Exclusive Interview With Timid Boy

“I won’t say the scene was better. I don’t like nostalgia in music. I like the “nostalgia feeling” in the melody. But I don’t like nostalgia in life and music, “it was better before” is a sentence I don’t like and I think it’s ‘stupid'”

Text: Stephen Flynn

Back in 2007, a little known label from France was beginning to make its mark on the global scene. That label was Acumen’s Time Has Changed, an imprint that soon came to be known as Acumen and Timid Boy’s Time Has Changed. Timid Boy, of course, is the alias of Damien Almira, a French native with a decorated past when it comes to house music in particular. A decorated producer of some distinction, Timid Boy’s latest release is Extasy – a fantastic example of how to pay homage to the old-school. We checked up with him recently to find out what’s forming a part of his current agenda…

How are you at the moment? What’s been keeping you busy part from music?
I’m really busy at the moment, doing a lot of music. I just did a remix for Danton Eeprom on InFiné, I will release remixes for Jules & Moss and Marwan Sabb on my label, Time Has Changed. I have new EPs on Los Suruba’s label (Suruba), on Time Has Changed “Extasy EP” (+ Onno Remix et Rhadow Remix), then in 2015 a new EP on Dubfire’s label (Sci+Tec) Popof’s label (Form), Mendo’s label (Clarisse). Busy!

And how’s the summer been? Did you get away much? Were you playing anywhere cool?
Well my summer was pretty cool busy, I especially enjoyed playing in beautiful Croatian island Hvar, an open air club in a little island close to Hvar, where you could only go with taxi boat…really nice. I also had a really nice time at Rex Club in Paris where I have my own party.

You’ve been involved in music for a long time. What was your introduction to it all?
When I was teenager in the 90’s I was friends with some older people who made the biggest rave in my hometown Montpellier, they made incredible festivals at the end of the 90’s called Boréalis. 20,000 people, all the best DJs of this time: Jeff Mills, Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Richie Hawtin, Cassius, Andrew Weatherall. So they introduced me to this music, this party, and that totally changed my life, at the time techno was really new, absolutely not fashionable, really underground, I was lucky to see this movement born and grow up…

You worked at Trax mag for a few years too. How do you look back on the experience? Were they very different days compared to the scene now?
I worked as a music journalist during the 00’s, I was freelancing for several magazines, big ones such as Rock&Folk, Technikart. I was deputy editor for Trax for 3 years at the end of the 00’s. I couldn’t say it was so different, the main changes arrived in the mid 00’s when vinyl start to sell less, and people start to download illegally, that changed a lot.

So would you get sent a lot of vinyl etc? Did you build up a great contact list from the job that you brought to Time Has Changed?
I bought vinyl for more than 20 years. I had a lot of white promo from labels when I was journalist. I could not say I made a great contacts list because my main contacts were PR, or as a DJ my priority contacts would be promoters. But as I’ve DJed for 12 years (I start as a resident DJ at Rex Club for Ellen Allien’s parties) I start to have a lot of contacts but more because of my DJ activities then my journalist one.

How did you first come up with the idea of starting Time Has Changed actually? Is there an idea behind its name? Or did you just think it sounded cool?
I run Time Has Changed with Acumen. The name is from a song by Codec & Flexor. It was created in 2007 and at the time a lot of stuff changed in music, digital came in force, minimal started to be less popular and less interesting, house went back… it was an interested time. That’s the main ideas behind the name.

On the label, I wanted to have my own structure. It’s important, I love to have my own label, to be free to release what I want when I want. It’s also great to build a family with some artists. It’s a lot of works, take a lot of energy, but it’s great. The label artistic direction is eclectic, no one direction, we do from deep house to classic house and soft techno. I don’t want one music direction as a lot of labels do.

How did you set about getting the label recognized in the first place? Was it a long time before you guys were noticed or was it pretty straight-forward?
I noticed a big change in 2009 and 2010, with releases by Mihai Popoviciu, Andrade, Acumen & I, remixes by Oxia, Alex Niggemann, collab with Carlo Lio… We had commercial success and I had noticed that a lot of big names supported us, and that a lot of people speak about us. I think that was the time the label started to be famous.

