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June 17 , 2019
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Interview with Onyx

First, introduce yourself.

My name is Yaniv Gold, 28 years old, currently living in Tel Aviv. I am the A&R of Bionics Records, releasing music under the name Onyx and organizing a weekly line of events in the Luna club, Haifa for two years.
I got into trance in 95. Before that, I was playing alternative rock. I got to DJing from hard rock, hardcore and metal. I had a band named Brutal Platoon when I was 17. It started as a thrash/death metal band and then progressed towards the New York Hardcore, Biohazard style. As you can see, I come from all music styles. I started trancing as an amateur, and have been to the professional side for the last 6 years.

What is Bionics?

Bionics is a label that started working as a direct continuation for a company that I had in Japan with two Turkish partners. The company was called Arcadia and still exists today, without my partnership.
I lived in Japan between 1996 to 2000, about 4 and a half years. Arcadia was a company that organized big parties and distributed music. At some point we decided to move on and start to release music ourselves. I came to Israel to prepare our first CD that was based on artists that played for us in the same year: Dado, Oforia, Space Cat, Talamasca, Nomad, etc. When I was in Israel problems began to emerge between my two Turkish partners in Japan. We started arguing a little over the phone and I didnít like the way things went, so I simply decided to stay in Israel and keep doing it here, in a new way. I had all the music I compiled for Arcadia and I needed to do something with it, so I released it as the first CD in my own label- Bionics Records. It was the night of New Years Eve, 2001. Instead of going out I was sitting at home, thinking. This is the day it all started: 01.01.01 - The most digital date there is. I decided to call my new compilation Reborn- new way, to be born again.
In my opinion, a label should have a certain right to exist. Everybody can open up a label, but there is no use in making music unless you have a right to exist- something to say. It develops over the years - what we want to say, why we are here. All in all, in Bionics we do what we love- to go mad in parties and be happy. Maybe thatís why we were always more full-onistic style, even when it wasnít such a hit. Now itís in our favor because everybody likes it. But even when the minimal style was dominating, we still did what we love. People come to parties to have fun, to forget about their troubles- you gotta rock Ďem (latet barosh, in Hebrew). This is what we want, this is what we love and this is what we do.

On the other hand, we never forget that nevertheless, this is music. I see trance as the rock'n'roll of electronic music. Meaning, just like in rock'n'roll, we have a full variety of emotions: from harder, more aggressive rock to softer and more melodic rock. This is the same variety that we have in trance. Trance is actually rock'n'roll made out of electronic music- this is how I see it. We love technology, we love innovations, we love electronics. But we never forget that itís music. Our saying is- Letís use the cutting edge of technology but also give most extreme of emotional experiences.
When I was a small child there was TV show named Steve Austin- The Bionic Man. Steve Austin was like a robot that was utterly a machine on the outside, but a person on the inside- somewhat of a Pinocchio story. This is our story- from all the technology and the use of computers we extract the feelings, the soul. Itís also reflected in our slogan- "Express your digital emotions".
Today, bionics involves Nadav Shenhav- the major partner in the company and the technical producer of everything (the CDs, the posters, the sales, etc.). I take care of the musical side of things, to the musical production. Lior Perlmutter is responsible for the production of the CDs themselves.

If that is the case, what differs Bionics from other labels?

What differs us is that we try to bring it all in one mix- mix between insanity to a good production level. At the moment we are not at the peak of international sound production level, but this is the goal and I think we do that pretty well. We use all the new and commercials lineaments (you can call it "tricks" if you like) to bring other things: A little more happiness, sadness and excitements that we lack a bit today. In Bionics, Patrick (PTX), for example, is a little more "karahanistic" and crazy. I am (as Onyx) a little more gentle but keen about my musical message. It varies around this range.

Tell us about your latest CD, Direct Out.

