Monument is happy to speak with Elad Magdasi, an Israeli DJ based in Berlin. He made quite a reputation in the electronic scene of Berlin with his energetic and ravy sets, and has already played in several venues and festivals such as Berghain, ://about blank and the former Griessmühle. He is also a producer and runs his own label Front Left Records, where he already collaborated with heavyweights such as Matrixxmann, Hector Oaks and Sinfol.
Hello Elad, thank you for your time to speak with us! Let’s start with the beginning: You were born and raised in Israel in a city called Rishon Lezion and then you moved to Tel Aviv. When and how did you get in touch with electronic music?
I was first exposed to electronic music when I was about 16 years old. It was a new-york house compilation made by an Israeli DJ called Offer Nissim. I never heard stuff like that before and I was playing it on repeat. I also got to know the Israeli loveparade and the straight/gay Tel Aviv club scene which introduced me to lots of 4/4 beats.
It was later on (around the age of 19) when I found out about deep house, and much later on (around age of 25) when I found out about techno.
How do you get inspired? Do you have any musical role models?
I am constantly inspired by tracks that I find, both old and new. Being exposed to new sounds and creations always makes me realize I don’t know anything about music, opening my mind into trying various creative directions. My main inspiration, however, comes from dancing to techno in loud volumes, observing other DJs’ sets and taking that experience home. I’ve often created tracks inspired by a “vibe of a set”, or at least the way I perceived it, which could be totally different from how it actually sounded.
Israel and especially Tel Aviv have a very living and broad culture. How would you describe the dance culture in a few words and what makes it so special?
The clubs and promoters in Israel are very music-oriented. They thrive on doing it for the people and for the vibe, bringing artists to Israel, which is a tiny country on the globe. There are no big festivals in Israel so to hear a big DJ name is something to appreciate. Combine that with the loving vibe of Tel Aviv and you get an amazing club culture.
In 2013 you moved to Berlin. What were the reasons to move to Europe and especially to Berlin?
I’ve visited Berlin a few times in my life before and always felt a special connection to the mood of the city, regardless of the nightlife (which is of course a big bonus). I came here for a “test month” to check if I’m able to keep my work process running. When I realized it works, I decided to move in permanently.
I don’t mind the cold in the winter, I didn’t mind learning a new language and starting from almost zero; it was liberating for me!
After you moved to Berlin you started your label Front Left Records. In your description on Facebook, it says it’s “Music from a very special corner”. How did you come up with the idea to start an own label and what were the biggest challenges at the beginning?
When I got to know the Berlin club scene, I found out that most of my friends danced in the front left corner of the club. We always met front left, spent most of the time there and got to know lots of new people, just from being physically in that spot.
Hearing one of my unreleased tracks on a big soundsystem, played by a DJ I really admire, pushed me to release my music. I was sending demos for a bit, but I quickly realized that the only way to make things happen was to do it myself. Big labels didn’t seem to look for unknown artists and I was getting frustrated with trying to win an impossible battle. Luckily, I got to know Freddy K who introduced me to the world of vinyl production. He taught me the process, and at the end of it I released FLR01, my debut EP.
Matrixxman, Kyle Geiger, Sinfol, Hector Oaks – the list of the involved artists is pretty impressive. How do you find producers and who would you like to work with for a future production?
I got to know all those artists on the dance floor. We shared lots of fun & funny moments and developed a great connection. Sharing a “moment on the dance floor dancing to an amazing track” is something truly unique, maybe even better than sex.
We send each other tunes back and forth, so it’s great to be involved in the musical process of one another. Then, if something that fits comes up, we can talk about making something happen.
One of your records is with your husband Mathias Weber. It must be very special to work with someone you truly love. How was the collaboration with him and are there differences between working with your husband and other producers?
It is simply amazing to be able to make music with Mathias. He has such a great musical taste (we mostly seem to like each other’s choices which is something I don’t have with anybody else) and we’ve had incredible moments linked to music in our lives, so it’s very natural to produce together as well.
The production process is very fun & easy, we are both light minded and very quick to get ideas out and/or eliminate ideas. We don’t take each other too seriously so a track can literally start like “hmm do you have an idea for a tune?” and he’ll go like “tutu da daaaaa” and then we’ll translate that together into a midi sequence.
One of my favorite tracks of yours is “Two Floors” on Anagram. Listening to your tracks it seems like they all have a ravy and powerful energy with uplifting and emotional elements. Did you find your sound at the beginning of your career or did it take a while until you found your own unique sound?
Do I have a unique sound? That’s awesome to hear! Honestly it was always something I was “fighting” with, in a way that I couldn’t put my finger on it. Do I have a signature sound? Do I need one? What is it? The only thing I can say I always do is “synths and hi-hats”
If I judge my own releases, I find very few tracks that have the same style. That’s why I can’t figure out what my sound is, but I like your wording of “ravy with powerful energy” a lot, so thank you!
My tip would be to just make more and more music, and I predict that your inner theme will just emerge and probably others will be hearing it more than yourself.
How does the work process in the studio look like and what are your favorite pieces of gear?
My studio is just my living room and my computer. I sit next to Mathias and it’s also where I work on my regular job (a video animator). I have some gear which I like, especially a custom made synth, the “FLR Synth” which I got as a gift from Quint. My main tools however are VSTs as I feel more quick using them and am able to switch ideas faster than when working on analogue gear.
When it comes to VSTs, I like Hive from u-he and SubBoomBass2 from Rob Papen!
Besides your own label, you also have produced for Anagram, Meat Records, and Key Vinyl. How did you get in contact with those labels and how was the collaboration?
