Guy Gerber has always favored the road less traveled. The Israeli DJ thrives on confounding expectations. What other underground DJ could collaborate with one of hip-hops biggest moguls, Puff Daddy, or start a left-field night at one of Ibiza’s most commercial clubs, Pacha? What other producer blends the worlds of melancholy and euphoria so effortlessly, or turns in a breakup album as an official mix for a revered club brand? It’s these kind of contradictions that define
Gerber’s compelling duality.
Before he was fiddling with drum machines and synths, Gerber was all about groups like Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine. These influences still echo clearly in his music today, whether it be his hypnotizing live performances or contemplative, moody productions. Over the course of four albums, Gerber has shown himself to be a singular artist. In 2007, he brought his debut album Late Bloomers to Sven Vath’s Cocoon, following that with 2009’s My Invisible Romance. In 2012 and 2013, he usurped the concept of a mix CD, delivering a Fabric album made up of 100% original new productions; then on Who’s Stalking Who creating an LP more akin to an extended composition than anything else.
As a teenager, you were really into rock and you played guitar in a rock band. What made you switch to electronic music?
Well, I felt like rock back then was kind of stuck. Then I listened to Daft Punk, and it felt more punk than anything else at the time. I also liked the fact that you can be the whole band by yourself and not have ego fights with other members. I felt that with electronic music, I could do things that have never been done before and find my own voice, as it’s all based in technology. I felt like most other things had already been done.
So where did you start DJing?
Well I’m from Tel Aviv, and between 2000 and 2005 the scene was huge in Israel. I started playing small clubs over there as a live performer, but later I started DJing as well.
You’ve moved to Madrid, Berlin and LA. What are the main differences between these cities and their clubs?
Well there’s a big difference between the cities and their crowds. In Tel Aviv, the nicer girls go to the shitty music places, and where there’s cool music, there’s no sex. It’s just for the heads. That’s not great, so it’s better when it’s mixed. I wasn’t a fan of Madrid, and I’m not a big fan of Berlin. Some people love it, but it’s not my thing. I liked it when I lived in Rome, it has a small scene but electronic music is affiliated with art and fashion there, so I love to go to parties in that city. In Paris, the scene has definitely been better, but it’s still one of the most educated crowds in the world as it has roots in house and techno. Berlin has some great clubs, I’ve had some of my best shows ever in Panorama Bar, but these days I feel it’s got a bit too touristey in some places. I think New York is booming right now, there’s some amazing parties over there and in Miami, and I’ve lived in both those cities too. My favourite place to make music is definitely LA, it’s so open there and every place that has parties always feels like a happy place. But New York is my favourite place to play out of all the places I’ve lived in.
You’re travelling a lot throughout the year, what’s your creative process when you’re on the road?
Anyone who knows me knows that I make music 90% of the time I’m awake, but I don’t release that much of it. I constantly make it, though. Sometimes I make music at the after-party in my room, just with some smaller speakers or whatever.
Sometimes I go to a friend’s studio and even though it’s not always like being in your own, I get to try out lots of amazing equipment and loads of amazing synthesizers. I always try to think of it more as sculpturing sound, rather than knowing exactly where I’m going all the time, adding more and more layers.
There are pros and cons to that kind of process, though — sometimes when you change studios, something you’ve done before sounds completely different. I’m enjoying making a lot of music, I’m having fun.
You are brining back your RUMORS concept to Ibiza, as well as on tour this summer. For those readers who may not know, what is your philosophy behind RUMORS? What is your approach to curating the individual lineups?
The concept behind it is to offer an civilised alternative to Ibiza. I wanted to create something that’s more about the parties rather than the DJ’s and who’s playing. When there’s not so much information or promotion, people were promoting it, telling people where it is, when it is and they became part of the party themselves, that was my original idea. At the same time after 2 years, we got bigger and bigger. I wanted a lot of my friends to play and a lot of my friends have been asking to play, so I needed to do some kind of an announcement, otherwise it’ll be too much based on me, so I decided to publish it in respect to the DJ’s that are playing. We moved the venue, which is very different, but at the same time very important. For me and RUMORS in the past two years, every single party was very special in a different way.
Let’s talk about your home studio. It sounds like when you jam, you set up a bunch of machines so everything’s accessible. Is that how you work for the most part?
I actually read an amazing quote. I don’t think it was Brian Eno—Brian Eno and his quotes. I read this beautiful quote…
Is it the quote about how composition is improvisation in slow motion?
Either you have a very organized mind—like maybe a scientist. Their minds are so organized that they can solve formulas within their mind, and all the information is organized and reachable at any point. Or you have bursts of genius—like, you’re stupid all the time, and then all of a sudden you go, “Whoa,” and something comes out of it. For me, I think the quote, I can’t remember who said it, is first you shoot the arrow, and then you paint the target after it hits. It’s more about trying to put yourself in a state of unconsciousness, and you just jam, and it’s more like sculpture. When it feels right, it’s the moment when you actually start to dance. You’re alone, you know it’s working, it’s the moment you have goosebumps.
I think it’s a problem all producers have—the biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is meeting deadlines. And if I’m being honest, I’m not so good in the deadline. I think most people, they’re mainly focusing on every detail, and they spend hours on the bass drum, and [think] that’s how it should be done. The way I create—I just don’t like to get bored, so if this sounds good for now, I’m not going to spend hours on it, I’m just going to move to the next thing. I just keep moving from one place to another. It’s like a playground. I’m also a great believer that you should use everything that is [in the studio]. You know, these machines are great, this vintage stuff that people have and they never use. Just out of respect to the synth, I will find something for it.
What time of the day do you normally like to work down there?
I would say I’m more of a nighttime person. And I would say that in the afternoon is kind of the moment where I’m starting to be normal. I get in early, but I don’t feel it yet. I try, I try, I try, and I don’t, and I keep trying, and it doesn’t work. And at some point, I start to feel it. And when I feel it, I try not to stop. So I would say afternoon, and if I feel good, I usually just continue. Probably the best thing is to have some people in the studio. Because when you have some friend or some girls or some situations—when there is something happening around me, when it’s not just me, I can do my thing.
The piano keyboard seems like a natural workspace for you. Did you have any formal training on the piano?
I used to play guitar. I was not trained, but a lot of the tracks have guitars.
Do you think the amount of outboard gear and compressors you use makes it easier for you to play tracks out immediately after they’re finished? Are you doing premasters?
I actually don’t look at it like this at all. It’s more of a sound character that I’m looking for, because compression is not just to limit—it’s also a musical tool. With most of this analog stuff, I have to say that most of the time when I’m sending to mastering, I would say 99% of the time, they just take the music and maximize the volume. And I think it’s a shame, you know, because there’s so many things you can do with equalizers and experiments. But they’re just doing their job, because DJs, who are usually travelling—when you get the tracks back to listen to them, sometimes you just go with the flow. The mastering can be very creative. I mean, I’m not dissing all the people that do mastering—they’re free to do what they want to do—I guess they want to satisfy the needs of the dance floor or something. But character is missing for me.