28-year-old Quell, or real name Nikolaos Raptis, hails from Greece but has lived in London and Berlin (since 2007) for the past 11 years. When not busy churning out records for multiple labels (including Midnight Shift), he’s revisiting classics from rockability to punk, new wave, house, disco and hip hop at the Unholy Grail night every Wednesday at Neue Odessabar with friend and DJ Daniel Orestes. We caught up with the artist in Berlin for this interview.
So, how did you start?
I’ve been DJing since I was 16 and producing music electronically since 2005. As an adolescent, I was lucky enough to have found myself amongst interesting people and media in my home country of Greece through which the world of pop music opened up in front of me. It was not always dance music I was a fan of although I did own Daft Punk's Homework LP and Etienne De Crecy's Super Discount 1, Orbital, The Chemical Brothers etc. back then without really knowing the music realm they came from. I used to play in clubs and parties as a teenager and got to play indie pop, rock, new wave, punk rock and some of this stuff. My full realisation of what dance culture, clubs and dance DJs were came a few years later after I'd moved to Britain and that pretty much brings us up to today.
How and why the move to Berlin?
I first came to see what it was like as Argy, one of my best friends, had been living here for a year already after moving out of Britain. I felt at peace here almost immediately. There seemed to be so much more space and time compared to Central and West London where I lived around those years. Berlin does not put so much pressure on people and I felt I could focus more on the artistic side of me and devote myself completely to writing and producing my own music full time. I love the city as well. I remember the completely different energy that I sensed, emmanating from all the recent history of the place. It's visible everywhere, the streets, the buildings, the people... I realised then that I wanted a change of scenery and wanted to somehow start from scratch which I found myself doing in Berlin. At the same time I'd been complaining a little bit about life in London and the city's rhythms, which after 8 years of living there took its toll on me slowly...Or maybe this was just an excuse to just jump ship to something new and thrilling!
When was your big break?
It’s actually happening right now. It finally feels like things are moving and happening. For a long time I focused on smaller tightly knit house music communities based in the US mostly, but after some time I realised that there was a limit to that and I had to make my music applicable universally and be inspired more from what was happening here, in Germany and Europe generally. So here I am, I worked my head off all last season and am most happy with the results. Releases include my Alsos EP on Ibadan Records, Perception EP on Argy's These Days Records imprint, a contribution to Gorge and Nick Curly's 8Bit for their 5-year anniversary and my afro house EP on Boddhi Satva's Offering Recordings which I am very proud of as well! At this point I really have to thank Argy and Jerome Sydenham among a few other people who really believed that all my hard work of last year amounted to something worthy. Also I have to thank them for their ever so stimulating company and continuous help and support.
Tell us about your upcoming LP on Ibadan Records.
It is currently in the works and well underway. It will be a full artist LP and also available on CD and digital formats. The concept behind it is a tribute to all the music from the label that I have fallen in love with over the years and that helped shape a big part of my ethic and taste in dance music. All the records that were released on there from Joe Claussell, Kerri Chandler, Vince Watson, Dennis Ferrer, Slam Mode and of course Jerome Sydenham have always inspired me as a DJ, as a producer and as a music lover. Now after having met and worked with and being friends with Jerome and Ibadan, I have the chance to show this respect and pay my tribute with this album, through my own taste and filters so to speak.
What else is in the future for you?
Apart from my LP on Ibadan in 2012, there is an appearance on good friend Gummihz's label called Claap Records, Cosmic Cowboys' very nice and sweet Back and Forth Recordings from Italy, my contribution to the amazingly refreshing Midnight Shift project of course and some other things that are being discussed at the moment. To be honest after the release of my last two records on These Days and Ibadan I have been approached from many people most of which are people I have always wanted to work with and admired, which feels overwhelmingly rewarding for me. I am really moved with a twist of relief also, the idea that I may be doing something right!
The plan for the next 5 years?
My plan is to start touring and finally really put myself out there and show the people who know me and those who don't what I'm talking about! My musical education consists of the indie aesthetic of record labels such as the small UK label Cherry Red Records, Postcard Records, Creation and 4AD thing which will also lead me to occupy myself with more instrument/band based music creation in a more indie/new wave/post punk sort of vein...but all in good time.
8Bit RECORDS 5 Yr. ANNIVERSARY by Quell
It’s been said that you’re not pedantic about genres. Thoughts?
I am not one of those people who say that I like everything, either and pretend to be pointlessly "open-minded". I have developed an attitude towards music, which is a little bit strict. I couldn't help but turn this way given the enormous amounts of music being produced and released both in dance music and in other genres/styles. I love many many different styles of music but each of them in a very specific way. If you go through my music collection for example, you will find music by the Cocteau Twins, Jeff Buckley, The Wipers, Sonic Youth, Kerri Chandler, Chez Damier, Burial, Townes Van Zandt, Rufus Wainwright and so many different people whose music I have lived with and followed over the years. I do not follow dance/club music as a 'scene'. I write tracks and support it also as a DJ because it's an innate desire of mine and an insatiable one at that. There is always a specific thing that catches my ear in songs/tracks of any genre, that will get me excited and make me want to look deeper and further.
Who are your top 3 music artists?
1. The Smiths/ Morrissey
2. And Also The Trees
3. The Tindersticks
These are top 3 bands of artists that I have yet to outgrow and get over. I discovered them throughout my life and the most attractive thing to me about them that I always envy and try to live by, is their disdain to conform at least musically just to fit in...That's the dream!
What’s your production methodology or philosophy?
It is very digital based. I use Logic and Ableton Live in rewire. I am currently sharing a studio space with Argy who owns lots more outboard gear than I do, so I get to use and experiment with some new equipment! Sharing my creative space is also a very interesting experience, it is also something that I have never done before, so I'm really looking forward to its results!
More importantly, whatever music I sit down to make I want it to be strong emotionally and leave a mark, for a short or long amount of time (long preferably). It is electronic with a soulful element and a keen sense of my personality coming through the music. Having learnt the technical aspects over the years, now I constantly think and shape what I want my record to sound like in my head first and then out of the speakers. I do exactly that every time I sit down to make music.
QUELL - PERCEPTION EP (THESE DAYS 011) by Quell
My initial thought on this is "what the hell do I know”? Advice, as much as I am in the position to give it and also first and foremost to myself, is to spend time with your musical creations until they are really great or really annoying. There is always amazing music coming out in the world, but sadly 90% of it is just hogwash, at least to my ears and this is partly because of what I mentioned earlier about people rushing to put things out and in massive volumes without thorough listening, productive thinking and consulting with friends and their surroundings in general first... before the songs are 100 or even 1000 percent complete or they just sound "cool" or "ok" only. Like I said before, this is advice to myself first and then something I would tell people who are starting making music or friends and colleagues who have been doing it for a while...Luckily, I feel blessed to be surrounded by people whose brains I can really pick and who can pick mine about music as an artform and also about its business aspects.
Quell's Drastic Changes Midnight Shift Podcast 002
01. DJ Sprinkles - Grand Central, Pt. I (Deep into the bowel of house) - Mule Musiq
02. The Mystical Beasts - Communicate (Permanent Vacation's Hypnotoad Remix) - International Feel
03. Coco Steel And Lovebomb - Feel It - Warp Records
Juno Download (Mp3/WAV) | Amazon (256kbps Mp3) | iTunes (256kbps Mp3)
04. Liberty City - If You Really Love Someone (The MURK Groove) - Tribal America
05. DJ Duke presents Freedom - Love don't come easy (Duke Rock Mix) - Power Music
06. Kerri Chandler - Back To The Raw (Ruff Mix) - Deeply Rooted House
Juno Download (Mp3/WAV) | Amazon (256kbps Mp3)
07. Quell - Regret (I've been away) - Midnight Shift
08. Terranova - I want to go out - Kompakt
Juno Download (Mp3/WAV)
09. Tiger & Woods - Deflowered - Running Back
Juno Download (Mp3/WAV)