An Interview With Simo Cell

Michael McKinney speaks to the French DJ/producer about the process of going from one style to another until he found his identity as an artist, getting inspiration from going to different clubs,...
By    October 11, 2023

Image via Simo Cell/Instagram

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Simo Cell has built a reputation as a DJ’s DJ. The French DJ-producer, Simon Aussel, possesses crates that run both wide and deep. His music builds a kaleidoscope out of club-music idioms, reflecting familiar forms without remaining in any for too long. Per Aussel’s own admission, it’s a risky methodology. Slip between too many styles too quickly and you risk sounding like an entire festival lineup playing at once: high-energy but ultimately indistinct. But Aussel’s been doing this for long enough; he knows how to run hot without blowing out the amps.

France’s club-music history is peppered with DJs who threw southern rap and Detroit dance music into conversation, and Aussel spent years of his childhood hunched over the acoustic guitar. His approach, then—a highly technical take on kitchen-sink electronics—should come as little surprise. At a point where million-genre DJs are gaining prominence on festival lineups, a dig through Simo Cell’s discography—and a scan through his influences—underlines that the approach is by no means new.

An early EP of his, 2015’s I.M.O (Icy Moon Orbiter), finds the space between turgid electro and rickety breakbeats, exploring that territory for a tight twenty minutes. Not long after that, he found his way towards Livity Sound and Wisdom Teeth: two labels from the United Kingdom who built their brands upon cross-genre conversations. In that context, Aussel’s music was a natural fit. From there, he only sped up, moving more spontaneously and looking towards a wider sphere of influences.

Pour Le Club!, an EP he put out at the end of 2017, jumbled up skull-cracking techno, stomach-churning dubstep, and brain-bending dancehall; with 2021’s YES.DJ, he threw trap and creeped-out big-tent EDM idioms into the mix. In between those releases, he worked alongside Egyptian singer Abdullah Miniawy for an LP of eerie, cross-continental dubstep-jazz. Over time, his omnivorous tendencies turned his DJ sets into can’t-miss events. At Dekmantel’s Selectors festival in 2021, he turned in one of this decade’s finest mixes, whipping up a whirlwind of contemporary hip-hop, 160-BPM heaters, and regional club tools the world over.

Now, though, he’s looking to turn a new page. Cuspide Des Sirènes, Aussel’s most recent LP, takes his everything-at-once approach to electronics and slows things down a notch. Here, he pulls from a grab-bag of dimly lit club sounds: slow-motion trap beats, shuddering almost-dancehall, vertiginous dubstep, a hint of late-night trip-hop. The record is a clearly personal affair, too. The LP explores, in Aussel’s words, “magic, enchantment, charm, and allure, but also personal fears.” In the record’s narrative, the protagonist, armed with a conch shell and a series of chants and melodies, confronts their demons. It was released alongside a Game Boy game in which a wiry figure who looks awfully similar to the producer collects items in a quest to grant access to a “submarine club.” In concept, approach, and sound, it’s a remarkable level-up from a producer who’s been rocketing clubs into the future for the past sixteen years.

In advance of the LP’s release, we caught up with Aussel over Zoom. We dug into all sorts of things: his relationship to Parisian club music and how he keeps his work spontaneous; tracking wolves and the dangers of striving for divinity; his experience with DIY spaces and the importance of building communities, and much more.

​​(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)

What art first connected with you?

Simo Cell: My parents are both guitarists. My mom teaches guitar at a school close to my hometown, in Nantes. My dad lectures and plays guitar for his career. He has a huge repertoire from Baroque music to contemporary music. He’s from Argentina, so he has a background of playing flamenco and tango music, too. He worked with [Astor] Piazzola, a big tango guy. He wrote tango in a new way, fusing classic tango with modern patterns. So that’s my background: I come from a family of musicians. During my holidays, I’d follow my parents to festivals, because my dad would play and teach masterclasses. So we were listening to music every summer, mostly in Spain, because that’s where there’s more guitar.

