Label focus: Disco Halal

Disco Halal has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Endorsed by a who’s who of DJ’s and producers alike, releases have welcomed fresh and well-known faces into its ever-expanding circle. With such a continued rise and profusely positive aura, it was a heart-warming encounter to sit down with label-head, Moscoman.

Gliding through everything from his motivations for the label’s inception to his philosophies in life, here you find an immersive label focus on Disco Halal; a deeper personal extension of Tel Aviv’s Moscoman.

You started Disco Halal in 2015 after you moved to Berlin; you wanted to make your own scene. Firstly, can you tell us why you moved from Tel Aviv to Berlin?

I guess I needed a change. Back in 2013, the scene in Tel Aviv wasn’t as good as it is today. There has been a lot of hard work getting a focus on Tel Aviv, but I hope the label is also a part of that. Berlin was the place to be and it still is. I had already lived there for a little while when I was very young, so I kind of knew the place too.

Great, so you’re in Berlin. What motivated you to start Disco Halal?

To be honest, I just had some edits from friends that I wanted to put out. At first people thought that nobody would be interested but I said ‘okay leave it to me’. I hooked up with OYE Records after previously going to the store and buying records, as well as meeting the guys through mutual friends. I told them about the edits I had and what I wanted to do – somehow, they said yes! From there, we started to work on it. The first four edits we put out were a mixture of Middle Eastern and Brazilian vibes, they had huge commercial success; something you wouldn’t expect from a small underground label. Especially as it wasn’t even a label back then really, I was just putting out the edits. The whole concept was (and still is) for my friends who didn’t release any music, I wanted to help them find a voice and channel it.

When you started Disco Halal and you were putting out those edits, did you consciously set out to provide something new and different to the Berlin scene?

Sure. I mean, it’s still a very closed scene; either very house or very techno. The majority of it I like to call ‘tourist music’ or ‘tourist house’. I’m not against it, I know some people like it and that is totally up to them. I think the blame is with the people who consume all of this stuff, both the good and bad. I don’t blame the people who make the music because I know how difficult it is to make good music and put it out there, even if sometimes it looks easy – it’s not; I respect them.

How does the Berlin scene at present, with its ‘tourist house’, compare to the scene in Tel Aviv?

The Tel Aviv scene has always been more edgy, but it’s also smaller. The clubs are also different, whereas the club scene here in Berlin is one of the highest grossing industries in Germany; more than the car industry – the margins are very big. Here in Berlin they need to do whatever to fuel the scene, whereas in Tel Aviv, we like to be more edgy. We also get bored quite easily. In Israel we live with a very different state of mind to that of German people.

When I first moved to Berlin you could move here and shine, you could do anything you wanted, but things have changed. From around 2016, prices have begun to go up around 20-25%, Berlin has become a capital of consumerism, just like any other major city in the world. It doesn’t offer too many opportunities anymore, it’s a little slow! I have a nice place to live here and I live a nice life, but I’m not sure how people who move here now are surviving. Back when I moved here, it was easy to survive, the rent was cheap and it made it easier to just make stuff.

You mentioned that in Tel Aviv, people get bored quite easily. It must be quite a dynamic and ever changing environment there. How does has this translated into the way you work, particularly with Disco Halal?

There will always be new things in this life. The pace of life is very fast, especially as a DJ, we go around the world and everyday is more like a second. As opposed to people who have a normal nine to five job, where everything is pretty much the same, I feel that everything we experience in our job is way faster.

Of course, there is a negative side to this but focusing on the good side, it means you’re always on the look-out for new stuff. It makes you open up to all of the new stuff out there because you’re experiencing so much; particularly new sounds when you’re making new music all of the time. For me, I don’t need the safety net of making the same stuff because I don’t think it’s going to be relevant in the future. If you make what is good for now and stay that way, you will never be the next thing. I personally enjoy being and looking for the next big thing, especially with the label. When I make music, I always try to reinvent myself with new sounds.

That is a great mindset to have. How do you feel being from Tel Aviv or even being Jewish has potentially influenced this?

I’m not sure where it comes from. I guess in Tel Aviv, we always live everyday like it’s our last. That is the general vibe. My sound is influenced by Tel Aviv for sure but not so much by the religion. Throughout history, Jewish people have experienced a lot of bad stuff and because of that, I think we have this way of thinking rooted in our DNA; that the time is always now. To live for today and make a better tomorrow.

So, why the name ‘Disco Halal? How does that reflect your label and feed into the music you want to put out there?

The name was a flook but it came to mean something later. It was one of those moments where you’re sitting on the toilet thinking and then suddenly it comes into your head. Now thinking about it, I know it represents a sense of unity. What we’re doing with the music also has a certain flare and flavour to it. The words don’t really make a lot of sense together.

In the end, I always want to put out music that I like, from people that I like and believe in. That’s the only thing that is important to me. It could be anything from disco to house to techno to punk, I don’t live by music genres, I live by what is good music and bad music for me and my tastes. If it’s good, I’m going to release it. The people whose music I release, also have a lot of music behind them, they’re working hard and they’re people who have potential to do great stuff! I believe in those people to do more great stuff! I’m proud of the fact that, before Disco Halal, some of the artists that I release were unknown and now they’re not.

