Hailing from Nantes, Simo Cell is a seminal producer creating his own distinct brand of future forward and bass fluid experimentalism. He has released on some of the best labels out there (BFDM, Fragil Music, Livity Sound), each release pushing the envelope of breaks, bass, bleeps and whatever element of rave subculture that Simo Cell chooses to attempt. Near every undertaking he presents, he will revolutionise in some small part nudging the culture forward.
The same thoughtful approach he takes to production is adapted to his DJ sets too where he pulls from the strata of underground inspiration that has so far informed his musical ambition. He has played at some of the best parties all across the world, but following him on social media you would know only by the trail of drinks tokens, flyers and passes he has collected and archived on the road.
We catch up with Simo Cell ahead of this Saturday’s party at Corsica Studios to talk about his affiliation with Bristol’s bass scene, the journey between his releases on Brothers From Different Mothers (Pogdance, 2017 and 5 Party Mix, 2018) and how the world is all a little bit like Minecraft.
Catch Simo Cell and more at Cabin Fever, this Saturday 15th February – Cabin Fever: Anthony Naples, Huerco S, Simo Cell, Jessica & Nick Williams
You were the first non-British artist to release on Livity Sound and you are closely affiliated with the Bristol scene. Can you talk a little on how Bristol’s sound influenced your own and how you became assimilated into Livity and Timedance etc?
The post dubstep era influenced loads of people from my generation. 2008/2012 was a very important moment for UK dance music. Many artists who evolved later in different music scenes were listening to labels like Hessle Audio, Night Slugs, Tectonic, Livity Sound, Hemlock, Swamp at this time. It influenced so many people. When I first discovered Livity Sound, it was a massive slap in the face. Bristol’s sound had a big influence on how I was writing drum patterns and how to shape subs and mix low frequencies. Pev’s sound also helped me to learn how to do more with less. Simplicity is the hardest thing to achieve.
I discovered Ableton in 2009. At first I learnt by copying tracks that I liked, and reached a point around 2014 where I was trying to blend Bristol Sound with US Techno and Electro. I’m a big fan of Dopplereffekt, Jeff Mills, Terrence Dixon…. Basically I was trying to write very loopy and psychedelic melodic patterns combined with UK Bass rhythm. I guess the Bristol influence is more obvious but you can still get the little Sci-Fi touch in my work.
At that time, I was promoting party with a crew called Phonographe Corp. in Paris. We invited Hodge to play at Batofar, I sent him 2 demos (Cellar Door and Piste Jaune) that he played on Rinse. There’s a rip on youtube where Hodge is commenting on the track (at 0:50), it’s pretty funny…
A few weeks after he hooked me up with Pev, I couldn’t believe it (Big up Jake). Livity was a small family from Bristol. I would never expect to release on this imprint but it happened. After that I went a few times to Bristol, stayed at Pev’s and he introduced me to all the crew. Everyone was so welcoming. Meeting all my musical heroes was such a great feeling. I think it was also at a time were Livity wanted to open their door to new artists, so I was at the good place at the right time I guess.
One day that I was in Bristol, Omar invited me to his place to chill and play music. We started to DJ in his bedroom just like I used to do in Nantes with my friends. Omar was sharing a house with Bruce and Via Maris, the legendary ‘Cottage Of Dance’. We became friends really quickly and we realized we had loads in common, same background, same ambition. Ever since then, we play together, we share demos and we share feedback. The Bristol family is very important for me.
How do Bristol and the French scene compare? Does one scene favour experimentation over the other? Do you play differently to audiences in each scene?
Bristol has a unique sound, different pockets with very specific aesthetics. The French scene is very different. Of course, we have a strong legacy from the past decades, but there is no proper ‘French Sound’ today. In terms of style, if you look at BFDM for example, it’s very diverse and each artist has a different sound. Take Pilotwings, me, J-Zbel, Basses Terres, Lastrack, it’s so diverse. Nevertheless, what we got in France at the moment is a very powerful energy and emulation.
However, regarding audiences and clubs, the notion of country is not properly accurate IMO. Of course every country has its own culture, but most of the time it’s more a specific club or a specific promoter that makes the party special. Two clubs from the same city can have very different vibes. Music is easily accessible, and the internet influences the club scene a lot. Hybridisation has became a main thing in the last years, boundaries are less visible from one country to another. So yes, I play differently from club to club because every party/club has its own thing but I couldn’t really oppose UK audiences and French for example.
Who’s the artist we should all be keeping an eye on in 2020?
E-Unity, Tite, Text Chunk, Lechuga Zafiro, Captain Roshi to name a few.
How did your relationship with BFDM start? Are there more releases in the pipeline planned with them?
