During the 2000s, Paris witnessed the rise of Mehdi Djebali, a prominent figure in the modern electronic house scene. Supported by influential artists like Terrence Terry, Djebali’s talent and artistic expression have propelled him to new heights.
Photo credit: Julia Fihman
He has collaborated with well-known musicians such as Guti and Chris Stussy, remixing tracks from artists like Chez Damier and Enzo Siragusa, and releasing music on respected record labels including Freak N Chic and PIV. Djebali’s extensive body of work showcases his growth as an artist, constantly pushing the boundaries of his sound while staying true to his unique style.
Djebali has recently released his latest project on Joey Daniel’s SiO Records. Titled ‘Groundhog Day,’ this EP showcases Djebali’s musical talent with four captivating productions. Stream and download the EP here.
To celebrate the release, Djebali invites us into his studio, sharing five valuable tips to unlock our creative potential.
1. Create your own template
It’s always harder when you start with an empty page. Using your own template with a few drums/synth plugins already loaded and your own presets will make you dive directly into music. You will have plenty of time to change your samples or presets later, but this will mean you will get straight to your ideas.
Also, creating a template will save you a lot of time when using FX busses, for example. Creating new ideas is easier by sending any sounds into FX busses. I personally use some chains of FXs that I change every six months to get different colours of sounds.
2. Use reference tracks
Knowing where you want to go with the track you are creating is important. By getting the main idea while producing, you can shape your sound from the beginning to sound the way you want it to, and the reference tracks will help you to keep your ‘sound goal’ close to your thinking throughout the process.
3. Keep it simple; use what you have already in your track
Sometimes, it’s way better to re-use the elements you already have in your loop than it is to search for new ones. For example, you can take a sound you already have and try to tweak it via filters and FX. The result will be good as you use the same sound as a starting point.
Take, for example, the first note of your synth. Put it into a new channel, add a BP filter, put the resonance really high (almost at max), put an LFO on the Filter Frequency (adjust rate and depth and LFO shape as you like), add some delays and some reverb. You’ve now got a nice FX based on your synth sound. You can then adjust frequency and resonance to shape it as you want.
4. Don’t forget to use velocity on your drums
An easy and nice way to add some depth right from the beginning of your production is to use velocity on drums. On a hi-hat, for example, using random velocity on a few notes that are off the classic grid will bring you a lot of groove and depth. On Ableton Live, you can also use the ‘chance’ section on a clip; depending on the amount of chance you put on each note, the note will play or not. It’s an excellent way to have a constant change in your patterns. I personnel use it on just one or two notes in a pattern to keep it subtle.
5. Automation is the key to bringing life to your track.
Automations will give you tracks a new dimension. We’re all searching for that non-flat track, and automations will provide the solution. It can be a basic rise of delay on a bus send or something more subtle – like, for example, in Ableton inside a pattern.
Example: Open a sampler and add a vocal into it. Write a few short notes in a pattern (you now have a small loop of the same voice). Make sure to have on your return tracks, for example, Return A: Reverb, Return B: Short Delay, Return C: Long Delay.
Now, on your channel where you have your pattern, open to the max the three sends. Inside the clip, go to the envelopes and mixer, and now, for example, select A and take the automation down, keeping the last note on (adjust the volume as you like). Do the same with send B and C on the envelope/mixer automation but on different notes. You’re left with a fresh, interesting pattern instead of standard arrangements!
Djebali’s ‘Groundhog Day’ is out now via SiO. Stream and download here.