Name: Ophir Kutiel aka Kutiman
Occupation: Multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer
Current Release: Kutiman's new full-length album Open is out via Siyal in October 2022. Take a listen to the double single "Believe In You" and "Fresh Haze".
If you enjoyed this interview with Kutiman and would like to keep up to date with his work, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Well, I'm not sure I’ll ever know where this impulse comes from. But I must create something all the time … doing nothing is something I just don’t know how to do and I get really mad if I can’t go to the studio for some reason that is not a life or death situation. (laughs)
For years, I wake up, go to the studio and work all day (and sometimes all night) on anything - whether I have inspiration or not, I’ll just work on something. From time to time I’ll hear a song or watch a film or a youtube video or hear someone talk that will inspire me.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I don't really plan anything.
The best case will be that I will have something in my mind that I want to do but I don’t think that I have ever had something in mind that eventually turned out to be exactly that ... it’s like the creative process has its own destination and I’m just following along ...
And thank god for that because otherwise, I would probably just sound exactly like the things I try to mimic. (laughs)
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
I really love the process of discovering a new tool whether it’s a new musical instrument or new software. These are really the moments I say to myself “this is what it’s all about”. So when I get a new tool I’m so excited that I must record or try it out.
I open a project called “something something test” and I say to myself “ahh I’ll just test it” and eventually it evolves into the final thing, so I can’t really hold myself back nor do I have the patience to really test or experiment before I “really” start to work.
The tests will almost always turn into something.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I don’t and maybe I should. I’m like a trained dog … wake up … go to the studio … work … go to sleep. This is literally 90% of my life!
Sometimes coffee turns into juice, day turns into night, and alcohol into weed … I try to just keep on squeezing creativity out of me.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Usually, the first few notes or frames are the most exciting ones. It’s like I don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain so I try not to get addicted to the thought process of “ah ... I’ll just start a new one”
For years I used to start with the drums but now I’ll start with anything. I guess it’s a cliche but it’s really like a kid playing in a sandbox.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
I rarely deal with lyrics. If I have an idea for the vocals I’ll usually record a gibberish version of it just to pass the idea. I never start from the lyrics or the vocals … always the music first and then vocals (if there are any).
With Dekel (the featured vocalist on my forthcoming album Open) it’s the best! We are very very good friends so I love it when he comes to visit. We drink beer and I’ll play him some music, he will open his notebook, have another beer and after 40 minutes or so will record an amazing vocal track that will usually be the final thing.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I don’t naturally pay attention to lyrics unless they really gras me or they are really beautiful and emotional.
I don't really know what to say about this. When it works it works.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
It can be an overnight blitz that will usually have the best outcome. Then I leave it on the hard drive to dry and put it on my phone to remember what it was all about.
When the time comes and my ears are fresh I’ll take it out and give it another session or add vocals or something and put it in the long queue of releases.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
I tend to fall in love very quickly with new things, new software, new instruments, new roads. It usually happens when I discover something new that fascinates me and I just want to know more about it and I fall into the rabbit hole. I become obsessive about it and it seems like all the other things in my creative life are just a big waste of time and that is the real thing!
From there usually, there are two scenarios. The first one is that it really becomes a new tool in my toolbox and I’ll keep using it and the second is that one day I’ll figure out for some reason it’s not for me and I’ll just leave it even if I spent a good few months on it.
So on my road, there are many rabbit holes just like that along the way and I have to try and pick the right ones to slip into.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I’m not sure I can distinguish my creative state from my other states.
I mean I feel like creativity plays a part in almost or maybe everything I do - from how I chop vegetables for dinner to how I clean the toilet to how I drive or how I play music.
I think a creative person is always in a creative state.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
(Laughs) Well it has a few different ways to end.
1. (the best way) it’s just ”perfect” usually happens after a burst of creativity that just ended very quickly with something that I’m very happy and excited about … thank you very much, save, new project, moving on …
2. the computer can’t handle it anymore ... usually happens more with visuals when the computer is just saying “ok let’s wrap it up or I’ll freeze” and then you just know you can’t keep on going and you do what you can and finish it up.
3. I don’t finish it. It goes into freezing on the hard drive but then a year later I hear it and I say “hey it’s not bad at all” and then it’s finished.
Other than that it usually never ends. I don’t really believe in work that takes forever to finish. These are usually not my best.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I don’t do my mixing and mastering. 99% of my things go to Sabbo who is
My very close friend and mentor. I give him the track usually with a very clear picture of the sound and vibe and he is doing his magic to take it to the next level. We’ve known each other for many years so it’s really easy to understand each other.
With “My Everything” it was Ohad Dekel who mixed it, he is Dekel’s brother and he is really amazing so it was also very easy to be happy with the final mix.
So I guess it’s knowing who to work with.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
It's like this intimate thing you had between just the two of you is over now. I usually have more than one or two projects that I’m working on simultaneously so I go through this mix of grief and joy of releasing something as quickly as I can and just open something else and try to start the excitement all over again.
Sometimes it can be a very tiring process and sometimes very exciting …either way, it’s inevitable … life and death (without sounding too dramatic).
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
It’s a good question.
I guess making a cup of coffee simply won’t give me goosebumps … it might for others - but for me it is music.