A connection to a label is usually a face-to-face, human connection, especially when living in the same town. When there is chemistry and you enjoy each other’s company, a bond is formed so releasing music on each other’s labels makes sense. Specifically with Meat Records, we had to meat virtually (I love puns) and due to Covid my gig in Vienna was cancelled where we should have met in person. Gerald VDH is a great promoter and a kind person, I was supposed to play at his birthday party, which was also Gay Pride – hopefully in 2021!
Alessio aka Freddy K from Key Vinyl is someone I have known for a long time. We’ve had lots of fun moments together and I feel I can talk to him for hours. I was very excited to be on the first edition of KEY Rainbow, which presented a bit of a different side of my music. Jeroen from Anagram is also a long time friend. He lives in Amsterdam but visits Berlin when he can and of course I met him there while playing in AMS. He is very empathic and true to his emotions, which I love.
You are also a DJ and have had some memorable gigs at venues such as Berghain, ://about blank and Alphabet (Israel). What are the benefits of being a DJ?
There is nothing like the feedback you get from a crowd as a DJ, when you feel like your set is going well. Knowing you made those people happy, especially since I know how it feels to rave to a good set on the dancefloor, is very fulfilling. Playing my favorite tunes in loud volumes and being able to fill other people’s hearts while doing it, is a dream coming true.
Keep in mind that sometimes you might get the opposite sensation, feeling like every track you play fails (and sometimes that feeling is only in my head). It’s the give and take of the job, add to that the process that surrounds DJing which is no sleep, traveling and being alone for a long time. I am lucky that my husband joins me for every gig, and recently we started playing together back to back so it’s been an amazing experience.
How do you prepare for a gig?
I am constantly looking for new music, I have around 40 tabs always open in my browser, exploring artists and labels. Before a gig I usually collect all the new tunes that I found and mix them up with older tunes in a playlist. I like to set a direction for myself, having a list of tracks in an order that I imagine might work. It doesn’t mean I’ll play them in that order – but it’s a start. Then, when I’m actually playing, sometimes my prediction works, but often I would skip tunes or change the order completely, based on my feeling at the moment.
Are you preferring DJing or producing?
Definitely DJing. Being able to showcase all this music that exists in the world, and getting that direct personal feedback, spreading the love. My producer side gives me a lot of pleasure, I love to create! Being a producer and a DJ is a benefit, especially since I can create secret weapons/remixes/edits that only I can play. However, in the battle between producing and DJing, nothing beats a dancefloor, loud volume & the energy I get from the ravers.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the electronic scene suffers under massive restrictions. How does the virus affect you personally as a person and artist?
Both my musical career and my work as a video animator are in somewhat of a pause, as all the other workers in the event and night scene. Everybody whose main job was related to events has had to find alternative solutions. I miss dancing in a club a lot, it used to be a liberating activity for me and now I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I try to meet friends when possible and when the regulations allow, I love to cook and watch TV shows with my husband, so on that front I am doing great!
Musically speaking, I am producing as much as possible when I’m in the mood and I am creating visuals for future uses. Compared to my regular schedule which can be very stressful work-wise, it’s been a very relaxing year, so I’m looking at the bright side of this situation.
Luckily there are some relaxations but nobody knows when the pandemic will end. The dance culture faces an uncertain future. But there are some voices and opinions who think that the pandemic will have some positive effects too. For example, the line ups will have fewer headliners and will be more focused on local artists. What do you think our future club culture will look like?
I can only speculate but no one really knows, maybe not even the promoters at this point. I can see how booking more local artists, especially in the beginning (when clubs are allowed to open) will be a better financial solution and a great way to support local acts. On the other hand, a lot of what drives the industry is hype and who knows what happens to hype when there are no parties to fuel it. Would there be a hard-reset? I’m not so sure. Agencies’ connection and deals will still take place and some will end up on top and some won’t. It’s a unique situation that has no precedent, it will be very interesting to watch it develop. It’s ok to accept that some things are out of my control so I’m gonna be patient and stay positive, happiness is the core of my personality. (Patience sadly isn’t)
Clubs fight for their recognition as cultural places. What must the governments do to save the electronic scene?
There is no doubt that clubs are culture and a necessity. The pandemic hit a lot of businesses but the worst shock is for the mass events business. While some businesses were allowed to open, the clubs stayed mostly closed or at a very limited capacity. They will also be the last ones to be opened, so I really hope governments will release safety funds to support those organizations, as well as finding new solutions to keep events happening while maintaining safety measures. Any help is welcome, culture must not die!
Is techno political for you? Are you also politically active?
Music is art and art can definitely be political. I think any platform can and should be used to promote important subjects in our society, whether it’s political or not. I try to use my output to promote diversity and equality, especially coming from the LGBTQI+ community. It’s a message I try to keep out there in whatever I do. Of course there are lots of other important movements like Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights & the list goes on. I have seen all those important movements promoted by techno artists over the last years, the initiative is important and inspiring in my opinion. I am definitely on the left side of the spectrum and I would happily speak up for human rights, and against discrimination, nazis, Trump or any other authoritarian leader.
What are your projects at the moment and what can we expect from you in the future?
Right now I am working on some remixes and originals for a few VA releases, so lots of production going around. I am also planning a digital VA on Front Left with lots of fun artists, as well as a solo 12’’ with Mathias Weber for mid-2021 or so.
Can you finish this interview by sharing your five favorite tracks at the moment?
With pleasure! (ended up with 6 oops) I love sharing track titles, thank you very much for having me and I hope we can dance soon together!
- Thomas Krome – Dead DJs Don’t Dance Doom Disco
- Rectør – Farewell
- MRD – Matter Of Time (VAMOS Mix)
- VuuDuu – Can’t Stop My Head
- Narciss – Fuel To The Fire
- CJ Bolland – Timber