Image via Simo Cell/Instagram
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Simo Cell has built a reputation as a DJ’s DJ. The French DJ-producer, Simon Aussel, possesses crates that run both wide and deep. His music builds a kaleidoscope out of club-music idioms, reflecting familiar forms without remaining in any for too long. Per Aussel’s own admission, it’s a risky methodology. Slip between too many styles too quickly and you risk sounding like an entire festival lineup playing at once: high-energy but ultimately indistinct. But Aussel’s been doing this for long enough; he knows how to run hot without blowing out the amps.
France’s club-music history is peppered with DJs who threw southern rap and Detroit dance music into conversation, and Aussel spent years of his childhood hunched over the acoustic guitar. His approach, then—a highly technical take on kitchen-sink electronics—should come as little surprise. At a point where million-genre DJs are gaining prominence on festival lineups, a dig through Simo Cell’s discography—and a scan through his influences—underlines that the approach is by no means new.
An early EP of his, 2015’s I.M.O (Icy Moon Orbiter), finds the space between turgid electro and rickety breakbeats, exploring that territory for a tight twenty minutes. Not long after that, he found his way towards Livity Sound and Wisdom Teeth: two labels from the United Kingdom who built their brands upon cross-genre conversations. In that context, Aussel’s music was a natural fit. From there, he only sped up, moving more spontaneously and looking towards a wider sphere of influences.
Pour Le Club!, an EP he put out at the end of 2017, jumbled up skull-cracking techno, stomach-churning dubstep, and brain-bending dancehall; with 2021’s YES.DJ, he threw trap and creeped-out big-tent EDM idioms into the mix. In between those releases, he worked alongside Egyptian singer Abdullah Miniawy for an LP of eerie, cross-continental dubstep-jazz. Over time, his omnivorous tendencies turned his DJ sets into can’t-miss events. At Dekmantel’s Selectors festival in 2021, he turned in one of this decade’s finest mixes, whipping up a whirlwind of contemporary hip-hop, 160-BPM heaters, and regional club tools the world over.
Now, though, he’s looking to turn a new page. Cuspide Des Sirènes, Aussel’s most recent LP, takes his everything-at-once approach to electronics and slows things down a notch. Here, he pulls from a grab-bag of dimly lit club sounds: slow-motion trap beats, shuddering almost-dancehall, vertiginous dubstep, a hint of late-night trip-hop. The record is a clearly personal affair, too. The LP was released alongside a Game Boy game which explores, in Aussel’s words, “magic, enchantment, charm, and allure, but also personal fears.” The game’s protagonist, a wiry figure who looks awfully similar to the producer, is armed with a conch shell. As the player progresses, they learn chants and melodies which allow them to confront their demons. In concept, approach, and sound, it’s a remarkable level-up from a producer who’s been rocketing clubs into the future for the past sixteen years.
In advance of the LP’s release, we caught up with Aussel over Zoom. We dug into all sorts of things: his relationship to Parisian club music and how he keeps his work spontaneous; tracking wolves and the dangers of striving for divinity; his experience with DIY spaces and the importance of building communities, and much more.
(This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.)