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Topic ClosedInterview - Erez Yohanan of Amaseffer, June 24/08

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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Interview - Erez Yohanan of Amaseffer, June 24/08
    Posted: June 24 2008 at 15:32
The long awaited project from Amaseffer has finally made it's worldwide appearance, and I had the chance to chat with project founder Erez Yohanan regarding the album and his other projects.


ProgArchives: First off, congratulations! Today being the worldwide release of your album.

Erez Yohanan: Thank you!

PA: This has been a really long project for you, can you tell us a bit about the background of the band?

EY: Yes! This concept has been sitting in my head for... pretty much a long time now, and we didn't deal with that until about four years ago. We did feel that we had the maturity enough as musicians and also as persons. It's a very deep and spiritual concept to deal with. So, four years ago we felt that it was the right moment to start writing. I started the first draft for the trilogy, and it was originally going to be a single cd, but we kind of saw that we have so much story that it wouldn't fit on one cd. If you want to portray all the major events and that. So it got the form of the trilogy after a few months. And Yuval Kramer joined me and a few months later Hanan Avramovich joined us and that was the final formation for Amaseffer, we are actually a trio!

Yeah, it took us four years to work on the album because we wrote the whole trilogy. It's not just one album. Part 2 and part 3 are also written down in the basic ideas, and we will soon go into the studio for the pre-production and start producing the second chapter.

PA: For this album you worked with a lot of guest musicians, are you going to be working with the same people over the next two?

EY: Yeah, hopefully we will! Mats Leven, we are very happy... actually very VERY happy with the final results on the album, very satisfied and he's also very satisfied with the final results, and he showed big interests in wanting to keep on as singing as the lead singer for chapter 2 and chapter 3. So his role for the lead vocals, we are pretty much set up it. Regarding other guests, I'm not really sure about it. Actually it depends on a few things... if we really need a growling... someone who can sing the growl like Angela Gossow on the song "Midian" then we will probably talk to her again, we are very satisfied with her singing on the album. Kobi Fahri, we truly hope that he will continue with us for chapter 2 and chapter 3. Hopefully Maya Avraham, the lady who sings on "Zipporah" and worked with Mats... I'm not really sure that she will appear on chapter 2 because we have a different vocalist that we are thinking about for the next about duet with Mats. But it's a bit premature to say... y'know, to set the final artists that will participate in chaper 2.

On thing for sure is that Mats Leven will sing on it. Both sides show great interest in doing so.

PA: And you've said that when you heard him - when he first sent his first mp3s over - that he was the right guy for the job. What made him so perfect?

EY: We looked not just for a singer, we looked also for an actor. A guy who'd play the scenes at the optimum level that we were looking for. The concept is more like to present it like a theater presentation, it's not just - like a guy who stands there and just sings the lyrics and that's it. We needed to get through the listener's emotions and visuals. The album is very graphic and visual, it's almost like you're watching a movie, and we looked for a singer... and Mats was the only one - well, Andy Kuntz was the first one who also had the same style. But since Andy and us, we pared ways, Mats Leven was the only one from all the singers that we auditioned that had the style that we look for.

PA: You mentioned that this is a very theatrical production, is there any plan to take this on the road?

EY: Yes, sure! But not at the moment I'm afraid. It's important to us, beyond all financial or promotional aspects, to present the story from beginning to end at one time, in one show, on one night. And we don't want to play a third of the story... or two thirds... or two or three songs if we're going to do a presentation. It's very important to us to perform the whole story on stage, and we just have to wait a bit until the whole trilogy is out. It won't take long because chapter 2 and 3 are already written, so we'll take a couple... three, four years, something like that, until we put out the show.

It's going to be big and unique, like everything we did so far. We'll look at it... more like as a grand musical show, and not just a live show. It's going to be with the actors on stage, playing the scenes, in and between the songs, have a philharmonic on stage and all the effects and surround sound. It's going to be something really special we hope.

