ART:CAST #86 & INTERVIEW Autarkic

Tel Aviv born and raised DJ/Producer Nadav Spiegel has through the years, since his breakthrough into the global electronic music scene, showcased an innovative and illustrious approach to creating music, as well as the complexity and density to sustain it. While managing to keep sane through what’s going on outside in the world, the Heavy Dreamer producer prepares to reveal his latest project, a return on DJ Tennis’ Life and Death label, and possibly a dauntless perspective on some longstanding political & social dilemmas. Shortly before the release of his genre-bending, culture and subculture-enriched 10-tracker, Terms & Conditions, Autarkic chats with Torture the Artist from the comfort/discomfort of his home in the vibrant Israeli city and talks about his relationship with his states, both physical and imagined, his musical inspirations and methods, and some of the highlights of his career. While sharing some of his current favorite tunes, the 80s born songwriter also lends some tips on dealing with inner conflict and surviving isolation in these socially and physically distant times.

Torture the Artist: Shalom Nadav. How was your day? Where are you currently staying?

Autarkic: Hi thank you, my day was good, nothing special though. I’ve been living in Tel Aviv for the past four years after having lived for two years in Berlin.

Torture the Artist: How has the current events affected your daily routine?

Autarkic: Of course, the weekends are without travelling or performing, so in a way I am more relaxed and not in a hurry, but at some point I hope we get our job back.

Torture the Artist: Your music is a melting pot of cross-generational, multi genre influences – from punk to new wave, synth to rock. Is this a reflection of the music you grew up on?

Autarkic: Most definitely. I was born in the 80s when radio was always on so although I wasn’t collecting music at the time, something in the back of my head was already working in that direction, soaking sounds and getting a certain energy and emotion from it. I loved music from a very young age, I had my own favourite alternative pop bands since I was 7, but mainly local ones.

Things started to bubble under the surface, in a much more naive way as electronic music wasn’t a big business like it is today.

Torture the Artist: You’re a Tel-Avian, born and raised? How was the musical landscape in your city like when you first started out as an artist?

Autarkic: Yes, I was born and raised in Tel Aviv, and have been living here all my life except two years in Amsterdam and two in Berlin. I think I was lucky because when I started 10 years ago House/Electro/Techno was fresh again and the city absorbed it really well. My generation was very aware of what’s going on in London and Berlin and pretty fast, Tel Aviv was one of the leading cities in electronic music. Looking back, those were exciting times as the city wasn’t thriving like in recent years but things started to bubble under the surface, in a much more naive way as electronic music wasn’t a big business like it is today.

Torture the Artist: Autarky is “characteristic of self-sufficiency; existing whenever an politcal or economic entity survives or continues its activities without external assistance or international trade.” You call yourself Autarkic, do you consider yourself as one?

Autarkic: As an artist, very much so – I’m a big believer in the D.I.Y system and I like to be able to make artistic decisions by myself. That’s also why I did not do so many collaborations until recently when I felt I needed it to go to new places in music.

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Picture by Neil Cohen

Torture the Artist: Does this mean Tel Aviv is less an inspiration on your music as the imagined self-sufficient state you constructed yourself to exist in?

Autarkic: The city was never an inspiration for my music but the people of the city were. Well, just some of them.

Living in Tel Aviv means living in an inner conflict with the rest of the state.

Torture the Artist: Tel Aviv is a vibrant, diverse city. Which part or character of the city do you find most at home in? Can you share something that keeps you from leaving?

Autarkic: The only things that keep me in Tel Aviv are my parents and the language. Politically and economically. I feel that this place wants me out and as time goes by I feel unconnected to what is happening in Israel. Living in Tel Aviv means living in an inner conflict with the rest of the state.

Torture the Artist: You broke through in 2016, when you released a track as part of Jennifer Cardini’s Correspondant Compilation 4. Were you involved in music before then?

Autarkic: Actually, my first track out there was a remix Manfredas and I did for Brassica on Relish in 2014/5. Later in 2015 I released my first EP on Golf Channel titled Hello to Mrs. Blank. Before all that, I was part of an electro band that did not raise too many eyebrows.

Torture the Artist: When did you decide to pursue a career in music? What inspired you to go for it?

Autarkic: For many years I had to work in stupid jobs for the chance to be part of a music scene. I insisted on it because I thought I could add something to it, and that’s a never ending battle. But it’s worth it.

My essence as a musician is clearer when I play live.

Torture the Artist: You DJ and play live. Do you enjoy one more than the other?

Autarkic: I love to DJ. Playing live can be an emotional burden on my being, but I understand that my essence as a musician is clearer when I play live.

