An integral part of Beirut’s electronic music scene, Nesta speaks about his rise to date and what lies next for him and his Fantôme de Nuit label ahead of the release of his latest LP.
Hello Nesta, I hope you’re good? Tell us a bit about yourself and your story in dance music so far?
Hello guys, I’m great, thanks for having me.
I’m Nabih Esta aka Nesta. I just turned 30 this year and I have been DJing for the last 15 years whilst producing music for the last 4 years. I discovered dance music via my three older brothers, and one of the first genres I listened to was psy and goa trance. Ziad my big brother was into that shit: Dragonfly, Hallucinogen, Shpongle, Younger brother and so on. Then I got into Progressive House and Trance (Paul Van Dyk – Out there and back) in around 2000, I was 13 years old at that time. Together with my friends in school Carl and Camil, we were the only guys listening to that kind of music in our generation and we were kind of labeled as Aliens and weirdos haha J. No one from our circle of friends understood that shit back then. Later on we got into all the Global Underground stuff; Danny Howells, Dave Seaman, Lee Burridge, James Lavelle, as well as Sasha & Digweed’s Communicate and so on.
As for DJing, I started playing music when I was 15 years old. I remember making a copy of my brother’s studio keys after he moved to Paris to continue his studies. Oh lord, the damage I did to his mixer and his records – he almost killed me when he saw the mess I made. But that’s how I learnt! I was mainly playing for friends and doing private parties, and during the war of summer 2006 in Beirut I was playing hip-hop in the mountains. I later joined NRJ radio station for a weekly show in 2007 with my partner Ronald (we were a duo back then and went by the name of Ronin & Nesta). We started opening and closing for big acts in huge raves as well as starting our own party brand and podcast series Beirut In The Mix. That’s how it started…
What music did you listen to whilst growing up in Beirut and how that influenced your own productions?
My father was into French music (the good stuff), as well as BB King, Miles Davis, Sun Ra and so on. So I was basically listening to that stuff with him in the car when I was a kid. My brothers all played guitar and drums, and were into Hard Rock and Heavy Metal as well as Progressive and psychedelic rock. I got directly hooked on that stuff as well: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Eloy, Pink Floyd, Dream Theatre, Ozric Tentacles. They later developed a love for electronic music as music evolved in so many different ways.
I was also really into French and US Hiphop; my brother Imad gave me one of the most prestigious albums in the history of French Rap ‘IAM – L’Ecole Du Micro d’Argent’ on my 10th birthday in 1997, which was produced by Reza and Wu Tang Clan. It’s definitely my favorite hip-hop album of all times.
All this music I listened to when I was a kid definitely shaped my musical background and musical taste, and the person that I am today! Having a musical background and history is so important.
Before we talk about your label, what is the club scene like in Beirut compared to other places you’ve been and what are some of your favourite spots?
Beirut is just crazy! I love this city; it’s so diverse and hectic at the same time. I’ve travelled a lot, especially to Europe and its definitely one of the top 5 club scenes in the world at the moment. The club esthetics, sound system, line up, the people, the beaches and food makes it one of the best cities in the world. My favorite spots are Reunion, The Grand Factory & AHM where I hold a residency at the moment, as well as The Garten / uberhaus which I was a co-founder of and was a resident there for 5 years. I also have a lot of favorite venues where we throw our label parties from time to time.
What was the inspiration for setting up the Fantome De Nuit label? And do you think the label has found its own sound yet?
I wanted to have a platform of my own where I can express myself musically and artistically, and where I can push local talent as well as pushing myself. I was also fed up with the same music being released over and over on labels and people copying others, so I decided to set up something special, away from the mainstream and the trends. We release so many different sounds and genres, but they all relate to each other somehow. I don’t want to find a specific sound, I want the label sound to be so diverse as well as releasing fresh and special uncommon music, and not necessarily club music.
You’ve gone through many aliases. What was the reason for that? And how difficult is it for you as a producer to stay focused on the Nesta sound??