I am very proud of the new CD, maybe more than all the CDs Iíve made until today. Last summer I was DJing a lot; week after week with no breaks. It was one of the busiest summers Iíve ever had. During this time I noticed that most of the tracks I play are mine or my friends'. This is the first time it happened: the first time that I stopped collecting music, because I donít need to anymore. I have my tracks and my best friends' tracks, which I play and they work the best. They do an outstanding job on the floor, but still, nobody knows them. So I said to myself: "If this is the case maybe we should take this set, or at least some of it and turn it into in a CD".
Of course the CD isnít 100% my set. The CD indeed has a party atmosphere- itís very fast. Itís mostly around 145BPM and faster. But still, itís not exactly the set that I play in parties: itís a set of mine, adapted for home listening. The act of releasing the CD itself is very pretentious, because there are no "names" on it. Itís not like an ordinary CD, one which I compile and speak to artists about selling me their tracks. I simply had those tracks already, and the only thing I had to do is to put them on a CD. As I said, it was very pretentious, there were a lot of concerns, I admit. Economically, it costs a fortune to release a CD, weíre very afraid that it wonít succeed. But it worked so good that we decided to take the chance, to do it the first time as an Onyx CD and not as a Bionics compilation and go for it. The result, in my opinion, is very good. The responses we get are very good. The sales will say what they say, we donít know numbers yet and we are waiting for results.

Bionics is a full-on label. How do you, as the A&R of a full on label and a full on artist yourself, see the limits of the genre? How far would you go to push the boundaries of full on?

I can already tell you that I donít look at it as a formula. To most people it looks formulaic, and I can understand why, it is also true in most cases. About myself I can say that I come from an era that didnít have these terms yet. In the past, the first years the I started dealing with it, we didnít have those terms: full on, progressive or minimal; There was music- sometimes it was crazy, sometimes it was calm, sometimes it was for the morning, sometimes for the night. Sometimes it was more groovy, sometimes it was karahana, all the way. You took what you liked and tried to connect it somehow. In the last few years, groups started to form: You either play full on, progressive or minimal.
Of course that the most commercial field, the full on, is the one that has gotten most of the popularity, and thus created its own formula. It happened because artists started to create music in a more "industrial" way, because suddenly it started to sell CDs, so naturally certain formulas were created. We try not to work according to any formula, only do what we love. Again, in this case what we love is what sells today. We learn a lot from existing formulas. We try to do what we love. If it comes out like a certain formula itís possible, in some cases. I believe that you can call most of our stuff "the harder side of commercial music". We have all the commercial characteristics- The speed, the rhythms and the build-ups. But I think that the inside, the texture itself is made differently. Maybe sometimes itís rougher than smooth material we hear from the big artists.

Is there a CD that impressed you greatly in the last period of time?

There is a CD that Iím addicted to- A CD that isnít out yet, and I listen to it something like 10 months. Itís an electronic-reggae band. Not dub, simply reggae with singing and everything, but electronic. Itís a British band called Red Seal. They are working on an album thatís supposed to be out soon. One of the members, an Israeli guy who lives in London named Ariel has brought me ten months ago six tracks from the album that will be released and Iím simply addicted to it. I strongly recommend looking for it once itís released. The name is Red Seal and it will be released through Flow Records. This is the hottest recommendation.

If so, what is good music? How would you define good music?

Youíve just asked the hardest question in the world. I really donít know how to answer this. Professionally Iíd say that good music involves a combination of good musical material, meaning, high musical level, good ideas and good production. But on the other hand, it may be valid only in trance; I can listen to a new, good band with a low production level. It happens more in rock: you can hear some cool ideas and songs that never existed before that have good musical level. Sometimes it could be a ridiculous musical level, but have some strong idea, and it gets you. This is also good music. But in general, especially if itís trace then I always look at the production quality, on the musical level and on the quality of the ideas. For me, this is what creates good music in trance.

Letís say Son Kite are interested in releasing their next album in Bionics, a label which has concentrated on full on so far, what will be your answer?

