When Nicole Moudaber speaks, it’s impossible to ignore the unintentional sultriness of her voice. Her husky tone is both gruff and restrained, further heightened by a strong foreign accent. Her timbre is the type of sound to feed thirsty ears endlessly through the midnight hours, like a radio host from techno heaven. Behind the decks, she commands with a flawless taste of obscure house tracks and deep techno cuts, the perfect soundtrack for romps at warehouse undergrounds and rooftop sunrise sets. Simply put, Nicole Moudaber knows how to set the mood, a mission she’s been advocating since launching her MOOD Records imprint in 2012, as well as her weekly radio show, InTheMOOD, which hit the airwaves in 2014.
For Moudaber—who spent years as one of the first event producers and promoters to bring dance music to Beirut, Lebanon—mood is a state of mind powered by music, driven by groove, and communicated to fans through sound waves. Her latest incarnation of mood creation comes in the form of MoodZONE, her curated stage, which debuted this past weekend at EDC New York. As the live extension of her growing Mood brand, MoodZONE welcomed the reigning queen of techno to the stage and featured an all-day lineup of techno’s elite, with sets from her friends and colleagues Paco Osuna, Mind Against, Thugfucker, Lauren Lane and Chris Liebing, who also performed a special b2b set with Moudaber herself.
We caught up with Moudaber to discuss the creation of MoodZONE, the hotly debated issue of women in dance music, and the importance of setting the mood. Enter the MoodZONE with Nicole Moudaber.
First of all, how does one get in the Mood with Nicole Moudaber?
It’s just a magnet. Once I get [onstage], the magnet begins. It’s all about the music. You just build it nicely, play good records, and people enjoy it. They get locked; they feel it. They get in the zone, same way I do. Once I start playing my first record, I just get transported into another world. And maybe that energy is transmitted, and people feel that. It’s like me being on the dancefloor, listening to one of my heroes.
It’s just a convergence—you converge into one point, and that’s the feeling of great music. You can feel melancholia. You can feel happiness, sometimes sadness. Music triggers many different emotions—that’s the mood.
This is the debut of MoodZONE. Where did the idea start for this concept?
Considering I’ve only been on the market for six years and having my own stage today, it’s pretty amazing, and I’m really overwhelmed and very touched. It’s a monumental day for me.
It’s a lot of hard work and dedication, and the promoters—Insomniac—believed in me and gave me this chance today. Having my own stage today is going to be one of many, hopefully.
I’ve invited a lot of friends and colleagues I admire and work with. It brings me back to my promoting days of me programming the stage… That’s what I did for many years in the past, and it’s nice to come back to it. It’s very creative, in that sense.
How involved were you in curating the talent for MoodZONE?
Very involved. They’re all on my target list, and we managed to get Chris Liebing, Paco Osuna, Mind Against, Thugfucker and Lauren Lane today. Hopefully on the next one, it will be another chunk of artists I admire.
How did you come about debuting MoodZONE here at EDC New York?
New York is my home. We wanted to do this in California first, but it made more sense to start in New York because I have a huge following here. I’ve been playing here for quite some time. It’s like a homecoming experience.
What are some of the challenges of curating a full day’s worth of music in the festival setting?
The only challenge is to be able to get the headliners, because obviously they are booked ahead of time. The key is to be prepared with ample time ahead and lock them sooner than later. Apart from that, it’s just creative.
Why did you go with today’s artists featured on the bill for the debut?
I really admire the ethos of what they do. They’re all great DJs and great producers, and it’s a great day to celebrate all of us together under one roof. This is the whole point of doing this and sharing incredible music with everybody.
Is there a specific message, aesthetic, or mood you’re trying to set today?
The same aesthetic and the same mood I’m all about: bringing the good vibes, the love, and the openness of seeing different things in life through music. That’s exactly what I’m set to do.
There’s been a lot of talk of women in dance music, or lack thereof, recently. Is this an issue for you?
I get asked this question a lot. For me, personally, it has never been an issue, because it’s out there for women. If they want to grab it, it’s there. It’s up to them to decide whether they want to get on the road and spend sleepless nights, and travel like a vagabond and live out of a suitcase, and make tons of music and play at weird hours without any sleep. It’s a tough job; it’s not cut out for everybody. It’s not cut out for every man, and it’s not cut out for every woman. If this is the choice you want to make, whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s out there.
In your opinion, do you feel there’s a lack of female representation in dance music? Or is that not an issue at all?
I don’t think it’s an issue, and I’m the perfect example for it. Today, I have my own stage. Apart from today, I’ve headlined every single festival around the world, and I haven’t been much on the market. At the end of the day, the music speaks for itself, and the hard work speaks for itself. This combination is a win-win. It’s up to you to make it happen or not.
What’s the future of MoodZONE after EDC New York? Where do you see it going?
We’re already in discussion to have different stages across North America and beyond. It’s definitely the beginning for me, and I’m very excited about the future. I’m planning to have more designed stages in 2017, with a focus on atmosphere and vibe. This is the element I bring through my music; the room needs to convey that very message as well. In other words, “Get in the ZONE”. EDC New York was incredible.
All photo credits go to Freedom Film LLC for Insomniac.