Techno Tuesday: Nicole Moudaber and Skin interview each other on new ‘Breed’ EP
Techno Tuesday is a feature on Dancing Astronaut documenting the culture of underground dance music. We’ll bring you exclusive interviews, tracks, and narratives from artists within the techno, tech house, and deep house world in an effort to shed light on some of the best talent outside the world of mainstream dance music.
Nicole Moudaber has proven a seminal force in the international techno community. The Lebanese DJ is constantly on the move, bringing her brand of dark, sexy dance music across the globe 365 days a year.
Moudaber recently teamed up with Skin, the front woman of Skunk Anansie, for a five-track EP named Breed. The collaboration resulted in some of Nicole’s most conceptual work to date, bridging Skin’s rock background with her sinister techno production.
In the spirit of Techno Tuesday, we thought it would be interesting to have the two artists interview each other on their history with dance music and their recent collaboration.
The Breed EP is available on Beatport now.
Photo Credit: Christoph Köstlin
Skin to Nicole Moudaber
1. Tell me about your career progression musically from the beginning of your career to present. I know one night in NYC with Danny Tenaglia was where the drums found you! Did you know you wanted to work with dance music specifically from then on?
Nicole: Absolutely not, at that point I had only just discovered the artist in me. I didn’t know that I was going to get into this field of music but the intense passion that I felt, drove me to dig deeper and get into this scene. Consequently, I started going to every single party around the world. I experienced all the DJs, and basically started chasing that feeling. Then one day a friend of mine suggested that we start throwing parties, and that’s how it all began. I threw my first party towards the end of 1999 in Beirut and that’s when my promoting years began before I decided to make the music that I loved.
2. What is it about the techno, house, deep house genres that makes it more soulful than some other “dance music” genres in your opinion. Can you name some artists you admire?
Nicole: Back then we had artists like Danny Tenaglia and Carl Cox with his first compilation called FACT, and that really put me into the techno vibe as well as going out clubbing in the UK to hear proper UK techno. To me, that repetitive, trance-y kind of music is a state of mind that takes me onto another level, whether it’s house, techno, or anything else in between. It’s more of a ritual-like experience to me and that’s what transcends and makes me more spiritual with the world and myself. It’s what I grew up with and understand so well.
If you go back in time, you’ll see that the drums are a very ritualistic instrument in the sense that when heard repetitively, they can take you into a trance, which is actually what transcendental meditation is about — those repetitive motions and sounds can elevate a person.
3. These past few years you’ve had a rigorous touring schedule. Where do you find time to produce new music and where does your inspiration stem from?
Nicole: My inspiration is constantly subjected to my music and to other DJs when they play as well as from my experiences of meeting new people from around the world. It also stems from life in general and whatever I’m going through at that specific moment in time.
As for producing, after I finish my tours I immediately lock myself in the studio because the inspiration that I have gathered on the road is still alive. Unfortunately, I can’t properly produce on the road as I’m hardly sleeping and I’ve got weird schedules so whenever I have time I dig through my library and prepare my weekly radio show, which is a big commitment at the moment. But by going through various genres of music I get a lot of inspiration to come up with new ideas to lay down in the studio when I’m back home in London.
Nicole Moudaber to Skin
1. How has the transition been for you now performing DJ sets compared to performances with the whole rock band of Skunk Anansie. Is the energy from the difference audiences comparable?
SKIN: Oh yeah it’s completely different. When you’re doing a rock gig it’s your show, your production, people are paying just to see you, and they watch you play. But when I do a DJ gig they are coming to dance — they don’t really care who I am as long as the music’s good, it’s a very different energy. People are there for different reasons, they are there to dance, drink, and party, there’s a lot of things going on, not just what’s going on the decks.
2. With your rock background with Skunk Anansie, did you ever think you’d end up working in the “technosphere”? What are your earliest memories of being drawn to techno? Do you recall a certain DJ or producer who captured your attention.
SKIN: Kind of, yeah. I’ve always been into techno and house music and I’ve been a raver since the age of 14 where we’d drive around trying to find an acid rave in the countryside. But musically, I preferred playing guitar, singing to music, that whole rock thing. Part of my beginnings were really with reggae but I’m terrible at singing reggae so that was never going to be a thing and before that I was singing jazz. My granddad had probably the most famous reggae spot in London, where people like Bob Marley and Cassius Clay, before he became Muhammad Ali, used to go. Then when I was 17 I used to DJ for my school at sixth form, and I was sort of like the resident DJ. I used to play all kind of records, house, pop, indie; I was the one that had the biggest record collection.
Then the band took over and it was all about Skunk Anansie, and house and techno were more of an outlet to dance and party. In 2000, I was going to have a party at my house so I bought a couple of 1210’s and I had about eight DJs turn up and we had them play one after the other. It went all day and night and it was so much fun. So after that I had decks in my house and I used to play records on them and I suppose that’s where the idea started.
And then for some reason people always asked me to do DJ gigs and I always answered with “No, I’m not a DJ” and it wasn’t until 2009 that I finally said “yes”. The scary thing was that I never did a warm up set and was always a headlining DJ so I’d make mistakes in front of a room full of people, but that’s how you learn!
DJing is a really difficult thing and it takes a long time to be good, you have be very technical-minded and quite spiritual to feel out the room and sense what people are getting into. I’ve always had huge respect for DJs because there are so many things that can go wrong. So the transition was good in terms of I always had gigs but the first few gigs I was rubbish but there was something that I did that made me get bookings again but I definitely had to convince and get the respect of clubbers and DJs because I couldn’t just walk into a room thinking I’m the big shit because I’m a rock singer because at the end of the day that means nothing.
3. How did the production process creating the BREED EP with me differ from your creative/technical experience with Skunk Anansie?
SKIN: When I’m writing for Skunk Anansie, we write the songs months or even a year before we go near a studio. Then we do pre-production on them and by the time you get to the studio you have an idea of what’s going to happen. You have your songs written, you know what you’re going to be doing and you just add a few small layers of creativity.
Whereas with you [Nicole], the whole creative process was in the studio and we wrote the songs right then and there and made changes as we needed to. It’s really great because it was definitely more spontaneous and you try to look for things in a different way. And the thing is, you can come away from the studio after days of work with nothing or for some reason things just connect and you have something, and that’s what happened with the ‘BREED’ EP. Every time you and I got into the studio we had synergy and created something really amazing. Then all the really hard work was when you had to work with what I gave you and get the right groove under the initial exciting ideas.
It really is quite different. If you get a house track right it could take months, whereas with a rock band you gotta that shit done before you leave the studio because you can’t go back and make any changes.
Watch the documentary on the making of the ‘Breed’ EP