Here at Hg2 we are getting seriously excited about the launch of our new Tel Aviv City Guide – so much so that we thought we’d catch up with someone who’s right at the heart of the incredibly vibrant nightlife in Israel’s party capital.
Meet DJ Ari Frank, originally from Chicago, now living in Tel Aviv where his own classic brand of House music is going down a storm. He’s collaborated with the likes of legendary Rick Wade, has opened for turntable wizard DJ Koze and he’s released vinyls with Klectik Records, Tanzbar, Snubb, and Legotek.
We sat down with Ari for the scoop on Tel Aviv’s music scene and his DJing career so far.
So, how was it that you got started DJing?
I actually grew up listening to old school hip hop in the early 90s. Grandmaster Flash – believe it or not – had a big influence on my early musical direction. When I first heard his records my eyebrows jumped from above my eyes and I knew I was hearing something really innovative and groovy. His tunes were influenced by disco with an added funky driving hook, very similar to 4/4 House music which was unknown to me at the time. When I started looking into it I discovered that he was first and foremost a DJ – he’d been practicing this skill since he was a teenager and had pioneered a few key scratching techniques. So that’s how I first heard of the art and method of DJing vinyls.
It was a culture that fascinated me for a long time but I always stayed on the outside. I then discovered French “Filter” House music while living in France in the late 90s. I was going out to clubs at the age of 16 and it was then that I was exposed to producers such as Cassius, Cerrone, Daft Punk and Modjo, among many others. Eventually, when I moved back to Chicago I was exposed to a new world of underground parties and afterhours. That’s where I found the perfect combination of DJs using vinyl and playing very tasty electronic music. It was at the time where minimal and techno dominated the rave scene and I started immersing myself in this new world of music. A few years later I bought my first pair of Technics.
We hear you’re part of Legotek, could you tell us a little about what this is?
Legotek is a collective of German – Israeli DJs and producers. They showcase performers from different backgrounds and different sounds and are constantly thriving to explore new borders. I personally hooked up with them a year and a half ago while visiting. I listened to a few of their past releases and really appreciated what they were doing. They helped me establish myself in a new scene and introduced me to the right people. I then put out a vinyl release on Legotek’s label with a remix by legendary Deep House gangster, Rick Wade. So things are going good – I also have a digital release on Legotek coming out in the next month or so, keep an eye out for that.
You’re originally from Chicago, so what made you move to Tel Aviv? How do you compare your influences from each city?
When I was in Chicago I was throwing underground parties and performing in clubs such as Smartbar on a regular basis. I was actually putting my name out there quite often and even had the opportunity to play in Detroit a few times alongside artists such as Delano Smith. Things were going really well. I built my home studio and produced my first EP at that time. I had a solid crew of close friends and I can’t think of a dull moment with them. The decision to leave wasn’t easy but something was missing. The freezing winters started getting to me, I became disillusioned with some of the modern American values and wanted to move closer to Europe. I had lived in France for 12 years and wasn’t interested in going back, I tried living in Berlin for a while but the climate reminded me of Chicago, so I moved to Tel Aviv 8 months ago and have been loving it ever since.
In terms of influence, I think what’s very interesting is that while I was exposed to timeless Detroit Deep House and Chicago House in Chicago, the places I played at and the audience I performed for seemed to be more interested in listening to this new electro pop trend pushed by labels such as Hot Natured. This conflicting dynamic confused me and could be heard in my early mixes. I loved the original timeless tunes but the new overcompressed fat bassline stuff was constantly been thrown at us and, in a way, I think many of us local DJs felt pressured to play it.
DJ Ari Frank’s Exclusive Hg2 Tel Aviv Playlist
In contrast, Tel Aviv is the exact opposite, many local DJs seem to play the trendy stuff but the crowds really react and show their love for the old school Chicago or Detroit house DJs. It’s similar to Berlin on much smaller scale. It made me really happy and with time I became more comfortable pulling out the classics. I still have to adapt myself to this relatively small cannibalistic scene though – the pay for a local DJ’s performance is something like $90 per performance! Clubs clearly abuse local artists and take advantage of their passion and dedication without shame. It’s really disgusting. I think there’s a lot of education to be done about that – with the local crowd as well as in terms of supporting your opening/closing acts. Supporting the people that bring out-of-town performers by paying for admittance is also important. This is something not so impossible to achieve in my opinion.
What are your favourite clubs to play in Tel Aviv? Where do you go to chill out before or after a gig?
That’s an easy question. Tel Aviv has many big clubs but most play top 40 commercial radio edits on repeat. There are only a handful of clubs that truly cater to true House music fans. My personal favorites are the following: Deli for its intimate sweaty vibe, Bootleg for the fun, late, after-hour atmosphere that the owners instill in the place, and The Block for its sheer size and top of the line sound system.
What are some of your favorite cities that you’ve played in or traveled to?
I played mostly in the Midwest of the US, cities like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis. I once played in San Francisco in a place that used to be a bordello from the early 1900’s. The owner had Liberace’s Cadillac parked on a carpet on the patio! It was quite a trip to say the least… But my favorite city that I’ve performed in by far is Chicago. I think playing at the New Years Eve Party with Delano Smith, Norm Talley, Big Bully and Eric Johnston was one for the books. Also, just walking on the streets where the originators of House music found their inspiration and playing for a crowd that indulges in the story you’re trying to tell – there’s nothing like it.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I’ve had a few major stepping stones in my still-young career. I think the first was opening for DJ Koze at Smartbar a few years back. He’s a producer I truly admire and a phenomenal DJ. The next one was to close the night for Art Department. I destroyed the club and received some touching recognition from the crowd and Jonny and Kenny. The next turning point for me was releasing my first EP in collaboration with my good buddy Max Jacobson which also included a remix by Rick Wade. And the latest highlight was releasing my very first vinyl which came out on Legotek.
Have you got anything exciting coming up on the horizon? What sort of events should be on our radar in Tel Aviv?
Legotek is hosting an event with Jonny Cruz on the 25th of October at Deli in Tel Aviv and I’ll be opening for him. Jonny is a super fun DJ who’s affiliated with world famous labels such as Cocoon, Poker Flat and My Favorite Robot Records. He’s gonna throw down and get the crowd riled up – I can’t wait for it.
Otherwise, I’ve just put out another EP with Max Jacobson on Snubb Records called Grand Ave. and it’s been getting some really strong feedback. I also released a new vinyl with Chicago label Klectik Records and have a few remix projects and digital releases due anytime now. And, as usual, I’m continuously working on completing more tunes while the inspiration is still flowing.
Lastly, I run a website called SordidCulture.com that features a monthly Podcast from underground artists around the world. This month we got our hands on a rare recording of Norm Talley’s from the late 80s and next month we are showcasing Pawas. I shamelessly encourage your readers to give it a listen.
Thank you for having me, I’m truly flattered.
So what do you think? Is Ari right about the best clubs to visit in Tel Aviv? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!