When it comes to France’s electronic music scene, there’s not much that Damien Almira aka Timid Boy doesn’t know. A real stalwart of the scene, aside from working as an in-demand DJ and producer, he’s also worked as a successful promoter, and even as Deputy Editor at one of the scene’s most important publications, French magazine Trax. With his new label, Almira Records, set to release its debut EP (a killer offering from Timid Boy himself backed with a brilliant remix by a long-time favourite of ours in IO (Mulen), we nabbed Damien for a quick chat, as he talked us through some of his career highlights to date, what he’s got coming up and much more beside. What’s more, you can Listen to Timid Boy’s ‘Labad On’, premiered on our Soundcloud here…
Great to chat to you, Damien. Can you please start a bit by telling us a bit about how you got into electronic music in the first place? What parties and DJs influenced you when you were starting out?
I ran my first rave party in the 90’s when I was 17 years old. A bit by coincidence. The older sister of my best friend at the time was part of the first rave organisation in Montpellier, called La Tribu des Pinguins. They ran legendary festivals in the area such as Borealis.
At the time I was into indie rock/new wave music. But what she and their friends told us about rave fascinated us. We convinced them all that we would go to their event, even if we were under 18. This first rave fascinated me, totally. The music, the vibe, the energy, the people. I immediately fell in love with this. And I immediately knew that I wanted to be a DJ.
Music-wise, Aphex Twin, Richie Hawtin/Plastikman, Jeff Mills & Underground Resistance were my first heroes. For DJing my first love was the UK progressive scene with Darren Emerson, Charlie Hall, then I quickly turned to techno with Jeff Mills. He totally fascinated me with his DJ sets and his music, especially the “Waveform Transmissions” series.
Then a bit later I discovered the house scene with Derrick Carter, DJ Sneak.
I was also a fan of the ambient scene, The Orb or FSOL, electronica birth with all Warp’s scenes.
You also worked as a music journalist, right? How was that? How important was it to you in terms of getting involved in the local scene?
It was a very nice experience. Actually, I went to journalism school to get into political journalism. But at school I became friends with students who were big music fans, like me, but who wanted to make a career in music journalism. We created our own magazine at school, then we started to sell it out at school. Philipe Manoeuvre, a famous French rock critic, saw our magazine and hired us. That’s how I became a journalist in music.
I was already involved in the music electronic scene then. I started playing as a DJ at 18 years old. At the time I didn’t know that i’ll gonna be a journalist, it was just an idea, as becoming a DJ and musician was already a strong desire.
I think being a journalist for a while in music made me understand that making a career in music business is difficult, that you have to be patient, that you can quickly become trendy but also quickly become a hasbeen. Better to think about a long-term career!
At what stage did you settle on your best-known alias, Timid Boy. And how do you decide what tunes will come out as Timid Boy etc?
I decided to take this pseudonym for 2 reasons. First, most of my heroes at the time had pseudonyms, such as Plastikman, Ellen Allien, Radioactive Man etc. Then, when I started to work as a music journalist I wanted to separate Timid Boy from Damien Almira, the music journalist, and soon-to-be Deputy Editor of Trax Mag. I wanted to separate the two activities for ethical reasons: I do not believe that a booking could be exchanged for an article or an article in the magazine.
I often interviewed artists by email or phone and then played with them on weekends without telling them that I was the journalist who had questioned them a few days before!
You’ve been producing and DJing for a long time now. Looking back on the last few years, what have been your biggest highlights? Or is the best yet to come?
There were a lot. And there will be a lot too !
To name a few, my first gig and Rex Club is one of them. It was in 2003 for the release party of ‘Berlinette’ by Ellen Allien. During this time, Ellen really started to be a big electronic star in France, everybody in Paris was so excited by this event. She was not playing straight techno like she does today, she instead played a bit of every kind; house, breakbeat, techno etc. For me, it was a double dream which come true; i always dreamed to play in Rex Club.
I spent hours dancing at the club looking at the DJ booth, saying to myself, ‘one day I will play at his place!’, and imagining in my head which tracks I would play if I was the DJ. So, I was stressed because this dream was close to coming true. And I was also a big fan of BPitch Control and Ellen Allien. The label excited me a lot; excitement that i lost a bit at the end of the 90’s with ugly french touch and hard techno.
During dinner with Rex’s team and Ellen, it was impossible for me to cheers them as my hands were shaking too much! So I pretended that I did not drink alcohol! But, well, when i finally started to play, the stress became a good energy, and the party at a full Rex Club was amazing. Ellen Allien clearly liked it too, as she became the DJ resident for her BPItch parties and Rex for some years.
My first Panorama Bar set was a bit the same. I always dreamed of playing there. I was so stressed before my first gig there, a 4 hours set. And guess what, I think because of stress one of my ears was clogged on the flight for the first time of my life. So I played with one ear! Fortunately the booth system is amazing so I was ok. I could also name my first time at D-Edge in Sao-Paulo, Air in Tokyo, Key Productionnes in Montevideo, Bar Americas in Guadalajara, Gazgolder in Moscow…so many highlights!
In that sense, did you have a mentor to guide you when you started out? At what stage did you begin to feel more confident in what you do?
I didn’t really have a mentor. Some artists were exemples for me in their way to manage their career well, as Ellen Allien or Richie Hawtin at the time. They were always active, offering new projects, the regard always turned into the future.
As a DJ I’ve been quite confident for a while. With production, I think I just started to be confident. That could seem weird but I think I have high expectations, and I always hear other productor who impress me, especially in the way they work teh texture, the sound design… it’s challenging me, giving me a goal to work in my sound.