"Bring some material, letís hear it". There is no doubt that Son Kiteís musical level is good, their name is excellent and it would sell because itís Son Kite. But, if I donít like it, if it doesnít suit what weíre trying to convey, if they arenít nice people (I donít know, I havenít met them), then it wonít happen. But if they are indeed nice people and they have good music, that does suit us, and I play it, and like it, theyíre with us. When do they come?

What involves organizing a party? What are the difficulties?

My experience involves many types of parties. The first party I organized was in January 96, exactly 8 years ago. It was in one of the clubs in the Krayot (North of Israel, a suburb of Haifa). The organization was simple- Just bring people, make invitations and play. Later, in Japan, when we organized parties, it was something completely different- It was pulling out a whole production. You go, find a place, find the DJs, bring them from abroad, bring promoters, a whole crew that will be working and an administrative team. You simply do everything with your own hands. There were parties that we organized here, in Nature. Itís much harder- you donít need to find a club, you go and you scout around places in nature, wrecking a few good cars while youíre at it. Not only you need to find a place, you have to make sure that we wonít be disturbed in there, and there is nobody in the area. You should promote it to right people- to make sure that only the people that we want to be there will be there. Brining all the equipment is also fucking hard. Meaning, if you bring there a generator and speakers, then itís really working out in the field, like a construction worker, in the sun, with hammers and nails and everything that is needed. There were events like this in which the beginning was very hard.
About the Luna- the original idea was mine, two years ago. I lived in the north, in Menahamia, a moshav (small village). During this period I was studying sound engineering in the Jordan Valley. I came here (to the Luna, where the interview took place) from time to time during weekends; simply because I had nothing else to do. So I said- you know, maybe weíll have a place that will put trance music, and we could also drink a beer or two, and people will come. We started, we put the music, opened up the gates, it was for free and people came. We started with 100 people that came here every week and slowly it grew. Suddenly, we started bringing artists: the first was Astrix, we took 10 shekels on the entrance, just to cover the expenses. This was the beginning.
Today, we have a whole system working here. We have five partners, promoters in a higher level and promoters in a lower level, that manage their customer database and bring the people here. There are three rooms here: Mainstream, House and Trance. In the Luna, the club already exists, the crew already exists and the work is being done every week. Itís an insane job, lots of meetings, constant drives between Haifa and Tel Aviv and vice versa, bring DJs every week. And itís EVERY week, for two years and a half! We never stop, we never compromise. Itís big names week after week. It involves a lot of politics: that DJ canít play, why I donít want to and why donít I play a lot of time and he wants to do a launch party, and he likes the idea of this label more than him. You deal with a lot of difficulties. And I do it. Today, the whole crew here works and the only job I leave for myself, because I donít count on anyone else is to build the line up. Even if Iím abroad, no matter where, I do this, I always call and close everything.
Itís very hard week after week. This is my job, and because of this I have enough headache. This is what I do in the Luna more or less. Lately we started a weekly line up in the Ultrasound club on Fridays. There itís not ours like in here (in the Luna), we are only responsible for the second level and play trance there. Weíre like employees of the Kibbutz (Kibbutz Yagur, where the Ultrasound club is located). We manage it and we are responsible for the line up and brining our own people. Suddenly, the work has multiplied. The same line up work has extended to two days a week. And itís two days that demand strong DJs, the politics only grew larger and the work has gotten greater.

Is there a difference in the atmosphere between a club and nature?

Of course. This is one of first things you feel. I donít know if I can explain why. A club is a club, itís a closed place. Itís hard for me to call what weíre having here parties .Itís more like "evenings", events, as a steady line. All in all, people donít come here go mad a whole night and morning. People who have finished a whole week of work, with all the difficulties and troubles each of us runs into. They open their weekend by coming here between 12 and 2, drink a little, meet the guys, talk, meet a few girls and come back home after a few hours (not too much) after they had fun, danced and talked to other people. Itís totally different than coming to a party in nature for many hours straight and have a karahana. The atmosphere is completely different, thereís no doubt about it. Again, itís a club atmosphere for our people, the trance people, people who know nature, and enjoy the comforts of a club.

