A jack of all trades in the music business is probably the best term to describe Ouissam Mokretar. The Frenchman who resides in Hong Kong is one of the founders of Cliché Records - a group that does everything from running their own labels (yes, plural), music curation with venues, organising their own events and booking Asia-wide tours for artists. In addition to overseeing most of the tasks mentioned, Ouissam also DJs himself, which of course is the foundation of all his endeavours. He is a regular at multiple top underground clubs in South East Asia, and the Clicheé events in Hong Kong of course, which have gained traction and created a loyal following.
Without a doubt, the Cliché group can be credited for raising standards in Hong Kong for quality music. We have a mix from the man himself and dived into his story and what a day in the life looks like.
Hi Ouissam, great to have you on Pulse. We know you’re a busy man. What have you been up to lately?
Hello, thanks for having me. I just came back from Vietnam where I played for Quest Festival, the place there has huge potential, location is truly amazing. I’m sure that if they keep up with the good work and gain consistency in the line up they will become a reference in Asia. Friday 27th November, Jeff (our label manager at Cliché) and I are going to play in Moscow under the name of Homesick Soundsystem (Homesick is our sub label). I am huge fan of the Russian scene, I can feel it will be a big night ! Eventually, The Observatory, which is Asia’s best venue in my opinion, invites me to play on December 26th. I am so excited to go back as the last time I did, it ended up at 8 AM going B2B with Dan, the sun rising and the ravers who stayed until the last minute, unforgettable!
Could you explain us briefly what Cliché Records is all about? How did you decide to move out to Hong Kong and get into the music industry?
Cliché Records is kind of a fairy tale, when you’re telling yourself "this would only happens in movies!". Cliché is the story of 4 music heads, ready for anything just for the love of music. The project has musically evolved these last two years but the dream remains: offer quality music and gather music lovers for the time of a party, I can tell you the result can be magical!
I arrived naturally in Hong Kong. I was living two hours away from Hong Kong. My experience in China was coming to an end, I wanted to fly away and I was kind of dropped out, I had no idea where to go. I had the chance to strangely meet the friend of a friend looking for a teacher of french in Hong Kong. I had nothing to lose so I accepted! I found it hard to enjoy at the beginning as the musical scene was dreadful and I was so frustrated, i reached a point i wanted to leave Hong Kong for Taipei, where Jeff was living at the time.
Nevertheless, my wheel of fortune turned again when I met Julie on a boat party. This meeting was crucial for the creation of Cliché. In fact, Julie was working for Mira, they were looking for a DJ, so I accepted the residency. And this is where everything started! Vibes manager wanted to get things moving, me too, so I proposed a first event and we had a blast! Since then, everything went super fast, people started expecting our events, which were mostly sold out with a crazy atmosphere (we used to do those in the former XXX). We just had so much energy and motivation to revive Hong Kong and Asia’s nightlife, the question was not about the amount of money we would make but how to make it unforgettable! We really want the people to have a great time, end of the story!
Given all the fields that Cliché operates in, how does a typical day at the office look like for you?
Every day, same ritual: a quick chat with Samy, our booking manager, I work very closely with him on the tours. Hugo our current intern handles the events and residencies of our Hong Kong based DJs. I’m also working with our PR, even though she is very autonomous. Eventually I check everything related to Fragrant Harbor our house and techno label, and our sub label Homesick, with Jeff. To finish the Cliché recipe, add some great atmosphere, jokes, music sharing and discussions on the next event.
Things have been going pretty well in Hong Kong - rooftop parties, Sunday beach parties, labels putting out music and lots of smaller venues opening. Do you feel this progress culminating into something? What are the next steps for Cliché?
2015 has been a super healthy year, the music scene in Hong Kong never had this amount of events and international DJs touring in the city. Each promoter/DJ puts a lot of effort in their events and that’s great! The clubs are open but the artistic direction is often too strict or hazardous. We do need a club in Hong Kong managed by music lovers, but the rent issue puts the club owners in a precarious situation. The clubs open fast but close fast too (or change their style), it’s a shame but I am optimistic as the current situation is better than the last one.
We are not lacking new projects and ideas! We do have many followers of our labels, we are so excited for the next releases. We will have a new sub-label that is planned for 2016 under the name "Heaven and Earth".
Cliché and Jackrabbit made love and gave birth to Rabbit Hole, our last event related project. We had one last month at Mahalo with Borrowed Identity and Andy Hart, followed by a very intense cosmic-junk party. The next event will be in March, we are ready, are you?
We are still working on 3 projects that must remain confidential, I can just tell you that on one of these three projects there is a club opening in 2016, the spot is crazy, we are all excited! To conclude we have our 4 year birthday celebration next April. We are already working on it, last one was crazy, we will do everything we can to revive this vibe for the next anniversary.
Finally the mix - we know you love disco and more funky stuff. How did you develop this taste? And what can we expect from this mix?
I am a huge disco fan, as I grew up with my funky-disco-soul head brother. At 13 years old, while my classmates gained their musical knowledge thanks to mainstream tv channels, I was discovering the musical universe of artists such as Mystik Merlin, Rufus, Chaka Khan, Sade, Kashif,... I pay a lot of respect to the hip hop scene of the 90’s, the New Jack and sampling. During my sets, I offer a very eclectic style as I can play one hour of Techno, then deep, nevertheless I feel really at ease when I play house and disco. Disco gathers people and makes them smile, it’s a pure breakaway. I can feel a full connection with the crowd when I play disco, that’s what i want to feel and live during my sets. This mix is quite different, just like all my online mixes, I always use them to play sounds I wouldn’t dare playing during my set as I fear losing the crowd.