Introducing: Tal Fussman
Introducing: Tal FussmanAugust 21, 2023
Tal Fussman’s music doesn’t sound like anyone else’s, and he’s worked hard to make it that way. When he was honing the art of production he took care not to imitate others, drawing on his myriad of influences to create a sound that’s completely unique. The result is electronic music that’s both familiar and unexpected. Most people would categorize it as house, but the scatty keys in his 2023 track “Move Your Hips” sound a lot like jazz, and the 4×4 beat on “Burning Bridges” quickly escalates into intergalactic ‘80s disco.
In the last two years, Tal’s achieved many of his life goals. He’s released on Sum Over Histories, Diynamic and Innervisions, and launched his own label and event series Survival Tactics. All of the artists he admires play his music all of the time, and he recently had the pleasure of watching his favourite DJ (Âme), play his recent track (“Persona”) in the garden of his favourite club (Berghain). But Tal’s talent is not limited to his production abilities, or even his DJ sets. This guy knows how to throw one hell of a party.
It’s a dramatically hot night in Kiryat Shalom, a residential neighbourhood in south Tel Aviv. Tonight, Tal Fussman plays B2B with his two friends and production partners, known collectively as Hard To Tell. It’s their birthday this month, so they invited Tal to join them on the top floor of Panorama, a room in a dilapidated factory building with arguably the best sound system in Tel Aviv. It’s not easy to find – but once you walk past the restaurants, find the lift and walk through the carpark, you can follow the music the rest of the way.
Inside the place is decked out with dozens of disco balls. A giant one hangs just above the decks, dazzling the dancers as local DJs Ray Harel and Natti warm up the crowd. In the smoking area, revellers lounge on black leather sofas, chatting excitedly about what’s to come.
“I love Tal Fussman,” says a young woman from South Africa, wearing a tank top and baggy jeans. “I’m a DJ and I play his tracks in every single set.”
“Yeah, he’s huge in Cape Town,” says her friend, eyes bright with excitement. “Everyone loves him.”
The 600-capacity venue fills up quick. Ice-cold air blasts the crowd as they dance to Harel and Natti’s glittery house tracks, and as 2am approaches, the atmosphere grows increasingly charged. Hard To Tell and Tal Fussman step behind the decks, kicking off their marathon set with a bass-heavy house track. It feels like a collective release. The whole crowd let go of whatever worries they were holding onto from the week, and the place explodes into an oasis of warmth. This is what dance music’s all about.
For the next 7.5 hours, Tal stays sandwiched between Hard To Tell, playing his selection of percussive house and melodic techno, weaving his own tracks throughout. As the night wears on people take off their shirts and swing them round their heads. Someone behind the decks has a foghorn, and blows it every time there’s a drop, and when Tal plays a gospel house track, hundreds of arms reach up to the ceiling as if to thank the creator for the music. At 5 am, when the sun’s about to rise, someone draws the black curtains to reveal the dusty pink morning sky. It’s a transcendent experience, and one that nobody wants to end.
Tal Fussman grew up in a small coastal city about 30 minutes away from Tel Aviv. He picked up guitar and drums as a kid, and started playing in rock bands in his early teens. He learnt to DJ at a local youth club, and then became resident DJ of all his friend’s house parties. He mostly went to commercial clubs, until a friend took him to The Block, a now-closed club in Tel Aviv that was the driving force behind Israel’s underground music scene. That’s where Tal saw Âme, Ben Klock, Seth Troxler and Marcel Dettmann, and it’s where he realised his future lay in electronic music. Not long after that he bought a one-way ticket to Berlin. “And that’s where I found my musical identity,” Tal says, chatting from a coffee shop in Tel Aviv the day before the gig.
Although Tal is just 27, he has the confidence of someone far beyond his years. He’s wearing a black t-shirt and baggy jeans, and his eyes are sharp and discerning, seeming to absorb everything all at once. He speaks about his music with an unwavering certainty, and shares his aims and ambitions as if they aren’t optional, but guaranteed.
“Since I decided this is what I wanted to do, I’ve been obsessed,” Tal says. “When I moved to Berlin, I became a hustler – I would send thousands of emails to labels, booking agents, bars. But no one would answer, because I wasn’t there yet.”
After a while, he realised he needed to change his strategy. “I decided I’m not going to send anymore emails until people start coming to me,” he says. “So I cancelled my whole life, I disconnected from friends, I was zoned in. I didn’t look left or right, just went full throttle all the way.
He spent 15 hours a day for the next five years working on his music, all while completing his degree in Audio Engineering. When COVID came along, Tal used the time to focus even more. He relished the opportunity to hone his sound away from external influence.
“I didn’t want my growth as an artist to be in Tel Aviv,” Tal says. “Because it’s such a small bubble, everyone is influenced by each other, so I wouldn’t have been able to develop my own musical identity. That’s why I did it alone, influenced by who I am rather than my surroundings.”
Tal incorporates his love for metal, indie, and rock into his productions to build his own unique flavour. “Every little thing I like, I take something and bring it into my work,” he says. “And all those small things represent me – and it’s just me, no one else has these combinations.”
Tal likes to set himself goals. First, he wanted to play somewhere in Berlin. Then he wanted to play an international gig, and after that he wanted to release EPs and singles. Once he achieved all of that, he became focussed on getting his favourite artists to play his tracks. In 2021 he spent the best part of a month trying to find Dixon’s personal email address, and then sent him a folder of music. After a while, he noticed the tracks had been downloaded, and then Tal kept his eye on Dixon’s Instagram to see if he’d play them out. A few weeks later, someone tagged Tal in one of Dixon’s posts. Mission accomplished.
“I was really happy,” Tal says. “But right away I wanted more – I was like, okay, I achieved that, so what’s next?”
Next was releasing his The Unknown EP on Solomun’s Diynamic label in 2022. The four-track project catapulted Tal’s music onto dance floors the world over. “Burning Bridges” showcased the emotive side of Tal’s artistry, while “The Unknown” is best described as a dance floor destroyer. Suddenly, all of Tal’s favourite artists were playing his music, so when he sent a track into Innervisions, they signed it to their Secret Weapons 15 compilation immediately.
But once he achieved that goal, he was thinking about the next one. “I want more all the time,” he says. “It keeps me hungry, but sometimes I don’t enjoy the moment.”
To start building his legacy, Tal launched Survival Tactics in 2022, a label and event series where his specific brand of genre-defying electronica can find a home. “I have a lot of music that doesn’t fit anywhere, it just fits me,” Tal says. “And it was the right time because I want it to be popular on its own, not because I’m big. I want it to have its own fan base.”
Tal released his debut album The Fine Line in Between on Survival Tactics in June 2023, which further solidified his reputation as one of the most promising and talented producers in the field. “Move Your Hips” became a festival staple this summer, while “Talk To Me” topped Beatport’s Melodic House and Techno charts.
Despite his tracks getting played out across multiple continents by some of the biggest artists on the planet, Tal makes sure his productions are polished off within a day. “I’m not a perfectionist,” he says. “I don’t obsess over things that don’t matter. Like, I’m not going to spend hours finding the perfect kick, and I don’t spend weeks on a track. I like the magic that happens when you make that first loop, and if I go too deep into it, I lose the feel of the moment.”
Despite all he’s achieved, Tal says he’s barely even begun. “I’ve achieved some goals,” he says. “But I have so much I want to achieve. I feel I’m only at 10% of my potential. I can do so much more.”
If this is him at 10%, then the world ain’t ready for Tal Fussman at full throttle.
Alice Austin is a Tel Aviv-based freelance writer from London. Find her on X.