Getting back to Bionics: do you get a lot of demos?

Yes, we get a lot of demos. I receive them myself and Iím responsible for hearing them. I donít know why, but in the summer I get much more. People who come back from parties make music, a lot of music, and I get quite a lot of it. I can tell that most of things we get are not good enough for release, even less. Many times, at least in the beginning, I got back to people who sent demos with feedbacks. In the beginning, when it was a new thing for me to receive demos and I felt a certain responsibly. Somebody sent me his music, he made it. If it's really not good I am obligated to answer and respond. As time passed, work has become more massive and I got more demos, I understood that itís hard to get back to everybody. I decided that I really hope that it wonít hurt people but I prefer not to get back to them when it isnít good. I hope that they understand it and wonít get insulted by the fact that I donít get back to them. I hope they realize that maybe it was just not good enough.
Only two times I received something in the mail which really "caught my ear". The first time was two years ago, when some guy named Matan called me and told me he wants to send music. I told him OK and I listened to the CD while washing the dishes, not believing it will be good at all, as usual. It caught my ear in an instant. It was Sento Sento- Alchemistica. At the very second I called Matan and told him I want that track. The track itself was released a year later, as Sento Sento- Alchemistica (2002 Edit) on one of Bionics' compilation Future Link.
The second time I heard something that caught my ear was just a month ago, a French guy called Triskell. The production wasnít good yet, the musical level was more or less a copy of Absolum, but it had something very charming, something that as much as it isnít that good, still has a tendency to become more professional, something very solid in the amateurish level. I wrote him a very extensive reply by e-mail, telling him what I liked and what I think requires improvement and Iím waiting to hear more music from him in the future. If it will be good, Iíll be happy to have him with me.

Would you define the music you release as psychedelic? What makes music psychedelic?

Well the genre is still psychedelic trance. So yes, it is psychedelic, even though the borders are not so clear now. This music started as the psychedelic side of trance but now itís getting closer to the mainstream. The psychedelic elements are part of the music. The Doors and Pink Floyd were psychedelic and now their elements are part of the main music market. Comparing to the other trance labels I think we are in a good place in the middle, meaning our music is pretty psychedelic, but not THAT much.

What was the best party you organized?

Itís hard to say. I can point out that the most impressive party I organized was in Japan, for Arcadia, in 1999. We were new in Tokyo and it was after we made two average parties, considering only the amount of people. For the third party we decided to go for the whole nine yards. We searched for an unusual place, not an ordinary club where everybody makes parties. We found an amusement park which had a whole roofed compound with a Roller Coaster, A ghost ride and a movie theater with moving chairs. We took the opportunity, put all the necessary decoration and invited Talamasca and Space Cat to play. 3000 people showed up. Tokyo was definitely shocked that day. It was never seen until then and I can proudly say that from this point it was looked upon as a standard. From then, most of the big organizers are making big and special parties and put more effort on the decoration and location. We didnít want to make our next party in a club, so we rented television studios, where TV series and movies are filmed, and Mitsubishi showcases take place, stuff like that. We built everything: we had to construct a floor, build the walls and the stage (thatís because in television studios you can use only the space). It was a superb production. We even brought a Cyberdance group from the USA, who danced with lasers and everything.
Moreover, some of our best parties were here in the Luna. There were a few evenings here that were very successful. All in all, the place is the same. A successful evening in the Luna is an evening when we bring a big amount of people we love, because the place doesnít change and sometimes people we donít like come. A good party here is a party with many people that we do like and a good DJ, that we like too, who plays good music. In those evenings, the atmosphere blows the place away. It happened here a couple of times: in our live show- Onyx vs. PTX (me and Patrick) and when Infected Mushroom were here. There were more. My memory is too short to remember the dozens of nights that took place here.

