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Feature: Sahar Z [Interview]

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A true renaissance artist with an extraordinary history in the global dance music scene, DJ Sahar Zangilevich has continued to make tidal waves of success through his Sahar Z soubriquet. A multi-award winning DJ with a global touring schedule and a production portfolio that places him at the summit of the underground dance scene, Sahar Z, is an artist whose reputation continues to grow at an exponential rate.

A headline DJ with magnetic attraction, Sahar Z’s electric performances behind the decks have seen him share the booth with a host of leading global names, from Solomun and Tale of Us to John Digweed, Guy Gerber and M.A.N.D.Y. Headlining sold out gigs alongside Hernan Cattaneo, Patrice Bäumel, Agoria and Red Axes, Sahar’s ability to craft his sound to suit any venue or crowd as he voyages through and expertly fashioned sets, is founded upon an ability to read the imperceptible shifts in crowd reactions. Generating a party atmosphere like no other, he blends rhythm and melody in an alchemy of aural gold.

Sahar’s production career sees him sit at the underground dance fraternity’s top table with increasing frequency through work that shimmers and gleams in increasing intensity. With an unwavering passion and intensity integral to his to his musicals soul, Sahar Z’s career continues to burn incandescent at each and every stage. Now on the cusp of a new EP for Guy J’s Lost & Found, we catch up with Sahar in this exclusive interview. Enjoy!

Hi Sahar, thanks for sitting with us today! Tell us where in the world you are and what your plans for the week are?

Hello! I hope I found you well 🙂

Fortunately for me, this crisis caught me at home in Israel. I spend a lot of time with my family, something that you’re missing out on when you’re traveling every weekend so that’s been really nice. In my weekly plans I find plenty of time to sit in the studio now and open all kinds of unfinished projects from months and even years past, and I’m trying to do a LIVE set once a week because I miss it most – the connection with the audience through the music.

Tell us about growing up and living in Israel, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

I grew up listening to Pink Ployd, The Doors, Led Zepplin, Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk, Art of Noise, Run Dmc, Depeche Mode, New Order and of course some Israeli rock bands and some oriental music.

Until 1995 the music that was popular in clubs in Israel was a mix of up-to-date pop songs along with new wave music from the 1980s and disco from the 1970s. At the nature parties and festivals the music that dominated was psychedelic trance.

In 1996, when I was discharged from the military service I become the resident DJ at the most popular Club in Israel “HAOMAN 17” and I started traveling to cities that were the focus of pilgrimage for every house DJ Amsterdam, London & NYC in search of new music to shape the sound I wanted for my audience – different styles of electronic music that were new for me and for them. I’m sure everything I’ve listened has played a part in my musical taste now and the music I make.

The industry and how fans discover new music has changed dramatically in the last 10 years or so. How do you discover new music nowadays?

I use the usual sources such as BeatPort, promos and colleagues but I found that Youtube can open your mind to things you haven’t discovered and give you some new inspiration and a faster way to find similar things you just liked – I LOVE IT!

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? You’ve obviously lost gigs because of it and the impact it’s having on travelling DJs is hugely significant. You’ve done a mix for Lost & Found’s streaming series, tell us a bit about that, is this typical of what we might hear from you in a club setting?

I debated long before the broadcast about what to play. People have been in isolation in their homes for a long time. Will they want to hear more easy listening music with optimistic vibes that they enjoy while they work from home? Spending time with their kids? Or because of the situation do they want to dance and clear their heads, feeling like they are in the club for a few hours? Do they want me to bang? At the end I decided to do something that will combine them both but with more melodic and good vibes throughout.

Once nightlife eventually resumes what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

Hopefully not much, I tend to believe that everything will return to being as it was. I hope that in the new world created by this global crisis, people will be responsible enough to care more about hygiene and certainly not attend public events if they do not feel well.

You’re widely regarded as one of the more creative DJs on the circuit. A lot of this comes down to your unique track selection and impeccable programming skills. How much time is spent on finding those unique selections and do you think the art of DJing has been lost to an extent?