Torture the Artist: We’ve seen your name in festivals, prominent clubs and events? Do you prefer big rooms or intimate settings? Can you share a particularly memorable experience – where, when and what did you play?

Autarkic: I like to play in big rooms but only when the crowd is close to you. In some festivals it can be weird being so far away from the audience.

Torture the Artist: In the production front, 2017 was exceptionally productive for you, completing both I Love You, So Go Away and Can You Pass The Knife on Disco Halal, as well as contributing to compilations. Where did all the momentum come from? How did you manage to create so many tracks in such a short span?

Autarkic: The music on those albums were made between 2015-2016 years and yes, I did a lot during that time and I think there are many reasons for that. First, I got a tailwind and felt highly motivated from my first release and some remixes/edits. I got very good feedback and it made me feel that I’m doing something good and less doubts were involved in the production process. Second, I was quite new in production and I was just starting to explore new territories in music production like Dub and making dance floor tracks which I didn’t really do till that moment. And third, I had a lot to say as a songwriter.

Some elements are going to be there only because I have to add something from the original.

Torture the Artist: You’ve dished out some killer remixes through the years. What’s the criteria for you to jump in on a particular remix duty? Do you enjoy remixing as much as creating originals?

Autarkic: If I find an interesting element or groove, that I feel I can do something interesting with – I can finish the remix in two days and be satisfied with it, but there are cases when I get the stems and nothing pops out to be interesting, and that means hell for me! It means some elements are going to be there only because I have to add something from the original and it could take weeks to make it work. I can say that I love to do edits even more as it is fun to give new context to an old good song.

Torture the Artist: Speaking of creating music, let’s talk about your forthcoming album. You’re due back on Life And Death with Terms & Conditions. When did you start the project and how did the ideas behind it come together into production? What did it take to get Life & Death on board?

Autarkic: I made three tracks and thought they can do good as a dance floor EP and then I made Shut Down Nation and understood that all of the four are conceptually connected and that is an opportunity for me to do an LP. From that moment, it took me two months to record another six and finish the album. As Manfredi (Dj Tennis) knew the threeoriginal tracks and was into releasing them as an EP he was really up for an LP and gave me full artistic freedom which means the world for me.

Autarkic by Neil Cohen C
Picture by Neil Cohen

Torture the Artist: Which track of the album do you feel most connected to at the moment?

Autarkic: St. Satan. Just because it sounds the best, in my opinion.

Torture the Artist: Which track was the most difficult to complete? Did you find yourself having to take a break and pick up a little later?

Autarkic: The Exploiter was really hard to mix. I struggled with it for quite some time and I think that’s the last track Joseph Ashworth (who mixed that album eventually) and myself mixed. I think the reason for that was that I made it in my kitchen with samples from old records and some of those samples had a rough life before <smiles> but they were unique and couldn’t be replaced so altogether the track had a dodgy sound. Joseph solved it finally.

The album describes my mixed emotions about social media.

Torture the Artist: Are you trying to convey a message with Terms & Conditions? Could it be a cultural satire, a political statement?

Autarkic: Yes. And I’m not trying to hide it so much with the title and the artwork. The album describes my mixed emotions about social media, high tech culture and what I see as the degeneration of humankind. Also, the grand return of fascism to our lives.

The kind of robotic vocals on Trancelate and The Exploiter I made using Google translate.

Torture the Artist: There are some brilliant vocal samples in your album. Where do/ did you find them?

Autarkic: The kind of robotic vocals on Trancelate and The Exploiter I made using Google translate and text-to-speech apps, the rest are just samples from records or Youtube.

Torture the Artist: Are there subliminal messages? Maybe revelations if we play the tracks backward?

Autarkic: Sadly, no. It is all out there in the open.

Torture the Artist: We also hear some unique instruments, some familiar, many novel. Do you play any instruments and did you create some of the samples in T&C yourself?

Autarkic: Of course! I play synths, guitar and I sing on the album

Torture the Artist: Can you tour us around your studio set-up?

Autarkic: For Terms and Conditions I used: Moog Grandmother, Roland MC505, Roland JP8000, Korg Volca, E Guitar, Watkins Copicat, Eventide Space, Strymon Mobius, Guitar pedals and as I said before – Youtube, Google translate and whatever the Internet can give.

Torture the Artist: How about the last 5 tracks on your Spotify playlist?

Autarkic: Those five are:

Torture the Artist: What is the first thing you plan to do or place you wish to visit once the world reaches a relative level of normalcy?

Autarkic: I’ll be happy to be back and tour. It’s the only thing I know to do and can make a living out of.

Torture the Artist: Any tips on how to keep yourself sane in the meanwhile?

Autarkic: Drink Alcohol.

Interview by Marie J Floro

Pictures by Neil Cohen