Juvenility brought Dj Merci to Berlin, the fortunate coincidence of him falling in love with the city has made him stay and made him age to one of House music’s “one to look out for“-musicians. With releases on Endless, DOBRO, Esuoh, Sengiley, GLBDOM or Lisztomania the French by heart has built up an impressive reputation within the scene as well as an equally formidable release catalogue over the past three years. Having way more music in the pipe or hard disk Dj Merci will surely accompany dancefloors and (dance) maniacs over the next years, decades sharing his (piano) inspired and driven sound with those, who enjoy the more classic approach to the genre and appreciate the intimate moments his music creates. A foretaste of what is yet to come can be heard in the latest episode of the art:cast series, which – of course – comes from Dj Merci.
Torture the Artist: Hello Louis, tell us something about your day.
Dj Merci: My day is good, digging through records and listening to music like every day.
Torture the Artist: First things first, how did you come up with your Dj Merci-moniker?
Dj Merci: When I was a teenager I used to do a lot of graffiti in my hometown, I always writing either “Line” or “Mercy” and when I had to pick an “artist name” I went for merci with a I to make it more French as well. And DJ because why not?
Torture the Artist: Born in France, living in Berlin. What were the reasons you moved to the German capital in the first place and what made you stay?
Dj Merci: I moved there a bit by mistake or chance. <laughs> I had to do an internship after my studies and I had a friend who was going to Berlin too and he asked me if I could be down to come join him, so we could start a flat share. I didn’t know anything about the city and even though I had been taking German classes for six years in high school and junior high, I was really bad at it. In the end I stayed in the city, because the freedom and the sense of shelter you have is amazing to live your life and express yourself. The amount of cultural stuff happening in Berlin is also outstanding.
Torture the Artist: Would you say Berlin is your home now or do you, like so many have a love & hate-relationship with the city?
Dj Merci: Berlin is definitely my home and always will be, even after I’m gone from this city.
I do need to take some time off the city every couple of months, because it can be very hard on someone, it’s always buzzing, however I love nature and silence. <laughs>
Torture the Artist: Let’s speak about your music, which transports people back the roots of House music or the early days of it. Where does your passion or preference for this music come from?
Dj Merci: Before being a producer or a DJ, I’m a musician, coming from a family of musicians and I’ve always been attracted by melodies and chords and the feeling you get from those. For example when listening to HipHop I will always listen to the beat first before the lyrics, if it touches me, then I’ll listen to it. In my opinion the early House music was still very rich in music itself, even the more esoteric Chicago stuff, and you could feel that we were at the crossroads between many genres, also saying it was not sounding perfect.
Torture the Artist: What are your three favorite early House tracks, and why?
Dj Merci: This is a difficult question, but from the top of my head I’d say:
- Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It – a classic – deep moody jazzy chords, sounding super ruff, so many emotions and attitude are in this track.
- Jimmy Ross – First True Love Affair (Larry Levan Mix) – it’s super Disco-ish but still edgy and sounding very good too, more polish, love this tune. It’s a good segway between Boogie/Disco and something else in one track
- Blaze – If You Should Need a Friend – Sounding so good; the early Blaze stuff. It could sound a bit cheesy, but I love it.
Torture the Artist: When and where was your first encounter with House music and what was the magic sprinkled on you so that you’ve stuck with the music?
Dj Merci: I think I had some encounters as a kid listening to some dance commercials or stuff like that on MTV. I didn’t really know what it was at that time. Then when I was around 20 years old, I started digging deep into it and ever since I haven’t gotten my head out of it. I think for me personally it encompasses everything: you have the musicality, the bounce, the love, the ability to see people doing amazing hits from their bedroom. There’s no certain recipe, it’s only about the feeling and vibe. Also the amount of music that has been made left to discover, it’s just an amazing never ending quest.
Torture the Artist: You have jazz piano background. How long have you been playing the piano and is this the reason why a lot of your productions are piano-driven?
Dj Merci: Yes, I’ve started the piano when I was about five years old, but then got side tracked into others instruments such as drums or the guitar, but then I’ve started playing the piano again when I was around 16. I’ve always start my track with either a chord progression, a melody or a bassline. From there I will build it up. Sometimes it’s good, most of the times it’s hard.
Torture the Artist: What’s the perfect piano House track in your opinion?
Dj Merci: I can’t answer this question as there are so many, but from the top of my head today I’d say: Illusion by DJ Dove or MAW’s Can’t Stop the Rhythm (CJ Mackintosh Mix) / Unit 2 – Sunshine
Torture the Artist: When producing your music, do you start with the melody/ piano or with the bassline?
Dj Merci: Mostly with the melody or piano, but I also try not to sometimes and then I start from a sound, a vibe or drums.
Torture the Artist: What’s the production of yours that hits closest to what you want your music to sound like, and why?
