Shahar Isratrance

Author: Alex Ötregren
Date: Jun 17, 2004

Interview with the Webmaster, DJ and Label Manager (Isratrance / Beats & Pieces / Aleph Zero)

 

Hello Shahar! Can you please introduce yourself to the readers please?

Well, I\'m A happy guy who likes music and life, likes nature and the world around him, and wants to change the world into a nicer place- even a little change will be nice. That will do, I guess- if you wanna know more you\'ll have to meet me.

 

You are the editor of Isratrance.com, and there you can see all this talk about the true Israeli psychedelic experience. What is the true Israeli psychedelic experience to you?

mmmmm…. Well, this country can be so bizarre at times, that everything here, starting from the most usual train ride can be quite a psychedelic experience... But I guess you\'re referring to parties, and my real parties are the ones where all kinds of people arrive at some beautiful and powerful spot in nature, and even though Israel is quite a small place, we have plenty of those- from deserts to lakes, mountains to valleys- it\'s all here. Anyway, we get there, preferably a little before sunset, put our tents around, get a fire going, settling, starting to meet some people, and then darkness comes, the music follows, and you just dance all night, and than light comes, and you start to see all those smiling faces of madly dancing beautiful colorful people around you, which of course increases your smile. Then the sun comes out, and in Israel it really comes out, and the whole tribe, which is suddenly there surrounded by a small village of tents dances together till noon, and go back home tired but happy with big smiles for the whole week and a feeling that things got a bit better already.

What does the underground parties look like in Israel? Are those the famous parties of yours in the dessert, or more likely to be found in old industrial storage houses?

The ones I just described above are in nature- for me a party belongs in nature- all the rest is just inferior substitutes. And yes, there\'s the desert, and there\'s the green north, and there\'s water, and there\'s beaches.
Of course there are a lot of indoor parties, especially during winter, which is by the way, almost gone- yippy! There\'s more and more of them as trance got more commercialized and has been pushed into clubs by the system. I go sometimes, but I don\'t really like it too much. Gives me a headache.

How did you come in contact with psychedelic trance? I know you\'ve been traveling a lot, has the traveling of yours affected your taste in music?

I discovered trance accidentally in 1990 when I was in my army service and some girl from my base offered me to come to a party on top of Masada- I had no clue what it was about- but I always liked to dance so I went. I had a hell of time, especially when the sunrise came up over the Dead Sea. I went to quite a few parties here and there, but never did more than dance. In 94 I danced a little in the full moon in Koh Pan Gan in Thailand, but only in 94-95, when I was in Australia, I got really hooked. The thing that really got me was the different world of sounds and the amazing layering, the ability to ride sounds. Been riding them ever since.
Traveling, apart from getting me hooked on trance, has of course exposed me to a lot of experiences, among them musical experiences- I listen to a lot of ethnic music that I have discovered in my travels- Indian, Arab, Aboriginal and more.

Some people thinks that they\'ve changed, perhaps evolving into being more open minded for example, because of their experiences at the parties together with the music. Have you, during your travels, found out any differences and what\'s common among people who are into trance over the globe?

Different people, of course, have different cultures, different moods, and different charges within them. The parties and the energies in them change accordingly. But on top of all that, or maybe below it, there is something which is common. And everyone who has been in a good party in a different part of the globe knows that there is a lot that is the same. And you\'ll probably be quite welcomed, make some new friends, and have a great time. My vision here, is that we are small scattered tribes around the world, and we share something, which comes out in parties, something very basic. This, I believe applies not only to parties- what I like about good parties is that they bring out some really good things in us- humans- something we can definitely use- especially in this time of globalization.

A couple of months ago you\'ve released a new compilation on your own label, Beats & Pieces. Can you tell us more about it please?

Yep! Myself and my partner- DJ Gabi 2B, a long time trance DJ and a third of a party organization (Gabi & The Twins) that made some of the best underground nature parties in the last 3 years here in Israel, decided that we want to tell our own story, and that we can do it well, and add something to the picture. The outcome is a dancefloor experience that scorches the floor (checked and proved!) and in the same time, we feel and hope, succeeds in breaking the too formulaic pattern in the releases in the last years.
The compilation is called Mental Case, it has a message (check the cover- inside & outside), and it features established and new promising artists from Israel and abroad- Vibrasphere, Cosma, Onyx, Eleptro Sphere, Rinkadink, Exaile, Evil Drug Lords, Nes, Mr. Peculiar & Zen Mechanics- check the nearest record store for more!

How are the responses so far?

