Monday July 15th, 2024
Download SceneNow app

Liliane Chlela - Behind the Artist’s Sonic Alchemy

After making her Cairo debut, SceneNoise caught up with the innovative Lebanese producer to discuss her process and career.

Scene Noise

Liliane Chlela - Behind the Artist’s Sonic Alchemy

Back in April, SceneNoise sat down with pioneering Lebanese DJ and producer Liliane Chlela at one of Al Ismaelia’s abandoned warehouses, a setting that perfectly mirrored the artist’s deconstructed sonic aesthetic. Though it was my first time meeting Chlela, in the short time we met, she immediately treated the entire crew as if we were old friends, reminiscing over her work and career.

It struck me from the start that Chlela’s approach to music making was staunchly independent, even starting the interview by telling us, “I’ve always been and I will always be a militant for self-release.” Beginning her experience with music at a young age, the artist’s journey was one of trial and error, experimenting with field recordings and getting creative with audio processing. Peering into the details of her workflow kept bringing us back to the core attitude behind Lilian’s work; which is to just have fun and enjoy the process.

Q: What was your first experience with learning an instrument?

A: I had this curiosity to create sounds by wiring the pedals in specific ways. It started from there then other instruments followed.

While familiarizing myself with Chlela’s work, I was somewhat surprised that her musical background was strikingly different from her releases, having spent some years playing with bands in every genre from post-rock to drum n bass. It all came together when Liliane explained that she started experimenting with sounds through her guitar pedals, gravitating closer and closer to the unorthodox sounds she champions today.

Q: How did you get to a point where you work without thinking about genre?

A: I started respecting how the sequence of my thoughts work, and try as much as possible not to tweak it. I think this thought process helped me a lot to cross over into many genres without having a preconceived notion. My workflow generally is based on a certain idea; how can I get to that sound in any way possible?

Chlela tries her best to get out of the way of her own creative impulses, giving them space to develop and manifest through her method of processing and reprocessing audio until she reaches the vision she had been imagining all along. As seasoned producers and sound artists will know, getting to this level of precision takes years of experience, and bridging the gap between a musical thought and its real-world counterpart has been at the core of Chlela’s process throughout her career.

Q: How do you look back at your album ‘Safala’?

A: I produced my album ‘Safala’ in Lebanon, after the revolution, and the explosion that happened in Beirut. It just came out naturally. I didn’t really plan it out, I never usually plan to make an album. I think ‘Safala’ is one of the albums that will stay with me for a long time because through this album I understood a lot of things. Things about myself and abstract things.

A harsh critic of her own work, Chlela often has a hard time evaluating her music objectively, but the story changes with her 2021 album ‘Safala’, which was received with critical praise and acclaim. Here, the artist finds no difficulty admitting her fondness for the work. Recorded during the revolution in Lebanon and after the heartbreaking explosion that shook Beirut in 2020, ‘Safala’, as Chlela puts it, came out naturally, with no premeditated intention of reflecting on these events. They simply emerged off the top of her head, as the weight of processing these experiences absorbed her psyche at the time.

Q: How was your performance in Cairo?

A: People came to my Cairo show to listen and dance at the same time. That’s very important to me.

While a seasoned performer and DJ in her own right, playing shows around the globe throughout her career, somehow, Liliane had not played in Cairo before her April show, and was in town primarily for her debut at Dhamma’s Club N’ Bass Vol.1, alongside Yas Meen Selectress, Hassan Abou Alam, Malalaalaaa and Monhara, with visuals by youngnada. As deconstructed club music has found a niche in Cairo’s underground music community, Chlela felt right at home performing to a crowd that was both lively and attentive.

Q: What are you working on for the near future?

A: There’s a new album that will come out in July. It’s an 8-track album, every track comes from a different place. It’s not as much of a concept album as ‘Safala’ for sure, but it has new material and it will be released through a label. At the same time there’s a commission that I've been working on since last year, it’s gonna be premiered at Le Guess Who? in Utrecht and in Essen, Belgium in November. I invited Nancy Mounir, Yara Asmar and Radwan Moumneh to be there with me on stage. Currently I’m working with Nancy on an orchestration. We’re planning to expand the production on this with musicians from there.

Watch our Artist Spotlight interview with Liliane Chlela here: