Aurora Mitchell explains how Mor Elian moved through cities and sounds to become one of the scene's most promising new names.
"When you get to 10,11, the birthdays start and you don't get a clown or a magician. It becomes dance parties and they bring a DJ." Elian decided she would be the first one to book a DJ for her birthday party, and an older relative linked her with his DJ friend. When anyone had a dance party, she would stand next to the person playing music, more interested in what was going on with them than the party itself.
Today, Elian is a globally touring DJ. She's appeared on labels run by Delta Funktionen and La-4a, and started up her own label, Fever AM. She promotes the LA-based party Into The Woods. She also runs a jewellery line, MYRRH Jewellery. As we sit across from each other in a Berlin café, not too far from her studio, on a beautiful spring day, she tells me about her journey to this point.
"Nothing came easy for me," she says. Her mother had to build from zero when Elian was young. Elian started working at 15 and has never stopped. Her jobs included a stint at a skate shop, which allowed her to meet people from the local music community in Tel Aviv who would come in and put up flyers for shows. It also helped to fund her early obsession with music, buying records at a local record store.
"I'm grateful for that time because I was given a lot of independence," she says. "I still had a very loving, responsible mother, but she was like, 'I'm in this situation so we have to become more equal—you have to work.' I knew I would never do anything to hurt or disappoint her so I finished high school and got my certificate."
Still, it would have been hard to move on to college in Israel. "The professional private schools for art and design are pricey in Israel and I didn't have financial support. Getting admitted to college in the US is easier, I was able to get lots of scholarships and financial aid." Knowing this, and after going through the complex and difficult process of opting out of army service when she was a teenager, Elian realised that she had to move elsewhere. She went to Los Angeles to live with her sister, who was already based in the city. It was during this period that DJing and her jewellery line started to take off.
"From America, I had a better chance of starting from zero than I did in Israel," she says. In LA, she finished school and started throwing the Into The Woods parties with Jimmy Maheras. They booked DJs like Noncompliant, K-Hand, DJ Minx and Andrés, artists that might not already be getting gigs in LA. "There was no agenda at the forefront," she says. "It was like, I want to book all these DJs and a lot of them happened to be women and people of colour."
It took Elian a while to find her house and techno people in LA, as well as good friends. She says it's perhaps due to the way the city is structured that her friendships didn't mature. The difficulty to maintain connections is something people in wide reaching cities can relate to. But "there were people who just felt like family. When that happens, the whole place changes. Community is really important! I still feel really connected to them."
"I threw some nights in LA, no one came," she continues. But it got better. Opportunities started coming in for Elian to DJ. "A crowd started forming and we got new fresh faces and kids. We had this golden era, I was talking to [local promoter and DJ] Cooper Saver about it, all of a sudden people were throwing underground parties in LA." With LA clubs facing a closing time of 2 AM, and many events getting shut down by authorities, Berlin, where Elian went next, provided a huge contrast.