Israel is not renowned for chill-out labels so when Aleph Zero set up there it was the start of someting truly special. Nigel Photon spoke to Shahar who also set up isratrance.com about the label he co-runs with Yaniv of Shulman fame. Interview was in Summer 2006 issue

You have been around a long time now, give us a brief history of your work with Isratrance (dates) and behind the Israeli scene?

Well, though I discovered trance in 1990 in a party on top of Masada, and went to few parties during the early 90s, only in 94-95 I really got hooked on it when partying in Thailand and especially in Australia. As I'm quite obsessive with music I started buying CDs madly, but couldn't find info about releases- there was no one writing about trance that I could find of. So I turned to the Internet, and there I found it all, starting with the old TRiP site. I also joined some mailing lists among them a small Israeli one. I think that was 97. I wrote a lot about trance, I knew a lot, I had a lot of music- So one day about 8.5 years ago, I get this Email from a guy named ShivaS who was on that small mailing list and he says- look we have a site about Israeli trance, you seem to know a lot- maybe you can help? I was then studying full time plus working three jobs and partying every weekend- so of course I said- no, I don't have time. But if I'll write some review or something- you can use it. About two weeks later I found myself running Isratrance :-). We then had less than 50 visitors per day- and now, well, after 1000 we've stopped counting really...
But these days, I must say I'm not really involved. Maybe it's a good place and time to announce that I'm moving on. My involvement with trance music has gone back mainly to dancing, which is the best party anyway. I can say that there's a good new team that will pick things up from where I leave. I'll still be involved a little, but only in the background. I am very proud of what we did with this website, and all from love for the music and culture and for no profit whatsoever. I think it is something v
ery special. It has changed and levitated away from my original vision in many ways, but that is life. You gotta let things go their way.

Tell us why and how you decided to set up Aleph Zero - the first Israeli chill-out label?

Well, I drifted slowly to more downtempo realms, and Yaniv started his own label for the Shulman releases. He offered me to join and I agreed. We knew each other from before, but not deeply. Once we met for a musical session that was it. It turned out we're a good combination.

 

 

Why? Musical vision. That's for me is the sole reason for a label to exist- to be able to project a musical vision unto the world. To find the music that you think can make a change for people, in people, and the people who can make it. Support and nourish it and them, spread that musical message around.
We also want to show people that this place has so much more to offer than what most people see on the mainstream media. Music is the best way.

 

What sounds do you hope the label becomes most associated with?

Good music! Also fresh, innovative, different, interesting, emotional, ever-changing music. Amalgamation of different sounds, of electronic and live instruments, of old and new, of east and west- you get the picture.

You are renowned for having Bluetech and Shulman - as co-label founder - on the label. Are there any other artists we should know about?

Well, we're working with quite a lot of artists. I'll name a few:


Omnimotion - a very special Swedish musician and our next album release- Dream Wide Awake. You can expect a very special and different music- a lot of vocals, a lot of musicality, a lot of live instruments, but still very much atmospheric and hypnotic; Vataff Project - An amazing Bulgarian artist working on an album for us- he makes some of the most psychedelic music I've ever heard, and in a very special way. I can promise it's like nothing you've heard before; Hibernation - a new and different project from UK based Seb Taylor (Shakta/Kaya Project/Angel Tears etc.) - Seb's gonna take you there to more experimental and un-chartered musical territories; Agalactia- Another Israeli artist with tons of talent.
We're also working on some very special compilations and projects. First will be the second chapter of the Natural Born Chillers series with all these names and a lot more surprises.

Who are the up-and-coming Israeli chill artists who you find the most exciting? And in terms of the world?

New artists that really do it for me… Well, I mentioned Agalactia & Vataff Project. Another name to look for is Fredrik Ohr. Apart from that I must say I'm a bit bored from the new things coming out, they're not new enough. New artists are more then welcome to try and surprise and excite me.

But the Israeli downtempo scene is very much alive and there's quite a lot happening - Shulman is here of course and J.Viewz. Both offer a real live show with a full band. This really pushes the music forward. There are other artists like Eastern Spirit, Kukan Dub Lagan, In Depth/Depth of Despair, and more. There's also a lot of downtempo that has nothing to do with the trance world- check Faction, for example. Israel has a lot of calm, despite what you see in the 'news'- you'll find it in the music if you just care to look.

With so many people in the wider world aware of series like Cafe de Mar as barometers of quality, how do you think more underground chill can break into their consciousness or be represented at festivals like the Big Chill?

Make good music and work hard. Innovate. A lot of the commercial chill stuff is just pop. Our music is different - it's deep, it's challenging, it's more a continuation of 70s psychedelic music the way I see it. It's listening music, not background music. It lasts longer. Pop dies fast, it doesn't leave an impression. I have no doubt that if you release good music and work hard pushing it, it'll get out there and get recognition. It's starting to happen to us, and we're just starting. We'll get into the big venues as well, this music has the potential to appeal to so many people in so many so called 'scenes'.
It's a shame that the thinning and spreading of quality that is a characteristic of the trance world is carried by it into more downtempo realms. Tons of releases with no quality control. People who release music without listening to what goes around them first. Cloning and formulas. But that's the way it is. The good stuff will float, it just makes it all a bit more difficult.

With reviews in the New York Times amongst many major outlets, how do you see the label developing?

Slowly but relentlessly. We believe in quality and not quantity. Time is never a factor in our releases- only excellent music. I think that is why after such a short period of existence we're doing so much better than we expected. We're trying to reach out to new crowds. The musical arena we've chosen makes that possible for us. Bluetech getting reviewed in the New York Times, Shulman getting reviewed by Eastern Eye and Ethnotechno- It's a beginning- it's a huge world out there - we just need to give them a chance to listen. It's a lot of hard work and it's not financially rewarding yet, but we look far ahead - we think big, hoping to be able to have no limits in our musical saying.


As a chill-out DJ, what do you try and bring to your sets to make them special?

Unlimited diversity and variety, an interesting story, sonic adventures. I always try to play very long sets and I use music from different eras, regions and styles. I combine elements of ethnic music (from Mongolia through India to the Balkans), psychedelic pieces from the colorful past (from Pink Floyd to Ozric Tentacles), diverse electronica, and a lot of spacey dubby beats. No limits really. The biggest fun when moving from 4 on the floor dance music to playing in chillout zones and chill rooms and downtempo events, is that you suddenly have endless freedom. Your only limit is your imagination and musical knowledge. This is great fun. That is why I love to play very long sets (8 hours is my longest so far)- the story I tell my listeners can be so complex, a long long journey.

And the best thing is when people come to me and say: 'hey, we just came to chill for a few minutes, and we got stuck here for all your set!'. I also love it when people dance in the chill area - there's so many more possibilities in dancing as well with this music - I often play much more trancey music than in the main stage. People just need to open their minds. Not an easy thing to do, of course... But rewarding, something I recommend.