For our latest Carhartt WIP Radio show, we feature Disco Halal, the brainchild of DJ/producer Moscoman, and its signature brand of techno, new wave, house and sounds from the Middle East. Hailing from Tel Aviv and now based in Berlin, Moscoman's distinctive approach to DJing, remixing and production has seen him garner an impressive reputation. As well as releasing music since 2013 on labels like ESP Institute, I'm A Cliche, Correspondant and Eskimo Recordings, he has also released stuff on his own Disco Halal imprint. On any given evening you can catch him behind the decks at some of the world’s most interesting club spots and festivals. Moscoman’s label, Disco Halal, was launched in 2015, with its early days defined by its touching edits infused with Middle Eastern vibes, as well as a highly acclaimed reissue of the TCP album from 1984. Since then, the label has gone on to focus on original, contemporary music from artists such as Russian act Simple Symmetry, as well as Israel’s Chaim and Autarkic, creating an eclectic discography of electronic, house, techno, disco and downtempo. In his exclusive mix for us, Moscoman has also included some unreleased, upcoming tracks from new artists like Mount Kismet, Yoshinori Hayashi and Kiwi. As usual we talked to the man behind the music. Here is what Moscoman had to say about Disco Halal, spending his youth collecting records and the challenges of re-releasing forgotten gems.
Hello Moscoman, you run the label Disco Halal. Is it a straight vinyl label?
Moscoman: It was a vinyl only label, but now we do also digital releases, as it has become a bigger thing. Also I don’t release much music by myself on the label. I just did an edit – a 12inch with Red Axes and Krikor and a remix for the TCP reissue I did. I think it is better that I do projects like my monthly 12inch musical journey Treisar serial or like my album A Shot In The Light on other labels so that Disco Halal stands for something else then Moscoman.
What was the initial starting point for Disco Halal back in 2015?
Moscoman: Well back in the day I got sent a lot of edits from Acid Arab or Mehmet Aslan. That was also the time when the edit scene was at its peak and many people were doing it. You had nu-disco edits, Turkish edits from Baris K or Istanbul 70. So everybody did something like this and went deeper. So at one point I had so many great edits. The rest happened by chance: I played in my hometown Tel Aviv and Markus Lindner from OYE was also playing there. I played some of the edits and he started to ask me about them and we decided to do something together. I had a lot of edits in my bag. We just joked: lets do a vinyl. And that’s how my brain works: I have a small idea and then I make a master plan afterwards. The name, the artwork – all came afterwards easily to me. The name for instance is super logical. And then one record became three and I got a designer. At the beginning it was Mehmet Aslan who did the artwork. But then a friend introduced me to Neil Cohen, who is now the designer of the label. He is the perfect match for my ideas. Not that Mehmet was bad and I did not want to hurt him when I chose Neil. But Neil really can make my ideas come to life. The next designs are super crazy – after the Chaim record comes a record by Kiwi in September and the design just looks so amazing. It is the new look for Disco Halal.
Edits were the starting point for Disco Halal, why did you shift to releasing more original music?
Moscoman: Well, I wish I could do more edits. I have so many. But if your label gets known you can’t do this anymore – you really get into legal trouble. I also don’t re-release the first Disco Halal releases because of that. But also, I grew up and my taste and the direction of the label changed. I want to release more original music. It can be old original music or new, but it should be original music. And also many of the artists I feature on the label did also edits before but now they release their very own music – it is their time to shine, you know. Their time to show that they can do more than just edits. The bootlegging business was a great starting point. It sold well and established the name, but now we have to move on. When I did the first Autarkic release people said, ‘Why are you doing this? The edits business is good.’ But I was not looking for money, I wanted good music. I wanted to share the good music I got from friends. And it’s still like this. I am the one that is choosing the music for the label and I do not care what people say. If for some it all sounds the same, I only can say: that is my taste!
So it’s like you are the filter, and what comes out on your label has your language?
