DJ Plead is a name that kept unwarrantedly presenting itself to me over the past several months. Whether I was interviewing Lebanese duo Wake Island, writing about Phil Battiekh’s Cairo Concepts compilation, or just chatting to 3Phaz about his upcoming gigs - DJ Plead just had to be mentioned. With only two EPs and a handful of radio appearances to his name, the Lebanese/Australian artist’s sound and his strong tie to his Arab roots are already unmistakable.
From his dabke inspired productions like ‘Get in Circle’ and ‘Baharat’ to collaborating with mahraganat household name Alaa 50 on ‘Ana Ho’, to reinterpreting Egyptian pop-star Ruby’s infamous ‘Leih Beydary Keda’ - DJ Plead is clearly one of the very few artists around the globe currently search for a sound that’s fresh, avant-garde, banging, and above all distinctly Arab at the same time.
Judging by how highly regarded he is between his fellow producers, and how strikingly original his productions are - I decided to get in touch to find out more about DJ Plead and his background, discography, take on mahraganat and everything in between.
Where are you right now, and what are you up to?
I just arrived in Melbourne after a European tour, which was extremely rewarding. I'm looking forward to making some music for the first time in a few months!
Tell us a little bit about your upbringing and musical background.
I grew up in Sydney to a Lebanese mother and a Swiss father. I was raised within a large Lebanese-Australian family with heaps of aunties, uncles, cousins and my beautiful matriarchal grandmother. This is where I have always drawn a lot of inspiration from and will continue to do so forever. I convinced my mum to buy me a darbuka from the Lebanese bakery (The Lebanese Loaf) down the road when I was a child and I was constantly drumming the rhythms on tables with my hands.
When and how did you get into DJing and music production?
I got into music production when I was a teenager about 10 years ago on FL studio. I was mostly producing with my group BV and slowly gained the confidence to make my own stuff and cultivate a solo project. DJing was also linked solely to BV for a time and then later I would play sets of just my own productions as DJ Plead.
How did you come up with this specific sound you have today and how would you personally describe it?
The sound is a combination of a few different inspirations that are still evolving. Mainly the influences are Lebanese and Syrian music with UK bass and techno as well as 2000’s RnB. For a while I was describing the sound as Midi-East. My current sound began to emerge when I was producing music with BV, specifically I made a track called 'The Hunted'. It was really well received when we played it out and so I started making more music that was clearly referencing Lebanese music and slowly this project began to emerge.
Are there any artists out there today that you look to for inspiration?
Yes. I’m looking in the direction of Batu, Logic 1000, Cop Envy, Cassius Select, 8ulentina, DJ Haram, Xzavier Stone, Joe.
Was there any particular difficulty in cultivating a sound like this in Australia?
I wouldn't say it was difficult to cultivate it for myself. After moving to Melbourne from Sydney it felt a bit more out of place. I don't think the sound really fit into the Melbourne 'scene' but people are warming to it.
More generally, would you consider as your main influences?
Sarya Al Sawwas, The Neptunes, Tim & Bob, Tony Kiwan, Cassius Select, Joe, Pearson Sound.
How did you end up releasing your music on DECISIONS and Nervous Horizon?
I owe a lot to Oliver from DECISIONS for prodding me to release music. We knew each other personally so it felt really easy to work with him. Guglielmo from NH reached out via the internet around the time of my first release, after hearing this UK funky sounding remix I did of a Alaa Fifty and Sadat track.
Where do you see your sound going in the future?
I'm hoping to explore melody a bit more moving forward and make some things that are also a bit slower and aren't necessarily dance music.
Where have you enjoyed playing the most recently? And where has your music been best received at a gig so far?
I've really had a great time playing shows through Europe. A highlight was playing in Stockholm at Tradgarden with my Lebanese friend Rasuul and Habib1. We played a lot of dabke tracks and the swedes were getting down for sure.
You recently released a track on Phil Battiekh’s Cairo Concepts, what’s your experience with mahraganat and what’s your opinion on the genre?
I've been a fan of mahraganat for a long time now. I think a lot of my productions draw inspiration from this movement, particularly the functionality and immediacy of the tracks that come out Egypt.. they always bang! I would love to go over to Cairo one day and get involved. It was already a dream come true having Alaa Fifty jump on a beat of mine.
You only have two EPs out so far, can you tell us about any upcoming releases or projects?
No upcoming releases planned just yet but itching to get something happening soon. I’ve been focusing on collaborating with different artists this year like 8ulentina, Cop Envy, Logic 1000 and TSVI. Collaborations have been giving me a lot of motivation and I feel like I learn so much from other people. Also making another record with my friend T.morimoto as Poison.