Ce n’est pas une coïncidence si nous avons choisi de prendre contact avec Kassem Mosse pour la réalisation de notre première interview. En effet, nous avions déjà choisi une citation de l’intéressé pour lancer notre blog, tant nous sommes attachés à ce son si particulier et si éclectique à la fois. Nommé par le très bon blog Little White Earbuds comme étant un des artistes ayant façonné le son de 2011, Kassem Mosse possède un son et une approche de la musique électronique unique, grandement respectés dans la scène underground. Hautement reconnue pour ses sorties sur les labels Workshop et NonPlus+, sa musique un peu barrée prend encore plus de libertés sur des structures plus familiales. En témoigne sa dernière sortie sur The Trilogy Tapes en compagnie de MixMup, un mini album sur lequel les deux acolytes se jouent de tout et proposent un son brumeux, funky et calibré pour un dancefloor exigeant. Sa musique repousse les limites des carcans beatportesques. Le blog We Dig… a pris contact pour discuter musique bien sur mais aussi de performances live…
« Circles of friends, that’s were it all comes from… »
Par respect pour l’intégrité des propos de Kassem Mosse nous publions l’interview dans sa version originale.
First of all, we’re very pleased and surprised to have the opportunity to conduct an interview with you, as we can’t seem to find a lot of information about you. Is it a choice? Does ubiquity amongst some electronic music protagonists bother you?
No, it doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t care about what other people are doing. If they like to put themselves in the spotlight or if they think they need to do it to make themselves known let them do it. We all make our own choices. And I chose not to do every interview and every podcast. When you guys approached me I found the background of your blog somehow intriguing.
There seems to be three labels that you favor when releasing your stuff: Mikrodisko, NonPlus+ and Workshop. Are you more comfortable releasing on labels run by friends or do you feel these shops have a special artistic orientation?
They definitely have their own individual orientation. They are all different in the way they approach, present and release music. Mikrodisko for instance is a collective, it’s not a “curator”-type label, it’s several people working together on pretty much a non-profit basis. And the releases and the stylistic turns are defined and agreed upon by the group. So artistically it’s different from labels like Workshop or nonplus, where you have two people or one person who decides about the releases and where the tastes of these people define the direction where the label is heading. People often tend to think that I run Mikrodisko or even Workshop, that they are my labels. But that’s not true: with Mikrodisko, I’m part of that collective and with Workshop, I’m an artist who releases on the label, I’m friends with the people who run it, but I’m not in charge at all. The releases on Ominira are a better representation of my personal tastes I guess, because my input is much stronger. In general I do prefer working with people that I have personal relations with, people I know. Circles of friends, that’s were it all comes from, that’s the way I got into this scene. Quite idealistic if you will.
When performing, you only play live. Is a Dj Set less exhilarating creatively? Is it boring?
I do in fact DJ occasionally, just not as much in comparison. I do enjoy it and I don’t think DJing is boring at all. It’s only boring if you’re playing boring music, no? DJing gives you an opportunity to engage with other people’s work and to communicate with a crowd in a different way. When you play live I think people are more willing to accept that you are doing a “different kind of thing” at this moment of a night, so the response and the communication between performer and crowd is a bit different. Perhaps you could say it’s a question of focus: when you play live the focus is on you, when you DJ the focus should be on the crowd – I don’t mean this as an exclusive thing but as a tendency. I never play my own records when I DJ because playing my own records is boring to me.
I read in your interview for LWE that you only play unreleased stuff because you don’t like this “rock attitude” of people coming to hear one or two particular songs. Is it also a way for you to “test” your material before releasing it? I’m referring particularly to your release on Laid, where we can even hear people in the club talking at the beginning and at the end of the track.
For me it’s not a way of testing material, because it is not my goal to produce “proper” club tracks. When I work on music I want the results to be coherent pieces in themselves and in relation to other tracks I’m working on, but whether or not they have any practical value for DJs is not my concern: I’m trying to produce music that works on its own terms. The tracks I use in live sets are either exclusively made for that purpose or they are based on other projects I’m currently working on. As for the latter, most of the time I get tired of playing them and never finish them.The release on Laid was a request based on one of my live sets: Dor Levi, who was working for them at the time, asked me for one particular track that he had heard on the night and when I later recorded it I chose to include a live recording of that track (from another night in fact) as a reminder of how it was first selected as a release.
I was completely blown away by your live set at the Boiler Room, can we expect releases of some of the stuff played then anytime soon?
