Nicole Moudaber has a reputation that precedes herself. The techno monarch not only DJs at the best parties and produces industriously, she also promotes parties in the many cities around the world and heads her own label called MOOD. Furthermore, the Lebanese-Nigerian DJ-producer can be credited for building a party scene in post-war Beirut as well as continuing her trailblazing streak of establishing her career in a noted male-dominated arena that is the club scene. So, prominent as she is, Nicole has been a popular subject for music features regarding gender inequality such as this piece by The New York Times. Consequently, JUICE spoke with Nicole via email ahead of her KL show early this month and broached the same subject, as well as about maintaining some semblance of sanity in her jetsetting lifestyle, what still surprises her after years of DJing, her idol Meryl Streep, and more.
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You basically started a clubbing/party scene in Beirut after the war. Did you have an intention when you were organising the events then? Possibly to bring back some sense of escape after such terror?
I had been studying in London and travelling to international parties whenever I could, and I didn’t see why the people of a city I loved shouldn’t enjoy the same thing. I deliberately chose to hold it in a bombed out mosque and cathedral to oppose the old culture of hatred. I was the first to introduce that kind of culture not only in Beirut, but in the entire region. Many people had never seen a DJ before, or even heard house music – but now every DJ in the world plays Beirut. It’s something I’m extremely proud of.
You were converted to electronic music when you saw Danny Tenaglia play live, do you have the same hope that you can do the same to unsuspecting people who watch you as well?
I wouldn’t ever want to compare myself to Danny Tenaglia as he is somebody I look up to massively. However, I am a great believer in the power of live electronic music when it’s done well, so I hope my sets can touch others in some way.
Travelling all around the globe and having long stints in some places such as London, Ibiza, Miami, Beirut, you must be exposed to the cities’ different music cultures. Do they influence your production and DJing?
It’s impossible to avoid being influenced when you’re travelling a lot, but I’d prefer to think of it as these things being a small part of my sound, rather than my sound constantly changing depending on what’s trending in wherever I’m living at the time. My biggest inspiration is seeing the reactions on the dancefloor when I’m playing, and I obviously tailor my sets to suit the event.
“I deliberately chose to hold [a party]
in a bombed out mosque and cathedral
to oppose the old culture of hatred.”
You’re a DJ, producer, event promoter, organiser, owner of label MOOD, and host of your own radio show – you seem to be intimately involved in all aspects of it. How do you stay on top of everything while maintaining your sanity?
I do try to make [myself some] time whilst I’m travelling, but sometimes it all does get a lot and you get ill. I very rarely drink or party too hard as I don’t have time for the recovery afterwards. The thing that keeps me sane is the love of the music and knowing that this is what I want.
Is your hectic schedule part and parcel of sustaining your name in the DJ-producer circuit that’s so saturated with new talent?
I don’t like to think of it as competing on a market – it’s more like spreading the word and sharing my love for music as far as I can. Whilst there’s plenty of new producers and DJs out there, very few have the sticking power to break through and make a long-term career out of it.
Being a successful established female DJ, you’re always asked questions on gender inequality in the industry and you obviously don’t care much for the gender talk and focus more on the person’s determination and will to work hard to make it. Did you find it annoying that people are still talking about gender issues in DJing?
Would you ask this same question to a male DJ? I’m all for more women DJing, but it’s not an easy life and there are very few men that can do what I do as well as women.
Although you’ve said that no matter where you go, people enjoy music the same way, was there any instance that caught you by surprise, either in a good or bad way?
I was pleasantly surprised by my recent gig at EDC Las Vegas in June this year. I was playing the Neon Garden stage right before Chris Liebing, and it was probably the only ‘underground’ stage of the event. You never know what you’re going to get when you play Vegas because of its EDM connotations, but I stuck to my guns and played in completely my own style, and the stage was packed for the whole thing.
“London is a city that helped me launch my
music career, and it’s starting to feel like a very
different, hostile place for electronic music culture.”
With regards to your collaborative EP Breed with Skin, you said that it was challenging for you both creatively and financially. Was this a challenge you knew before agreeing to work with Skin to test yourself?
We both knew it wouldn’t be easy to fuse two completely different music styles and ways of working, but I was ready for the challenge. It’s lucky we’ve become such good friends out of it.
You once wrote extensively how you find a kinship with Meryl Streep – how she is as a person and her career – one would think Meryl is an unlikely choice of a role model for you. What’s your favourite movie of hers and what’s the one thing you find most resonating about her in terms of your music career?
I look up to Meryl Streep in many ways; she doesn’t follow the usual Hollywood actress frivolities and she’s very private – she’s just well known for being an incredible and very versatile actress. I’d like to think I emulate that – I don’t want to be well known for being a female, I want to be known for being good at what I do and being versatile – I can play anything between groovy house and industrial techno depending on the mood, and I aim to be good at production, running a record label and radio show as well as DJing. It’s hard to choose just one film; I’ve enjoyed everything from Out Of Africa, Kramer Vs. Kramer, The Iron Lady, and The Devil Wears Prada.
Finally, what are your thoughts on the closing down of legendary nightclub Fabric?
I’m absolutely devastated of course – London is a city that helped me launch my music career, and it’s starting to feel like a very different, hostile place for electronic music culture. I’m so glad the club is appealing the decision, and I hope this isn’t the end of the fight.
Courtesy of FWD, Nicole Moudaber performed at COMO on Friday 9 September ’16.