Led by the passion to unite people with her music, and jailed for exorcising those demons within narrow-minded society, Nicole Moudaber’s global techno overhaul has been as socially charged as it has creatively balanced.
Without cashing in on her female prominence in the electronic music industry, Moudaber’s ability to hold the ranks alongside Carl Cox and Adam Beyer alike has seen the dark and melodically refined exploits of her studio work reign mercilessly over a movement too often cast under the shadows of the great clubbing spectrum.
For 2012, however, her globetrotting ventures between Ibiza, the US, and Australia signaled hope yet for the future of techno and her likeminded peers. Beatportal sat down with Moudaber during Carl Cox’s 500th radio broadcast during Amsterdam Dance Event to talk discovering techno, musical insurgency, and her forthcoming artist album for Beyer’s Drumcode imprint.
Between bagging an IDMA and the globetrotting summer tour schedule you recently saw out, how has 2012 treated you?
The year has been really good to me. I had some incredible releases and a great run of shows throughout. Between the festivals and Ibiza, there were some incredible moments—lots of jetlag but the memories and landmarks outweigh that element considerably.
You recently ushered in Carl Cox’s 500th radio show at Amsterdam Dance Event, one which must have been a significant landmark not only for your involvement in the show, but with Carl himself. How did you first come to associate with the techno legend, and what has allowed you to develop such a strong relationship with Intec over the years?
Carl’s radio producer and I are very good friends, and so back in the day I was in a great position to start sending him my music. One day Carl started really picking it up and playing it on his radio show. After a few great spots on the show, he invited me to play a very intimate London show alongside him and I have been playing his parties religiously ever since. I have felt really lucky to release so much alongside Intec, and getting the IDMA for Best Techno/Minimal Track with my remix of “Chemistry” was a huge boost for that relationship. I am really excited for my next EP with the guys.
You hail from a significantly more diverse background than your everyday techno heavyweight. How did electronic music first come to enter your life, and what made you pursue it as a career?
My origins tend to confuse people because I was born in Nigeria to Lebanese parents but I am technically English. During the period I was studying in London, I made a trip to New York, which is when I first visited Twilo nightclub. That was the first time I properly heard this type of music and I was completely smitten with what I was hearing. My education had nothing to do with that music or culture—I was more poised to be aiming for the House of Commons of United Nations—but it truly captured my heart and I decided that electronic music was where I wanted to be. I started putting on shows in London and wherever else I could until eventually it was apparent that I could take them across the globe.
The story goes that Lebanon saw your all-inclusive philosophy within electronic music challenged to the core. Talk us through the circumstances that got you arrested for your parties and consequently pull them from the area?
At the time Syrians were heavily involved in Lebanon and I had started putting on parties. One happened to be around Halloween and as a result, all the gays took advantage and came dressed up as drag queens and other outrageous stuff—all in the name of fun. It turned out that undercover journalists were scouting the party. They took photos and it ended up being a five-page spread in the Middle Eastern equivalent of Cosmopolitan talking about homosexuality and perversion in the Middle East—my party being heavily featured within this article. Five months down the line I was asked to go down to the police station because the authorities had some questions for me. When I got down there, they were treating me like a terrorist, asking me all sorts of questions about my affiliation with homosexual people and whether I had seen them doing things. It was a really sad and outrageous situation, but luckily I had connections and therefore didn’t stay long. It was enough to persuade me that I was wasting my time out there and that these people would never get that sense of ritual and community I was trying to bring within these events, so I very much stuck to London and Europe from there onwards.
Despite your award-winning streak and high-profile label ventures, your sound appears to remain organically tailored in a time when repetition is often a way into the charts. Is this a conscious move on your own part?
I have made some really dark tracks and some really melodic and different tracks, and this is all because I refuse to get stuck into one musical box. When it comes to my sets, it is about what I feel and what fits the mood and general atmosphere of the club. The hip and trendy has never been of much interest to me musically. I think sticking to your guns and coming out with a reputation for a sound you genuinely believe in is far more important as an artist.
Given your own diverse approach, how do you interpret the current surge in attention for electronic music and the way this has spilled onto your own career and experiences over the past couple of years?
There is often a misconception that dance music has only just become a huge and positive movement—it has been a positive scene for years. We now have kids opening their ears and eyes to what is out there and fully embracing it, but this is what has happened throughout the history of music, not just dance music. Of course, the sound has evolved and technology has changed the way we make music as well as the various qualities that it encompasses, but music by its very nature is a positive and progressive force, whether you are an artist or a listener. Some avenues of it aren’t for everyone, but the most important part is finding one you can be positive about and giving it your enthusiasm and passion.
Off the back of your recent Sonic Language EP for Adam Beyer’s Drumcode imprint, there is a whisper of your debut artist album for the label dropping within the new year. Talk us through the approach you have taken for this body of work, and what pushed you towards Drumcode for the release?
This artist album has been a work-in-progress for a while, but I am confident it will be ready in the next year. The whole thing will take on musical elements that I love from across the musical spectrum. There are some chilled elements, some deeper tech and straight-up techno tracks, and a lot of emotional spins on the sound of techno generally. I have also incorporated my own vocal work and generally just want this to be an album that flows straight from the everyday inspiration that keeps me doing what I do. Adam has been incredibly supportive of my sound, and off the back of our last EP, I am positive this is a good platform for me to release the album on.
With so much ground covered for 2012 and a slew of high-profile releases behind you, what else can we expect from you for 2013 outside of your debut artist album for Drumcode?
Outside of the artist album and a few other releases, next year is going to have a strong focus on my own Mood Records imprint. I have been waiting and planning to get this up and running, and for me, 2013 will be about developing and shifting the sound and ethos around the world. We are planning a long run of label tours across as many different continents as possible, and I cannot wait to push forward with this personal imprint.
What has been the hardest aspect of your career to date, and is it one that you feel you have conquered?
In the beginning, I struggled to find a sound I could rightfully brand my own. I did some deeper and more minimal stuff in the earlier days, but the way it gravitated was definitely just me working away and developing a sound which I believed in. That was incredibly challenging and time-consuming, not to mention infuriating because I was trying to express myself but it simply wasn’t working. I guess it took a while for me to find my groove, but now it feels like the ball is rolling very effectively.