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Interview with Narkis Tepler, DJ, Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Motherboard.lab

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Narkis Tepler is an electronic music creator, DJ, line producer and lineup booker, as well as social entrepreneur, operating for over 15 years as a prominent figure in the Israeli electronic music scene and nightclubs as well as to EU underground clubs in Vienna, Hamburg, Marseilles, Limassol and Berlin. Narkis also works to promote female electronic music artists and DJs in the industry and to this end she established MotherBoard – a global Talent Discovery and Development Initiative actively and practically working to enhance female presence in this scene.

Narkis works to encourage more women in electronic music to acknowledge their full potential, and enable them to live up to their own aspirations, by providing access to knowledge, resources and connections. Alpha Woman was fortunate to catch up with her to ask a few key questions.

AW: What was your path to becoming a DJ and electronic music creator?

When I first started at the clubbing scene on 2006, I was a young and aspiring party promoter for a marvelous underground queer party line, called Pussy Galore. It was owned and operated by two women, their parties had an incredible vibe, and they played amazing electro music. I was naturally attracted to this place, and I loved the atmosphere of the nightlife in Tel Aviv – it was like an amusement park for grown-ups with all its crazy rides and possibilities.

Also, I just moved into the city, I was very young, 19 I think, and looked for new people to hang with.  It was only natural that it would happen around music as that’s where my heart has always been. I can say today that this party scene symbolized for me Tel Aviv with everything I ever hoped it would be, the stuff I left my parents’ place for, I started building my own way and living the life I’ve always wanted. So after some parties, I asked one of the owners, who was a DJ there as well, to teach me how to play, and she gave me two lessons. I made a deal with her that in the next party I will also play and not only be a promoter, and so she had her doubts but she finally said yes.

Do you think women bring something different to the creative process in either music creation, or DJ’ing?

If you go into a club without knowing who’s playing, close your eyes and listen to the music. If you know, only by listening, if it’s a man or a woman playing I’ll buy you a Porsche. There’s not one thing I can say that characterizes a feminine creative process. It’s very personal, and depends on one’s individuality, rather than gender.

You recently launched MotherBoard, a global Talent Scout and Development Initiative. Tell us more about the mission of MotherBoard and why you launched it.

Motherboard is about working hands-on to enhance female presence in this scene through practical measures. The initiative connects female electronic music artists with key figures in the music business scene, so to bring female artists and DJs closer to what is required to go global and breakout to the commercial world of electronic music, such as record labels, publishers and booking agents.

The project was Co-Founded by me and my wonderful partner Ravit Levrann – a social entrepreneur who has co-founded the executive women in cannabis network WomenCanCann, and a seasoned communications and content professional with deep love to everything electronic. Our goal is to strengthen female electronic music artists and DJs in the electronic music industry, so that they would grab a larger share of it, by more music releases and greater lineup visibility every year.

What does success look like for MotherBoard?

A word about the need for electro-diversity: women are misrepresented in the global underground electronic music scene. There’s still a relatively low number of music releases by women and of women playing in lineups, despite the increased attention to the known issue of diversity in this community. According to Pitchfork and other surveys in 2019, although female techno DJs excel in what they do, and actually dominated the top of 2018 festival lineups, with Nina Kraviz playing 2X as many festivals as the leading band, and Amelie Lens and Charlotte de Witte also in the top 5 most preforming artists, a balance is far from being struck. In fact, top 2018 electronic music releases charts consisted of 23%-35% female artists, while electronic music club and festival lineups in 2018 consisted of 10%-17% female artists.

Some festivals around the world have made a public commitment to bring the lineup gender balance to 50%-50% by 2022, but I don’t understand why this cannot happen now. The scouters and bookers’ jobs are to search and find the most interesting, innovative music that exists, and what I say is that their job should also include diversity so we can all enjoy a variety of voices and sounds.

Just like content publishers have the same responsibility when they search for a new series or movie. If we didn’t have those inclusive regulations in place we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the diverse and interesting content and talents we can watch today, and our culture would be flat and one-dimensional. When we have so many women on lineups that we can stop counting, when the pay is equal, when scouters and bookers include 50% women on their lineups, when we will see 50% women on music charts, then I’ll know my job here is done and I will go on to impact the next imbalanced industry.

You also recently launched a new party line in Tel Aviv, PE’RE’ (“wild” in Hebrew), all the while the Israeli Police are shutting down various electronic music nightclubs, parties and cancelling festivals around the country. Why is this happening and how are you counteracting it?