Did you play?

Simo Cell: I used to play guitar. I went to music school from the ages of six through 12. I don’t know who decided that. It was just obvious, you know? But after five or six years, it became way too much. If you go to classical music school, it can become very rigid and academic—it loses its spontaneity. I wanted to just play music rather than learning theory. Theory is important, but I definitely wouldn’t start a young person with theory. It’s a science, in a way, and it was too hard.

I think that’s one of the reasons I decided to make electronic music. I had to go to music school three times a week. It was a lot for a young kid. I had solo lessons, collective lessons, theory, and singing. I was literally crying when I went. I remember being 12 years old and crying on my way to music school. My parents said, “That’s enough.” I stopped making music. I stopped playing guitar for two years.

After that, I took the opposite way. I started to play guitar again, but I learned how to read charts. I knew how to read music properly, but I decided to go that way. I was playing rock music—Jimi Hendrix, that kind of stuff. I was taking the opposite route. My parents were like, “What’s happening?” [laughs] This is also when I discovered electronic music. I was 15, I’d say. It was something you could learn online. Everything was on forums, and there were different ways to make the same song. There wasn’t an established way of teaching; it was all quite DIY.

It offered a different approach to what you were trying to get away from.

Simo Cell: Exactly. There are definitely rules. But when you start Ableton, you can drag and drop stuff everywhere, and you can use samples. You can make mistakes. That’s what makes you a good producer: with mistakes, you create your own sound, until, eventually, it’s not a mistake at all. Going in this direction was a kind of rebellion, but I still had a love for music. I had to do something with it.

How did you initially find electronic music?

Simo Cell: I discovered electronic music through DJing. I was fascinated by it. This was during the Ed Banger era, in the early 2000s; there was a wave of new French artists. There was a label called Institubes, which Teki Latex and Para One were both involved in. I’d play in bars, or for friends. I was really fascinated by this DJing thing.

I wanted more gigs, so I decided to start producing. At first, I did some Jersey-Baltimore stuff; when I tried to understand grooves, I had a big UK garage moment; I tried to make acid house; and I’d make techno inspired by Axis and Jeff Mills. I would copy styles because I wanted to understand how they worked. I’d put someone else’s track in Ableton and I’d try to put the same drums at the same time. When I was going from one style to another, I was looking for an identity, in a way.

Do you feel you’ve found that identity at this point?

Simo Cell: Yeah. I wouldn’t be able to describe a specific style, though. If you look at my discography, every project is different, but I think you can recognize a sound signature. I’m trying to have a unique approach which allows me to move between styles. It’s not about trying to follow trends. It’s an effort to avoid having a system and repeating myself. If you find something that works, you might want to reproduce it, but that’s very dangerous creatively, and it can be very boring. I spend a lot of time in clubs and listen to a lot of music, and that gives me a lot of ideas. I try to be very spontaneous: I have a sound palette, and I go from project to project with a specific color.

It feels like your approach to digging and production evolved pretty simultaneously. How has your approach to digging changed over the years?

Simo Cell: The most important thing, to me, is to go to clubs. They’re where I get inspiration and influence. This was really clear during the pandemic: I had different ideas. I didn’t want to make club stuff during COVID, because I didn’t feel the need for it.

I started digging a lot with SoulSeek. I’d check out DJ sets from the Institubes guys—Surkin, Bobmo. It was easy to dig with labels in SoulSeek: you can browse through folders, and some people sort them in a very particular way. They’re very strict and organized. I started to dig old labels from the ’90s. After that, I started to dig a lot in record stores. That was the second big discovery: you can really find your own music there, because there are so many tracks, especially from the ’90s, that aren’t available online. You can get some gems. I still do it: I’ll buy stuff through Discogs. When you go to Discogs, the first thing you think of is vinyl, but there’s crazy stuff on CDs and compilations, too. There’s a lot of crazy stuff from Detroit that was only released on CDs.

