DJ Mehdi: We’re lucky boys and girls

”’Lucky Boy’ is the name of my album, and I guess – no – I think I am.” DJ Mehdi speaks with ITM on the eve of his second solo tour of Australia. His CV packs a fist full of b-boy attitude, similar to his dirty beats. Starting out as a DJ in 1995, before performing with Ideal J, he has now been recognised as one of the French hip-hop scene’s premier producers. He’s collaborated with Chromeo, MC Solarr, Daft Punk, Cassius, Asian Dub Foundation, K-Os and Carol King. Just to add some extra variety, he’d currently like to remix the White Stripes. However, he definitely prefers to DJ, and is the creator of party atmosphere. “I like to be the DJ, I love it so much. I love to try new things. You would never get into this business to be bored, or you would hope not.”

October last year saw the international release of his second full-length album, put out through the cross-genre label Ed Banger Records. The label is the brainchild of Pedro Winter – (aka Busy P), long-time manager of Daft Punk – and is also home to Justice, Uffie and Chromeo. As far back as 1997, Mehdi and Busy P were working on the crunchy, punky, disco-hop sounds. Together they hosted a very successful monthly night at former Paris nightspot Pulp. Mehdi tells ITM how the crossover of different musical styles first occurred.

“Basically, it was meeting people. We [Pedro] met people who were playing [pretty] the same music, hip hop beats – it might have been in electronic music that they were playing the same samples at 120 BPM, but still, using the same equipment, the same software. It [the Paris dance scene] was influenced by the house music scene, people could relate. Timbaland and other labels from the US helped to bridge [the gap].”

This union launched the often-spurned French dance music scene back into the global spotlight, with DJ Mehdi and his Ed Banger labelmates leading the way. That being said, ‘Lucky Boy’ still came as an unexpected success to him. “It was a shock, because Ed Banger was only just in the beginnings. It was never planned to be successful, in the way Justice is. Justice is larger scale, I hope Justice are internationally successful. It is surprising people outside Europe know it [the album].”

With the rise in popularity of online media, particularly sites such as myspace – which is where fellow Ed Banger label signing Uffie was discovered – it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. But Mehdi has never been one to jump on the bandwagon. “The internet has changed music. It used to be that you needed to sell 100,000 records to be successful, now it is if you get 3,000-4,000 hits per day on your myspace site. It [the internet] provides an outlet for my music; I’m not successful enough to be played on radio stations.”

“Also, I’m not so good with business. That is why having support of a good record label is important. I didn’t have a myspace from the start. In fact Pedro and a couple of others set it up and ran it for me. It was two to three months before I got into it, but now I love it. I love it and hate it actually. But it’s gotten my remixes heard and [now I go] to the US touring, I’m living it [music] so it is good”

Mehdi has been touring constantly for the best part of six months, both with the Ed Banger posse and solo. When ITM spoke to him, he’d just finished a whirlwind tour of the US and Canada, which saw him sign an unbelievable 500 album sleeves at a launch party along the way, and play to sell out crowds at international hotspots such as the Hiro Ballroom in New York. With so many years of DJing and producing behind him, it comes as a surprise to hear that the Hiro gig was a little daunting. “There is always pressure to perform, but we were always together. Justice, Pedro, we just click. We help each other.”

This tour to Australia sees him coming down under for a second time to perform solo. Which does he prefer, solo shows or the times when he’s part of the Ed Banger traveling sideshow? “Both. Of course touring with your friends and having moments with them is fun. By yourself there is more pressure on tour, but this is pressure to be better too.” It’s this pressure that gives him his inspiration, although he’s keeping his cards close to his chest of what we can expect. “I’d like to keep that a surprise if you don’t mind. I’ve played in Australia before, and a lot of [it was] stuff off ‘Lucky Boy’, so I would like to have some new material. So I’m working on that”.

Boy, we are going to be lucky.

DJ Mehdi visits Australia this weekend:

Wed May 16th – Bar Open, Perth

Fri May 18th – Bang Gang at Arq, Sydney

Sat May 19th – Third Class, Melbourne

Sun May 20th – Platinum, Gold Coast

His album ‘Lucky Boy’ is out now through Ed Banger, distributed locally by Shock.