Armond Arabshahi, a 25-year-old Atlanta native, says he’s been making music since he was 11, “everything from folk to country music to more emo hard core sounds.” As such, it’s no surprise that this pre-dental student abandoned his healthcare aspirations and, after finishing his degree at Emory University, headed to L.A. to pursue his passion. Since doing so, Arabshahi—or Unlike Pluto, as he’s better known—has garnered a significant amount of buzz, so much so that he is the first act to be managed by DancingAstronaut.com’s founder Senthil Chidambaram, and has joined uber agent Lee Anderson’s pantheon of EDM gods (think Skrillex, Zedd, Disclosure and Steve Angelo). While he’s already played EDC, a number of other major festivals and has been courted by Las Vegas clubs, before he settles on a Sin City residency of any sort, Arabshahi says he’s “still searching for the right fit.”
What did your parents say when you abandoned your plans to be a dentist to become a DJ?
I was a skater kid. I got good grades, but I was always kind of the screwup of the family. My sister was the golden child, so me moving here wasn’t as bad as my sister doing it. She’s three years older, so she [studied] neuroscience and then she moved to L.A. to become an actress. We are first-generation Persians in America, so it was hard at first, but we’re easing into it.
Things don’t just happen overnight.
My parents supported me a little bit, but I definitely struggled. I definitely had a few jobs in L.A to support myself. Also my sister helped out because I just crashed with her on her couch for six months.
How do you stand out?
I sing on my tracks. I sang and song-wrote in high school, so I just always did it [as a producer].
You’ve managed to garner 30 million hits on your SoundCloud account. What’s your secret?
I started getting a little bit of a buzz online in 2012. I just released a ton of remixes. I did a Gorillaz remix. There were probably 15 different remixes that got me Hype Machine placements over the years. Then the Revolutionary mix is what really took off, because 30 million plays was beyond anything on my page at the time.
You’ve also done this without any crazy gimmicks, such as a mask, but you still have to forge an identity.
At the moment, musically I’m not trying to go out and brand myself like, “Hey, look at my face.” I’m definitely just trying to differentiate and brand myself musically, because I was always the music guy growing up. I loved just sitting in a dark cave making music all day. It’s what I’ve loved doing since I was 11. Being able to work with a vocalist and bring something out of them that they wouldn’t normally do in their sessions—I want to be that guy that they feel comfortable around, that makes something unique, and to have it be very consistent through different vocalists.
Your manager Senthil has a notable EDM platform but little experience in this arena. What led you to sign with him?
He’s a hustler. He gets stuff done. He has a lot of connections. He knows the ins and outs of the industry. It was a perfect pairing. I’m more of the guy who’s kind of lax. I’m like, “Oh, I’ll spend two weeks on a track,” and he’s like, “Get it done.” We kind of meet halfway, so it’s perfect.
You’re signed to Diplo’s Mad Decent label.
I released a mini EP exactly a year ago, and I believe we’re going to follow up that with an EP in July. We’re working with Monster Cat, we’re working with Atlantic Records. We’re doing a single release with Ultra Music and have a new track with Steve Aoki.
You’re often on harder-sounding festival lineups. Is that what you’re going for?
I hope I fit in a little bit as a live artist, but musically I feel at least pretty diverse. When you look at Skrillex, Diplo and all of the other major EDM [artists], anything really fits with them; there is no very specific thing that they’re doing at the moment. The definition of EDM is kind of up in the air, so anything goes. You can make any genre with EDM, and it totally fits with it.
I’m basically a singer/songwriter working with vocalists and infusing different styles of music that I listened to growing up, such as jazz, emo, blues, hard core, rock, indie rock, even a little bit of country. And fusing that with a little bit of EDM, but not making it full-on EDM, just making it electronic, it’s my own thing.