Interview with Erez Eizen (Shidapu / Infected Mushroom)
I arrived at Erez's house in the Krayot (a Haifa suburb at the north of Israel) in the middle of a rainy Israeli winter day. Erez welcomed me with a smile and some of his mother's cakes (really something exceptional) and we went up to the top floor to his studio- a small room, full of keyboards, electronic devices with a lot of buttons and dials, a computer and speakers. We sat down to talk and that's what came out. Read and enjoy.
The moment Erez saw my tape recorder he said that he didn't really like to be recorded:
I only know it's radio or something like that and I find it difficult to talk.
Really shy- it's just the way I am in general.
So how do you go on stage to perform?
In a show it's different, it turned into a kind of habit, that's how I look at it, if the people are not moving- same with me, but if I see Karahana (people going crazy)- you have to get into Karahana with them.
How old are you?
Almost 18 and a half.
So how and when exactly did you manage to get to where you are?
I started when I was about 15, first at my late grandmother's house, I started making music with Impulse Tracker, a music making software that I got by chance.
So, you got the Impulse Tracker, and started making trance music, why trance?
It wasn't trance- I don't know what it was, Impulse's music, that's how it's called.
And before that, were you into music, did you study music?
Yes, I studied regularly from the age of four and a half, organ and not piano. I would rather it would have been piano. My parents sent me, I went on studying, and I owe them thanks for that- they're the reason I'm making music today.
How did you meet with the people? How did you enter the trance scene, became a part of Shidapu?
Actually we met through the modem. I found a group of trackers, started downloading the MODs, S3Ms, and got really excited, it just sounded so good in the sound blaster. I found a track Miki Litvak made, played with it and changed it, told my friends that I made it, and then somehow I started making my own stuff, first with borrowed sounds and then I started making sounds myself. On one of the track's info I found Miki's phone number, so I called- Hello Miki, it's Erez, you want to listen to something I made? Sure, why no. He liked it.
Where did everybody come from?
Miki from Tel-Aviv area, Roy Sasson came somehow through me, he is also from the Krayot, and Oren from Zikhron Ya'akov.
And everything was through the computer?
Yes, I haven't seen Miki at least Six months since we first got contacted. Everything was done through the computer and by phone. But I always held Miki as number one. Roy was taking care of connections, he is good at that, likes to talk. Somehow he connected us with a DJ named Liran, that helped us a lot. Our relationship with him was like a relationship with a girlfriend, we had fights but came back together. Once Eyal Barkan promised us he would sign us and promise to release a CD for us (that was about a year after we started making music). We had then some good tracks (Astral Child, Vertigoa) and Barkan wanted to sign us and took us to a lawyer, we sat there, three kids, Oren was at home. At the end we didn't sign because Oren wasn't there, and it's good luck we didn't. It's better like that. Then Roy connected us with Avi Nissim from Astral Projection, and he helped us release our tracks in Phonokol, we had tracks on Israel Psychedelic trance vol. 1&2. I thought to myself then- I'm on CD for the whole world- what a feeling.
Did you know who was Avi?
I knew nothing about trance, I didn't know who was who, I was told and Roy was very excited. You have to understand, I wasn't listening to trance then, Liran recorded some stuff for me, mainly night music, but I didn't connect with it at all. We went on working, Miki and Roy were busy with high school exams and all I had to do was to make music at home by myself. I made a lot of 'Nitzhonot' (very melodic cheesy music), Equilibrium, for example, it was the kind of music I really liked. At the same time Duvdev was working with Roy, I met him there, we knew him through Liran. We made one track together, Roy, Duvdev and myself- we really liked it then, today it sounds like crap to me. The Shidapu story ended with releasing some tracks through Phonokol. We also had some shows, quite a lot actually. Our first live show was at the 'Moadon' club in Alenby St. in Tel-Aviv, it was a great show. We brought two computers and planned to mix with them. We ended up working with a playback we made before the show on DAT, I played on the keyboard and we added a lot of effects with the Impulse Tracker.
Isn't it hard for four guys to stay tuned together?
Well, you just go with it, there is a build up and then you add a few effects, in between you play a melody or some strings.
How much did you really worked together? Was there really a thing called Shidapu? I saw a lot of tracks, that each has some of you credited for it.
There was not really Shidapu. For example, there was a track that Ido Ophir made (Stay Strong), Miki remixed it, and actually it's Ido's track mainly, that Miki worked on a bit, but it appears as Shidapu's with all our names on it. The truth is that it was quite a stupid thing to do, I still feel bad about it today. It worked like that- one or two of us made a track and everybody's names were on it. Oren quit the group Six months after we got released on Phonokol and left music. It was basically Roy, Miki and myself then. Me and Roy got into a bit of fighting, 16 years old kids, and then there was a situation were Miki and me are making stuff as Shidapu and also Miki and Roy are making other stuff as Shidapu. We continued like that and I made a lot of tracks by myself, three days for each track. And then I met Jorg.
How did you meet Jorg?
Jorg was visiting Liran Shimshon and Roy was also there. Jorg wanted to work with Shidapu, so they sent him to me in a taxi. Get the situation- I'm 16 and a half, and they send me this giant German guy with long blond hair, tattooed on all his body, with shorts. I open the door, he looks at me and asks: where is Erez? I Said: it's me. He hasn't got a space in his body without tattoos, with shorts and those Goa shoes, and I was all excited. Listen man, you see Jorg at first add you get scared, but that's only until he gets the first word out of his mouth- then you relax immediately. We are good friends.
And what did your parents say?
First they were scared, but they get along just fine. Today he sends them postcards and letters and just asks them to say hello to Erez.
How two people that don't even know each other get into the studio and make a track in one day?
We made a track with the Impulse Tracker. Jorg told me what he wanted and I did my best to cooperate. He told me to put break beat and I didn't understand how it will fit inside, but I did it, it was before the time that X-Dream started putting break beat, or at list before the time I heard of it. It came out great and added a lot of power, since then I use break beat in most of my stuff. We finished the track in one day. It was our first track- Hymn to the Sun. Today I think it's just another track, but Jorg really likes it. Then Jorg left Israel and came back, we made more track and Power of Celtic that turned into a huge hit. We even planned to make a video for that track, but nothing came out of it. We a lot of offers from MTV and nothing happened. This track sold a lot of CDs, a lot of compilation it was in. The greatest thing about this track is the Lambada thing- because it really sounds like Lambada. Originally it had nothing to do with Lambada, we made the track, Jorg sand the melody, we were very happy about it because it's a great melody, and then my mother hears it and says: Great! You made a version for Lambada! Immediately I told Jorg it was Lambada, and he still doesn't agree with me till today. Power of Celtic is the track that advanced me most, publicity wise, though I'm not sure that in the direction I want. I played a lot in that time.
As I said, Duvdev was working with Roy a little and then went to Goa. He came back and heard some stuff I made on my own and liked some of it. He heard I started to work with equipment and not only with Impulse Tracker, and together we put some money into equipment and started working together. We released Devil, Baby Killer and all that stuff. We're working together for more then a year now.
A question I must ask- the guitar solo in Devil, where does it come from?
We have a friend who plays guitar, Dan, and he just came and played the solo.
Infected Mushroom is more serious music, that's how we separate things. I really hope people will appreciate this CD, we put a lot of work and efforts into it. We got good feedback so far, Jorg says these are his strongest tracks in parties. Now I'm working mainly with Duvdev. When Duvdev can't get here and I'm bored, I make my own tracks. Apart from that, we made two track with Avi Algarnati and he is the end of the road- his knowledge is huge, as a technician and working with the equipment he is just amazing, we learned a lot from him. I think that the best track we ever done we made with Avi not long ago, it's a night track called The Fly (it hasn't been released yet).
How long do you work on a track?
Two to Three days, if I work more then that, the track is getting lost. Two days we sit and write the track and then we add all the little things. We like to put all sorts of stuff like that, we really enjoy doing something have never done before. It's sort of satisfaction all the people working with the computer gets, getting someone to say: How the hell did he do that!
Where is all that equipment coming from, or in other words, where's the money coming from?
Most of it is from Japan, we brought a lot of stuff from Japan, a gig in Japan is enough money. I had shows in Japan with Jorg and Duvdev. With Jorg we played in a club in Tokyo and made a lot of money. With Duvdev we appeared in Fuji in a party that was the end of the world. Amazing place. We played there with Steve from Cydonia and Joti. Riktam & Bansi were also supposed to be there, but they were a day late, I heard that is typical of them. I was happy to meet all those names from the CDs.