True, not so many though. I had Technophile when I moved to London. I only started messing around with music Software 4 years ago, so I wanted to experiment with it before I moved to my main Nesta Alias, which I’d had for 15 years already. I’ve also released an ambient track under Le Merle, and more electronica/ambient stuff will be released under this alias as well.
The cool thing about aliases is that you can release stuff you wouldn’t release under your main alias, so you can experiment even more with genres and sounds. But right now the main focus is my main project, Nesta.
You’ve got an album this year, what can you tell us about it? Are you touring around it?
Yes true. It’s a 16-track album of original productions entitled “Eclectic Electric”, divided into 2 CDs, and will be released on May 19 with a huge release party in the North.
CD 1: Nightfall consisting of ambient, minimal, tech house and techno tracks
CD2: Daylight consisting of electronica, minimal, jazz, deep house, house and disco tracks.
I’ve been working on it for quite some time now in my studio and finally the bits and pieces came together to form this album. It’s eclectic and consists of many different genres of music but with my signature of course. My production is simple and nothing pretentious about it. I don’t like the use of layers and too many sounds in tracks, as well as complicating stuff for nothing. Less is always more!
As for touring, it’s not really my thing. I would never want to be a touring deejay, going from one club to another, from city to city. The lifestyle would kill me, I love travelling but this is not how I see things. I’ve met so many touring DJs and kind of noticed that this lifestyle got to their health. I prefer to choose my parties wisely and play for my friends, and people I know, whether it is in New York, London, Paris, Dubai, Casablanca or Berlin. My summer schedule is pretty hectic but its mostly parties in Beirut and the Middle East.
What are your future plans for Fantome De Nuit? Are there any specific acts you’re excited to work with?
All the artists on the label are super special, with real character to their music. Skinnerbox’s latest EP was released recently and it is mental! My album is coming out next. There is also an upcoming 2 bomb EP from 3LIAS that will be out in June, and I’m also preparing a remix EP for Lebanese band Lumi and Gizzmo, as well as remixes for my album by Mike Shannon, Wareika, Tolga Fidan and so on. In fall, we will have an EP by Etyen & Tala, remixed by JADE & Wass from the band Who Killed Bruce Lee.
Fiesta wise, we are working on 4 big parties for this summer. I got also asked to musically curate and take care of one night at the Zouk Mikael International Festival where the Fantôme de Nuit team will take over. It’s an honor to be honest. This festival has hosted the likes of Souad Massi, Dhafer Yousef, Ziad el Rahbani and so on. We’re booking a huge act with a band and totally transforming the place with a crazy setup and kick ass decoration, things we always do in our parties, and that’s why they’re kind of special.
Are you doing something else besides Music?
My life is pretty much over loaded at the moment. Music is taking also a big part of it. But now that I have finished my album, I’m going to take a step back from music and studio and focus on other things that I love.
I’m a big foodie and one my dreams was to have my restaurant in Beirut. I’m working on a Restaurant/Bar with a bunch of friends, to be open this summer in the capital. It will be also a great balance with the music life. I’m also working on a huge project that I cannot disclose at the moment!
Finally, what other music is exciting you right now, both inside and out of electronic/dance music?
My music has always been different, depending on my mood and the venue that I play. I have never followed one genre, but have been always open to many and when I play long extended sets, I fuse them all together.
Club music wise, I’m really into Jazz/Nu Jazz, Minimal, House and Techno: Move D, Theo Parrish, Ponty Mython, Afriqua, Atjazz, Henry Wu… the list goes on and on! So much good music is coming out, but you really have to dig for it and spend countless hours to find some hidden gems.
When I’m home, I mostly listen to Soul, Funk, Hip hop, Jazz and Rock: Erykah Badu, Nas, Biggie Smalls, Wu Tang Clan, Sun Ra, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John and Alice Coltrane, Roy Ayers, Idris Muhammed, Ziad el Rahbani, Rabih bou-khalil, the list goes on and on…