Nicole Moudaber, fast and furious

An interview with the producer, promoter, club DJ, radio host and race car driver.

Nicole Moudaber is an intense woman. From the visceral techno music she produces to the DJ booth, to her contributions to global club life all the way to the cockpits of the world’s fastest race cars, the Nigerian-born, Lebanese/British electronic musician goes full-throttle in every task she takes on. 

Her award-winning radio show In the MOOD reaches a combined airwave-and-internet audience of over 50 million listeners per week, and her charity work helps support everyone from disadvantaged female artists to survivors of genital mutilation in partnership with Somali journalist/activist Leyla Hussein.

“It just makes no sense at all,” she says of these atrocities. “It makes me sick and extremely angry to think about the senselessness of this practice.”

This weekend, Moudaber brings her powers of musical persuasion to Stereo Nightclub for an all-night set in celebration of the world-renowned afterhours dance institution’s remarkable 20-year run.

Darcy MacDonald: So you were here recently for Île Soniq and you were great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an artist get an encore at an EDM festival.

Nicole Moudaber: I didn’t know it was that rare! When I saw on social media that people were so excited about it, it was like, “Oh, wow! Okay!”

DM: Well, it also meant we didn’t have to hear the last 10 minutes of Above & Beyond. (laughter)

You’re coming this weekend as part of Stereo’s 20th anniversary celebration. What are some of your memories of Stereo and when you think about the global club scene, how does it stand out to you?

NM: You know, Stereo is sacred among all the clubs I have ever played. The sound system is just incredible and as a DJ, the minute you get into the booth, it sucks you into this other world. You just get transported. I’m only talking about myself, but this is how I feel. You don’t know what time it is, you don’t know where you are. You’re just in another musical realm. 

It’s weird, not a lot of places do that for me. Output in New York used to that for me, and Space in Miami. (At Stereo) you just get into this tunnel of feelings and creativity. It’s very therapeutic for me on many levels. I’ve played there sometimes for 10, 12, 13 or 14 hours, and I just think it’s a purifying, cathartic moment on many levels — emotionally, and it’s good for my soul. And I think the people feel it. I know they get sucked into it with me and I take them along on this amazing journey. And I tell a different story every time. 

And I haven’t seen fanatics like that about a particular club around the world. They’ve got diehard fans at Stereo. They go because the club is the atmosphere that gets you out of your day to day and into another emotional space. Stereo does that and has been doing it for 20 years. It’s incredible.

DM: That’s an interesting way to put it, to tell a new story each time you play. What keeps it fresh for you from set to set in your career?

NM: I mean, obviously it’s the music, and since I don’t play only one specific genre of music — I don’t only play techno or I don’t only play house, I play everything in between — that’s what keeps it interesting for me. Depending on what you’re playing, where and what time, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. For me to be able to do that all in one session, to be able to experience my entire spectrum of music and dig into my library and find the records that make sense, every time it’s unique.

DM: Do you have a blueprint to your sets or do you just go where it takes you every time?

NM: With the long sets it’s all about improv. Obviously the style shifts every now and then but I play from the heart, gut and ears. If I’m at a festival or a (shorter) set somewhere, you’re gonna put all the big records and the bombs and the latest stuff you’ve received. And that’s pretty easy. It’s also pretty intense, don’t get me wrong, but when you get to have all that time to express yourself, it’s much more powerful. 

DM: How much time and volume of new music do you devote to listening to in a week?

NM: I don’t have anybody that filters my music, I do it all myself and it’s very time consuming. But I do leave a day or two per week to go through new stuff. And don’t forget, I have a radio show every week and that’s also time consuming. It’s not always a live recording from somewhere so I have to put a show together and it’s a big commitment. Sometimes I download, download, download, download, and I don’t get to it till the next week, and I hear these gems and I’m like, “How did I miss that?” My time can be limited by my travels but it’s very important to keep it fresh. 

DM: Speaking of keeping things fresh, I understand you’re into race car driving. I’ve never discussed this subject with anybody, so please, tell me about that world. That’s a whole other level of exhilaration, I would imagine. 

NM: Yes! It’s another hobby of mine that I picked up three years ago. My friends are in the racing world and one day (in Ibiza) they decided to get me into all of that, because initially I loved cars. And I drive really well and they’ve seen me all these years. 

So one thing led to another. I got my racing licence in England and since that point I’ve been testing cars all over the world. Every year I book a race track, and I get a GT car. The first one I drove was the Audi R8 LMS GT3. The other I tested was the Mercedes LMS — awesome! And I book a whole race track and get like a 20-person engineering team, the full shebang, basically. 

And I try to do laps and learn my track and perform at a certain speed. It’s a skill, and you’ve gotta learn it. I’ve got the best coach, Formula 1 driver Matteo Bobbi. He was a test driver for many years and he’s won twice at the European GT3 championships. 

I just love it. I haven’t done a race yet because I don’t have time to practise a lot, but apparently I’m fearless (laughter) and my time is really fucking good! I was seven seconds away from the world championship time. It’s a lot, but it’s also not a lot either, you know what I mean? For the champions it’s a lot but for me it’s not. And I’m itching to do it again. ■

Stereo XX: Nicole Moudaber (All Night Long) at Stereo Nightclub (858 Ste-Catherine E.) on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2–10 a.m., $40 plus tax & service