Producer, label owner and all round virtuoso, Israeli born Moscoman evokes the sounds of the Middle East as his limits know no bounds.
Words by Rosie Cain
Words: 1089 Words
Approx reading time: 5 mins
A strong work ethic is everything, no matter what industry you work in. Arguably, this is even more pronounced in the music business. Without passion, the fight becomes tedious. Luckily Chen Mosco, better known as Moscoman, embodies a vehemence that is both enviable and inspiring.
Born in Israel – “the fairyland, the fantasy where nothing bad ever happens,” as Chen sarcastically puts it – he spent his youth in Kfar Saba before moving to Tel Aviv at the age of 19 to explore what “the city that never sleeps” had to offer.
“Tel Aviv was always good because it’s a bubble,” he says. “It will never change also. It’s like a city outside of everything that you think about.” Boasting 24-hour parties and dozens of DJs each night, there is no denying that the electronic music scene is flourishing. According to Chen the room for more experimental sounds has only opened up in the last few years.
“There’s something about growing up in a place where nobody cares what you are doing and you pretty much need to do what everybody is doing for people to listen to you.” Many Israeli DJs were trying to find their own sound; a sound that would make people dance. Chen recalls it being no easy task. “It was such hard work. Especially in our music and the music that we like. We like punk and we like disco and we like stuff that people don’t care about.”
This didn’t translate to the club so Chen and his friends brought the party to bars around the city. “We would turn every bar into a party,” he says. “I mean I’m DJing here not for you to just sit and drink your fucking drink. I’m DJing here for you to dance. You would work hard for people to dance.”
In 2009 Chen found himself in Berlin. With friends already there, the quiet streets were a welcome change from his homeland. Though, not quite reaching the career success he had hoped for, he moved back to Tel Aviv and later returned home to his parents, where the creative wheels really began to turn. For eight months he would spend up to 17 hours a day in the studio.
“People thought I went crazy,” Chen says. “I was just so bored I had nothing to do than to make music all day.” With a new-found confidence and a bucket load of fresh material, he decided the time had come to return to the German capital, “I thought: I’m ready. I’m going back in. Into the fight. And it’s starting to work now.”
Chen’s focus has seen to that. After several EPs and numerous evidence he’s a dab hand at the edit, his first LP is upon us. A Shot in the Light is variable but retains some of the punk, Italo and Kraut influences of his earlier releases. The will to push himself with his productions and his growth as an artist were huge influences behind the debut long-player.
The move to Berlin also had its effect. “Life became way more safer so music was easier. Easier to make nice music.” As Chen explains, “it’s very emotional. It’s very me”.
His solo pursuits as Moscoman are in fact just the tip of the iceberg. Last year he launched his taste-making label, Disco Halal. “People told me that the name was stupid and what are you doing and shit like that.” But when all of the label catalogue sold out, most within the first week, Chen definitely had the last laugh. In part attributed to its unique ethos – reinterpreting Middle-Eastern sounds for the dance floor – it comes as no surprise that the releases are in such high demand. How then did the imprint first come about?
Oye Records was an important first step. Chen’s introduction to producer and owner Delfonic came through a friend working at the Berlin record store. “We met here a few times in the store. You know when I was still in the ‘who are you’ status. Just like ‘why do you keep showing up here? You’re not even buying records!’”
After meeting him again at a gig in Tel Aviv, Chen had a brainwave. “I was like let’s do a record together. You are doing the press and distribution and he was like yeah.” And so it began. Calling on friends and fellow Middle-Eastern music devotees, Acid Arab and Mehmet Aslan, Disco Halal’s releases followed in quick succession. Now, Chen can add a catalogue of masterly edits, original works and rare reissues to his musical feats. And all this in just one year.
So,why so successful? “I think the only reason it works, the only reason anything works for me is because I was honest. I’ve always been honest.” His approach sees him writing all posts, doing all of the press and even doing promotion by hand. “Every DJ that comes here, I go with a bag of records, I give them records, I make sure they listen to it.”
The only exception comes with the original music Disco Halal reissue. As Chen explains, “it’s very important to me that with original music, people have the exposure they should have. I never wanted the label to be something that glorifies me, but the people that are releasing on it”.
He strives to keep Disco Halal and his work as Moscoman separate, carving a name for himself both as a producer and label boss, but he hasn’t always been in the music game. Declaring himself as something of a tech nerd, he’s held jobs in computer stores, ran electronics departments and worked in all kinds of food places. But none left him with the determination and motivation that music gives him today.
“This is what I want. This is what I like. I would be so bored without it, I would kill myself.” He pauses, and then laughs, “not in this dramatic way! I just can’t think of anything else to do while I'm alive other than this.”
But he also has other dreams. “I want to have a show on the BBC starting with some essential mix. I don’t see myself so far away from that.” His philosophy is a simple one, “I know it sounds very Mr Miyagi, but if you put your mind into it, stuff happens. Not because you put your mind into it, but because you work for it.
“Pretty much be focused. And be focused on what you do. And be as absurd as possible in what you want.”
Listen to Losing My Wedge taken from new LP A Shot in the Light, out 23 September.
Words by Rosie Cain
Photography by Nuphar Blechner