Litty Lev is an artist, creator and a DJ and has a degree in MFA (Photo by Shula Margalit)

Litty Lev Interview

Q: Tell us about your childhood and the beginning of your music “journey”.
Litty Lev: I moved around a lot throughout my childhood, from a number of locations within Israel to London. I was 9 when I got to London and I spent there the following ten years of my life. The urban “nomadic” early life experience was very enriching on a cultural level, yet it left me with an ongoing feeling of displacement and miscommunication. Adjusting to different people with a radically different mentality and language wasn’t easy for me, but it inspired me to develop my natural inclination towards Visual Art and Music. There was a very popular weekly teen magazine in England called “Smash Hits” which included double spreads with chart hits lyrics by the likes of Prince, Bananarama etc. I used to collect all of these and memorize the lyrics. Of course I would watch “Top of the Pops” with excitement every week. The interesting thing was that even though it featured the most top charted commercial artists, it covered acts such as the Smiths, Happy Mondays, 808 state, The Orb, Dead or Alive, Altern-8 and Technotronic. So early dance music producers such as Kevin Saunderson, Jazzy B and Coldcut resonated with me at a very early age, so much so, that at the age of 12, I bought “Pacific Ocean” and a dance music compilation titled “Deep Heat” which featured tracks by Frankie Knuckles.

Q: Who affected your music preferences and to what extend?
Litty Lev: My father contributed a great deal to my introduction to music. Although he wasn’t a musician, he was well-informed about different musical styles. It was almost like he educated me subliminally by playing me certain kinds of music before sleep, which must have penetrated my subconscious and shaped my future tastes. This was followed up by taking me to Rock and Pop concerts from the tender age of 5. Experiences like being snuck backstage to meet Elton John as well as seeing Queen’s “Its a kind of magic” tour in Wembley Arena where exhilarating and memorable. This brought about a direct relationship between the experience of sound and music and a feeling of euphoria. From then on, music represented a resource that enabled me to generate positive feelings and a sense of belonging and security. Consequently, I started collecting tapes and records at a very young age and by the time I was 14, I became very interested in alternative music. The first alternative cassette tapes I bought where Mudhoney’s “Every good boy deserves fudge”, DinosaurJr’s “Green mind” and Jane’s addiction “Ritual de lo habituel”. Despite the prominence of indie bands such as Blur, Radiohead and Carter USM, I felt more drawn to American punk rock and experimental music which seemed to have more of an edge and an anarchic anti-institutional stance. Having realized from early on that music has a significant therapeutic effect on me, when I relocated to New York in 1999, to pursue my Artistic education, not really knowing anyone there, a small stereo system was the first thing I bought .

“Adjusting to different people with a radically different mentality and language wasn’t easy for me, but it inspired me to develop my natural inclination towards Visual Art and Music”


Q: Share your teen life in London with regard to the music culture there, raves you took part in and other strengthening experiences you had that led you to what you’ve become today. Also, relating to electronic music, can you refer to this period of time as an important one?
Litty Lev: I went through my formative years in London. From childhood to my early adult life. When I was about 14, I got deeply involved with Punk rock and Experimental indie music. At the time there was a real feeling of discovery when I stumbled upon an obscure record label from a small town in America. It wasn’t expensive to go see bands play live. I would pay 2.50 pounds to see a noise band in a hole-in-the -wall pub, so live music was very accessible and affordable. When I was about 16 years old I made a transition into electronic music. It wasn’t just about the profusion of different electronic musical records, it was the lifestyle and ideology behind that music at the time that was very appealing to me. The music represented underground anti-institutional culture. The people organizing outdoor raves and underground parties where squatters, human and animal rights activists and societal drop-outs. They had a DIY mentality about creating music and organizing events in alternative spaces.

My introduction to electronic music was actually through Ambient/ Ambient techno to begin with. Of course there was the Orb which was already widely recognized at the time, but there were several small independent labels from Europe and the US that put out great albums. At the time, Ambient music didn’t start and end with spacey synth effects and strange samples, it intermingled with Techno, Acid house, Break-beat and Trance. So some of the labels that released spaced out music where simultaneously releasing Techno, like Mille plateaux, Rising high records, Djax and Harthouse. Then of course, as part of a community of dance music lovers I would go to festivals and outdoor raves where particular tracks where played repeatedly. The partying preference was independent alternative events over clubbing. Yet there where exceptions. When I was 17, a friend and myself worked as security guards in the children’s field at the Glastonbury festival, that was a very bizarre situation because part of our job was to tell people to extinguish their joints, whilst we, ourselves where pretty spaced out ourselves and all we could really think about was how to run off to see the Orb outdoor concert or the Velvet’s reunion gig.

