The duo of Nico Sé and Dimitri have been setting dancefloor ablaze recently with their resident nights at the Casa del Popolo with the Body Meta nights : International discothèque (facebook page), next Body Meta will be on saturday! Perhaps what makes their partnerships successful is how their two different career paths led them to connect with each other, both sharing a passion for creativity and communicating emotions, feelings and stories to audiences.
Dimitri (Nasrallah) is a writer and editor who gained accolades and international recognition, having won the Hugh MacLennan Prize for fiction for one of his two novels, « Niko ». He is a lecturer at Concordia University in Montreal, teaching creative and essay writing since 2007.He has also worked in the past as a music journalist and critic, giving us a hint into how he took interest in exploring the medium that is music and how he can connect with audiences through music.
Nico Serrus (aka Nico Sé) is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist who took up DJ-ing during his time in Europe. Moving to Montreal in 2005, Nico continued on the path he had taken and pursued his studies of music by taking on producing. Now producing under the moniker of Agata Jasper, he also might give you some insights on how to be a great selector, helping you out at Atom Heart Records store in Montreal. In addition to producing and being one half of Body Meta, Nico is also the co-founder of Montreal-based Fur Trade Recordings.
Nico and Dimitri’s Body Meta nights showcase musical jewels from all over the world, exploring the rich diversity and spectrum from different music genres that ultimately all makes us dance carelessly. Not afraid to take their audiences on a journey into the unknown and earning their trust in the process , Nico and Dimitri takes us to a different plane with a mix which they kindly provided us, composed of carefully selected tracks. Adding a cherry on top, they accepted to give us some of their time to answer some questions and give us the 4-1-1 on how their project came to be and the intent that drives their performances.
How was it for you initially trying to get gigs to play your sound? How did you guys start?
D: In a roundabout way, the gigs existed before the collaboration. In 2013, I began doing a DJ night at Casa del Popolo called Body Meta once every two months, where I was working out this idea of bringing together African funk, disco, and early house – the music I dug at the time. The idea from the very beginning was to bring together things that didn’t normally belong in the same set. Hard to believe now, but those three sounds didn’t go together back then.
Late that year, I found out that the night would go monthly in 2014. Nico had been my only guest up to that point, and we’d connected well behind the decks. We were acquainted through a techno label he co-ran called Fur Trade. So I asked him if he wanted to join going forward, because it’s easier to manage a monthly with two people. Within a few months of that, we became Body Meta, and the night became the International Discothèque. Because of it being monthly and the fact that we had two record collections to experiment with, the sound began to define itself around what we could do in that room. The early house fell away, and the international angle grew as we began to grow more adventurous in how far you could go with music and still catch a dance floor.
Casa del Popolo became a kind of skin for us. Personally I’m interested in dance music that ignores all the rules and conventions, and I enjoy my DJs the same way too. That’s the ethos of the venue, and people who come see us there catch that vibe pretty quickly.
N: Well D pretty much covered that one! I’d just add that it felt awesome to connect with him because at the time i was mostly djing techno & house and with Body Meta i could play all those records i never got to play in clubs… It’ s always nice when you play with someone for the 1st time and all just kinda clicks you know?
What were the first artists that got you into crate digging and dj’ing?
D: I don’t know that I had artists that I followed into this, or at least I was too old to care about that by the time I finally got around to doing anything with the record collection I had built up. I’ve been collecting for nearly two decades now. The first fifteen years of that was spent working behind the scenes in electronic music – as a music journalist, at festivals, at record labels. So I was always inundated with new promo CDs of everything coming out. As a result, when I went record shopping, I gravitated toward older music on vinyl, and the fact that this was music that had outlasted its purpose, which at one pint was to promote its artist and offer a livelihood, was appealing to me. Now it was just an object to be repurposed, and that’s what I liked about collecting old 80s twelves with dance or special versions on the b-sides. That 78-85 period of 12-inches for club use is what I first dug deeply. There was so much of it around for the longest time.
N: I guess it was through hip hop! As a teenager growing up listening to, let’s say ‘Paul’s Boutique’ for example i realized that The Dust Brothers along many many others i dug like ATCQ / Primo / Bambaata / GMFlash (to name a tiny few) were all heavy record collectors… Then a bit later i discovered Mo’wax, Ninja Tunes with Coldcut / Kid Koala and also Dj Shadow / Cut Chemist and Stones Throw with Madlib / PBW / Dilla etc etc etc All of them, wax maniacs! So yeah, that’s why my mates & i started buying records, to buy new stuff but also to find OG samples used in songs we loved so much… When i went to the University I started digging more intensively and records lead to more records and more record stores and of course more experimented dj’s and so djing was the next, natural step… Lots of cheap, second hand SL-1200 MKII at the time too so yeah, that was cool….
