INTERVIEW | NICOLE MOUDABER
There is little to say that hasn’t already been said about Nicole Moudaber. With her roots deeply entrenched within the scene, she stands as a worldly ambassador of the dance floor, spreading her sound across the globe in venues ranging from festivals to warehouses. She keeps busy with her MOOD Records imprint, hosting productions from the likes of Carlo Lio and Carl Cox, while her weekly radio program, In The MOOD, spreads her sound across the airwaves.
While on the East coast for a weekend of gigs, we hopped on a call with Nicole to get some insight into the past, present, and future of her career. She’ll be playing at Bang Bang on May 22nd – tickets can be found here.
You rocked Miami Music Week with your Mood Day and Mood Night parties, delivering crowds a healthy dose of house and techno. I listened to the live feed of Mood Day and let me tell you the energy was alive and contagious, it truly felt like I was there… the entire experience was a blast. You were in great spirits the entire time, continuously chiming in and speaking with friends such as Chris Liebing and Carl Cox. The party also marked the one-year anniversary of your weekly radio show, “In The MOOD”. What did you take from Miami this year?
I think it was the best this year, and I’ve been coming to Miami for many years. I think Miami was blowing up, and it’s so good for the city, and the economy of the city. It was a massive success everywhere, not just my party. Mind you, my parties sold out really quickly which I was really happy about. But I have to say, all over, it was packed. A lot of people, you know, came down, and it’s so good to see the city of Miami buzzing this way. And it’s only going to get even bigger and better as we go along.
Let’s go back to your university years. You’ve credited seeing a Danny Tenaglia mix during break for really turning you on to the dance music scene. What kind of transformation did you go through – how did your psyche evolve?
The thing is, I wasn’t aware that there is an artist in me until I experienced that night with that music. It really reached me on a deep level, it ignited a lot of feelings, I was like flying! I wasn’t doing drugs by the way, but I was flying on the dance floor and taking me places and feeling incredibily high and spiritual. And obviously these feelings come from a very artistic, you know, background. And I think from that point onward I discovered a new side of me that likes the art and the music, obviously.
This relates to the previous question… After graduating with a degree in social sciences, were there any “normal” professional fields that you looked into before you decided that your life path was in music? Or were you always sure that music was your purpose?
No, absolutely not, I didn’t, and this is why I’m telling you, I discovered it then with Danny. But previous to that my father wanted me to be a banker, and we had a hotel, for example, he wanted me to run it. And all of these stupid jobs that I did not feel like doing.. Waking up at seven.. It just didn’t work. However, I did try them, until I discovered clubbing, and that became my profession for a long time. I was going clubbing every weekend, and, you know, chasing my feeling, basically. That was my job, until I took it really seriously.
A “professional clubber” as you say.
You can say I was a bum, but no, I was a professional clubber, babe!
In the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War, you and a partner organized and booked your first party, with a mosque and an adjoining cathedral serving as the venue. A party in Beirut, at that time, was an ambitious feet. What was the political and social climate like at the time? How were you able to pull it all off?
Well, at the time, the war had ended, obviously. It was around 1999 or 98, we had so
many wars. I think the last one was in 96, and after that it settled, so that’s when I threw the first party. And obviously, I met with the mayor of the city, and they were very accommodating. They wanted to launch the city again and re-build it again, so they made everything very easy for us, providing us with their own security. It was in the middle of the city, you know, we chose a parking lot in the middle of Beirut. So that was quite easy, that one. It was the first, ever, but after that I encountered some problems, and this is why I left in 2000.
You booked and planned events for a monthly London nightclub, “Turnmills”, for five and a half years. You undoubtedly learned a lot during your time managing the club. What are some defining learning experiences that you went though and how did they shape the person you are today?
It’s programming my night, musically, and choosing the right DJs to build my night, and programming to where it makes musical sense. I booked over 450 DJs during that time. I broke so many amazing DJs as well. I remember when I gave Paco Osuna his first ever London date, he played my party then. How it shaped me, was the creative side of building my night musically, which means my first dj had his specific sound, and then the second dj picked it up with his own sound, and how I closed it. So, that really helped in how I construct my set these days is pretty much that.
In your relatively short producing career your sound has quickly spread across the world, and you possess the uncanny ability to bring the life out of your audience wherever you go. Regardless of background, race, sexuality, etc, there is an aspect about techno music, which allows it to transcend across social boundaries and bring people together. What, to you, makes techno different then any other genre of music?
I don’t think you should just categorize it as just techno, I think you should categorize it as our dance culture. And that is the building foundation of our dance culture is to merge with anyone, from whoever you came from, whoever you are, whether you are rich, poor, black white, yellow, gay, non-gay, this is what we started the foundation with. It’s just to join everybody under one roof and just enjoy the music, and love everybody the same way, and get out form all these stigmas and conventional lifestyles that people put upon us. This is what we started in the first place, and it’s continuing. It’s not techno, it could be anything. The spirituality behind what we do, and the culture, and the basis of it, is that. It’s to all be one and together with everyone – a classless kind of vibe. This is what we do.
You’ve spoken about how you use life experiences to draw inspiration for your productions, and you title each track accordingly. On your album “Believe”, for example, your euphoric tune, “Fly With You”, is about a relationship with a love in your life, while, “Moving On”, is about the loss of your father and staying strong as time pushes forward. What in life is currently driving your musical inspiration?
