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Interview with DJ and producer Djebali: ‘I’m very thankful that I’m doing this’

Marcus Barnes

Djebali 300x199 Interview with DJ and producer Djebali: Im very thankful that Im doing thisWithout a doubt one of my favourite DJs and producers over the last year or so has been Djebali. The Frenchman not only produces house music that has a real high quality to it, unassuming yet perfect for dancefloors – house in its purest sense, untainted by commercial ideals – but he’s also a great DJ, playing at clubs like Watergate, DC10 and Womb in Japan, as well as holding down a residency in his hometown, Paris. I caught up with him recently just as his season in Ibiza was coming to an end.

How’s 2013 been for you?
It’s been really good, I started the year playing at a party in Portugal on New Year’s Day called Lotus After Hours. It’s my favourite after party, the best one I’ve been to throughout my career – it’s amazing. It’s quite small, 300 people, but it’s really intense, the crowd is great and it’s really really cool. Since then I’ve played a lot of gigs in a lot of new countries in really great clubs, like Womb in Japan, which was a dream come true. This summer I played Circo Loco, Watergate… lots of good places, and I also kept my residency in Paris. I’ve had quite a few gigs in England, which has been great – it’s been nice to see different parts of the country. So it’s been busy but really good.

And what have you been doing production-wise?
I have my label (djebali ) where I release my own stuff, I’ve produced a few remixes; one for an English label called Turquoise Blue [of Javier Carballo and M.A.M], they’re really cool guys. I also recorded a new track for a special project on Homecoming Music from Belgium. They’re putting together a compilation of only unreleased tracks, tracks made especially for the compilation. A lot of artists have contributed, DJ Sneak, Brett Johnson, Jay Tripwire… a lot of people.

Did you start 2013 with a specific plan about where you wanted to go?
No, I didn’t have a target really. I just wanted to continue doing what I was doing with the label, with the party in Paris and still playing at parties – with an increase in gigs, I hoped. I didn’t have any proper plan though. Now, things are a bit more clear for me, I have a lot of ideas, I started a lot of new projects. Like my new label ( djebali ) presents… , I’m going to commission a series of remixes from my ( djebali ) presents… label, a bit like a sub-label.

( djebali ) presents Mr KS – Extracts – 96kbs by djebali

Tell me more about djebali presents because coincidentally Mr KS contacted me through Soundcloud to send me his music and told me you were playing his tracks. Then, a month later, he told me you were releasing the tracks!
As I said to you, at the beginning of 2013 I had no plans, but I always had the idea that one day I would start a label to release other peoples’ music. So Mr KS sent me some music, I really liked it and, during the summer, I decided to do something with it. I knew he’d sent them to a few labels, so I asked him, ‘Have they been signed yet?’ and he told me they hadn’t, in fact he had no response. So I said, ‘Wow, that’s weird!’… After listening to them a lot more I decided, ‘I can’t miss an opportunity, I have to release this music’. Every time I was playing the tracks, they were burning the clubs – so I had to release them and that’s why I started this project.

Cool! So, this summer you’ve been living with the Apollonia boys in Ibiza, right?
Yes, it’s the second time we’ve rented a house together – I’m really close to them, we’ve all known each other for a long time. It was really nice this summer, we had a lot of good times. It’s really good to share moments with your friends and to share music. I have to say last year was more intense in Ibiza though – this year I was in and out of the island a lot, and the other guys, too. So summer passed by really quickly! I played three times at DC10, once in June, once in August and once in September – that was really good, the crowd is cool, the vibe is great, you can’t go wrong there.

Have you found a lot of inspiration through being in Ibiza this summer and hanging out with the guys?
For sure, when you go to a lot of parties and meet a lot of different people it’s really inspiring, the only problem in Ibiza is that you don’t really have time to make music you just go to part, get some rest and then it’s already the weekend so you have to fly out and play elsewhere. It is very inspiring though and I’m trying to put this inspiration into my music.

