The Face Behind: Interview with KOBI
Updated: Apr 6
Kobi Toledano, A.K.A KOBI, is one of the most successful artists in the Israeli Trance scene.
To me, being part of the avant-garde duo 'Loud' along with Eitan Reiter, puts Kobi on a list of a handful of top music producers, or should I say - genre creators.
In 2017, after 12 years of blasting pretty much every dance floor that the trance scene world has to offer, including being the main event set in Boom, Ozora, Universo Parallelo, Oregon Eclipse, and many other iconic festivals, the 'Loud' project has ended and Kobi decided to work on a solo journey career.
It took Kobi some time to find his new sound and style and these days you'll find him releasing lots of fresh new music with minimalistic techno vibes filled with the famous atmosphere that only he knows to create.
And, an album will be launched soon...
My little story:
Once a year, I produce a mini intimate event for close friends that is called FestiRemler.
This is a long tradition of mine, and for the 2021 FestiRemler edition, there was a high demand to get on a journey with Kobi - and this is how my relationship with Kobi starts...
As I presented my blog and 'The Face Behind the Artist' interview series to Kobi, he was happy to join the ride and share his heart and mind with me, and with all of you as well.
The set that Koby played at the FestiRemler was unforgettable, and getting to know him in person made it even more iconic.
Kobi and I @FestiRemler 2021
So, without further ado, here is the face behind the artist with KOBI.
Interview with Kobi
Where did you grow up, Kobi?
I was born in 1976, in Eilat, the southeast city in Israel.
At the age of 4, we moved to Haifa area, to Kiryat Motzkin (north of Israel).
Following my father's job, my family moved to the center of Israel to Petach tiqwa for a few years but since the age of 4, I have pretty much lived in the north.
What can you tell me about your childhood?
I have three brothers, and hearing music played in our home was something usual. You could listen to any kind of music in our home, from all genres and ranges, from Aum Coltum to Beatles.
All in all, I had a good childhood, many friends, great parents.
Like every Israeli, I served in the army. I was a commander in Givati (battle unit).
What kind of guy were you in the hood?
I am this friend that will always listen to you, help as needed and be there for you but also a great party rocker that you would wanna go out with.
How did trance music come into your life?
At the of 15, Trance parties were started to rise in Israel. In those days, it used to be called 'forest parties' and the parties were made by people who got back from India and hooked by Goa trance.
I still remember the first party that my friend took me to, it was in Daliat el Carmel, in a place called Muhraka, what happened there was insane - melodies, harmonies, people go wild...
At those days, the whole scene happened in the north and I found myself going to parties with my friends on a weekly basis.
I didn't really realize what is going on around me, but the vibes were magnetic.
As I was already inspired by Prodigy and few other electronic music bands, the trance was felt like something else, but something natural for me to love.
When you heard it, back then, did you know that it is going to become such a big part of your life?
I had no idea at all, I didn't even know what it is to be a DJ.
I used to buy some trance collection CDs but didn't think about more than that.
So, how did you evolve into a DJ?
After my service, I went to New York to work in moving, which was a common thing people did after the army to earn some 'nice money'.
When I went back to Israel, I did two things:
I have built my own studio and started to play here and there while creating some tracks myself. I used to play on Impulse Tracker, the iconic software by Jeffrey Lim. Over time, I moved to Cubase... My friends always loved my tracks but it didn't really make me become a producer at that time...
Arranged my trip to India. I actually bought my flight ticket.
Screenshot from Impulse Tracker
I came across an advertisement in a Magazine called Act Musical that presents a program for sound practical engineering studies approved by the Israeli Ministry of Employment.
As I was always super curious about sound, and always loved to get to the bottom of things and analyze them into the smallest details, the passion to officially investigate sound overcome my passion to trip in India.
So, I canceled the flight and signed for that program.
Wow, man... I don't know many people that are so fanatic and totalistic about their passion, that's a blessing.
What happened next?
After my studies, I opened my studio to give sound services to musical bands. I served musicians from any genre you can think of: punk metal, middle east, everything... I was happy to expose myself to such a range of music and more than that, expose myself to witness how far people go with their passion and understand what brings them to do it.
Let's talk about music...
When I'm listening to KOBI's music, I can't ignore the fact that it makes me think about your old project, Loud.
How does the project Loud get started?
One day, a good friend of mine, who used to listen to my tracks told me that I should meet his friend, Eitan and that he thinks the two of us can make something cool together.
