Our latest interview showcases Israeli artist Muzarco who has just released a new remix of Mike Griego’s ‘Oblivion’ courtesy of Golden Wings Music.
1. Hi Muzarco, thanks very much for joining us here, this is the first time we’ve interviewed you so let’s give our readers and your fans some background info. How old are you, where are you based and how long have you been producing and Djing?
Hi, and – you’re welcome! I’m 35 years old, and I live in the city of Haifa, Israel. I started making music in the mid 90s and started Djing about 10 years later.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Was there any moment or particular track that really sucked you into electronic music permanently?
Being the youngest child in the family, my early musical memories is of my elder brother and sisters’ music playing in the background, meaning mostly 80s pop songs at the time.
While I’ve never been a fan of any of that in real time, I do love and appreciate the typical Electro-ish aesthetics and groove to this day. In my early teens my brother Nir was playing early Acid tracks at home and it definitely influenced the way I approach electronic music as a listener and as a producer today.
I guess that a key moment for me during that time was hearing the track Q by Mental Cube (aka FSOL) for the first time. Something about the combination of driving beats combined with the emotional effect of the strings really did it for me, and in a way, the search for that same feeling guides me to this day when I’m making my own music.
I never decided that I’m going to pursue music making seriously, it’s just something that happened, and I kept coming back to it until finally I got to realize that I just can’t avoid doing it.
3. You are one of the long standing artists on Punch Music, there are great people behind that label, some of the nicest I’ve dealt with in this industry. How has working with them been for you? and do you have any upcoming projects on the label? it has been about a year since the last release.
Punch Music is a pure labour of love for everyone involved, artists and owners alike. We’re all close friends and it stretches beyond the activity on the label.
It was clear from the start that this wasn’t about making big money (and not about resisting it either) but more about believing in a common cause and supporting each other realizing it.
The faith and enthusiasm is what kept the label going in its initial years, and now as we’re all a bit older, it’s time to face the challenge of maintaining that.
We’ve all gone through major life changes during the past couple of years; starting families, changing careers and moving to remote areas so this is basically a time to regroup and contemplate on what’s next for Punch Music.
4. One of my all time favourite records is still ‘Stringer Bell’, a track you wrote with Nir Shoshani and was released with an incredible remix from Marc Marzenit in 2011. It’s an extremely unique and complex record, one that will certainly stand any test of time. Tell us a bit about how that track came together, was it a long arduous process or something that came together remarkably fast?
Stringer Bell was a track that I initially started with Miki Litvak. He came over for a visit and as I was showing off my synths he, being the wizard the he is, made a great loop before I even noticed that we were recording. I added some synth noises, and we ended the session, deciding that I’ll look for a synth hook in my own time.
Treating this track as a fun doodle, rather than a ‘serious’ production, I duplicated the loop so it was the length of a full track, and just pressed record, rested my hands on the keyboard and hammered away, looking for one good hook. I did that for about 8 minutes and closed the session. The track was virtually forgotten, or simply considered by both Miki and I to be “just a jam”.
Nir Shoshani, on the other hand, always thought that we have to finish the track and so did Amotz Tokatly, the label manager. And so, for about a year or two, whenever we were discussing about unfinished demos that need finishing, this track would come up and I would say something like “nah, it’s just a jam”. At a certain point, Nir got so frustrated with this that he said “come on, let’s finish this track already!”.
And so, I found the old project files and handed them over to Nir, who overhauled the production and finished the track, leaving all of the attempts I made as they were. It never fails to amaze me how often the things that come out easily and effortlessly are ending up being the best things. It’s important to learn to appreciate the product of those moments, and it’s just as important to know when you’re overdoing things and just wasting time.
5. You have a new remix out this week for Mike Griego on Golden Wings Music, tell us a bit about what attracted you to that project and how did you approach that remix?
Well, for starters, I always had a weak spot for the Argentinian scene. I’ve been receiving so much love and attention from the argentinian crowd along the years, also thanks to Hernan Cattaneo’s constant support. Last year I was approached by the nice Argentinians from Golden Wings and I heard the original track. Realizing that it does its job so well, being a peak-time heavy hitter, I decided that I’m not going to go that route. Instead, I aimed for an acid-y vibe, weaving the original’s elements within a more minimal mix.
6. Your music has a major emotional component I would say but it’s conveyed in a very subversive way which is the most rewarding a lot of the time. What if anything inspires this in your music?
It’s very important for me to communicate emotions through my music. It’s the core around all of the other elements revolve. However, I don’t want the emotional message to be too blunt or obvious, otherwise it might come out cheesy or boring.
I find it exciting when there’s mystery involved, when you’re not sure what you’ve just heard (even after repeated listenings) but you do know that you felt something.
