ITAI talks new EP on Camel Riders and forthcoming debut album

Another name to add to the list of emerging American talents in the world of electronic dance music comes in the form of Joshua Tree-based artist ITAI.

Previous outings from the house producer have seen him release original music on a number of impressive labels, including Exotic Refreshment, Talavera Records, and LNDKHN.

Now debuting on Camel Riders with his brand new Flame Of The Pine Cone EP, ITAI adds yet another sturdy rung to his sonic ladder, as he drops a brilliant original track alongside remix work from Menachem 26, Evan Hatfield, and Saqib.

We spoke to ITAI to chat about the new EP, how he rates the included remixes, what we can expect from his forthcoming debut album, and more. Get the full discussion below.

You just released your new Jacob’s Ladder EP on the Camel Riders imprint, talk us through the original title track on this one?

So, this is actually an interesting story. The track was based on an Arab folk tune called Ah Ya Zain (which means, ‘oh what a beauty’), but when my friend played it to me on a trip to India in 2005, we both had no idea what it was called, and somehow, we just started calling it Jacob’s Ladder.

Since then, I’ve been playing it at acoustic jams and jazz gigs, and really wanted to make a dance floor version for my live sets. After I had already finished the track, and given it a title, my old music school teacher, Yair Dahlal told me the real name of the track that had been its origin, but at that point I’d already called it Jacob’s Ladder.

It also features remix work from Menachem 26, Evan Hatfield, and Saqib, what was your initial reaction when those first came back?

This EP means more than any I have released before, and I love all the remixes, especially the diversity between their styles. I feel I could play each of them in different settings, and at different parts of the night. The Saqib remix is so “out of the box” I was mesmerized, Evan made it funky, and Menachem’s style is just very present. I discovered Menachem 26 for the first time earlier this year, and have been a fan ever since.

Other labels in your catalogue include Exotic Refreshment, Talavera Records, and LNDKHN, what’s your typical approach to a new label partnership?

I approach all my relationships as ongoing partnerships, and I’m not necessarily looking for the “biggest” label, but for labels that can be a good representation of my sound, and also partners I can work with in the long run. I am an artist that has “my own mind”, so me and Camel Riders clicked from the start. They really gave me complete freedom to do my thing, and I see myself continuing to work with them long into the future.

And which labels might we see added to that list in the coming months?

Well, I have been so focused on my album release that I can’t really see past that, I’ve got so many tracks to finish. but I’d say on the top of my list, other than Camel Riders, I’d like to work with Pipe & Pochet and Sol Selectas. Also, Blond:ish’s label Abracadabra, which has been my live streaming home for the past 6 months.

You’ll also be returning to Camel Riders for the release of your debut album, tell us more about that?

The album is titled “A Trip To Idyllwild”, and was named after a trip me and my partner Irene took to a town called Idyllwild, which is up in the green mountains, about 90 minutes from our house in Joshua Tree. Many of the tracks on the album, including ‘Flame of the Pine Cone’, ‘Wancy’, and ‘Curiosity Bear’ originated from that cold, windy and trippy weekend. I guess, the story of my album is pretty much my story as an artist. It’s true that I have released on a bunch of labels before, but it was always a collaboration or I had some help producing the tracks. This solo album, is the first time I truly got to say “I’m ITAI, and this is my sound”.

Your music features quite a bit of live percussion and organic sounding melodies, how much do you work with real instruments vs. samples?

I come from the world of live instruments and jazz, as alongside making electronic music, I also play the saxophone. Sometimes, I still feel like a guest in the electronic scene, as it’s a world that is still quite new to me. To your question, I hardly ever use samples. When I do use samples, I really chop them up.

I’m trained to play what I hear in my head, so I always try to recreate what I’m imagining for the sound. And when I hear something, I try to play it live, either on the sax, piano or another instrument, therefor it’s very rare for me to use samples for melodies or harmonies. Often, I will only use samples for beats and percussion.

You’re based in America, where clubs and live events are opening up again for the first time in many months, it must feel pretty great to get back into clubs after so long?

Yes, It really feels so amazing to be touring again, the crowds across the globe are so thirsty for live music, and it’s pretty wild. Right now, I’m actually coming back from Panama, and it was just so amazing to play on Playa Venao beach, especially after more than 2 years.

And what’s one random skill that you picked up during the different periods of lockdown?

Haha. I like it, that’s a cool question! In all honestly, I don’t believe I picked up anything 100% new, but instead worked to improve some skills like working in Ableton. I also got better at cooking, and learned how to make falafel, does that count?

Thanks for talking with me, I hope people are enjoying my Flame of the Pine Cone EP and I can’t wait for everyone to hear my full album, A Trip To Idyllwild. Take care, and stay safe everyone.

ITAI – Jacob’s Ladder EP is out now on Camel Riders.