In 1994, “Club UK” opened in a very bizarre location. I believe it was in a shopping center in Milton Keynes. The space had a kind of strange community center vibe to it, and a group of us used to venture out to dance to the likes of Sven Vath and Laurent Garnier amongst others. There was club Heaven of course, which is well known for other lines of parties. I used to go there to a party called “Megatripolis”, which had an intense aura of New Age traveller culture and Neo-hippy trance and Techno-loving clubbers. At the time I didn’t have an aspiration to be a DJ, but I absorbed so much information from the music people where playing and their vinyl collections. The contrast and combination between Indie/ Experimental music and Techno/Garage definitely shaped my musical sensibilities today.

Q: What were your reasons for leaving London, and how did Art studying connected you to DJing?
Litty Lev: I returned to Tel-Aviv in 97′, where I spent a few years working and studying Fine Art in Kalisher College. Drawing and Painting was my main preoccupation since a very early age.
At the time I knew that I would soon relocate either back to London or to New York in order to continue with my Artistic education. Studying Art in London was intimidating to me at the time since the leaning was hyper-conceptual and back then; I was more interested in abstract and gestural painting, so it made more sense to develop as an artist in New York.
Right before leaving Tel-Aviv in 99′, I was DJing at a place called “Hasrita” (The Scratch). I There I played mostly Ambient and Dub sets.

Whilst studying in New York and later in New Haven, I accumulated a great deal of music from a myriad of genres, but I wasn’t Djing at the time, the Art practice was too demanding. I suppose music came into play as a part of my Multimedia Installations. My MFA thesis project was an elaborate interactive installation titled “Monument for holy war”, which included a 7-channel 12-tone musical composition that specifically related to the premise behind the piece which essentially dealt with the relationship between major religions and warfare. I appropriated information that I extracted from 7 canonical religious texts into musical notes. That ignited a desire to learn composition and actually produce music, but I suppose that is yet to happen.

Pulpit rock
Litty Lev Cohen – Monument for holy war – Multimedia Installation with audio component and kinetic object. Dimensions Variable. Exhibited at the Yale MFS Thesis Exhibition, New Haven, CT 2006.

Its only when I returned to Tel-Aviv in 2007, that I really began to DJ regularly. I returned to Israel after completing my MFA degree. It was a very emotionally challenging 2 years. A great deal of competition and politics, a different mentality. It felt right at the time to return to a place where you are surrounded by family and friends. I needed to feel a sense of community.

For some years I was DJing mostly in bars, small private parties and exhibition openings. During 2010 I DJed regularly at Taxidermy, Laika and Milk, but the leap into DJing as a profession happened last August when I became a resident DJ at the Shlagzane club, formerly known as the Penguin. Up until the end of December 2012, I was DJing there on every weekend, playing at least 6 hour sets until the early hours of the morning. This was a great learning experience, since I had the opportunity to play long sets and study the DJ/ audience dynamic. The priority was to work the crowd and keep people dancing until as late as possible which required flexibility and a lot of attention.

Since then, I DJed at several great dance bars and clubs in Tel-Aviv, namely, the Milk, Radio EPGB, Deli, Michatronix and the Block (the best club in Tel-Aviv). I am noticing that I have only been mentioning Tel-Aviv so far, and I guess that it is unfortunate that the Israeli Dance scene is concentrated in Tel-Aviv and that Jerusalem, which does have a great musical community, or Haifa receives little or no attention. I do hope that that will change.

Q: Is there a direct relationship between your Artistic career and DJing and how is it expressed?
Litty Lev: There isn’t a direct relationship between my Artistic career/practice and the Djing, however they complement and inform each other since each practice requiers a very different kind of energy and approach, so the contrasts balance each other out. To me, DJing is a performative act that involves myself and the audience in real-time, the dynamic occurs on the spot and there is a lot of spontaneous and instinctual decision-making. The rush I get from this activity is immediate and almost sexual, whereas the artistic creative process is much slower, much more cerebral and is mostly done in solitude.

“I strive to project something magical through my sets. An attempt to bring many elements together in order to create a situation that lifts people’s spirits”


Q: Why did you eventually decide to return to Israel and work here instead of developing your career abroad?
Litty Lev: The decision to live and work as an Artist/Producer in Israel or abroad depends on what one’s priorities are. Obviously if one succeeds as an artist in a metropolis like NYC, London, Paris, Berlin, the extent and meaning of the success is much more substantial in terms of the amount of money generated, the exposure and opportunities, but if one finds being around family and a community of friends a necessity, than it’s more likely that that would be more easily achieved and maintained in Israel. It is possible to arrive at international recognition whilst still living in Israel from web exposure and mainly from producing and putting out tracks, but I find that usually you need to be physically present in a place and engage with people on a more personal level if you want to create a niche for yourself there.