How do you feel releasing CDs, being an artist and party organizer all together? What kind of fun do you get from each one?

I never do anything because I have to do it. I always do things because I love doing them. I do all those things because I hate routine. I never got along with routine. I really like changes and having a dynamic life. Maybe because of it Iím doing all those things. I think that I have some kind of split personality and a few sorts of people live in me: when Iím an artist- I make music and Iím all into it. If somebody would call me and talk to me about a business related topic, like the Luna or CDs it would be like talking to somebody who doesnít know anything about it.
If itís a day when I get up in the morning and Iím all into office work: we have to release that CD, go here, go there, bring that artist and take care of the Luna. In the same day, if I open a computer I wonít even know the note ĎDoí. Iím a completely different person; call it a pure business man.
Another aspect is to be a DJ. To be a DJ is not like being an artist; those two are totally different things. To be an artist is to sit at home and make music. To be a DJ is to be a traveler, itís just taking my bag and tour Israel or other places in the world. Most of my weekends are like this. When Iím a DJ, Iím simply another person, Iím a traveler, exactly like I was touring the world for many years. I hang around, not caring about anything but to meet the people whom I love and didnít see for a long time. Because even when Iím playing in Israel, if I play in the north, I meet, for example, that certain party organizer whom I havenít seen in a long time and we sit and laugh, discussing the things that we have in common. If I go to the south, to Beer Sheva, there are different people and different atmosphere.
I like each one of those things. Iím really not doing them because I have to. Every time I change a "state" itís the thing that I love doing best at the same moment. I live on this changes and I hope that until the end of my life Iíll keep doing other things and wonít find myself sitting and doing the same job, for the whole week.

Where did you play abroad?

My "strongest" part abroad is Asia, because when I lived in Japan I was touring the surrounding countries a lot. I was in Thailand, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Of course I had performed a lot in Europe too. South Africa was the first place I went to, it was my first flight and Iím eager to come back, because I havenít been there since. Of course, Iím eager to play there also, because when I was there, there was no trance (but now there is).
A continent which I have not yet "discovered" is America. Weíre supposed to fly to Brazil soon. I donít have time for that personally so Patrick (PTX) will go alone. When my work here with the parties production will be less demanding I'll be able to go to the USA and South America. The place I loved the most is Japan. Pretty obvious why- itís the place with the most sentiments, because I lived there.
One of the coolest places that many people havenít discovered yet is Slovakia. Eastern Europe is a part of the world that many people donít know; I was there three times. In the last three years, every year, there is a festival of Tulís Tribal Records that takes place there and itís the top of the worldwide underground. DJs come there without any commercial purpose. I was there twice and one more time with no connection to the festival.
Itís amazing, everyone who comes doesnít come for money. People come entirely to play music for two or three days. Itís the youngest, newest music, with one purpose- to have fun and meet people from east Europe, because they are truly amazing. There are also Israeli guys there, and people from other European countries who come to meet, listen to music and have one big spiritual experience.

Do you think that Israelís position in worldwide trance gets bigger or smaller? Are we bigger or smaller than the days of Astral Projection and MFG?

In the past it was like that because there werenít many artists and because Astral and MFG were indeed there, and stood out, as Israelis. Today, there are so many artists and so much music all over the world and I still think that today itís not like anyone stands out. But if we look at it weíll see that Israel is very steady. We have very steady artists- in the top quality of trance. Meaning, artists who have a saying thatís unquestionable like Infected Mushroom, Astrix and Skazi. People that are on the top of trance, the mainstream of the mainstream of trance, and they are Israelis. I donít think that thereís a country that makes so much mainstream in trance like Israel. Israel is definitely there quantity wise and of course Israel is no.1 in new artists. There is no country in the world that gets even close to it, not even to a half of it I think. I think itís excellent. The more the merrier. Sometimes it lowers the quality but this problem belongs to the labels, not the artists- whatever isnít good enough shouldnít be released. Whoever will be good will survive. Everyone can do what he wants, everyone can show his stuff. If itís good, if heíll be good, if heíll persist, if it would really be what he likes and he wonít be doing it because itís cool I believe heíll survive. Weíre here, whoever really wants to try.

