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Nicole Moudaber on the hypnotic merits of techno

The beats that won't stop bringing this DJ back

Once I was sat face-to-face with Nicole Moudaber – or rather fro-to-fro, in our case – she divulged to me that the activities she repeats in Ibiza during vital downtime are “roast, toast, dip, oil.” I took that as an alternative to 'Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat', which most of you will know as the title to one of Fatboy Slim's boisterous tracks that's served as an essential mantra to lovers of the sesh. Moudaber has lived here for 16 years and she's still game for the techno-soaked all night parties the island is famed for, but in between her gigs across the realms of Paradise, Circoloco and Carl Cox this season, she was seduced by nature's lure for a roasting toast.

Prior to us meeting up at her friend's villa, my first taste of Moudaber in the flesh was during a panel discussion on gender inequality in the dance music industry, where she spoke of being a child that had rejected dolls in favour of hammers and nails. The panel was at this year's International Music Summit, and as a dynamic, outspoken character with a commanding presence, she left me with a solid impression. Candidly stating “not a lot of men can do what I can do, so maybe not a lot of women can do it,” she's unapologetic about where she's stood today after grafting through the ranks. The Nigerian-born, Lebanese trailblazer can't personally relate to gender inequality within the industry because she simply has never had to battle against it compared to some of her female peers, and so it was compelling – if a little tense – to hear the dialogue unfold.

Anyway, back to the present, and before revealing one of her lifestyle mantras, she'd cut to it and asked what would be on the cards during our discussion. I'd put in a shift on YouTube to get a better feel for her character away from the booth, and with a gauge on her having a good sense of humour, I decided to break the ice with a prod at the much-discussed gender inequality matter she seems so determined to remove herself from. To put it less crudely, I offered that there'd be a strong focus on the fact she'd successfully conquered the dance music scene despite – shock horror – being a female. It did the trick, and from there I delved into what keeps Moudaber feeding hungrily from the techno tree.

In Moudaber's case, it's a tree that's long been rooted underground. Her profile from 2009 onwards – the year Carl Cox pushed her to the forefront – represents only a small fraction of her diverse, lucrative career in the dance music industry. I already knew where her timeline began within the industry, but I wanted to hear straight from the horse's mouth story of that profound, life-changing gig in New York at the infamous Tunnel Club with Danny Tenaglia on duty. She animatedly retold the story of how Tenaglia introduced her to the powerful properties of techno, which then sent her off on a techno-soaked rampage. From “professional clubber” to relentless promoter – first by introducing house music to post-war Beirut in the late '90s and being instrumental in building the region's first electronic scene, and then to running with her Soundworx residency in London over a period of six years that saw her booking over 450 DJs, her experiences are largely unrivalled. During that time of surrounding herself with booth dictators, she had no aspirations of becoming either a DJ or a producer and interestingly, during those first 24 months here in Ibiza, she didn't enter the grounds of Space, Amnesia or DC-10 once – clubs which she's now very comfortably familiar with. When she returned to the scene, she decided to lock herself in the studio with the knowledge gained from a scholastic career on the dance floor guiding her creativity. Carl Cox discovered her in 2009 and BOOM, she rode that rocket to the top with savage releases, stellar mixes, her own record label, Mood Records, and headlining gigs at cutting edge festivals across the planet. She might not have seen it all, as she found Tenaglia after thousands had already discovered the hypnotic properties of techno beats, but she's witnessed a solid chunk and been instrumental in developing the scene in different corners of the globe.

"I think the beats used in techno have a power to almost hypnotise and send you into a sort of trance, it's almost spiritual."

At a time when various digital publications are questioning the quality and creative content of current productions, including Thump, which earlier this year questioned whether house and techno are thriving or stagnating, it's reassuring to hear that one of the scene's most prolific figures is as energised and creatively inspired by dance music as they ever were. “Some people are precious about dance music and want it to stay underground, but I love that techno and house are reaching so many corners of the world right now.” While the EDM vs underground debate continues to rage on, with Moudaber also being one of the artists to voice her distaste for the former, particularly in light of its presence in Ibiza, she'd been impressed to see that at a recent gig at EDC Las Vegas – which notoriously attracts an EDM crowd – her stage was jam-packed: “With more recognition comes more opportunity – for more parties, more exciting collaborations, and more and more upcoming, forward-thinking young producers.”

Collaborations are one facet of her career that she's been smashing of late. The end of last summer saw the release of a year-and-a-half long project with Skin of Skunk Anansie. Their five-tracker Breed EP, which was released on Mood Records, was born from a desire to craft a hybrid of rock and techno. The EP package contained anthems that reverberated within Ibiza's clubs last season and some are still heard doing the damage in live sets. At the time I caught her, she was buzzing for the release of Breed The RMXS, a 10-tracker package that stands as one of the biggest remix projects she's ever done. A solid line-up of revered producers appear, including Carl Craig, Scuba, Jamie Jones, Pan-Pot, Fur Coat and Paco Osuna. Dropping as a digital-only release, it was up for grabs on 2 September and as she's been hammering them over the season, with Fur Coat and Scuba's reworks being lapped up at DC-10, it's no wonder that on Soundcloud, the tracks have collectively totalled over 90k plays.

Given the speed of her rapid ascent propelled by a tireless stream of material, what has she found to be the biggest test in continuously producing the kind of hypnotic techno beats that can keep clubbers in vertical position on the dance floor for hours? As with hundreds of other producers who DJ from continent to coninent, it's purely down to managing to make time for it in between a chaotic touring schedule. “I know I have fans around the world and I want to be able to play for all of them. I love travelling, but alongside running my label and curating my radio shows, it doesn't leave me with a lot of time to get really stuck into the studio. Of course, the upside of this is that travelling and experiencing different dance floors across the globe can really inspire you.”

The wild-haired beat hoarder has experienced a vast number of clubbing havens across the world from both sides of the coin. During her steadfast progression, she'll have been inspired by the clubbers, other DJs and producers, and the visited continents, however, her connection to dance music continues to run deeply within: "I think the beats used in techno have a power to almost hypnotise and send you into a sort of trance – it's almost spiritual. There's something very instinctive and almost tribal about dancing to that kind of beat." When you appreciate just how affected she was at that gig in New York and how the thudding beat has never lost its grip on her, you really feel that she has your back on the dance floor. She intuitively comprehends the abilities of what only quality dance music is capable of affecting, and she always gets behind the booth with fresh determination to have you reach an altered state of consciousness.

Catch Nicole Moudaber at the Paradise closing at DC-10 on Wednesday 28 September.


WORDS | Aimee Lawrence

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