Darone Sassounian (Rocky Hill) Mix & Interview

In conversation with Darone Sassounian
Silk Road has birthed a lot of light hearted energy and enjoyment from everyone we’ve seen listening to it around the world. But the energy in the Armenian community has been so heavy over the past year with the perpetuation of cultural erasure. As you and I both know, this is not only at the genocidal hands of Azerbaijan and Turkey but also within Armenia’s own government. We’ve both felt a great weight with the Silk Road release to use it as a platform to lift up your people’s voice. Through our conversation here, I hope to share with our audience what you think will deepen their understanding of the current state of Armenia in 2022 and how the events of 2020 set this dark shift in Armenian history. 


Tell us about your name, Sassounian. 

My name, Darone Sassounian may seem casual for most, however, my family comes from the Darone / Taron / Daron region of Sassoun. Sassoun is now in modern day Turkey, under the ethnically cleansed and changed name of Sason, Turkey. Sassoun is the birthplace and cradle of the Armenian revolutionary and national struggle movements in our people's folklore and up to most recent history. My last name Sassounian means 'from Sassoun'. My first name is just an ode to my last name and family history. So "we" can never forget where we are from and where we can return to one day. Some of the earliest and most crucial liberation and resistance movements occurred in Sassoun when it was subjugated to statewide racism and systematic ethnic cleansing by the Ottoman Turkish Government in the 1800s up until the final act of the Armenian Genocide, which began in 1915. People have a conception that the Armenian Genocide was in 1915. It actually began in the 1890s with the Ottoman Sultans and Young Turks, up until 1923 via the Kemalist Regime. After the Armenian people were systematically slaughtered from Western Armenia (Modern Day Eastern Turkey) the virtual slaughter continued with the systematic erasure of names of cities, regions, rivers, mountains, etc. 

Tell us about some traditions and experiences that are unique to being raised in an Armenian household. What are some of the lasting impressions that your parents have left on you?

A lasting impression from my household and upbringing can be simply put in this way. Be proud of who you are, be proud of where we've come as a nation, be welcoming and loving to everyone that you meet and come across, but never forget who you are and where you come from. Be caring, and respectful, but most importantly keep your chin up and be proud.

Silk Road has been a beautiful introduction for many unfamiliar with Armenian culture. What are some other ways people can learn about Armenia and connect to the culture? Any restaurants or cultural institutions in LA or around the world you recommend?

The best way to learn about Armenians and/or Armenia is to befriend one. To go to Armenia, it's so beautiful, whatever is left of it. Reading about Armenia and watching documentaries can be helpful.

What is the significance of Mount Ararat to the Armenian people?

The significance of Mt. Ararat is extremely high in value for Armenians. It is our "holy" mountain, alongside lesser Ararat (also known as Masis). Armenians being Christian also plays a role here, since according to religious scripts and the Bible, Noah's Arc had landed there during "the great flood". Ararat overlooks modern day Armenia to the east, while it is within the borders of modern day Turkey. My ancestors were from the other side of Ararat. The mountain range, including other regions of Surmali, Ardahan, Ani, and Kars were handed over to Kemalist Turkey by the Bolshevik Armenians of the Armenian SSR, in accordance with their alliance with the USSR and the surrounding Caucasian SSR nations of Georgia SSR and Azerbaijan SSR (newly established in 1920). Bolshevik/Soviet Armenians (who overthrew the 1st republic of Armenia with Turkish Tatars and Soviet Russia) also handed over the liberated regions of Nakhichevan and Karabakh (Artsakh) to Azerbaijan SSR in 1923. After the handing over of those regions, you get a rinse and repeat cycle of what the Turkish and Azerbaijani government did and continues to do today. Ethnically cleanse, systematically erase any evidence and history of the Armenian-ness of the region. 

November 10th, 2021 was the one year anniversary of the end of the Nagorno-Karabakh war that saw the loss of major Armenian cities to Azerbaijan in their continued genocide against Armenians alongside Turkey. Talk to us about the events of 2020 and what lead to Pashinyan’s cease-fire.
November 9/10 of 2021 was the one year anniversary of the capitulation of Pashinyan, current Armenian prime minister, and his regime to Azerbaijan. The handing over of the 5 surrounding regions of Artsakh / Karabakh to Azerbaijan (which is suicide as we are witnessing today), the handing over of Shushi (the heart of the Republic of Artsakh) and the odd tactical retreat of Hadrut. For those of you unaware, Hadrut is significant to Armenians because that's where the first self-determination protest and rally took place in 1988. Shushi is a city at the top of a mountain in the center of Artsakh. It over see's the capital of Stepanakert. (The Azerbaijani genocidal regime is only a couple kilometers outside Stepanakert, overlooking Armenian civilians from Shushi, which was also "mysteriously" lost). It was handed over...
The handing over of Karvachar, Berdzor, Kashatagh, Akna and Varanda have proven to be suicidal and flat out treasonous. Not only did Pashinyan have 5000 soldiers killed in 44 days, but he also had over 100,000 civilians displaced. The handing over of those regions is also completely stupid for two reasons, 1. It's historically and ethnically Armenian. 2. They are buffers used for safety of our civilian population. Now, those same regions are used by the Azerbaijani military to carry out further acts of ethnic cleansing. It's happening, right now, as we speak. Not on any TV or News Program.


