You have probably never heard of a DJ named Partok. Neither had we when we visited Tel Aviv two years ago. We went to this party YOD, which alighted in a loft-ish atmosphere (we like to think so), and there stood Avihay Partok behind the decks, playing a gorgeous set to a gay-straight-mixed crowd, blending shoe-gazer with disco and house. Phew, the sparks that flew around this place! Of course, one Uri Lahav knew exactly why he had to introduce us to Avihay: Resident to the PAG gay parties and a regular at the Tape club in Berlin, Partok is one of the most accomplished underground DJs of Israel. Here, Partok employed a formula of suave and jagged coolness, making his contribution one of the finest mixes in our series. And you really thought slo-house was slow?
ROOF.FM: Hey Avihay. What are you up to these days?
AVIHAY: Life is good. I’ve started working at a music college about 8 months ago. I’m teaching people to become DJs. And it’s quite a nice job. I never imagined I would do something like this.
What does the course entail?
It’s a two-semester course. The first semester deals with the technical stuff, the second one is more about how to structure your sets and djing methods and finding out where you want to take it. Some of the students come to school just for fun, while others want to make a living out of it.
I understand that stylistically it’s very open-minded?
Yeah, totally. In the second semester, the students hear many mixes that are closer to my taste, but besides that I’m really not pushing them into any direction.
Give us some examples, please.
The Live at the Liquid Room – Tokyo-Mix by Jeff Mills. One from Larry Levan from 1979. Another one by Danny Tenaglia. And also the 12 hours set of Michael Mayer recorded at the ‘Total 12’ release party last year.
Sounds like gargantuan homework. How did you start djing yourself?
It’s something I wanted to do from an early age, when I was 12 I already knew I wanted to do this and was really focussed on my path. I started playing at bars and later in clubs. The Barzilay club, which is closed now, was very important in my personal history. I played there a lot and had some of my most memorable gigs. It was also the home-base for the PAG partys where I’m the resident DJ for 8 years now.
Which is one of the biggest gay club nights in Tel Aviv. What do you usually play there?
I like to mix up styles at the PAG partys, a good blend of house, techno and disco, lot of oldschool. At other venues at the Barzilay or at the YOD party where you saw me I usually play more straightforward house and techno. At the C.U.N.T parties it’s rock and indie, but that’s a whole different story.
The mix is mostly between 90 and 94 BPM. I believe this speed has a very peculiar strength, it sounds undanceable at first but it starts to grows on you. There’s a flow in there.
The mix you did for us is a special one…
Yeah, it is. The idea about that kind of mix has been going through my head for a while now but I really put my mind to it when you’ve asked me for a set. It’s not a proper dance mix, I wanted to experiment a bit. It blends many tunes that have one thing in common: they are all very slow.
That’s why you called the mix 92?
Most of the tracks are in between 90 and 94 BPM. I believe this speed has a very peculiar strength, it sounds undanceable at first but it starts to grows on you. There’s a certain flow in there. My set touches many musical areas: I wanted to include some industrial and dark wave gems from Front 242 and This Mortal Coil, British techno pioneers like LFO and Sabres Of Paradise and quite a few contemporary tracks of a deeper disposition.
There’s a subtle share of soul and disco in there as well…
Yeah, there’s the night-dub version of ‘Body Talk’ by Imagination, one of the best producers of all times. And also a song by soul singer Lynn Christopher. James Priestley from Secret Sundaze brought it to my attention, when he was in Tel Aviv about a year ago. We were at my house chilling and playing music to each other. At some point he played that track, and I just knew it has to be in the mix. As I said earlier, this mix has been going around my head for quite a while now and I wanted a pure soul song in it and this one fitted very nicely. It’s so achingly beautiful.
This sounds like a very thoughtful approach to mixing. Does this extend to your regular club nights?
No, not at all. As for this mix, I more or less pre-designed it, and then went to a club and pushed the record button. But usually, I just rely on my instincts. My DJ booth is really a mess, I just bring three crates with me and spread my stuff all over the place.
At Tape Club in Berlin, which has closed recently, you were a regular guest. Was it a special place to you?
Tape really was indeed a special place. It had this very unique philosophy. From the musical genres they pushed forward, to the sound system, the wooden floors, they took every detail under consideration and created an amazing atmosphere.
You also played at the Tape closing party.
Yes, I did. Now that was a very long party with a very long line up. My slot was close to the end, so I played after 12 hours of partying. Honestly, I don’t remember what I played. It was a big blur (laughs). But it was fun as always!