cutest little place ever and totally undiscovered. Before that I was obsessed with the IMAX and I was making all my friends go there.
What's your personal favourite moment in London? Where were you, and what was happening?
I went to see a Bruce Nauman show in the Hayward Gallery when I was a teenager around the time that the YBA art scene was booming and that inspired me and made me want to go to Goldsmiths and study art.
What's been your best London party?
There was one party my friends and I had at our flat on Heaps Road in New Cross and every was falling in love with each other and it was one of those magic nights that's so incredible that nobody wants to leave so it just goes on and on and on. We were all listening to DFA, which was just starting to come to life – or "New York cow bell music", as we used to call it – and was a massive thing for us. Output from London and DFA in America were the two labels and that was all we listened to in 2003.
What's the future for your field in London? What are your hopes, and what needs to happen?
At the moment there is less dependence on the people who have the power and the money to make things happen. People are able to make things happen themselves now, but for a real change to happen, the people who have power and money, who are making decisions and empowering creativity with their finance, need to look harder for the raw, real talent. If they can't then they should give the responsibility and the power to someone else. If London is going to truly progress as a creative city then it's up to those people who have the power to wake the fuck up. Otherwise everything is just going to happen slowly like it always has done. I just want to see people in film and record labels taking more risks, as they're not signing anyone, otherwise the whole city is just going to close up and go to shit because no one's taking a risk.