Story by Rachel Burt; photo courtesy of Cybele Manilowski
In late September, Israeli EDM DJ Yosef Asaf Borger, known professionally as Borgore, took the stage at Syracuse’s Westcott Theater. Borgore is an Israeli-born rapper, EDM producer, DJ, and singer-songwriter and sees himself as “one of electronic music’s most popular and polarizing artists,” according to his artist bio. He also considers himself the enfant terrible of bass culture and loves his moniker “the man who ruined dubstep.”
Currently living in the U.S., Borgore is the founder of Buygore Records and has recently teamed up with Gucci Mane and THIRTY RACK for his new song “MOP.” In the past, Borgore has collaborated with Miley Cyrus, G-Eazy, and Waka Flocka.
In his latest album, Borgore changed up the tone of his tracks by incorporating jazz, giving fans a glimpse into his personal music taste. The album, “Adventures in Time,” peels back another layer of the cross-genre producer. Formally trained in jazz at Israel’s Thelma Yellin High School of the Arts, Borgore is well-known as a saxophone prodigy who composed for big band ensembles.
At the Westcott Theater, he performed for over an hour and a half, bringing his “New Gore Order” to Syracuse one heavy mix at a time as part of his headlining “BGU Tour.”
Q: What first sparked your interest in music? How old were you?
A. I think I was like 3 years old and I kind of grew up into it. I built a gradual interest in music, it wasn’t all of a sudden because my family wasn’t really musical at all. The best school in Israel was for arts and you cannot get in, it’s really hard, like Harvard [University] for children. My mom wanted to prove a point, so she enrolled me and I got in.
I was supposed to be a ballet dancer, but I didn’t agree to it so they said, “Okay, well the least you can do is play an instrument.” I told them I’d do whatever they wanted as long as I didn’t have to be a dancer. I kind of regret it now. Imagine how much of a good body I’d have if I were a dancer. I’d be in great shape, I’d be like hella sexy. But no, I’m a DJ so all I do is eat McDonald’s and sit in the studio – it’s not the best for your shape. If I’d stuck with dancing I’d be toned. It’d be sick.
Q: What made you change from the jazz music you studied in school to dropping EDM tracks?
A: Tel Aviv is a very cultural place, and by the time I was 13 or 14, I had already snuck into 21 and over clubs and things. In those places I learned the world of house, techno, all that shit. I dunno, I just fucking love it. I love that it’s dark. The ’20s, ’30s, ’40s, ’50s people went to the club and they danced to jazz, but people don’t dance to jazz anymore.
Either you’re very deep into jazz or you’re just an old person that’s remembering the past. It’s a pretty small community nowadays, and I wanna make music that people can dance to, you know?
Q: Is your family supportive of what you do?
A: They’re the best. I love Tel Aviv, and I miss my family more than anything. I wish I could live there. Hopefully in like ten years they’ll have an airplane that does four hours from Europe to America, and then we’ll be golden.
It’s hard to explain, but when I started out, I basically made a sound out of nothing. There was no YouTube back then, there was nothing. I’d heard records and I was trying to mimic them, and I came up with a sound. From then on, to try and keep on with what’s coming up next, you kind of have to be around it. I don’t use ghost producers or anything, I like to do everything myself and I like to learn. So, sitting in LA with a 20-year-old kid that just found something new, I want to be there and discover that something new with them. There’s so much you can learn from sitting with the next generation, and I cannot really do that in Israel. There are some interesting producers there for sure, but not as many as in LA.
Q: What do you think most contributed to your success?
A: I grew up in Israel and what I was seeing was MTV and I was listening to Dr. Dre and Ludacris and Snoop Dogg. Everything in Israel is very uncensored and very liberal, and everything I learned from the culture here was very uncensored as well, so when I started writing my music it was also very uncensored.
I did things in EDM that no one ever did before in EDM. You can say almost anything in hip-hop and no one’s gonna even flinch because it’s like, “Oh, I’ve heard harder shit.”
In EDM, that kind of thing is still not very accepted. I brought that world into EDM in a weird way, I don’t really fully understand it.
Q: Did you ever expect to get the reaction you did to your music when you were starting out?
A: I was always aiming high, but you never know what’s going to happen. The world is a delight, but life is tricky and full of surprises. I started my music career way before I moved to LA. I moved to LA as a last resort because it seems that most of my business is there. Since doing that, it seems like more people know my name and what I do.
Q: Do you get a lot of negativity for your songs and onstage antics?
A: Everytime there’s less negativity is when I get a little bit stressed. If no one is saying anything, no one cares. When people say shit, they care. It means I got to someone enough for them to talk about it. Most of the negative stuff that I hear is a little bit far-fetched. People are really trying to get at me for nothing.
Honestly, 2018 has been very chill for me as far as comments go. They’ve mostly been positive, I mean I released a jazz album, what are you gonna say? You’re gonna talk shit about a jazz album? And it’s a good jazz album, it’s not bullshit jazz.
There’s not much someone can say about it, you know? I’ll say that if you can play better, you can talk shit, but how many people can do it better? I know a lot of people that can play better jazz than this, but in our world, the world of EDM, I don’t know a lot of people who can play better than this.
Q: Which artists are your biggest influences?
A: Every week I kind of change my influences, so every week there’s the record I’m obsessed with and I’m trying to get inspired by. It really changes. There are some EDM influences, but it’s usually like I’ll have one record on repeat.
It really depends on the era, sometimes EDM is boring and sometimes EDM is amazing. Right now I think there’s some resurgence. I wouldn’t say I listen to it at home, but I do listen to it when I produce.
So when I work on music, I listen to dubstep that interests me or EDM that interests me so that I can have a perspective of where I am. When I’m in my car I don’t listen to it necessarily, I take a break. I play this set anywhere between two to seven days a week, sometimes I need to go home and listen to something else, you know?
Q: If you had to pick one album or one song of yours that you’re the most proud of or that you like the most, could you?
A: Overall I’m pretty proud of everything. I could go up to a dad and ask him, “Who is your favorite kid?” He would love all of them, even if they’re a little bit weird – even if they suck a little. They’re still your kids, you made them so you gotta live with them. That’s basically how I feel about my music. Some are maybe better than others, but I love them all.
Q: What do you think of Syracuse?
A: Sick. It’s an interesting city, you get all the university people and then some not so nice crowds. It’s a real mix, a melting pot. The shows here are always great, so on the music side of things it’s awesome. With the whole proximity to Camp Bisco, I feel like the kids here, they really know music, so for me it’s fun to come play here.
By continuing to challenge both his fans and the musical status quo, Borgore continues toward what he calls a “New Gore Order.” He hopes to bring the order back to Syracuse as soon as he can.