DJ. Producer. Label boss. Shlomi Aber is nothing if not multi-talented. Hailing from the city of Ashkelon on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, music has always been a priority for Shlomi as anyone who has witnessed him grace the decks or listened to his productions can attest. Able to turn even the most cautious of observers into dancers through the raw emotion and passion in his music, Shlomi has always understood that techno is a language; a means of connectivity that has allowed him to develop a level intimacy and communication with his fans beyond that of many of his contemporaries.
Speaking with him ahead of his filter rattling b2b session with UK techno don Boddika for Boiler x Ballantine’s True Music series, it’s easy to see why the Be As One boss is seen as one of the most passionate figures in the game today, with his commitment to his art shining through in everything he does and no line of enquiry regarding his career shied away from. We open with asking him how he came to be based in Spain, as with the electronic scene in his native country being such a hotbed of creativity at the moment it does feel a little odd that arguably its leading export is operating out of Barcelona. We’re told the reasoning behind his location is purely logistical.
“I wouldn’t trade my upbringing in Israel for anything in the world – the food, the vibe, the people – it’s an amazing place but travelling to and from there is hard, especially now that I have a two year old child and am expecting another one next month,” he explains. “This means that I want to spend less time in transit and more time with my family and living in Spain enables me to do that. Travelling to and from Israel can take three and a half days out of my week whereas travelling from Europe can see me just dip in and out of wherever I need to be in a much shorter time. The reason I picked Barcelona because it was the closest thing I could find to Israel in Europe in terms of the weather, the food and the general vibes of the people – it’s warm in every way.
With a rapidly expanding family, we ask just how he manages to strike a balance between his commitments as an artist and label head with his responsibilities as a father and a husband. “With great difficulty!” he laughs. “We’re celebrating ten years of Be As One this year. We’re doing ten different showcases in ten different cities to mark the anniversary and have great things planned with a number of special LP releases on the horizon – it looks like its going to be a fantastic – and busy - year.”
“Running a label is however, always a struggle between doing what you want – when you start it it’s only about what you want to do – and then as you grow bigger and start to gain more exposure managing the expectations of your audience. This is the eternal struggle but it’s a challenge that I enjoy, to stay true to yourself whilst pleasing your fans and keeping things interesting.”
So in these divided times – both musically and politically – and sales suffering, how important does Shlomi feel the role of independent label is in protecting the integrity of the scene in 2017?
“The name of my label says it all,” states Shlomi. “Be As One was named such because we are all in this together and the idea behind it when I started it was to provide a platform for the work of the many amazing producers I had around me at the time so I could project the sound of both myself and likeminded artists as one creative community. Over time, with so much of my own work being on the label it had become a bit more personal but I’ve always wanted to support other artists working within the same sphere of music. I’d also say that whilst it’s true the sales are not the same as they used to be – they aren’t for any label out there that they were five or ten years ago - but if you can maintain what you have then you’re doing well. I will keep releasing vinyl and my label open even if it were losing money as it’s so important to me as an artist. Fortunately that’s not the case yet and hopefully we don’t ever get to that point but if we did, it wouldn’t be a factor in me deciding on whether or not continuing to run a label was worthwhile.”
“It’s also particularly good thing that electronic music has been introduced to so many new mediums,” he enthuses on a much brighter note. “You hear it a lot more in other forms of media now and that’s fantastic for the scene as it inspires a new generation of producers to learn about the history of the music and build upon that work with their own original ideas. It’s a beautiful thing to open up a mind to a new way of thinking that it may have never considered otherwise.”
“In terms of protecting the heart of the underground, the underground is and will always be related to something intangible that you feel rather than describe,” say Shlomi expanding further. “It’s this that means even if something underground enters the mainstream commercial consciousness the underground will either evolve into something different from that starting point or sow another seed of creativity. As an artist you have a decision to make on where you want to be on the scale – where you feel you fit the best and where you want your final destination to be.
Continuing on the the theme of protectionist policies, we ask Shlomi if he feels that the scene has lost the spirit of inclusivity it was founded upon as more and more clubs introduce strict – if abstract - entry criteria for would be clubbers. His answer is unequivocal.
“Personally, I’ve never agreed with the often arbitrary selection policies of many ‘exclusive’ clubs and I think it’s often very unfair with lots of good people being harshly excluded,” he states. “Whenever I play in Berlin I get a lot of messages saying ‘I would love to come see you play tonight but we may not be let in to the club’ and to hear that from your fans who love and support your music, who really know what they’re talking about and know they cannot get in to a club to hear their favourite DJ in 2017 is fucking sad. I can maybe understand it in a small handful of situations, perhaps small clubs where a big influx of new people could really change the atmosphere – but when you’re talking about huge places that hold thousands of people it seems a bit ridiculous.”
Having agreed with his sentiments on the politics of contemporary clubbing talk turns to music’s power to break down barriers as we enquire as to the success of his recent gig in Morocco – the first predominantly Arab country to open its doors to him in over 15 years of touring. “As an Israeli citizen carrying an Israeli passport I wasn’t able to travel to any Arab countries until recently so I was very excited to be able to play in Casablanca,” he tells DiS. “It was a fantastic experience – much better than I could have ever hoped it could be. Music connects people; it can be such a unifying force. Transcending politics, it was a great experience that I feel very lucky to have been able to share with the people who were there. I would love to play more Arab countries if they would like to invite me as the more the different people of the world interact the better we’ll understand each other. The majority of our problems stem from a failure to communicate and shared passions such as enjoyment of music can help us improve our relationships.”
Wise words, we’re sure you’ll agree. So with another baby due and an album set to arrive around September what else can expect from the irrepressible Mr. Aber this year?
“I’ve been working on a number of different projects which will start with a number of EPs on Be As One and Len Faki’s Figure,” he reveals. “I’m also launching a new label called Lost Episodes – Be As One has become so big and so well known, that we’re getting around 3000 demos a year. It’s a family that everyone seems to want to join! So, I thought I’d open something new that’s smaller and more personal. It won’t only house my own productions but it will provide a home for a number of releases that I love that but for one reason or another I wouldn’t be able to put out on Be As One. Be As One will always be collection of ideas whereas this will be totally Shlomi!”
You can check out Shlomi’s heavyweight session with Boddika for Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music series in full below.