Moscoman: Yes, that’s how good labels work. For me, currently, it should be music that works well in a club but is also great musically. And I like a lot of musical vibes – post-punk, new wave, no-wave, Middle Eastern music. It’s a mixture that is rooted in my taste. Red Axes do a similar thing.
And you are also rooted in band music and in the musical heritage from your home country Israel.
Moscoman: Sure. It is important for me to show musical heritage, and to create a musical community too. Disco Halal is not Moscoman. Even if the label is mine it has a family kind of vibe and everybody who does great music and passes the filter can be part of it. This is my idea of the label. Even if today you have to pay more for it and there is a financial angle. The music, the artwork and the fact that people are exposed to a different kind of sounds from alternative to Middle Eastern sounds but also to Brazil, or music from some other strange unusual place, makes it all special to me. Also the Disco Halal family is growing all the time. We have a new Russian angle with Simple Symmetry. Then there is Chaim, who I have been in touch with for a long time, and who’s now releasing music with us. And I do not tell anybody what music he or she has to make – I select the tunes from a DJ perspective, that is all – and as I am releasing my own music on other labels, I know how it is. Due to my experiences I try not to be a label boss who tells people what to do. I try to give everybody as much freedom as possible.
I’m A Cliché, ESP Institute. Eskimo Recordings: you released on many labels so far.
Moscoman: Yes and they are all my friends and I love them. But now I release my own stuff on Treisar. I am also an Alpha Animal and have my own agenda so I do my stuff now by myself and how I want do it. I have a strong vision and I think this is important to fulfil your goals. But you also need people who are not like this and who just do what they love and get on with it. For instance, Chaim is older then me and I have a lot of respect to him because when we grew up in Israel he was already a DJ and producer with releases on labels like BPitch under his belt. What I experience now he already experienced. But he came to me as a friend and gave me music to release without any greater interest then just to release it. He just loves what he does. People like DJ Tennis or Jonnie from Optimo are the same – they just love what they do, and that is what I love and look for!
You re-released the in demand TCP record from 1984. How was this experience? And would you do something like this again?
Moscoman: The TCP reissue was tough. I paid a lot for it, but it went well. And Tony Carey, the man behind TCP, became a friend. He still has a lot of unreleased stuff too. The TCP re-release was really great. I have a lot of ideas what to reissue next, but it is hard to do, as more and more people who get re-released want a lot of money. They were not paid when they released their music so now they want to get paid. They had big dreams about their music back in the days you know. At home I still have many rare records from my collection and one day I said to my mother when I saw the records: look, all these are broken dreams. Many of the people from the past whose music is now reissued felt like that. For fifty years nobody was interested in their records, so they view it like a broken dream, and they are happy when it now gets re-released. That is why I also still look for music to reissue, but it is also hard. Recently I wanted to do a reissue. I met the guy also with a lawyer and all was ready but then he got a bigger offer and left me in the cold. So it is difficult to do this kind of work and it can cost you more energy than releasing new music. Also, there are too many re-issue labels, and not all of them are guided by passion, you can see it. Look at Finders Keepers who did a great job – you can feel their passion. And I want to reissue music that I love. That is all. But it is getting more harder as the people want too much money. So Disco Halal will release more original contemporary music just now, but I will not give up working on reissues. If I can get one, I do it. And to be honest, it’s a small market. You sell only small numbers. In terms of social network it is bigger. You get a lot of likes and stuff, as people want to belong to something. But in terms of selling vinyl, it is a small market today.
Autarkic - Asi Keta Ga (Disco Halal 2016)
And where did you start the label. In Tel Aviv or Berlin?
