Arash Afshar

Photographer, Host of Burner Podcast and Founder of Justified Hype

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A lot of people think I got into podcasting because I have a radio voice and that’s absolutely mind-bending for me.

Firstly, I only recently started entertaining the idea that I have a bankable voice and that only took like almost a decade. Additionally,  I’m fairly certain my vocal chords actually developed as a result of years of audio recording. Chicken or the egg. I have not actually gone back to confirm this because being subjected to listening to myself even now makes me cringe right out of my skin so transporting back to those early days might make me actually hyperventilate with embarrassment.

No, I did not get into podcasting because of my voice. We started a podcast because we were looking for excuses to promote our own crappy art and music. That’s not a direct diss on ourselves. Let me explain…

Back in 2011 I was creating my earliest zero-budget underground music videos with an underground Hip-hop label named Proof of Life. One of the many projects Proof of Life had going was a weekly internet radio show called Proof of Life Radio. This was long before the current music video and podcast boom that these kids take for granted.

Proof of Life Radio was on every Monday night broadcasted from founder KillCRey’s bedroom studio in those very early days of bedroom recoding studios. Multiple big Mexican guys packed into a room filled with cigarette smoke and Rum and Cokes. Antics would ensue and every other week, yours truly would join in. I enjoyed the radio shenanigans but hated the weekly schedule as I don’t do well with rigid schedules in general.

During this time period, I’d discovered The Nerdist Podcast and found myself listening to it quite a bit. So I started suggesting the idea to Chris. I didn’t realize I was ‘selling him’ on the idea until he brought to my attention a couple years later that I’d sold him on multiple ideas. I pressed that podcasts were the future and that it would free us from that rigid Monday night schedule and that we could bank a couple episodes and release them on a rotation and take some time off. He agreed and thus was born Crappy Awesome Podcast. The driving force behind which, in all honesty, was my own laziness.

The name came from the Hip-hop album we were working on. The sound and style had changed multiple times and Chris had the idea of just releasing everything under the name Our Crap So Far.

For the next eight years, we spent many a hungover Sunday in dingy recording studios in Los Angeles. We tried booking more interviews in our hometown of San Diego but San Diego artists seemed more likely to flake. Their reasons for canceling last minute seemed valid but the pattern demonstrated to us that LA-based artists took promo more seriously. So for more Sundays than I’d care to count, we’d pop a couple of Redbulls at 8am and be in an LA studio by around 10:30am, record two back to back interviews and head back to San Diego the same day.

I never prepared for interviews.

I mean I wanted to but I just didn’t. Then Saturday night and Vodka drinks would happen and come Sunday morning here I was sitting down with an artist, rapper or standup comic who’s work I wasn’t terribly familiar with and I had to get into showbiz mode and it was this scenario repeated multiple times that made me good at snapping into showbiz mode.

Attempting to listen to a certain artist’s music and finding that I simply wasn’t into it and this happening multiple times made me good at finding other ways of connecting with the artist’s story. I mean, I was into the music and the art and comedy – but often I just wasn’t into it that week. I might’ve been in a jazz music kinda mood and listening to new rap with all it’s complex ideas and lyrics while trying to get 50 other things done twisted my focus into a knot. So I moved back towards what I did more naturally: looking for the universality of what the interview subject was experiencing as a human/artist rather than dissecting the specific manifestation of their art or craft. Which lead to the extremely common experience of interview subjects expressing their appreciation for the freshness of the kinds of questions we were asking them.

On top of all that, honestly, just being hungover a lot more often than I’m proud to admit now. I leaned into treating the interview as simply a fun Sunday and crushing it 90% of the time. My co-host could most definitely point out situations where more preparation on my end would have been ideal but, for the most part, he and I had a very unique style of banter, bonding and interviewing, which yielded the weekly release of what many referred to as a celebrated pillar of the underground Hip-hop scene in Southern California.

We interviewed some heavy hitters including Rakka of Dilated Peoples, The Pharcyde and the Get Busy Comittee’s Scoop DeVille. We recorded 2+ hour interviews with Hassan Minaj and Fahim Anwar before their explosive rise. We had our intellectual asses handed to us by National Geographic Explorer at Large Wade Davis where we basically had to chime in every once in a while just to remind listeners they were still listening to our podcast (which, by the way, is the reason that – to this day – I refuse to do phone interviews). I got to chop it up with Italian rapper Amir Issa and ask ridiculous questions of famous porn stars Xander Corvus and Kayla Carrera. Pardon the awkward and sudden shift in energy – but I can actually trace my spiritual awakening to our Halloween interview with Bonnie Vent, where we recorded in the reportedly most haunted room of a hotel in Old Town San Diego which triggered some strange emotional breakdown in me mid-interview. The list of stories and adventures Crappy Awesome Podcast yielded is quite long.

In 2013 I discovered Burning Man which lead to the creation of Burner Podcast. I spent some time juggling both shows but eventually quietly stepped down in order to focus more of my direct creative energy on photography and launching Justified Hype.

Episode 113 of Burner Podcast served as a nice little reunion between us. We explored some of our time together and my move towards exploring the Burning Man community. Listen to that one here.

My co-host, KillCrey continued hosting Crappy Awesome Podcast which you can find here. I stepped down after episode 316 with Amir Issa.

The featured image for this post is a screen capture from a music video I directed for KillCrey which you can watch here.

Below are some covers I created for another of our collaborations, a series of singles under the banner The Audacity. The far-ahead-of-our-time idea (which is now such the norm) was to use our friends Instagram photos in the design.

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