Nabih Esta exploded onto Beirut’s burgeoning clubbing scene as the generation-defining Nesta back in 2006. In the decade since, Nesta further cemented himself as part of the taste-makers in Beirut’s ever-evolving clubbing scene. After heading to London to hone his sound engineering skills, Nesta devised his Techno-drenched alter ego, Technophile. Technophile brought out the twisted, melancholic side of Nesta’s music allowing him to delve into more experimental frequencies in the spectrum while maintaining the momentum of the Nesta alias.
In 2014, Nesta founded his Beirut-based label Fantôme de Nuit (FDN) and devoted himself to producing massive tracks infused with elements from his Lebanese heritage and musically-gifted family and entourage that led to the creation of Nesta & Silky Raven landing an EP on Damian Lazarus’s label Rebellion.
His fruitful time in the studio hasn’t kept him from a busy touring schedule though. He holds a residency at one of Beirut’s biggest club, Uberhaus (The Garten) where he is also a partner. Apart from that, he is regularly featured on the lineups of top-notch clubs such as KaterBlau and Sisyphos in Berlin as well as renowned festivals like Sonar in Barcelona.
Nesta, Technophile and Fantôme de Nuit combine to create a versatile spectrum of music that stays true to its House beginnings, continuously evolves its inclination to Techno and refuses to abide by one genre or style.
We had an in-depth chat with him about his multi-faceted talent, activities, life, the universe and everything, Here’s what went down.
Let’s start with the journey from 2006 until today. It’s been a long but groovy ride, tell us about the journey of the past 10 years. What changed along the way? How did it shape you as a person?
It has certainly been a long, interesting and sloppy ride. A lot of stuff have changed from 2006 til now: the music, the trends, the clubs but the passion remains stronger than ever. Music changed my life. I’m an impulsive person in general but music has taught me discipline and patience. It certainly shaped the person I am at the moment.
You’re a partner at überhaus, which is not just one of the most renowned clubs in the world, but also a movement pioneering parties, supporting artists and hosting international acts along the way. Can you tell us how it started? What it added to your personal growth?
überhaus started 5 years ago in a tiny 200 ppl capacity club in a hotel basement in Hamra, and after a year we Launched The Gärten where I was a partner and a resident DJ.
Being resident in a club is very important as a DJ. Whether it was my residency for 4 years at the Basement (from 18 till 22) or my actual residency at überhaus/The Garten, both have helped me shape my sound and gave me the versatility in genres that I have today. Also, a residency teaches you discipline and responsibility. It’s not easy to be a warm-up or closing DJ. I spent my life warming up for DJs and closing for them, and if it wasn’t from that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Warming up an empty club is not as easy as you think. Few people understand it and respect it but it is for sure the most important part of the night, it dictates the entire mood of the party. What I love about it is that it is different. If I’m warming up Magda I will definitely be playing different records than if I’m warming up for Kerri Chandler for example. I’ve seen so many ‘DJ’s’ playing banging techno at 12 AM when people are just entering the club and having a drink on the bar. It’s all about having a diversified and eclectic collection of music, and playing the right record at the right time, and always remembering that you’re not the only one playing during that night.
Last year you were relentlessly dropping gems, as both monikers Nesta and Technophile. From the iconic ‘Cedar Trees’ on Rebellion with Silky Raven, Piece of Mind to Technophile’s Pandora’s Box, Sticks and Bones and the myriad of remixes! How did you manage to keep your creative strain going with all that productivity while managing labels, a club and DJing?
It’s as simple as that. I have dedicated my life to music. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but so far I am enjoying it. I get to travel whenever I want to and do things maybe people who work in corporate offices will never get the chance to do. Some artists work as bankers during the day and then complain why they are not evolving as artists and don’t have time to make music. Others have daytime jobs but manage to make music as well. You’ve got to decide what you want in life. I spend all days long 7/7 in the studio making music, looking for new emerging artists for my labels, or playing records. This is what I do best and I’m lucky to be surrounded by awesome and special friends.
Tell us a bit more about your project with Silky Raven from Germany as ‘Nesta & Silky Raven’ and the EP you released on Damian Lazarus’s label
When I first invited the boys to Beirut for a Fantome de Nuit showcase, they fell in love with the city and its rich culture. So while driving up to the mountains and smoking a fat one, I started playing some old oriental Lebanese music. Wadih el Safi, Sabah, Fairuz.. we were like, why not fuse this awesome music from the past with electronic elements. This is when the project was born in 2015. With the approval of Wadih el Safi’s family, we started sampling old samples from the 50’s and 60’s, which wasn’t easy at all with the differences in time signatures and such, even notes. We were sending projects back and forth via Dropbox and in less than a year, 6 tunes were done. We have also an upcoming EP on Fantome de Nuit later in April including 2 originals and a remix of one of the originals.
As Technophile, you released Trappist EP on Din is Noise Records, which was a bit of a deeper exploration of sound than your usual tone. What inspired you to go on that adventure?
I’m a crazy little kid who enjoys producing and playing soulful music as much as I enjoy producing dark techno or experimental music. Being in the studio every day, you get bored of producing the same genre. I honestly don’t understand producers who are producing the same sound over and over. Don’t they get bored of it? In the studio, to keep my creativity open, I produce EVERYTHING. From ambient, to chill-out, to hip-hop, trip-hop, reggae, soul, disco, house and techno. I’m even doing some pop lately that I will release under another moniker.
You’re fucking unstoppable, as if DJing and producing weren’t enough, now you’re dropping labels. Fantôme de Nuit Records! Tell us about it a bit. Its character, sound, artists on board, history and future plans!