What can you tell us about the current prime minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan? 

He is a spineless coward and a traitor who has been working against the interests of the Armenian nation since the late 1990's. People supported him and his coup (under the guise of a "Velvet Revolution", in 2018 without any basic research of that filth's agendas and ideologies. A little man with big fascist and authoritarian tendencies. If I ever get my hands on him...

Tell me about Pashinyan’s renewed relations with the Turkish government? 

Pashinyan's "new relations with Turkey" are straight up treason.

  1. Turkey and Azerbaijan have both closed the borders on Armenia since the 1990s. From 1988 - 1994 there was the first war of Karabakh / Artsakh, which was a national liberation and self-determination movement. The Armenian's were victorious while being pressed against all odds. 
  2. Turkey closed the border with Armenia in 1993 due to Armenian's liberating regions in Karvachar. They even threatened to invade Armenia.
  3. Turkey aids Azerbaijan economically and militarily. 
  4. Turkey still denies The Armenian Genocide.
  5. Turkey wants Armenia to establish bilateral relations with them on no terms. (i.e. to not recognize The Armenian Genocide, to not follow through on demands of reparations and restitution). Also wanting us to drop the determination movement in Artsakh / Karabakh.
Pashinyan has been cool with this since his days as a yellow journalist in the 1990's. For those of you who can read Armenian, I recommend you read those articles.


With the continued apathy of the world, empty gestures like Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide with no actual foreign policy to reflect any care for Armenians living today, and Israel’s endless weapon supply to Turkey; what do you see happening to Armenia and its people? 

Biden's half ass recognition of the Armenian Genocide was a tool used to shut down and/or cool down the Armenian Diaspora in USA and around the world. Once again, we keep getting exploited. Israel's supply of weapons to Azerbaijan isn't surprising. One apartheid state helping another. 


Tell us about some of your travels while working on the licensing for Silk Road.  

The travels I took for Silk Road were quite interesting and exciting. I traveled to the Middle East (mainly Lebanon), Europe (France and Italy), and traveled across USA to scoop records and find the original publishers.

You recently launched your label Rocky Hill Records with a solo release titled Prerequisite #1 / Prerequisite #2. We’ve included a bandcamp link to that below. Tell us a bit about your plans for the label and what this project means to you. 

With Rocky Hill, the plan is to release whatever I like by artists and producers who's projects I happen to like. I'll be releasing most of my solo work on there as well. So far there are 10 projects in the pipeline. The first release, along with the next two 12"s (the Prerequisite Series) is just an ode to stripped back and raw/rough house records. They were recorded during the beginning and height of the pandemic in 2020, when there was nowhere to go and listen to live music. There's a lot of deep and exciting cuts that will be released on Rocky Hill, according to our production schedule. At the end of the day, it's basically my tracks that I record in my home studio and records of producer friends who need an outlet for physical releases. No genre. If I like it and want the public to get their hands on it, then I'm definitely releasing it.


What are some of your favorite Armenian dishes? 

Some of my favorite Armenian dishes are spiced chicken and beef kebab on a charcoal grill. I really enjoy Harissa, Lentil Kofte, a simple Armenian salad with Greek Cheese is also a favorite of mine. Cheese boreg's are killer. Best one in USA can be found at Carousel in LA (not a paid endorsement).



What does a day of your life look like in Los Angeles? 

A day of my life in LA can be straight forward. Wake up and go to the Rocky Hill office. Work on label and administration stuff. Answer booking, publishing and licensing inquiries on my email. Work on future projects with creatives. Tend to my residency in Los Angeles with local djs and my art director of the label, Arthur Kaplan.



Tell us about a record that brings you deep peace? 

A record that brings me some peace of mind lately is The Keith Tippet Group - You Are Here...I Am There (LP). Shoutout Danilo Plessow for gifting me this beautiful piece of music. 

Recent and contemporary record that is also some what of a treasure to me is Floating Points and Pharaoh Sanders collaborative work "Promises". 

What do you think of when you look up at the night sky? 

When I look at the night sky, I think of how small we really are in the immense space of the universe. I sometimes think to myself (while gazing at the night sky) of how tomorrow can be my last day on this planet, so make it count. Try to be happy and be kind to everyone, but be firm and serious with your thoughts and actions. You may never get another chance at it. You will never get another chance at life.

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