What happens when you reach the top? Usually it’s more often than not complacency or boredom. Though doesn’t apply to one of Tel Aviv’s finest music makers Eli Nissan who is not rushing around to see his name in lights, of fine gentlemanly pedigree as a person and as a musician, the ethos shows. In the world of dance music, where you’re only as good as your last record, here’s a producer/DJ going slowly from strength to strength, for example take his exemplary Progressive House EP – Liquid Stars release on fellow musician Guy J’s label Lost & Found into consideration and one is immediately struck by how resonant and pure bred his artistic motifs bring to the table.
With early outings through a Rock band called Portraits to eschewing marvellous DJ sets at Tel Aviv’s glittering water-holes such as Aria and The Cat and The Dog, the road to carving a niche in electronic dance music’s hallowed halls with releases on Movement, Plattenbank, MNL, Stripped etc. has been an organic one, and cause he is cut from a different cloth.
I chat with Israeli music producer/DJ Eli to unravel the unassuming character poised to play one of the biggest label parties during ADE next month, to peel off those layers and try to see why he is a quiet force to be reckoned with, in the dance scene currently and dig deep into the psyche of a seemingly moderate musician next door, but look again..
Hi Eli, welcome to Decoded. Tell us about your childhood, what were the factors involved in you taking interest in dance music, do you have any stories to tell?
Hello to all the readers at the magazine, it’s an honour. I was born in a beach town called Netanya, 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv. Most of my childhood was in the streets of a tough neighborhood surrounded by lot of violence and crime side by side with great street music. I started to go to all the city nightclubs with my close friend Amir, which played Funk and Disco music by several amazing locals DJs of that time. What we heard blew our minds off and for the first time we realized that is another way to touch people’s hearts, is with music. We both started to take on DJing and play together at house parties around the city, this is truly the wonderful period where I actually laid the foundation for what I am today of being a professional DJ/ Producer and overall musician.
What was the music you were listening to while growing up, any influences you’d like to mention?
All the music back then was from bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Hendrix and also Police, Madness and of course AC DC to name some. At around the same time, I must have been about 14 years of age, I dropped out of school and felt pretty lost and useless and the thoughts of being a musician or a DJ never crossed my mind to be honest. I just happened to meet my soulmate Amir Perry who was already a very talented drummer and Trumpet player and I was immediately fascinated by his talent and told him a lie by saying that I know how to sing haha.
We immediately started a youth rock band called “The Screwdriver” and I became the singer/ songwriter of the band. Later on I learned by myself to play drums, keys and Guitar by looking at friends who knew how to play, and the latter became my main instrument. I think it’s safe to say that during that time is when I started to develop as a musician.
Can you share some memories of your time with the band – “Portrait”? How did the road from a live band to electronic dance music take place?
I moved to Tel Aviv when I was 21 following Perry again to set up a new band with friends we met at clubs in Tel Aviv. We quickly became one of the most successful bands in Israel of all time. Our musical influences that were seeped in Funk, Disco and Rock quickly found an outlet, with the band’s offerings and our stuff went on to become a huge hit. In time I became one of the leaders of the band as a Guitarist, composer and filled the role of a producer too.
“Portrait” released four albums and performed in more than 1000 live shows in the duration of 8 years. We decided to take a break thereafter and that’s when I went back to my other passion DJing. But this time around there was a hunger for electronic House music that was already ruling the club scene in Tel Aviv. Although I was a Guitarist first, I had always been quite attracted to synthesizers and a desire to be a producer for electronic music touched me the most, plus being a curious musician I was drawn to it like a magnet and then tried to hold my own so to speak.
Would you say you are a DJ first or a producer?
It is impossible to separate myself from being a DJ or a Producer. I treat both of them with the same seriousness and enjoy both worlds.
From the decline of Progressive House some years ago where the whole world jumped on the popular Techno and Deep House wagon, there’s been a steady climb for this style largely due to the invasion of Israel’s finest producers such as Guy J, Mantzur, Khen, Guy Gerber, Chicola and you. This kind of phenomena has been unprecedented, your thoughts on why the sounds you guys brought out, have become a huge success worldwide?
Firstly it is a great honour for me to be counted with the names you mentioned here. I want to add to this list our super hero DJ and producer plus the most sensational mentor Sahar Z, we are all good friends and the main thing that has always connected us is our passion for the music we preach. I do not know exactly what the secret of our sound is but I can say with certainty that there is a huge influence of each of us on the other. We are always consulting a lot between ourselves and help each other to promote and put shine to our music by exchanging ideas and thoughts to better it.
