About a year ago, the Israeli rock music scene started to make ripples over here in England with some of the biggest Israeli artists like Aviv Geffen and Ivri Lider garnering new English fans with their distinctive and epic pop/rock sound. Aviv Geffen’s music really didn’t appeal to me back then, but after listening to the rebel rocker’s first self-titled English language album – which was produced by the legendary Trevor Horn – I have defintiely changed my tune.
Before this interview, I didn’t quite realise how big of a political firestarter Aviv Geffen is in his home country. He’s always been a pioneer and unofficial leader for the minority
underdog and has fought for gay and lesbian rights – which ultimately makes his music
that much more interesting and rich to listen to. As you could imagine, it was an absolute pleasure to sit down with the international superstar to talk about all these interesting things that have happened in his vast career as a musican.
Aside from the fact that his new album is really good, I encourage you all to support the music of Aviv Geffen – as it’s the type of music that makes you think and promotes world unity – something that’s not represented enough in the world of pop music, where today’s most hit songs are about having fun in clubs…
EQ: Hello Aviv and welcome to EQ. Now a lot of our readers don’t know too much about you, but in your home country of Israel, you are one of the biggest names in entertainment, outselling Coldplay, Madonna and U2. Why do you feel it’s the right time to branch out into the European music market now?
Aviv Geffen: After I toured the world twice, I’ve gained an amazing following. People really want to hear the lyrics and the messages in English, besides the great music. Trevor Horn thought it was a shame to be locked into Israel only because of the language, so he said “Look, the world must hear Aviv Geffen’s music.”, so I went after it…
So it was really on Trevor Horn’s prodding that you decided to go for it?…
Yeah! For me it was a pleasure to write in English because my dad used to live here (London) and New York. I myself lived here with my first wife in London – West Hampstead, for two years. London is my second home really, for me it’s normal.
What’s it like to be in the studio with the legend that is Trevor Horn?
It’s like to be in a dream for nearly a year. He’s the guru. I got a chance to work with loads of amazing producers – big names. But he’s really the one. He was so
focused, he told me “I have to now, do your album, then do Robbie Williams and that’s it.” – he was so focused. He can work on things like the bass drum for one week! It’s crazy, but working with him – it’s worth it!
You’re signature song “It’s Cloudy Now” was quite controversial in Israel with lyrics like “We are a fucked up generation”. What are your thoughts on our generation now. With so much change happening in the world and Obama’s election, do you think that we are on our way to a better world or do we have a long way to go still?
Oh yeah – “It’s Cloudy Now”, was the most controversial song in Israel! It’s the unofficial anthem of our generation over there. It’s really broke the chain in Israel. Before me, no one
was there to curse the radio, or say “I love you, I hate you”, or to question if God existed. When I came, I just took the holy cause and threw it in the air
and said – it’s only a cause. There’s no God really. We should ask ourselves, what are we fighting for. In Israel, it was a big big big thing. To deal with a fucked up generation – it’s global. We all sometimes feel like offline boys in an online world. It doesn’t fit in this world – we have no idols, I have no God above my head so “It’s Cloudy Now” is just a song for all our generation – it’s fucked up I think. You should come with me on the tour across Europe – we are going to to Berlin, Warsaw, Paris, Amsterdam – you’ll see that everywhere they just scream “It’s Cloudy Now” because it’s so connected to what the world is feeling now. It’s not about Israel at all – it’s global.
So tell us about your new song “It’s Alright”. What is it about? Is it the right song to introduce to the English music market?
It’s a really good folky poppy song. We preferred to start with “It’s Alright”. It’s a cynical track. I just really like the energy of the track.
Is “It’s Alright” representative of the sound on the rest of the album?
No no no! You have lots of genre’s on the album, you have my mellow, dark gothic side with my piano and 60 piece orchestra. You got those bit of rock metal songs. You got “It’s Alright” which is folky. Lots of different genres – I love it.
I also love the “Loverush UK!” video to “It’s Alright” (above). Tiesto is even singing it’s praises – how does it feel to get support from one of the most influential dance artists in
European club music.
