“I prefer the raw instinctive approach”: Talking Tech with Deena Abdelwahed

After cutting her teeth as part of the Arabstazy collective in Tunis, producer and DJ Deena Abdelwahed made her move over to Toulouse; the city where she’d begin to inject the traditional sounds of her home into her own creations, in new and discerning ways.

Be it through her mind-bending live and hybrid DJ sets, which have met huge critical acclaim at events like CTM Festival and Sonar, or her string of releases via her regular home Infiné, Deena has crafted her own unique and singular take on electronic music, approached with a non-conformist attitude.

Here she guides us around the new studio she shares with her friend in Toulouse, and talks us through favourite pieces of kit and how she approaches her productions.

Deena is among 15 artists who’ve contributed tracks to Houndstooth’s Alterity compilation.

First off, what’s your musical education?

I didn’t get a formal one. I am an autodidact.

What was your first ever set-up, when you started making music?

I had a PC computer, with Ableton live cracked version and focusrite Scarlett 2i2 sound-card that I received as a gift from a German friend. That computer was so slow! It had Autocad in it for my formal job in Tunis. I formatted it when I came to France and produced my first EP «�KLABB�» for Infiné, who helped me buy a new powerful MacBook Pro later.

What was the first serious piece of kit you bought?

It was the Korg Kaoss Pad 3! It is not an instrument but we can say it’s a serious piece of kit, no?

Thanks for taking some photos around your studio. Could you give us a little walk through the main components?

I started to rent this space right after quarantine, in mid-May. It was some kind of a workshop before my friend and I transformed it into an actual music studio. It took us one month and a half to deeply clean, redecorate and set up an acoustic treatment.

So I brought my RME Fireface sound-card, that I also use for my live-sets, with my Ableton Push 2 and FaderFox midi mix controller. I have a Roland JD-XI Synthesizer, Elektron Analog Drum II, 2 different Darboukas, 2014’s Kaoss Pad and the newly bought Yamaha PSR-A350. I mostly use them to sample one shots sounds and notes, all routed in a YAMAHA MG10XU mixer console. I rarely make entire phrases from the gear… I know, «what a waste», but because of time and space before I rented the studio, it is way easier to write and compose music directly with Ableton Live and VSTs.

Where is it located and do you share with anyone else?

It is located 8 minutes by bike from home, towards the suburbs of Toulouse. In a nice house shared between young students and a guy who, in the garden, built a recording studio for bands and the mixing booth to mix for them. Renting the studio was planned together with my friend, who can no longer afford it because of the critical sanitary situation.

What’s been your method for creating this studio? Has it been a gradual accumulation or a bulk purchase? Any key inspirations in pulling it together?

Maybe the answer in the next question would sum up for both questions!

Are you always seeking to experiment and develop your studio, by changing or adding equipment? If so, what warrants a change?

At first, while in CTM festival 2016 in Berlin, I was able to buy and learn stuff and see what was best for me. I was only focused on what’s best for live performances. I had and got rid of SP404, Korg Electribe, Arturia MicroBrute and MFB’s Tanzbär Lite.

I wanted to keep it simple so my focus switched to only studio and I kept the Roland synth and Korg multi effects box to experiment and to sample. I was mostly encouraged to buy plugins or seek free ones in Internet forums. Then I had more money and a bit more knowledge and got me an Elektron Analog Rhythm.

You must have a most treasured bit of equipment. If you had to keep just one piece, what would it be?

My computer.

Before you head to the studio, is there anything you do to prepare or get in the right headspace?

Nothing special, nope. Biking there gives the right headspace, I guess.

Are you someone to labour over a track until every crease is ironed out, or do you prefer a raw, instinctive approach without dwelling too much on something?

It’s the same question I ask my self every time! I can’t decide! I think I prefer the raw instinctive approach because every time I intend to sharpen the elements in my track, I make it worse.

Where do you go or what do you do when you have writers block? Anything to reset the mental hardware?

I try my best to not to go to the studio without more than 2 or 3 clear ideas with methodology. Otherwise, I won’t go. If I have writers block in the studio or in front of the computer screen, I go have a nap and try to forget what I was doing and I only come back to it when I have something to add.

What inspires you outside the world of music?

High Tech.

What else is on the horizon this year that’s getting you excited?

I just finished a quick training to initiate with modular synths. Can’t wait to have some and sample them too!

Deena is among 15 artists who’ve contributed tracks to Houndstooth’s Alterity compilation.

Comments are closed.