Word of DJ Ali’s enviable production skills and captivating live sets has continued to travel throughout the underground scene.
Emphasising high tempos and heavy percussion use, his performances incorporate an element of resistance and anarchy that perseveres within his activity inside esoteric genres of music such as death metal and heavy techno.
Representing Al Gharib and Live From Earth, DJ Ali is highly respected for his vast insight and skill with hardware, regarded as one of the most talented synth heads within his respected country – so much so that his first ever international live set was at none other than Berghain.
We recently caught up with the enigmatic performer ahead of his headline Bunker performance on November 26th, discussing his intriguing style of music, his representation of Al Gharib and a mammoth performance at Berghain…
Hey Ali! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us ahead of your headline performance at Bunker in a few weeks’ time
Firstly – you’ve become renowned for your hard-hitting, gritty sound that is more often than not presented in the form of a LIVE set. Your performances in Melbourne have gained significant attention over the years for their uncompromising stylings – what are you seeking to deliver each time you perform? What, in your eyes, does a live set offer in contrast to a more standard DJ set?
Each time I play a live set I set out to deliver a raw techno experience with hard hitting percussions and heavy sounds. The style I try to play in my sets comes from my love for old 90s techno sets where it just doesn’t stop. In terms of a more standard DJ set I feel like in my live sets I can have more control over what direction I want each song to go and what energy I want to have from changing the tone of the hats to messing up the kicks.
You’re one of the founding members of Beirut/Melbourne label Al Gharib, which earlier this year released the ‘Palestine’ VA, featuring the likes of Rrose, Nene H, u.r.trax and yourself. What can you tell us about the mission of the label? How did the label come to be?
The mission for me in the label is to really push the power and energy of music across all mediums and to spread essential messages for the promotion of humanity. The label came to be when myself and some close friends wanted to create a platform to release our music and that of friends and artists we liked without prejudice, at a time when it was difficult to find alternative platforms to release our works and ideas.
Your music is influenced by musical stylings that can be classed as death metal and heavy techno – were these the musical roots that brought about the DJ Ali that we see today or did you tread other musical paths along the way? Do you enjoy any particular genres today outside of electronic music that help shape your productions and sets?
Before DJ Ali came about I was initially in a death metal group playing the guitar as I did from a young age but I found that I enjoyed listening to death metal more than making it, so I set out to create my own electronic music incorporated with my guitar playing, so ventured out on my own and started playing around with pedals and synthesizers but it all change when I bought a drum machine and found that I could create some of my favorite dance beats, this birthed DJ Ali. I do enjoy many genres outside dance and techno such as metal, hip hop/rap, ambient music, DNB/jungle and just everything really. I absolutely love music. But the biggest influence to my sets and production is old school 90s techno. I absolutely love it, it has so much energy.
As mentioned previously, you predominantly tend to perform live as opposed to your more standard DJ set with CDJs or turntables. How has your hardware composition changed as your career has progressed? Are there any machines in particular that you rely on or are seeking to bring into the fold in future?
I’ve never actually played on CDjs out before until last year where I learnt how to use CDjs. Playing live is how I started but compared to when I started it’s become a lot more fun for me and that’s because of my hardware changes over the years now my favorite machines to play live with are the Elektrons which I couldn’t live without, I feel like they are a part of my brain. I’d like to incorporate more modular in my sets down the track; in my last couple of sets I stopped using my modular synthesizer due to changes with modules but I would love to get it back out there in the future.
Outside of Australia, you’ve performed at a series of illustrious venues, including none other than the cavernous Berghain. Can you please shed a little light into the experience you went through being booked to play there, and what it was like to exhibit your music in a place that would’ve suited it down to the ground?
I think playing at Berghain really opened a lot of doors for me internally, it was a surreal experience that has really allowed me to exactly know how I want my production and sets to be. Exhibiting my music there was like a dream. The energy, the sounds, just everything about it was fantastic!
Lastly, given the ongoing pandemic situation that has affected Victoria perhaps more greatly than any other region in the world in terms of restrictions, have you been able to use the time away from the clubs to focus on your music in a new way? What are your thoughts on returning to the club environment after the hiatus we’ve experienced?
The lockdown was like a hidden blessing, in a way it allowed me to really put more into learning better ways to elevate my production. I still have a lot to learn but it has definitely allowed me to grow. In terms of returning to the clubs to perform, I cannot wait. I’m so excited, I am counting down the days!!
Thanks for the chat – looking forward to seeing your performance in a few weeks!
Written by Jeremy McCarthy