We met, and after few months of familiarity, we decided to work on a track. It took us 2-3 days to create our first track: No More X
In the same weekend, I played that track, and during (and after) the party everyone asked about that track.
Eitan and I were thrilled from the feedback I got, so we decided to create another track (which was actually the first version of 'Small Talk' - same vocals, not the same melody) - and this is how Loud was born...
What can you tell about your musical journey as Loud?
We agreed to create PsyTrance but to do it differently, serve it differently, in our own style, maybe even with some elements from Techno or Hip-hop (like some of the snared and claps we used).
We love to sample artists that we loved, write basslines differently than what was in the Trance back then. We investigated basslines as deeper as possible until we got the sounds of Loud.
As the crowd was hooked from day 1, we wanted to write a whole set of new music and take it from there- that was the vision.
Then, there was the first party... After 5 months, we had 9 full tracks that composed a set of PsyTrance. I asked a friend to play at his club (Ultrasound in Kibutz Yagur) and he said - 'I can let you close the party in the Red Room' - which was one club's rooms...
That was in Oct/Nov of 2005, we set nervously together and wrote on a piece of paper the playlist - when we'll mix and in what order... We were so excited, I'm telling you this and have goosebumps.
You are killing me... how was it?
My friend called me the day after and told me to get ready to the next gig, and since then it was like fire in a field of thorns.
The Israeli crowd loved us, we played all over Israel for years, but compared to other artists, we went abroad quite late... People abroad didn't embrace our music from day one, it is the Israeli scene that got us out of Israel...
I WANNA GIVE HUGE PROPS TO THE ISRAELI CROWD FOR THAT!
It was also the digital camera times that helped us spread the word...
In 2008, a clip that our friend filmed from a party by the TFN production went viral and made us get an invitation to play in one of the biggest festivals in Brazil, XXX Experience.
I remember we went up to the stage before the gig and all we could see is people. It was so powerful that, as an instinct, we flew back.
It was 7:00 AM when we went up to the stage again, pushed play, and the rest is history...
We were naturally high for weeks later...
Did your vision fit to what eventually happens?
Absolutely no, we totally rolled into it...
How your family reacted to your new job?
My parents understood what I'm doing a bit later when my brothers showed them... They are proud :)
Can you share some of the ideas behind a few of Loud masterpieces (L.S.Dance, Program Fly, Africa, Subinya)?
The Remixes of Loud were always for tracks that we knew we can add something of our own. In addition, we remixed tracks that we really loved to hear and wanted to extend its life.
For example, in LSDance, the original track starts with a filter.
We took the filter and rub it for 2 min until the track is suddenly open. We tried to open it insanely and surprise the listener.
Can you tell how did you and Eitan eventually break up?
Well, at some point, after so many intense years of unforgettable shows, what held us began to disintegrate... Each one took his own direction on a personal level...
We both will agree that it's a good thing that happened to us.
It was only not long ago that I have understood my part in Loud... I feel that now, as KOBI, I am much more loyal to myself: more drive, more rhythm, now I feel 100% home.
Let's talk about KOBI - how KOBI was evolved?
It took me almost two years to come up with KOBI (in 2019). I set in the studio for two years, trying to find my own style.
As two years is quite a lot, I wanted to get back to stage although my music was unfinished yet. Although people loved it, the crowd was asking me to play Loud. In the beginning, I didn't realize that it's going to be that hard to put Loud behind...
So, I mixed some Loud tracks during my sets so the crowd will be satisfied.
In the meantime, I kept the hard work in the studio to overcome this and find my way to the crowd as KOBI.
Thank you for sharing this with me Kobi, this is not obvious, not to say brave.
2020 was planned to be the year of your breakthrough, and then, COVID hits everywhere.
I took advantage of it and got into the studio to keep working on my style.
2020 was the year with my best ever joy of writing, the fruitful year ever.
It is only today that I can say that I have developed all of the elements I need for my creation and that I feel complete with it.
Lately, I don't get a request to play Loud...
Sounds like a good time to release a KOBI debut album?
Fanny that you are saying this, cause there is something hot in the oven.
As mentioned, in terms of music creation, 2020 was my richest year ever.
Actually, I looked in my folder a few months ago and found 14 full tracks and understood that I have an album in hand.
I filtered and sorted it out and the plan is to release 10 tracks as my first album, all solely created by myself (all KOBI tracks), without collaborations.
