Launched in 2015 with a pair of highly promising releases for Livity Sound’s sub-label ytiviL dnuoS and Paris-based imprint Fragil Musique, the career of Simo Cell has since enjoyed a massive upward swing, establishing him as one of the most in-demand French producers and DJs on the European underground scene thanks to extra incisive blends of laser-precise techno, face-lifted UK bass and further Detroit-indebted electro.
Sharper than ever, Simon beefed up and refined his sound over the last couple years, gaining in both accuracy, innovation and textural quality, as his new EP for Lyon’s enfants terribles label BFDM – ‘Pogdance‘ – superbly exemplifies.
After months of wait, Simon eventually managed to make time for a mix out of his hectic schedule – his first ever recorded via Ableton – giving further insight into his complex creative process and wide-angle vision. Expect one hour of intense rhythm and tempo-juggling, moving from off-kilter electronics through ruffneck junglism onto sizzling electro and tech-y pumpers.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"I gave Hodge some tunes I made, which he really liked and he decided to hook me up with Pev. Three months later my very first EP was released on ytiviL."
Hey Simon, thanks for this stunning mix! When and how it was recorded?
Sisi, thanks! The last few months have been pretty busy, so I decided to record this mix using Ableton whilst I was travelling. I started to work on it last month, and finished it last week in China. It’s been a real travel companion. This is the very first time I have used software to record a mix.
You’re currently in China, where you played the 20th anniversary party for the French magazine Trax. What do you enjoy most about the country?
What I like the most is hanging out in the streets and looking at old folks dancing and doing Chee Kong in the park. The architecture is crazy too. Some neighbourhoods were built out of nowhere in less than ten years, blocks spring up like mushrooms. Sometimes it’s like being in SimCity: freshly-built new areas with nice watering places, shopping centres and many people (us) walking about. There’s a slight Matrix side to it. I love it.
Any massive cultural shock?
Language is of course the very first cultural shock. People’s behaviour in China is also completely different. Things tend to become very interesting in clubs too. Chinese people aren’t much familiar with club culture. For me, going to a club and stay 4 or 5 hours dancing is something natural and it might be obvious for us, but it’s very different in China.
Chinese People come to see what’s going on, take a picture, and then leave early. It’s hard to play techno, they’re more into hip-hop. It’s a true challenge to play for such a crowd. A good compromise is to play dubstep for example, which is quite cool! Anyway, the electronic music scene in China is growing, it’s just a matter of time.
"Peverelist pushed me to produce a lot of tunes and I think he really helped me to outdo myself."
You’re the first foreign contributor to have graced the grooves of Bristol’s very own Livity Sound, which in itself is quite a prowess given the label’s very UK-based sound aesthetic. How did you come to releasing on Pev’s imprint?
It was at a time when Pev wanted to break the boundaries of the label. Before that, the artists who released on the imprint were all based in Bristol. I was really influenced by the Livity Sound aesthetic and my production was then growing more mature.
One day, I played with Hodge in Paris for the Phonographe Corp party at Batofar. I gave him some tunes I made, which he really liked and he decided to hook me up with Pev. Three months later my very first EP was released on ytiviL. I couldn’t believe it. It all went so fast… I think I was there in the right place at the right time.
Livity’s a tight-knit crew of people. How’s the emulation with the rest of the team? Do you feel being part of the label helped you mature faster than you’d have expected, artistically speaking?
Pev and Kowton are Legends to me. I was stressed the very first time I met them, but everything felt easy and natural between us. Then I met all the guys in Bristol. We are all friends and we truly respect each other. For example, we decided to start playing B2B with Batu. We really want to work together more in the future.
And yes, as you said, I think this environment helped me mature really quickly. I love working with Pev, I think we really understand each other. He helped me develop my sound while I was working on my second EP for Livity Sound (‘Gliding EP‘). Pev pushed me to produce a lot of tunes, and I think he really helped me to outdo myself.
In the end we selected the four best tracks together, it took me 9 months to finish this EP. It was a big step for me musically speaking. Things really clicked into place at that time. I really know where I want to go now. And I think this EP and the work we achieved together has a lot to do with it.
"It’s great to develop something outside French borders, I really want to be part of the French scene as well. It’s truly important for me to connect with the guys from my city and from my country."
I met Shorty (Judaah, label boss of BFDM) in Paris two years ago, and we became friends very quickly. Everything is simple with him, it’s just about making jokes, having fun and enjoying the music. He loves to play this famous French game called “l’Olive” so I knew we would be friends…
It’s great to develop something outside French borders, but I really want to be part of the French scene as well. It’s truly important for me to connect with the guys from my city and from my country.
As I said earlier, my last EP on Livity Sound relieved me of a lot of hindrance in the way I produce. I feel free to experiment a lot of different things right now. This EP is not only club-focused, it’s a tempo bracket, from 106 to 185 BPM. I think BFDM was the perfect label to push this kind of sound and to take risks. By the way, my favourite track from the EP is ‘Echo Doppler‘.