We also assist each other in technical problems in the studio, here I’d like to mention Khen and his big brother Vic, and they are true masters. It’s a truly magical time with our music ambassadors Guy J and Guy Mantzur, finally reaping rewards and finding success world-wide not only by being great musicians, they also distribute and or showcase all our music in great fashion all over the globe. Also I feel big appreciation for Hernan Cattaneo; he plays our sounds all over the planet. I hope it’s just the beginning of our musical journey and sure it will grow even more so, from hereon to touch more and more people looking for this unique sound.
What technical setup do you use, can you give us a lowdown on the gear you have?
My studio setup is quite smart and small. I use 2 Roland boutique synths JX03 and JU 06, 1 Akai Timbre Wolf for bass lines. I’m currently debating which synths to add on, between Prophet 6 and Juno 60.
Which item do you hold dearest?
Besides my precious vintage Guitars Fender Stratocaster 1978 and Fender Music master 1972 that I am using for melodies and groove lines under the synths, it’s one of my secrets and of course those Guitars are my most prized possessions.
Your “Circle Of Fifth” and “Liquid Stars” release on fellow musician Guy J’s label Lost & Found has gone on to show high quality music sensibilities and punched a huge mark in the Progressive category, where was your head at while making this offering and how long did you take to finish it?
My Lost & Found EP release with – “Liquid Stars” “Moon Clock” and “Circle Of Fifth “was a 7 month journey which can only be described as beautiful, that begin at ADE 2016. It was at the time Guy J came to me at the end of his crazy Lost Party and asked me to collaborate with the label. It was a huge compliment to be part of his imprint and we all know the aesthetics of Lost & Found that makes it undeniably one of the best ones in the scene. Guy J in my opinion is by far the best producer in the world right now.
These three tracks were selected by Guy after I sent him 6 or 7 tunes and the rest is history. I am very happy with the result and also think one of the best welcomes to a label.
Do you approach remix work the same way as your own production, or do you have a different thought process for the execution of someone else’s work?
Personally I prefer original tracks that build your story from emptiness and it’s a huge challenge Sometimes more difficult for me yet at the end, it’s much more satisfying. Having said that, there’s a beauty in doing remix work, which brings your own interpretation to someone’s equally hard work or composition. It’s quite magical and I love to do remix as well.
In a club at peak time, which are the 3 tracks currently that you would definitely drop?
These three bombs are my favorites at the moment –
Eitan Reiter – Eat You [Plattenbank]
Khen – Dreamcatcher [Vivrant]
Chicola – Clockers [Sudbeat]
Heading to Amsterdam for ADE next month, as part of the Lost & Found showcase, anything you’d like to do differently, music wise?
I’m very excited to be part of this crazy lineup. From what I know everyone including me is going to play new music they made especially for this party along with specially created edits to the familiar tracks. We feel the hidden competition in the air with who comes up with what and you can just imagine the vibes we are trying to create for the event.
Any productions you are working on at the moment you could give us a sneak peek on?
After a long wait I am glad that at the end of September, I am finally going to release on Rumors, a very special remixes project along with Guy Gerber, Acid Mondays and Jenia Tarsol. In addition to this, I have a really groovy track coming out on the Sudbeat’s ADE compilation that Hernan has already been playing a lot in his current sets.
Lastly, I am also working at the studio for a release which will come out through Plattenbank. It’s a pleasure to work on Mantzur’s label.
Any other pursuits, besides music stuff?
At the moment all my goals are related to music. I love photography and painting; unfortunately I do not find enough time for it.
Tell us about the exclusive mix you have provided for us, what’s the flavor and vibe of the set?
And best of luck for the rest of the year, thank you for talking to us at Decoded.
As a rule I am not doing a lot of mixes, but this mix is special as it includes music from my extremely talented friends Khen, Chicola, Sahar Z, Guy J and some more tunes that I really like to play these days. Hope you guys enjoy it.
01. George Morel, Rowee – La Terra (Original Mix) [Poker Flat Recordings]
02. Guy Gerber, Nic Fanciulli – The Perfect Crime feat. Guy Gerber (Original Mix)
03. Cornucopia – Letter For Poly (Original Mix) [Tale & Tone]
04. Eli Nissan – Circle Of Fifth (Original Mix) [Lost & Found]
05. Marcus Sur – Dead Panning [Steyoyoke]
06. Chicola – Clockers (Original Mix) [SudBeat]
07. Santiago Franch, D-Nox – Multitude (Jamie Stevens Remix) [Beat Boutique]
08. Henry Saiz – Piramidal (Original Mix) [Culprit]
09. Khen – Dreamcatcher (Original Mix) [Vivrant]
10. Rancido – Levels (Sahar Z Scuba Remix)