Last week we played out two tracks from Egypt that felt like a rare find. DJ Pretentious had diligently and with a little humour even, played the melody line of Get Lucky on the oud, the stringed instrument that fathered the lute. In theory the idea of reworking Daft Punk at all might sound flat, even desperate but by chance, finding the track without having read about it first meant the music got to speak for itself without the cerebral interference of a concept. On one of those ‘listening journeys’ if you like, when hours literally pass and you think you’ll stop following links just after this song, just after this. And the listening isn’t always pleasant either. The near-addictive drive to listen to new music for hours is about the rareness of the discovery, it’s about the means by which you get to that song and the moment of recognition when you find it. It’s not about whether the music is new to the world, if it’s new to you. That’s key to successful living really; the credibility of finding your own stepping stones. It doesn’t matter if either a music lover, or someone who studies music for a living (these can be mutually exclusive, or not) read their way through another’s footsteps and discovered the music before you did. The music’s new to you, you stumbled on it and it’s new then. So in the throes of excitement we cajoled DJ Pretentious into speaking about his music to us.
– Music means the world to me. I’d been playing the guitar for a good while before getting into production and also make music for video games for a living, so it’s my job too 🙂
-How did you first get into producing music?
– It was around 3 years ago, the only reason I started is because my guitar broke, and I was sitting at home thinking of a melody. I needed a way to write it down, which is what got me into sequencing. I hadn’t started listening to electronic music back then.
-What were you listening to at the time and what formats were you listening on then?
– When I started producing, I was listening mainly to metal and rock, specifically progressive metal, metalcore and thrash, that kind of stuff. I was usually introduced to music through friends, or by stumbling on stuff on the internet
-What’s the music scene in Egypt like currently and where do you fit in?
– There’s a large underground music scene here in Egypt, and electronic music exists yet sadly is not as common as indie rock, blues, metal, hip hop and other genres. There aren’t many events where someone like myself could play (since my music is more of the experimental type, you know…I don’t have a particular sound, and you can’t exactly dance to my music). As a result, I’ve never played live. Not yet at least.
-Recently we had some Shaabi Mcs come over to work with electronic musicians over here in London. One expat Egyptian called it “the lowest kind of music ever” clearly not aware that we celebrate genres such as grime in the UK. Does that kind of disconnect prevail in Egypt, as it does here, even on the UK music scene?
– Yes it does, but I am not an advocate of judging music. Opinions on Shaabi music are very diverse, but I believe nobody can argue the fact that it does have an audience. I believe the Shaabi groove has a lot of potential, but it’s still a young genre and is almost completely undeveloped. If the right collaborations were to take place, it could push the genre forwards quickly.
-When do you know you’ve finished a track?
– This is one of the toughest challenges I face. There’s always room for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been working on something. I usually stop working when I’ve really had enough of a track; when I’ve exhausted all my ideas. Then I leave it for a day or so, and listen to it again. If it still adds up as it did when I first made it, it’s ready (or at least ready enough, ha!).
-Tell us about how you produced the Get Lucky remix
– The Get Lucky remix actually started as a game! I was sitting with a friend, trying to write down famous songs on the piano roll in one shot without listening to the notes, and without making any mistakes. I wrote it down, and then when he was on the phone I just found myself kinda adding, you know, a beat and stuff. I thought I’d save the project, then a few days later I was bored, opened it up and then all of a sudden I got serious with it… I don’t usually do chillout stuff, so I wasn’t sure about this track. I thought maybe someone would be into that kind of music, so I decided to release it anyway. Interestingly, it’s been my most successful release so far (obviously due to the whole pop-song-cover situation).
-Who are some of your favourite producers at the moment?
– I listen to all kinds of stuff, but right now I’m particularly obsessed with Seven Lions. Also guys like Feed Me, Trifonic, Noisia, Deadmau5, Pendulum and many others of course, but these are the current favorites.
-What worries you about the global music industry, what would you change?
– The loudness war! I find myself overcompressing stuff, killing my transients too much, just to have my dynamics sounding acceptable next to the pop stuff. Also, I hate how many people look at electronic music, and expect you to make something that they can dance to. As nice as EDM is, it’s not always what I want to hear. It’s like there’s a tradeoff between your vision of something, and whether or not it will conform to people’s standards of what electronic music is like. If the industry keeps going for what’s guaranteed and won’t support experimentation, we’ll forever be stuck in this one bubble of sound.
-Where would you like to be with your music in say, 5 years time?
– I really hope I get to play my music to people around the world. I hope that in 5 years that I’ll still be going as strong as I am going right now. To this day, I’ve never attended a decent electronic music event, so I can only imagine what it must be like to be surrounded by like-minded people, listening to the music that I love, and hopefully getting to play some of my own.