I got introduced from an old friend of mine from high school who lived in the same city as Judaah during his studies (Aix En Provence) in 2015. It was the very beginning of BFDM, they were about to release the first J-Zbel release, and I was about to release my very first release on Ytivil. The timing was perfect, we had all been making music for a long time in our bedrooms and were about to start our ‘professional career’. Judaah sent me a email to share some music from BFDM. We met in Paris a few months after and we started to party together. Then he asked me to do a release. It was the beginning of a long story. All the guys from BFDM have known each other for a long time. Louis and Guillaume from The Pilotwings have been best mates since they were four. Lastrack, Judaah, Guillaume, Louis and OKO share very special bonds. I was intimidated at the beginning – it’s always hard to join a team with their own private jokes and such special connections. When the label became more established we started to tour a lot more together and we all became really close.
I’ve got a mini LP coming out on BFDM very soon with Abdullah Miniawy, an Egyptian singer and poet. It’s a special thing ! I’ve been working on this for two years now and can’t wait to share more details about it.
Your instagram page is dedicated to all the drinks tokens you have collected at gigs across the world. What drew you to documenting such an overlooked bit of club design?
I’ve been collecting little objects since my childhood. More recently, I did the same with a few objects related to my DJ life. I’ve got all my drink tickets, I’ve got loads of flyers and artists passes. I also have a magnet collection of every country/city I visited on my fridge. It was something spontaneous tbh, I never had the intention to share those things.
On the other side, I have been trying to stay away from social media because I find it too overwhelming and it doesn’t help with my mental health. When I started this collection of drink tickets on Instagram, it was more a way for me to troll the instagram game and try to make something funny. I had this collection of tokens in a pencil case that i started to post on my account. I never really realised it would interest anyone. People started to talk about it, some promoters gave me special drink tickets made on purpose to post on my page. I’ve seen some DJs posting their drink tickets on Instagram and tagging me. I’ve also got two requests from graphic designers who want to print my drink tickets in a magazine. It’s crazy.
Because of the interest that people showed, I’ve started to think a bit more about why I was keeping things like that and why I liked archiving. As I said before, it was a spontaneous habit at the beginning. I realised I like drink tickets because it tells a lot about a party. Details are what matter the most, this is what turns a good party into a very special one. If a promoter dedicate time to think about such an overlooked object, they must be very passionate and put loads of effort on their party. The opposite is false though, an ugly drink ticket doesn’t mean the party will be shitty.
More generally, paying attention on series or collection is super interesting and says a lot about what humans have got going on in their minds. It helps to learn more about us. Everything that we see around us is the product of human imagination. Graphic Design is everywhere. Every piece of wall, packaging, chair, house has been designed. Everything that surrounds us comes from human brains. For each thing you see around you, someone spent days or months crafting it. We literally live in Minecraft, IT’S SO CRAZY AND FASCINATING TO THINK ABOUT IT !!! WE FUCKING LIVE IN MINECRAFT!
In your opinion, what makes a good drinks token? What’s your ultimate favourite drink token in your collection?
I love when it’s not just a simple piece of paper but more like a proper object. My favorite one is probably the one from club night club party in NYC.
I love their party flyer and aesthetic, and the CNC logo is really sick. It’s a big yellow puck, super light. I really like a coloured drink token. The Club Night Club crew is so dedicated, they have their own sound system and do everything by their own, they invest an incredible amount of hours into organising their party.
2018’s ‘Pogdance EP’ was named after French world cup winner Paul Pogba and his famous goal celebration. Will Pogba fulfil his full potential at Manchester United?
Pogba was a bit arrogant when he left Juventus, like, ‘I will come to Manchester, change everything and make MU the best club of the world again’. Staying in Juventus for a few years would have been the best way for him to grow up. In his mind, he was the best midfielder in the world. But at the end he’s facing a lot of difficulties in Manchester. It’s a good lesson. I don’t know what’s best for him now – still love him though.
Can you talk a little how ‘Pogdance’ evolves into ‘La Pulga’?
I’m half Argentinian, my father is from Buenos Aires and I still have family there. I have never really spoke about it before. La Pulga is the nickname of [Lionel] Messi. Doing a song about Messi was a way for me to pay tribute to my Argentinian roots. ‘La Pulga’ comes from a 5 track EP that focuses on tracks around 90/100 bpm. I produced La Pulga after finishing the 4 other tracks. To me the EP was done with those 4 tracks. When you finish an EP, you feel pretty free and like you can do what you want – it’s a super nice feeling. ‘La Pulga’ was produced in this mindset. There was a youtube video of a crazy guy supporting Messi just before the world cup, i tried to sample it. I wasn’t expecting anything and this track just came about out in a few days. We decided to add it to the release, it turned to be the hit of the EP.
What else have you got on the cards for 2020?
I’m preparing a live set to present the mini LP, and I have two more EPs ready. I’ve been working pretty hard on this. I’ll share more details really really soon.