Nicole Moudaber Talks Collaboration: Carl Cox, Green Velvet and Working with Ableton Live

Splice took a moment to catch up with DJ / Producer and Electric Zoo festival headliner Nicole Moudaber to learn more about recent studio projects and workflow with collaborators. Her debut album, Believe, released last year on Drumcode and topped dance music charts. We learned what Nicole has been up to lately and what she has in store for the future.

Nate Mars:  Can you tell us a bit about what projects you’ve been working on lately in the studio?

Nicole Moudaber:  I’ve been working with Skin from Skunk Anansie in the studio. I produced about three tracks with her. Funny enough, yesterday I was punishing both of them by inviting a rapper called Zebra Katz. He’s from Brooklyn, and he came down to the studio and recorded his verses on those two tracks that I did. They’re not your dance techno that I normally make. They’re a bit more you can say, electronica/house vibe. It’s a little bit crossover-y than the normal stuff that I do, but I try to keep it cool and edgy… obviously.

Nate:  It sounds like you’ve been collaborating a lot. When you work with a collaborator, can you tell us what’s one of the first things you tend to notice? What is your workflow like?

Nicole:  Normally I get something ready before I invite anybody to come along. I’ve done that with Skin. I had the backing tracks pretty much there as a guide. Then she comes in. She vibes to it. She takes out a pen and a pad, and she writes her lyrics there and then.

It’s much easier to work with songwriters because they just do things instantaneously, and they just jam and the words come out, exactly like what happened yesterday with Zebra Katz. He just jammed and did improvisation and just things flow. It’s a blessing to click with someone in the studio and to feel that you’re on the same wavelength musically and creatively; when you have the same vision of where this project should go. I haven’t had any clashes yet with people I’ve worked with so far. All good on that front. [laughs]

Nate:  Can you tell us a little bit about some of the tools you’re using in the studio? What’s your primary DAW, for example?

Nicole:  Normally, it’s Ableton Live. When vocalists come in I’ll work sometimes in Logic and sometimes in Pro Tools.

Ableton Live - Arrange View

Ableton Live – Arrange View

Nate:  Can you tell us what draws you to Ableton Live for your workflow?

Nicole:  I learned Ableton Live a while back. I took a course with some of the Ableton trainers. That’s how it all began for me. All this huge…all the productions and all the DJ mixes I used to do on Ableton Live. Now DJ mixes are done with Traktor, that is one of my other favorite programs I use for DJ’ing.

Nate: What about third‑party plugins? Are there any production plugins that are a go‑to for your sound? What about hardware?

Nicole:  I mainly use the plugins in Ableton Live. As for hardware, I’ve been using this old MPC 2000, back from 1989. We’ve created those grooves on that one for the new Skin projects there. The sound is just so raw, and it’s totally different than the sound of software.

Akai MPC 2000

Akai MPC 2000

Nate. A little bit of a true analog warmth? [laughs]

Nicole:  Rawness. It’s cool.

Nate: If you had to pick one of your own tracks to play for someone who hadn’t ever heard your music before… you were personally introducing someone to your music for the first time, what track would you pick to play for them first?

Nicole:  Wow. That’s a tough one because I do house, and I do techno. For the techno, probably the one that I’de pick would be “Roar,” a track that I did for Intec. It got nominated this year for best techno track in IDMA Awards.  I would say “Roar,” because it’s got vocals, and it’s got the techno. House DJs can play it, and techno DJs can play it, so it’s like a bit of a crossover in between the two genres.

Nate:  With such a busy tour schedule, how do you tend to manage your production time? Do you work on the road or do you set aside time from touring to go back into the studio? Can you tell us about that process?

Nicole:  Normally I like to make time for studio work because when I’m on the road, with my new radio show being on the air now, and it’s a weekly commitment, that’s taking up a lot of my time. At the moment, I’d rather focus on that because it’s a big commitment, and you can’t fail delivering a show every week.

Nate:  What was one of the main reasons you took that project on; having a weekly radio show?

Nicole: First, because a lot of people say to me, “Your voice is such a radio voice.” I’ve heard this way before thinking that I was ever going to be on the radio. Second, because it allows me to be free creatively and musically and play all across the board the music that I love. The only platform you can do that is radio.

Nate:  Can you tell us a bit about the recent collab with Carl Cox?

Nicole:  Wow.

Nate:  [laughs]

Nicole:  Yeah. Ha ha ha ha ha. We were talking about a collaboration for a while. It’s funny. We were having dinner, I remember, last year right before a gig of his. He said, “Right. I’m going to give you a key now, and this is going to be our collaboration.” I said, “Oh? OK. What’s on it”? And he said, “It’s a four‑second bass loop. [laughs] I was like, “Oh, my God.” [laughs]

Nate:  [laughs] Nice.

Nicole:  [laughs] Are you serious? He said yeah, it’s about listening to the bass. You’ve never heard anything like it on any track. In fact, the whole section of that track is that the bass that Carl gave me. That’s what it is. It was a very smooth operation. I sent it back to him. He added his bit. He sent it back, and it was ready. We did another deeper mix of it that was at number 11 in the charts not long ago, which was cool.

Nate:  So that process involved a lot of passing files back and forth then?

Nicole:  That’s what happens. [laughs]. There’s another project that I’m going to be working on with Green Velvet. That’s going to be an exciting one as well.

Nicole Moudaber & Green Velvet at EDC Las Vegas

Nicole Moudaber & Green Velvet at EDC Las Vegas

Nate:  Amazing. Can you tell us a little bit more about that one?

Nicole:  That’s the thing. We just bumped into each other on one of our trips to Ultra Buenos Aires, I remember. We were playing together, and we were traveling together. One thing led to another, and we said hey, why don’t we do a track? It started from there. I sent him a few loops, an idea of a track. He just loved it, and he’s working on it, going to send it back. We’ll see what comes out of it. He is one of the best producers I have worked with.

If you are in New York, Be sure to catch Nicole Moudaber’s headlining set at Electric Zoo 2014 on Sunday, August 31st! Purchase tickets here.


About the Splice Artist Series – We empower music creators to create and collaborate fearlessly. Our goal is to build the best platform possible in order to enable that process. We hope that you learn just as much as we do, hearing from artists about their workflow and how they collaborate. Most importantly after reading, we hope you are inspired to make music!

July 29, 2014