It was last summer on a night out in Cologne when we met Marc. Having a beer and briefly discussing the set he just played. We asked if we could get in touch and perhaps do an interview later on this year. And yes, here we are. A new fresh talk with Mâhfoud.
What can we say? It does not get more down to earth and passionate than this chat we had. An amazing person with a clear view on what he want and were he wants to go. What makes him great: he keeps his cool and his feet on the ground.His answers are so down to earth and sincere. We really loved to do this interview.
Hope you all like it as much as we did! First tune into his set below, then sit down and enjoy the chat.
MixShow #26 – Mâhfoud by Urbanstylemag’s Mixshow on Mixcloud
If we ask you to describe yourselves in 3 to 5 words, what would it be?
Curious, sensitive, egoistic, loving.
Like many, music is in our bones from an early age. When did you first start to develop your musical process?
When I was young, my parents bought me a Yamaha Keyboard with a play-along function. I think I was around 7 or 8 years old. I invited them for private concerts in my room and asked them to dress up nicely, made drinks (I think a glass of orange juice) and played. I guess this is how everything started.
I remember having a profound sensitivity towards music, I grew up in an environment where my family was singing, dancing and playing instruments after dinner, the whole family was invited, everyone was part of it. I was looking up to those who were playing instruments and my cousin who had a beautiful voice. Later, I went to music school to learn guitar, I was 10 at that time, but I did not like my teacher, so I quit. I rediscovered my passion for it in my teenager days however. I listened to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, a lot of Rock influences in the beginning. Of course I played guitar and I sang, formed a couple of bands won a couple of contests and then decided to go solo.
What are your biggest influences? Now and in the past?
Rock and Grunge music, undoubtedly, but then later a radical changed happened. When I started studying in Maastricht (Netherlands) I discovered a whole new spectrum of music that I did not get in touch with before and that spoke to me more than anything else- Jazz. I learned so much from the musicians I met there, it surely was a turning point in my life.
It also was the time when I got more active with my solo stuff, mainly influenced by great talents such as Marc Alberto, Mateusz Malcharek or Antoine Sanguinetti. We played so many gigs together and we never wrote a single song. It was always improvised but it came straight from the soul.
Now, in terms of electronic music my biggest influences are hard to pin down. Every artist and every person I meet influences me, every moment has an impact. But the music of Traum surely played a big role.
You were on the latest Tour De Traum compilation with the very nice ambient track “Sea”. How did you end up there? Such a great release with other nice names on it like Ben Teufel, Ron Flatter, Dominik Eulberg and many more.
Thank you! The contact was established by Jannowitz Records, a techno label from Cologne. He knew I had a couple of unreleased tracks in the pipeline. I sent “Sea” to Riley Reinhold and he immediately liked it, as it was so different to all the other tracks on the compilation. We are still in touch about possible forthcoming releases.
TGMS: if something is cooking, then we’d sure be interested. Traum really does a good job managing their artists on the label. Great label!
Then you did a fantastic remix for Ben Teufel on his sublime “Sleeping Ocean” EP. How did you end up working together?
Again, it was Jannowitz Records that established the connection. It is quite funny that Ben Teufel and I actually never met. So we did not really work together. I sent him the finished product and he approved!
TGMS: Well, we think you did a really nice job with your remix! We reviewed Ben Teufel’s EP a little while ago. Although he is a real tech-house person, we enjoyed the “Sleeping Ocean EP” very much. It sounds more deep with a rough tech-house edge.
We know Ben Teufel for his quit loud tech style which sounds super. And you to us have a more gentle approach. How did you both unite when doing the “Sleeping Ocean” remix?
I can go loud. It is part of my schizophrenic personality 😉
Are you going to collaborate more in the future?
You never know! But our musical ideas are too far apart I believe.
How do you feel with the music industry? Meaning you work hard, play hard, yet everyone wants their music for free.
Good question. I think we all have to accept the trends, they don’t come up for nothing. One of the problems is that a lot of artists try to fight these developments instead of finding creative ways to solve them. I upload tracks for free quite often, but when I find a track really solid and with great potential I send it to labels.
To be honest, I have never seen a single cent from my productions, ever. But personally I am okay with it, because I hate the trade of art for money anyway. Performances however, physical work so to speak, should be compensated, there is a difference.
I will continue making music all my life, whether it is paid or not, whether people buy it or not. So why would money influence it? The music industry is constantly changing, but it is still possible to make a living out of it, maybe more than ever. Quality always finds its way.
