Rave culture is a relentless sea: ever-shifting, ever-evolving and full of creatures big and small that co-exist in their distinct harmony, for the most part nameless and indefinite to the ground above. And, just like the sea—look at rave culture’s surface, and you’ll see a lucid reflection of the status quo, listen to its waves and you’ll hear a forecast of the (alternative) future. Emerging from its depths is one of techno’s most in-demand sirens: Mor Elian. Rooted in Tel Aviv, raised in Los Angeles and currently residing in electronic music’s heaven, Berlin, the artist trots the globe with a mission to promote longevity and diversity within the underground.
Having started as a raver at the tender age of 12, Elian’s fast-paced, electro-driven tracks have taken her from the dance floor to the DJ pool and beyond; she’s a producer and booker, with a jewellery line as an outlet of her passion for design. The thoroughness of Elian’s experience grants her the ability to reflect on electronic music’s past with enviable knowledge and push for its truly authentic, sustainable and inclusive future. Glamcult sat down with the artist for a talk on risk-taking, perfect clubbing environments and (last but definitely not least) her process as a creator.
Mor, you started raving at a very young age…
[Laughs] Yes, I started going to raves and clubs when I was around 12 or 13. Everyone towards whom I gravitated during that time of my life seemed to be interested in raving. But it’s important to note that rave culture in the ’90s was immensely glorified, it was very much in mainstream culture too—Hackers and The Matrix were the films we saw back then as kids, and I couldn’t wait to be part of the world they presented. We’d go to raves not for heavy partying or alcohol, however; it was hearing the music that mattered most.
How does one even get in the club at 12 years old though?
Actually, back in the late ’90s, there were a lot of clubs for kids, I remember tons of 16- and 17-year-olds clubbing. And the people I got involved with would know the bouncer, so we’d just sneak in or something. Also, somehow when I was a teenager, I looked older than I was, while now I look younger than I am [Laughs]. I guess things flipped for me.
How has the raving environment changed over the years?
While everything has its positives and negatives, we need to admit that our world as a whole has shifted towards a more globally capitalized direction. And there’s also a fine line between worthiness and disposability. Firstly, I’ve noticed that today everything is more about mimicking what has already happened instead of generating a new flow. Raving in the ’90s wasn’t as thoroughly thought out, there wasn’t as much value put into what to wear in order to fit in with a certain fashion style. This is not to say we didn’t have a specific way of dressing, but it simply came from a different place. Secondly, DJs weren’t the glorified celebrities they are today. Social media’s culture of buying into a brand didn’t exist, and a DJ was not a personality, nobody cared about their public image really.
You switched from the dance floor to the DJ pool. What’s your process of creating tracks like?
When I first started out producing my own stuff, I had an obsession to finish a track before I could move on to the next one. I’d feel like I couldn’t let a track see light unless I had changed it over and over and over again. And usually, when you do that to a track, it ends up sounding like it too. But I’m letting this obsession go. Now, I work on several projects at once, all of them building up towards a certain narrative with the goal to form a coherent body of work. I start with recording a bunch of distinct parts—be it drum or bass instrumentals, or some other experimentation—with an idea where I’d like to end up, but shifting between tracks throughout the process. I’ve simply noticed that my best tracks are the ones that have come together quickly and intuitively. That’s why now I focus on not working for far too long on one thing only.
When do you know a track is ready to see light?
I do, more or less, work with of a formula—I need to have a couple of bass lines that complement each other, a few drums too. But once I’ve found that the track has a nice groove and I can feel that all parts have come together, I know it’s done. You can just hear it when it’s ready.
How much of your DJ-sets do you plan, and how much is total improv?
I never fully plan a set. Every environment is different, and even if you try to predict a night, you never really know how it’s going to unfold or what the crowd’s going react to. Normally, I have an idea of the first couple of tracks I want to play, just to set the mood, and I also have tracks I like to play together. The first half an hour I try to familiarize myself with the dance floor. I also make mood playlists so as to have an overall idea of where things are and avoid a mess, because when you’re on the go, you sometimes forget where certain tracks are. But you can never fully plan a set—you may have an idea of some tracks to play in the beginning, or some transitions you’re sure work well together, but you can’t and shouldn’t plan it. That’s the opposite of being a DJ, in my opinion. True DJing is feeling the crowd, seeing what they react to and responding to it at the spot. It’s a form of communication; I’m there to entertain and look at the crowd, not simply play my thing and look down. The bodies on the dance floor of every different city and country react in their own unique way, they all have their distinct vibe, and as a DJ you need to communicate that.
You’re also a booker for L.A. party Into The Woods. How does the ideal line-up come together?
It’s always a balanced mix. We try to showcase voices that need to be heard and whose good work is somehow being missed out on. But we also book people who are very known as well. We present established DJs shoulder to shoulder with fresh new names and talents from non-represented minorities from all over the world. It’s kind of like filling in a gap while showcasing those who are bigger too.
You’re someone who’s been on all sides of the club scene spectrum—young raver, DJ, producer, booker—what are the things you always watch out for when creating the ideal environment for people to experience music?
I’ve grown up with the idea that a club really needs to build something. I’ve seen and experienced that model, so I really appreciate clubs that pay a lot of attention to details and that consciously work towards making sure everyone feels safe in the club space. When I was younger, someone would non-consensually touch you in the club and all you’d think to do is simply get away from that situation. But now, it’s great to see people standing up for each other more. This is so refreshing—we didn’t have that as young ravers in the ’00s. What I also believe the best clubs in the world do amazingly is take risks when curating a line-up. Picking out names no one would know, combining those with DJs that are bigger and more established—it makes for a super healthy balance; and that’s what defines a good booker too. It results in an interesting environment at the club, since you pull in people who come for the big name yet you also expose them to new sounds. It shows a lot of thoughtful work being put in, and I love that. I find it so tiring to see the same line-ups over and over and over again. I’m like, Sure, showcase the big names that have righteously worked their way up; but mix stuff up too, take some risks, show that you care about new, outsider talent. Because, especially in this scene, longevity will be created through risk.
As an established name yourself, how do you take risks and mix up your own style and sound?
What inspires me to stay fresh and take risks is to go deeper into my own thing. If I play around in the studio and some weird stuff comes out of that, I don’t get as intimidated as I used to get in the past. Now, I love to free dive into that weirdness and to see what happens. Another thing that affects my style and sound are my personal feelings and what I’m going through in terms of the socio-political environment I find myself in.
At last, I would love to know what’s something you wish people asked you more about?
I’d love it if people were more open and conscious about the unsustainable direction in which our community is heading. What I’d like to talk about is the way in which we can create more longevity in the scene while maintaining our authenticity. I firmly believe electronic music is the most boundary-pushing genre in music today; most other genres are simply stuck. Yet, we’re also a community, and I really care about it being accommodating and supportive of all voices, not only of a few of us. Here’s something I care about.