Right now, the club is still the main thing. When I like a track, I go to the DJ and ask him [for the ID], and I’ll Shazam a lot. I’ll also listen to music with friends. There’s an organic growth: one idea leads to another, and then another. At the end of the day, I’ll make a folder with all the tracks that we were listening to, and I’ll put that in my phone.

What club nights are particularly inspiring to you right now?

Simo Cell: I went to De School last weekend, in Amsterdam. It was really inspiring. It’s a really special club to listen to music. It’s one of those clubs where every DJ tries to play very special sets. That should be the case in every club, but so many parameters play a role: a good party, good people, a good soundsystem. Sometimes, the night’s not good because of competition. But if you have all your friends coming, or something like that, it can be a little twist that makes the party even more special.

The party I went to last Sunday was exactly this: so many friends [were there]; the soundsystem is crazy. It’s a very inspiring club to me. There’s Garage Noord in Amsterdam, too. It’s really good, and it’s on the more experimental side of things. You can really go crazy. There’s a club in London—Venue MOT. There’s Ohm, in Berlin, too. It’s part of a big complex with Tresor and Globus. I’m also really impressed by Mamba Negra, Cashu’s party in São Paulo and the NAAFI parties in Mexico City.

My favorite place to play, though, is New York. There’s a club called Nowadays, and there’s raves organized in warehouses, studio spaces, old factories, and restaurants. It’s the perfect place for a set that bridges styles. The crowds are very open-minded and up for anything. It helps that there’s a strong history of jacking house music in New York; the style played a strong role in my musical education.

Your latest LP has a pretty involved theme running through it. Where’d that come from?

Simo Cell: The story and concept wasn’t so important at the beginning of my process. I made more than 50 tracks in three years. I definitely wanted some of them to be on the album. But for the rest, I had to find a direction. It’s hard when it’s your own music; you need to step back. So starting to think about a story for the album helped me select the final tracks.

During the process of making the album, I was remembering images from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. There’s allusions to the game in the story. I used to have a video game magazine at home. I loved the art and aesthetic. I loved the way they told the story in video games. There’s the game, and then there’s a story around it. There’s legends. It’s the most complete form of art to me: you have music, models and graphics, and writing—everything. Here, I wanted to go a bit further than just music. It was really fun to create the story. I was reading a lot of gaming magazines—I wanted to make one for this. We ended up developing a Game Boy game to accompany the album.

You started this in 2020, yeah?

Simo Cell: I didn’t have the idea of making an album at that time. I have always been pretty proactive with my music. I haven’t experienced the blank-page syndrome for a long time. At the moment, the music simply pours out of me. I’m trying to take advantage of that, because I know it won’t be like this all the time. I found a way to make music that helps me to be very creative and productive. I’ll work on three or four projects at the same time. I’ll spend 45 minutes on a track—I’ve got a timer. When the timer goes off, I’ll take a five-minute break, and then I’ll do another 45 minutes on a second project, and then I’ll do it again with a third. Then I’ll go back to the first.

By then, I’ve forgotten about the ideas I had for the first project, so I’m fresher. This way, I’m not precious about my ideas. If, after two or three 45-minute sessions, I realize something’s no good, or that it’s a good idea for another project, I put it away for later. This is my process: going from one track to another, and trying to move quickly. Instead of buying plugins on Ableton, I’ll use the demo, because you can only use it for 30 minutes.

How did the LP surprise you?

Simo Cell: Before this album, I was stuck with melodies. I’m going out of my comfort zone on this one, because it’s more melodic, and sometimes it’s simpler. One of the tracks, “rainbow dance,” is kind of IDM-inspired. I wouldn’t have been able to make this kind of track five years ago, because I was so caught up in showing my technical skills. Right now, it’s more spontaneous. I know how I want to make music, and I’ve mastered that technique, in a way; I can go beyond that, now, instead of just making music for technical reasons. The music comes first now, which is something I’ve been trying to achieve for years. There are, of course, some technical tracks as well. But I’m trying to do something a bit softer, and sometimes a bit slower.