How important is it to you to mentor and help the up-and-coming producers? Is there anyone on your radar that you’re really enthused about?
Yes it’s very important to be involved with the new generations. You can help and drive them, give them your experience in the way to drive a career, but thanks to them you can stay connected about the very new tendencies, musically, but also in the social media and in the way to communicate. Everything goes more and more fast these days, the rise and the fall. There are a lot of new talented people. I can name my friend Monile, in Barcelona, I can also name, not new but they make fantastic work: Automatic Writing or Abi in France, Ramona Yacef, Maco and his label Bien Aimer in London… also just to name a few…
Do you set yourself goals as a DJ and producer and label owner? For example, is there one artist, DJ or label you’d love to work with?
The list would never end. With my project Timid Boy i would say the Fuse London family, or my French house heroes Apollonia or the new Dutch generation as ANOTR that recreate the best of house and tech house.
With my project Damien Almira i would say Cosmjn, Vlad Arapasu, Dumitr Escue, Giuliano Lomonte…
In terms of your influences, who do you look up to as someone who’s been instrumental in shaping how you approach music? And how important is it to form your own musical personality?
I can’t say if some artists shaped my approach to music. But I can say that in my early days artists such as Aphex Twin for his radicality and independence, Richie Hawtin for his way of always look into the future and creativity impressed me. And yes it’s absolutely important to form his own personality, that’s the goal of music, of art, to express his personality. It could take time to do, that’s ok, but that’s nonsense and a pity if you do music without shaping your musical personality.
Do you ever feel pressure with releasing music for big labels such as Blind Vision, TBX etc? In terms of getting your music signed, how does the process usually work?
Actually I don’t feel pressure, but more excitement and impatience when I send my demos to these big labels, waiting and hoping for a good answer. When I compose I do my best, I stress sometimes and put myself under pressure but just in the way to do the best I can. About the process, I mostly start with an idea of a track, and later I will think about the label I wanna send to.
Tell us a bit about your new label, Almira. What’s the idea there? And if someone wants to get their music signed with Almira, what do you look for?
It’s a very personal label. Vinyl Only. I wanna do three or four records a year, not more. It’s gonna be mostly my compositions with artists I like as remixers. I’m not sure to sign other artists. I’m gonna sign a track only if I am in love with…
In terms of creating an identity with the label, can you talk us through the label’s philosophy as well as your plans for it? The artwork is really consistent and awesome, for example…
Oh thanks a lot. I wanted something simple, visually efficient, a strong base that can be changed & developed in the future. Same for the music. It reflects what I like at the moment in dancefloor music, but it can change with my mood, the plan is to not have a plan.
You’re now running the Almira Record imprint, and have killer remixes on your latest release, with Mihai Popoviciu and iO Mulen on board. How did you settle on these guys? And do you generally give remixers free reign to remix as they please or do you try and steer them in a certain direction?
I never give directions to other artists. If I ask them for a remix, it’s because I like their music, so I will trust my choice. Sometimes i could be disappointed, but for Almira Records i have to say that iO Mulen and Mihai Popoviciu’s remixes are just amazing. I’m very impressed by them. iO Mulen, I don’t know him personally, i sent him a demo and he signed me on his label Hoary, it’s gonna be out soon. So it was easy to ask him for a remix and he answered immediately yes. I’m very proud of this as he’s been part of my favourite producers for a while.
I have known Mihai Popoviciu for many years, more than 10 years I guess. I & appreciate a lot as a personne, as a musician and a professional. He never disappoints. We are in touch so it was not difficult to reach him and he quickly answered positively to be part of my new label. I will also release soon an new EP on his label Cyclic under my other name Damien Almira, more deep, delicate & ro-minimal project
I also wanted to ask about the scene in France right now. How involved are you in your local scene? It seems like we’re entering a great time for Paris house and techno again, right?
I was always involved a lot, organised parties, as at Rex Club or Nouveau Casino to name a few, or back to more underground stuff since the end of Covid Restrictions. Globally techno/hardtechno is massive in France. All declinaisons of techno are popular. A lot of young people discover now electronic music with techno, there’s in this music a kind of teenage energy, punk attitude who speak to young people. The most famous French exemple is Possession. I won’t complain about it even if sometimes the poor quality of music in these events depresses me. I started with techno, playing techno in my bedroom at 18 years old, pitching down my decks to play faster. And I still enjoy going to techno events, when the music is kind of 90’s old school or Berghain style. I mean artists such as DVS1, Function, Luke Slater etc.. I love the energy and the people’s attitude in these underground techno events. But it makes me mad and sad when this techno became a harddance/eurodance style, playing stupid songs from the 90s & 00s with hardkick and fast BPM. A kind of stupid gabber music.
On the other side, more in my music style, house/micro-house & ro-minimal are popular, but it’s more underground, the audience is more eclectic, with people from different ages.
Finally can you tell us what you have in store release wise and plans for yourself in the coming year?
This end of year is very busy. The first EP of my label Almira Records is out on September 9th, Timid Boy “Labad On” with iO Mulen Remix. The second EP, Timid Boy’s ‘Blond Tall Speed’ with Mihai Popoviciu remix is out on Dec 9th.
I also have a vinyl-only releases on Blind Vision Dubs or Hoary. Also new releases on TBX Records, Ibiza Talents or Distrikt Paris…
I’ll also develop my new project Damien Almira, more intimate, deep, ro-minimal with releases to come on Epice Magique or Cyclic. And I continue my Tsugi radio Show which is a great success with guests as Molly, Ben Vedren, from deep, minimal to ambient, electronica style. I’m very glad about it.. And I’m very busy!
Listen to Timid Boy’s ‘Labad On’, premiered on our Soundcloud here