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Feature: Stereo Underground [Interview]

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Stereo Underground was born in Haifa, in the North of Israel, the artist otherwise known as Yariv began his musical life as a drummer, spending his younger years circulating in the city’s hard rock scene. He discovered electronic music as a teenager when he moved to Tel Aviv, and soon began working at a record shop while spending his nights DJing. His popularity rapidly grew, and production soon followed. His output as Stereo Underground began 2009, and in his debut year he received high praise from Mixmag and heavy DJ support for his hypnotic, outer space sounds. in the following years he released countless Beatport chart hits via Guy J’s Lost & Found Records and Hernan Cattaneo’s Sudbeat Music. In 2013 he became one of the owners of Tel Aviv’s biggest club “The Cat & Dog”, sharing the dj booth with the best international artists & dj’s. Yariv is also the co-founder of BPM College which is the leading music & production school in his country. May of 2019 marked the release of his debut album “The Art of Silence” on Balance Music. 2020 has seen Yariv return to Lost & Found with the well received ‘Zooz’ EP. Also calling DJ Zombi’s Beat Boutique a comfortable home Stereo Underground now embarks on his second EP release of the year ‘Reset’. We had a chance to catch up with the Israeli artist for an exclusive interview just prior to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Yariv, thanks for joining us, how are you today and what are you up to? What are your plans for the week?

Thanks for having me, I’m doing great, ran away from the lockdown in Israel, took my family to Greece. My plans this week are to enjoy the most amazing beaches & Greek food.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a DJ and producer?

I think that music is like a cat, you don’t choose it, it chooses you. I was born in Haifa, a beautiful city in the north of Israel. I grew up in a house full of music & art, my father was listening to classic music on vinyl, my mother to French chansons, my brother was a guitar player, listening to heavy metal & my sister played the piano & listened to 80’s New wave & synth pop. When I was six years old I started to play my sisters piano, I got my first drum set when I was 10, when I was 13 I already had a heavy metal band and around the same time my brother gave me the first Prodigy album on a TDK Cassette (Got a tattoo on my shoulder of that cassette). Since that moment I just fell in love with electronic beats. I started to DJ when I was 16, it was all vinyl at the beginning, then I moved to Cdj’s but never moved to a computer, I’m old school. Now I’m married (sorry girls), plus one & just celebrated my 40th bday!

Are you musically trained? And do you think it’s necessary for success in writing electronic music?

I’m an autodidact person, I had a teacher for drums for 3 years, also learned musical theory from him & the rest I learned all by myself. Learning Is an endless journey, the day you think you know it all is the end of your career. Electronic music is very wide, I think there’s lot’s of genres that most of the tracks are one chord, but the more knowledge you have, the more advantage you’ve got, it’s a set of tools, but the most important tool of all is your imagination.

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

Israel is in the middle east, so we have so many influences here, from all of our Arabic neighbors to Russians who came during the 90’s & Ethiopians, I think my music is a mixture of all of the above. We also had a few wars, suicide bombers & missiles every now & then so it’s a pretty fucked up energy, but there’s always some action. I guess my fat nasty baselines are influenced by that last part.

Name five tracks that were most important in your musical development and why are these pieces so significant for you.

There’s so many but I’ll try…

Prodigy – Jericho
Those jungle beats, the horns, vocal samples & stabbing lead, it’s everything you want in a dance floor banger.

The future sound of London – Papua new Guinea
An endless soundscapes, just close your eyes & dive into the sounds, I love music that makes you imagine you are in a different planet.

Underworld – Born Slippy
This is what I call an anthem, it’s super simple yet so deep, I heard that track when I was 16 at the love parade in Tel Aviv, the shivers.

Eric Satie – Gymnopedie No.1
I love classic music, especially French composers such as Satie & Debussy. Those few piano chords send me to a trip in amazing forest full of green trees, birds & inner peace, that type of music that can change my energy in seconds & make my day better.

Matti Caspi – Brit Olam
This song can make me cry in seconds, it’s an Israeli love song, Originally was written just as text for Ehud Manor’s wife & the music was written to a famous Israeli cult movie by Matti Caspi, later on they Joined together for a music festival, add more musical parts & released it as a new song. Matti Caspi is the number one artist in Israel and a huge influence.

How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life, music production and overall inspiration to write new music?

I’m in quarantine way before it became fashionable. 4 years ago I moved from the rush life of a big city “Tel Aviv” to a country side. For me Covid-19 was one of the best times production wise, It was a reset to everything & a chance to see the world in slow motion. Let you understand what’s really important in life & hug it. I also spent lot’s of priceless time with my young baby & with my vegetables garden. Both of my EP’s on Lost&Found and Beat Boutique all written during the pandemic.

What’s something that you do now (regularly) that you didn’t before COVID-19?

Growing tomatoes & Cucumbers.

What is the current state of things in Israel now regarding the pandemic?

