'When I Got Home, I Remembered Lady Gaga Dancing to My Track, and Thought, 'That’s Pretty Cool''

Hilit Kolet, a fixture on the London underground scene, tops charts in the U.K. with ‘Techno Disco,’ her first single

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Go to comments
DJ Hilit Kolet. Number 1 on Music Week's Upfront Club Chart.
Hilit Kolet. Number 1 on Music Week's Upfront Club Chart.
Nitzan Pincu
Nitzan Pincu

It’s a wild time for Hilit Kolet. In September the DJ and producer released her first, self-produced track, “Techno Disco” with Defected Records. The song has been played tens of thousands of times on top radio stations around the world, including BBC Radio 1. It has been searched 36,000 times on Shazam U.K. and has been streamed 870,000 times on Spotify so far. It hit number one on the Upfront Club Chart for the British magazine Music week and has been enthusiastically received on dance floors. Music Week’s Alan Jones called Kolet’s house track “catchy and uplifting.”

In an interview from London, where she has been living for the past 18 years, Kolet says the song’s success didn’t come as a surprise. “I knew it would happen, yes. I’m good at setting up impossible goals for myself and then achieving them. For example, I moved here with 400 pounds in my pocket and a tourist visa, and I didn’t know anyone.”

'Being a nobody really recalibrates you,' says Kolet.

In July last year, Kolet was picked to DJ for the British Royal Family at Princess Beatrice’s wedding, but says she can’t talk about it due to a non-disclosure agreement

Kolet speaks with the confidence of someone who has worked hard to reach her position. “From my point of view, the single has clearly paved the way for the next phase of my career,” she says. “It’s on a completely different level than everything else that I’ve done so far. My agent also represents Louie Vega, and this month I played at the Ministry of Sound [a legendary London club], for the first time.”

Hilit Kolet’s name isn’t easy for British radio broadcasters to pronounce, and some have suggested to her that she change it.”It’s part of who I am,” she says, “part of the complexity of my past, my experience, and my Israeliness. I believe that good music wins.”

The key to “Techno Disco”’s success, Kolet says, is the crossover between genres.“I’m a two-headed monster,” she says. “On the one hand, I’m an underground music advocate, and on the other, I like quality pop music.”

DJ Hilit Holet playing a set. 'Today, there are a lot more women DJs. But you need to have courage to do it. It’s a competitive field and you have to put yourself out there'

She wrote the song six years ago, going through seven vocalists before she found the one: Her friend Kay Elizabeth, whom she met at a Samba carnival in Notting Hill. “She is an incredible singer with a deep, sexy voice. I had just finished recording the track – and then the pandemic hit.”

Kolet waited for the club scene to recover before she approached Defected Records, which she says signed her straight away. Parallel to her career as a producer, her career as a DJ is also enjoying a meteoric rise. During lockdowns, she has played sets at virtual parties for TikTok and Facebook employees, and at events for BMW and Google. In July last year, Kolet was picked to DJ for the British Royal Family at Princess Beatrice’s wedding, but she can’t talk about it due to a non-disclosure agreement. She played at the launch party for the cigar brand pioneered by Rhianna and her brother, Rorrey Fenty, in SoHo. On another occasion in a private club Lindsay Lohan asked if Kolet could teach her a bit about DJing.

She doesn’t get excited about celebrities. She DJs frequently at some of the most exclusive members-only clubs in London, frequented by big stars as well as local actors, such as Hugh Grant and John Cleese. “Dua Lipa comes a lot with her friends. She turns up in a hat and a tracksuit and dances. She’s really sweet,” says Kolet. “It’s cool that I get to give my spin, literally, in places of influence. But I’ll never forget that I’m a girl from Petah Tikva. A lot of times I just pinch myself.”

Hilit Kolet featuring Kay Elizabeth - Techno Disco (Extended Mix)

When Kolet spotted Lady Gaga at a party where she was playing, she put on “Techno Disco” straight away. “It was a really early mix, still with my own vocals. The DJ’s platform at the club looked out over the dance floor, and I could see her getting really excited about it. At the moment, I didn’t think about it, I was so immersed in DJing. But when I got home in the morning, I remembered Lady Gaga dancing to my track, and thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’”

She doesn’t really recognize the local celebrities and in England that equanimity goes down well. “In order to play these clubs, they wanna make sure you are pretty blaze about mixing up with celebs. It doesn’t do anything for me. If David Bowie or Neil Tennant were to turn up, then I would get really excited.”

