Saturday June 15th, 2024
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Deus Deserto: Qatari’s Barrier Breaking Peak Time Techno Act

Artist Deus Deserto breaks musical and cultural barriers, rising from a conservative upbringing to becoming a prominent figure in the region’s electronic music scene.

Nour Massoud

Deus Deserto: Qatari’s Barrier Breaking Peak Time Techno Act

Hailing from Qatar, Deus Deserto has anchored his sounds within the regional electronic music scene, conquering the challenges of a conservative upbringing and the adversities of mental health along the way. Supported by veterans like Sama’ Abdulhadi, Maceo Plex and ANNA, amongst others, Deus Deserto's musical trademark seamlessly entwines old school grooves with electronica.

Represented by Qatar-based film and music production company Katara Studios, which is focused on unearthing and cultivating Qatari artists, Deus Deserto is now being managed by George Chalouhi, who is at the helm of Talent and Management within the studios. George is dedicated to propelling Deus to prominence on the international stage.

Conversing with George and Deus, a vibrant manager-artist relationship unfolded, driven by a shared passion for crafting artistry. As George proudly extolled Deus’ determination, a synergy that surpasses professionalism exuded, showcasing the relationship as a blossoming friendship rooted in mutual admiration and a love for music.

In an exclusive interview with SceneNoise, Deus Deserto dives into the daily inspirations that drive his creative processes, including video games and movie soundtracks, and shares his insights on the regional music landscape, especially the music scene in Qatar and its evolution throughout the years. 

Can you share insights into your background and what led you into the realm of music production?

I grew up in a decidedly conservative household, where early memories of music were woven with the eclectic sounds my dad used to play - Michael Jackson, Umm Kalthum, Fayrouz, Mohammed Abdo and more - creating a melodic tapestry that eventually faded away. However, the dormant notes of my musical journey found rekindling in middle school, spurred by the diverse tunes my classmates embraced in class and around school. It marked the genesis of my deep dive into the realms of rock and hip-hop, with a profound affection for the resonances of 90s and 2000s hip-hop and rap, only to be momentarily dimmed by the emergence of mumble rap.

By the time 10th grade arrived, my infatuation with electronic music had reached a point where I aspired to create it myself. However, despite the burning desire, my early attempts at music production were marred by a lack of discipline and an overwhelming fear of failure. After I moved back from the US for my Bachelor's education, I was facing the challenges of a new job and readjusting to life in my homeland. I was severely depressed and was trying to find ways to spend my time and energy after work. I sought out the only thing that was keeping me sane at that time, and it was music.

In a pivotal moment, I decided to take one last shot at music production, this time driven purely by the joy it brought me. A transformation had occurred within me over the past decade. I had become self-disciplined, learned from my mistakes, and adopted a new mindset toward hobbies and disciplines. Guided by online courses in Ableton, I honed my skills, delving into the intricate world of techno as my taste in electronic music matured. What started as a recreational pursuit soon turned into a passion.

When it comes to your productions, what is your creative process like? Take us through the steps that define your unique approach.

I don't adhere to a specific creative process. Inspiration for me is a versatile muse that can be drawn from various sources. It could be a recent movie, a captivating video game, another track that resonates, or even the raw emotion of the moment. When embarking on a new project, I strive to infuse my current emotions and thoughts into a tangible melody or feeling that I can enjoy and dance to while producing. My approach to crafting tracks is as diverse as my sources of inspiration. Some days, I initiate the creative journey by constructing the grooves and percussion, establishing a rhythmic foundation. On other occasions, I commence with an abstract harmonic concept, building upon its unique foundation. Alternatively, a preconceived melody might lead the way, finding its initial form in Ableton and occasionally evolving into a superior version during the creative process.

I like to give myself that feeling of an empty canvas, allowing myself the freedom to express a spectrum of emotions. Victor Ruiz, one of my mentors, once described me as a versatile producer, acknowledging the presence of my signature sound. Such recognition from him is a compliment that I hold in high regard.

Reflecting on your career, which release do you believe had the most profound impact and served as a pivotal moment for your trajectory?

Undoubtedly, a turning point in my musical journey was the release of 'Amsy', my debut track. This marked a pivotal moment, amplified by the resounding support it received from influential figures such as Nicole Moudaber and Sama Abdulhadi, providing the catalyst I needed to embrace music as a full-time career. Another significant milestone on the horizon is my upcoming release on Volta, a project that has been in the works since October 2022. The anticipation surrounding this release is not just about the music. It's a special project for me, representing a profound chapter in my artistic expression that I am eagerly looking forward to sharing.

Your ability to seamlessly blend old school beats with contemporary techno is distinctive. What influences contribute to this musical trademark, and how do you perceive its appeal to your audience?

