Damien ‘Timid Boy’ Almira has been at the forefront of the French scene for some time now. Since starting out as a freelance music journalist for taste-making magazine Trax, he’s since gone on to play a key role in the Time Has Changed story, one of France’s most respected and seminal outlets for clued-in house music. With his latest EP, the brilliant throwback record, Extasy, about to drop, we dropped in with the main man to find out more…
I loved this name so much, it was cute, it’s a nice contrast – to be on stage in front of an audience and be timid, it’s a contrast...Where does your alias, Timid Boy, stem from?
I had a friend who ran a label called Timid Music in the early 2000 – I do not think it exists anymore though. I loved this name so much, it was cute, it’s a nice contrast – to be on stage in front of an audience and be timid, it’s a contrast. And I think a lot of artists are in a way timid; art is another way for them to express themselves easily than in “normal” life or ‘normal” language. So, this guy wanted to make me played at his parties, so he said “you’re the dj of Timid Music”, so you’re “Timid Boy”!
I believe that you once worked as an editor of a magazine in France. Can you talk us through that one a bit?
I was deputy editor of Trax for 3 years. Since my teenage years in the 90’s I was a DJ in electronic music. But beside this passion I did “normal” studies: law, then journalist school. I wanted to be political journalist, but at journalism school my best friends were fans of music as I am, so we created our magazine. Quickly enough, older professional journalists from big French mags (Rock & Folk, Technikart, Trax…) started to ask us for articles. So I started to freelance in music journalism, that was not my first purpose, but it was quiet natural to do it. And after some years I had the opportunity to become deputy editor of Trax, so of course I said yes.
You have to work hard, be patient, never be arrogant or selfish because first “it’s only music”, and second because “tomorrow never knows”...How did that job prepare you for working in the music industry? Did you learn a lot there that you might not have otherwise?
Well I don’t really know, not really. It’s the same subject (music) but not the same business: when you are a journalist you don’t have a booker, or a manager, or whatever, it’s not the same. But after all these years as a journalist I learn something important: having a long career in music (pop, electro, whatever…) is difficult, a lot of bands are “famous” for 3-4 years, then they disappear. You have to work hard, be patient, never be arrogant or selfish because first “it’s only music”, and second because “tomorrow never knows”.
Is Trax still running? Or why did you leave?
Yes, the magazine is still running and it’s quite a funny story because the new chief editor was my intern when I worked there. So I’m quiet proud about that! I left because I seriously start to miss time: deputy editor of Trax + DJing during the weekend and making my own music at night and running a label and try to have a little social life was just impossible after a while. I had to make a choice. I had success in journalism – I left Trax when they offered me the job of new chief editor. It was a hard decision - but music/djing/producing was my passion and I started to have some success so I decided to try it as a full time activity… it was not an easy decision but I’m happy about it now ;-)
Are you doing music full-time now? How have you found the transition?
Yes I do full time. The transition was quite natural. I just did not have enough time to do well in journalism and music; I had to make a strong choice.
You help run Time has Changed alongside Acumen. How did you two first meet?
He first signed me on the label, and then we became quickly friends and associates. In the early days I helped him and he did a lot on his own, then he did not have so much time so I started to manage most things. But whatever happens we take all big decisions together.
I prefer a label where most of our tastes are represented, and our tastes are from deep house to tech house, to punchy stuff to melodic stuff…How have you benefited one another’s work? And who does what at the label?
I manage it more by myself over the past few years (he did it by himself at the beginning). We don’t really split the work, we trust each others, we speak together about A&D and we speak of course about big decisions (such as dealing with distributors…)
Do you share A&R duties then? And do you tend to agree on most things?
We trust each other. If one of us really like a demo that the other one doesn’t like, the rule is that we sign it. It’s a good way to work, we don’t lose time and energy to speak again and again. We speak if we have doubts (but most of the time that means: we do not sign it), but if one of us really want to sign an artist, we sign it.
What’s been your proudest moment at the label? Is the best yet to come?
Well it’s hard to say, I’m really proud when we have big success as for examples Acumen & Timid Boy “Chicago Story” remixed by my friend Oxia, or my collab “Balloc 1” with Carlo Lio. I’m also proud to have great remixers on board such as Matthias Meyer. I’m proud to have a label which doesn’t have one musical style as a lot of labels do now.
And a lot of them change their artistic direction every 3 years when the “fashion” changes. I do not say that’s a bad way, why not, but this is not our way. I prefer a label where most of our tastes are represented, and our tastes are from deep house to tech house, to punchy stuff to melodic stuff… I love labels back in the days as +8, R&S or a bit later BPitch that used to make different styles of music at the same time, from classic house to techno and electronica…
Did you ever think it’d get to a stage where the label is so respected on a global level?
