DJ Profile: Oren Nizri
Israel has given mankind lots of things, among them the Bible, Jesus Christ and the entertainment industry (also known as "Judaism"). In recent years, it’s also become known for some extraordinarily beautiful men -and, oh yes, having one of the most unique and influential dance music scenes on the planet. Among the Israeli DJs who have made international names for themselves are Offer Nissim, Micky Friedmann, Yinon Yahel and Maor Levi. Now you can add to this lineage of superstars handsome, hazel-eyed Oren Nizri.
After jumping the Atlantic to Miami, Nizri has been steadily ascending the ranks with his brand of big-room techno and progressive House. In the last eight years, he has been pounding dancefloors across the United States as well as venues in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Europe and even Asia. Nizri has headlined White Party events in Miami for several years, myriad Gay Pride events across the U.S. and Canada; Brazil’s Hell & Heaven; Sound Festival in Lima, Peru; Summer Sound Festival in Mexico; and Miami’s Ultra and Winter Music Conference. He currently serves as resident DJ at Fort Lauderdale’s Manor Complex.
I managed to catch up with Nizri over the holidays and picked his brain to discover the man behind the addictive beats and sexy stare.
Let’s start at the beginning ...
I grew up in a small town on the southern side of Israel called Dimona, where everyone knows each other. I couldn’t wait to get away from there! I visit my family at least once a year. I’m very close to my family, especially my two younger sisters and my adorable new nephew, Ore, now six months old.
What influenced your love of music?
I found myself drawn to music at a very young age. I would sit next to the radio for hours as a little kid and explore all styles of music. I will never forget, as a kid I took a test with a music teacher and she told my parents I didn’t have any kind of ear for music at all. Guess who’s laughing now! For some reason, I never really connected to what was "hot" back then. While everyone would listen to the typical pop music, I discovered and started listening to artists like Sting, Kate Bush and Suzanne Vega, which I still do today. When I turned 16, my taste really came full circle.
Did you always aspire to be a DJ?
As a kid, I thought I would be a movie director, but that plan didn’t last too long. The minute I got hooked on music, I knew that was what I wanted to do, first as a radio DJ, and which I did successfully for a few years and opened doors for me in important nightclubs in Israel and Europe. When the House music scene exploded, I knew I was meant to be a club DJ. I was so blown away by DJ David Morales’ mix of Mariah Carey’s "Fantasy." Even today, it’s one of my all-time favorite club mixes - 11 minutes of pure magic.
Who gave you your big break?
My business partner and manager, George Coronado, our former business partner Arnold Matteson [now deceased] and I started a weekly party eight years ago in Miami Beach. We held our party in a very sophisticated high-energy lounge that belonged to Cafeteria, the NYC brand that had just opened in South Beach. We had the party for almost a year, and it was a big success. It was really a fun party, and it gave us the opportunity to build up some great relationships and to start getting bookings in different clubs in the South Florida market. Mike Mazer, former owner of the legendary Salvation in Miami, heard me years ago and has been a big supporter of my career ever since.
How do you prepare for your gigs?
There’s only one goal for me: to give the crowd a magical night on the dancefloor so they can forget about everything and join me on a musical journey filled with good vibes. I never plan my sets, and that’s what I love the most about my career. You never know which crowd you will get that night, so I build my sets depending on the vibe and the crowd. You never get the same kind of crowd every night, so it’s definitely a challenge.
How does the scene in Miami compare to Tel Aviv?
Tel Aviv today has a bigger and more diverse club scene in general. People still spend a lot of money when going out, and that of course helps the producers to create bigger and more exciting productions. It’s no secret that the scene in South Florida and all over the States in general has been affected a lot by the economy in the last few years. However, we still have some great parties here in South Florida.
Which DJs have most inspired you?
I grew up on the classic House sound, so I’d name guys like Danny Tenaglia, David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, Roger Sanchez and Grant Nelson. Every time a new mix by one of these guys came out, I would try like crazy to hunt it down until I found it. The House scene in the mid-’90s was truly fantastic.
What was your favorite place to spin and why?
I have the most incredible memories of South America, without a doubt one of the best places to be when it comes to clubbing. They live for it and it’s part of their culture, which makes a huge difference for a DJ. They can be demanding, but if you get them on your side they are the best crowd you can ever ask for, especially Brazil. The scene there is insane, and I can’t wait to go back again in February and March. In the U.S.A., the list would include White Party events in Miami, the Manor in Fort Lauderdale, the End Up in San Francisco, Jungle in Atlanta, Parliament House in Orlando, Hydrate in Chicago, among many others. I would love to play in Australia and Ibiza.
With DJ tools changing all the time, what are your favorite pieces of equipment?
I always say less is more. Give me two CD players, a mixer with effects - Pioneer preferred - and a really good sound system. That’s all I need. The music will speak for itself.
How have the club scene and dance music changed since you started?
Eight years ago, you could see the transition from big-room clubs to smaller, more intimate places and lounges. Today, the whole big-room, huge-club era is almost gone. Most of the clubs are smaller, and also the crowd is different. It is younger and they are more familiar with commercial music. So you see mostly crowds in their 20s who only know what’s current on the charts and have no history or background of what real House music or a House party is. But as a DJ, you should be able to adapt and play to the crowd, doing your best to keep your brand and your style.
How do you feel about dance music finally becoming mainstream?
I know a lot of people will disagree with me when I say that the music out there these days is crap. I’m all about good pop music when it’s well done, but let’s face it: Most of the tracks today have limited effect and won’t stand the test of time. Ten years from now, I doubt anyone will ever remember any of these songs. They’re not even current six months later! Meanwhile, pop music from the ’80s and ’90s still sounds good.
In America, while the club scene remains segregated, gay and straight, what’s your experience in other countries?
In the U.S., it’s very clear: You don’t see straight guys in gay parties, and vice versa for the most part, which is a shame. The End Up in San Francisco, a mixed club, is the only one that stays open for afterhours. You see all kinds of people there and the vibe is so fantastic. In Europe, it’s very mixed. People will go because it’s a good party. They could care less if it’s gay or straight. In South America, it’s slightly more mixed, but not much. In my experience, mixed crowds are the best. Straight crowds can be really fun or really boring. Gay crowds are for the most part super fun, uplifting, colorful and vibrant.
We want to know. Single? Or coupled?
I’m single. I’m focusing 100 percent on my career right now, so a relationship is not an option - but you never know what can happen.
Oren Nizri’s website is currently being redone, but to follow his rising influence in the club scene, go to www.facebook.com/oren.nizri.3, or listen to his latest podcast at www.djorennizri.podomatic.com.