Interview with Aviv Geffen for Blackfield IV
- We have been waiting for this album for a very long time; you won't keep us waiting for a tour, I hope?
AG - No, we're going to tour in February 2104, as a full band, with Steven Wilson, in Europe and the USA. It will be the same lineup as the past yours: Tomer Z, Seffy Efrati, Eran Mittelman, all the good guys. We're thinking about taking some of the guests on the live show, maybe on special shows, like in Rome, London, Paris...to get them on stage with us. Because for me and Steven, to get Brett Anderson from Suede, to sing on a Blackfield album is a big deal for us.
-How was the collaboration with your three special guests (Vincent Cavanagh, Brett Anderson, Jonathan Donahue)?
AG - Brett Anderson heard about Blackfield, so I sent him a few songs. And he came back to Tel Aviv, saying "It looks good, great songs". He picked "Firefly". So it's one of my heroes singing on my album.
-Did they also contribute to the composition?
AG - No, you must understand, and the fans must also, that from day one, in Blackfield, most of the music and lyrics are mine. On the third album, the name (as the only titled album we released) "Welcome To My DNA" means "welcome to my world as Aviv Geffen". Steven and I are best friends, and from that album on we decided that I was going to be the leader of that thing called Blackfield, and it gave me lot of freedom. I'm doing my solo stuff and he is too, and all the success we get individually is just making Blackfield bigger and bigger. And there's no rush. There's something like a magic in Blackfield. It's a mixture: English, Steven on the guitars, his vocals, my vocals, and orchestra, and keys, that make it so special, in the end.
-Are you planning to release another solo album in English like the last one you did? Are you writing new material?
AG - Yeah, sure, to me writing solo or for Blackfield really makes no difference, because it's me, making "mellow-gothic-epic" writing anyhow. Me and Steven, we became like good friends, so it's very natural, to make a Blackfield album, and we've been doing it for like 13 years, so we figured, why not keep it going.
- Why did you call this one "IV", going back to a number as a title?
AG - Because it's for the fan base of Blackfield. When you hear the new album it starts with the song "Pills", which is a classic Blackfield tune. It' a big song, with Steven's guitars and vocals, my vocals, piano, orchestra, so...Blackfield IV symbolizes "we're here".
-Steven Wilson is coming on tour in Italy tomorrow. Are you going to meet him?
AG - I know. No, tomorrow I'm going to be promoting Blackfield in Germany and France. So we thought of meeting up but I can't. I've been in Greece yesterday, and tomorrow Germany, then France. It's hard work to promote the album.
- Is there an underlying concept in the lyrics of the album?
AG - It's basically from my life, which I can see as a big plate pointing out to the sky, as on the cover, looking for some gods, stars or angels, but the skies are blank. That's me, I still have a link with that. But I'm sure that there's no god. I'm pretty sure that god and religion divide people, whereas I believe that music bring people together. There's no God. I'm Jewish but I'm atheist, which is a kid of a weird mixture, I guess. It's the same stories all over again.
-What about your involvement with the current situation in your country? Do you think that the music of Blackfield will keep putting out your message of peace?
AG - Sure. I'm getting at that all the time with the subtexts, on the lyrics of Blackfield, about the terrorism, about the insane world we became. There's one song called "Sense of Insanity" which means it's all chaotic. In Israel we try to put things in order but can't. But thanks to you Italians, you took all the headlines on the newspaper from us, with Berlusconi. Thanks a lot for that, there were days without Jerusalem on the headlines!
-So the image on the cover means looking out into the space for answers?
AG - No, it means there's no point in looking. There is no point in trying to get any answers, there are no answers.
-Are you happy with the surround mixing? This is the first time you have one.
AG - To be honest I'm not into it. I trust Steven he's the god of surround. I don't even have any surround system in my house. So I trust that Steven can do the best mixing, and I trust the fans that they can tell if there's a sneer behind them kicking. I don't care for the stuff, I'm all for the songs. I know it's Steven's stuff, which I respect, he's a genius.
-What about singles? Are you going to release some?
AG - We'll release "The Sense of Insanity" in England, Germany, Holland and Greece. And we'll put out a video for "Jupiter", with Steven and a sand artist, who paints amazing stuff with sand. That's what Steven is on. It's amazing, it looks fabulous. It's going to be out pretty soon. Maybe in a week from now.
-Where did you find such an artist?
AG - She's an Israeli artist, very very talented. I told her, look, keep your work to Blackfield, I must have you. And I sent some of her ideas to Steven, and he said we must have her, too.