With your latest record a pretty retro one, are you finding that you’re looking to the past for inspiration more these days? Or are you just as interested in modern day producers?
I discover techno and rave music 20 years ago as a teenager, and I never stopped to follow this music, go out and play this music as a DJ, so of course I’m influenced by the past. Sometimes I didn’t realise that I’m influenced by the past, sometimes it’s on purpose. For my new “Extasy EP”, I wanted to included some old school elements (the rave gimmick melody, the smiley on the cover…), I wanted go to my past, to my early days in rave and techno music. But I wanna do it with a modern groove. It’s a “hardgroove” I’m working on since months and months, between techno and tech house, a kind of really rhythm techno.

You picked ONNO and Rhadow for the remixes. What made you pick them? And what do you reckon they bring to the party?
Onno is a friend for some years, since we played together at Panorama Bar. I love his music, loaded, groovy, punchy. I don’t know Rhadow personally but I love his music, his remix is really trippy, really “after hours”. I thought they have their own touch which complete well the EP.

So would you agree that the scene was better when you first became involved? How difficult do you find running a label these days, for example? How has it changed since you first started out?
I won’t say the scene was better. I don’t like nostalgia in music. I like the “nostalgia feeling” in the melody. But I don’t like nostalgia in life and music, “it was better before” is a sentence I don’t like and I think it’s “stupid”. How could youu say to a 20-year-old that “it was better before”. I’m sure this guy has same pleasure to discover this music now than me 20 years ago. About music, there is so much great music now. I did not especially like the middle of 00’s with minimal or Ed Banger in France. Actually, I hated this period of time, it was a disaster for our music.

The stuff I do not like is that people don’t buy so much music, so it’s hard to have a label. It takes a lot of time, but well, it’s like that, Time has Changed! Also what I don’t like now is that, back in the past, to be a DJ you had to first make tracks, good tracks or/and successful track. Now, you have a lot of DJs who never made a track and play just because they are promoters, they share gigs with others promoters, they forgot the starting point of all of this: the music. So that something who make me angry and I don’t think it’s good for the scene.

I believe you’re from Montpellier in France. What was that like as a place to experience house music as a tennager? Did you start DJing there?
Montpellier in the 90’s was a fantastic town for techno music, with a lot of parties, festival, all the best DJs went here. In the mid 90’s I had chance to see DJs such as Jeff Mills (the one who made me love techno music), Richie Hawtin (and especially his awesome projects FUSE and Plastikman), Laurent Garnier, Derrick Carter (the one who made me love house music). I started to mix there, first in my bedroom – with my lovely mum who complained about the bass! – then in bars, then in some clubs. But I really started to play “professionally” in Paris in the early 00’s, especially at Rex with my residency for the BPitch Party.

Do you still get to DJ much? Any residencies in Paris?
Yes I’m DJing more and more. I still have my parties at Rex Club and Wanderlust in Paris. I also have another party called “Timid Boy invite…” in Montpellier, which is really exciting.

What’s Paris like to live for creative people these days? Does the price of the city have a negative impact on creativity like it does in say, London?
Paris is really on fire over the past few years. There are so many parties, and it all works well. Paris is, with Berlin, the most active town for electronic music at the moment. It’s expensive, but it’s a big town so a lot of people have money there. And on the other side, if you don’t really have so much money, you could stay at home and make music instead of going out and spending money! So the expensive is not a problem. There are a lot of new talent in Paris, the DJs are really good, new labels and compositors also…

You’ve had some really great remixers remix your work over the years. Who have been your favourites?
It’s hard to say, but I’m really proud to had a remix by my friends Oxia and Okain. I’m really proud to had one of my techno legend Stacey Pullen on my last EP on Form Music.

Are you touring much at the moment? Where can we catch you play soon?
Sure, you can catch me soon in Paris, Montpellier, Berlin (Salon Renate), New York, Mannheim also. And I should go on my third Mexico tour soon also…

And what’s next on your agenda that you’re excited about?
Well to be honest, I’m really excited by my new EP, Extasy, on my label, Time Has Changed. I do 1 EP every year on my label, so it’s always something special.

Timid Boy’s Extasy is out now on Thrill of It.

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