Face to Face with Nicole Moudaber
Face to Face with Nicole Moudaber – Interviewed by Shilpa Shah
She is undisputedly the Queen of Techno. She is fierce. She is beautiful, she is Drumcode’s leading lady and she is one of the most talented DJ’s out there. She spins magic, she draws crowds together and makes them dance with her perfectly executed sets. Born in Nigeria, and now settled in London, she has travelled the world, weaving magic and leaving people floored with her ability to tell a story with each and every one of her sets. I’d call her femme fatale with the way she grabs the attention of clubbers (and don’t forget that wild hair!), and she has sparked the curiosity of non-techno listeners. With her debut album “Believe” which is out now on Drumcode, she has shown technical mastery and diversity with each and every track and has wowed her fans with the sheer brilliance of her album. Having recently launched her “MOOD” imprint, she has firmly established that she is a force to be reckoned with. Having worked with some of the finest DJ’s and legends in the industry and touted as a DJ to watch out for, she is very highly respected amongst her peers. To be given an opportunity to sit down with the Queen of Techno is rare, and when Euphoric asked me interview her, I was thrilled. So let me introduce to you the one and only and the incredibly sexy Nicole Moudaber.
Nicole, may I say what an honor it is to have the opportunity to be able to speak to you. I hope you’re well. I know that you’re pressed for time so let’s get into it. You are considered as the Queen of Techno, and Drumcode’s leading lady. You have the support of some of the industry’s legends including Mr. Carl Cox. How does it feel knowing that you have this kind of support in the time you’ve been in the industry?
I haven’t been doing this job for a long time like everyone else so I feel really blessed. It stamps my work with the highest recognition and drives me to do more. I know for a fact what I’m doing comes from the heart and the passion I have for music. Having been a promoter, it allowed me to hear a lot of music along the way. When I decided to create and design sounds, all those years came flowing right into me, I think that’s what captures people.
For those who aren’t aware of how you got into dance music and techno/sleazy house, could you give us a bit of an insight?
Initially, I started promoting parties in Beirut after the war had ended. I have paved the way for dance music in that region, as I was the first to tour Ministry of Sound in the Middle East, and to book popular DJs at the time like Paul Van Dyk, Anthony Pappa, John Digweed (to name a few). At first, it was difficult as it was a new notion, but they caught onto it eventually. There isn’t an international A-List DJ who hasn’t played Beirut yet. I then decided to continue promotion in London, which I did for 5 consecutive years at the legendary club Turnmills. I had my monthly night running at the time. During that period, I bought a house in Ibiza (which needed to be refurbished), so promoting became a bit hectic and I needed something different, another challenge. I focused on the building the house for 3 years, and when that was accomplished, my love for music was so strong I needed to get back to it in one way or another, but not through organizing and promoting events. I went to the studio and locked myself in, and everything spiraled from there afterwards.
Before you settled in London, you moved between Nigeria and Lebanon – how difficult was it for you to have access to dance music?
I did my university years in London, so I was always exposed to dance music. In Nigeria I grew up on AfroBeat, soul and funk…
After much searching, I found that one of your first works was a remix you did for OrtzRoka – Midnight. Now, how did this remix come about and how did you find your own style while doing this remix? Was it a process in itself or was it just something that came to you and you just KNEW this was what your ‘style’ was going to be like?
I didn’t know what my style was; I was just making music that sounds good to my ears. If it rubs me the right way, then I’ll put my name on it. I never plan a specific sound or direction to the music I produce, it all flows naturally to me and takes its own shape as I go along. I’m constantly evolving, I’m not pigeonholed in one specific “style.”
Over the years, how have you progressed in terms of changing and evolving the way you produce music? Did you draw your influences from people you respected in the industry or was it a combination of research and experimenting?
The more you do it the better you get. That’s what I believe has happened in my journey. I find myself pushing towards new sounds and telling a different story every time. I’m influenced by art, skills, beauty, humanity and science.
When you had to remix a track like Carl Cox – Chemistry, were you nervous or did you know EXACTLY what you were going to do with it to add your own spin onto it?
I lived with it for days. It was a very difficult call for me when I initially heard it. It is a drum & bass full vocal record, Carl loves drum & bass; he plays it perfectly as well. I had to get inspired and I took my time with it, then one day it clicked for me and I knew where I should take the record. It topped the charts for 3 consecutive months at No1 and I won an award for best techno/minimal category in Miami 2012 IDMA Awards.
How did you get signed onto Drumcode? Could you share a bit of history as to how you are now Drumcode’s leading lady?
I developed a great relationship with Adam Beyer; we swapped music for a while, then the relationship turned into friendship later on, and I kept producing music with the label in mind. I love the sound of it, the ethos behind it, and I will continue to deliver top-notch techno to them.
Let’s move on to your debut album Believe. It has 9 very diverse tracks which range from dirty techno to sleazy house to minimal beats. What made you have so many diverse sounds on one album?