Q: What challenges and limitations have you faced with at the Israeli electronic music scene, and what are you doing today?
Litty Lev: Even though the electronic music scene in Tel-Aviv is exciting and dynamic, where many innovative and acclaimed international DJ/Producers are invited to play in parties, there aren’t many clubs or dance bars and there isn’t enough of an audience or an established enough rave culture to provide decent opportunities for local DJs. Club and bar owners as well as promoters struggle to cover the costs of maintenance, production and taxation fees and there are many local talents that want to play in the same few venues, so the conditions, pay and work options for local DJs are limited. But given that, over the past 3 years, I DJed in most venues that take themselves seriously in terms of the quality of the music, sound and audience. The 5 month residency I had at the club, Shlagzane was a very rare situation, since there is such a high level of unpredictability in this arena and people are afraid of committing to a DJ on a long-term basis in Tel-Aviv. However, I am optimistic in the sense that many talented local DJs are taking initiative and creating their own branded lines of parties which can eventually built a long-term following.

I am currently doing a line called “Snap n’ slap” in a very cool place called Africa with my fellow DJ, friend and art dealer, Guillaume Rouchon. I am also collaborating with the fantastic Bathsheva dancers Shamel Pitts and Billy Barry who have a line of parties called “Fagazine”, titled after their online magazine. We have a shared musical and stylistic vision that seeks to revive the flavor of the 1980s /1990s vogueing and ballroom scene in New York, Musically this involves a lot of rare 90s garage house and drag queen vocals. There is a flamboyance and glamour in this style that we wish to infuse into Tel-Aviv nightlife culture. We are organizing events in Africa with Ahal Eden, co-owner of the venue, artist/producer and promoter who was responsible for the acclaimed line of parties “Misshapes” that took place at the Breakfast club.

Given our shared passion for the NYC vogueing scene and community of the 80s/90s,  Shamel Pitts and i came up with the line of events, L’enchante’.
Our goal is to set up and develop a house of vogueing  in Tel-Aviv which invites people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to express and develop their own unique styles of fashion, and dance languages. We will host parties and events that will provide a venue for our interdisciplinary projects and conduct vogueing workshops for kids, youths and adults.
It would be nice to reach a broader international audience, collaborate and eventually participate in Ballroom competitions around the globe.

Our first L’enchante’ event was a great success. The freestyle fashion show that took place included some of the most colorful and creative individuals in the Tel-Aviv nightlife, art, design, dance and fashion communities. It attracted a fantastic audience and significant media coverage. We where thrilled to host this event in association with the Block Club and Pacotek who brought Prosumer, one of our most favorite Djs to play the main set during that night.

Pulpit rock
Litty Lev on the decks L’ENCHANTE’ launch party at the Block Club Tel-Aviv 2013.

Q: In your music, is there a message or added value that you are trying to bring to the audience? What exactly are you trying to say via music?
Litty Lev: I think that first and foremost, I strive to project something magical through my sets. An attempt to bring many elements together in order to create a situation that lifts people’s spirits, that encourages them to celebrate their sexuality, bodies, personalities and personal styles. I try to play tracks that have some sort of an edge, whether its in the bass lines, melodic sophistication or subversive vocals. I subscribe to a vast amount of musical genres and I DJ in a variety of events that have very differing contexts, so for example , if I play in a restaurant, bar, opening reception, I can play anything from rare groove to space jazz to disco, but in a club environment I try to bring a very specific sensibility that has a solid binding thread. Lately I have been mainly preoccupied with researching Old School rave-related music which includes Acid Techno, Hip House, Garage, Break-beat and Happy hardcore, I also remember a lot of this music from my teenage raver days in London. I am also very much into ballroom vogueing music as mentioned before.

None the less there are some great contemporary producers around who’s sound revives and refreshes the old school styles I like, so the old and the new can really complement each other in a set. I definitely like a build-up in my sets. I tend to start with a warm sexy vibe and build up to faster, rougher and tougher beats. I have had situations in the Sira Club in Jerusalem, at the Shlagzane and in Africa where I played till 5-7 am and there was only a small die-hard crowd that where still dancing. I love pushing myself by playing a set for as long as I can whilst maintaining an edge and I love to see people who do the same with their dancing. Because at that point, if you are lucky, you manage to get past feeling self conscious and you surrender yourself to the music and the vibe, then things happen on a more intuitive level.

Litty Lev – 2B Continued Podcast 48. Presents and exposes the most creative artists of the Electronic Music Industry from Israel.

These days Litty is working on her Upcoming Solo Exhibition that will take place on October 2013, at Tempo Rubato Gallery, Tel-Aviv.

2B Continued © 2017, All Rights Reserved | About 2B Continued | Get Involved | Advertise With Us | Archive