This has always been the main purpose that the label was there to serve – giving people a voice and a place of output. I don’t have a commercial point of view, I’m happy as long as I’m releasing good music. I’m not trying to set a style or enter into any sort of politics, I don’t give a fuck about that. I care about the fact that a record I put out is going to be something that people care about, something they will want to play.

Disco Halal is a ‘tight knit community’ with a ‘shared vision’, who else is part of Disco Halal?

It used to be all me until a few months ago when I added another member to the team. I brought them on board so that I could focus on finding music for the label. The guy I have taken on is also very good at PR, so he is able to get the most out of opportunities for the artists on the label, as most of them are very young. My girlfriend handles most of the work on the sleeve artwork, she has produced some herself but even if we use another artist, she organises that and takes care of the final layouts. She designed the covers for the ‘Perfect Strangers’ EP, mine and The Organism’s ‘Rite’ EP and also Chaim’s ‘Your Mulana’ EP.

As a label that presents itself so well, what is important for you when sourcing those artworks for your sleeves?

It’s a thing of aesthetics. I come up with the ideas and discuss them with the artists. Many of the ideas come from the music; I hear them! Often you just get inspired, there shouldn’t ever be too much pre-planning in life. This label is very much a family thing, it’s not a multi-million dollar business. We aren’t depending on it, there isn’t a lot of money coming from it. I wish there was a lot of money coming from the music, maybe there will be one day depending on how successful we become. For now, it’s all about doing whatever we want, all of the time.

I’m curious as to whether you had any experience with running a label prior to starting Disco Halal?

Nothing. Absolutely zero.

With no previous experience, what things have you learnt since starting out with Disco Halal?

First of all, you never know what is going to happen when you put out a record. With the first records we put out, everyone told me that they were going to be duds and we weren’t going to be successful. It’s all about having 100% belief in what you do. If you have the slightest feeling that it won’t work, it’s not going to work. There are a few records where I have known they weren’t going to be as successful as the others, but sometimes you want to make the artists happy too by releasing their music. It’s all about going with your gut. It’s important that everyone involved enjoys what we’re doing; we’re putting one persons art out into the big world.

Today anyone can start a label and big it up. For me, the one rule I use is not compromising for myself. There will always be some compromises with artists not liking certain things, but for me it comes down to believing in the music the first time you hear it. When you have that, you can go all the way with it. After that you can have compromises and flexibility, as everyone who is a part of it has their own input. The one thing I will not compromise on is the music, I won’t do something for the sake of it. This label is not a means to an end, it is the end – after that you will get means. I think it’s important not to be an opportunist in life, I try to make the records as special as I can.

When taking on new releases for the label and bringing new producers into the fold, what is most important to you?

I feel that with most of the demos I get nowadays, people are always trying to be something else. I think that is largely down to the fact that we live our lives through social media. Many of the demos are directed towards what they think is ‘our sound’, but I always explain to people that the label has no ‘sound’ – it is simply what I like and what I can see being great! It’s important to me that, if I hear some potential within the sounds a producer sends me, I want to try and bring them out of their shell.

It’s all down to my taste because at the end of the day, it’s my label; that’s something I can’t apologise for. I want to push producers to find their own voice, so that’s why when I think ‘they’re not ready’ it’s because the true personality isn’t there yet in the music. Whenever I receive a demo from someone, the first thing I ask them to do is send me everything they have, not just one demo. If they don’t have anything else, I tell them to call us later when they have more music. Some people will be paralysed by that but some people thrive from it. I don’t want to make people feel bad about what they do, I want to get the best out of them; that’s the most important thing for me.

With such a forward thinking and positive attitude towards nurturing new talent, would you agree with people who say the electronic music scene is in a good place right now?

Yeh for sure. I feel that the EDM world is a little dead now and that is a good thing; people are fed up with sh*t music. I can see that people are going back to the roots of music more now, particularly promoters and artists who are regarded as ‘tastemakers’ for normal people (not for people like you and I who dig). When I’m playing out, I also feel like I’m playing to a very different crowd now and people are really liking what I’m doing. The sound of Disco Halal is also becoming a necessity in some places too, whereas in the past it was always seen as a label that sounded ‘too different’. Over time, a taste has been built for it and people’s ears are more open.

Now that people are more open to the music from Disco Halal, where do you think the label sits within the wider electronic music industry? How does it contribute to keeping things healthy?

I’d say in general, all of the music we try to release is positive. We are talking to a wider crowd with the music. Most of the information we get now is terrible information, so we have to use the force of music to do good stuff. You can really hear it in our music and it shows when I send it to people like my mother and they also enjoy it – it even moves them. It’s this kind of music that connects people.

What are your future plans for Disco Halal? Where do you see Disco Halal in ten years?

Ten years is too long to think about but in the near future, we’re going to be working on a lot of music from the same people who have released with us before. Hopefully we will also have some new names. I’ve been speaking with some people who aren’t very well known but I really like their sound. We are working on an album with Simple Symmetry which is really important to me. We are also doing a lot of events, in order to make a connection with more people in a personal way. Apart from that, we are going to be releasing a new record every two months, depending on the factories and everything; a lot of stuff!

Preorder, Simple Symmetry’s Gilgamesh EP here.

Words: Sophie McNulty

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