Things are quite shitty, lot’s of new infected people of all ages, we are in a middle of a 3rd wave with a long lockdown, the political situation between right & left wing is getting close to a civil war, there are riots every day, it’s a very dark time for our country, hope will have the power to change things soon.

You are one of the owners and founders of BPM College, a highly regarded music production school in Tel Aviv, tell us about that and how have you managed to continue the courses during the pandemic?

Yes, BPM was founded in 2003 by my business partner & childhood friend Idan Hana & myself. It is the biggest music school in Israel with more then 2000 students every year, the main college & head quarters is in TLV & we also have a small branch in Haifa & our online courses. BPM is an authorized training center for Ableton, Cubase, NI & FL studio & lately we launched our new one to one mentoring platform 121BPM with leading artists from all over the world. During the pandemic we teach a virtual classes with ZOOM & other platforms & also teach hybrid classes, half of the class from the college & the other half from home. It’s time to be more creative & to adapt fast to online learning which is great.

You have a new EP out this week on DJ Zombi’s Beat Boutique, tell us a bit about the release and please walk us through the production process on ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’.

Super happy with that EP, as I already mentioned all of the tracks were written during the pandemic. 2 of them were first written as a long intro to my latest Echos live set. ‘Reset’ was written about our current situation, I honestly feel the world & humanity needs a serious reset. The beginning is a more Biblical, kind of “Genesis”, the day after the reset.

And then “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, it seems to me that we take this world & life for granted, I think most of the people should start to think why the hell they were born in this planet and what is their part of this great universe. The name was taken from a famous movie by Philip Kaufman originally from a novel by the Czech writer – Milan Kundera. The production of this track started with Soundscape & Atmosphere, I love to create my boundaries as a canvas to my track. I use lot’s of chains of Reverbs & multi-tap delays to achieve that depth. After that I build a drum groove, my rule is to work hard on the groove of the drums til my feet start to bounce in the studio. I use step filter on different loops of percussion and I do lot’s of sound design to my drums to make them unique. Then there’s the melody, first of all I wrote the main melody on my org Polysix vst, after that I added 3 different layers of the same melody with different arpeggios & colors such as my analogue Korg Polysix & the new Eventide Pendulate synth. I love to arrange all of my tracks in a different way, every track is a new story with a different tale, so in this case I wanted to create a very long break with the melody that just gets bigger & louder with more layers & fx till the drop, it’s a very special track that I’m super happy to share with the world, it was really important to me to give the audience some kind of escapism, to have a few minutes break from this crazy reality, hope I succeeded.

Where does your inspiration come from? And were there any specific things you were inspired by while producing this EP?

I’m inspired by everyday life, once in a while I take mushrooms, it helps me connect to the simple & basic things in life. I also used to meditate, it’s the best thing too to clear your mind & connect to your soul, all the answers are in there, not on Facebook or Google.

What made Beat Boutique the right home for this project?

I know DJ Zombi, Tom & other members of the label for many years, we played in lot’s of parties together, for me it’s always a personal connection before business. I can’t release a track or work with someone if I can’t connect with them first as a person. We talked about an original release since last year & I thought those tracks would really work well, for me Beat Boutique is a mixture of Proper dance floor bangers but more intelligent & with a hint of a romantic side.

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

Eventide Blackhole, I love that reverb & I’m using it on every track. It can transfer everything into a huge pillow of fluffiness.

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’ll be honest & it might be shocking, I barely listen to music. And if I’m listening it would be to an old classic track. I don’t really connect to most of the new stuff, maybe I became old.

Describe how satisfying it is to see a dance floor unite to something you’ve written.

I call what we do magic, not music. You sit alone in your dark studio, writing a piece of your soul as a track & every time you’ll play it, in different countries it will work the same, this is true magic & it feels super special every time. I think that’s the fuel of all musicians & artists, if we wanted money we would work on Google or something.

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

I love movies, watched lot’s of foreign films also, I think most of my tracks could fit in a movie, but I don’t have a special one. Would really love to do it in the future.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

First of all my baby boy “Koren”, he is the happiest most positive human being I know. His smile in the morning is like a direct shot of pure MDMA. I’m a big fan of cooking, wine & food, eating a new dish or tasting a new flavor really makes me happy. Lately I’ve tasted one of the best cheeses in the world “Holzhofer”, wow what a happy feel it was.

Current five favourite tracks?

Eli Nissan – Karnaval
Anderson Paak – Come Down
Rodriguez Jr – Haussmann
Lonya & Magit Cacoon – Shma IL (Audio Junkies remix)
Stereo Underground – Reset

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

For 2020, My time here in Greece is filling my soul with great muse, I got 2 remixes for super unique artists that I’ll start to work on soon when I’ll be back to my home studio. Besides that I’m working on a new live show with more technology & space gear. For the end of this crazy year I’ll give away a special download for one of my secret bootlegs that I’ve been playing all year long.

‘Reset’ is out now via Beat Boutique: https://bit.ly/2GEco7S

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