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Yair Zarmon [Interview]

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Israeli DJ, producer, and former club promoter Yair Zarmon hails from both the Tel Aviv and New York underground electronic scenes and is known to combine those influences in his productions and DJ sets. His entry into DJing came by chance as he met, and later befriended, Guy Mantzur, and other musical juggernauts that have influenced his taste in underground music. His productions are a culmination of genres defined by their ability to create journeys, inspired by the likes of Sasha, John Digweed, Deep Dish, and others.

Having recently made his Polyptych Limited debut, we caught up with Yair for an introductory interview.

Hi Yair, thanks for joining us. What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Thanks for having me. I’ve just released a new EP and a few more releases are in the works, so I’m super excited, and also kind of nervous. I’m a fan of film scores, and the recent wintery weather put me in the mood to re-listen to the score of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, an extraordinary piece of art.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and otherwise, please.

I wake up fairly early given that my wife and I have two children and two dogs to tend to each morning. Unless plans are made, I generally work at home and get as much work and production-time as I can. To me, production is about coming up with new ideas and turning those ideas into something tangible - this can translate into many hobbies aside from music, such as cooking.

Tell us about growing up in Israel, how has it influenced your music taste and direction? Or has it at all?

Growing up I was always surrounded by music. Classical, pop, folk, in several languages and ranging from the 60’s to the 90’s. Trance started becoming popular when I was in grade school, and Israel was at the center. Growing up in the 90’s you heard of Israelis in their 20’s going to Goa in India or places in South America that have these massive trance parties, and it becomes clear that that may likely be your path one day, as well. The popularity of that scene in Israel began years before it entered other countries such as the US.

Guy Mantzur had quite an impact on your career, tell us about that and how it helped you find your way as an artist.

I’ve always been a fan of Guy’s productions. He has the knack for combining soul with energy in this productions and DJ sets. In 2011, just a few months after giving the decks a test-run, I decided that I wanted to spend a year in Israel. At the time, Guy was involved with a popular club called “The Cat and The Dog” (which has since closed down, unfortunately). He would bring in the best techno and progressive artists, and accompany them on the decks from time to time. Living in Tel Aviv at the time, I figured that it’d be a good opportunity for me to reach out and see where things go from there, and I’m glad I did. Guy was really open to meeting with me and eventually gave me a slot at the club. The rest is history.

Aside from Guy who else from your home country had the biggest impact on you when you first discovered your passion for electronic music?

I discovered my passion for electronic music back in 1999, and my taste evolved many times since then. Infected Mushroom, Astrix, and Astral Projection are all Israeli artists that had an initial impact, but I’d say that the biggest one aside from Mantzur would be Guy J. Guy J and I became friends in New York in 2012, just a few years after he started releasing absolute bombs on record labels such as Bedrock. He’s an outstanding producer as well as human being.

If you were a tour-guide for nightlife in Israel, what would be the clubs youd take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

Art Club - it’s an intimate club in Tel Aviv that hosts many International techno DJs. Regarding local DJs, I think that Kadosh and Mita Gami are definitely worth checking out.

And to add to that, what have been your favourite venues to perform at in Israel and why?

I took a very long break from DJing to focus on family and music production, but I’d say that The Cat and The Dog would have been my favorite venue to date.

If you are not DJing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Cooking a feast in the kitchen or taking a stroll outside with our two Japanese Spitzes.

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

I’m completely self-taught. We’re all fortunate to have a plethora of videos on Youtube to help us learn how to make music. There are also tons of courses out there that provide more intimate classroom-type environments that some may prefer. It all depends on much time and money you want to invest and what will resonate better.

You recently released a three track EP Paradisevia Polyptych Limited, tell us about the release and how they showcase your current sound.

I believe that the release encompasses three different moods. I approach track selection for a DJ set or an EP based on how and whether they would fit in a set. I find it boring when I listen to an EP where all the tracks sound the same. Without harmonic diversity, you can’t really tell a good story. My preference has always been that deeper and darker sound you’d likely hear at 4AM at a Sasha and John Digweed set, however I find it fulfilling when there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end that are all unique in the sounds and emotions that they convey.

What does your set-up look like? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools have you been favouring in the making of your ParadiseEP?

I’m a big fan of Ableton. I’ve used it with another piece of hardware in all of my productions and I can’t imagine having the same flexibility any other way. However, while it does work for me, others may have their own preferences.

Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships etc play in your production process?

I consider life-lessons and unique experiences as the main drivers for me. I won’t produce a track just because it is time for me to release something new. There needs to be a story behind the track that will motivate me to produce it.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice? And who is someone you share your new music with first for feedback?

I’m very critical of my productions, so I often go back and listen to them, then revise, then listen again, and potentially get rid of them completely unless I’m 100% satisfied. This is a habit I’m trying to eliminate in my thought process, but it’s so natural that it’s one of the biggest reasons tracks lie for a while until they’re released. My wife is always the first person to listen and provide feedback.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

I love playing with synths and anything related to manipulating sound. If you know, you know.

What would be a musical extravagance for your studio you would pay for, if you were very wealthy?

I a believer that you don’t need a massive studio setup in order to produce a masterpiece. Even if I were very wealthy, I think that I would stay true to my minimalism and, instead, invest it something else.

Now lets talk about DJing for a moment, its a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

My approach may sound a bit generic as many DJs attempt to build a journey in their sets through a combination of familiar and less familiar tracks. I think that everyone agrees that many DJs sets will sound the same these days, even as DJs attempt to improvise. I think that this is because most DJs will stick to one genre throughout their sets, without experimenting with other sounds. Try something new, get out of your comfort zone, and the set will be much more interesting.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks and also, your work as a producer?

Once you become a DJ and producer, it becomes very hard to listen to songs the same way as you did before. When I listen to music, specifically electronic, it’s like trying to solve a mathematical formula and attempting to identify the missing variables. It’s fun, but utterly burdensome if you’re only trying to enjoy the music.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

10:00-12:00: Naveen G

12:00-1:30: khen

1:30-4:00: John Digweed

4:00-6:00: Dubfire

6:00- LATE: Danny Tenaglia

Current top five tracks?

There are too many to list, but I’ve really been into Luke Brancaccio’s releases lately.

Whats a book youve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

Interstellar had a massive impact - the film score and imagination in this film always leave me speechless.

What is one superpower you would like to have and how would you use it?

Saving the honey bees.

Apart from music, what makes you happiest?

Spending time with my wife, children, and two dogs.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

I definitely have some news to share, but I’ll wait a few more weeks :)

'Paradise' is available now via Polypytch Limited: https://bit.ly/3Tmx8m4

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