Music As Therapy: DJ Habett Interview


During the course of this interview ¬†St√©phane Roux (aka DJ Habett) ¬†and I had a chance to talk about music as therapy, defending Creative Commons Licenses, the amazing level of success he’s had online (in terms of downloads), and a lot more.

St√©phane is from Paris, France and has been releasing music online for seven years. ¬†Currently he releases his work primarily through his website (which really should be seen – it is a work of art on its own), which he thinks should have the tagline: “Free music for Unfree People.” ¬†I couldn’t agree more.

While he primarily releases his work through his website and Mininova Torrents¬†he also has a BandCamp site, and a YouTube channel. ¬†And, if that wasn’t enough, his¬†2013 compilation: Behold Again, My Vox Pueblo ’13 was also released on Coma Recordz.

If you are an artist releasing music under a Creative Commons license, or a netlabel that releases music under a Creative Commons license and would like to be interviewed send me a message via my Contact Form.  Please include a link to your website, release pages, and whatever other information you think is appropriate and I will respond.

The Interview

Part One: General Questions

Introduce yourself to our readers?

I am a recording artist. I mostly work solo but have a few projects with¬†friends/brother. My recording and performing name is DJ Habett but I’m¬†just a producing DJ, not a mixing/spinning DJ.

That alias comes from an Arabic name given to me by Lebanese students 20 years ago at a party because it invokes to them the stupid guy in jokes and the serving slave.

My main instrument is a sequencer/sampler MPC. I don’t know musical¬†notation or chords, I just mess around hardware sound machine and¬†eventually music comes out.

My original aim was to heal my psychiatric issues through the process¬†but I eventually released my productions. That’s a selfish approach but¬†that’s how I got hooked into the process.

Do you have any other aliases?

I play in a band with my brother, and we are The Organics Brothers. I perform in a creative group with a very dear friend of mine. We are WaxEyes.

Do you focus on specific styles of music?

Must be trip-hop, ambient and/or electronica. No restrictions just an over-all statement.

What inspires you?

Software and the open source movement. GNU linux! though I don’t use¬†computers in my music process, only dedicated hardware.

Name an artist, place, event, etc. that has inspired you.

Mo’Wax, DJ Krush, Warp, Brian Eno, Kompakt, The Orb, but these are all¬†copyright acts and labels.

[Ed: It would, be quite disingenuous to take a position that excluded the many artists that have formed our rich cultural heritage from the conversation about Creative Commons artists and their endeavors.]

What drives you to create music?

I find it’s a liberating means of expression. It empowers the spare¬†cycles of your brain.¬†I still get such a kick when I put some tracks online, I almost feel¬†free then.

As I said it’s a healing process for me and if someone else likes it, it¬†feels fantastic.

If you work as programmer, and the end-user doesn’t understand how¬†what you wrote works, you say there’s a problem between the chair and¬†the desk. You wish for telepathy.

When someone smiles, nods or dances to your music, it feels like telepathy or empathy as a friend of mine suggested.

You commented that music creation is a form of therapy for you, can you give us some more background on this?

I’ve out of circuit (social, work, …) for many years because of¬†heavy depression issues. The psychiatrist who literally saved me¬†always encouraged me to write, to express myself, be it online. Like¬†kids watch the frog climb the ladder when the weather is good, he was¬†looking for signs I was better when I was taking care of my¬†websites. Years have passed, I can now work part-time and make music¬†and rest the other half, this equilibrium is far from perfect but it¬†somehow works. I still have difficulties seeing myself as a musician,¬†but my girlfriend helps me try to find the recording artist in me.

Do you think your form of musical therapy (ie, releasing your music online) would be good for others?

People with similar psychiatric issues tend to lose their ability to¬†communicate as I did. Music is a good way to help restore that even¬†though it’s non-verbal and the world we live in is pretty verbal. The¬†whole point of the concept of art therapy is that if you can find an¬†artistic form that suits your abilities (present or future) and your¬†state, that’s a deeply healing way to help yourself feel better and¬†find your truth. I’ve been in many mental institutions where they got¬†speech therapy or ergo-therapy and didn’t work for me. Understanding¬†the benefits of art therapy was such a rejoicing encounter for me, I¬†want to spread the word that it is a way not to be excluded.

With the amazing number of downloads you’ve achieved, have you done¬†something to promote your work?

In France when an artist has success, it can be said that he has meet¬†his audience (literally). So I think you have to do something to reach¬†an audience, but I don’t want to spend time running after listeners or¬†publishing everywhere you can. So my thinking went to the word meeting¬†more than to the word audience. Where were music lovers these last¬†years? That’s easy, they are on bit torrent sites looking for old and¬†new stuff, so I went there and started posting my albums patiently.