The responses have been very good. First of all I got good feedback from artists & DJs that liked it a lot and said they play the tracks in parties all the time. Second, most of the reviews were very good, and third, and more important, I keep hearing some of the tracks in almost every party I have gone to lately, which is the best feedback- especially when you see the crowd response J

Also very important is that almost all the first print is already sold!

What\'s next from you?

Well, the second compilation is under work, there are already some exciting tracks. Also there\'s a possible artist album in the future as well. We work slow, we wanna keep the quality, try to minimize compromising on what we like, and not lose money, so we can keep saying what we wanna say through music!

You\'re involved much more in chillout music as well. Can you tell us what is going on with you on that front?

Well, apart from Beats & Pieces, I now share a chillout label (the first one in Israel!) with Yaniv of the Shulman project. The label is called Aleph Zero (www.aleph-zero.info), and aims at giving home to all sorts of downtempo music. We already have few releases on the way. The nearest is a special 2CD double album edition of Bluetech, a highly talented artist from the US. Then there\'s a compilation almost done that I promise will be a true down tempo psychedelic experience with a lot of beautiful music and quite a few surprises. We\'re also cooking another compilation, which will be a first in a concept series, and two more albums are on the way, plus some surprises, which I can\'t talk about right now. In the end of the summer you can also expect a third Shulman album!

How does you and Shulman work together?

Well, we knew each other for quite a while, but last year we finally met for a music session and found we have a lot in common in the love for music and in our musical vision, and this project came up pretty naturally. We are also a good team, we supplement each other, each does well what the other doesn\'t like doing- very important! J Also as we still have taste differences and high demands in music, we\'re kind of a double filter- whatever we both like- it must be good!
Apart from that, between the two of us, we know almost everyone around and have a lot of respect from artists and crowds aparently, so the responses have been very good, and we get loads of interesting music.

I know you also do a chill compilation for Hommega, can you tell us about it?

Well, this project actually started before Aleph Zero was born, when Eyal asked me to compile a chill compilation for him. It is a bit different, as it aims to be something more accessible to listeners out of the trance world, while in the same time carrying to them some of the musical messages that the psyworld can bring. It has some very special music in it, a lot of lyrics and singing and is going to be, I feel, a very special compilation.

Many people today think that due to the spread of illegal copies of music via MP3, many labels are afraid to release some tunes that don\'t follow the \"selling\" formula of the moment. Do you agree with this statement? Why do you think so many labels are afraid to release new psychedelic tunes? What about MP3, good or bad?

I\'m not sure that MP3 is the devil here. Fact is, that sales our down, downloading and burning are definitely a big reason, but another is the flood of releases with no quality control whatsoever. The limited number of potential customers (even if it increased in the last years) is divided on a flood of releases, so each gets less and less income and with that less of an opportunity to have a musical saying. The result is that even good labels are ending up releasing more and more with less and less inside- the factor became quantity and not quality.
Remember also that the formula is part of the commercialization of our musical genre and culture (yep, the hippies lost again- we bums always loose...).
MP3s are neither good or bad, tools and machines never are- it\'s just people. We all have to realize that in the future music will be listened to in files- the CD or any other media of that sort are nearing the end of their days.
My way of looking at it all is very simple: download, burn- whatever- just one thing please- if you like it- buy it! Support the people that bring good music into your life- or they\'ll stop doing that.

The situation in Israel is rather rare and with being constantly in conflict, it has been told that many people escapes the reality into the dessert and the trance parties. Can you please tell us more about this phenomenon?

Well, things are not very nice around here with a big bunch of people fighting each other on a space of land that is more than enough to contain all of them happily (especially if they stopped fighting). Life is much more violent than what you\'re used to, and not necessarily in the aspects that you see on TV, which always look worse that they really are. Violence and bad energies diffuse into every aspect of life.
A party is of course a great place to melt your aggressions and distresses and to transform them into another kind of energy. But I like to think that a good party can also have the opposite effect- spreading some good vibes around- a thing we all desperately need.

What do you think is the best thing about the Israeli scene regarding psychedelic trance and culture, and what do you really want to change about your scene if you could?

When a party here is good- it\'s the best. Change? I\'d like to see less commercialism and more vibe, less money driven parties and more good intentions driven ones, less big names squeezed together and more good DJs playing long sets, less club parties and more nature ones, less short parties with the same kind of music and more longer ones with varied musical stories developing and evolving. It would also be nice if it stopped being a scene J

I think the most common length of a DJ-set is about two or three hours. Your DJ-sets is usually about 6-12 hours, and you\'re aiming to finally make a 24 hour set! Why do you want to make so long sets and how do you like to build up your musical journey?