You guys have a wide range in terms of styles/genres you play. Do you have a preferred one or one you would say is a “signature style”? Or do you like to explore along with your audience and give yourself some room to improvise?
The whole concept with Body Meta – what keeps it interesting for me at least – is that it’s about adventurous music, period. If a track falls too cleanly within genre/style lines, then it’s not that interesting anymore. I feel this way about most house and techno; it’s too purist, and the signifiers it’s playing with are too narrow or expected because it must conform to formulas of mixing. The only signature in Body Meta’s sound is that it shouldn’t stick to the same place for too long. Not in a set, and certainly not over a stretch of months. If it can be grouped somewhere too easily, then I get bored or uncomfortable.
At our best, we’re creating something new for ourselves. The down side of this is that it’s not easy to fit into a larger scene for long, or be booked for gigs, or to play for audiences who aren’t ready to take you on your own terms. That’s always been the limitation on Body Meta in every instance its popularity has outgrown its principles. For DJs, we’ve had it seems a good run of big moments over our four years. But there’s always been some psychologically violent conformity that pushes us back to our base. In this way, Casa is the only place where we can experiment as freely as we like, and where people seem to accept that we’re going to do what we want.
N: That would be the latter. Being able to play at Casa Del Popolo has indeed been awesome for improvising and experimenting!
How did the Body Meta nights start?
Mostly answered in Q1. But to build on that, it was totally by chance. I was 35 years old with a big record collection that I hadn’t built upon in about two years, on account of becoming a father, working too much, being tired all the time, and the house needing to be quiet. My sister-in-law, who is a decade younger than me and who works at Casa, would come over and that would be the only time we’d go through the records. One day she asked if I’d be up for coming to the bar to play a Saturday night, as they had an opening. It turned out that the best way to reconnect with my collection and start building it again was to take it out of my house and play it at loud volumes for strangers. That way, everyone was happy.
N: We were getting along super well with D and so, like it’s often the case, we ended up playing records together. It was supposed to be a one-off and it’s been 5 years of BM! Everything just fell into place really naturally…
You guys treated us with a dope disco/funk mix. Comments on the track selection and thoughts that went into this mix?
As with every mix, it takes us forever to align our schedules but once we’re in the same room, we work very quickly. We press record and start from a position of dissatisfaction, cycling through tracks that we’ve grown to depend on but that no longer feel new. Somewhere along the way, we fall into a groove that’s outside what we expect of each other. We recognize it right away when that happens, and so we lock into that sound. With this mix, it was a dubbed-out, slowed down early-80s groove that reminded us of watching late-night TV when we were kids. Back then, the programming changed completely at night, as stations went over to blue films, late-night oldies, re-runs, infomercials, and eventually the opening of the morning show. We used that trajectory from the beginning to the end of overnight TV programming in the 80s, as our guiding principle, and we built his soundtrack around this concept. You don’t have to know that when you listen to the mix, but the results are different than your average disco/funk mix because the thinking behind it was different.
What’s next for you guys (ongoing side projects and future ones)?
D: Apart from the Body Meta nights at Casa del Popolo, I’m also a resident at Riverside St-Henri. Beyond that, I don’t like being too ambitious when it comes to DJing anymore. My plan is to hang out with my friend Nico and find thrills in new records. If people want to listen to what we do, that’s great too. I would love to say we have grand plans to throw big parties and start a re-edit label, but realistically at this point, being 40 years old, I’m more interested in keeping this sustainable, fun, and adventurous. If someone younger comes along and says, man, I really want to play dance music in that crazy way those Body Meta dudes do it, then that’s my biggest reward. But once all that gets old, we’ll move on.
Apart from that we just finished building our studio with my partners Jerome & Ivann (from The Gulf Stream) in the Artgang basement, it’s called Bakery Studio, and i also have a duo with Ivann called Agata Jasper thats focusing more on house music. So work more in the studio with Bakery, and producing and developping a DJ sets & a Live set with Agata Jasper.
N: With BM there are a lot of radios i’d like to work with so yeah more ‘radiophonic’ output & our monthlies of course.
N: Well to everyone at Casa Del Popolo and all the dancers that show up to our parties with such an open mind and great moves! Also all the djs/producers/musicians/collectors we meet along the way that are simply awesome and inspiring! Like Javonntte said:
Keep… grinding… and then have some fun… Planet earth… keep bouncing.
Photo : Sarah-Marie