How do you make your dreams a reality? There are many paths one can take, each as unique as a pearl in the sea. We recently caught up with Ahmed Raxon to talk about his journey from the opulent shores of Dubai where he got his first club gig nearly a decade ago, to the inspiring streets of Barcelona where he now calls home.
With his exuberant positivity and his steady string of releases, including his latest EP out on Maceo Plex’s label, Ellum, there is no doubt that Raxon will keep burning as hot as the Abu Dhabi sun!
Electronic Groove: How did your fascination with music start?
Raxon: I grew up in Abu Dhabi where there were no record shops or an electronic music culture and there was one radio station at the time, Radio One. When I got into music I liked Rock, bands like Metallica, Nirvana, and 90’s Rap like Snoop Dog, among others. I also used to listen to movie soundtracks like Blade Runner, The Matrix, and The Fifth Element. Additionally, I inherited CDs from my sisters, full of 90’s house and stuff like that. Then Napster and Lime Wire happened. Back then we used to do house parties and I was always the guy that had the most music so we’d borrow a system and I’d play the CDs.
Things evolved from there with my DJing. It was when I went to the university back in 2003 that I was introduced to Hernan Cattaneo’s sounds and Tiesto’s ‘In Search of Sunrise’. A friend gave me the Argentinean DJ CDs and through them, I found 16 Bit Lolitas. Eventually, I stumbled across Beatport and found other seminal artists like John Digweed, Deep Dish and the whole Global Underground series. Finally, I made it to my first festival in 2005 which was SW4 in London, where I saw playing Desyn Masiello, Jimmy Van M, One + One (Nic Fanciulli and James Zabiela), and was totally unreal for me.
EG: How did you move on from DJing into production?
Raxon: In 2004 ‘Peppermint’ was a big night in Dubai. It was on Fridays. At the time the weekend was Thursday and Friday, so everyone went back to work or school on Saturdays. In my case, I had to arrange my classes so I could go to the club and not have to wake up early the next day. At one of the parties I gave one of my mix CDs to Afroboogie (a big local DJ at the time), and he said “I don’t care about mixes anyone can do that, I care about productions”, that helped pushed me to want to create music. Thanks to him I started learning how to produce music by myself.
EG: You graduated in Architecture, so there has always been a creative focus in your life, at what point did you decide to leave that behind?
Raxon: Yes, I graduated in 2009 and worked for 3 years as an architect and then I joined Audio Tonic. Shortly after I got the residency I quit my day job, so I could fully focus on Audio Tonic and my own productions.
In anything you do in life, you need to focus 100% on achieving it 100%. You have to be sure you know what you want at the end of the day.
EG: Since you grew up in Abu Dhabi, do you feel like you missed out not being able to go to underground raves that really helped develop this music scene internationally?
Raxon: No, I think if I was a part of any other scene things may have turned out differently, so I’m happy with how things started for me. It’s great to learn from other’s experiences but I’m happy the way things naturally progressed.
EG: What was your first clubbing experience?
Raxon: My first clubbing experience was when I was 14 years old at a Club called ‘The Colosseum’, that had underage parties. They served soft drinks from 4-8 pm and the resident was DJ Fadi. I remember going into the booth and seeing the DJM 600 mixer and the CDJs. He let me push the effects bottom, and I was like “WTF is that?!” Just being in the booth was amazing, I was so blown away by that, I knew I wanted to for the rest of my life. When I was 18 I had to use fake ID’s to get into clubs, so my first official gig wasn’t until I was 21.
“When Carl Cox played my track, it made me realize I am on the right path”
EG: As you get more recognised it will become more important to keep your ego in check so you don’t get lost in superficial side of the business, how are you dealing with that?