We have the script for the show so far, for chapter one. And as we progress with chapter 2 and 3 everything will be ready for rehearsals and to go and put it up. It's going to be a long show! About a 3 hour show, but it's going to be very very special.

PA: Yeah it sounds like it! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What were you doing before Amaseffer started up?

EY: Basically nothing! [He laughs] I'm total with my art, if I speak for myself. I lived in New York or about 5 years. I had a small band with the bass player from Sebastian Bach, Rob De Luca, if you know him, bass player for Spread Eagle also, we played for a while, we played together - we had a small band and wrote some material. Then I came back to Israel and I had a lot of offers from artists here to play with them for good money but it's very important to me... not just playing drums on stage, or not just writing music for artists... the musical vision is top priority for me, and finding myself playing drums for a musician or a singer where I don't really relate to his music is... I'd rather sit at home and watch a movie than doing that. Because for me it's beyond just playing drums - it's not just for fun, it's a way of life.

I didn't really play in anything major, just practicing basically, just practicing in Israel, I finally felt that it's the right moment to start writing the trilogy. Yuval and Hanan have played in a few bands here, but also they've been focusing on studying music in special schools, but also teaching guitars, they have their own students. So that's basically what we've been doing for the past few years.

PA: And you just scored the soundtrack for the film "Altalena", how did that come up?

EY: Movie soundtracks, for the three of us, are one of the biggest loves... we love this area so much! We love movies and we love film scores and we have formed our soundtrack company about a year ago and we started making presentations of our music for different productions. The first production company who's presented our music - they've been looking for composers for this film, "Altalena". It's a film about  war ship from 1948 right before the Israeli state was formed. It's about a conflict between the Israeli resistance and the Israeli government who wouldn't allow the resistance to import the weapons on that ship, and the ship's name was Altalena. It was a big conflict and they drowned the ship.

What we did for this soundtrack, we wrote a full score, no guitars, no drums, just pure philharmonic compositions because we wanted to deliver the full experience of that time, 1948 - There wasn't any electric guitars or drums. So we basically wrote the full score based on the philharmonic compositions. It came out really nice, we're very happy with the final result. Soon I hope we'll post a few samples on our website, and as far as I know the producers told me that in a few months the movie will be out and we also will be uploading the trailer, and hopefully people could get it on dvd through whatever - like the online shop - they will decide to sell it.

PA: Could you tell us a bit of your favorite movies and movie soundtracks?

EY: Oh... so much of them! I would say "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and... hmm... right from the top - "Braveheart" I would say, one of the best. "Last of The Mohicans"... oh what else... Oh so much, so many of them. There's a great soundtrack for a movie by a Japanese director, the movie "Casshan" of you've ever heard of that. Some french movies, the french composer Lou Busson... so many! It's hard to... Each soundtrack has it's own style and unique way to present the visuals of the movies. So many, so many of them.

I'm sure that I've forgot a few but... from the top of my head, I think the ones that I mentioned are really special.

PA: For the album art and the sleeve you worked with Mattias Noren, how was that working with him?

EY: It was a great experience, Mattias is a super, super professional guy. First, I knew of his works a long time ago and when I started writing the concept I think it was clear that the artwork guy for the album would be Mattias. I really love his work and also Yuval and Hanan really love his work so we all decided together that he's the right person to do the artwork for the album. We really wanted to visualize the album through the artwork of the album also. If you happen to have the booklet you'll see that each song has it's own special, specific illustration of it, specifying a special part in the song. We had just told him the vision for each song and the vision that we really want the cover to look like, and he was right on from the first draft! It was, like, in the right direction for us, and we're truly thankful for that! He did an amazing job, really fast, and we could ask for a better one that he did. So it came out really, really special I think.

PA: This album was produced by yourself, is this something you're going to do for the other albums in the trilogy or are you going to hire on a producer?