Dj Merci: It’s hard to say, because most of the music that is currently out was made at least one or two years ago, the current stuff is unreleased and it will come out this year or the one after. In addition, I feel like I’m nowhere near where I want to be sound-wise, it takes so much time to develop these skills. I think a track that I’m happy with is Circle Line from my latest Unprotected Sax EP on Endless or Thinking About You on Heat Up. Both Sounding good.
Torture the Artist: With all the crisis in the world, is positive, euphoric House music the logical counterpart to societal and political problems at the moment? And do you feel that the music can help to overcome those problems?
Dj Merci: Yes, I think music can help, sometimes you feel like you are at the end of the road, you have no energy left, no hope and then you put some music on, a Marvin Gaye track for example and it changes everything. That being said, it depends on the person, I know for me it works but for others people it doesn’t and in the end, music can help to overcome those problems, but it’s not a solution.
Torture the Artist: You’re having a track out on Endless soon and last year saw your releases on labels like DOBRO, Heat Up Music or GLBDOM. What are you musically working on at the moment? Any tracks in the pipe and are those musically in the same style as your previous releases or are/were you trying out something different, e.g. a new synth, a slightly different style etc.?
Dj Merci: Always working, always experimenting, I have a lot of stuff in the pipe. I wish I had more time. <laughs> There are some which have the same vibes, some are “DJ tools” and some are not. I’m basically trying everything. <laughs> My primary goal is to “crack the code” of how to make tracks that sound fat and good on a club sound system, as I’m mixing everything myself, it takes time to learn the tips and tricks, etc.
Torture the Artist: What’s your favorite synthesizer or gadget when producing music, and why?
Dj Merci: I’d say my MPC, I couldn’t live without it.
Torture the Artist: It’s said you are a vinyl purist, what do you prefer about vinyl when playing that digital tracks simply cannot manage to do?
Dj Merci: I think digital is great and in the end the format doesn’t matter, it’s about the selection. But personally I very much enjoy vinyl, because its sound touches me. Records are inspiring me, the smell, the colors, they simply sounds different. House music should be on vinyl in my opinion and it is very sad to see that nowadays with the inflation and crises in the world, it is more and more expensive and difficult to press vinyl. Also having played many times on stage as a drummer, this was always the best experience I had in my life, DJing is fun but it’s nowhere close to the same pace / body feeling you have when you are performing for one hour. Maybe vinyl is reminding a bit of that.
Torture the Artist: What records in your collection have the highest value, meaning both personally as well as the price?
Dj Merci: Personally, I think the records that have the highest value are the ones I took from my dad’s collection – sorry dad – an original press of Roy Ayers, etc, they sound and smell like 1975.
Torture the Artist: Where do you dig for records and do you follow a certain technique/routine when it comes to it?
Dj Merci: Like the Alchemist once said “naked girl on the cover, instant fire”. Besides that, I go with the years, the record label, the staff involved (if written) the city where it comes from.
Torture the Artist: What’s a record of your collection that other artists/ people envy you for?
Dj Merci: Mhhhh… I have no clue about that, I’m not trying to posses as much as possible but rather get what inspires me and what I love.
Torture the Artist: What’s the most weird/ abstract record that you’ve ever bought and what do you connect with it?
Dj Merci: It’s not weird, there’s no such thing in my honest opinion about music. <laughs> It’s just good or bad, but probably the most unconventional one I have is Let’s Call It a Day by Move D and Benjamin Brunn. It soothes me and love the vibe. It’s like a therapy on record. <laughs>
Torture the Artist: What’s your most important record, and why?
Dj Merci: As of today I’d say, Deepstart with Donna Allen – Sugar, I play it all the times and it’s an amazing way to pump up the vibe.
Torture the Artist: What quirk do you have when it comes to records?
Dj Merci: Well they are organized by the time I purchased them, which doesn’t make any sense but somehow I always find what I’m looking for.
Torture the Artist: What are you nostalgic about?
Dj Merci: Mhhhh… probably about the times when I had more family members around, you don’t know how good it is until they are gone.
Torture the Artist: You are responsible for the latest art:cast (mix). Where is it best be listened to and what did you have in mind when putting it together?
Dj Merci: Some of the stuff I’m listening to at the moment, soulful tracks. I didn’t have anything specific in mind, just jamming and see what comes out of it. Hope you enjoy!
Torture the Artist: Lastly, can you give us a Berlin-moment you’ll never forget?
Dj Merci: I think it was in the summer of 2020, we threw an open air with a bunch of friends for the birthday of a friend of us, it was during Covid so we tried to play it cool but as all of the clubs in Berlin were closed, more and more people kept on coming, other sound system started putting themselves next to us, it was a proper rave!!
Words by Holger Breuer