Do you parents help and support all that?
Financially no, I take care of myself. But they support the musical part and encourage me a lot.
I heard you and Jorg made a party with autistic people, how did it go?
Great! First of all I was expecting people in their 20s, but was surprised, there were people from all ages- 30 to 60 and they all danced. The older ones were maybe slower, but everybody danced. First we built the deco together, all my family came, we painted stuff add got dirty- great fun! All the time we had Ambient music in the background and then we move to faster stuff, but not heavy stuff, Astral Projection and stuff like that. Nothing heavy or too complicated. They were totally natural and danced, we all held hands and danced in a circle. We had to explain how come this music has no singer. We came at noon and left at night after we had dinner together. It as just great.
You also DJ?
Yes, though I rather not. I'm not a DJ, I make music, but it's not that difficult because I play with DATs.
What about playing live?
When we play live, I sit with the computer and prepare a mix of our tracks, the best mix there can be, beat to beat, on the track we can layer different stuff. The most important thing about the show is that the mix is perfect, and it is a mix a DJ can't do, we can also take a part from Psycho and put it in the middle of another track etc. That only we can do.
So how much can you really change stuff during the show?
During the show I don't change, there is nothing to change, the order of the music is set and we work with it. On that basic set I add effects, Wavs, explosions and that sort of stuff. Less playing and more effects. You can play live, but not something complicated. With keyboard you just can't stay with the music. Look, take the best Jazz pianist, he plays fast and improvises and it sounds real. But with trance, everything is precise. If you play something fast, and in trance everything is fast, and you slide out of the tune, it sounds terrible. You can't do it on 145-150 BPM, it's impossible.
Have you tried?
I try at home. You can get close, sometimes it will be better, sometimes not, you can never play exactly with the beat. If it's something slower, you can sometimes, and we do. But real live we don't play. Ethnica play real live. The Cubase is on, they use the mixer for kick, snares, this way you can change the whole track in the middle as it goes. But it's the most dangerous thing there is and I'm not willing to take that risk- suddenly you get and Error in Windows and that's it. I think they work with Atari, or some other stable computer. PC and Cubase is a sure recipe for trouble, there are errors, you have cash memory and buffers, suddenly boom, it stops and then continues. I can't take that risk.
What about the new CD?
It should be out soon, it's all ready to go. It will be called: The Gathering. We're only missing a name for one of the tracks.
And what then?
Look, we already have a second album ready. But it will take a lot of time, at least a year. I'm not sure we are really going to release it, if by then we make more music and feel better with it, we will release it. These tracks we might release on compilations in that case. We get a lot of requests from people to give our tracks to compilations, a lot of people asking for Psycho. The truth is that in the beginning we didn't want to give the track to Goa Gil's compilation because it was meant for our CD. But, it is a mix, and it is Goa Gil who is also a good friend of Duvdev.
OK Erez, that is Infected Mushroom, but on the personal level, what after that? You have a direction?
I want to make music for films, not necessarily trance, if it will be trance that'll be great, but I don't mind. Even music for games, I even had an offer but nothing came out of it. But first of all I want to make music for movies, I see a movie, doesn't matter what movie, straight ahead I get music going in my head, affect etc. I love that stuff, I love atmosphere music. I learned classical music, so atmosphere music really appeals to me.
What about ambient? Why there is almost no Israeli ambient?
The truth is that we made something, me, Duvdev and Jorg (something that I had the pleasure to listen to and it's something you don't want to miss, and I really hope for everybody that it will find it's way to a CD somehow- Shahar). Ambient is a lot harder to make than trance, first of all because you need knowledge in melody. Look there are all sorts of ambient, it depends how you make it, the ambient that I like to listen to at home is melodic ambient. Now ambient must not bore you, even though it's very monotonic, it must not be boring. The ambient that I like is difficult to make, I really like the stuff the Simon Posford does. Listen to Shpongle, Celtic Cross and Eclipse, it just so complex and amazing. So we made one track so far, and I really like. There is some Simon influence for sure, but it's also different- our direction. It was always like that with me. In the beginning I'm influenced from something, I hear it and try to make something similar and evolve the idea in my direction. It was like that in the beginning- I just started and was influenced from Miki's stuff. The same way, it was with X-Dream for example, suddenly I found myself excited from something new, it was monotonous for me till then, I didn't understand what people find in it. Then suddenly in Ibiza, I heard that stuff and found myself dancing and not understanding what is going on with me. In Ibiza for the first timed I opened from the 'Nitzhonot' to X-Dream, that was that stage.
