It's unfortunate, really, because in our talk with the Israeli DJ/producer, it's clear that he feels both situations were out of his control—a rare position for the prolific Aber. As he's worked his way through the progressive and tech house ranks, it's clear that Aber's popularity is as much down to talent as it is down to a consistent work ethic that has driven him ever since he bought his first pair of turntable at the age of 13. Everything has been within his control over the past few years: He is among the best of the new breed of Israeli producers that have come to prominence in the past few years—Guy Gerber and Itamar Sagi among them—and looks to continue his dominance in 2009 with a full release schedule planned for his Be As One imprint.
Eager to get his side of the story, we talked with Aber earlier this month about his tumultuous 2008, what comes next for the DJ/producer and whether we'll ever see another collaboration with Guy Gerber.
I read that you started doing music when you were 13.
True, true. I bought my first turntable when I was 13 and now I'm nearly 28.
Yes, I graduated from the school of music when I was 16. It was there that I learned about the history of music, synthesizers and general stuff. But I wasn't playing an instrument.
You were producing parties around this time as well.
Yes, actually I got the money for my turntables from the parties that I was producing. Small parties with friends, stuff like that.
Were you playing at clubs or were you putting things on yourself in your neighborhood or at friend's houses?
Both. It was whatever I could find back then. I would play almost weekly.
What was Tel Aviv like back then? I've heard you talk about it being a great city for clubbing once upon a time.
At the beginning, I wasn't really aware of what was happening. I was just playing in local clubs in the small city that I lived in just outside of Tel Aviv. But when I started playing in Tel Aviv when I was 17, there were a lot of clubs here that used to be very underground-oriented.
Tel Aviv was a mini-Ibiza in the late '90s. It's quite a small city—about half a million people—and we had about 20 clubs which could have more than 1,500 people on a night. It was madness. We used to have Derrick May playing one venue, Richie Hawtin another and Tiësto a third. All on the same day. You know, the first Global Underground was recorded in Tel Aviv.
Is it like that way nowadays?
Unfortunately not anymore, mate. We had such a good time that it could only go down from there. People had put so much into the scene—seven days a week, it was really hyped. And now the new generation is into other stuff—bars and restaurants and things. It's a bit more laidback now.
Do you play often in the city?
I'm playing here as much as I am in any other city really. No more than two or three times per year. I don't want to overexpose myself. But there are a few really cool clubs like Club Barzilay and Dada. Those are the two main clubs at the moment that book international DJs quite regularly.
I was intrigued in reading our bio that you list jazz as a big influence, because I can't say that I've heard it come out much in your music so far.
If you listen to my next release, I think you'll be surprised because it's very jazzy-influenced. People used to hear more techno and straight stuff from me, and this next release will be totally piano-oriented jazz with rimshots and hi-hats and all that. I was never really a big original jazz fan, but I was always into jazzy house and techno, when it would influence dance music.
Were there any producers in particular that you were listening to?
Joe Claussell, for sure. He was one of my first influences when I was first getting into house music in the '90s. He was doing amazing stuff back then.
You used to work at a record store when you were younger, right? That must have been a good learning experience.
I used to when I was 18. I used to run a local store in Tel Aviv, but it wasn't for long because I had to go to the army. It was a good experience, though. I was quite young, so it helped me quite a bit back then.
How long is the required service in Israel? Is it only one year?
It was three years actually, but I just sat in an office all day. Nothing special. It was like a regular job—from 8 to 5. It wasn't a hard experience or anything like that—just something that you had to do.
Did you meet other DJ/producers around this time like Gel [Abril], Itamar [Sagi] and Guy [Gerber]?
That was a bit later. Gel Abril, for example, is one of my best friends. He's one of the biggest local DJs in Israel. So it was obvious that I would eventually get connected with him eventually. Guy and Itamar, on the other hand, I would run into here and there in clubs, so we were always just around.
Are there any plans for further collaborations?
I actually talked to Guy a few days ago about it and I think we may end up doing a follow-up to "Sea of Sand." With Itamar and Gel, though, we work almost daily. I'm sure that you're even aware, but I'm the one that produces Gel Abril's music. He's a DJ, but I'm producing the music.
