Flabaire is next up on Cyphon Recordings with his Entre Deux EP.DJ, producer, musician, and D.KO co-owner, his real name is Ralph Maruani, and he already has a fair share of victories under his belt. On his acclaimed D.KO imprint, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, he’s released three albums and several EPs, as well as charting releases for Organic-Music, Deeppa Records and South Street. On top of his solo pursuits, you can find him playing bass with five-piece house band Secret Value Orchestra. We sit down with the Parisian for a little talk.
WWD: Hey Ralph, thanks for taking the time to talk. Where are you at this moment and how are you spending the day?
Thank you for having me! I am at home having an espresso and listening to Malphino a great Cumbia band based in London.
WWD: Where are you based? Where are you from originally?
I am based in Paris, France which also happens to be my hometown.
WWD: How long have you been playing around with music? What was your first musical interaction?
I have been playing music for as long as I can remember! I started taking piano lessons when I was 3 years old, then switched to guitar around 8 years old. I grew up in a musical family, my dad and uncle had a band in the late 60’s (I did a reedition in 2019 of 45s that were released back then as well as unreleased tunes https://classicalm555.bandcamp.com/album/love-love-is-there). I am unsure what my first musical interaction was, however some of my earliest musical memories are America’s A Horse With No Name, The Beatles – Yes It Is and Rod Stewart – Sailing.
I then grew up sharing the same passion as my father who passed on to me the music from his era, all the classic acts of the 60’s, 70’s as well as more “left-field” stuff. If I have to mention just a few names that really influenced me I’d say The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Bob Dylan, Soft Machine, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, The Band, CAN. Of course there are many many more.
WWD: Who were the artists you were into as a teenager?
The artists that really had a strong impact on me as a teenager were My Bloody Valentine, Bon Iver, & Pantha du Prince.
WWD: What were the first clubs that you went to and who was playing?
The first parties that had a long-lasting effect on me were the ‘High Needs Low’ & ‘Catclub’ parties in Brussels where I lived during all my teenage years. On that stands out was the first ‘High Needs Low’ party I went, where Dynamodyse (now known as DJ Longsleeve) was playing, he became a very dear friend of mine and this set is still to this day a very powerful memory. To cite other artists I had the chance to hear during this time I could say John Roberts, Arto Mwambe, Smallpeople, Bruno Pronsato, Move D, Soulphiction, Soul Clap, Wolf+Lamb.
WWD: When did you first start to DJ, what kind of stuff were you playing in your early years?
I was very much into what I call the “Hamburg sound” and still am to this day. Pantha du Prince led me to Dial Records which blew me away and then led me to Smallville and then this whole vibe, Laid, Workshop and so on. German deep house led me to Detroit.
WWD: Who are the artists that have inspired the music that you make today do you think?
There are many. Definitely all of the labels I mentioned above. Move D has been for a long time my absolute favorite producer. The early releases of Gothenburg-based label Aniara Recordings were very influential as well (Genius of Time, Dorisburg).
Of course being French the French scene influenced me a lot, artists like Pépé Bradock, I:Cube, DJ Gregory, Playin’ 4 The City, Cassius, Daft Punk obviously.
WWD: You co-founded D.KO Records. Who did you form it with and what lead up to the birth of the label?
I founded D.KO Records with high school friends, it started out as a party collective that quickly turned into a record label. We wanted to have a platform that would allow us to share our music and the music we liked. We were all vinyl aficionados, so a record label seemed on point.
WWD: What was the first release out on D.KO? What do you think the most notable release for the label?
The first release was a various 4-tracker called ‘Coeur d’Artichaut’. It was actually the release that put us on the map, and to this day probably our most well-known release. It featured tracks by Paso (& a remix by Petr Serkin) and myself, but the track that really made waves was ‘Quartier Sex’ by Mad Rey. Mike Huckaby found the record at OYE in Berlin, then played it extensively all over the world, this way it got picked up by other DJs such as Move D, Radio Slave, Mr. G, even Jeff Mills played it!
We’ve always said that we owe a great deal to Mike Huckaby, and as a way of saying thank you we invited him for a party at DJOON in Paris before his untimely passing.
WWD: What’s happening with the label right now?
2023 marks the 10th year birthday of the label! We just released a big compilation in two volumes comprising of two 12 inches each.
WWD: You are also a keen bass player. Tell us a little about your work with Secret Value Orchestra?
Secret Value Orchestra is a side project with my friends from D.KO Records, singer Larry Houl, keyboard virtuoso Paul Cut, drum machines wizard Mud Deep & Monsieur Popo. We play live house music, and have a lot of fun! Right now it is dormant, but will eventually awaken.
WWD: How long has the Flabaire project been around and what is the intention with this solo project?
I started babbling with electronic music production around 2007-2008. I think the Flabaire moniker came around 2010. There has never been a specific intention apart from being the main output of my electronic endeavours. It has never been strictly house music (my last album is more on the ambient side) but it always is connected to electronic music.
WWD: You are known for making music that is laced with emotion. What are the key elements for this do you think?
I don’t know about key elements, I do enjoy very much soft pads, soft melodic progression, and groovy basslines. I remember once hearing Julius Steinhoff play in a club, there was this track that started out with a dark and aggressive bassline, and then came this very soft and atmospheric pad that really smoothed everything out. I’ve always liked this contrast, between the bodily experience of the club, house music, and the soothing, almost spiritual vibe of pads and strings. This is what deep house is about!
WWD: How did you hook up with Cyphon Recordings?
I first got in touch with Jamie Odell (whose music and labels I knew and liked for a while) in 2016 I think. I can’t remember exactly how he’d heard about me though. He asked me to remix his track ‘Crave’ off his ‘Silent Stars’ album. I was very honoured about this!
We then stayed in touch over the years, and recently he expressed interest in releasing more of my music, on the newly formed Cyphon Recordings, which totally matches the mood of the tracks. I couldn’t be happier about this collaboration!
WWD: Talk us through your new EP a little?
I’m sorry but I’m not great at talking about my music, I’d rather let people have their own experience … 🙂
WWD: Is that a 909 shuffle on Clik Plok as it’s sublime.
Thanks a lot! I wish I had a TR-909, they are samples that I programmed into Logic Pro. I do love the TR-909, it is such a classic, iconic drum machine, present on so many records I love. It is the sound of house!
WWD: Who do you think is making great music right now in your opinion?
I love the music of Soela, I discovered her with her amazing album on Dial released in 2020. I’m super happy that she contributed with Module One to the D.KO Records 10 Years Compilation.
I also really enjoy Messes Basses, a French DJ & producer that blew my head off when I heard him DJ!
WWD: What else are you working on for the rest of 23 that you can share?
I am working on the new album of my rock project called ‘Aboukir’. It’s the second album and will be released this fall on Rotary Phono Lab. This is probably the most personal record I’ve ever done, and I’m very happy it will see the light of day!