Was that a conscious move on your part, or did you make the tracks and realize you were moving in a different way?

Simo Cell: I really wanted to go in that direction, but I didn’t know when it would happen. [laughs] In the process of making these tracks, I said, “I think I’m getting there.” It’s part of the process. In 2018, I made a record with an Egyptian singer, Abdullah Miniawy. This record helped me unlock this focus on melody and simplicity. Since Abdullah is from Egypt, and because of the scales he knows, I thought he was playing out of tune sometimes: he was working in quarter-tones. This was a huge realization for me. Before, I was scared of making strange melodies.

Talk to me about Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Was that a recent discovery?

Simo Cell: I found it in 2015. I was really young—probably 23 or 24. I had panic attacks, and I didn’t want to get help, for some reason. I wanted to find a way on my own, and I found this book. It’s about meditation and Zen techniques, and it helped a lot with my anxiety and panic attacks. At first, it was a big relief to find it. But, because it was so powerful for me then, I started to see my life through that one angle; [it was as though] this book was the only answer. The book speaks about meditation and Zen techniques, but it also promotes an extreme idea of living in a state of divinity, or of dissociating with your ego. The goal is, basically, to reach a state of permanent joy. It’s the idea of trying to be enlightened.

I was really focused on that idea. I began to feel guilty when I devoted time to something other than trying to reach divinity. There is, of course, some really good stuff to take from it, but you have to do your own mix. It’s like religion: if you read it too literally, it can lead to really extreme results. The book is also based on some manipulative thinking, which makes it hard to step back; the writer described himself as perfect and egoless, so it makes it hard to question his teaching. I was talking to everybody about this. If someone would disagree with me, I wouldn’t listen to them, because I’d think they weren’t on the same level as me, spiritually. It’s hard to stand back, because nobody can tell you no; nobody can help you get out of it. You have to realize on your own that it’s a dead end.

In 2020, I broke from the pattern. I went to a website about manipulative teaching and sects, and there was a thread about Eckhart Tolle. I read it, and there were people talking about all this. I realized: this was me. I broke free from the pattern, and it was really brutal. I lost confidence. I was really lost, because I felt cheated, in a way. I was trying to fight my ego because of the book; after that, I didn’t know how to reach my feelings. This is when I started to write the album. Making music helps me: it was like therapy; it helped me to rebuild myself.

You said that you started DJing when you were a teenager. Talk to me about the evolution of your practice as a DJ.

Simo Cell: I’ve been DJing for 16 years now, which is a long time. It took me a long time to play—not in clubs, but in big shows. Nowadays, it’s so quick. I’ll meet DJs who started two years ago and are playing in front of 1,000 people. It was very different when I started.

I started with CDs, and then I had Serato, and then proper vinyl, and now, it’s CDJs. I started out in bars, basically, playing for friends or nobody at all. At that point, I was mostly playing warmups. I had two or three collectives over the years, and we’d invite local DJs, and DJs from other cities would invite us. Then I met the guys from ClekClekBoom. It wasn’t even called that then; it was called Make Some Noise. We were really young—18 or 19. I learned a lot with those guys.

Things move in cycles, and I’m old enough to see that we’re going back to 2010. In whatever you do, context is key. Because we’re a big collective, there are broader movements from one trend to another. In 2010, there were lots of DJs playing really short tracks and mixing really quickly. DJ sets were really short—like, an hour. In 2014 or 2015, there was a revival of old-school techno and dark techno; three or four hour sets were normal. It was deeper. Then we went to this really loopy, underground techno sound. Now, the short sets are starting again.