TGMS: great and honest thinking. Still we believe that every artists should be respected in some sort of way. If you work in a factory you get paid, if you work behind a desk, you get paid, if you make music … you should get paid. But as you mention “Quality always finds its way”, one way or the other, if you take on an open minded creative approach you will get there.
Do you compensate, like many others, by playing more shows? If so, doesn’t this affect your production work?
Yes. But that is fine you know, because it affects my production work in a good way. Inspiration comes from so many things but definitely not from locking yourself in the studio and waiting.
You released a small EP called “The Pilgrim” as a free download. Very ambient with a deep subtle touch. This is your sound? We could hear the same on your “Wormhole” EP.
Hmm, it definitely is part of my sound. This is the thing, I feel lost sometimes. I did a lot of acoustic pieces, too, mainly because of the instruments I play. Sometimes it is so easy for me to compose a little soundscape piece, perfect for a film, there always is a story behind the tracks.
I am now in the process of combining all these elements to one sound to see what comes out of it. Kind of a James Blake approach but with more influences of techno music and such. Could be interesting, no?
TGMS: sure is! Just like James has strong vocals, you might re-release older work with vocals on it.
Where do you draw your creative influences from, production wise?
When it comes to dance music my collaboration with Diynamic definitely had a big influence. Thyladomid and I produced an EP together but I also featured him on his album on 4 songs. Throughout this year I learned so much from him, also in terms of DJing. This ultimately led me to start producing myself and now I can translate my emotions and creativity technically.
Now, my creative influence mainly derive from the complexity of human emotions, the quest to find out what makes us what we are, spirituality, infinity, space, all these things that should connect us and bring us closer together.
We really enjoyed your live set at Odonien last August. Yet this was much louder then we here on your latest EP’s. Was it because of the line-up with Stephan Bodzin or do you usually play louder sets?
Thanks. As I mentioned before, I like both. When it gets louder it still has to be balanced, there must be a sensitive touch to it somehow. But when I am DJing, I also adapt to the people and try to push them further. When they want it loud, I usually play louder.
What are currently your main challenges as a DJ? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music that makes it interesting for you?
There is so much to learn, it is amazing. Technically of course, it is a challenge to mix records and understand their effect on the audience. Then, finding the perfect balance between underground tunes, the music you love and the tracks that get the crowd going. That is, I think one of the biggest challenges for a Techno DJ. Then, the vibe that is created, I love to see when people completely loose it and don’t give a fuck anymore. To be one with everyone in the room, it is such a symbolic message actually.
TGMS: maybe we should not ask if you prefer to open a night or to close a night. Must be though to start and much easier to finish when everyone is already in “the zone”.
Do you believe in the possibility of “reading an audience” – and how do you put it into practice? Is the relationship with the dancers a collaborative one or, as Derrick May once put it, a “battle”?
Not only do I believe, I am sure of it! It definitely is a battle sometimes, as an underdog, you constantly have to prove yourself. But that also means you always give 150%. And once you convinced the dancers it becomes a collaboration: they push you to try new things, you push them back. It is an exchange of energy, really. How many times have I played 6 or 7 hour sets and only in the end I realized how fucking exhausted I was.
What record will never leave your bag?
Christian Burkhardt – Delight. I always remix it with other tunes, but it became kind of my signature ( Sorry, Christian)
What is something you wish you knew earlier in your career that would have helped you become what you are now or even might change things in the future?
Accept who you are. If you want everything at once you will end up with nothing, stay humble.
TGMS: True that!
Is there something funny you can tell our readers? Something that happened during a live set? Or a crazy moment during a live set?
I definitely had a couple of crazy moments. But this particular one is maybe the craziest because of the chain of circumstances. I was playing at Mojo in Hamburg and a quite enthusiastic girl was dancing next to me while I was playing. She was putting all her drinks next to the turntables and I constantly had to put them away. Unfortunately nobody was taking care of the situation, but how could I push her away if she was so nice to me and kissing me all the time. I did not have a strategy so I asked my friend, who was dancing in the audience to politely ask her to step back a little. After she was gone I continued playing and the whole sound system collapsed. A real vibe killer. The dance floor that was full 5 minutes before got emptier and I did not know what to do, so I invited everyone on stage and pushed the monitor to the maximum and we had a little party on stage. It was very memorable. 🙂
TGMS: LOL. Bad karma, sending a girl away!Mâhfoud Mâhfoud