All musicians must face obstacles in their careers, but Israeli bass producer Whales (aka Tal Rochman’s) journey to becoming a successful artist is nothing short of miraculous.
Originally expected to die by the age of 15, Rochman defied incredible odds as he found solace from battling acute Tourette’s Syndrome, Autism, and various other health challenges through music.
At the ten-year mark of his music career, Rochman touts many accomplishments, including the release of his latest EP Fukin, but the reward he values most is being able to share his story of resilience to inspire others.
From his home in Israel, Rochman invites dance music fans everywhere to learn from his journey as he shares his story with EDM Maniac:
EDM Maniac: Hi Tal, thanks so much for sharing your incredible story with us today!
Whales: Hello! Yes, it’s great to be here, I’m very excited to talk, thank you!
EDM Maniac: You recently started speaking openly about overcoming physical and mental health challenges including Tourette’s Syndrome, PTSD, OCD, and Autism while developing your music career. How has it felt to open up about your experience?
Whales: When I was younger, I tried not to show too much of myself because of fears of not being accepted or being labeled. Coming out about having autism can be really scary when you have to interact with an audience.
Also, with Tourettes, sometimes things can come out in a way you don’t want and it’s not in your control. It’s been a lot of personal growth and working on my confidence.
I’m an Israeli guy, I have Tourettes, I have Autism, and I’m kind of a mess, but I have this amazing talent, I have a big passion for what I do and I love music.
Music saved my fucking life, and if I can help other people go through their journeys then I need to be open, because if I want change I need to be that change.
EDM Maniac: What inspired you to share your story with the public?
Whales: I want to spread awareness about this so that people can learn to be a little more patient, not only with me but with anyone who is going through something.
There’s so little patience across humankind, especially when we talk about the industry where there’s so much competition and so much going on that, sometimes people just forget that we’re all here to have something positive in our life along with whatever it is that we’re going through.
Even if it’s someone who doesn’t know me, I just want them to feel accepted and feel human. For a lot of my life, I did not feel human. To this day, I still feel very “other” sometimes.
EDM Maniac: How has your music career impacted your relationship with yourself?
Whales: I always felt like people liked my music a lot and my music got me to where I am, but as a person, I felt like I didn’t have any place to be myself. It was just my music. Over the years, I came to understand that it can’t be one without the other.
It’s my art, it’s my language, and at the end of the day, I’m translating myself through the music. But with time, as I started to speak out and show my true colors and talk about my journey, I found that this is what makes me closer to my supporters, to the community, and to the industry, and being open has helped me cope as well. It just creates a better understanding and a safer space for both them and me.
Whales: When I started this journey about 15 years ago, I could hardly communicate at all. When things started getting bigger and my music started to do better, I started to realize that communication was something I needed to work on.
I looked back at my music journey over the six years since I’d started and how far I had come, and I decided I could learn this, too. I used the same formula I used to learn music to learn communication as well as understanding emotions and even learn English!
EDM Maniac: You often emphasize that there is no “one size fits all” definition of success, what is your definition of success today?
Whales: I live a pretty minimalistic life, but I know my story is inspiring. I was supposed to die. I used to be so heavy that I needed help showering and I really couldn’t do anything by myself. All I could do was sit down and make music, which just helped me not to feel the pain.
My Tourettes is manageable now, but before, it was so bad that I had to hold my eyes open if I wanted to look at something. Today, I have accomplished more than I ever would have dreamed of with my health, my music, and everything.
So success to me is about helping other people grow, whether it’s in their career or their health. I want to be the person that I wish I’d had in my life ten years ago.
EDM Maniac: You’ve reached the 10-year mark in your career, if you could reach through the past, what advice would you give yourself when you were just starting out?
Whales: I think what I really would say to my past self is to just enjoy everything, the good, the bad, all of it. I used to carry so much stress all the time, and all that stress made me avoid so many beautiful moments.
I felt like I always wanted to give more but I was afraid to give more. You see me now, and I look pretty much normal, but I feel like seeing someone like myself when I was 16 years old would have been so much more impactful because I was so shy and ashamed of myself that I couldn’t realize that I could be so inspirational to so many people because of my conditions.
So I would tell myself to be proud and enjoy every moment of life and that it’s going to be okay.
EDM Maniac: What insights or advice can you offer to people who feel burdened by their mental health in their daily lives?
Whales: Answering that question is a big responsibility, but I’ll be very honest. People need to be honest with themselves and understand that you may never get “rid” of your condition, but you can change your life.
The biggest thing I’ve noticed in people going through mental health challenges is a lack of acceptance. When you accept, you can start to get stronger and build the system you need to deal with your situation.
So people need to accept themselves. Whatever your situation is, aim to be the best version of yourself in it. When you’re doing the best you can, then you will never need to doubt yourself because at least you know you’re trying. And if you’re going through something, speak up.
Images provided by Whales.