The British Powerhouse Offers a Crash Course On Real Techno
Words and Interview by Kathy Iandoli.
The newly coined EDM (see our EDM special report here) has become a hodgepodge of sorts for electronic music. Those who aren’t fluent in the roots of the genre often mistakenly toss any digital bassline into the EDM pile. Nicole Moudaber is out to change that. The Nigeria-born, UK bred DJ/producer has been causing quite a stir in the music world with her exciting new breed of techno. She even had the legendary Victor Calderone assisting her on the collaborative EP The Journey Begins.
Nicole’s latest, Sonic Language EP, grabs subtleties from her homeland Africa in the way of tribal drums and deep production. Per Nicole, this project was one of her most emotional to date. In catching up with Nicole Moudaber she breaks down some of the history of techno music, the sexist undertones of calling a female DJ a “DJane,” and how any audience across the globe can make a good party if all the right music is playing.
Do you feel like nowadays people are throwing every form of electronic music into the EDM pile?
Well, I mean that whole EDM phenomenon as such is brand new in the sense it describes one specific genre in the US. Moreover the kids at the moment are exposed to this kind of music, the pop dance culture—you hear it constantly on radios and music tv channels— massive difference between what we do and what is considered dance at the moment, and we’re trying to educate and enlighten them about our sound, be it house or techno and it’s variations. Each time we play to a crowd we grab more people into our world, real house music.
Sometimes it goes over ground; sometimes it stays there. We have more of a longevity, I think, in what we do. I mean we have been doing it 20 years on, and those hit records that you hear come and go. So, I don’t know.
Specific to techno, how do you feel like it’s evolved over the years?
It has evolved only in the sense that we have new technology in place and we can twist the sounds that we have. So it has evolved in the sound realm, but I don’t think the core of it has changed as such. It’s just that the sound is a bit more polished, the sound can take it further because we experiment more with the technology that we have. But the core of it, it’s still the same.
When you were coming up, who were some of the artists that influenced you?
Wow. I mean in dance, of course people like Carl Cox, like Danny Tenaglia. That’s from the DJ world. But in general, I was exposed to funk and soul, a lot of pop and a lot of Afro-beats, because I grew up in Africa. So it was a bit of a mixture.
Which part of Africa are you from?
I was born in a city called Ibadan in Nigeria.
So growing up in Africa, you could hear the legitimate tribal beats. Like, you heard the analogue version of what you’re translating to digital.
Big time, and if you hear the new records that I’m doing as well coming out on my album, it’s got a lot of African influences. Because that’s what I grew up on, a lot of drums. It’s very percussive-based, my kind of music. Whether it’s techno or house.
This is Sonic Language…
Sonic language. I mean the core of my tracks are quite percussively. Sonic Language is a bit on the deeper techno tip and with a break that translates a bit of emotions and then breaks into a tough groove, basically.
What did you aim to do differently this time around from your previous projects?
I’m trying to put more emotions in my tracks. Slight melodies in and out, where as before it was like straight full-on jacking grooves. Right now I’m trying to explore a bit more, have a little bit of melodies in my techno expressions. And it works! People love that. I do, too.
How did you link up with Victor Calderone?
Victor, my god! He was one of my heroes as well, you know? I worked with him for a few years. I was doing his international bookings in Europe, and we developed a friendship. Of course, the logical progression after that was to do a collaboration. From being a fan to collaborating with him is incredible. We did a really timeless record, a track called “The Journey Begins.” That is quite a timeless record, I think. It’s got a lot of emotions and a lot of groove and a drive. You can play that record all the time and you won’t get bored of it kind of thing.
When did you realize that you were moving in an upward direction in your career? What would you mark as one of the moments that you’re like, “Whoa! This is actually happening!”
I think things really started to take a different dimension when I won at the IDMA Awards back in March in Miami. I won for Best Techno/Minimal category, and that was for my remix of Carl Cox’s single called “Chemistry.” I think after that, a lot of people opened their eyes and started to take notice. But of course, if it wasn’t for Carl discovering me three years ago… You know, you always need a push from an established DJ to show you to the world and that happened with Carl. He discovered me and of course showed me to the world and of course things spiraled from there.
Do you think that techno is still kind of a boy’s club?
No, I never thought it was.
Never. Because I’m a techno freak, I’ve always been and I’m not a boy. [Laughs] I do have a schizophrenic personality, yeah. I am a boy and a girl at the same time. [Laughs] But you know, no. I never thought it was a boy’s club at all. I mean when I used to club here in the UK, half is boys, half is girls. Girls love it as much as boys, really.
It just feels like when women are mentioned in techno, they’re only focusing on their looks.
Exactly! And I don’t like that. I’m trying to bend that rule and change it because it’s just rubbish! Music is music. It’s got no gender, no color, no odor. You know? It’s just rubbish to put and label and have that stigma around. It’s got to change. Completely. It’s not my fault if I’m pretty or sexy. That’s besides the point! Well, I do look at hot male DJs and I do say, “Oh he’s hot!” So it goes both ways. I do think it goes both ways, you know? That’s it. You can’t say, “Male DJ and female DJ.” What’s that all about? I just don’t understand. Do you say, “This is a male pop artist,” or a “female pop artist?” You just say their names and that’s it!
That’s true. They don’t say Mr. DJ and Ms. DJ.
Yeah, what the hell is that? And no, the best one is, “DJane.” Have you heard that before?
DJane? It sounds like Jane, Tarzan’s girlfriend! I mean, what is that?
The accessory in the jungle: the DJane.
Exactly! I think it’s a European thing. They call female DJs “DJane.” Like what the hell is that?
That’s so sexist.
Yeah! Just shut up. Shut up and listen to the music. Basically.
So what’s your favorite country, or venue, city to perform?
I don’t really have a favorite one because they’re all amazing, you know? It would be unfair to just name a few because they’re all amazing. They’re all unique in their own way, and they all feel exactly the same thing wherever I play. So, I can’t really say which one, to be honest.
Is London still hot for techno?
Ugh, yeah! Big time! I mean I played a gig here the end of October that was for Drumcode. They did a party in London and they didn’t do it in a club. They did it in a warehouse! Like a really grungy kind of warehouse. It’s sort of coming back to where we started doing these parties. That whole warehouse vibe, you know? Dark boxes, creepy walls, rubbles everywhere and people just going off! It was incredible! It’s that sort of party that I’d like to see happening more, the rawness of it. No nice walls, no nice tables and chairs. Just there for the music!
Is the crowd responsive in London?
Well, I think it depends on the parties you play really, and the music that you play and the promoters that you play with. I don’t think it’s a general rule, not at all.
No. As I said, that London party that I played was off the hook. It depends.
If you weren’t here doing this, where do you think you would be?
I think I would be…sit tight…Amnesty International with the U.N.
Yeah, talking about human rights. That’s my second hobby.
Wow, that’s quite a hobby!
Yeah. I’m into that a lot and I fight for it all the time, all my life. I’m an activist!
Well, the more famous you get, the more that rises too with the amount of exposure to continue activism.
I mean I can see myself doing that sort of work at a later stage in my life. Sometimes I do think to put some money aside from my gigs to organizations that fight human rights and modern slavery, mainly. There’s so much modern slavery around and it’s just really unfair. And I think I can do a lot to offer and fight that and get it right.