The current electronic music market is flooded with lesser quality music, moreso than it has been in the past. Today the ability to create music is accessible for everyone because of the new technology rise. In this digital age to open a record label doesn’t require a large financial investment any more, you can release tracks with costs that are minimal. Technology today allows anyone to be able to mix, take these two things ands put them together, that’s the reason for that amount of non-quality Dj’s and non-quality music flooding the market. But there are still super amazing Dj’s & producers out there old and new ones, one just needs to really dig deep beneath it all to find the quality ones.

You have a new EP out on Lost & Found this week. Tell us a bit about the release, how you approached writing the ‘Mixed Feelings’ track and the production process behind it.

The track was born out of one of those magic studio sessions you sometimes have. The name reflects my mood at the time, I had mixed feelings about something in my personal life and that was my way of expressing them not in words. I’m quite an introverted person, much given to introspection. So getting through the day wasn’t always easy. I strongly associated music with that ability to provide a space, an opportunity for respite from every day reality.

It’s a unique piece of music, where would this fit into your own DJ sets? Most would assume as an intro track, is that the case?

Yes I see it as a intro track if you want to clear the vibe and energy from the set just played by the DJ before you – or as the one before your final track in a long set. 11 minutes of atmospheric pads and soft melodies without a kick but with a groovy bassline that will still make you move make.

How much road testing is done before you’re ready to say a track is finished? And how much does crowd reaction influence whether or not a particular track gets shopped around or released?

I don’t usually do tests after I finish a new track, maybe just sound tests. I’m glad I have the ability to know beforehand what the audience reaction will be and I feel complete with the final result in the studio. On very few occasions I went back to change something in a track following an audience reaction.

Lost & Found is obviously a label close to your heart, what does it mean to you to continue to release there?

This is something I was present in the formation from day one and I am happy to continue to take part in the development and growth of the label today.

How important is it for you to maintain relationships with labels that were instrumental in getting you to where you are today?

It is very important for me to maintain a good and fruitful relationship with the labels that have given me a stage in the past if our musical vision and taste are still the same.

Some of your past productions have a unique crossover appeal. How much of an influence does music outside of the electronic spectrum have on you?

A lot! In electronic club & dance music I’ve heard mostly everything, every chord, every beat. That’s why I’m always looking for new things that aren’t in the spectrum of electronic music to get new ideas from.

Looking back over your discography, what release or track holds the best memories for you and is there a correlation between that track and how successful you are today?

All of them hold great memories from different times in my life and for sure there is a correlation between them and my success, today if you want to play worldwide you have to make music that touchs the audience in a way that makes them want to hear more from you. One of the best memories I will never forget was to see the videos from MOONPARK in BA, Argentina when Hernan played “Lalitha”, 12000 people hearing this for the first time ever and just going crazyyyy.

What’s a piece of gear that always gets used when you’re writing a track?

I like to turn on everything in my studio when i’m in mood of creation. For melodies, pads, chords & basslines I use the Roland Juno6, Nordlead4, Deepmind12, Model D, Virus and more, and for the creation of groove elements I use Maschine by NI.

I think for a lot of artists music allows you to write a sketch of your own personal universe in a way; your travels, life experiences etc. Is this something which is true for yourself? Where does inspiration come from?

Yes it is, my inspiration can come from my travels to different places such as countries, cities and nature; from my encounters with other cultures, people, movies, books and of course things I experience in my daily life.

When working on music is the dance floor always something that’s taken into consideration?

Not for me!

Is there a movie you would have loved to have produced the soundtrack for? And if so why?

“The Big Blue” (1988), I remember seeing this film as a teenager, the story of friendship and sporting rivalry between two leading contemporary champion free divers in the 20th century. It was one of the most stunningly beautiful films ever made, features gorgeous underwater photography and spectacular location shooting. It is the emotional intensity of the film experience and mystical themes of the story that made it so special for me.

What does the remainder of 2020 hold for Sahar Z? Anything you can share with us?

I can share my wish to get back on the road again, hoping the world will return to normal – keep safe all 🙂

‘Mixed Feelings / Zikaron’ is out now on Lost & Found, you can purchase the release here: https://bit.ly/3d5HQqD

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