Terminal V Podcast 018 || Fadi Mohem
It is true that music knows no bounds and Fadi Mohem is a true testament to this fact. Wise beyond his relatively young years and he is already in with the bricks with the Berlin techno elite. His live sets and releases for Ben Klock and his Klockworks more than warrant his inclusion on the big stages that Ben’s Photon events command.
Don’t let Fadi’s unassuming façade fool you, he can smash it with the best of them. With a clutch of releases for German techno stalwarts Modeselektor’s Seilscheibenpfeiler imprint is already a seasoned artist. Equally at home programming drum machines and synths in his ever-evolving live sets as he is behind a set of decks this young gun is set to rise and rise. Ahead of him dropping his red-hot mix for us we caught up Fadi for a deep dive discussion.
Thanks for joining us Fadi. What has been keeping you busy in the studio lately? What do you have coming up?
Thanks for having me! Just before the pandemic I rewired my studio and swapped out quite some stuff. I like to change things every now and then to keep the ideas flowing. Just recently I started working with an object-oriented programming language for audio synthesis and algorithmic composition to get a new perspective on sound design and sequencing. For me it´s crucial to learn and try out new things to stay inspired. At the moment, I enjoy making music just for the sake of making it and keep collecting new tracks. Next to that I have some exciting collaborations going, that are still in the works.
How do you spend your time when you are out of the studio?
Apart from being in the studio I mostly enjoy taking walks through nature. Luckily Berlin is surrounded with a couple forests and lakes!
Age is only a number but if you don’t mind us saying you are quite young compared to other artists at your level. What led you to this point?
When I was in high school, I discovered drum & bass around 2010 and it completely blew me away. I had never heard anything like it before and didn’t know what it was. When I went to a club for the first time to experience it on a big sound system, I was completely hooked and dug myself into electronic music – first drum & bass and dubstep soon after. Around that time, I tried to make mixes on my computer with some freeware and it didn’t take long to find likeminded friends in school and in my neighbourhood. Soon after, I saved up for my first set of turntables, a mixer and a couple records to learn it from the ground up. Eventually I played drum & bass and dubstep on parties every now and then. When I started to play on our own open airs in Berlin, my musical interest shifted more and more first towards house and then techno. Discovering Hard Wax played a very important part in that transition. That’s where I learned most about techno and its roots, not only in a musical sense.
Around 2011 I started making my own music only on a laptop without thinking of releasing anything for years. After school, I studied audio engineering and got to work as a mixing engineer at Tobi Neumann´s Apollo Studio Berlin in 2015, where I was also able to check and polish my own tracks in a perfectly treated room for the first time! Just before finishing uni I played my first live set with Claus Schoening and we continued to play live together for two years. Around that time our friends from WERK where doing regular techno nights in Berlin that were quite essential for me and helped to shape my vision of techno. In 2017, they asked me to release my debut EP for WERK001, which was a real turning point in my mind. I felt like I was finally able to create music that I truly like. After releasing on Modeselektor´s label Seilscheibenpfeiler in 2018 and on Ben Klock´s label Klockworks a year later, I got more and more gigs. Well, then 2020 came around the corner and here we are (still).
Tell us more about your involvement in Klockworks and Photon and how it all came about?
I met Ben Klock in 2016 and he was one of the first persons I handed a promo copy of my debut on WERK. He Iiked the record and I kept on making tracks for another year or so before I started sending him some where I felt they might fit. He played them in his sets and picked out his favorites. In 2019, my first Klockworks record was released with KW27. At the end of the year I was invited to play live on the annual Klockworks night at Berghain, which was quite a perfect ending for the decade.
In 2020 Ben was setting up the Photon stream with his crew and I was very happy to be invited to play another live set. This was quite a special event for me as I didn’t play for a couple months due to the pandemic and it was the first time my live set was being filmed. On top of that in such a sick location with their unique light concept – definitely my highlight of the year!
You have formulated an impressive live set up, tell us more about your thought process when designing the setup?
Thanks! My approach to playing live is basically that I want to keep it fresh every time and preferably only play new unheard, unreleased stuff. I usually change the setup and swap out bits and pieces after every set. Generally, I want to be able to create new patterns and ideas instantly. All sound sources need to have their own sequencers, so every part is interchangeable. Furthermore, I try to keep it as compact and as simple as possible. So usually when I prepare a live set, I create a couple patterns for each sound source to get things going and play with these. Same approach when making music in the studio basically.
What are the most important pieces of kit in your setup and what make them so special?
At the moment, the Elektron Octatrack and Digitone are quite an essential part because they aren’t only powerful and flexible sound sources but also carry intuitive sequencers.
Talk us through your recent virtual live jam? Who was involved and what was your part in the event?
Speedy J and Sander Voets set up this huge virtual live jam as a closing marathon for STOOR´s Stay Home Soundsystem Season 2. They paired with Rødhåd´s WSNWG studio here in Berlin and invited nine artists in total: Speedy J, Colin Benders, Charlton, Megan Leber, Robin Kampschoer and Fritz Schneider in Rotterdam and Rødhåd, The Lady Machine and me in Berlin. At first I was a little bit concerned this would probably end up in total chaos and a complete mess but it turned out to be quite a success and a lot of fun. Everyone played their parts very well and you could feel there’s a lot of talent involved. We played live for around nine hours till 5 in the morning, everything fully improvised. I had my live setup with me and played with Rødhåd´s 909 and a couple of his effects. I didn’t prepare any patterns to stay flexible and create stuff on the fly.
Will any joint releases be born as a result of this jam?
After the virtual live jam, I left my setup at Rødhåd´s studio for a couple days and we recorded some tracks together. They will come out on WSNWG soon, so keep an eye out!
Do you prefer playing live to a DJ set or are the two not comparable?
I usually play DJ sets but enjoy playing live every now and then just as much. There are things that you can express in a long DJ set that you cannot in a one-hour live set and vice versa. For me it has always been fun to make tracks and tools between gigs and play them out in my DJ sets. With this in mind, it´s also nice to just take the machines into the club and play them directly from the source without recording them in the first place.
Speaking about DJ sets walk us through the podcast you have recorded for us?
For this podcast, I recorded a pure techno mix. Keep it running from start to finish and look out for an unreleased archived track of mine that I found on a hard disk recently and for one of the upcoming tracks I made with Rødhåd for his WSNWG label.
What was your game plan prior to recording the mix?
After more than a year without being in a club, I really miss the experience quite a lot! The plan was easy: Record a mix with tracks that I would love to hear on a proper sound system. Enjoy!
Interview by Stu Todd