IT REALLY SHOWS FROM START TO FINISH THE EMOTIONS THAT I WENT THROUGH. THAT’S WHY IT WAS A BIG REASON WHY I WANTED TO DO THIS IN PARTICULAR: AN INTERVIEW WITH MAHER DANIEL
Kir & Val (CultKitchen), 28.02.2021
Val: Let's dive a bit into the past days. Not all DJs also produce music but you do. What came first? Was it deejaying or production?
Maher: It came kind of at the same time because my older brother was a DJ before I was. I was always listening to him playing, they started a record label back in the day. We're talking about the years 1998, 1999, 2000... They had a record label called Chug Records, which was more along the progressive and tribal progressive house scene back then. I was just a little kid who was always listening to them and then one day he moved to Dubai for work, and he left all of his records. So, I just picked up the records and I started playing. It was 2001 when I started playing. I guess because I was always there listening to them and watching them, it picked up really quickly for me. Then within four months I just said, OK, I want to do this. I started making music. So, it's kind of happened all around the same time.
Kir: And why did you start making music?
Maher: I was always musical. I studied in a British program in high school, the GCSEs and I took music as a part of my theory for the GCSEs, played the guitar and wrote music as well. I always knew that I wanted to do something in music. I used to play in a band! Punk rock and whatever it was. It just kept going from there, you know what I mean? By the time I got to Montreal, I really didn't know much about electronic music. It was again my brother who got me into it. I don't know, I just found something in it that really attracted me and then from there I was just hooked. It was straight up like, OK, this is what I want to do. I want to make dance music. I want to play dance music. It's been like that since then.
The older siblings are always the ones that kind of influence you into something. I still thank my brother for everything that he's done. He still sends me music, and he still tells me, OK, check this out, like vicariously living through me in some way.
Val: So, you started with dance music. Why did you decide to do this ambient & experimental album?
Maher: Honestly, it's because I love the genre and I love actually just listening to it. I've always wanted to do something amongst this project and particularly this one because it's like knowing that there's a piece of me and this is literally like a piece of me. If you guys have gone through it already, you'll know how it starts off dark and then kind of opens up towards the end where it's like a bit more uplifting. It is a time period as well.
There was a period over the last year that was a bit rough, but there was also a big change in my life that took place. From a relationship to just being me, getting myself personally back up there, getting healthy again, being fit, working and focusing on the record label, focusing on all the other projects that I could do. Plus obviously, we were in the middle of the pandemic, in which we still are. I needed to express myself and I found out that the way I could do it was doing it through this. With a dance music record, you can express yourself as much as you want. You can tell a story with a dance music record, but I think with the body of work like this, with the amount of work that I put into this project, it really shows from start to finish the emotions that I went through. That's why it was a big reason why I wanted to do this in particular.
Val: I listened to it this morning. I was in the taxi, and it was minus 30 outside, super blue sky with sunshine. I just put my earphones on and was listening to the whole hour, it was so beautiful.
Maher: Thanks. Appreciate that. Honestly, I've been listening to it non-stop since I sent it to you, guys, after I put it together. I've been listening to it just because sometimes when you create a body of work, you sit there, and you think – is it perfect? Is it the way you want it to sound? And honestly, I've got to that point, but after listening to it for so many times I'm just like, WOW, it actually all came together. My goal with this now is to actually put it as a live set. That's really what I want to do. I want to do it at MUTEK or Gamma Festival, which you guys have. The Gamma Festival is something where I want to present this because it's very experimental, and they do all that kind of stuff. So, it's something that I want to really get myself into now.
Val: I really hope that Gamma Festival will take place this year.
Maher: Yeah I hope so too. I mean let's see what happens. Hopefully, things are starting. There's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel right now, with the UK announcing officially that they're potentially going to start opening up in June. I hope the rest of Europe starts to take a bit more action and kind of do the same thing. Everything's a little backwards right now, but hopefully, we'll be able to get there.
Kir: I want to ask the question that maybe all our listeners and followers would like to know. I think you were asked it many times before. What is it like to work with Ricardo in production?
Maher: Oh, it's a lot of fun, and it's a learning experience. I'll tell you this much. The way he writes music and the way he does everything is so... it was such a learning experience for me and so different, just like sitting in the studio with this whole modular wall and everything linked up. He's such a mad scientist, he knows what every little piece of equipment does in that studio.
He knows what he's doing, he knows everything. Every little unit, every piece that's been there and whatever what it does. He just flips the switch, presses a button, does this... and he's not the type of person like many artists who record different parts. He records straight, always performing live as he's making his music. Basically, he presses record, he starts jamming, and he jams for forty-five minutes, fifty minutes until the recording stops, and it can't take any more. Then that's what he has, and then he'll chop up from there. It's such an amazing way of working. It really took me out of my box for how I write my music. Again, he's so genuine and so sweet.
The story is really funny because I initially asked him to do a remix for me, and he was like – oh, well, you know what? Come to the studio, we'll start working on the remix. When he started hearing all these parts that I had, he just went – forget the remix, let's just make music. I was like OK! Let's make music. Like I said, again, such an amazing human being, so warm and genuine, and he's so humble about it. It was such a beautiful moment for me to be able to work with somebody like himself.
