It was some ten years ago when Egyptian DJ, Ismail Nosrat, kicked off his career in music and over the last few years, he has been part of a movement that re-invented Cairo's nightlife. In 2015 alongside with Asia Skyula, he joined the team of the successful Caché event founded by DJing compatriots Aly Bahgat and Abdo Klady and he’s also involved in Karawane - a party at Berlin’s Club der Visionäre. The music-maker has played in Berlin twice and points to the city’s club scene as an oasis of inspiration for his musical style. While he started off with playing more commercial music, his sound has evolved to be much darker, leaning to an extent to techno - to the chagrin of his seven cats.
"There were actually three of my cats in the studio before you came, but I took them out before the shoot because they hate the music I'm doing nowadays,” he tells us, laughing. He explains that his switch in genres might also be connected to his psyche. “Not that I am crazy,” he adds. “I'm a happy person, but I have my weird moments where I come here to my studio and just do my crazy stuff.”
The coming months will be busy for the aspiring producer. Not only has he got plans to move to a bigger studio to get his gear organised, but he also has his hands on several projects that will see him trying out different sounds. His alias 'Baby-irl' is an experimental techno-inspired project with which he has already made his debut in Cairo. But he also collaborates with Aly B as DJ Dolphins. Unfortunately for his cats, but fortunately for Cairo's techno lovers, it seems like the young DJ will be quite busy in his studio experimenting on different sounds.
In the first of a coming series on SceneNoise that sees us delve into the studios of some of Egypt's most interesting DJs and producers, we had a rummage round Nosrat's gear.
"I sample a lot of music, so my main pieces of gear are my two turntables, the Technics SL-1200, which have always been the industry standards, in studios as well as clubs. I love to sample old records from the 80s and 90s. My workflow is to record an extract from a record, and send it to the laptop to mess with it in Ableton and process it with effects. I like to mess with the pitch and the speed of the record and I sometimes also use some scratches. On top of that, I use my mixer, the Pioneer DJM-400, which is actually kind of old too, and has a bunch of digital effects, such as the flanger, phaser, filter and echo, that sometimes create surprises. I also sample acapellas and process them."
"For me, the TR-8 equals infinite possibilities and it’s my go-to piece of gear, as I work with a lot of drums. It’s basically a drum machine with a sequencer that triggers the different drum sounds, creating a loop - an emulation of Roland’s famous 808 and 909 vintage machines. You have eleven different drum sounds and two kits. I actually send a lot of midi from that to my plugins in the computer too, so I don’t only use it for the drums, but also to write melodies and basslines. Even though it’s a replica of the 808 and 909, it doesn’t exactly sound like them, but it still gets the job done and I can get infinite grooves out of it. It takes me a bit of processing to get the best sound out of it and meet the standard punchy club sound, but it's worked for me so far."
"The 707 is the sister box of the 808 and 909, and it’s actually really old - I don’t even know the exact year. That makes it very difficult to use because the programming is quite complex. To make it easier for myself, I send a midi signal from the TR-8 to the 707. So whenever I'm playing on the TR-8, the exact same pattern plays on the 707. The sound is actually really warm and punchy, and it’s one of my favourite pieces of equipment."
Launch Control XL
"This one is actually more of a live thing, I don’t use it that much in the studio unless I'm jamming live. I can map anything from Ableton on it, like the volume, panning, reverbs, delays and so on. The cool thing is that I can do all of this without using my computer, which makes the Launch Control XL a great tool when playing live, because of its workflow and hands on intuitiveness."
"This is actually the first machine I ever bought in my life and, let me tell you, 10 years ago this was the shit. Every producer had a Virus TI and it was easily worth 10k back then, and now I probably couldn’t even get it sold. It's a digital synthesiser and I mainly use it because of its trancy sound. It’s really ambient, really atmospheric and it has a lot of oscillators, so you can easily put like a million of sounds together and the effects are crazy."
"This tape recorder is insane. To be fair I haven’t really used it yet, but I definitely will. It's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to moving to a new studio, so I finally have space for it. It's originally Japanese and really rare these days. The funny thing is that it's actually my grandfather’s tape recorder that I discovered it really randomly. Then after looking for it on the internet, I actually found out that it’s one of the best tape recorders in the world - lucky catch for me. Right now, I'm using digital plugins on the computer to create the effects of a recorder, but it’s much better to actually use this gear to do it. I want to pass the master from the Nakachimi and then return it to the computer and record it as if it was on tape. This leads to a much more analogue sound; a warm analogue feeling. I am really excited to try it out soon."