Astral Projection, for a lot of us the first psychedelic sounds we turned on to, are back. In this interview, conducted by Doz back in November 02, Avi Nissim talks music, politics, technology and a load more. What he says is particularly poignant with regard to the situation in Israel which provides the backdrop for their current music; treat with cautious interest, and maximum respect.
Your new album is called ‘Amen’ and begins with a prayer for universal peace, have you got any strong spiritual/religious beliefs yourselves?
Avi : We don’t practice any religioun apart from music, which connects us to the world. Amen – Just that people will live with love, brotherhood of man, no racism, and you don’t need to be religious to have those values. We were educated this way and we hope that through our music we can encourage the change that every person in the world wishes for – Universal Peace. It might sound banal, but this is the real source for happiness.
Do you believe that we (mankind) will ever live in a state of ‘universal peace’? Do you think it could happen in our lifetime?
Avi : I realize I’ll sound banal again, especially in the worse period we have seen in such a long time. We’re on the verge of war against Iraq & we can’t tell where this war will end.
I know that most people don’t think that universal peace is possible at all, but I do think differently & I say to those who revoke that pure Peace, Brotherhood & Love, can exist when people will learn to change their attitude, & it’s a matter of openness & understanding, & of course – How much a person who’s flooded with hatred is ready to change his ways. I believe that with the right attitude & with the right understanding, even nations that lived in hatred for years upon years can get along. It’s a matter of time & I think it will take another few millenniums before things will change on our poor planet. I can’t believe that there are people who choose war. The majority wants to live in peace, as comfortable they can. Those who wants it different & searching for war, will sentence themselves as Sadam Hussein does. This war might benefit all human race in order to clean the dirt & destroy the virus in order to create a real peace between all the nations.
All the Trance music values are based, consciously or un- consciously, on Freedom, peace, love, one nation, one language, same symbols. We might have not paid enough attention, but we are in the midst of the greatest revolution in the history, for all of the Trance Tribe. It’s a long process but I believe that through the artists & the huge crowd the change I speak about here will come.
John Lennon wrote "Imagine". He dreamt it all. We are here to make it come true. Imagine al the people living life without boundaries, with no racism – What a happy life we could have.
Back to the album, how are your tracks conceived (from inspiration to their production)?
Avi : Tracks are made by hard work. There’s no such thing as wham bam thank you mam, and here we have a track. We start with the sound programming, & a lot of time sitting in front of the computer. Starting from a certain base line, adding many layers. Sometimes a certain role that is created inspires the next role and the evolving of the track. First of all we create some raw material that is on the computer way before the editing. Even in the editing stage we keep changing things, adding or changing roles according to changes created while editing, every role waits for the right time and the right entrance, and every role gets the respect it deserves, that’s why our tracks are long. When we enter the studio to work on an album, there is no chance we will release something that we don’t love or are not content with. Every time we enter the studio to work on an album, we are very excited and without this excitement there is no point for the whole thing. The mix stage, which is the final and last one, closes the process of making the track. This process usually takes us about a month. But for us a track is perfect only after we have checked it in a club and we saw the audience respond, the audience is for us an active partner in all we have released so far.
We write, arrange, and do sound programming all together. There’s no single formula for the duo to put a track together though. We start a track off with a sampler, a melody line, a groove, a TB 303 sequence. Then we quickly start work on the bass and drums and build it up from there. The sounds and the mixing are worked on as we compose. It can take us from two weeks to a month to finish a track because we have the luxury of owning two professional recording studios.
Inspirations: Anything goes … movies, life, good music, our families ,My little daughter-things that inspired us on each album.We inspire each other and always feel that we complete one another like a puzzle. We both have studios at home, and we both have a lot of experience and we’ve been around for a long time. We almost always agree on things, and if there is a problem with a certain role, we immediately change it and it doesn’t matter who made it. We don’t have ego problems with everything that has to do with our music making, it is clear to both of us that we share the same goal, making the best music.
Who/what musically influences you?
Avi : We are open to various musical styles as long as it’s got a point to it – emotions, story and concept. It’s got to be rich, varied, with a high production range and vast sounds; it shouldn’t be an anaemic production. It’s not always like this but sometimes you can find new interesting talents, even in the most monotonous genres.
Some of your earlier material, such as the tracks recorded as SFX, was quite dark, then it seemed with the ‘Trust in Trance’ album your music became very uplifting with a big production sound, was this a conscious change or a natural progression?
Avi :`It was a natural progression , we love dark music , and we love melodic music. The concept of Astral Projection from the beginning, since the days of SFX in 1988, was first of all music, regardless of fashions coming and going. All along the way we’re trying to preserve the concept of very high standards of Production, musical ideas, reach imagination, and very pedantic control without compromise. We spend many hours in the studio, about 14 hours a day, and work on an album 1 year to 2 year’s. We don’t allow ourselves to release a product that we are not satisfied with. If you browse through our computer, you’ll find enough material to make more than 200 hundred albums that might make others content, but they were’nt good enough for us. You can play, for example, a track we made in 1994, and you’ll see people are still enjoying themselves and dance to it madly, like it was made in 2003. And this is actually the main idea, regardless of time and fashion,
keeping the quality without compromising.
Of course, with the passing of time, experience and knowledge accumulated from album to album, we added more equipment, in order to be able to make without borders and obstacles, whatever is on our minds, no encountering technical limitations.
Astral Projection are one of the few (only) psychedelic trance acts whose tunes have crossed over into the more commercial trance DJ sets and mainstream clubs (sometimes even heard on the radio!), here in England. Do you have any success in Israel outside of the psy trance scene?