Raxon: My breaks have been at a very steady pace so that has helped to keep my ego in check. At 360 – a Dubai club – we saw DJs go from zero to hero, and how it’s changed them. It’s been my biggest fear letting my ego take over. The pace I’m going at is good and I’m enjoying it. People have to remember to enjoy the journey because then you will have the stories to tell. Once you reach the very top what happens after that? I can still consider myself an underdog in comparison to many DJ’s but I’m happy that the people I look up to know about my Raxon brand. A comment from Hernan Cattaneo congratulating me or being signed to Ellum has meant everything. Eric (Maceo Plex) is the real deal and deserves what he’s achieved. These are the types of people I want to surround myself with. For him to like and sign my tracks is the ultimate and gives me so much confidence. It’s so easy to fall out of love with your work but when you have that confidence, like when Carl Cox played my track, it made me realize I am on the right path.
EG: You came to realize that you needed to leave Dubai to go further in your career, how did that process happen?
Raxon: I remember Noir saying the music is like a couple months or a year behind in Dubai. I see that super clearly now. The scene in Dubai is a promoter’s scene. A lot of DJs struggles with club management because they need to cater to everyone so it ends up being a party with familiar music. DJs can’t be cutting edge in that case.
The person that helped push me to move was Hernan Cattaneo. He was in Dubai to play at 360 and it happened to be my birthday weekend, so he came to my birthday brunch. He said “Man you want to take your career to the next level? Then you have to be in Europe”. It really rang a bell in my head. He really supported me. He’s been a real inspiration because of his attitude towards the business and his fans.
EG: Hernan was living in Barcelona, was that what made you move there?
Raxon: Well there were a few factors. Yes, he was living in Barcelona back then, so that got me thinking “I should move there too?”. By the time I got there, he had already left but I already knew many people there over the years, and the weather was a big factor. Last but not least Barcelona it’s very close to Ibiza. The city itself is very inspirational. You can just walk around and you’ll be inspired. It was a perfect choice.
EG: Who else has inspired you over the years?
Raxon: Back in 2003 in Dubai I met Ali Ajami, a guy I always looked up to because of his music. Turned out one of my first productions was remixing one of his tracks. Definitely Mike Bufton of Audio Tonic. He helped me a lot. The whole build up to my move came from my experience working with him. I learned about the business, bookings, agents, etc. At the end, I had a lot of experience and I wasn’t making a blind move to Barcelona.
EG: When did you first meet Maceo Plex and what have you learned from him that has helped you so far?
Raxon: My first contact with the whole Ellum crew was through Shall Ocin. We first met at BPM Festival in 2013, when we both played for the Akbal Music party. He had just released a great track on Culprit back then, and I wanted to book him at 360. We kept the relationship going and then when I moved to Barcelona we all had dinner together. The relationship developed and then I sent him some music. He didn’t quite like the sound, which was the type of formulaic house I would have played in Dubai. It was that moment when I really understood that you need to set the trends with your music, not follow them.
“It’s a privilege to be able to able to put a smile on people’s faces on the weekend”
EG: Yes, your sound has changed considerably over the years, especially in your productions…
Raxon: It takes years of training your brain, how to work a problem, trying to be creative – that’s how my architecture background helped. Trying to block the noise. You can’t follow any formulas or follow any trends. With the amount of music out there everything is sounding the same, I try to swap different sounds. When I broke away from kind of the 4×4 formula is when I got the most interest from labels. The best test for a track it is the test of time.
EG: What makes you most excited about music right now?
Raxon: I love to hear things I haven’t heard before and that’s the cool thing about electronic music. New sounds will come in and create music in a proper way. It’s always interesting. It’s a privilege to be able to able to put a smile on people’s faces on the weekend and let them escape. People should be super appreciative of being involved in the music scene, appreciate where you are, it’s all energy and you must deliver a positive message.
EG: DJs nowadays have to also be savvy with social media, how do you juggle between both?
Raxon: It’s a very fine line because you don’t want to pester people, I rarely post about my food or shoe pics. I spend the whole day experimenting with my instruments, I don’t think I’m going into the studio to make a track, it just happens. I just try to do something different.
EG: What else do you have coming up soon?
Raxon: I have a track in the ‘Four to the floor’ series on Diynamic Music and more to come. Additionally, organizing my summer schedule: Family Piknik in Montpellier, Off Sonar, Ibiza and a few more.