After another day on the job, Massyl leaps away from the glass gates of his workplace, fresh faced and upbeat, onto the intersection adjacent Laurier Metro. It is quarter past eight, and after a whirlwind weekend, having mixed at three separate shows, he quickly purchases a beer and heads to Parc Laurier to get his brain picked at. All with an innocent grin spread wide across his face.
Born in Algeria and raised in Paris, Massyl Tamzali did not hit his stride until moving to Montreal to attend UQAM and study political sciences.
A free spirit, at 24, he is quickly becoming a household name in the underground electronic music scene of Montreal. Not just for his musical selections and mixing, but also his striking presence behind the decks and alluring personality. Setting himself apart from the sometimes bland offerings of the city, he is amassing himself a cult following.
Friends and fans affectionately refer to him as the Villalobos of Montreal - and with good reason. The weekend prior, while headlining the ECHOisONE launch party at Fattal Werkstatt, opening for international superstars Four Tet and Jon Hopkins at a pristine SAT and finally, at a raucous back to back session alongside Adam Solomon at local hotspot Le Salon Daome, Massyl dazzled with slick dance moves and a natural aura that resonated with the crowds.
"I like dancing when I mix. It brings out the music," he explains. There is always synergy between the crowd and himself - a sort of give and take. Weaving his body through the smoky air at Fattal last weekend, dancers turned frenetic as they tried to match him, move for move. These graceful gestures have been honed through years of experience on the dance floor. As a teenager in Paris, following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Massyl became enthralled by the people and music that he encountered while attending nightclubs and after-parties. Dancing only came naturally.
Yet, he did not always feel comfortable in Paris. Sombrely, he reminisces, "Paris was very segregating of classes. People are afraid of each other. People don't understand each other." Personable by nature, Paris' hostile environment became off-putting. "Montreal has a very different pace. People seem to be more laid-back." Affected by its citizens, Massyl instantly became enamoured by his new home. As he gives his beer a quick sip, and clears his cigarette with a deft flick, a nearby family meandering lazily catches his eye, "This would not happen that much [in Paris]."
"I'm a very lazy person," he giggles. Sometimes to a fault. During a turbulent period in Paris, where he stopped mixing entirely, inspiration led to the production of a track entitled "Sunk Heart". By happenstance, iconic DJ Laurent Garnier stumbled across the song, and after several exchanges, “Sunk Heart” found its way into one of his mixes. But he is quick to remind us, "Inspiration was never a constant thing." Presently, while in possession of many unfinished projects, completing one can seem like a monumental task. "I don't have a method of production. It always starts differently. I don't like to force myself if I don't feel like it."
It remains difficult for him to even organize and maintain his stash of vinyls. "I had all my records lying on the floor, not even in the sleeves," he laughs, recalling a recent New Year's party at Fattal. A nightmarish scene for most DJs, Massyl appreciates a few scratches on his records. "I like hearing the hiss, and even skipping sometimes. It's more natural." Captivated by the touch and feel of his records, he eschews the culture of perfection and precision cultivated by other vinyl enthusiasts.
In spite of this lax attitude, passion for music continues to drive him. A passion bestowed upon him early in life. "My dad used to listen to a lot of jazz and even rock - like Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton," he says. His musical upbringing sparked his interest in liquid drum 'n' bass as a youth. However, the lack of an inspired bass music scene in Paris pushed Massyl towards venues such as Rex Club and the now defunct L'Alternative, geared towards house and techno music. Also influenced by peers in Montreal, he began to develop his signature minimal and house sound. Still, a disdain for pigeonholing himself is leading him to incorporate more genres, ranging from disco to ambient, into his sets. Staying true to his character, he adds, "The music has to have soul."
"What matters is the music, and especially the people who attend events," he declares. By now, it becomes evident how his emotional bond with others has helped pave a path for him in this city. However, transitioning as a DJ from Paris to Montreal did not come easy. He notes, "It was a very long process. It didn't happen very naturally." Without the aid of a few like minded people, it may have never commenced. His first public show in Montreal came at the behest of close friend, Peter Bunzinelli - at Tarot. To this day, it remains his most memorable gig.
As innate as his mixing comes off, he stresses, "I was practicing at home as a bedroom DJ for months and months." And it shows. After all that work, he is able to mix while interacting with the crowd seamlessly. He insists, "I feel I mix better when I am a little bit distracted."
As the park simmers down to a lull and the nearby family departs, Massyl imparts some final words of wisdom. "I guess I will never stop learning, discovering and constantly being on the lookout," he surmises. His humbleness is both endearing and deeply sincere. He continues, "I've never wanted to be a DJ superstar, I'm a music lover."
What does the future hold for such a character? What heights will he reach as a DJ? "I just want to be happy," he quips, "and share beautiful moments with beautiful people." Whatever he does decide to do, we can rest assured it will be accomplished gracefully, without regrets.