How does it work with you and Gel in the studio? Does he sit next to and guide you in what he wants?
It's always just us both in the studio trying to work out something that we both like and feel is the right thing. He's not very involved in the technical stuff, more just the general ideas.
So you're playing the keyboards and he'll say, "I don't like that, do more of this?"
Not exactly. We share the musical idea 50/50. Actually Gel Abril is more of a project. His real name is Roy Brizman, so it's more like any kind of collaboration, but he's the face.
I read a few years ago that you consider yourself a DJ first, a producer second.
No, it's definitely the same. I will always be a DJ, then a producer. I'm producing music just to have a chance to play it out.
That's interesting, because your first album was very much stuff that you couldn't necessarily play in the club.
True. It's all electronica, loads of downtempo. Yeah, that was just for the experience—it was so different from what I'm usually doing. And I was happy that I did it. It opened my mind to different stuff.
Is there more to come in that vein?
I'm thinking seriously about doing something this year, probably an album. And maybe a mix CD for the next year. But if I end up doing an album, it will definitely be different than the first one. It will be more influenced from stuff like jazz and disco maybe, rather than straight techno. Maybe even some Detroit stuff as well.
Is there an artist or style that you find yourself influenced by that a listener might not be able to hear immediately in your music?
Wow, that's a hard question. Even though you can't really recognize it, I'm really influenced by the old-school Detroit stuff. The late '80s Derrick May material, Rhythim Is Rhythim. My first musical experience was in that area and it's really influenced me to this day.
So I wanted to ask you about the Aril Brikha situation. Obviously you said that it's mere coincidence that the tracks sound so similar. When you were producing it, did you feel like it was sounding a lot like his track? Or did you not even notice until he posted that MySpace message about it.
Personally, I don't feel that it's so similar. I don't think it's even that similar at all. It's already very basic, and it's not something that he invented. If you saw the reaction, Samuel Session wrote to Aril saying that, "When you released that track, we all were saying back then that you were copying Ian Pooley." Because he was using the same chords as him.
I understand the whole picture, but at the end of the day everything sounds like something else in a way. The drums are totally different. Everything is totally different, it's just the key. You can hear a million other tracks with a simple key like that.
It wasn't really something that needed to be done in that way. He acted quite badly by going straight away for the publicity, and not coming to me and asking me if I could prove it. I could have done that in a second, shown him all the original parts. So, that was quite a funny situation.
Yeah. [laughs] That's another thing. It wasn't a preset in that I used it straight from the machine. If you look closely [at my response], I said that I tweaked the preset. It had been totally changed.
At the end of the day, every sound on every keyboard is a preset. You get every sound from the machine—that machine has been preset to create those sounds in some way. So, I took the basic sound from the machine and then I tweaked it to create a different thing. I would never just take a preset sound, it would be recognized in a second. It would be stupid.
Later on in the year there was a controversy about another record that you released—the "State of No One" remix package. Apparently something was released to digital shops that shouldn't have been?
Yeah. What actually happened was, we were supposed to do one mix of my own and one mix by someone else on the release. We sent it out to a couple of people to remix, but we couldn't quite find the right person, so I decided to do two mixes by myself. One dub, one original.
I sent them the two mixes, but something got happened where one of the mixes that didn't make it was sent along with my own and was posted on Beatport. It had the right tracklisting—both mixes were under my name—but not the right tracks. It was sitting up there for only a few days, but I guess when someone downloaded it and put it up on torrent sites or whatever, the wrong track with my name on it spread out to the world. So a lot of people have this mix with my name on it that I didn't make. Which I'm really pissed about. Especially after the other thing had just happened, you know?
If you buy the vinyl, though—which we released first—there wasn't any problem with it. It was just digitally that we had the issue.
What's coming up with Be As One?
I'm going to be going back to my roots a little bit and release some more Detroit-influenced records. We'll be putting out something by Benny Rodrigues, a Dutch producer, who has done some that is very Chicago house/tech house. Then we'll have a Gel Abril release, and then a Kenny Larkin release, as well as something from Roberto Bosco, which has a Steve Rachmad mix.
DJ photo credit: Elena Ionovska