Avi : Of course! We usually are invited to perform in every commercial event or party, for instance in Eilat together with DJ Tiesto or when Faithless arrived to Israel or along side Paul Oakenfold & John 00 Fleming. The Israeli crowd has a very high standard & very pedantic when it comes to quality, especially when it comes to music. The top commercial productions in Israel with top D.J’s, will always be reinforced by Israeli Psy groups. We have here some of the best groups in the world such as: Infected Mushrooms, Yahel, Alien Project, Space Cat, Uforia, MFG, Astrix, Atomic Pulse, Dynamic, Dark Soho, Analog Pussy, Domestic & so many groups that about to break through
What do you think of the darker more twisted side of Israeli trance, bands like: Infected Mushroom, Dark Soho etc?
Avi : We are close friend of Infected & Dark Soho, & I think there’s a place for all styles. Its a great thing to have a variety of musical styles. Preferably as many styles as possible! At the end of the day we are here for our audience, & when there’s a choice its means there’s culture, interest & there’s power!
As for myself, I love strong music as well as melodic material, the only condition is that the music must sound good, be well produced, interesting musically & most important – it must make me feel excited & make me shiver all over!! There’s musical material I love of those groups & some I like less. Playing a DJ set, I have noticed that most of my set is built with Israeli musician material. Probably there’s something in here, some magic under the surface that makes the Israeli Trance musicians create such quality music, appreciated world-wide. Remember our country is a small country, just a dot on the globe, but we make such a noise all over the world – absolutely unbelievable!
How is the party scene in Israel today? Is the Israeli government still being hard on the scene?
Avi : The situation in Israel today can’t be understood by those who don’t live here. Everyday there is fear of the suicide bombers and it can be anywhere, on buses, kindergartens and these terrorists can harm innocent kids. Imagine yourself sitting in a restaurant, laughing with your wife, your friends and kids and all of a sudden everything is cut off by crazy killer. I feel it strongly when I’m driving with my 3 year old daughter; I look around for suspicious people all the time. With all the terror around we try to maintain our normal life, entering the studio to try and try to run away from the crazy routine. That kind of pressure is just a part of our life – whether we want it or not. We are lucky to have music to help us release this tension. We are very upset when we are invited to perform somewhere overseas and we turn on the radio in the hotel and hear the local news. Mostly the media is Pro-Palestinian, and it doesn’t give the balanced picture.
In spite of all this, we love our country, even though we could live anywhere with our profession. But here, there is that magic that connects us. I don’t see ourselves leaving soon. People don’t have the mood due to the terror & current political situation. The situation, in which police trash the parties, arrests the musicians & Party-goers. This is an un-acceptable situation. People had enough from the police trashing the party, they had it with the drug dealers, the criminals who come to spoil the parties. People prefer to go to the big raves, to the Club-Trance where the police do not show up from some reason.
In Israel people loves Tiesto very much, all the Club Trance elite. At the moment people do not go out so much due to the political situation, no one wants to explode from a suicide-terrorist in the middle of a party. That’s why "Astral" are performing now mainly outside of Israel. We prefer to play in a party, in which we can be sure that will not be closed, without the absurd situations of police chases.
Where in the world do you most enjoy playing? Is there anywhere in the world that you’ve not played that you’d like to?
Avi : We played in so many places in the world – you can check our website… We plan to perform soon on Mars
We haven’t been yet to South Africa or Brazil, but this year we shall get there.
How does playing live compare to DJing?
Avi : I love both Playing live as well as DJing. When we play live we play only Astral Projection Music. We have enough music to last 15 parties!! We receive feedback from the crowd at the pick of the show & when we & the crowd go wild, it’s the strongest & the most exiting thing that artist can experience.
Working in the studio, you don’t have that immediate feedback when you finish a track. We make sure to play new tracks on every performance. When we get that feedback from the crowd we start the process of taking the decision if that track will enter the album or not. We have the most direct catalyser that can be to an artist. Due to the intensive tours we do all over the world.
I enjoy very very very much to play as a DJ – It’s something I’ll never give up. I love many other groups in Trance & I’m proud & enjoy playing music, as well as other artist’s music, or even just a sequence of another artist which I connect to. The reaction of the crowd is the most significant thing for me. When there is no interaction between the DJ & the crowd – the party
is a failure.
I have noticed that the D.J’s learn by now to read their crowd, & they understand what the crowd wants, & I do appreciate it. DJing wise, which do you, prefer DAT or vinyl?
Avi : I prefer Vinyl. There’s nothing like the sound of a record. Along the years I find myself playing CD’s a lot. & it’s wonderful – you can finish a track in the studio, burn it down in a second & mix it.
And blended or beat mixed?
Avi : Good question! – depends to which event. If it’s DJ set – It has to be mixed. If it’s a performance, it’s nice to be able to play the track’s beginning from time to time. We made it this way & we have to refer to the opening which has no beat – & not to rush immediately to the Base Drum. It’s good when there’s an introduction & build up to the opening of a track. This is what washes the listener into it!
Have you ever astrally projected or had an out of body experience?
Avi : We haven’t experienced the Phenomena on its natural way, but I can tell you that every time I’m in the studio & a musical part or a mass of musical parts are being played together, I feel a little Astral Projection. It can happen in a show, where the interaction with the crowd is perfect & the atmosphere is at its best, there where I feel that my soul is getting out of my body & partying on between the invisible notes in the air.
And finally, do you still ‘Trust in Trance’?
Avi : You are kidding me or what? The Trust in Trance is absolutely total for us & it is an un-separated part of our lives!
I’m proud to be a part of the revolution called Trance. You got to love it in order to be part of it, There is no other way!
Trust in Trance !