Israel’s trance dance icons
They may be called Infected Mushroom — but they’re global stars of the dance-music scene. Frontman Duvdev talks to Paul Lester
INFECTED MUSHROOM ARE Israel’s most popular electronic dance band. And although they relocated in 2005 to Los Angeles to “get out of our comfort zone”, whenever they return home to play a gig — and generally it is a massive affair in front of thousands of fans — they make primetime TV news and the front pages of the mainstream press.
They are nothing less than national icons, which is unusual for an “underground” outfit at the forefront of experimental trance. Imagine The Chemical Brothers — Britain’s closest equivalent — on the Six O’Clock News. It would never happen. But in Israel, it does because Amit Duvdevani and Erez Eisen, the pair at the core of Infected Mushroom, are superstars, achieving global recognition for their music and the scene they have spearheaded since their inception in the mid-’90s.
It is a scene that has been called, variously, psy-trance (short for psychedelic trance), progressive dance, technorock and avant-garde chill-out.
“We prefer [the term] ‘electronic band’,” says Amit “Duvdev” Duvdeva- ni, the duo’s 33-year-old singer and co-founder. He adds that the “psychedelic” bit of the psy-trance tag is more about the overall feel than any mindexpanding connotations. “This isn’t a drug movement; it’s an electronic music movement.”
It is one that has proved incredibly popular. Infected Mushroom recently performed on Ipanema Beach in Brazil alongside the Black Eyed Peas in front of some 200,000 people. This weekend they are playing in London — although tickets were sold out weeks ago.
But Duvdev explains that, even though he and his keyboard-playing Infected Mushroom partner Erez “I.Zen” Eisen, 27, are headline news back home, they are not victims of paparazzi intrusion. “You can be massive here but live a normal life,” he says. “Because Israel is a small country and everyone knows everyone, people are cool and you don’t get hassled that much. It’s great to be ‘national icons’ — it gives you a positive feeling, as though the whole country is behind you. But people generally leave us alone.”
He admits that it was difficult uprooting from Israel at first, but given the similar weather, and the fact that LA has a big Jewish community, the move there has been fairly painless. Over in Hollywood he tries “to lead a Jewish life to the best of my ability”. His wife, he says, “does the main holidays, of course”, although he adds: “Not the Sabbath, because we play so many Saturdays around the world.”
His “Jewishness” is never addressed in the music of Infected Mushroom; if anything, Arabic or Mediterranean sounds are more likely to seep in. Nor have they ever succumbed to pressure to become spokesmen for their generation of Israelis.
“We were never into politics… we avoid it. We’ve got our own agenda and we keep it to ourselves. ‘Make People Dance’ is our slogan. We don’t speak on behalf of Israel. Our music is, first and foremost, structured towards rocking the dancefloor as hard as possible.”
Both classically trained musicians from Haifa with a background in computerised music, punk rock and heavy metal, the duo met in 1996 after Duvdev had completed his military service and was working in his family’s steel factory. “I’d been travelling around India, mainly in Goa on the party scene,” recalls the singer. “Then I came back to Israel and decided I wanted to make music. Trance music.”
But it would be trance music with a rock attack. He had his “mind blown” by The Prodigy and the “gothic electro rock”, as he puts it, of Depeche Mode. He especially admired the latter’s ability to combine electronic beats with rock instrumentation.
And so Infected Mushroom’s records — from 1998’s debut The Gathering and 2000’s Classical Mushroom to 2003’s Converting Vegetarians and 2004’s I’m The Supervisor, up to this year’s Vicious Delicious — have seen a gradual progression towards an ultimate fusion of sleek electronica and primal rock’n’roll.
Meanwhile, the addition of guitar and drums, and elements of hip hop, Middle Eastern, Celtic and flamenco, have given the band a powerful new sound. And Duvdev is growing into his role as supercharged frontman.
“I like the fact that I’m half-trance musician, half-rock star,” he laughs. “It was a hard transition to become the lead singer with a band that was so electronic before. But I’m comfortable with where we are today.” UK performance details: www.infecting theuk.com or tel: 020 8365 8918
Headline news: Amit “Duvdev” Duvdevani ( left) and Erez “I.Zen” Eisen