The cover shows you and Louis, half of The Pilotwings, dabbing and the title of the record itself seems to be a nod to French football player Paul Pogba, who popularised this gesture by making it his signature post-goal celebration. Are you a football fan or was it just a private joke with the guys?
This is a picture we took at Positive Education Festival after my set. I sent the picture to Shorty, and he said: “Okay, you should name the EP ‘Pogdance‘. And yes, I’m a football fan, and I like Pogba, even though he talks too much. I like how self-confident he is. And his Instagram account is just too much! (Laughs) He’s very much in tune with the times. A true marketing genius.
"It’s all about developing my own signature, and sound design helped me a lot on that front."
Your sound has evolved towards further minimalistic architectonics and a sharper sound design over the last couple years. Are you trying to reach a more direct and impactful effectiveness on the dance floor by stripping your tracks bare of all bootless bling?
The more I produce, the more I’m into sound design. I’ve discovered a lot of new tricks recently, although I’m not sure my sound is more effective on the dance floor. It’s just me trying to experiment a lot of different ideas. I use a lot of FX, pretty much always in the same way.
This is why my sound is becoming more personal. It’s all about developing my own signature, and sound design helped me a lot on that front. That said, I always try to keep a certain “club vision” in mind. My music can both be listened at home and in the club.
As confirmed by this mix you seem to draw from a vast range of influences – be it hip-hop, electro, ambient, breakbeat, UK bass, techno… Is this eclecticism key to your own creative genius?
As a DJ I really need to play a lot of different things. It’s more fun. I try to build bridges between all those different styles and make something coherent and personal out of it. It’s more interesting to me, rather than just play the last tunes you’ve received in your promo mailbox. Eclecticism is what keeps a DJ set relevant I think.
Being a DJ influences my production a lot. The more I discover new styles, the more I want to experiment new tricks and ideas. Recently I’ve been playing a lot of downtempo stuff, this is how I started producing tracks around 100 BPM (‘Obi 1‘, ‘Random Noizes‘, ‘Echo Doppler‘…) So yes, eclecticism is the key for me!
"If I'm stuck with a sound, I can switch a machine on and toy with it. Even though I use my computer most of the time, it's a real security for me to know that I have other options just in case. Everything is about confidence."
What’s your studio setup like at the minute?
I’m working at Tite’s studio (half of Society of Silence). We share a room together. He has tons of gear. The list is so long that I won’t be able to name all the synths.
I mainly work on my computer via Ableton. I would say 90% of my work is done with a computer and different midi sequencers. Then I plug my computer into analog effects to have a more organic sound. Aside from that I use the Universal Audio Apollo 8 Soundcard, a Monome as midi sequencer, the pocket operator PO-12, a Roland Space Echo, a Dynachord delay, a PCM reverb and a saturator called Culture Vulture to give the sound more warmth.
From time to time, I also use a MFB-522, a MFB Microzwerg, a Roland 808, a X0xb0x and plenty other stuff. It’s a real luxury to be able to try new machines at your convenience. Psychologically speaking it’s easier. If I’m stuck with a sound, I can switch a machine on and toy with it. Even though I use my computer most of the time, it’s a real security for me to know that I have other options just in case. Everything is about confidence.
First piece of gear you set going when you enter the studio?
Easy, it’s my computer.
Next one you’ll get?
Too much stuff at the studio that I’ve haven’t tried yet! Next one I want to try is the OPi-1.
What’s the last record store you visited and what did you bag there?
I went to a second-hand record shop in Shanghai last week called Vinyl Villa. They have crates full of old Japanese records, and everything is super cheap. Great address!
What will you be up to this summer?
It’s gonna be my very first time at Freerotation! Can’t wait to play there… and stressed as well! After that I’m going to Bristol for 1 week. And I’ll have some holidays with my girlfriend and friends. Also lots of football, petanque and many Risk and Catan games!
2. Aural Traxx – Plug & Play
3. Eszaid – Satan’s Circus
4. Simo Cell – Rand0m N0izes
5. Gunnar Haslam – Anatolia
6. Lumidee – Never Leave You (Instrumental)
7. Tite – 808 Prophet Mix
8. Gaunt – SP12
9. NHK’Koyxeи – 638
10. Simo Cell – Echo Doppler
12. Leo Anibaldi
13. Objekt – Dogma
14. The Ace of Clubs – Pheel The Phorce
15. Muslimgauze – Sufiq Gulf Breeze 3
16. Photek – Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu (Two Swords Technique)
17. Pessimist – Empty House (RT’s Choppage mix)
18. Aleksi Perälä – Pedal Box
19. Lanark Artefax – Voices Near The Hypocentre
20. Presente – ???
Discover more about Simo Cell on Inverted Audio.Simo CellBrothers From Different MothersFragil MusiqueLivity SoundBassBreakbeatDowntempoElectroElectronicExperimental