Fantôme de Nuit is my little baby. It doesn’t have any specific genre in general, but it is focusing on the house and techno sub genres. If you listen to the releases or check the illustrations and artworks they all have the same touch somehow and some of them are for me timeless gems. As a label we don’t look somewhere else and try to imitate like most of the labels in the industry. We have our own sound and we don’t follow trends. We put a lot of effort on details whether it is the artwork or the music. The goal with this label is releasing music that gets to your soul directly, music that is special and not imitated somewhere else. Something new, fresh and exciting. 2017 is very exciting for us as we have German duo ‘Skinnerbox’ who just joined the family. Next releases will be a single from myself featuring Julien Riachi a very talented vocalist friend of mine, then a Nesta & Silky raven 3 track oriental EP, and Skinnerbox’s ep will follow after that.
What about the Fantôme de Nuit parties you’re throwing?
FDN parties are super special. The team involves people from many artistic backgrounds, designers, illustrators, musicians, art directors etc. We spend a lot of money on the decoration to create a special setup and one important thing: we never did a party with the intention of making money out of it. We always want everyone to have the best time of their lives, including us so all the parties we organize, come deeply from the heart people are starting to notice that, that’s why we have a loyal clientele that follow us wherever we go.
You just announced a new label: Beroe Records by dropping the amazing VA of local producers playing downtempo, experimental, electronica and a bit of techno. What inspired this project to come to life?
Beirut is a heaven for artists at the moment. I’ve always been a type of talent seeker. I love talented and dedicated musicians. There’s a wave of indie producers making ambient, electronica, pop, rock etc. but have no platform whatsoever to release the music. I’m one of them. I’m making a lot of ambient music recently under the name Le Merle, which means in Arabic ‘El Chahrour’ (I’m from a village called Wadi Chahrour that I love and this is where my studio is at the moment). I’m tired of sending music to labels in Europe begging them for a possible release when none of them actually check the demos being sent. I was like why the fuck do we need a label in Europe or in America. So I thought, why the fuck not, create an artistic platform where I can also contribute as a musician and producer, and help others also, giving them a kind of freedom for their creativity.
Your energy when you’re DJing is contagious. You played Sisyphos, Katerblau and endless legendary nights in Beirut. What would you say is your superpower when it comes to DJing?
Thank you. It’s the energy of the crowd that gives me the strive, power and strength to keep going and never stopping. It’s the people around me, my girlfriend, my friends and all those who have been pushing me for years and believing in what I do since day one.
You’ve been active on endless frontiers but that didn’t stop you from pushing your sound exploration even further. What’s next in terms of sonic experimentation? Any new territories you’re looking forward to explore?
I have no idea. Really. I don’t know. I’m super unpredictable so stay tuned.
Can you walk us a bit through your creative process when it comes to production? What inspires an idea? How do you lay down your track basics and move forward with it? How do you finish and refine it?
My tracks can start off with drums, but also they can start off with a simple pad or strings, or sometimes by a random melody I came up with when I was bored. I also sample a lot of old records. Like a 1 or 2 bar loop and then I build on them. I also invite guitar players and vocalists in the studio and jam with them.
How would you define the potential of the music scene in Beirut? You’ve invested a lot in it, how would you expect it to pay off in the future?
That’s the thing. I never invested in it with back thoughts that it will pay off in the future. I do this by pure passion and love for music and for what I do. Then if something good comes, then so be it.
Beirut has a lot of artistic potential. The scene has become so diverse. If you think of it, 10 years ago, there was one promoter monopolizing the parties and the country. Now you have a huge choice every weekend, from concerts to club venues, DJs, art expositions and what not. It’s one of the few reasons why I’m still living here. I believe a lot in this city and its artists, they are the only ones actually doing something good in a politically corrupt country like ours.
As a music veteran, what’s your advice to young artists and producers in the scene right now?
Be yourself and not someone else, and more importantly be grateful. Cut the ego bullshit because there is no room for that when it comes to music. Back in the day, when I had a spot of closing set at 5am, I was more than excited to do it. Nowadays, artists who have released a track and a half on Beatport think that they are all-knowing, and don’t even appreciate a spot that has been offered to them at that time and want to play the main spot instead. This is when you know that this person is not in it for the music, but they just want this ‘cool thing’. Real artists and music lovers will enjoy playing music even for an empty club.
You got a fully loaded year ahead, what are your future gigs outside Lebanon?
March 8 I’m playing in Dubai and on March 15-19 I’m playing in this amazing festival in St Maarten in the Caribbean Islands alongside names like Ame, Lee Burridge Ricardo Villalobos and Raresh to name a few, then another gig in New York just after that.
In April I’m doing Berlin, Stockholm, Lisbon and Paris.
Playing all over the world comes with rewarding stories, what’s the weirdest venue you ever played?
Europa Sunrise in Portugal, which used to be a church in the 1600’s and now its still a church but transformed into a club. It was kind of weird when I first entered the club and saw all these statues, I was kind of baffled. I am a kid who grew up helping the priest in the village church by holding a candle while he was reading excerpts from the bible.
Aside from your musical adventure and endeavors, what do you do for fun?
I’m a record and music coffers collector, as well as manga and anime collectibles. Dragon ball, Saint Seiya, Naruto, even discontinued Batman figurines and such. I have been snowboarding for 20 years now, oh and apparently I’m a comedian (I also love Netflix’s stand up comedies shows) and a very good cook also. I’m working on opening my small gourmet restaurant but cannot disclose more details at the moment.
Stay updated with Nesta’s endeavors through his social media platforms:
Nesta feat. Julien Riachi – Find What You Love will be out in a month on Fantôme de Nuit Records. Make sure to check that out.