So what happens now the season is finally over?
I’m going to move back to Paris, back to my studio, but I’ll be between there and the south-west of France, Bordeaux. I will split my time between these two cities, I have an apartment in Bordeaux so it’s cool to go there, too. As well as the tracks I mentioned earlier I also have a remix coming through Gipsy Moscow, they’re starting a label and the first release is from Tripmastaz and I’ve remixed them. Plus I have a remix for Chris Carrier for his label Adults Only, which I’ve been working on today… and I’ve been working on (djebali) 08. I’ll be finishing that really soon. Also I’ve been working on a special project for ( djebali ) presents…but I will tell you more about that later! Gigs-wise I have a lot of stuff booked in, and there’s my residency at Rex Club at my party Ideal Juice.

You studied sound engineering didn’t you?
I studied at SAE, a two-year programme of audio engineering, back in 2005. It helped me a lot in terms of sound and especially when I’ve bought a new synthesiser – I know which buttons or keys affect the sound and the effect they have on different sounds. I know how everything works, it was a lot more technical. It was very cool in that respect, but it’s not enough unfortunately.

Do you have any plans to further your studies?
I’m always trying to keep up to date with techniques for managing sound and I always keep informed on what’s happening in that area, but in terms of studying music – maybe, I would love to know more about mastering, but not for now. I have too many other things going on at the moment.

What equipment do you use?
At the centre of my studio is my MPC3000, I also have the 2000xl, and it controls everything in my studio. I got a SH101, SH09, an old Waldorf synth, Juno 60 – a lot of hardware, vintage reverb and delays. I really enjoy working with that stuff. Everyone has their own way of producing of course, the most important thing for me is to be comfortable with your set up. If you’re comfortable just with your laptop and plugins, that works. For me I can spend hours in front of a computer and get really bored, I prefer to work on a synthesiser, press buttons and keys and experiment.

Who were your musical heroes when you first started getting into house?
I remember when I was really really young, before I was old enough to go to clubs, I listened to Dan Ghenacia’s radio show. Every Sunday me and my friend would record it on tape and we would spend the week trying to find the records he played, but there were a lot of promos played on that show so it was a long process! Then, when I started to go out, Ricardo Villalobos… when you see him play you really understand that he has something special. When I started making my own music, I listened to it differently – I really like The Mole, he’s crazy, Point G also.

You play a lot of gigs, so I wondered which tracks have really been getting a good reaction in the clubs recently?
Well, actually the tracks from ( djebali ) presents… by Mr KS have been working well – ‘House Feeling’ and ‘Rhodes’. I still play a track by Adam Shelton, a remix of Gwen Maze called ‘Play His Game’, I really love this track.

Whereabouts are your parents from?
My mum is French and my dad is Tunisian. I grew up in Paris so I don’t have much influence from there, though I’ve been a few times. I played there twice this year and it was amazing, the crowd really knew the music and their reaction to underground music was really cool. With the internet of course everyone has the opportunity to know about stuff, but it can still be a surprise sometimes. Actually, you can go to a big city and the reaction is not as good as you find in some of the smaller cities or countries where house music is not so common. I went to a small place in Russia, I can’t remember the name but it took ages to get there, and I wasn’t really expecting much… and it was crazy.

Do you have any big dreams in terms of your career?
I just try to focus step-by-step on what I’m doing at the moment, but one more goal is to play at fabric. I’ve never played there, so I would love to play there – but, really I’m just happy to continue doing what I’m doing, I’d just like to do more! There are a lot of guys making amazing music, who don’t get to play as much or don’t get the attention they deserve, so I’m very thankful that I’m doing what I’m doing right now, it’s working well at the moment so I hope it continues like this.

( djebali ) presents…: Mr KS’ is out now, from here.

For more information on Djebali himself visit his Facebook page here.

Marcus Barnes’ first book Around The World In 80 Raves is out now, pick it up here.

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