That’s what I’m about. I’m into various styles of house all the way to techno and anything in between. I wanted to have a variety that could work for various tastes and I’m very pleased with the outcome! The album topped the charts for weeks not only in the techno but also tech house and deep house.
Adam Beyer himself has collaborated with you on “Take Hold” which, in my opinion is dark, twisted and all kinds of sexy. How about giving us a bit of an idea about the thought process that went into making this track?
We wanted to do something together for a while but time didn’t permit until the album was in place. We swapped files, he sent me a bunch of patches and grooves and I continued from there. I’m still playing the track and every time it hits home.
When you sat down to put your album together, did you know what you were going to incorporate into it in terms of experimenting with different sounds, beats and styles? Was the entire process a complex one or did you have a relatively easy time getting the album together? (when I say easy, I mean the flow of composition!)
It was a long process. I had been working on it for almost 8 months. With all the traveling I do, I couldn’t lock myself into the studio and dedicate my time to it solely. The process was hard and intense, in terms of my personal experiences. My father was very ill last year; he was suffering from cancer for months and my whole life was upside down. Due to everything going on in my life, my emotions were highly intensified, from sadness, fear, love and anger. This album reflects a lot of my feelings actually, there is a lot of euphoric and emotional techno as well as fierce banging sounds and as for flow, it was flowing alright. Which leads me to believe that I perform better under extreme emotions. I believe the album is a testament to that.
So out of all the tracks on the album, which was the most difficult track in terms of – technical, composition and melodies? Did you go into the studio and have kind of like a writer’s block at any stage?
I get [writers] block all the time, I shouldn’t force it when I’m in that state of mind. But, through the album process I didn’t feel that at all actually. I was really ready to speak my mind and heart, given the circumstances I was in, the music just poured out of me.
So Nicole, when you go and do a set for a crowd, what is the one mantra you follow when you play a set? Do you know exactly how you’re going to pull the crowd in or do you watch the crowd and then create your set around them?
I never plan a set, I normally get to the club a bit earlier than my set time, to feel the crowd and get some insight as to what they’re into. My mantra has always been what Carl Cox actually said to me once…”Do Your Thing.”
Okay, so remember the controversy between Nina Kraviz and Maceo Plex after he made a particular statement on Nina using her sexuality to get to where she is [this was in relation to the bathtub snippet from her mini RA documentary] – your take on this statement?
Nina can do whatever she wants really. I personally don’t think she was using her sexuality; her performances and the music she plays say it all. She’s great at what she does and if men can’t handle that then tough shit. They’ll have to get used to it.
So you’ve worked with some of the most talented artists in the industry. If you had 3 artists to work with, who would they be and why?
Chris Liebing, I like his chunky grooves. Cassy, she is one of the top DJs. And Pink, I would love to remix her!
Your rise to fame was a result of hard work, perseverance and a lot of commitment and drive. A lot of upcoming producers want to take the easy route and rise to fame quickly. Your advice to them?
Easy come easy go. The growth has to be organic. There’s a lot to be learned a long the way, and you have to create a solid foundation first in order to have longevity in the future.
You recently launched “MOOD” and already there’s been a fair amount of buzz with the artists you’ve acquired on your roster. What can we expect from the label in the coming months?
MiniCoolBoyz EP is coming out at the end of October. Richie G is one to watch from Canada, incredible techno, been hammering his stuff lately. And a few releases of mine, remixes with Gary Beck, Guti, Alan Fitzpatrick … stay tuned!
How did the idea of MOOD come about? What is the story behind the name?
It derives from my name. I found I could play on the meaning as well, it made sense to me.
Nicole, what can we expect in terms of production/releases/remixes in the rest of the year? Any particular release you’re very excited about and can share details with us?
I’m working on a few projects this fall, a few collaborations and many originals. I’m very inspired after the summer, I’m ready to lock myself in again, let’s see what comes up
What is your current studio set up like and is there anything new you’ve added in there that you’re particularly excited about?
It’s still the same actually. I just updated the software and plugins. I’m adding new gear to my DJ set up however, I have so many new toys I’m dying to test out.
If you could choose 2 genres (outside of dance music) that you would love to compose music in, which would they be and why?
Ambient and chill out – I’m a big fan, always have been since the early Ibiza days. I quite like the trippiness of it. And probably funk, cause I got groove baby )
Nicole, I want to thank you for all the time you’ve taken out for us here at Euphoric Magazine. Could you leave a message for all your fans and readers? And we definitely hope you make your way to India soon!!
Without my fans I wouldn’t be here, so I thank you for your continued support and I hope to always bring new emotions through music. I’m hoping to visit India soon, never really had the chance to but I’m very curious to spend over a month traveling around and learning more about the richest and oldest culture in the world!
Interviewed by Shilpa Shah