Do you miss the good old days?

Of course, but I think itís more than just music. I really miss the old music and the atmosphere that was once in parties. If I hear an old track I get very excited. Lately Iíve been doing it a few times with Shahar from Isratrance. It pinches your hurt, it gives you the chills, but I donít think it because the music was better. Itís simply because we were younger and it was new for us.
Today, the youngsters who come to trance come from a point where they know it exists, and what theyíre doing is simply joining it. When we were beginning to know each other, it didnít exist. Suddenly we learned something that nobody knows. Itís exciting in itself. Today, when we hear it, it gives us the chills. The atmosphere in parties is completely different today. Trance was not something you heard about then, there were very specific people, who kept it secret. Your parents didnít understand were youíre going. "Trance? What is trance anyway?".
Today itís very legitimate. I go to a wedding with my family and find my mother dancing to Dado and GMS in the end. I say to myself: "Damn, if only it was happening a few years ago, where things had come to? My mother is dancing to Dado". And when I tell her: "Mom, you have DJ moves" she answers: "Well, where do you think you came from?".

Where do you think the Israeli trance scene is going? How do you see the scene in a few years?

Itís an evolutionary process, which I look at all the time. Itís very hard to foresee what would happen. It started as underground and then it broke out to the open somehow and it became a sort of "too big underground", so the problems started. Meaning, from the governmentís and peopleís point of view. Then came a very confused period of time. People said: "Thatís it, it will die, weíll close the parties", everything started to get confused. Then it started to be like any other music style, and of course commercialism had contributed a lot to it. The parties are not being shut down anymore. Of course there are the underground parties that are still being shut down but here we are, working in an ordinary club, what was not possible once. Itís a sort of evolutionary process. In the future, two things could happen- it would either get bigger or smaller. As I said earlier, if trance will be comprehended as the rock'n'roll of electronic musi,c so probably it would reach exactly where rock'n'roll is today- many sales, performances, radio broadcasts and music videos. I donít know whether it would happen or not, but it canít stay on that level. There are people who say that in few years it will die. I donít believe it would happen, maybe the music will change, but it will still be the same trance. Today the music is already different from trance music a few years ago. But weíre still the same people with the same trance. We mean trance when we say trance. It wonít die, no matter what- trance will always be electronic dance music, assembled from elements of rock music- guitars, singing or whatever it would be. But it will always be there. I wage that it will grow towards the main stream, just a wild guess.

What can we except from Bionics in the future?

One of my least favorite things to do is making future promises, because I have this karma that when I promise things they don't happen. I am that kind of person- every time I talk about something it never happens, but I can only say that in general our plans for this year are to continue with the party production. Weíre working on a CD now, a Luna CD. Just like Bionicsí first CD was compiled out of Arcadiaís artists, the new one will be feature tracks of artists that performed here, in the Luna. I think this is gonna be our next release. Patrick (PTX) is currently working on his debut album. As for myself, Iím more problematic because all my different occupations. Maybe it will take a year, and maybe Iíll release some singles before the album is out, to keep the audience updated. We really want to release a chill out compilation. I hope weíll do it. We still donít take any financial risks because we donít wanna do things that can crash us financially. Itís very hard to survive in Israelís trance scene for the simple reason that there are no sales and people donít buy CDs. We want to do every step wisely and with caution for one reason- we want to make music and sell music. We donít wanna do one step that would crash us and will not enable us to continue doing so. Iím telling you what we want to do; if weíll see that it could be dangerous to us, we simply wonít do it. If something wonít happen I apologize in advance.
 Interview by TiMMY
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