Source: Skiddle

djebali interview: parisian prodigy

Djebali interview: Parisian prodigy

Mark Dale spoke to Mehdi Djebali about Paris’ nightlife, running his own label and his Ideal Juice parties ahead of the event’s debut in Liverpool.

Date published: 16th Feb 2016

Mehdi Djebali, better known as simply Djebali, is a DJ and producer who grew up and still lives in Paris. He is best known for his much loved residency, the Ideal Juice parties, which are held once every two months at one of the city’s best clubbing venues, the Rex Club.

He has been DJing for over a decade and made his debuting as a producer on Jay Haze’s Tuning Spork imprint in 2008 with the Fanfare EP.

He launched his own Djebali imprint in 2011, in direct response to the delay he was experiencing in having his own music released by other labels. It is a successful, vinyl only label and has spawned two offshoots including Djebali presents which introduces the music of other artists.

We caught up with him before his forthcoming Ideal Juice debut in Liverpool for a chat about what’s happening in Paris these days and what’s planned musically for the future.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Paris. My mother is from France, my father is from Tunisia, but I was born and raised in Paris, the Eighteenth District. It’s still Paris, but on the north, maybe 20 minutes by Metro. My father came here for his studies and they met at university. He does courses about how to integrate people into society, like people who are in jail.

By appearance and name you’re clearly of mixed heritage. Do you think it’s more difficult to establish yourself as a DJ in France if you are the son of immigrants?

In France? Not at all. Especially the DJ life, it’s all about being open, so it’s not hard at all. Racism does exist here but I would say more in classic jobs. But in music it’s totally free.

One of the incidents of the terrible attacks that happened in Paris last year was at an entertainment venue, The Bataclan. Have the attacks had any kind of permanent effect on people’s behaviour, people going out or the atmosphere of the city?

At the beginning, yes, of course, because it was such a terrible thing. It had a real impact. Everybody was shocked, worried about what could happen. But the people have reacted really well, they chose to say « we are not going to be afraid anymore, we are still going to go out, we are still going to do our thing and nobody can stop that. »

During the first week every venue had to close. It was good to make the point of what had happened. After that it started really slow, but just two weeks after that I held my party Ideal Juice and it was packed. It’s not about forgetting what happened, it’s more that we will still do what we want and nobody will stop us. Now the venues are packed, like before, maybe even more.

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How was your relationship with the Tuning Spork label?

The Tuning Spork EP was my first ever release (listen to ‘Looping’ from that EP above). Before that I was just DJing. I was a super big fan of the label, Samim and Michal, lots of really great producers.

When I started to make music I sent it to lots of different labels and, by chance, my friend Shonky was living in Berlin at that time and he knew that crew, Jay Haze and others. He gave them my CD and they called back, said they liked it and that they wanted to release it. I was really happy about it.

You run Djebali. Running your own label is not as easy as people think. What are the sides of doing that which have surprised you the most?

Ha! It’s definitely not as easy as you think. What has surprised me the most is the timing involved. There is always time between making or receiving the music and putting it out, because you have to deal with so many different people for example the mastering station, the distributors, the vinyl producers.

It takes a lot of time and you have to plan ahead, because if you don’t do what needs to be done now, you might lose two weeks later. So, it’s the organisation and time that surprised me the most.

Has that experience had any impact on the music you want to release?

No. The purpose of Djebali was always to release the music that I want, when I want and that’s what I do. I do what I feel.

You’ve released on the label Balance. How did you first come into contact with Chez Damier?

I know him because we played together a few times, so we were already in contact. But that actually came from a different route. I have two friends from Paris called Siler and Dima, who run a label called Popcorn and they made a track with him.

They were looking for a remixer. They said, we know Chez likes your work, so let’s get you to remix this track. Of course I said yes, it’s an honour for me to remix Chez Damier.

You’re touring your Ideal Juice party. How is a travelling Ideal Juice night different from a Djebali guest slot?

I run this party at Rex club, with one edition every two months and I guess people started to identify with it. It was actually promoters that came to us and asked if we would hold Ideal Juice parties in different locations, it was a nice surprise. So we decided to export it. Why not?

I always try to choose one or two guests myself and then put some local artists on at the party. For the night in Liverpool I’ve chosen Reda Dare, he’s a newcomer who has released on my label. He’s a great DJ and a great producer so I wanted to bring him on board.

There are a lot of local artists at that night too because it’s not so much an Ideal Juice night alone, it’s more a meeting, a collaboration with Statk.

Impress me with your knowledge of the city… What do you know about Liverpool?

Not that much actually, it will be the first time I’ve been to Liverpool. I don’t have a lot of knowledge except that The Beatles come from there. Am I a fan? Not in the way that I know every song and I’m always digging a lot of their stuff, but, of course. Who’s not? Their music is great.

I read in the newspaper that the Academie Francaise have decided to change the spelling of many French words and they want to get rid of the circumflex accent. What do you think of this constant refinement of the French language?

Well, I think the newspapers have gone a little bit far with the truth. The truth is they are not really changing the words, there are just different spellings of some words, but you can still use the original spellings.

So, it’s more for people who start to learn French, they can use a more simplified word, because it’s really complicated how it’s written in France. It should make things easier, but it’s not a really big change.

It will make things easier? You don’t think it’s more confusing like this? Now you have two different spellings of oignon!

Yes, that’s maybe a little stupid. I will still write it oignon.

What’s your favourite word with a circumflex accent that you’ll miss seeing?

Maitresse. It’s a female teacher.

At the moment you’re spending a lot of time in the studio. What is it you’re working on?

I’m happy to say you’re one of the first to know that I’m actually working on an album. It’s planned for winter 2016. And at the end of March I’ll release a new Ideal Juice compilation. On Djebali we only release on vinyl, so this compilation includes ten exclusive edits of tracks that we’ve released on the label, on CD for the first time.

Will the album come out on Djebali?

I don’t know yet to be honest. Right now I’m just focused on the music.

How different is it making and album compared to making tracks that will be on an EP or 12″?

Usually when I’m doing EPs I’m focusing track by track and that’s a lot easier. Working on an album, I have to think longer. I have to think of a story, how the tracks can fit together and how they will speak together. There’s a beginning and an end, for 60 or 70 minutes it’s necessary to have a journey. I also want to do interludes between the tracks, something I’ve never done before.

Are there any dance music albums that you hold up as a template? Ones that you would like to make something similarly strong to?

No, not really. I have references of tracks that I would like to reach the quality of, in terms of sound, and production skills, people like Julien Jabre and Cab Drivers for example. But I don’t have an album to follow, I want to create something new.