Moscoman: In Berlin. I came over here 2013, but I collected music before. And the label’s roots are older, I have wanted to do a label since I was young. It was always my dream. If there is something I am good at it is choosing music, as a DJ and as a label boss. This is just my natural profession, it’s all I have done with my life since I was six or seven when I played with my family’s records. I started collecting from the age of 12, since I started earning money for myself you know. Most of my money I spent on records. And I had nothing that somebody gave me, I bought it all and all my records are my taste. That’s great. And when I told people when I was younger that I wanted to do a record label when I grew up everybody thought I was joking and tried to convince me to not do it. Many said it is impossible. Even I thought that: I thought it even after I released some records. But now I know it is all about yourself and your strengths and then you can do what you want. And when you realize this, nobody can stop you! Many people have great ideas and visions, but are too lazy or have too much fear. I can only say: Just do it.
And did you have any label in mind that worked for you as a blueprint when you launched Disco Halal?
Moscoman:Stones Throw was a big inspiration to me, because of their musical diversity and because of Peanut Butter Wolf and his attitude. You know I am an alpha-DJ, but he took a backseat and runs his label with such a great taste and freedom without standing in the spotlight. I really adore this! And all the artists he is dealing with. They all have huge personalities and he is dealing with them from the backseat. I really respect this and try to do this with Disco Halal too – I have artists who have a big ego too, and I let them work freely. I don’t tell them what to do because their greatness comes from their freedom. I learned this from Stones Throw I would say.
Many people have great ideas and visions, but are too lazy or have too much fear. I can only say: Just do it.
You run a label but you are also a producer by yourself as Moscoman. How do you balance these worlds?
Moscoman: It’s really rare for me to produce music for my own label, so I do not have this problem really. Whatever I produce also just comes out. I never go into genres and say let’s do this or that. So I do not have a problem in balancing these two worlds.
Besides being a DJ you also play music. You’ve been in bands right?
Moscoman: Sure, when I was younger I was in bands. I played bass. This is still a great influence as my music is very percussive, and I have a rock kind of vibe. Also when I started to DJ in Israel I did not DJ in a dancefloor oriented way, I played all kinds of music. It wasn’t techno or house – it was more disco not disco punk and funk. Snare driven stuff. We had a club called Penguin where you could hear dark eighties style music, this was an inspiration for me too. But overall I must say I always wanted to sound – as a DJ, producer and label runner – like nobody else. I wanted to do it my way, I did not want to copy anybody, even if a label, a style or a band really touched me. I wanted to do diverse things. And I think I have done it so far – my very own music mirrors that. It can touch you in a club, but it also works on a big festival stage. I have huge respect for the house and techno scene, I like that it is lineal music, but at the same time I also find it very boring. That’s why I do what I do, it is a personal thing mainly. In the beginning I had a lot of hate on that scene and it was my drive. Now I do not have this anymore. I try to be relaxed and do what I want to do.
You sound like all you do is consuming you deeply. Is there also a Moscoman that has nothing to do with music? That goes to an exhibition, the theatre or to the movies?
Moscoman: Sure, all the time. For instance food is a really big thing in my life. And I check art wherever I go. I go to London often just to see art. Sadly in Berlin I do not find so much art I like. It is either too contemporary or too classic. I like artists like Martin Kippenberger, he put so much into his art, more than I can ever give – but that is why he also died early. Finding out about him and his work pushed me a lot. I think that is what art should do. Or when you see what Rainer Werner Fassbinder did in his short life. Amazing. His 900+ minute long series Berlin Alexanderplatz was also a big inspiration to me. And it shows me that you have to have ideas and that you have to work hard for them. To some people stuff might come easy. But in the end I believe only hard work and real passion for it brings you to fulfil your dreams totally.
And where do you see yourself in five years?
Moscoman: I hope all is bigger then a label. It would be great if Disco Halal would be a real community centre. A shop, restaurant, label – all together. A place where people like to come to, be together and for sure go dancing and release music. But I must say I also like change and am always look for something new. So who knows if this dream is still there in the future. But just now, I have a band, a label, I am a producer and DJ, I don’t want anything else. This is all I ever wanted and I’ve already got it.