On his Middle Eastern rave roots, studio creativity, and his new album…Four years ago, Chen Moscovici – better known as Moscoman – burst onto the global scene with the release of his debut album; ‘A Shot In The Light’. It saw the artist change direction, away from the dark techno he was then known for – thanks to a series of early EPs – and into a world where euphoria and melodic beats drove the heart of his music, a trait the producer is now beloved for, with an army of fans built on his alternative take on the genre.
Now, he’s back with his second album via Moshi Moshi records entitled ‘Time Slips Away’, a piece of work drawing on 80s indie rock and synth pop that blends electronic production with acoustic elements. Ahead of the release we caught up with the artist to talk about the album, his crazy journey over the last few years and his notorious Disco Halal label.
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Born and raised in Israel, Moscoman was surrounded by a vast array of sounds from an early age. Geographically the country was at the epicentre of a culture hub, drawing on the music from its neighbouring countries, as well as from migrants who made up much of its population, a unique interpretation of the middle eastern sound was created.
“A lot of people that came to Israel and wrote music in the 60s and 70s were mostly from Eastern European countries; mainly Poland and Russia. Then, in the 80s we had people arrive from North Africa and Yemen. Inspiration was taken from Eastern Europe where the music was heavily spiced with emotion, almost sad and mixed with darker stuff from Northern Europe. It became a big clash of these differing sounds. It’s evolved since then, now when you look at it through music theory, it’s a very Middle Eastern sound that draws on Asian scales and brings in elements of 1920’s Jazz, which was heavily Jewish influenced.”
Electronic music producers became synonymous for this sound, you hear it in the sonic output of Red Axes, Moscoman, and Abrão. Being from such a place and its openness to inspiration is a key component as to why Chen has got to where he is today. “Israeli music doesn’t hold back on emotion. It’s always been heavily influence by 80s rock, industrial, Belgian new wave, a lot came from Minimal Compact. We always wanted to be rock and roll, so guitars were important, you never knew you could be rock and roll as a DJ. It’s also very big on trance, there’s a reason it became the psychedelic capital of the world.”
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The artist began to DJ in the early 2000’s, just as he started to hone his trade, a dark time in Israeli culture struck. “Life changed heavily in 2003 when there was a couple of major bombings in Tel Aviv. They pretty much said there’s going to be no more clubbing – or fun – from here on. Life was difficult during the second Intifada. Looking back, it was way before woke society, all we saw was all our friends getting killed. All the clubs getting shut down one after another. Before that it was booming, we had Love Parade, there was a real freedom in the city, there was nowhere else in the world like Tel Aviv back then. Until 2008 it was a dead zone, there was nothing going on.”
“After the situation had passed, it was no longer about people trying to have fun, nobody would give you any second opportunity to make them dance, nobody was dancing, it was so hard. We had no clubs; we just had a few bars. I remember being like fuck it, people are going to dance now. It’s all about making people dance. It took so many years for them to finally realise they could have fun again. Now, you could play anything, and people go crazy, it’s the opposite.”
Fast forward 13 years and we witness the Moscoman’s most ambitious and complex project to date – his second album, ‘Time Slips Away’. It’s a release where this context and emotion comes to fruition, “I wanted the album to be more melodical, to be more epic. I wanted people to be able to play it at home as well. Sometimes I work with bands in the studio and they come with a game plan. This whole album was the opposite, it was pieced together without the intention of it being a full-length release. Every time I try and plan it, it doesn’t work. When things are honest, they work out. The only track I knew I wanted on the album was the last one, which has me and my partner singing on, we did that two years ago.”
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Befitting of the album’s title, after numerous certified dance EP’s on the likes of Life and Death, Correspondant and ESP, we now see the artists production slow down and draw on elements previously undiscovered. ‘Time Slips Away’ questions what dance music is in a world where clubs no longer exist. “I think in myself I’ve become a bit softer, I’m older now both physically and mentally, I’ve learnt a lot in the last five years. This is the journey I’m on now, I’m different and I’m enjoying it. I never know the right thing to do, I only ever know what I want to do. It’s a good thing and a bad thing, I’m sure there’s a few ways to get to a place quicker. But honestly, I feel so happy to have released on some of the biggest labels and to never be chosen on my hype, only on my music.”
“It was all written in the last couple of years. A lot of the inspiration came from the places I’d visited on the road, the people I’ve met and the life of being a DJ itself. Pre-corona, it was tough, not in a bad way, just heavy. There was a lot going on, a lot of people don’t understand that for everyone involved in this industry, there’s a lot of stress on us. I’m super grateful to be able to express those times in a good way.”
The album also sees the artist collaborate with some incredibly talented individuals, with the likes of Tom Sanders, Niki Kini and Wooze all making memorable contributions “I wanted to try it, but then I was insatiable, I wanted to work with everybody. I wanted to see how other people expressed themselves on my music. Now when I listen to the album, I feel a connection to it, I feel like I did good, not because of myself but instead I made a base that somebody shone on.”
‘Time Slips Away’ comes at a time where the world is starting to reach a ‘new normal’. Whilst the music industry is still very much on hold, Moscoman has been camped in New York, where he’s made the most of the time off. “I’ve never felt this free in my life, creatively. Someone took the metronome away; time is ticking in a totally different kind of way. As we say in Israel, we’ve been full on the gas in neutral and somebody turned off the engine. A lot of people are still trying to turn it back on but I’m not trying to press anything, I can’t control any of it. I’m just trying to live in this new world.”
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Although, the artist maintains a sense of disdain for the long term damage of the industry. “I don’t feel bad for myself; what I ate in the last five years I’ll never go beyond that, the attention, the places I’ve been and the experiences I’ve had. I feel bad for those who worked so hard for us, agents, managers, drivers, who lost their livelihoods.”
The period has also given the artist for time to focus on his label, Disco Halal. A project he started in 2014 that has since gone on to become one of the most infamous left field dance labels in the industry. “It’s going great, we’re releasing more music than we normally would be. I don’t spend three days of the week recovering now, so I have more time. The label isn’t my personal playground. It isn’t there to build me, although it did help to do exactly that. It builds me by building others, it gives me more energy doing that way as well.”
The label’s most recent project – ‘The Singles Club’ – is a series of releases from promising talent with the label acting as a calling card, the aim of it being a springboard for the artists. “Sometimes these artists are so unknown, people ask me if I invent these names and all this music is secretly me. They say where do you come up with these people, I say read your emails, I’m sure they send you stuff. Everything we release is all music I like and artists I believe in. If there’s good music, we’ll release it. I believe in freedom, do what you want. Every track we’ve released on the singles club is good, I stand by these artists and if they continue to make good music, the doors open for bigger releases.”
‘Time Slips Away’ displays Moscomans versatility as a producer. Whether the artist works in his more commonly associated area of dance music or this previously undiscovered space, the final output always stays true to himself. In some ways this album might be what we needed, undeniably the space where electronic music operates has changed, the artist poses many questions about what dance music can be, or perhaps should be, where our living rooms have become temporary clubs. With an A/V live show originally earmarked for this year, now hopefully pushed back to next, all eyes should be on Moscoman in 2021.
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‘Times Slips Away’ is out now.
Words: Jake Wright
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