"Over the years Rotterdam nightlife was the scenery where I learned to explore and express myself"
Ofra has it’s own position in electronic music scene that we care of. Having displayed skills in harnessing successful platform for artists and music lovers to meet at Ofra with Jeff van Hoek, Jorn de Vries, Osman Bas and Patrick Marsman has now come to mark it accordingly. Ofra discusses with Chromatic about the roots of Operator’s project.
Hat was your first foray into the world of electronic music?
That was quite early! It had to be in the early 90’s when I watched MTV all the time after school. One video /track that caught my attention was the No Good video from The Prodigy. I remember it so well. I was in Haifa, Israel, with my family and watched this video that shows an intriguing rave party in an underground cellar with this crazy dancer (Keith). No Good became one of my all time favourites and every time it was on MTV I jumped in front of the TV. I finally saw them live in 2004 @ the Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam.
In and out of the electronic music circle, who is an inspiration to you?
Phew, a lot! I find a lot of inspirations. It will be a long list and I can’t kill my darlings. I was born in ’85 and discovered music over time during different decennia. In the 90’s I listened a lot to Eurodance like lots of kids back then haha and stuff that my parents listened to (like Bowie). In the early 00’s I started to go out to and went to big festivals. I was into alternative music and listen a lot to shoegaze and punk bands but also electronic music. Around that time I was working in a record store -during the weekends- and heard so much more. And then I discovered Space Disco, Electro and Italo music (Dutch Westcoast sound, CBS) and started to dj.
I think Wave, Synthpop and (post)punk music was always the sound that followed me through all decades though. And the last couple of years I’m very into the Belgium New Beat.
You have a really eclectic sound when mixing, what has influenced you to be so musically varied in your approach?
Do I? I always thought that I have a peculiar sound, ha! Well, if you say so it’s because besides electronic music I listen a lot to other stuff, I guess. Maybe that’s what influences my sets? I like to mix it all up in one.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
I would like to share my latest set I did for Pag. I recorded yesterday in our Operator Studio. It was a beautiful night and I had some wine. I really enjoyed playing ‘cause it has been awhile since the corona crisis. This mix contains a new track of my good friend, Sasha (Antenna). He made a cover of Wuthering Hights and I find it so beautiful! Enjoy it.
What makes a good mix to you?
If it contains super nice tracks!
For people that have never heard you play before, how would you describe your sound to them?
Dark but warm. A bit Melancholic. Can be loud. Danceable.
So what music are you currently obsessed by? Have you picked up any records recently that you have been playing in every set or have been listening to every day?
The last record that I bought (in the Pinkman store) is from June on Mannequin Records. Awesome record. We broadcasted his live set during Ombra Festival in Barcelona. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there myself because I had a gig in The Netherlands. But I watched and listened to it of course.
I also listen a lot to a track which I discovered in Tel Aviv last February. I was digging records and a friend, who works in the shop, played this awesome track, Paradis by Alain Chamfort. Wow. It’s on repeat a lot now.
When did the idea to make Operator start?
Rotterdam was ready for it! We all listened a lot to and were inspired by NTS, IFM and Amsterdam based station, Red Light Radio. Rotterdam has so much mixed sounds and beautifully talented people. We had to broadcast it. And show people how cool Rotterdam actually is, haha. We started as a radio station, but we’re more than that now. We can call ourselves an institution.
What work do you bring to Operator?
I’m responsible for the programme. Besides programming on the radio, I’m always involved with the music program of our events and collaborations.
What is your criteria for selecting artists?
It’s a feeling. It has to fit with Operator. If we’re listening to mixtapes we know immediately if it fits. I wont disqualify someone if the beatmatching isn’t super tight, but if you’re choosing to beatmatch (which you don’t have to!!) its nice to have some skills, yes. But I’m so much more interested in the sound and person and what you want to bring to the station.
How would you characterize Rotterdam and its music scene?
Rotterdam has an eclectic nightlife scene. The Nightlife brings together a lot of different cultures. We have a lot of cafes, bars, a Biergarten, small pop venues and clubs. Some of the clubs have definitely made some history. But I think it’s the people that make the city stand oud. People here are open, they work very hard and there is no bullshit around them. There’s a Very Do it yourself with no nonsense attitude that I really like and learned from. The municipality is withdrawing support for the nightlife in Rotterdam unfortunately. If you want to be a global city, you don’t just need a 9-to-5 economy. It has always been like this or as long as I can remember and maybe it will never change, but it also forces promoters to be creative and come up with something new which keeps the city interesting. Again the DIY attitude! This is Rotterdam and I’m not afraid the next generation will not know Rotterdam for her nightlife. Because she always strikes back with something new.
Did you ever think that this project would go so far?
I had high hopes!
What are the toughest aspects of maintaining such radio? Is there any additional support from elsewhere?
We don’t get any financial support from the government now. We’re generating sales from events and merchandise, but not from the studio input. We’re okay but it’s hard to develop without extra financial support. We're responsible as a team for everything so we put lots of time and effort into it. Always. But we don’t complain, ‘cause we love Operator. Otherwise you can’t do this.
How do you work? Are you a very large team? Do you each specialize in a job?
We founded Operator with a group of five. Jeff van Hoek, Jorn de Vries, Osman Bas and Patrick Marsman. We come from different musical fields and have are own experience. They’ve become my family. We all have something in common and that’s the love for music and being passionate about it. We’re pretty much involved in everything we do, but we all have our own task or responsibility based on our expertise and like. We just combined our forces. Besides the founders we have two or three interns per year and 12 volunteers who are helping us with the studio and events. We can’t do it without them and are very grateful to have them on board!
What have been your personal highlights and lowlights?
Founding Operator is definitely my highlight. Or actually, being asked to join the team after Osman, Jorn and Jeff spoke about this idea. Shortly after we formed a team including me and Patrick. My lowlight is this fucking Corona crisis. I feel sorry for lots of artists, labels, clubs etcetera!
Is Rotterdam a good city to develop yourself?
Well for me absolutely, yes. The most important thing is, is that I have experienced and learned a lot about different styles of music here, I’ve met beautiful people and learned about different cultures and scenes. Over the years Rotterdam nightlife was the scenery where I learned to explore and express myself. As a dancer, promoter, dj, student and person in general. It has given me lots of point of views about life and I discovered the people and scene where I felt safe and comfortable with (whom I became friends with as well).
Do you think that after the Covid-19 event, the music industry will change?
Of course! The trust in us as people and in each other. Going to a restaurant is like step one. Clubs are a different story. I don’t think people will go out without being afraid of a crowded room or festival. I’m afraid it will take some time. It goes without saying the Corona restrictions lead to financial problems, so I’m a bit worried that the club promoters will go for more security in their program and leaving little room for experiment. Oh, and I think there will be more room for local artists. They will be more important and needed!
What lesson should we learn from this paralysis?
Being good to mother earth and especially to animals!
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence
What are your future plans?
I like to live per day.