When I first meet Nicole Moudaber, she’s chilling out on a rooftop terrace with panoramic views looking out over her Ibizan kingdom. The techno DJ and producer has just spoken in ‘The Art of Playing Differently’ discussion at IMS 2016 – and different she certainly is. With roots spanning the globe, from Nigeria to London via Lebanon, Moudaber’s character is as rich as her global footprint. She chops up boundaries for fun – whether they’re musical, cultural or societal – by enforcing her no shit policies on the dancefloor and elsewhere, making her one of music’s most electrifying names.
Nicole’s rise to the spotlight has been impressively sharp, having achieved a monumental amount in under ten years. With her label MOOD Records, an ambitious stream of releases and a reputation for putting on one hell of a show under her belt, she has well and truly arrived, but her passion for the crowd and her pure drive to go further are as strong as ever. We found out her thoughts on everything from the role of music to gender issues. Get to know the toughest name in techno below, before she joins Jamie Jones on Wednesday night at the Paradise opening party.
How did you get started in music?
On the dancefloor. In New York I discovered the artist in me while I was listening to Danny Tenaglia. He transformed my life. Ever since I got hooked up on the music, consequently I became a promoter for about ten years, and then I had to stop promoting for a bit because I bought a house in Ibiza, and it required a big refurbishment project that I had to be very close to. So I stepped out of promoting in the music business, I got based here, and then when that project ended, my love for the music was very strong. I wanted to get back into it but not as a promoter. So I went into the studio and I got locked – not knowing where it’s going to lead me – I just wanted to make the music that I loved. And the rest is history.
Do you think that because of your club background and the fact that you started on the dancefloor makes you understand your crowd better?
Absolutely. I had the best education on the dancefloor. I was a “professional clubber” basically, that was my job. I didn’t work for many years, I just went to clubs. I was just following that feeling the music was giving me. And so I studied every DJ as such and [was] listening to how they put the music together, when, at what time, and dissecting everything in my head and my heart. And now I see myself doing exactly that and translating what I’ve learnt through these years.
I watched your interview with Skin when you talk about your track ‘Don’t Talk To Me When I’m Dancing’. As a DJ and producer does that frustrate you when you see that happening in the crowd?
Yes! Before [playing in front of] the crowd it happened to me many times. “Hi, what you doing?”, “What’s your name?”… The music’s so loud in my ear – you don’t want to talk when you’re listening to music and when you want to get transported into your own world as such. You don’t want to open a conversation with anybody, doing small talk, “What’s your name?”, “Where do you come from?”, “Do you come here often?”… You don’t want to do that, so don’t interrupt – just enjoy, basically. And that was the whole purpose of doing this track, and I have to say, Skin nailed it with the lyrics. She just put right there and it’s amazing. And we got this rapper, Zebra Katz, that I met, so I got him in the studio in Brooklyn in New York, and he laid down his bits as well. And we thought, you know, having this banter between her and him would make the record interesting, and I still play it today. I open my sets with it to make people understand – this is the energy now, this is it.
Did you find it easy to collaborate with her?
Yes, oh my God! She’s fantastic to work with. I learnt a lot from her, because you know I come from a 4/4 background and she’s obviously a songwriter, so merging rock and techno and learning how to construct a song with her was amazing. So we’re definitely going to be doing stuff together again. She’s actually releasing an EP on my label under her moniker Juvenile, coming out end of this month. So she wants to do club music, she loves DJing. We DJ a lot together – we just came back from Coachella in the States, and we did a back to back there over two weekends, and we have many shows planned for the summer as well.
Is that more appealing to you, that sort of collaboration which is more unexpected?
Yes, yes because it’s challenging. It’s not in your comfort zone, you learn, you push your boundaries, and I love any challenge.
You’ve talked about how peak emotions bring the best music. Do you think you ever push yourself too hard to find that?
I don’t push myself at all, because once I start playing the music, after twenty minutes or so into my set, I get transported into another world. I transform into another person as well. This process gets translated to people and they feel it, and they go with it, and they go with me. Especially when I do my long sets, this is where the story is told at its best.
You mentioned how you’re going fully digital, why is that?
Because at the moment I’m half digital and half not, and obviously the way I play, if I go fully digital, it’s going to allow me to do much more, and to use that technology to be even more creative and learn the software properly, and make it my own in my own unique way. We all play in a different manner, and so it’s just a case of learning it properly and making it your own and be unique in that way.
You’ve said how you still go back to old school music. Do you think you’ll be able to find that balance between forward-thinking technology and older genres?
At the end of the day, the music is not going to change. I don’t use technology to distort the essence of the piece of music that I’m playing. It has to keep its own essence and elements. And so I’m very conscious about that and I don’t want to change the story of that producer that made that actual record, as such. It’s good to enhance what you have, but not to lose what it means basically.
You’re in the gender debate talk [at IMS Ibiza]. That’s going to be good…
There’s going to be some ass whipping going on there!
What sort of issues are we looking at that you’re going to tear into?
I mean, listen, I’ve been asked by tonnes of journalists about this topic, and most of the time, I refuse to answer. First because they’re inexperienced and not knowledgeable enough about the subject. And I only agreed to talk about this at the IMS on the one condition that I’m surrounded by intellectuals, and people that I can look up to basically. So if the conversation is not an academic and high level then I will not do it. And so my point of view about women the music industry, let’s face it: the women who work behind the scenes, there are the managers, the agents, the PRs that make stuff happen anyway. The women who are out there on the field, let’s say – the DJs, the producers – it’s down to them to make it happen. It’s down to the personality of the person. There are a lot of men that cannot do what I do, for example – loads of them. And there are loads of women who can’t do it either, so if you have that personality and you are willing to take that journey, that path, that dedication – it’s out there and it’s for you to grab it. It’s simple. Nobody is stopping you and nobody cares if you’re a man or a woman. If you do it well, people are going to listen. It’s simple.
I don’t see it in Hollywood, I don’t see it in the urban or the pop worlds, that differentiation. You can’t say: “Who is better, Prince – God rest his soul – or Beyoncé?”. There’s no comparison! They’re totally different and they do it well, both of them. So why do we have this issue in our dance world where in fact, the whole ethos of what we do is about joining people together, creating incredible moments, tolerance, love. So why are we focused on this? I don’t understand it.
I guess you could say it’s almost hypocritical.
It’s like, is it because it’s out on the internet and people follow like sheep and talk about it all the time? No, it’s not supposed to be this way.
Hopefully you can change that! What’s next for you – what have you got coming up over the summer?
The summer in Ibiza is looking amazing. Space Days with Carl Cox are going to be intense and emotional. Obviously I’ve got my opening and closing of Paradise with Jamie Jones, and DC10 Circoloco dates. So I’m in and out every week, and it’s great because it’s my home here and I love it. I did my first stage festival in New York as part of EDC, and now I have confirmed three stages for 2017 in New York, Vegas and California. So I’m really looking forward to the next phase for sure.