Unlike Pluto Talks New Artistic Direction on 'I Need A Win': Exclusive

Sanni Riihimäki
Unlike Pluto

You know that scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton beats Jared Leto near to death? Norton walks up to Brad Pitt, his face splattered with blood as Leto's character gasps for breath from a now-toothless maw. When asked why he did it, Norton's character simply says “I felt like destroying something beautiful.”

That's the scene Unlike Pluto uses to describe his current state of mind. The dance music producer has gone full Edward Norton, and Jared Leto is all the music that got him where he is today.

Born Armond Arabshahi, the 26-year-old turned his hobby into a career with increasingly successful releases that blend elements of trap, house, dubstep and future bass into festival-ready songs that have made thousands jump up and down on cue around the world. It's been fun, truly, but it's also been a lie, and he'll tell you that himself.

Don't get him wrong, he loves dance music culture and all that comes with it. He loves the music, and he loves the people it's introduced him to, he just can not stand to keep making it any more. It was a bitter realization that struck him hard in the gut about two years ago, as he drove to a friend's studio in his transplant home of Los Angeles. He threw on an old Underoath CD. He hadn't listened to it in at least six years, and his reaction was intense.

“I had this whole emotional wave roll over me,” he tells Billboard. “I haven't felt that way about music in such a long time, and that feeling is freedom. I could sense that the guitar player, the singer, and the producers even were all genuinely enjoying making that music. There was no 'oh, it needs to be more commercial. You need to tailor to this market.'”

When he arrived at his friend's place, he announced he was done with the “EDM” game for good. “I want to do something more personal," he says. "I can't make that stuff anymore. I die a little bit inside every time I do.”

The strange realization that he was absolutely miserable set Arabshahi down a spiral. Thankfully, he finds depression to be incredible creative motivation. He holed himself up in his room, locked himself into his DIY vocal booth and didn't leave the house for days. He didn't eat. He didn't talk to anyone. He just grabbed his guitar and got to work.

“I spent my whole life playing guitar until my fingers bled,” he relates. “When I was in high school, I would sing until my vocal chords would be dry. Making these songs with my voice was the only win that I had.”

Today, he happily shares with fans the first taste of his toils on the aptly-titled single “I Need A Win.” You'll hear those dance floor influences in electronic elements and a vocal-less chorus that could be considered a drop if you squint, but it's got more in common with Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park and Incubus than it does his 2015 Palace EP. His voice drips with alt-rock angst as he exercises his demons, and while he admits the lyrics are a little bit about a girl (what song isn't?), “I Need A Win” is, at its core, an expression of the adventure he has found the strength to begin.

“I needed to find all my friends,” he sings. “I needed to find where I left them behind. I don't know why I do this, lock myself outside of life. Look at everything I'm losing. All I need's a win.”

Critically speaking, it sounds like he's won already. “I Need A Win” is certainly one of Unlike Pluto's most compelling tracks to date. Arabshahi will self-release the tune Friday, Nov. 24, though you can listen to it in full below, exclusively on Billboard Dance. The producer has five more upcoming releases scheduled for the coming months, backed by another 50 demos on the drawing board. Fans will decide whether or not the song is a win on the chart, but from here on out, Arabshahi defines success on his own terms.

“This music 100 percent represents me as a person,” he says. “I don't want all people to like this music. I want the people who connect with who I am as a person to like this music … This is the music I love making, and these songs were made seven or six months ago, but the new stuff I'm making is becoming more of a mature sound. I'm excited to see where this is going … I'm just gonna show people who I am. I'm not gonna hide the weirdness anymore -- or the darkness.”