That was a swift move because it saved my bandwidth because torrents are also a way of crowd sharing the cost of delivering my music !

Now I try to be more pro-active about spreading the word that my music is ear-worthy, but I have inner daemons about that because time spent there is time spent not make music or visuals, and that still makes me sad.

You have a release on your BandCamp site. What prompted you to post something there?

Err, that’s just for the time being an anchor on a stick. Part of that¬†is trying to meet another audience, part of that is maybe dealing with¬†the fact that my bandwidth and music hardware are expensive. I have to¬†face the idea that for me, even though making and publishing music is¬†a therapy, it doesn’t have to be that much a weight on my bank¬†account. Maybe I need a real therapist to let this thought enter my¬†confused brain, but in the meantime I’ve posted last year’s¬†compilation on BandCamp and none bought it yet.

[Ed: Well, that last statement isn’t true any more. ¬†After finalizing the copy for this interview I purchased the release through BandCamp. ūüôā ]

What values do you wish your creativity to express?

Recycle sounds, free flows of ideas, exchanges.

What role does community play in what you do?

The other day I was in Amsterdam for vacation, and I got to meet there¬†Marc Hollenbach¬†(aka Amsterdammack). We’ve spent quite a few hours talking music,¬†lifestyles, licences, politics and that was worth more than money can¬†buy. That’s such a fantastic reward. Knowing there are people behind¬†the numbers.

Part Two: Creative Commons

How did you get into Netaudio and Creative Commons?

I’ve been putting things online for almost 20 years. My shrink thought¬†it was a clever move for me.

I’ve been passively collecting records (CDs and wax) and one day my¬†brother got me a toy sampler and then I realized I needed to make some¬†music.

I used to be a law student and spent my last years studying copyright laws, and I got to figure how silly these laws are.

Then I was a programmer and I got to understand the power of the open source movement.

Later and until now, I’ve been a recording artist already convinced I¬†shall use an alternative open license and it took me a few seconds to¬†figure out that it would be Creative Commons (Attribution,¬†Share-Alike: BY-SA).

Why did you start releasing Creative Commons music?

Lessig, the books, the state of mind, the community.

Do you release all your work under a Creative Commons license?

So far, yes!!! It feels so right and I can’t see me releasing any other¬†way. I have more than 80 albums by me published on my website, and¬†16 millions tracks downloaded or torrent-ed.

With so many releases, do you have any favorites, or ones you would recommend for new listeners?

I have this stance from the start not to remove any track or album¬†once it is published. That’s difficult because within a 7 years span¬†your capacity to produce music evolves and/or improves, that leads to¬†regrets and the will to remove the really old stuff but I am strict¬†enough to stick to that point. I am ashamed of the poor quality of my¬†early recordings but they are all my children, my creatures, so I¬†leave them online on my website.

Obviously I have stuff I consider as recommended amongst the 87 albums¬†(1030 tracks) I have on my website. (I have created much more than¬†that but they got discarded before recording or publishing.) I try to¬†make a compilation every year so that you can get to the point easily¬†and dig deeper if you want. There’s also my YouTube channel where I¬†created visuals for tracks whose appeal seems more obvious.

Any negative experiences with releasing under a Creative Commons license?

My lawyer friend likes to poke me with links of Russian sites that¬†list some of my albums in their sales catalog. (I don’t really care¬†but that’s sad and silly.)

Why haven’t you considered taking action against the Russian sites?

I think there are two ways of putting it through:

1. It’s just bad karma spread over them, like the reed that bends¬†before the wind. I can let go because I think taking action would¬†worsen the situation. I must have chosen Creative Commons because I¬†don’t really believe in the concept of intellectual property, and I¬†think fighting all the time leads to nothing and is globally of¬†copyright attitude that makes me sick.

2. On a practical ground, if they manage to sell some of my stuff,¬†that would just mean more listener to me and that satisfies what’s¬†left of my ego. It’s just silly and maybe funny. In the end if someone¬†is dumb enough to buy an album where there’s a song called “Free music¬†for unfree people” or “Copyright no pasaran”, that just saves my day.

Do you feel by not taking action that you are weakening the Creative Commons license system?

Maybe. I have mixed emotions about that. I know it doesn’t belong to¬†the world of emotions but as I said, bad karma and joke. I chose¬†Creative Commons as a political statement but I have this attitude¬†towards the world where there are 7 billion minds all different and¬†where there are more than enough fights and wars. This is just music,¬†it’s not meant to make me richer or to make mandatory choices upon¬†one’s neighbor.