Lady Gaga. 'When I got home in the morning, I remembered Lady Gaga dancing to my track, and thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’'

The Queen wasn’t waiting for me

Kolet is a sharp interviewee. She’s funny and quick to respond. She shoots out answers at an intense pace, but during the conversation, she also lays down boundaries – whether from high self-awareness or out of a desire to maintain her privacy. She grew up in Petah Tikva in a musical home, played piano since the age of 5, and describes her childhood as complex but refuses to go beyond that. “Music constantly saved me in moments of difficulty or crisis. By age 12, I was already escaping into music with my headphones.”

She worked as a broadcast DJ for the Israeli radio station Reshet Gimmel, presented a DJ and club culture show on the TV channel Bip, and was one of the founders of the magazine DJ Ha’ir, serving as chief editor for two years.

When she felt that she had ticked all the boxes on her wish list, she decided to move to London. “Being a nobody really recalibrates you,” says Kolet. “The Queen wasn’t waiting for me on the red carpet. I arrived with hardly any connections and with my weird CV from Israel, which doesn’t carry much weight here.”

DJ Hilit Kolet. 'By age 12, I was already escaping into music with my headphones.'

Despite that, she managed to find herself a job on MTV dance where she managed digital content. She then worked at the famed record shop, Black Market Records. It was there that she had her first thoughts about bringing her music to the dance floor. “The record shop was a school for underground dance: House, techno, disco,” she says. “All the people working there, my colleagues, were key figures in the global scene. Obviously, that helped me pave my path forward. I made connections and friendships there.”

Do you feel you represent Israel?

“Music Week magazine mentioned this week that I was born in Israel, and I felt really proud. It’s not like Israel doesn’t need it. We need positive PR, and I can contribute. So of course, I’m happy to do that. After all, I’m not going to find a cure for cancer.”

All the same, being a woman producer and DJ is quite revolutionary.

“Sure. I see myself as part of a revolution in the field but we’re not there yet – in any profession. Today, there are a lot more women DJs. But you need to have courage to do it. It’s a competitive field and you have to put yourself out there.”

After so many years that the position was closed to women, do you feel it’s their time?

“Yes, and no? On the one hand, people are trying to pull line ups together in a more balanced way, because they know that producers are being looked at under a magnifying glass. On the other hand, with every new woman that arrives on the scene, people wonder about her. Why is she here? What does she look like? Women have to prove themselves more than men do. You come with a great big question mark hanging over your head. It’s like an Instagram filter.

'Dua Lipa comes a lot with her friends. She turns up in a hat and a tracksuit and dances. She’s really sweet.'

I have a million stories that repeat themselves about how, at the beginning, engineers or colleagues would shove their hands onto the mixer when I came on stage. They wouldn’t do that to a man.”

While she develops her growing career in London’s underground clubs, Kolet is also a single mother, raising her six-year-old daughter after her divorce from music producer Yoad Nevo. “I don’t have family here, they’re all in Israel. The objective conditions are supposedly impossible, but here you go, it is possible. One moment I’m performing for 5000 people in Croatia and the next I’m frying schnitzels for my daughter at home. The biggest challenge is achieving a balance,” she says, adding that she was playing sets until two weeks before she gave birth. “I had a huge tummy, but people kept booking me for clubs and performances, playing until three in the morning. It’s amazing how motherhood gave my life another significant dimension. My child is my top priority. My work allows me to be there in the afternoons, and when I go out at night, she’s already asleep.”

Due to the pandemic, opportunities for long tours have dried up, but despite her fears, she still believes “there’s no such thing as there's no such thing.”

Her opinion on the BDS movement? Even though it’s very popular in Britain, she doesn’t want to talk about it. “I don’t see how it’s relevant. When you interview a politician, do you ask them for their top 10 tunes of the month? I’m just a musician who wants to do good and make people happy; to bring people together and allow for a little escapism and hedonism wherever possible.”

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments