The inspiration comes from within
By Markus Thiel
Born in Israel and now living in Barcelona, DJ, producer and entrepreneur Shlomi Aber has already created internationally successful monuments of tech-house with his tracks "Sea Of Sand", "Tel Aviv Garden" or "Groove Mechanism". When he's not in the studio, he can be found DJing at established clubs and festivals around the world or taking care of his ever-growing label, Be As One Imprint. We talked to Shlomi about his music and production techniques.
How did you end up in the music business?
Music is the only thing I ever learned. Long before I got my first turntables at just under twelve years old, I already felt connected to music. And I've never actually done anything else in my life so far — and I'm almost forty now.
But where did your love for music come from?
Actually, through my sister. I grew up in Israel, and Tel Aviv was amazing in the nineties — better than Ibiza. It wasn't unusual to have Dave Clarke and Carl Cox DJing in two different clubs on the same night while Jeff Mills was playing on the beach. My big sister went to clubs a lot on weekends. She always told me afterwards who had played what and where. I sat there as a fascinated twelve-year-old and listened to her club night stories as if they were fairy tales. She gave me the music bug to such an extent that it hasn't let go of me since.
So that's what sparked your interest. Which style excited you the most? Was it more House or techno?
At that time, the boundaries in the scene weren't so clear. People just wanted to have a good time, and styles were mixing a lot. I found myself caught somewhere between techno and House.
When did you start making music yourself?
I come from a pretty small town on the Israeli border with a population of just under eighty thousand, a pretty laid-back coastal town. Tel Aviv was just under 100 kilometers away - so not exactly around the corner. I started getting on at my parents to buy me some equipment at some point. I ended up organizing parties to earn some extra money. Eventually, my father helped me with a loan to buy my first turntables and a mixer. But the next problem was getting hold of records because the nearest store was miles away, and the only option was to do a bit of online shopping. Finally, a music dealer told me that I should produce my music. That's how Cubase eventually became my working tool and has remained so today.
How did you finally find your trademark style?
I don't think you can plan something like your style. It's more determined by how our brain translates our feelings into sounds and structures. A track builds up piece by piece, layer by layer — I've never really had any intention in the last 25 years. It's a bit like asking a painter why he painted this or that in a certain way; at the end of the day, I don't think there's anything you can influence as an artist.
I still found your style very specific, though, or instead it sounds as if you invest a lot of time in creating distinctly individual sound structures.
I don't think I'm one of those musicians who go into the studio and quickly finish a track. I only actually release tracks that I feel have an extraordinary and individual sound unique to them. I also try not to use machines and instruments that are already excessively used by others.
Do you have a special approach to processing and defining sounds?
It all depends. I think it's a mixture of trial and error and amazement. When you're playing with an instrument, it can either take ten minutes or the whole day to finally get that one sound that you're happy with. With my music, it's essential to me that the result doesn't remind me of other productions. How long it takes to get there depends on many factors. For example, when I think about my two most successful tracks, in retrospect, they were the ones I ended up having to spend a day barely on because I got the right sound down pretty quickly. It took several weeks until we finished a few hundred other tracks. I don't think there are any rules for processes like that. They just happen — and, of course, sometimes you feel like banging your head against the wall because something just doesn't work out.
What tools do you use most often during your productions?
Oh, I have a lot of toys. I use Cubase for recording and arranging, and I do the sound-shaping with outboard elements from my hardware rack. I use a chain of about five to six devices for that — including a Manley EQ and a Neve preamp. Whenever I record something with the computer, the signal goes through the entire chain. It doesn't matter where the original sound comes from. It can even just be an ordinary sample. By processing with this signal chain, I create my actual signature sound, so to say. It also means that I record all my tracks directly in the audio format before I start cutting and arranging the track. In that sense, there may not be a specific tool but an individual chain which shapes my sound.
That's a very unique approach ...
... and the reason why I can't perform my tracks live. Many of my colleagues record whole tracks live — but, for me, I need the freedom to work on a track, track by track — sometimes in detail up to twenty times until I am satisfied with it.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I don't know if it's inevitable things or situations that inspire me. I feel like inspiration has kind of manifested itself in me over the last 28 years. It's a resource that I can always access when I need it. It has a lot to do with my mood as well — I draw very little inspiration from external things. Of course, it always depends on the situation — but that's life. Generally speaking, I think I look more to my inner self and what's trying to get out of there.