The heartbeat of my inspiration undeniably lies in my Arabic roots, where grooves and rhythms intertwine. Techno, seamlessly fused with these cultural elements, creates a synergy where the track's groove becomes the very pulse that resonates with the listener's dance. Drawing influence from maestros like Victor Ruiz, Marco Faraone and Maceo Plex, I've found a source of creative energy that propels my sound forward.

Beyond the realm of techno, my muse extends to unexpected corners, particularly the realms of hip-hop. Rekindling my connection with this genre has opened up new avenues of inspiration, adding diverse textures and nuances to my evolving sonic palette. This eclectic blend of influences is shaping my musical narrative, forging a unique path where Arabic roots meet contemporary techno, and the heartbeat of grooves becomes the universal language of dance.

Dive into the electronic music landscape in Qatar. How would you describe it, and do you believe Qatar plays a significant role in shaping your position in the electronic music industry? If so, how?

Navigating the music scene here is an interesting journey, primarily because it's relatively small. To put it into perspective, I proudly hold the title of the sole Peaktime producer not just among Qatari artists, but in the entirety of Qatar. While melodic techno and Afro remain the crowd favorites, there's a noticeable shift underway. People are gradually broadening their musical palettes to embrace genres like Peaktime Techno, signaling a positive evolution in the local music landscape.

Being the pioneering force behind Peaktime Techno in Qatar, I believe in the transformative power of pushing boundaries. The recent surge in electronic music's popularity in the region has certainly created a favorable environment for artists like myself. A notable milestone in this journey was my performance at MDLBEAST's SoundStorm festival, an exhilarating experience. As the largest festival in the region, it provided a significant platform for artists in my niche, allowing us to connect with new audiences and foster growth in unexpected ways. The landscape is changing, and being part of this musical revolution is nothing short of thrilling.

How has your collaboration with Katara Studios influenced your recognition both locally and on the global stage?

Currently, my relationship with Katara Studios is in its early stages, and I'm already appreciating the promising developments emerging from our collaboration. Achieving recognition from an esteemed entity like KS is a significant milestone, and their proactive efforts to propel artists, including myself, onto the international stage are particularly commendable. We, as the first generation of artists to experience this level of support, are witnessing a transformative era in the industry. While only time will reveal the full extent of our journey, I have a strong sense of optimism about the direction in which this partnership is heading.

Looking ahead, what upcoming projects are you particularly excited about in your musical journey?

In the coming year, 2024, I'm eagerly anticipating a multitude of releases, each holding a unique significance. One standout project is my collaboration with Volta, Victor Ruiz's cutting-edge record label. Volta, having burst onto the techno scene in October 2022, has impressively risen to become the third best-selling techno label on Beatport, an extraordinary feat within a relatively brief span. Beyond its musical prowess, Volta distinguishes itself by allocating 10% of profits to a charity of the artist's choice, embodying a commendable commitment to social impact.

Diving deeper into this collaboration, my EP titled 'Explode' is a testament to the exciting journey with Volta. The EP features two tracks, 'Explode' and 'Implode,' serving as snapshots of my diverse artistic expression. 'Explode', a high-energy masterpiece, is a collaboration with the exceptionally talented Qatari rapper S.A.A.D and hip-hop producer Swaydee. The creative synergy with the Al Suwadi brothers - Farhan and Saad - has been nothing short of inspiring. Reconnecting with them, my middle school peers, added a unique dynamic to the project, blending my sound seamlessly with their inspiring hip-hop elements. 

Beyond Volta, I also have exciting releases on the horizon. A single on Mahool Records, a House and Techno sub-label of MDLBEAST Records, is a collaboration with Sokkary, an Egyptian Melodic Techno producer. The track is a fusion of our respective styles, resulting in a melodic banger that both MDLBEAST Records and we are thrilled about.

While I can't reveal all the details just yet, 2024 promises to be a year filled with musical exploration and creative endeavors. 

As a seasoned artist, what advice would you offer to emerging producers and DJs in the region who aspire to follow in your footsteps?

Hard work remains the cornerstone of success in the music industry, but it's essential to couple that with strategic efforts. Devote time to the studio, immerse yourself in learning new skills, and actively seek feedback from those you admire. Consider aligning yourself with a mentor who can provide invaluable guidance, aiding in your artistic development.

Investing in self-education is paramount. Stay abreast of industry trends, explore workshops, and engage in courses to refine both your technical prowess and creative acumen. Working smart is about more than just the grind; it involves cultivating meaningful relationships through networking. Even if you're the most industrious person, the right connections are vital for garnering recognition.

Above all, maintain a sense of enjoyment in your artistic pursuits. Amidst the hard work and strategic planning, keep the passion for music alive. Remember, we embarked on this journey because of our deep love for the art form. Success is not solely measured by reaching milestones, it's about relishing the creative process and connecting authentically with your audience.