Are you going to parties?
In Israel no, only to play. When I go abroad I go to parties. Here, If I go to a party, what will I hear, most of the music in parties here I already know, I know the people in the scene here and their music.
Do you buy trance? Listen to CDs?
No, I can't really sit at home and listen to trance. Again, I also DJ, but I do it for a living, for the money. The fun in it is that I can play my music but also others music. So what I get to listen to is mostly new stuff that comes out. Duvdev brings some new stuff from Eyal Yankovich and plays them to me. Avi Algarnati makes us a DAT of new stuff that just came and brings us to listen to it. It's fun for me to listen, also because no one else has it. You can say that I listen to trance at home only when I'm with people and listen to new stuff. I listen to trance when I make the music and when friends come and I play them the music I made. Look, I also listen to other stuff also sometimes, I came from another direction altogether, Dream Future, Panthera, Rage Against the Machine and more. But the best music today for me is ambient.
Do you listen to classical music?
Is there a connection between classical music and trance?
The only connection is that they're both music without singing. There is no connection. They say that trance is the classical music of the next millenium, but classical music, ridicules trance, it's much harder to make.
Can you make classical music?
I can, but it will be really difficult. It takes a lot of time just to sit down and write the piece itself, and to perform it is a story in itself. Look, it's no easy to make trance, but the moment you get hold of it, it's not really difficult anymore. It is, however, difficult to make something new in trance. There are a lot of difficulties in making trance: You have the melodic part, which is not easy; Arranging is important- so the track doesn't get boring; It is also very important you get a good sound- when you make trance you have to be also a sound technician, it's not like you go to the studio and you have your sound technician waiting there for you. You have to make your on sound- you're your own sound technician, and this is hard for itself; Thinking of the sounds, how to make new sounds, this is the whole thing- the really hard to do stuff that you don't have in other kinds of music. Now Madonna tried to make a little bit of that with William Orbit, and there are some great sounds there. But, in this aspect Simon in the top. I would love to hear what he thinks of the Madonna-Orbit cooperation. But again, in my opinion, Simon has no competition when it comes to sophistication- he make things and you say to yourself- how can that be done? It can't!
From all the places you played in, what you remember most?
Ibiza! I love Ibiza the most, when it comes to parties. The first party I flew there alone when I was 16. It was the first time for me on a plane, straight flight to Ibiza. Jorg was waiting for me in the airport. This year in my birthday (8/9) I flew with my girlfriend, this time it was her first time abroad, and Jorg made a birthday party for me. The truth is we just went there to celebrate my birthday, just me and my girlfriend, not to a party. But they organized a party and a very happy birthday. This was a party I will never forget, such a strong party, about 1000 people- I don't have words to describe. Jorg played all night and gave me the honor to play morning, the sunrise, they were spraying water on the entire crowd when I stated playing and everything was so happy. You're on that mountain, then you have the clouds that reveal the sea beneath them.
What does it do to you to see so many people dancing with your music?
At that moment it was a new feeling. But with me immediately my shyness comes up and I don't really want the people to see me, but I dance with the people. I played in Bolivia with Jorg, we spent a month there and it was great. We also traveled and met some amazing people. We met two women dealing with the Mayan Calendar, it was unbelievable, they told us a lot of stuff about ourselves. One of them wrote me a letter in Hebrew, using channeling, when she didn't speak now Hebrew, barely speaking English. She passed me a message about my future, but with an order not to show it to anyone. We also played in Germany, I played in a party in the Natraj Temple, one of the strongest clubs there are. I played in Japan- in Fuji, in Hungary, a lot in Greece. Also in Israel in quite a lot of parties, though lately I didn't have a good party in Israel.
Why is Israel so big in the trance scene?
I don't know, I really haven't got a clew.
OK we finished with that. Israel is so big in the trance scene and apparently nobody really knows why, but what is sure is that this shy talented kid has something to do with it.