Well, I wish we could do that, I dream about that, but of course I was never sure about that, we had some disappointments also. Some big EPs which didn’t have so much success, that kind of stuff…
Acumen has since gone on to form his new label, Thrill of It. Would you ever think about setting up a new label?
At the present day Time Has Changed takes me so much time. Even if I have a great assistant, Paul Thery, who is a great Parisian DJ too, I prefer at the moment be focus on 1 label. Thrill of It is part of the family, Acumen runs it but we speak about it, we have sometimes the same artists such as Jules & Moss and we develop it together; it’s 2 complementary labels, 2 complementary music space. I don’t know if there’s space for another one.
Can you talk us through your latest EP on Time Has Changed? Is it a bit of an unusual one for you?
I don’t really know if it’s so different. It’s hard for me to look at my own music. Compared to the others releases, I want to combine here some ravey gimmicks to a modern groove, a personal groove, an « hardgroove », really dynamic, between tech house and techno. These kind of groove are on my last EPs on Form (with Stacey Pullen and Jon Rundell’s remixes), Intacto or next year in Dubfire’s label Sci+Tec. But the ravey gimmick is more singular here for sure.
There are some old school elements: the title « extasy », the ravey gimmick and the smiley face on the cover reminds me of the early rave days… What motivated you to try your hand at an ‘old-school’ track? Should we be expecting more of the same from you over the next while?
There are some old school elements: the title « Extasy », the ravey gimmick and the smiley face on the cover reminds me of the early rave days… I wish to find a kind of naivety, of simple happiness as it was in my early days as a rave kid. But the other elements, the rhythms & the edit are made in the purpose to be as modern as possible… In the future yes you could find sometimes these kind of groove, and I guess time to time some old school elements… I discover techno and rave music 20 years ago as a teenager, and I never stop to follow this music, go out and play music, so of course there are a lot of old school elements which influence me, that’s clear!
The track is also called ‘Extasy’. When did you first try ecstasy? Did it change how you perceive music?
I tried it in the 90’s. It changed a lot of things, communication with people, a lot of fun, a kind of naïve and beautiful trip… a bit hard and sad when the effect come over but that’s “part of the game” and you have to be careful with that! I think it also change my perception of music, but I don’t really know explain in which way, but for sure it changed it, but it do not mean I “needed” it to perceive music in my early rave days.
I took a lot of pleasure in my last edition of my residence called “Timid Boy invite…” at Break Club (Montpellier, South of France)....And when was the last time you felt especially inspired on the dancefloor?
You mean, as a DJ or as a dancer? As a dancer I was in Barcelona in September and I really enjoy the B2B between Martinez Brothers and Seth Troxler at el row 14. It was quality music for a big audience, great club music for big venue… not so easy to do, and they did great. As a DJ, well, I took a lot of pleasure in my last edition of my residence called “Timid Boy invite…” at Break Club (Montpellier, South of France), my guest was Barem, he’s a good friend and a great DJ, it’s always great to play with him.
What DJs and producers continue to make an impression on you these days?
Martinez Brothers and Seth Troxler are great. It’s difficult to name all of them, but as producers I really like Hanfry Martinez, Fur Coat made a great album, Recondite do a classic style with a really personal touch, he do a great job. I also really like French people on my label as Jules & Moss, Benedetto & Farina, Marwan Sabb…
You’re from Montpellier but you live in Paris now. How do you rate the scene for going out these days? Am I right in thinking it’s on the up again after a brief lull?
Since 2 or 3 years Paris is on fire. This music is so popular here, from young people to adults, from suburbs to chic part of the town. It’s crazy. As an example, I remember a Friday in September where, at the same time, in different parties, you had Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Jeff Mills, Derrick May… I’m sure I forgot some others parties with big names… and they all had success, it’s fantastic!
Since 2 or 3 years Paris is on fire. This music is so popular here, from young people to adults, from suburbs to chic part of the town...So what’s the best thing about going out in Paris? Where would you recommend we go?
So many stuff, from Rex Club to Zig Zag or La Machine du Moulin Rouge, from Wanderlust (and his nice terrassa) to Concrete parties… you have great parties everywhere… you have a lot of parties happened just some times a year which are great as Alter Panam, le 6B, Le Tunnel and many more that forgot…
And what’s next for you?
Well I’m quiet busy actually, I’ve new remixes on Time Has Changed for Jules & Moss and Marwan Sabb, new EPs on Los Suruba’s label Suruba, on Tenampa with Chaim remix, new EP in 2015 on Dubfire’s label Sci+Tec, Popof’s label Form… and more to be announced… I also continue my residence party “Timid Boy Invite…” at Break Club in Montpellier where I invite DJs and friends such as Barem, Shinedoe… and also my own parties in Paris at Rex Club and Wanderlust…