Vegas Needs R3hab

The DJ/producer uses distinctive processes to define his evolving sound

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Fadil El Ghoul—best known as Dutch sensation R3hab—is one of the most amiable guys in the game. Recent releases from the DJ/producer who enjoyed initial support from Afrojack include collaborations with Hakkasan residents Nervo and Calvin Harris, while one particular pairing with KSHMR, “Karate,” was released in December with a sultry video component. Yet even after years of heavily publicized successes and accolades, it’s refreshing to see that such a mega-star can still be so polite and punctual. You can catch him on January 17 when he returns—on time, most likely—to his Life residency.

The video for “Karate” has a Miami vibe. Is that where it was shot?

No. It was in downtown L.A. Many people think it was Miami.

What was your inspiration for that video?

When I grew up, there was this record, “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi. I was like, “Oh, that video was so good! I want to do something similar to that!” And that’s how the idea started.

What was the filming process like?

What we did was very funny. We didn’t use an agency or anything. I just went on Instagram, I looked up all of the girls that I thought were very pretty, and I had my manager email all of them or their agents. That’s how it started. It was very important for everyone to have a fun day [while filming]. All of the girls were so nice and fun. All of my friends wanted to come, but they couldn’t. [Laughs.] It was all shot in one day. It was a long day—14 hours—so I give mad props to all of the ladies.

What prompted you to make the track in the first place?

I made the track for Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, and I played it there for the first time. Then I couldn’t finish it. I played it, and I wanted to change some things. And when I made the final version I was like, “This took me so long it better have a good freaking video.”

With your track with Nervo, “Ready for the Weekend,” how did you choose vocalist Ayah Marar?

I sent the record to Calvin Harris, because we talk a lot about music. And I said, “Who do you think is good?” And then Ayah Marar came up. He used her on “Thinking About You.”

Do you have a particular audition process for your featured artists?

Ayah didn’t audition. I don’t care if somebody is famous or not famous or has a big name. The record has to be right for the person. Music is not science. You have to find the right vocal with the right record at the right spot, so it’s not really an audition process—it’s a process of being honest.

And this works for all of your tracks?

Even when I did the collaboration with Calvin Harris, we tried a couple of things before we got it right. And that’s about being honest and finding the right record that fits both styles.

How long did that record take you to make?

[About] 100-140 hours.

R3hab manning the decks at Life

R3hab manning the decks at Life

And you were in a studio together the whole time?

We hung out at first, and then we worked separately. We were touring, so we made the basic I.D. [untitled track] when we were together, then it was just [emailing] back and forth.

That sounds like a long process.

When I say “100 hours,” that also means 10 hours of staring at the screen just figuring out what to do. Creativity doesn’t always just hit you right away. You have to awaken it.

What should we expect from you this year?

I have a record coming out in February. I have no name for it yet; I have to figure it out. I’m just gonna try to release a record every two months and see where it goes. Some people lean more toward deep house, some people lean more toward the harder stuff or the groovy stuff. I have to figure out for myself where I belong, you know? What’s best for me.

So are you going to try to get more into the deep-house vibe or the groovy stuff?

I love getting inspired by it. What Disclosure did [by popularizing deep-house with their trendsetting 2013 album Settle], it’s very interesting.

Have you experimented with sounds like that?

I did, just for my own ears.

Is it going well?

It’s not as good as Disclosure … but we’re getting there.

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