Nicole Moudaber, the tale of London, Lebanon, NYC... and a police station
What’s On teams up with Hype to bring you Nicole Moudaber pictures and interview. The DJ plays at Nasimi Beach, Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, on May 15.
Unravelling Nicole Moudaber’s backstory is a mildly complex chore that takes in time spent in London, Lebanon and New York. That includes university studies, large-scale event promotion and an afternoon in a police station being questioned about her involvement in the Beirut scene. And all that before her now full-time career as a DJ, producer, label boss and radio show host.
Let’s start at the beginning: Nicole was born in Nigeria and spent some time there as a child, but is actually Lebanese. Later in life she moved to London to study but spent most weekends travelling anyway. One such trip took her to the bright lights and sleepless nights of New York where she was immediately consumed by the dance. “The first turning point for me was hearing the drums of Danny Tenaglia and Junior Vasquez,” she remembers. “I got hooked on dance music there and fell in love with it.”
After her studies she moved to Lebanon. Nicole decided she wanted to put on parties of her own there to introduce the region to sounds they hadn’t heard and DJs they’d never seen. After the war in 1996 her night Trashy Renaissance brought the likes of Paul van Dyk to the city and was “meant to defy the notion of hatred and prove we can do it together [the new generation] through music. It was a total success”.
Soon a scene began to form around Nicole’s activities and, incredibly, undercover journalists infiltrated one Halloween party attended by an array of counter-culturists. The articles that ran in the press resulted in Nicole being questioned by authorities.
“I will never go back to live in Lebanon, it’s way too small for me,” she says now. “There were a lot of challenges.
“I look back now and feel happy because I paved the way for dance music in Lebanon and the Middle East. I was the first one ever to bring DJs to that part of the world. At the time there were the Ministry Of Sound radio shows going on and I tried to get them into local stations. It was a developing market but we managed to do some great parties there. Happily, people have carried on the scene after I left. I went to play recently actually and I was quite impressed by the crowd, they were very cool.”
Returning to London, Nicole began promoting her own events at the capital’s famed Turnmills club and did so for five years. “Never once did I think I should put myself on the decks, even though I collected vinyl and had decks at home,” she recalls. Taking a break from music and indeed London, Nicole bought a house in Ibiza and spent two-and-a-half years doing it up. By then she was hungry to get back into music, but this time on her own terms. “I came back to London, locked myself in the studio for a couple of years and things spiralled from there.”
They sure have, because now, five or so years later, her discography takes in plenty of well-charted and heavily supported EPs on labels like Carl Cox’s Intec, Adam Beyer’s Drumcode and German stable Kling Klong. Her sound
has evolved from stripped back tech to more bulky, tracky techno bombs that appealed to the well honed tastes of Adam Beyer so much that last year he asked Nicole to release her debut album on his famed Swedish label. “I said, ‘Hell yeah!’”
Sadly, the album Believe was written around the time Nicole lost her father and that had an impact on the final sounds, tinting them with an extra dark and moody aesthetic that really set them apart. “It was a really emotional time for me,” she admits in a moment of reflection during an otherwise cheery interview.
Nicole kicked off 2014 with gigs in Philadelphia, New York and at Mexico’s BPM Festival, followed by a North and South America tour and is just recently back from Coachella, still struggling with jet lag. “Coachella was one of the best festivals ever,” she enthuses. “It was so well organised and the crowd was also so clued up, plus they are all beautiful people and the artists were second to none, from Usher to Pharrell.” Despite the EDM leaning nature of much of that festival, Nicole reports the crowd in her tent were more than up for it and that she believes reactions to music are the same all around the world. “Reacting to sound and music is the same whatever colour or culture you are. The effect is exactly the same in all human beings.”
As one of the most prominent women in electronic music in 2014, the glamorous, big-haired and plump-lipped Nicole also reports that she feels she has been treated on a level playing field as all her peers. “If you want to make it, the doors are there. No one is holding women back. Look at Maya Jane Coles, she is popping up all over the world because she wants to do it and she does it right. You get the odd detractor now and again but that’s okay,” she says of now being in the limelight herself rather than being the promoter working behind the scenes.
Nicole tells Hype she has a number of projects bubbling under. As well as working with Skin from Skunk Anansie, who is singing on one of Nicole’s upcoming EPs, so too is she doing a cyber collaboration with rave originator Green Velvet after the pair struck up a friendship at a gig in South America. But that’s not all, as she continues to A&R music for her own label, Mood Records, and – much like her mentor Carl Cox – Nicole is also embarking on her own weekly, globally syndicated radio show. “It will be an opportunity for me to play more sounds than I do when I DJ,” says Nicole. “Already it has been picked up by 12 countries around the world.”
Dubai isn’t one of those yet, but Nicole will be here in person on Thursday to play at Nasimi Beach when you can get the Moudaber experience in full HD, and who would sniff at that?
NICOLE’S BIG HITS
A quick guide to the producer’s landmark releases…
Nicole Moudaber vs Mel & Kim
Get Fresh (Nocturnal Groove, 2008)
This is where it all started for the now internationally recognised star, with an edit of UK pop stars Mel & Kim. Nicole transformed the track into a spine-tingling house builder that set the precedent for her captivating main room style.
Nicole Moudaber & Victor Calderone
The Journey Begins (Drumcode, 2012)
This aptly named two tracker marked the start of a fruitful relationship with Adam Beyer’s Drumcode that continues to this day. It also signalled a switch in Nicole’s sonic focus from minimal and tech to a more rolling techno groove.
In The Mood (Mood Records, 2013)
This funked up, hip house leaning and ghetto-fried EP saw Nicole step out for the first time on her own new label, Mood Records. Since then the imprint has gone on to champion the likes of Carlo Lio and Macromism to the wider world.
One Day Later (Intec, 2014)
Kicking off the year with a return to Carl Cox’s Intec label, Nicole offered up maybe her toughest, darkest music yet here. The title track is a ten-minute techno sermon that culminates in a stormy and all-consuming peak.
Nicole Moudaber at Nasimi Beach, Atlantis, The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. Thursday, 2pm to 3am, Dhs100 after 7pm. Taxi: Atlantis, The Palm