EY: Nope, we will keep on producing ourselves in chapter 2 and chapter 3. The reason is that we have a preproduction stage in which the three of us are locked down in our studio for about 6 months. We live together, we wake up in the morning and are producing the album from point 1 to point 2 and we're focusing on it 100%. It's not like, "okay, we have a few weeks to sit with the producer and we have a time schedule and we're under so much stress." When you have a timeline, sometimes we find that it's not good for the compositions. We will continue producing the albums ourselves, it's the best way and we've found that we don't find any reason to change it. The final result came out great, as we see it, and so far all European critics have seen it. So we will keep on doing it ourselves, yeah.

PA: You've been receiving a lot of positive feedback worldwide, do you think there's going to pressure for the second and third albums now?

EY: Mmm, no. I don't think there will be any pressure. I think that we've been fortunate enough to make a living out of music and we have the time to go into the studio and really focus on our next chapter and we will take it easy. Nothing will pressurize us and we'll just keep writing as we did before.

PA: After living in New York you went back to Israel, how do you feel about the music scene in Israel right now?

EY: Israeli music scene is a relatively small one. It's very hard to a musician to make a living out of playing music here. not a lot of musicians can really wake up in the music and write only music, and focus only on music. Lots of musicians in Israel have to find the big jobs and finish the day at 5pm then go to the rehearsal studios. So it's very hard, but we've found that recently a lot of Israeli bands are being signed by European and American labels. They're starting to look in this area, the Eastern area and they find there's a lot of really unique musicians that they can find there. Especially in the metal scene, in which there's a lot of Israeli bands signed to European and American labels. The local musicians are really being signed by local Israeli labels and there's not a lot of them. There's only about 5 or 6 labels in Israel... it's a very small country. It's a bit weird. We have made the decision that we will look BEYOND Israel and not just the local scene that that's why we wrote it in English and there's international artists on the album, we're on a European record label. We're aiming for a grander perspective, not just locally in Israel.

PA: It's kind of an untapped market over there in Israel.

EY: Yeah! I would say so, yeah. There's a big potential over here and now and then... as I said, more and more Israeli bands are being discovered by non-Israeli record labels and producers. I hope for the best!

PA: For sure, I think we all do! So for Amaseffer, do you have any plans for after the trilogy is finished for the band?

EY: Yes, actually. We do have plans for the band. We're starting to look for the next project that we'll do, which will also be Bible based... I think 99% it will be based on the Bible. Nothing specific yet, it's a bit premature to talk about it yet. But Amaseffer, regardless of the trilogy, it's a band like any other band in the world. Surely we'll continue writing music and producing, and writing some scores. But we'll do whatever will be needed to do. Hopefully the trilogy will be successful enough for us to continue in this direction, we really love it and that was the main reason that Amaseffer was formed - writing music on Biblical concepts.

PA: Can you give us a quick synopsis of the story so far for those who haven't heard the album yet?

EY: Yeah, sure! The album starts, we pick it up right from the slavery period, it's right from the beginning of the book of Exodus chapter 1. That's the slavery period and we move on from there to the birth of Moses on the song "Birth of Deliverance". Right from there we move to the twist in the plot where Moses kills the Egyptian officer and he flees to Midian, which is the song "Midian" obviously. We move from there to the song "Zipporah" where Moses meets his future wife, that's the one with Maya, the Israeli female singer. From there we move to "The Burning Bush" which is the first time Moses encounters God face to face, and God commanding him to return to Egypt to deliver the Hebrews, the Israeli slaves, from the Pharaoh. From there we move onto an instrumental piece, a 9-minute instrumental piece called "The Wooden Staff". This is a very unique piece that portrays the magical powers of the wooden staff that Moses had which he performed all the great miracles in the Bible with, we really love that part. Then there's a small connecting piece called "Return To Egypt" which basically, as it is, Moses goes back to Egypt to free the Israelites. Then, I think, comes the darkest and gloomiest part of the album called "Ten Plagues". We truly love this piece. It's a very long one, but very visual also. That one is about the ten plagues that Moses inflicted on Egypt with the help of his wooden staff which we mentioned before. Then the last and final piece on the album is called "Land Of The Dead" which is portraying the day... the aftermath of the Ten Plagues, which is the day after it all crumbled down for the Pharaoh.

