Self-Portrait: Autarkic

Nadav Spiegel was around the age of 20 when he knew that he wanted to make music. Unable to play any instruments at the time, the idea seemed like something of a pipe dream, however a move into audio engineering gave him food for thought and some practical steps to start crafting his own productions under the guise of Autarkic.

His first outing came via Golf Channel Recordings in 2015, followed up in 2016 by his first album for Disco Halal, the label he’d return to for his second long player the following year. As well as charting releases with DGTL, Bahnsteig 23, Turbo and Höga Nord, last year he moved into the label world himself, launching Age Of Self alongside his friend Neil Cohen, as a music and visual arts platform.

Having just released his third LP, Terms And Conditions, into the world, this time with DJ Tennis’ Life and Death imprint, we invited him to deliver a mix of unreleased original material: from club tracks, edits and remixes to songs in Hebrew and English and collaborations with Ivan Smagghe, Gladys Lazer and a Bidud Group.

Buy Terms and Conditions on Life And Death.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

I didn’t grow up in a musical house in particular but on every Saturday morning (which is like Sunday in Israel) my mother would play records. One record that was played all the time was ‘Ehud Banai – Karov’ and the opener was ‘Northern Winds’, so every time I hear that snare drum hit which opens the album it sends me straight back to childhood.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

Not really, but I had an interest in music from a very early age, listening to the radio but especially TV, where I would watch my fav local bands, and later when MTV arrived to our country I was hooked and got to know new music from abroad. My mom supported my love of music and bought me the cassettes I desired. 

What led you into music production?

I didn’t play any instrument till I was 20 and took a couple of classic guitar lessons just for fun, that didn’t go too far although I play some guitar on my records. Around that age I felt I wanted to create music but as I never really played instruments or sang it seemed unrealistic to me, so I said to myself I should at least be around the musicians and started studying audio engineering. The school gave me some practical tools and knowledge to make music and slowly I started recording some bits and at the same time abandoned the plan of being an audio engineer.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

I think it changes all the time… when I started Soulwax was the biggest inspiration for making music, in recent years I find DJ Oil’s work a big inspiration. Some tracks by Cleveland, Lurka and Sandoz really changed my perspective on production.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Well, I start with a break. When I arrive at the studio building I make a stop at my good friend Naduve’s, who also has a studio in the same building. We drink coffee(s) and talk mainly about politics, it can take hours from the day sometimes, we call it ‘The Parliament’. 

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Not really, my music is what I call ‘mistake-based’. I jam with a synth/guitar or play with a sample until I reach some sound that I find appealing to my ears. Usually it happens from a stretched sample or effect pedal that was left ‘ON’.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

When I record a sketch for a track that I like I usually let it rest for a couple of weeks (sometimes more) so I can fall out of love and detect the problems. That’s a not so romantic approach but that’s the only approach that allows me not to hate my tracks when they’re being released.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

Usually it starts with a manipulated sample (which in many cases is left out at the end) and then I build a basic beat and loop those. The next thing is to jam on it with instruments or try to fit in other samples, in the meanwhile I sing melodies to myself that can work, and then the lyrics come from the melody.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

As I said in most cases I start with a sample just to get things moving but in most cases that sample is left out in the final version.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Autarkic track?

At the moment it’s Moog Grandmother, Strymon Mobius and Roland MC505.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Autarkic material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

The mix contains some of my own unreleased solo stuff – club tracks, edits, remixes and songs in Hebrew and English, collaborations with Ivan Smagghe (as Funderground), Gladys Lazer and a Bidud Group, which is a number of local producers who made tracks via emails while in confinement. The last track is by Tamir Hassan, which I mixed, and that’s part of his EP on my label Age of Self. 

Congratulations on Terms & Conditions your recent album on Life and Death. Can you take us through the production process on one of the tracks?

‘The Exploiter’ is a track I made on my laptop at home, just playing with old samples and ripping some synth parts from a track I made many years ago but didn’t made the cut. Pretty quickly the track instrumental was ready and I felt it needed some vocals. At the time I was reading Eduard Said’s “Orientalism” and I got stuck on a paragraph that I thought would fit nicely on the track but I didn’t want to read it into a mic, so I used a text-to-speech app instead. At that time I made ‘Translate’ which was made with the same technique but using Google Translate. Those two tracks define my album.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

Nothing is set in stone at the moment, I don’t see a good reason to release functional dance music now. The only thing I’m looking forward to is finishing my first album in Hebrew and finally releasing it.

Buy Terms and Conditions on Life And Death. Photo credit: Dori Sadovnik

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