The good thing is that, I’m sort of in love again, that always helps! I think, as an artist, when you have emotions going on, whether sadness or happiness, you can create in a different way, and different things come out of you depending on the situation you’re at at that time. So now, I’m a little bit going into that phase again, and thank god, because my inspiration is coming out in a major way, so I’m liking it.
Is your track, “See You Next Tuesday”, about somebody that you don’t particularly are for?
See You next Tuesday, actually, was a title that Carl came up with. Obviously, it can be interpreted in different ways. But, the only interpretation of that is his Tuesday night at Space, that he does normally. But obviously, if you want to turn it into another definition, it can mean cunt! But “See You” is “S-E-E”, not just “C” and a “U”. (laughs)
I wasn’t sure if you were trying to make the track title more “PG”
We always laugh about that! It’s a funny thing.
You’ve teamed up with vocalist Skin (Skunk Anansie) to produce your latest track, “Someone Like You”, which is going to be released on Mood Records. How did you guys link up? When should we expect your next collaboration?
We have already done 5 tracks together, and it is a different kind of vibe than what I normally do! Obviously, working with an established songwriter like her, Skin, was quite challenging. Normally, you know, I can bang out a techno track in 2 days, and this project has taken a year and a half with me. Working with vocals is not an easy thing to incorporate with techno, as you know. I didn’t want to make it sound cheesy, I didn’t want to compromise, I still wanted it to sound cool, and now it is ready, and I cant wait to share it with the world. We are going to launch it with a video that we will be filming in Berlin April 20th, and hopefully the whole release will be out early summer. Skin is a fantastic artist, it was very daunting and scary for me to work with such a person when she came into my studio and wrote all of these songs and I had to work with all of that. It was quite a journey, and I learned a lot, and I cant wait to do the next chapter with her again.
The sounds of the underground are growing stronger within the United States. “Boutique” festivals in America are providing a growing platform for house and techno DJs to showcase their talents in a scene normally dominated by the aftermath of the EDM boom. How have you seen the American dance music audience grow and evolve since your rise to fame?
Absolutely, I mean I’ve been doing this solid for 3 years now, and Ive done many festivals in America. And I think the kids, who were probably 18 at the time, are 21 now, and they are allowed to go to clubs. Which means they are able to discover a whole new world, with whole new sounds, with all of these amazing djs who are coming to the states from all over. And definitely, this is where the shift is beginning now, because these people are exposed to a different kind of sound and music. I mean, EDM, what does that mean? You know, it’s pop, trash, commercial, electro for the “1 IQ” person out there, with a three note melody, like a Christmas carol – c’mon! Its just not clever at all! Its just so stupid. So thank god we have a shift, you know. Come and experience some intelligent and clever kind of sound, basically!
Promoters across the globe have long been trying to host a festival at Bethel Woods, the historic sight of Woodstock 45 years ago. Today, it’s finally happening in the form of Mysteryland USA, and you’ll be there playing at “Adam Beyer Presents: Drumcode”. You must be excited.
I am very excited. Obviously Adam is a cognitive mind, I work with him a lot. And to play Mysteryland for the first time is quite a historical event for me, obviously because of the history it has. So, I’m really looking forward to that one, actually. Another amazing event and festival that im going to be doing, also, is in June, and it’s called Glastonbury, and that is, you know, much older than Mysteryland. It’s been around for ages, and it’s probably bigger than Coachella, that you guys know over there. So it is quite an incredible achievement as well. This year is looking great, I’m really looking forward to it.
A few years back, for your birthday, Chris Low gave you the book, “The Face of Human Rights”, which you have described as being like a bible to you. Can you elaborate?
I’m a very righteous person. Obviouly my education was combined social sciences. It was a combination of sociology, anthropology, political science and woman studies as well. So, having that book, is part of what I grew up with, and Chris knew about what I liked in my life. And him giving me this book is pretty awesome. I’m very righteous, I don’t like the weak to be eaten up by the strong and I always try to defend that. Human rights, I mean, we have come a long way, we still have a lot to do to all be equal and perceived in an equal manner. For whoever you are, and where you come from, I think respect for the human being is essential to me.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
Currently no, im not reading any books now. I’m back on the road now, so I don’t have time to do that! But I always follow the news, I’m like a news freak, and I search, and I read the articles that i can when I can.
You’ve accredited your success toward working hard while capitalizing on the opportunities that have been given to you along the way. As many know, Carl Cox helped boost your career when he told DJ Mag that you were the most underrated DJs of 2009. Today, you’ve solidified yourself as one of the elite, which leads me to ask: who are some underrated up-and-coming artists that you have your eye on?
I have one boy, and his name is Marino Canal. And this boy, I have to tell you, is so talented, so incredible! The way he DJs, the sound that he does, is just unbelievable. And I’m trying to push him a lot, and im trying to help him a lot, and he will go really far if he has the right team behind him. If I was a manager, I would definitely pick this boy up. But I’m helping him, I’m trying to help him as much as I can, and put him with the right people. Yeah, he’s Spanish, and not only is he an amazing producer and DJ, he also looks good, which is amazing! It’s always a plus when you look good.