We don’t really know what the deal is with the police here, but what I do know is that every now and then they shut down festivals and parties, claiming they have information about drugs that are being sold, while everybody who has ever been to any music party ever, anywhere – be it techno, trance, house and even dance or EDM, people know that there is alcohol there, and of course – drugs. There are entire TV series about this phenomenon.

Now, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s not my place to judge, but this is something that happens regularly in the party scene anywhere in the world. Why did they decide to cancel parties and arrest people using excessive force, and why only electronic music – I don’t know, but it hurts the city’s culture and touristic life, and it hurts your spirit as a free and liberated human being – to not be allowed to party and see people get arrested at parties.

Also, they only crash electronic music parties, and electronic music has always been identified as not part of the mainstream, so – here’s a point for thought. The PE’RE’ line is meant to be wild and elegant at the same time, and to be a safe space. We believe that to be wild is no contradiction of being gentle and respectful to others, especially to women, and especially when you’re hammered at party. It is to let yourself go and be what you want to be, dance the way you want, and play the music you really want to hear. It’s our means to actively promote and maintain a diversity in the domestic night life scene in Israel.

You seem like a fearless female creator! Where do you think your bravery originates from?

I’m actually not fearless, I’m very fearful. I have so many fears, but I don’t let that manage me in the way of preventing me from doing something. On the contrary, because I live with fear every day all the time, I charge into the things I’m afraid of just as I do the things I’m less afraid of. I’m just used to being fearful, so it becomes just another thing in my life, like laughter, or my love for my dog. It’s just there. Once I’m out there, well, I’m already there, at the scary place, so what do I have to lose, I mean I already have put myself there, so I might as well go all the way with whatever it is I’ve started, as hard as it may be, and scary, to finish something and release it out there – like my music.

What’s your personal style like, and how is it reflected in your music?

I am definitely a minimalist, tending to mix street and sportive clothes, with influences from Japanese and Korean street fashion on one hand and from disco on the other, and a distinctive preference for black, white, grey and red. From time to time I have more playful, colourful outbreaks that crack that routine. Music, like fashion, is a playground to me, so I love trying out interesting combinations, and experiment around with materials and sounds to examine how they would work out.

Sometimes things you never thought would work actually surprise you and take a direction of their own – in music and in fashion, and that’s the most I can ask for as an electronic music artist, or as a fashionista. So, in music too, I like to experiment, make unconventional connections, extreme transitions, and then work them into one smooth and surprising flow. When I play at clubs, I’m very much influenced by what I wear, so I take that into consideration when I prepare myself for a party, just as I prepare myself mentally and focus on the evening’s vibe.

My goal is to be as connected to what I feel at that moment; clothes and music are the things that really affect me. I won’t wear something that doesn’t quite fit with the feeling because then I will be inaccurate to myself. Every change that occurs impacts the atmosphere, and this is where I can create a hook to deepen the attention and concentration of my audience, and of myself.

What is the one thing that gets you out of bed and drives you every day?

Curiousity. I want to read everything, see everything, hear everything, watch everything, learn and make my mark when I decide to do things. I have absolutely no FoMO, so I’m not looking to DO everything or BE everywhere, but have my own way in this world – the path that suits me, and that I design and develop as I come along. My dreams at night are things I remember very well, and my thoughts are many, so part of my creation process is to work them into music that would express them, their stories, their colors, their protagonists.

Before I started making music all I wanted to do was music, but I didn’t understand that music is I needed. It took me a few years to realize that and to make it happen, but I remember very well that without the ability to realize this thing that stung inside me I was a very frustrated person. Music is a haven for me. Establishing a venture like Motherboard.lab expresses all of my tendencies, the need to create, the need to impact, the need to grow and develop while developing others around me. As a person who has lived most of my adult life at night, it’s not always easy for me to be active in the morning, but the things that happen in the day are the things that really get the world moving, so the night can have its place and many benefits.

Do you have any advice for young female DJs and electronic music creators looking to break into the industry?

Your career is in your own hands – if you want to DJ you need to start your own lines and parties and make sure to initiate as many collaborations with others as possible. Don’t listen to anybody telling you that you can’t – listen to yourself, just like you’re looking for that perfect track for a mix when you’re on live, and play your life and your music with your head up.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I just got back from a festival tour around the world with my electro band, picked up by my love and my BFF at the airport straight to the board meeting of my clothing brand, where my designer partner and I set the tone on all that’s hot in fashion. On the way I notice an item in the Rolling Stone magazine announcing that the series I wrote about the clubbing scene is about to start its third season. I drink my beer and smile.

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