I love it when tracks have a sense of a storyline, a search or a journey. It’s there when I write my music, and I’d like to have the listeners experience it as well, instead of just exposing everything straight up.
7. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice or help along the way that really helped?
Learning to produce was a very gradual process for me that actually took (and is taking) many years. I started out playing with music production software without any knowledge or intention to record or even save any projects. I just learned along the years as I was using the tools and discovered many things by trial and error. It took a long time but it showed me that I can teach myself whatever interests me enough. My brother Nir, which is also self taught, made progress in huge strides and so he often shared his discoveries with me and continues to do so to this day. To my sense, being a student is not an in-between period, it’s the whole point. Learning new things is one of the things that make music making so satisfying.
8. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block or confidence is lacking what helps you through it?
For some reason I always find myself stuck around the 2:30 – 3:30 mark. I think it might be because by that time, the main line was already introduced and I have to find a way to develop it. I don’t like repeating myself so I always try to introduce new elements as the track progresses.
Basslines usually come easier to me than the rest of the elements. I don’t have to struggle too much to know what’s working. Plus, my Roland SH-101 is my go-to bass machine, and I get a nice bass from it in seconds.
Creative blocks and confidence dips are a given in music making, and I learned to accept it rather than fight it. Sometimes the best thing to do is to work on something purely technical which doesn’t require any creativity. Or to start another project which is completely unrelated and take my mind off what got me stuck in the first place. The most important thing is not to get too stressed out about it and to remember that it happened many times in the past and was eventually resolved each time.
9. So you’ve been producing for around 20 years, how has your studio changed in that time?
I started off using Tracker software running on a DOS machine hooked to a pair of hi-fi stereo speakers. Computers weren’t powerful enough to run soft synths, so I was confined to using samples stolen from other people’s tracks.
As I was getting more accomplished in production, I switched to using Cubase and bought proper studio monitors, a professional audio interface and a MIDI keyboard.
Once I had set up a dedicated studio, the thing that really turned me into a gear freak was my encounter with analogue synths.
I had the chance to play with my friend Ran Shani’s collection and pretty soon found myself hooked, scouring eBay for good finds and drooling over dusty behemoths that I couldn’t afford.
Today I’m trying to keep a balance of software and hardware, as each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages over the other.
10. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
I do have a day job, working at a friend’s start-up company based in Tel-Aviv. That’s about 1 hour each way by train from where I live, so I have time to listen to music properly or read on the way. Not relying on my music making as a primary source of income is quite liberating, creatively speaking, but this might change in the future.
I enjoy being in nature very much, spending time with my family and friends, doing Yoga, and learning about new developments in music production technology.
11. Apart from electronic what other styles of music do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic music? and do these genres or artists have a direct effect on your own productions?
I’m always on the lookout for inspiration outside of the pure electronic music scene. There are some artists, such as Beck, Radiohead, Low, and Massive Attack that really blur the line between the electronic and acoustic realms. To me it’s always exciting when the seam between the two disappears and so a new kind of texture / feeling is created. The search for this feeling motivates me especially when designing sounds.
12. What are you currently working on? What can we expect to hear from you for the remainder of 2015? We’ve not seen an album as yet, is this something that you’d like to do at some point?
I recently moved to another city and I’m currently looking for a new studio space, so at the moment there’s not much going on production-wise.
I’d love to work on an album and it’s definitely planned.
13. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
I don’t play any instrument and can’t read notes.
14. Who are some of the best undiscovered talents in your eyes?
Nowadays, it seems like every talented person is exposed preemptively, so I can’t really name an undiscovered talent. However I would say that biased as I am, when I go through the back catalogue of Punch Music, I can’t help but feel that some of the stuff there deserves better recognition.
15. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
If being honest and authentic is a value to you, then you must aspire to express that in your own creation. It often means dealing with uncertainty and confusion, but that’s fine. As long as you stay true to your values, you can’t really go wrong. The industry keeps changing and you can’t expect to satisfy everyone all the time, so it’s better to be lost while searching for something that you believe in, than stay on the safe side doing the same thing like so many other people. Having lots of expensive gear is nice, but it would not help if you’re short of imagination or courage. Record the sound of your snoring cat with your laptop’s built-in speaker and create a beat from it. Sample your finger drumming at the dinner table and run it through a vocoder. Take the monotonous hum of your neighbor’s air condition unit and harmonize it. Just start from where you are right now and stay open to surprises.
16. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
Well, it depends on who is playing after me, but let’s say it’s the last DJ set in history. In that case I would put my own No Prophets on Jupiter, as we all board the mothership heading towards infinity.
Muzarco’s remix of Mike Griego ‘Oblivion’ is out now on Golden Wings Music, you can purchase the release: here