Well, I must say that these days I\'m DJing mainly chill out, and for chill out especially, long sets are a must, everything is slower, more varied, and to really be able to tell a story I need time. I put almost every conceivable kind of music into my sets- besides the more usual chill out played at parties, I also use elements of ethnic music (from Mongolia through India to the Balkans), psychedelic pieces from the colorful past (from Pink Floyd through King Crimson to Ozric Tentacles), diverse electronica, and a lot of spacey dubby beats. Blending all these, I try to deliver a diverse mind intriguing experience to make the mind fly while the body relaxes or grooves slowly.
But I also love long trance sets, my ideal is 2-3 good DJs in a party- more than enough. Some of the most remembered sets I\'ve heard in my life were very very long.

Since you\'ve been in the scene for so many years now, when did you have your best experience as a visitor and as a DJ?

Hard one, there where so many J. That first party at Masada was great, but I didn\'t really tranced it up. 1995 somewhere in Sydney was really good. Also a surprise one in Hong Kong the same year. The millennium in Goa was great, though it took 2 fucked up parties till we got there. The release party of my first compilation- Amalgamated Amalgamtion organized by Gabi & the Twins near a lake in the north of Israel was amazing. Union Jack live here in Haifa in 94 (I think) was great. The big trance \"demonstration\" in Israel in 98 (40,000 colorful ppl dancing madly in the middle of Tel-Aviv). But the best will have to go to a small party in the north of Israel in Nov. 97, when I just came back from a visit to India, in a semi open place on a mountain watching both the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee with Nadi & Miko- what a sunrise... Second place- 99 in the desert in the south of Israel with Nadi, BLT and a surprise morning visit from Mark Allen.

I know you\'re most likely to spin tunes of chillout at parties, but what kind of music do you listen to at home?

I listen to everything that is good, I of course listen to a lot of chillout and trance, but I have tons of CDs, records and even cassettes from my past and present with rock, heavy metal, new wave, punk, ethnic music from all over the world, reggae, blues, jazz, electronica- you name it! I can promise anyone that comes for a visit that he\'ll find something he likes to listen to.

How does the music affect your daily life and what does a regular day of yours look like?

I don\'t have a regular day! I do my best not to. At most I have a regular week. I work of course, and I\'m also a student, finishing my MA in Indian studies, I try to spend as much time as I can in nature (I live in a small half village/half town so that helps), I like to spend time with friends and of course to listen to music. Music is woven into almost every possible moment in my life- you gotta have a soundtrack in your movie!

Israel has always had a large amount of high quality artists. Who do you think is the best and who is the most successful artist that Israel have had the pleasure to deliver to the world and why? Who is Israel\'s most underrated artist throughout the years?

You wanna get me in trouble? I know them all, and some are my good friends!!!
I\'ll tell you what I\'ve been liking lately. First and foremost there was Avihen Livne- Cosma- who was a good friend and died around a year ago in an accident in Goa. A person that likes trance and doesn\'t own a copy of Cosma\'s Non Stop is doing himself a big wrong. This is probably the best trance album ever, up there together with Union Jack. Just listen. Shulman has been definitely doing it for me- his last album is just amazing- best psychedelic chill out release I\'ve heard for a while. There are a lot of others who make excellent music- if you\'ll follow Hommega, you\'re bound to end up with good stuff. There\'s Infected, but I\'m still waiting for them to arrive to the spot they need to be in to deliver again something like their first two albums- I guess they\'ll have to stop making trance for that.
As for the second part of the question- there is one clear answer- BLT- the most interesting and one of the most innovative trance musicians in the world for me. Yuli is the musician of the musicians- all trance producers love his music. He makes music for the brain with real good feel and gigantic production. He has just released his fourth album together with Israeli rock star drummer, Danni Makov- and I recommend you all to do yourself a favor and see their live show, and to all party organizers to book it.

How do you think the scene of psychedelic trance and culture will develop in the future? What will it look like in a few years from now?

Dunno, I love to be surprised, so I don\'t spend much time thinking about the future.

Is there anything you would like to say to trancers everywhere or any wise words you would like to share with us?

Well, I think I\'ve said more than enough above J Party on and remember, as Mahatma Gandhi said: Be the change you want to see in the world.

Thanks for your time Shahar and let\'s keep our thumbs for the future\'s best!

Thank you Alex, and you who read it all till the end!

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