Amazing remix! I was amazed that Tiesto was supporting it – it’s even in the dance charts – nearly number one! It’s a good thing! But you must know and tell the EQ readers that in Israel, we don’t have any dance tracks! Nobody does remixes – Here every rock star does remixes – even U2. So for me it’s a really new world. In Israel, it’s
dead if you are like a pop or rock singer. Everyone told me last week “Aviv – when Tiesto plays you, you’ve made it.” [Laughs]
Tell me about “It was Meant To Be A Love Song”. I love this electronic sound and the video is amazing.
In a way, the director thought I had the sex appeal of Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode, 30 years ago! [Laughs]. So he said “lets go for it, let’s work this angle, it’s a sexy
track, it’s a dark one and dancey“. I said alright and I’m really happy with it!
How do you react to your fans who are critisizing you for making a sound that’s more pop than rock?
It’s really the same style, not much has changed. It’s really me. Maybe Trevor Horn brought some new sounds, but again it’s really me. It’s big, it’s epic, it’s melodic.
I didn’t change nothing to get new ears. You know I work with a lot of people and I trust them to do their job and some of their best friends are the 70’s Moogs and synths
and I think that’s great! This galaxy is really the new sound – I love it.
A lot of people compare you to David Bowie – how do you feel about that?
It’s a mixture between, Bowie, Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain that I get compared to. Bowie was of course a genius – long time before me. What he did in England, I did in Israel. When I put on the makeup, the dress and the mascara in Israel, people used to throw stones and vegetables at me! People tried to shut down every concert I did – just crashed the party. I was really anti-macho and I said leave the uniform at the door and put on mascara! The gay and lesbian community back then, wasn’t so alive and I was the first one to fight for them – I want everyone to be themselves. I even wore pearls in school and red trousers! In Israel, it was really really weird, especially in the early 90s. Now these days in Israel you see teenagers wearing eyeliner and I know it’s my work! [laughs] It opens your mind!
For you though, is the dressing up more just a bit of fun or is it really the statement you are trying to convey?
Both – I love fashion. I adore fashion. I can really appreciate good clothes. When I tour, I like to wear nice and unique outfits. I’m the nephew of one of the real
heroes of Israel and I really wanted to break that chain and become the anti-hero. I wore lipstick, mascara, eyeliner and sang rock music! I think we need to do a real
U-turn in evolution. To be killed for land is not more important than a human being – I don’t get it.
Another hugely popular Israeli pop star Ivri Lider recently came out of the closet and is quite open about his sexuality which is seen as a bit taboo in Israel. Do you
think with artists such as Ivri going public with his sexuality and yourself taking a vocal stand on politics that it’s serving as a sign for change in Israel?
Ivri is a good friend of mine – he’s cute! For me it was important that Israel recognize that the gay and lesbian community exists! I want to help them to build their future – period. I want to fight for them because lots of my fans are gay. It’s all about people who are unique and it doesn’t matter who they want to fuck, to love who they want to love and not be so conservative and grey. I was the first one to raise this coloured flag and say “go for it – fuck everyone!” But at the start, people don’t get it. People were really scared that their sons were adoring Aviv Geffen who was wearing mascara and a dress! [laughs] Why can’t they just love a boy band or something!
You’ve got a show coming up in November at Gilgamesh – I imagine it must be a little different for you playing smaller venues in Europe versus stadiums in Isarel…do you
like the contrast?
I don’t think 800 to 1000 tickets is small. I think it’s great. Lots of indie bands would love to sell those numbers. But I think, for me, for the ego, it’s healthy. I need to make new international fans one-by-one and prove my music. I went on MySpace and saw lots of support for my music from people in Brighton and Manchester and for them it’s great – this show in London will be their first experience of my live show. To the UK, I am a new artist, and they don’t care that I’m from Israel and a political symbol there.
Just this morning on the tube ride into the office, I saw a huge poster for Aviv Geffen promoting your new album – what do you think about your imagery getting more exposure here in England?
Great! I believe it’s a great album. When people are going to hear the tracks, with the Trevor Horn production and see me live – it’s great! I think when you come to
London, most people want to be like a British artist. I really don’t care about that. I want to be someone who came from Israel that makes great music and has great
talent. I’m more punk and rebel than anyone on the cover of NME actually. My album is really good and I hope people will judge it appropriately.
Download Aviv Geffen’s new album on iTunes
Aviv Geffen on MySpace
Aviv Geffen Official Website.