-"Jupiter" is a very wonderful track.
AG - It's very seventies, away from the metal ...and Steven got a great take. It depends, you get many angles in this album: you get the dubstep, on the last song ("After The Rain"), you get "Pills" which is epic classic Blackfield track; you get "Firefly" which is a bit indie, post-rock sort of song. The thing I love in Blackfield is...I adore bands like Radiohead, that you can't describe, with one genre. And I think Blackfield is everything: metal, pop, symphonic pop, it's everything. And it's great. One of my favourite bands at the moment is Blonde Redhead, two brothers from Italy making amazing songs. It's a weird mixture, which I'm more into it than proper British or American bands.
-How much of your musical background goes into Balckfield? What did you listen to when you were a kid?
AG - Steven and me are quite similar on musical background, we always go back to Genesis, Pink Floyd, ELO, Abba, Bee Gees. We love harmonies, we keep it really big. I think for me and for Steven, Blackfield is a kind of playground of the imagination, we can do whatever we want, who gives a F**, you know. and you can hear that: it's very "free spirit", it's good.
-Yet at the same time you always get that "Blackfield magic"...
AG - There are some strict rules: no long solos, no keys or guitar solos...it's about songs. Short and intensive songs. And I'm so glad to know that on the fourth album it's still Blackfield, and you can tell in one second.
-So you avoid solos and long tracks on purpose. But how does Steven react to this?
AG - I hate long albums...Steven and I respect each other. He knows that in his solo career he can do 20 minutes long tracks, which are of course amazing, and he also knows that I like short songs, proper rock albums, songs that give a message. He knows this is my taste.
-The album was composed by the most part by you. How does it work? When do you start the writing, the lyrics?
AG - I'm writing all the time. Then at the end, Steven and I listened to the songs and we dropped many songs, for this fourth album. We had like 30 and we cut it down to 11. Blackfield is an unique mastery, you should feel the right mix.
-Do you discuss a lot about which tracks to pick?
AG - Yeah, every line is discussed. At the end it's always that I would like to have more keys, Steven would like to have more guitars, so he's the one in charge of the guitars...and we got our order.
-How did you pick and call the special guests, how did it work?
AG - We didn't want like a celebrity album: it's just, they're my heroes. Vincent Cavanagh though is from Steven's side, from the prog world. I brought Brett Anderson from Suede, and Mercury Rev, I love that band, a psychedelic sort of style...we're feeling really proud, because finally it feels like Blackfield is a bit more open, not anymore in its narrow proggy metal scene. It should be wider.
-Your public grows with every album, and every tour: are you satisfied?
AG -Yes, we want to play the major cities in Europe and the States, on a large scale.
-What do you think of a tour in theatres, just like Steven Wilson is doing currently with his solo band?
AG - I think Blackfield is not so great with seated venues. If it was like an acoustic tour, then maybe. But Blackfield needs the energy, the standing audience.
-Are Tomer, Seffy and Eran doing other side projects in between Blackfield albums?
AG - No, they're with me, full time job. They're in my Israeli band, the Mistakes. Basically Blackfield IS the Mistakes. So we have many gigs in Israel, big concerts. Then we were doing Blackfield in the studio. It's a great band.
-You've been on TV shows in Israel lately, on "The Voice Of Israel". How was that?
AG - It was very interesting to me, because I did not deal in the music at all, I spoke about the government, the occupation...I used the prime time to get my message through, which was pretty clever.
-Very typical of you, isn't it?
AG - Look, Israel is a place that I really love and I really care for, and I'm against the occupation. Tel Aviv is an amazing city and I want to make Israel a better place. Which I'm doing all the time.
- Do you still get violent opposition to your ideas? (Aviv Geffen has been threatened of death in the past)
AG - You know, when I tell on tv or to journalists that I am against occupation, some people are not crazy about my ideas. But who cares. It's what I believe. It's the key to have a future. any future.
-You've always been standing for gay rights. Lately US have made gay marriage legal. How about Israel?
AG -Yes, finally. Tel Aviv is one of the top cities for that, more than Rome and Milan. Now even the Berlin scene moved to Tel Aviv. You should go, everyone should. It's fun. You get the wrong picture on the CNN and Fox news about Tel Aviv. It's actually full of people like me, who want peace, to live a life, love music, great food, great scene...
-Just as Steven used to say in his documentaries?
AG -Yes, it's a strong place.
Interview and Translate by Domizia Parri