It reminds me of the famous cross-interview between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, in the end they are asked to say one nice thing about each other. Gates says its incredible Jobs succeeded without him, and Jobs replies famously that he is impressed Gates succeeded with more lawyers than programmers. These are the two wrongs, ego and bellicosity.

[Ed: I’ve heard the story of this interview between Gates & Jobs¬†before. However, I can’t find a reference for it. If any reader has a¬†reference for that quote, I’d love to add it as a note to this¬†article.]

Is your lawyer friend upset that you are losing money? Or does he care about the Creative Commons license?

I think in the end he understand my pleasure to publish and my will not to spoil this with money, because he is my friend. However he is a grand lawyer and his impulse to try to protect my supposed best interest is still there. He is not a typical lawyer, he has perl programming books on his shelf, and has read Lessig, and goes to many free software conventions.

Part Three: The Future

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m preparing more tracks for more public performances with my brother¬†as Organics Brothers, my 87th album, and some secrets that are too¬†early for details.

What is next for you?

I’m trying to put together some remixes of Creative Commons tracks.¬†If there are candidates amongst your readers, let them get back to me.

Do you have an event, release, etc. that you want to mention?

Not yet, watch this space: DJ Habett’s Website.

In Closing

I’d like to thank¬†St√©phane not only for taking part in this interview, but also his willingness to answer some more personal questions. ¬†I generally don’t expect that artists want to talk about personal issues all that much, so I always say that they can skip any questions they want when participating in the interviews. ¬†I asked questions about music therapy of¬†St√©phane, and was very surprised by his willingness to talk about it. ¬†This is surely a testament to how well he’s doing in his therapy, and I hope that it may help others who struggle with similar issues. ¬†Thank you again.¬†St√©phane.

If you are an artist releasing music under a Creative Commons license, or a netlabel that releases music under a Creative Commons license and would like to be interviewed send me a message via my Contact Form.  Please include a link to your website, release pages, and whatever other information you think is appropriate and I will respond.

Posted by George De Bruin


  1. Great read. The coincidental meeting of Amsterdammack and DJ Habett is a really encouraging proof of concept. We have empirical evidence of SOME free people taking the power back. Personally, I’d like to thank DJ Habett for pioneering a model of medicinal creativity, and for reminding me that I need to stay on top of my .torrent distribution. He’s correct. There are LOTS of music fans who don’t go for anything else (and I don’t blame them). In my opinion, decentralized p2p file sharing is the most promising road to freedom.

    1. Thanks. Torrents are a safe way to lower the costs of hosting content. There are so many good uses of bit torrent, and I think that mininova shall push even harder towards open licences to keep it’s legit approach more visible and authentic.

      1. I have my podcast on BitLove (podcasting BitTorren site), but haven’t put it on any other trackers. I looked the other night at setting it up on Legal Torrents, which was dedicated to Creative Commons / freely share-able media, but apparently it has gone away. (Quite disappointing as it was started by the owner of the Monotonik netlabel.) I will look into mininova since you have had great success with using it to distribute your work.

        Thanks again for the great insights and your time in working on the interview. Hopefully we’ll get to do it again sometime.


        1. Perhaps it’s just me, but most probably I would go where I expect most music lovers. A tracker named ‘Legal Torrents’ doesn’t sound promising to me ūüôā


          1. Yeah, it doesn’t sound all that cool, right? Well that wasn’t the original name. I’ve forgotten what he called it first. I think more important was the fact that it was run by a well-respected netlabel operator. He had the following to (a) put together the project and (b) garner enough interest from a wider audience.

            But, more importantly, the amount of traffic was quite surprising. There were a lot of torrents that had hundreds of seeders, and thousands of leechers. The set up and amount of traffic was pretty impressive. I am really surprised that it went away.

        2. Point taken!
          I can’t say anything about mininova and its community. I mostly use piratebay. But then again, not for music, or very rarely. Content there is seems major oriented.

          1. What I can say is that mininova provide statistics and their content is mirrored in many other places. To me the best thing is that they seed my albums even years after their release, whereas in other torrent places I would have to keep seeding these torrents to keep them alive. I’m also on Jamendo, not so much for it’s features but as a backup in case my site goes down and, then again, to spare some bandwidth.
            Statistics sound lame but it sometimes is a good mean to help figure out if you’ve been heard.

      2. I’m extremely grateful for torrents, specially these days again.
        Luckily, archive provides torrents for each release. While download is slow because nobody else is seeding, it’s still faster than waiting 5 hours to get 58.4 MB data. Just about 60 min.
        Yeah, torrent tech is good. Helpful when living in developing countries.


  2. Good interview!

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