Fadil El Ghoul isn’t exactly a name readily associated with energetic crowds and over-the-top light shows, but say the name “R3hab” nowadays and those are just the types of images that come to mind. There’s no denying that this young Dutch DJ has blast onto the EDM scene in a big way this year, and now he’s bringing his DJing talents — and even a bubbly MC — to posh nightclubs and massive festivals all over the world. I had the chance to meet up with Fadil and his partner in chainsaw crime, MC Ambush, when he made his first appearance in Philadelphia last week (another city in the Northeast completely being overtaken by the EDM craze). We talked about everything from Afrojack to Android to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre — and you can read all about it below.
R3hab has been in the music production game ever since he heard the D Ramirez remix of Bodyrox’s “Yeah Yeah” at age 17, but 2011 has undoubtedly been the year that his easily recognizable sound has burst into the mainstream. His creative side isn’t attuned to the Apple and Mac world as it is for most DJs, but he proudly proclaims himself to be a PC guy at heart. Cubase is his DAW of choice, and a studio session with R3hab can feel more like watching a guy play on the computer than actually watching a musician behind a keyboard. In fact, he enjoys EDM’s low barriers to entry and doesn’t pretend that he has any formal musical training. He also isn’t a fan of iTunes and its closed ecosystem, and prefers using his Android phone to the increasingly ubiquitous iPhone. (In case you were wondering, his favorite app is Twitter.)
MC Ambush has teamed up with R3hab for his latest tour around North America, and as you can recall from our account of their appearance at Ruby Syke, the two form a formidable team in the DJ booth. Ambush has been in the MC game for almost fifteen years, but he sees something special in R3hab. “What most other DJs do nowadays is play other people’s music,” he told me. “But I see him on the road, and in the studio, so it’s more special.” He also remarked on a synergy between himself and R3hab in the booth — a glorious combination that I was lucky to experience while watching the two feed off each other that night. It’s a constant back and forth, and common ability to effectively read a crowd that simply makes people go crazy for not only the music, but the larger show taking place.
It’s impossible to talk about R3hab without talking about another one of his musical soulmates, Afrojack, who has helped shape his still-developing career. The two grew up just thirty minutes apart from one another in the Netherlands, and were connected when Afrojack first heard R3hab’s unique-yet-similar sound. Ever since he was signed to Wall Recordings (Afrojack’s label), they’ve been collaborating and touring together, with R3hab even making a cameo appearance in the “No Beef” video. Their relationship is similar to that of Alesso and Sebastian Ingrosso, who took the young Swede under his wing and gave him a whole lot of mentoring and has played an instrumental role in his budding career. I asked Fadil if he ever wanted a protege of his own, and he simply said that “If you make good music, I will find you.”
I also sourced questions from the DA team and our followers on Twitter and Facebook, so here are just a handful of the things you guys wanted to know. For starters, the “R3hab” moniker stems strictly from a night of brainstorming — and Fadil El Ghoul has never actually been in rehab. He doesn’t mind when people use 3’s in place of ‘e’s when they refer to him — though we’ll vow to only do so when completely necessar3. His favorite thing to do before a gig is to take a shower, and he much prefers playing outdoors to indoors. I asked if he had a favorite country to play in particular, and he replied that it “doesn’t matter. Anywhere the sun is.” He has seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it is not his favorite movie — and he doesn’t know how to use a chainsaw so I wouldn’t suggest giving him one. (Especially after hydrating before a show with a large bottle of Grey Goose and assortment of chasers, as is the normal routine.)
R3hab is almost the embodiment of everything happening in electronic music these days. He’s young, he’s energetic, and he’s got an absolutely infectious infatuation for the work that he is doing. If you’ve been watching the scene grow over the past few years as I have, you know that it’s a new, young generation of producers like Avicii, Alesso, and DJ R3hab that are not only breathing new life into the “techno music” scene — but bringing new sounds and new listeners to it too.
When you ask him about what makes him angry, you get an answer that you might expect from a 25 year old who makes and plays music for a living. With a glowing smile stretching from earplug to earplug he proudly proclaims, “I don’t really get pissed off in life.”
The combination of approachable, well-produced tracks, and a generation of highly-interconnected teenagers is causing such cultural dynamite around this particular scene. Cliche as it may be to call EDM the Rock and Roll of our generation, there’s no denying that parallels can be drawn. R3hab might not be the Bob Dylan figure just yet, but if he continues on this trajectory, we’re sure we’ll be hearing his name for some time to com3.