Words: Colin Brownbill
As the second largest city in Israel and ideally located on the Mediterranean coast, Tel Aviv is described as a cultural and cosmopolitan centre, referred to as ‘The Bubble’ by some due to both its relative security and liberal population. It’s where Lonya Koval calls home, and after moving from his native Moscow to the city many years ago, he is now fully embedded in the city’s thriving club scene.
“Tel Aviv is constantly evolving, trends are changing fast and it is very vibrant” Lonya tells us ahead of his date at Tribal Pulse in Glasgow this weekend. “I’ve been seriously involved in the nightlife and club scene in Tel Aviv for a long time; in the late nineties and beginning of the 2000s, it was still very naïve, but pure. Nowadays it's a bit more commercial, more calculated and planned.”
Despite the commercial trend, the underground sound of Tel Aviv continues to attract attention from global music media, and having been resident at many of the city’s most influential clubs, Lonya is very keen to stress the importance of home-grown talent and the promoters who push the scene forward: “All the clubs I worked and played at in the early days had a big impact on my development as an artist and DJ” he says. “Nowadays both The Block and Cat & Dog, for example, are run by true visionaries who put local talent in the spotlight.”
With names like Shlomi Aber, Chaim, Guy Mantzur and Guy Gerber all from or based in Tel Aviv, the city is very much on the world stage, and the sound of melodic house and deep, hypnotic techno have become synonymous with the region. Head of his own labels, Asymmetric Recordings and Asymmetric Dip, and with releases on the likes of Sudbeat, Defected and Darkroom Dubs, Lonya is one of Tel Aviv’s most active producers, as well as an ambassador for one of the world’s most exciting and prolific club cultures.
Read our full interview with Lonya below and listen to his Tribal Pulse podcast and new single ‘Righteousness’ ahead of his date with Tribal Pulse at Stereo this Saturday (29th):
SynthGlasgow: You’re based in Tel Aviv which is home to The Block, as well as producers like Guy Gerber and Chaim. How would you describe the club and electronic music scene in Tel Aviv now compared to when you first started DJ’ing there?
Lonya: I’ve been seriously involved in the nightlife and club scene in Tel Aviv for a long time; I started as a DJ and party organiser in the late 90's and have been focused on DJ'ing and producing for the last 15 years. Tel Aviv is constantly evolving, trends are changing fast and it is very vibrant. I would say that sometimes it can seem that too many things are happening and it is not in favour of everyone.
In the late nineties and beginning of the 2000s, it was still very naive, but pure, and real talents, like the ones you've mentioned in the question could expose themselves better and become wildly recognised faster. Nowadays it's a bit more commercial, more calculated and planned; so many things are happening every week that it could be described as quite a big industry for many years now. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something to be recognised at the moment. I think it will keep growing as long as we have a relatively peaceful situation (relatively, in Israeli terms).
SynthGlasgow: You’ve been a resident at many clubs in Tel Aviv and used to host a Tuesday night party called Shlishi Sofash - how important have clubs like The Block and Cat & Dog been in supporting and developing local talent?
Lonya: Very important in my opinion; all the clubs I worked and played at in the early days had a big impact on my development as an artist and DJ. Nowadays both Block and C & D, for example, are run by true visionaries who put the local talent in the spotlight. Few new clubs in the city have very interesting musical agendas and give spots to new emerging acts, which in turn could help them grow and establish themselves locally and globally.
SynthGlasgow: You founded your own label, Asymmetric Recordings, in 2006; what was the motivation behind launching the label and what are the most difficult challenges you’ve faced?
Lonya: In the beginning, I can honestly say I didn’t know what I was doing and how things really worked - I had to learn on the way. I had a partner who guided me a lot and slowly the label became what it is today. We wanted to expose more local talents in the beginning because at that moment there were not too many good underground labels from here. But things changed with time and I think more than 90% of the music we release on Asymmetric Recordings and Asymmetric Dip nowadays is coming from all around the world. I like the diversity; I think I know how to control it and promote a coherent and forward-thinking sound, and that’s what we are all about.
SynthGlasgow: If we talk about your own productions, you’ve released tracks on the likes of Sudbeat, Defected and Darkroom Dubs, with a sound which is both driving and melodic. Who or what would you describe as the main influences behind your productions?
Lonya: I always want to experiment with new things. I also think my sound is changing constantly; I try never to get stuck or go for the same style. One of the biggest influences I think I have are my musical tools - the equipment I use. New synths and drum machines always take me on a new journey, and if I fall in love with an instrument it can transform everything I do in a moment.
SynthGlasgow: I read that you were quite close with Guy Gerber when you first started DJ’ing in Tel Aviv; what advice or knowledge did you pick up from him that has stuck with you throughout your career?
Lonya: I don't like much to speak about it, but yes his guidance and advise defined a lot of what I did in the early days and who I’ve become later on. His philosophy obviously influenced me a lot: in approaching production, methodology of arranging tracks for the dancefloor and much more.
SynthGlasgow: We’re really looking forward to catching you here in Glasgow this Saturday, where you’ll be joining Boom Merchant at Tribal Pulse. Have you been to Scotland before? And is there anything you’re really looking forward to experiencing while you’re here?
Lonya: Thank you, this will be my first time in Scotland actually. I’ve never had the chance to visit even as a tourist, so I m very excited to see how the crowd will respond to the sounds I bring with me, and in general, to experience the atmosphere and the culture. I know the country itself is so beautiful, so hopefully I'll have the time to see it with my own eyes.
SynthGlasgow I’ve been listening to your Floating Point mix while drafting this interview and it’s definitely got my head nodding! What track is getting the biggest reaction in your set at the moment?
Lonya: This is the fourth year I’ve been doing my Floating Point show; last year Proton asked me if I'd be interested in hosting a guest of my choice every month, so now it is a 2-hour show. In the latest episode I’ve included Reinier Zonneveld Ft Deva Premal – ‘Invocation’; this is a massive track in my latest sets. I've played it quite a lot and the reaction in the club is shocking every time.
SynthGlasgow: You’ve just completed a tour of Argentina and released a new single called ‘Righteousness’ which is sounding brilliant; what else are you looking forward to in 2017 with regards to your career and personal life?
Lonya: I'm looking forward to having lots of quality studio time in my hometown and with friends around the world. I’m looking forward to playing in great new venues and visiting new territories, meeting new people and playing for new crowds; this is what gives me the most inspiration!
Lonya plays Tribal Pulse with resident Boom Merchant this Saturday (29th) at Stereo. Advance tickets are available from Resident Advisor priced at £6 (excl fees). Lonya ‘Righteousness’ is available now via Asymmetric Recordings.