I was playing in New York last month, and I felt like I was back in the era of DJ EZ and Mad Decent. Everyone is talking about edits, now, too. I realized that at the end of every big era, there’s a trend: at the end of the ’90s, after the first big techno wave, there were a lot of mashups. I don’t know if there were before, but for me, it was the first time I discovered mashups. The Latin sound was also big: if you speak about it with the guys from NAAFI, they’re really aware about these waves. It was so huge in 2010, and now, there’s a second wave. They’re aware of it; they’re saying, “I hope we’re able to maintain this hype.” But that’s how it works, you know?

At this point, for me, progressing my DJing is mostly a mental game. A DJ set is lengthy, and there’s plenty of highs and lows. It’s all about managing things when they aren’t going so well. When I find myself in a panic, I’ll opt for a longer track and take a moment to catch my breath or splash some water on my face so I can come back refreshed. You can’t deliver a flawless performance every night, and there are many variables at play, and not everything depends on you.

I think about the sets of yours that have really stood out to me this decade. I largely think of the stuff you’ve done for Dekmantel: the festival sets in 2021 and 2022, the podcast you did this year. How did you arrive at your mixing style?

Simo Cell: I came there from a fascination with mini-mixes: guys like Bad Boy Bill, who were doing old-school Chicago stuff. They invented the mini-mix. They had TV shows where people were doing dance battles, and they were playing loads and loads of tracks—like, 30 minute mixes with one minute for each track. So that was always here, in my background. When I started to mix when I was young, I played, like, 60 tracks in 60 minutes. Now, I love to play with tension. When I play in a club, let’s say, for 20 minutes, I’ll play lots of different tracks, but at some point, you need to go deeper. I would play longer tracks—like, six-or-seven-minute tracks—just to play with tension and release, and to highlight contrasts.

You have a finite amount of energy available on the dancefloor. Sometimes, the energy is so high that you need to lower things a bit. Eventually, playing one banger after another after another is just too much, so you give softer moments. Sometimes, the best banger is a very quiet track. You’re playing with energy all the time, and you have to read the crowd.

The Dekmantel podcast was really fast. It’s risky to play the way I play, because I’m always trying to find the balance between styles. If you play too many different styles, though, it’s too much. I love to build bridges between styles, but sometimes it takes 20 or 30 minutes to realize I’m not in the correct energy compared to the dancefloor, because you’re switching a lot. So, sometimes, it takes a bit of time to adapt. But you have to accept the risk when you play that way. It’s a challenging way to play music, and it relies upon you bringing a vision.

When I used to play many different styles, there weren’t as many people doing it, so it felt quite interesting and fresh. But, now, you hear it in a lot more DJs. After two or three sets like this, it’s too much. So I want to move away from this. I’ll still have this identity [as a multi-genre DJ], of course. But I want to play a bit deeper.

I assume you saw that The Trilogy Tapes recently uploaded the mix you did for them a few years back. I listened to that when it came up on SoundCloud recently, and I was struck by that: it does something similar to what you’re talking about now, I think. It goes really deep on a specific strain on Memphis rap. What’s your relationship with hip-hop?

Simo Cell: I started listening to hip-hop on the radio when I was young. There’s so many things going on in France, and there’s a lot of hip-hop talent there. I listen to US and UK hip-hop, too, but mainly US and French hip-hop. Some of the DJs who influenced me a lot were playing hip-hop a lot.

I was talking with Richard [Chater], from Rubadub. He told me the Selectors set made him think of DJ Feadz, which was funny, because he’s such a big inspiration. There’s this party Feadz played in 2005, in Glasgow. He was mixing Three 6 Mafia with Drexciya tunes. This is really common in France. Even Institubes, the label I mentioned earlier: they had a sub-label which was just for rap, which is very rare for an electronic-music label.

Para One is huge in France. He has an electronic sound, but he comes from a hip-hop background. So he was trying to do both. He wrote beats in the 2000s, producing a group called TTC. Teki Latex was actually one of the members. They were big fans of IDM and Aphex Twin, but at the same time, they were fans of Three 6 Mafia and, I don’t know, Britney Spears. It’s a French thing to bring all those things together. Institubes called themselves a “land of contrasts.” So this is really important to me. How would you describe the way I DJ?