On chapter 2 we will pick up the story from the actual Exodus, and chapter 2 will end right before the Israelites receive the 10 Commandments at Mount Sinai. And chapter 3 will start with start with the actual acceptance of the 10 Commandments and will end with the death of Moses, and the entrance of the Israelites to the promised land. So that basically sums up the whole trilogy story line.

PA: I haven't seen many metal albums use the story of the Bible as topics for concepts, how do you go about changing the story into lyrics for your songs?

EY: We just took it as it is. We didn't want any indictations to the story... any twists as we see it for modern times or stuff like that, we just told the story. Before we even wrote the music we wrote the script for the whole trilogy so we just put the lyrics... we wrote the lyrics in our own style - but not differently. So basically the whole lyrics through the whole trilogy will be telling the actual events as they happened in the Bible.

PA: For the next couple of albums, since you've been working with a lot of guests, if you had the chance to work with anyone, who would you work with?

EY: Ah, so many. We actually had a few surprises but we've been asked by the artist not to make it public yet because it's not an official statement. But so may artists... It's really hard to say just a few names. The thing is also, people have been asking us what are our influences in the trilogy and we always say, "none." Because we're really writing music, just pure music that comes from the deepest corner of our hearts. And regarding artists that we really want to work with I'd say it's the same answer, but if we found that we wanted a specific part being sang by a specific artist then we will approach this artist and ask him to take part in the album. So I think it's a bit premature to spill out names for artists.

PA: So what actually started you in your musical career? Something must have made you want to pick up the drumsticks.

EY: I grew up in a musical family, my father was a singer back in the 40s, 50s, 60s. He had his own band, singing Greek songs, traditional songs, Arabic songs and Turkish songs. My oldest brother is a drummer also and I remember myself as a kid picking up his drumsticks and playing on his drums and so I grew up in this musical environment as far as I remember myself. Music was a major part... and also in Israel, music is a major part of our culture. It was especially hard avoiding all those musical influences as a child and when you grow up you grow up with it! So I would find it coming to me pretty muh naturally - Drumming or evolving in music in general. So it came out pretty natural.

PA: Do you play any other instruments or just the drums?

EY: I picked up a bit of guitar, a bit of piano... but I would not say that I'm a pianist or a guitar player. Basically the drums and writing compositions. Basically I would say I'm a drummer first.

But if I really had the choice I would be a guitar player [he chuckles], no doubt. I really love guitars... I play a bit, but not really something professional. That's why we have the two guitar monsters Yuval and Hanan, they're really visionary people as far as when they pick up the guitars, they're really amazing every time I listen to them.

PA: I'm coming into my last question here, and that would be, what was the last CD you listened to?

EY: Last CD I listened to would be... what was it... oh! It would be Riverside, also an InsideOut artist. The album "Rapid Eye Movement". That was the last one that I listened to. Great, great album and I really love those guys!


Thanks again to Erez for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and as always a big thanks to InsideOut for setting up the interview.

Amaseffer's PA page
Amaseffer's Official Website (contains mp3 samples)

Edited by King By-Tor - November 08 2008 at 20:52
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 24 2008 at 17:24
Wow, this guy has a pretty good sounding vision. Ill be looking foreward to getting that Trilogy
And of course, another great interview by the ever inquisitive By-Tor.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 25 2008 at 00:56
I'm sold after listening to him give the titles of the songs in relation to the "Exodus" ,and then describing the music.Can't wait to get my hands on this one.And he's a fan of Riverside! Another good one King By-Tor,some interesting questions and answers.
"The wind is slowly tearing her apart"

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: June 26 2008 at 09:58
Great interview.
I'll be getting their album soon after my paycheck arrives
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: July 11 2008 at 10:15
A nice interview. I've heard the PA sample track, too.
I think the international success of Mabool has boosted the Israeli bands.
Also the Biblical concept is a smilarity, too and Kobi does some guest vocals.

When will the new Orphaned Land album released BTW?
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