How do you filter tracks in/out of an Album?
Since it was made by an accident, there wasn't any guideline for the album. So, I listen to the tracks and picked a list that creates a story that I love, and put my feelings and myself on the table.
Actually, there is a track that I love the most, which was created in 2.5 hours (that's why it is called 'One Take') but it wasn't integrated cleanly into the album vibe so I didn't include it.
How do you know, all of a sudden, that you found what you have looked for?
You know, as a producer, you are sitting in the studio for so long, listening to so many sounds, elements, melodies, harmonies... You sample this, add that vocal, tweak this, do that...
And then, there is this moment that you suddenly find yourself, unawarely stand, and then dance with the music... Then - you know that this is it
What was important for you when created the whole album experience?
In my creation process, I love to put myself in new territories of sounds. This way, I find things that I couldn't find before.
When you put yourself in a new territory, you create something new but also 'suffer' from making some small human errors (in the production, melody creation, mix and so no...).
It was important to me to keep these human errors as part of the track and not being and not stick to technical conventions.
That's why the album is full of analog synths recordings, live recording and will feel very 'alive' to the listener.
I also want the album to draw you in, like in listening to a set, but at the same time to be fitted to home listening.
Where can I find some tracks from the album (is anything released)?
Oh no no... I believe that album is like a birth of a child.
Birth is given to the whole human body. Same here, everything should be released for the first time in one peace.
What can you tell me about your inspiration sources?
I don't believe in inspiration. I can get inspired from anything, anytime, everywhere.
But, I believe in hard work: searching for a musical scale, notes, leads, writing a melody, adding an effect, bass, kick... until it gets a shape. Ideas can come and go...
In general, the crowd love to predict the next beat, I'm trying to build a track to break the stigma and the prediction while keeping an enchanted and magnitude style.
Sometimes, I love to start building the track by building its climactic moment, and then build the beginning and end around it, do reverse engineering.
The music will be written by the same day's vibes and feelings. It all comes out in the music.
By the way, also Loud didn't have a mold.
Music is what feeling sound like
What can you tell about a DJ's work-life balance?
I can tell about myself...
Its quite simple:
9:00 - waking up, shower, breakfast etc. - then go to the studio.
20:00-21:00 - get out of the studio.
The time at the studion is in one of two modes:
New track mode- fire in the house! Obsession on the screen.
Producing mode- mixing, mastering, for myself and for others. I also give private lessons...
Weekends- mostly play.
When you play, is there a message you are trying to deliver to the audience?
I want the dancer to dedicate himself to my dance, here and now.
My opening track is always a bit awkward, not flowing with the party vibes... I want to grab the dancer's attention, create a virtual autonomy and let the dancers taking it from there to their own world.
Are there any sounds/instruments you use to deliver your message?
It's not about that, it's about the whole package, the whole experience.
OK, I was very thrilled to hear about your personal musical journey.
A few more little questions about the face behind KOBI and we'll move on to the association game :)
How do you envision your next two years?
I hope that my music will be embraced by people, that it will get recognition.
Essentially, when releasing an album, you expose yourself to the world and you look for the positive feedback that will fire you on to keep doing what you love to do.
What do you think about the Israeli trance scene?
It's one of the most luxurious in the world.
What fulfill you the most these days?
My nephews. They taught me what free love is.
Here it comes, our quickies section:
Let's play an association game- I ask- you fire an answer.
Ready to go?
What track can you use and it will always do the job? Small Talk/Africa
KOBI - Square Push Hair
What's your favorite track?
Union jack two and half-moons (the original)
A DJ you would like to play with?
Union jack back to back
What is your peak moment as a D.J?
It was the first time that a set is filmed like a professional movie.
It has millions of views. It was only after the set that I understood what happened there... during the set I was just too happy to notice what is going on around me.
What is your most embarrassing moment of yours as a DJ?
There was that time that I played in the US, in California, and an artist that was a heavy user attacked me during the show, boxed me, tore my shirt, and threw my computer. By instinct, I caught the computer and pushed him back and in seconds the security took him off.
That was very embarrassing.
If you were a pop star, what star would you be?
Tell me something no one knows about you:
I love to cook very much and to be in the garden (plant and grow things).
Message to the audience:
Do your best, at your passion - only good things will come out of it
Better to greatly fail than to have dreams in the drawer.
Kobi - thank you champ - that was inspiring!