In my mind, your closest parallel is ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U: you both have a style where you say, “These things can work together,” or “This can be club music, too.” It’s not based on genre, per se; it’s based on attitude and approach.

Simo Cell: I’m happy to hear that, because that’s what I try to do. People always talk about me as a bass artist, and that helped a lot at the beginning, when I was on my own little island in France. Making this kind of sound was really unusual. People used to call me “the most English-sounding French person.” This was also because I was signed to Livity Sound, and because I was a versatile DJ, which was a thing in the UK but not in France. So it helped me at first, but now, there’s this thing where people are putting everything which isn’t 4/4 techno into “breaks,” “bass,” or “experimental.”

It’s still very weird to me, this duality between 4/4 club music and other stuff. I love playing off grooves, and building bridges between styles and cultures. I can play soft, and I can play hard, and I can play weird. It’s improvisation and poetry with the crowd, but I still want people to dance. What really matters is staying true to the music; you need to put your own mark on it. But I still feel weird about boxes like “experimental” and “bass.” Some of my favorite techno DJ sets were played in ways you wouldn’t expect to hear techno played. It depends on so many things: the context, the size of the club, the type of sound system. It’s weird to be stuck in this “bass” thing.

Do you still feel like you’re on an island? How do you think about your connection to the broader Parisian club scene?

Simo Cell: There are really talented artists in the Parisian club scene. I’m really sad about it, though: we’re not really forming a crew. Everyone is doing their own thing. We don’t really have time to make music together. Sometimes, we make some stuff, but there’s not a lot happening between us in France. Everyone is doing their own thing abroad, all over Europe. It’s a bummer, really. Even if everyone has their own identity, we share an approach: the way we play music, mixing hip-hop and electronic. I don’t know if it’s unique to France, but it’s big here.

When I was in Latin America last February, I was in Buenos Aires, making music with some people over there. They had people from Vista Recordings and AGVA, and they were all friends making music together. They had these big houses, and everyone would come over, and they’d have dinner together, and they’d make music. I felt a feeling of solidarity there; something was happening at the same time with all these people. This is when I realized: I missed this in France. Their market is smaller; you can’t really make a living by touring in Buenos Aires, so the solidarity makes sense. Here, everyone is rushing, which makes sense. There’s an industry, and you have to be a part of it.

Earlier, you mentioned growing up with crews who were developing really particular sounds. Rebuilding that sounds immensely challenging.

Simo Cell: There’s still opportunities. There’s what I’m trying to do with my label—that’s the team. We’re trying to bring in local artists that we like. Right now, it’s hard for non hard-techno artists to play in France, so I don’t play a lot of gigs there. With the label, though, I’ve started to organize my own parties, and it’s been going really well. Whenever something gets in your way, instead of complaining, you can try to do things. I was really surprised: the first party we did in Paris last year sold out, and people were coming there for us.

I’ve been following the TEMETAPE series, and that speaks to what you’re doing: it’s a combination of other French club artists and folks that you might find on Livity Sound. It almost sounds like an attempt to document the scene you’re trying to build. Does that track?

Simo Cell: Yeah. With the tapes, I tried to pay tribute to the DJs that influenced me: [DJ] Kazey, [DJ] Koyote. This is something I’ve had in mind for a long time. I’d love to ask them to play, actually, and to play a party with them. It’d be a good way to connect the younger generation with the older generation, which is something I learned from the Bristol scene.

I arrived in this generation with Bruce, Batu, the Wisdom Teeth guys. There was an older generation: Peverelist, Pinch, Hodge. Everybody was making stuff together. They had a meaningful age difference: 15 years or so. By staying connected to older generations, you get wisdom about how to deal with your career, and you learn some technical tricks, too. Sometimes, the older generation needs the newer ones to get fresh and stay excited about what’s going on. After years of touring, you need to be careful about maintaining your relationship with music. If you play every weekend, it’s not as special anymore. So different generations can establish a win-win relationship, and that was the case in Bristol. I found that really inspiring.