I don’t know really. With my way of working, as outlined above, it can be quite difficult because I tend to change the contents and parts I use so at a certain point it becomes hard for me to trace what I was exactly doing. And instead on focusing my energy on retracing those situations and trying to recreate them I’d rather work on something new. I like the idea that music remains a transient thing that only exists when performed live, a notion that is very much at odds with digital culture today where people are used to record and document and being able to access anything anytime. And my sets they exist only for the now, for the people who were there and afterwards they remain a vague idea in their memory. I like the vagueness and ambiguity of memory. That’s the reason why I don’t like to make recordings of my sets. There were a few exceptions, Boiler Room was one of them. I know about the issues that people have with Boiler Room and I see them, but I knew what I was in for at the time and I had my reasons for making a compromise in this case. Will I release one of the tracks from that set? We’ll see. None of the releases I have currently lined up are based on the Boiler Room set.
There is a big diversity in your music, yet there is always this analogue and hypnotic feel to each of your releases. Some even go as far as describing your music as “Narco House”. Do you have a specific mindset when you go about producing?
I used to work a lot at night, but not so much anymore. I keep things running on loop for long periods and see how they work. I like loop-based hypnotic music a lot, so I guess it just comes natural. Analogue loops in particular, they evolve, they are never exactly the same, there are subtle shifts, sometimes its down to chance how something will sound. Two drum machines might be running in sync, but still their tempos always drift slightly and that has an effect on the groove. Once I am content with a loop I will start working on the details. It’s not so much a particular mindset, it’s more about focus and shifting focus; conscious and unconscious listening. Listening closely and then doing something else while the machines keep running, focus on different details, refine this, add that, strip this away etc.
What kind of equipment do you use to produce? What is your favorite set up during you live sets?
Mostly hardware for sounds and recording, including gear I’ve collected over the years from flea markets and junkyard sales. I don’t buy too much new gear. I rather work with what I have, with what I know and what works for me. I use computers for editing. My live setup: I change it according to the situation and how I feel. I see my live sets as a process or a constant work in progress.
Your sets have a very lively feeling, do you leave room for improvisation when you perform or do you have something specific in mind before playing?
I try to leave as much room for improvisation as possible. That means to ensure that I am able to combine tracks in a variety of ways, to change their character if necessary and to adapt them to a given situation. I usually bring gear that I can program or work with on the spot which adds to the live feel and expands the space for improvisation. I enjoy it when unforeseen things happen. The only thing I plan ahead is usually how to start.
Meakusma is soon going to be releasing remixes of Madteo by Anthony Shakir, Marcellus Pittman and yourself. Having listened to your version of Very Sweaty Palms on the Boiler Room channel, I believe that’s a perfect example of the diversity of your production and also a clear take on Abstract Hip Hop. Is that a genre that you’ve always been experiencing? Can we expect a further take on the genre release-wise?
I used to have an interest in hip hop in the nineties when there were lots of exciting releases – exciting for me, anyway. But I’m not really following it today. Hip Hop was the first machine-made music I got into, even before techno, so I guess it still has a subconscious effect on my way of making electronic music today. With the Madteo project I was particularly excited to be able to use some vocals by Sensational, because Word Sound, the NY label he was affiliated with in the 90s, I was definitely into the sound they had: weird lo-fi dub-infused hip hop. They also had some more abstract electronic stuff as well. Electro was also an influence, and much of the UK electronic music I first got into was rooted in electro/hip hop as well. So while it is a persistent strain in my music, I never had any plans or interest to do a hip hop record or something in that vein.
Can you tell us a bit about your influences, the artists that inspire your work?
Artists that inspire me, in no particular order: Gerald Donald, Mo Loschelder, Roman Herzog, Inga Copeland, Daniel Wang, Maya Deren and John Waters.
We know you don’t like to be pigeonholed and described as a House or Techno producer. Yet, I’m very interested in knowing your opinion on those two scenes today…
What I find interesting is that although people are looking at House and Techno as historical styles nowadays, from the 80s and 90s copycat releases to the “music history” approach of Rush Hour and all, the styles and sub-genres that I was and am into have yet remained largely untapped. I don’t know what to say really. I don’t really know so much about what’s going on because unlike proper DJs I don’t follow everything and don’t really care so much about what’s going on. I go digging in record stores or hang out with people and listen to music and discover things that way. And that means that I’m discovering things across the map and across time. In general any type of music gets boring if people are too much in the know and play everything safe.
What are the places you like the most to play at?
Smaller venues, most preferably places I’ve been or where I know people. I like the family vibe of club culture.
What can we expect from Kassem Mosse in 2012?
The live debut of the MM/KM project in London in August, KM releases for Soul Jazz and Ominira. Furthermore I’m currently engineering an album for another artist. It’s an experiment but I’m surprised and happy that this artist has trusted me with her music and I hope I can turn it into something we will both enjoy.