Val: I can't also not to talk a little bit about the social space, the politics, all of this stuff because I see that you are quite active in showing your position.
What do you think? Should the artist openly and clearly show political views, views on what's happening in the world? Because, from one side, everybody knows what to do right now. Everybody is a specialist in everything. From another side, you can't just close eyes on some things and not talk about it.
Maher: I think everybody has the right for their own opinions and their own things, and if they want to talk about it, they should talk about it. They can talk about it openly. I don't think people should really judge other people for what they're doing. You know what I mean... At the end of the day, we're all in this together, right? And as far as we are all in this together, we have to respect everybody's personal well-being. I think if you're mature, and you do it responsibly or like for example, here in Miami, it's the Wild West. Everybody's out, everybody's on the weekends, everybody is at Space, people in the clubs. There's afterparties happening left, right and centre. There are tons of stuff happening. Same thing in New York now, everything is opening up at Dallas and Texas. It's starting to open up.
I think it's one of those important things. We're like sure to talk about it, but the judging is the worst thing. And I've seen a lot of deejays that are just talking and complaining about some artists who are going and playing in certain places and saying they're completely like being negligent about it. Look, they're wearing their masks. These places are already open. The governments say: "You can open, and you can do what you can do". Then it's nobody's position to sit there and judge and say, no, I'm not going to do this.
I got tested after every show. I get tested before I travel to play a show somewhere else just because I feel like I need to do it, not just for myself, but for everybody else that's around me. And if you do it like that, I think that's really important. I don't think they should be telling you what to do or what not to do or saying it's wrong. It's not wrong. Sure. We all have our lives. This is our livelihood. This is what we do for work. It's like I'm not going to just sit there and say: “Oh, that's it, I'm going to stay a whole year.” I knew this year was fantastic when I got the opportunity. And luckily enough, I have an American passport to be here, and I can come into the US. I'm going to take that opportunity, and I'm going to go work and make some money. It doesn't make any sense for anybody to tell me, don't do it.
Kir: So, what are the plans for 2021?
Maher: The plans for 2021, hopefully, if things start opening up like the way they are, I'll just go with the flow, to be honest with you, right now. My focus is a lot on the record label and everything. I'm in a good position right now with the label. We have some amazing projects coming up. The next release, unfortunately, has been delayed a bit because of coronavirus, but it should be out by next week. It is Dubfound with Rhadoo remix and following that will be me and Riccardo's EP. It's a split EP. There will be one record from me and Ricardo. The second one is a single from myself. Then I signed an album from Pheek and Kike Mayor. Super amazing album. Pheek is one of those local Montrealers that I grew up listening to as well, like especially on the minimal type of things. He was a boss man for me. That's what it was. And so, it was such a pleasure to have him.
Well, how it happened. During the SXM Festival last year, Ricardo and Raresh called me and said that they are not flying to St. Maarten, unfortunately. So, I had to readjust my lineup. Last thing I did was basically I said, all right, I'm going to have Pheek and Kike doing a live set after Akufen. When they played that live I turned around and said: “Guys, I want to sign an album from you.” I was like, seriously, let's let's work on this. It'll take a year. It'll take two years. It doesn't matter. Let's do it. So, we signed that album, which I'm happy about. Remixes are coming in from Cabanne, Mihai, Matthew Johnson, myself and Lowris. Then after that, I signed an EP from Pirvu, Romania, and I'm just going to keep focusing on the label, that's the goal. 2021 right now is just really taking it to the next level and really trying to push the label at its best to its fullest potential.
Val: Getting back to the podcast. Two last questions that we always ask. What is the story behind it, behind this music?
Maher: Like I said, it's been a year, right? So, I mean, when I started this, it was literally March 2020. Obviously, like everything had just happened, it was super crazy, I just couldn't realize what was going on. It really put me in this path of need to better myself, and by bettering myself, I needed to also take the time and focus my energy musically into something which is not straight up dance music, something that would help me develop myself as an artist. So really, the story behind it is like a journey over the last year of where I started off at and where I've got to right now. That's I think really what it is. It's a journey of myself, my person, my well-being and my personal self.
Kir: The final question, the main one that is with us since the first episode. What is the best place on planet Earth to listen to this music?
Maher: Oh, that's a great question! On a deserted island, on a beach somewhere... Honestly, you could be anywhere. You can be in the middle of the forest listening to it. You can be on an island hanging out on the beach and just zoning out completely. The whole purpose of this is to really just let go. Let go of all the worries, let go of all the emotions or whatever it is. For an hour, just sit there and let your mind escape. That's the whole point of this. Can I get three answers? I'm going to say: in a forest somewhere, on the beach or... third place will be somewhere cold when it's winter and the snow is falling, like where you guys are.
Kir: Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you, that you agreed to showcase the upcoming album with us.
Val: Yeah. Thank you. Let’s hope all plans will come true this year.
Maher: Thank you for having me, guys. I really appreciate it. It was a pleasure putting this all together and happy that we can be showcasing it with you first.