Hailing from Tel-Aviv & recently relocated in Berlin, Yonti is already touring around Europe’s busiest dance floors, among them you’ll find a few Berghain appearances as well as many other well respected European queer parties.
Focusing on atmospheric raw techno and dark rolling beats, his sets are a display of momentum and tension building, Its this consistency in energy and precision in sound that have made Yonti a mainstay in his hometown, playing for crowds weekly in all of the city’s club locations and holding a residency at the infamous queer party series Pag TLV & the most sought-after location the city had to offer: The Block.
His contribution to Tel Aviv’s nightlife is not only behind the decks but also as an owner of Alphabet Club and Tel Aviv’s newest hotspot Phi Garden, that brought to the city a fresh breath of queer parties right in the center of town. It’s where Yonti runs his own bimonthly queer house event called Gazoz with a huge focus on diverse lineups and crowd.
Hello, thank you for your time. Give us a little background on yourself. What was the beginning for you? And what have been your best resources to learn the art of djing?
First of all thank you for having me! If we’re looking at the very beginning, that would be 7 years old me going through my sister’s music folders and discovering bands like Pantera and System Of A Down. I was listening mainly to punk and hardcore music until my first contact with electronic music at 17 years old. I’ve just moved to Tel-Aviv at that time and started exploring nightlife with my friends, our go to club has always been Alphabet Club where I was introduced to Techno for the first time at a gay club night called PAG. Later on, I’ve spent a few months in Berlin and just like the cliche, that’s when I really fell in love with Techno. Inspired from my time in Berlin I decided to start digging deeper into electronic music, I was on a constant search for new labels and spent most of my time collecting music. I drew inspiration mainly from artists like Reeko, Exium, Regis & Surgeon to name a few, and of course from local artists such as Yogg & Pharaoh. The team at Alphabet Club allowed me to practice DJing mid-weak when the club is closed, and that’s also where I had my first DJ gig that shortly after led me into joining PAG as a resident.
Before to continue, which of your mixes would you suggest our readers to play while reading this article?
Dedicated to my friends from Ukraine, here’s a mix I recorded for the Ukrainian party ‘Veselka’ a while ago, before the genocide started.
You’re from Tel-Aviv. How has this city influenced you and your music?
I drew a lot of my musical inspiration and guidance from my dear friends Yogg & Pharaoh. Tel-Aviv is a small city with an even smaller underground scene, that is not much techno oriented. However, it was like a very supportive playground providing me with a lot of opportunities to evolve as an artist. I consider my time living there being a long test and error period of understanding my sound and technique.
You’re one of the most active member of the Tel-Aviv techno scene. You’ve held a residency at the infamous queer party series Pag TLV & at The Block. And your contribution to Tel Aviv’s nightlife is not only behind the decks but also as an owner of Alphabet Club and Tel Aviv’s newest hotspot Phi Garden. Can you tell us a little about all these projects? When and how everything started?
My relationship with Alphabet Club and Phi Garden goes a few years back. At the beginning it was a safe space allowing me to discover nightlife as a young gay boy, I quickly became a regular attendee and felt like a part of the family. As time passed I became more and more involved with the club, I was employed as a light technician while also playing as a DJ almost every weekend. When the Pandemic started, I had the opportunity to join as a co-owner while many of the former ones left.
It was a scary decision to make at that uncertain time but it felt right. We opened a radio station at Phi Garden as an excuse to bypass the lockdown restrictions, mainly broadcasting live DJ sets, talk shows and drag performances. Slowly people started gathering outside our space, buying drinks for ‘take away’ while listening to the radio shows we broadcasted inside. When the restrictions were off it evolved organically into a full on club with the craziest parties in town.
Sadly we couldn’t open Alphabet ever since, the place is rented by the building owners to a supermarket chain instead. What’s most special about Phi Garden in my honest opinion is the fact that we’re the only outspoken left wing club in Tel-Aviv, as it’s impossible to ignore the horrible political situation we’re facing in this country and obviously night life and politics are inseparable. Phi is a queer space located in Tel Aviv’s city center. On the political map, it’s a community space supporting co-existence of Palestinians and Jews (employees are both Palestinians and Jews for instance), providing a safe space for marginalized groups, hosting queer radio talk shows, ball rooms, LGBTQI+ events and so on. We received a LOT of hate from our environment for our political views as well as a lot of support and love from our community and from our Palestinian friends and colleagues.
As a club owner, you probably receive lots of requests from artists and agencies. What makes you decide whether or not you work with with an artist?
It’s always nice to see that DJs and agencies are interested in playing at your venue but it doesn’t affect much on our final decision. We try to keep our international bookings as fresh as possible and according to the party’s profile, as well as emphasizing diversity with LGBTQI+, people of color & female DJs at top priority. But most of the time, it’s about supporting local talent as much as possible to help it grow and evolve.
How do you split your time between gigs, management and work for Alphabet Club and Phi Garden ? Are you currently putting a special focus on one of those? What does your typical week usually look like?
It’s all very consuming, but it’s also fun and rewarding. I’m always occupied and active which is important for an artist, and I feel like my work for Phi Garden and Alphabet Club has always been symbiotic and mutually beneficial to my DJ career.
You moved recently to Berlin. That seems to be the destination for most techno artists. How would you say your sound has changed since leaving Tel-Aviv and moving to Berlin?
Berlin has always been my main source of inspiration and the place that shaped my sound the most over the past years, way before moving here.
You play a lot of venues all over the world. What are some clubs or events that surprised you?
I wouldn’t say I was surprised, but I was definitely overwhelmed when I played for the queer collective Spectrum in Paris during pride weekend last year. The crowd was so involved, and the team is very authentic and nice. I love how they constantly supply a platform for young emerging artists.
Before closing this discussion, what question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would you answer?
How many dogs will you have when you’re older?
It’s a calculation of flat size & my husband’s approval but from the 5th or 6th I’ll start feeling satisfied. And rescues only of course!!!
What’s coming next for you in the winter and spring, any plans or exciting projects you’d love to mention?
I’ve recently joined the lovely Pulsår Festival family! you should definitely keep an eye for the upcoming events that are planned from both Pulsår and Gazoz for this year.