It’s striking when you can connect a track to a label immediately. It comes from an ingrained philosophy, and Disco Halal’s ideology is certainly one that is deep-rooted. Headed up by Moscoman and located in Berlin via Tel Aviv, his affinity for fusing the sounds of the Middle East with the electronic is shared with the reliable family of producers he’s assembled around him. We wanted to find out how the label ticks, so we caught up with him to talk about the rewards and conflicts of running a label that celebrates Middle Eastern music, working with OYE, growing up in Tel Aviv and where the label is headed. Moscoman has also put together a 60 minute mix to accompany the interview, consisting of exclusive label material and favourites.
Autarkic – Can You Pass The Knife? is out 30th April and Tony Carey Project – TCP LP is out 16th May – pre-order from Oye. Catch Moscoman going b2b with Mehmet Aslan this Friday in London for Hardbody.
Disco Halal may still be in their early years – launching back in 2015 – but you have already released a recognisable body of work. Can you tell us what the impetus behind starting the label was?
Indeed Disco Halal is very young , but the idea of it has been cooking inside for quite some time. The main idea behind it is to support my friends and music I like. It was never intended to become part of the “name game” and I hope I can keep it like this. Basically, I had and keep getting many edits and original music from fairly unknown artists, and I’ve encountered with an amazing Israel designer (Neil Cohen) which has a freehand to do whatever he likes graphically. This, plus a few passion project records I’m looking foward to reissue in the near future, I can honestly say I’m really excited to wake up every morning to work on the label.
What triggered the label’s resolute initiative to reinvent Middle Eastern sounds for a contemporary audience?
Growing up in Israel, being in the midst of the regional melting point, growing up in an Ashkenazi family, I grew to love the Middle Eastern, Oriental sounds, though I never incorporated them in my DJ sets before. At one point after the last awaking, I realised I want to be a part of it and combine the classic Eastern sounds into today’s dancefloors as well. My sounds have a certain home feeling about it, I really feel that when I play this music. People miss home all around the world, the diaspora is also inside.
You’ve provided a strong platform for lesser-known artists to share their music. Was this an element you peddled from the imprint’s outset?
As an artist myself, I know exactly how hard it is to get noticed. As God is my witness I always said that if I had the chance I will help everybody to move forward and achieve some happiness and satisfaction about their work, so really I couldn’t care less about names. It’s all about music I love and people I believe in.
How did these producers become known to you? Without giving away too many secrets, what’s your approach to A&Ring for the label?
I’m all hands on decks, anything i’ll hear and like I will send a message. Plus i’m super lucky to have very, very talented friends who are now part of the label – Autarkic, Naduve, Red Axes, Mehmet Aslan and more.
Aside from yourself – and the aforementioned devoted producers – has anybody else been pivotal to the success of Disco Halal?
OYE Records, no doubt. I couldn’t have done it without this super important cutting-the-bullshit establishment, Markus (Delfonic) has given me a space to work, and believed in me. I’m just pushing it forward now.
What has been your proudest achievement since launching the imprint in 2015?
In the PR world, doing a Boiler Room Upfront mix, curating a CTM Festival stage, being a part of an ARTE show called Dig It! about the oriental sounds. Doing label nights all around Europe and the US has also been great. The effect that it has, that people comes to me and say they enjoyed their night, is much more than all the PR together. I just love it when people can feel the music, and it doesn’t matter where they’re from, it really connects people.
And what are the greatest difficulties you’ve had to overcome?
My greatest difficulty is an inner conflict. People may think it’s a real simple name with a comic relief, but its pretty much what we’ve been through our whole life. You can’t hide the fact that there are wars and hate, I’m trying to bring people together, at least in a little aspect…hopefully!
As a younger label, are there any labels you’ve taken inspiration from, that have influenced the way you’ve chosen to run Disco Halal?
I can’t really say I’m trying to do stuff better than the rest, we’re just trying to do our thing and hope that people will like it. I can say that I give it my whole attention. It’s a full time job and my passion is the reason things are moving, I’m trying to be different from labels, about times of releases, and the fact that they put their hands inside the artist mud. If it’s good, I will release it, I don’t need to change artist’s approach to music as many labels do try.
The Disco Halal Volumes are staple releases, but your last release saw Autarkic dropping a mini album. Do you plan to release more long players in future?
Yes, by more unknowns! A huge talent named ATAR – who I call the Middle Eastern Dilla – will be out soon. Upcoming really, really close is the TCP reissue and a Moscoman Reworks vinyl for it, which is also an LP. I’ve been dreaming about releasing in the past few years. We got super cool stuff lined up for 2016.
You hail from Tel Aviv originally, could you talk us through what it was like growing up and going out there? What’s the music and club scene like?
Honestly I feel that creatively and party-wise Tel Aviv stands at the top these days. About the growing up and going out…except the fact that you are an island of “sanity” in a very war struck area, I must say it’s been really normal.
And you’ve been based in Berlin for a while now. Aside from the obvious, what first drew you to the city? Has this location, as with the Middle East, had any influence on the ethos of the label?
Well, I must admit that before I moved I’d never been there – the first time I flew there I stayed. Berlin is a different ball game at professional music life, and it made me focus much more about my music, Halal’s music and pretty much want I want to do. As much as it portrayed as the party capital, being a resident there is very chilled and easy. Whats more, Berlin today is the real transcultural capital of Europe, and Germany is the most open place I know especially for our music. Add to that the fact that Berlin has the highest proportion of record purchase and you’ve got a winning city. All you need is to roll the dice, maybe you’ll get lucky.
How did the affiliation with OYE start? Did they approach you about getting involved? What do you enjoy about working with them?
Delfonic and I met one sun soaked day in Tel Aviv. We knew each other from before, here and there, but he came in when I was playing some Halal stuff and we started talking about it, gradually I introduced him to the idea that I want to stamp some waxes, and he said let’s do it. We’ve been working the same ever since. Everything I want, I pretty much do, and he believes in it as much as I am. I’m proud that he is my partner in crime.
We love the Disco Halal artwork, could you talk us through the aesthetic of the label? Who’s behind it and what did you want it to portray?
Cohen, Neil Cohen. The logo idea was always in my head when I started to think about the label name but he brought it to life. It’s all about the really simple mixture, writing Disco in hebrew and Halal in Arabic, and both in english, the Muslim half moon and star and the Jewish crown of David, it goes around with a real symbiosis. Plus the fact that Halal translates in Hebrew to space, I imagine that everything is aligned. From this we made our own language with our own made fonts, and approach to each kind of vinyl, whether it’s an edit, vinyl or LP.
Could you tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve made for us?
Fortunately I’ve been on the road a lot recently, so it’s just me and my Ableton. But I find it very practical to get things things done way, and it makes traveling much more interesting, I have a wide range of music that I like and will release and I tried to feature some of it, including our first reissue with TCP, upcoming releases from myself & Red Axes, Naduve, Atar, and some classics I really love.
What ’ s on the horizon for Moscoman and Disco Halal in terms of releases?
In June I’m dropping my first and probably only single from my upcoming Album on Lovefingers’s ESP Institute. Then in September my first double vinyl LP will be release, which I couldn’t be more excited about. I’m super happy with the result, which any artist will tell you it’s not an easy task. Halal is going for a good run, with many different vibes, from club releases from Naduve, Red Axes and Simple Symmetry, to weird reissues like the TCP I mentioned and some other under negotiations. I’m working hard on the schedule to keep on releasing one vinyl every month or other month this year.
And finally, where would you like to see the label being in five years?
The sky’s the limit, if I’ll keep on doing the things i love.