So you’ve been playing for about 15 years now. How do you keep things fresh?

Simo Cell: I never play more than three weekends in a row. After three or four weekends, you need to rest. All the inspiration you get from parties and dancing—if you play every weekend, you don’t have time to step back, and that inspiration fades. If you want to keep that inspiration and use it, you need to take breaks.

When I was 18, after school, I’d constantly think about the parties I had coming up that weekend. It’s dangerous when it starts to become more routine; it starts to feel less special. In 2019, I was playing so much that I wasn’t sure I enjoyed it. After the pandemic, the first time I came back to a club, I felt that same feeling as when I was a teenager. It’s all about keeping things precious.

I also love to play in small clubs. My favorite size is 200-300 people. DJing, and touring, is a dream. When you achieve that, and you’re playing in the clubs you’ve always wanted to play, you start to think about playing in bigger spots, to bigger crowds. I tried that, and after six months, I wasn’t very happy about it. I realized this dream, and I’d checked all the boxes. But that didn’t mean I had to go somewhere else.

In France, the best parties for my sound are happening in DIY venues. But they won’t ask me to play, because they think I’m too expensive for them. At the same time, you’re like, “Why aren’t they calling?” So I started to send messages to crews and clubs that I like. It’s a way to stay connected to the local scene. It’s about finding a balance between the big shows and the smaller shows, because I love to play festivals, too. But I’ll sometimes even play for a few euros if the space and scene is important enough. I try to play five or six shows a year in these alternative spots.

What are you looking towards for inspiration at the moment, whether that’s musical or not?

Simo Cell: I’m inspired by pop music. With the album, I tried to go further than just music; I tried to develop a universe. That’s not really common in the club-music scene. I took that from pop music. Now, I realize it makes sense because they have way more money than I do. When you’re on your own, you need to master so many different fields. I love the way The Weeknd builds concepts around his albums. Especially now, an album can be just a collection of tracks: a Latin-inspired track, an emo track, a trap banger. What I like with artists like The Weeknd is the idea of going through a big story.

The previous Travis Scott album, Astroworld, is amazing. It’s really inspiring, because when you have so much freedom, it’s really hard to stay focused and have direction. So it’s really impressive to me. If you look at the credits, there’s so many producers. But it makes sense; the production is insane. I spent a lot of time listening to Astroworld, just analyzing the mixdowns.

Are there any club scenes you’re digging into?

Simo Cell: There’s the amapiano scene in South Africa. It’s crazy. It’s a new style, and it’s so fresh. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard something so new. It’s the house of the future.

I read a lot about the philosophy of nature, too. I’m interested in rebuilding the connection between humanity and everything else, and about defining ourselves as part of the rest of the world. There’s a lot of philosophers in France exploring this. There’s Emanuele Coccia, and there’s Baptiste Morizot. Coccia does a lot of theory, but Morizot is a wolf tracker. He tells stories about how he’s trying to track wolves to understand them.

It’s crazy that there’s 6 million species but we can only speak with one of them. We were focused, for the last three centuries, on human consciousness, and we thought about animals as mechanical beings, which is obviously untrue. There’s new experiments every day that show just how untrue it is. I’ve been really inspired by that recently—by how we build relationships with other living beings.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Simo Cell: I’ve been dying to go back to the studio. [laughs] I haven’t made anything for the last three months. I’ve got tons of stuff to finish. I want to make more music with Abdullah Miniawy
—probably another LP. I spent two years being pretty silent, because I was working on the album. It was really needed: I wanted to move from being considered a club producer to something of a new artist. A new chapter, basically. I really needed that break to open that door. I released a lot of music, and then I felt the need to step back. But, now, I’ve done that, and I can be more spontaneous. I can do more again.

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