Hailing from the war-torn country of Israel comes this social outcry set to EBM and industrial rhythms. Also the first group of it’s kind to come from Israel, and perhaps the entire Middle East itself. And what an intro it is! Already a tour with electro pop titans Apoptygma Berserk and a quickly growing reputation for old school electro, EBM and industrial rhythms done right. Here is a trip into the minds of these musical revolutionaries…
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us a bit about you and how you guys met.
Observe And Control: My name is Tom Cohen (aka Gnuth), and I’m 27 years of age. I’ve been writing music since I was 15 and was in various bands during my childhood. My main instrument is guitar and I also play the piano and the bass. I’m also working on my master’s Degree in Computer Science in Tel Aviv.
Chain D.L.K.: What brought about the birth of Observe & Control?
Observe And Control: It started out with my girlfriend and I fiddling around with the computer just for fun. I then asked a friend of mine to write some lyrics and once that was done we just played it for a few friends and the feedback was so good, we decided to continue our collaboration.
Chain D.L.K.: What bands inspired you to start into EBM and industrial music? Is it kind of difficult getting music of this kind over there (I don’t know if there are the usual tight regulations about everything in that area as opposed to the rest of the Middle East)?
Observe And Control: I am inspired by many bands, both industrial/EBM acts and from other genres such as noise, jazz, goth, classical, indie etc. Among the Industrial/EBM bands that have influenced me I’d mention: Apoptygma Berzerk, Assemblage23 and Front242. It was difficult to come across music of this kind here in the past, but things have changed in the past few years. The Israeli alternative scene has grown and it is much easier to come by good CDs nowadays. Israel is a liberal-democracy, therefore there are no restrictions as to the music we listen to, or any other private activities for that matter.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say the band is more dance oriented or more song oriente (as in more definition put into lyrics and such)?
Observe And Control: I would have to say that both are important to me; I put great emphasis on composing the melodies I like, and work in close collaboration with my lyricist so as to create songs which are a whole. I like the thought of people dancing to O&C songs, but it is also important to me that the songs reach people’s minds, and be more than merely empty club hits.
Chain D.L.K.: Israel as we all know is constantly racked in civil violence and warfare for one reason or another. How does this violence affect the group and how does the group’s music relate to it?
Observe And Control: Living in a war-stricken country affects every aspect of life, art is no exception. We have two songs that deal directly with the political circumstances under which we live: "War" and "Politeia". However, I do not look upon O&C as a political project, since I do not wish to limit myself to one issue alone. My music is really a reflection of my world, consequently it deals with, and is affected by many various issues.
Chain D.L.K.: Also, being the first group of it’s kind out of Israel, did you have a difficult time getting a fan base or was it easier due to that fact? Are there any bands now coming out and doing it now that you’ve opened the door?
Observe And Control: There was already a ‘scene’ that listened to EBM and such in Israel so getting a fan base wasn’t too difficult. Quite the contrary really? the scene in Israel is very supportive of new acts, which is one of the things that led me to record more songs. There still aren’t bands in the same vain in Israel today (at least not that I know of), but there are some really good acts such as the Distention, who’s music is a bit more along the lines of synthpop and the Vultures, who perform industrial-metal.
Chain D.L.K.: You recently just got off tour with Apoptygma Berserk, one of the bigger groups in the electronic scene. How did that go, and what were some memorable moments (both comical and otherwise)?
Observe And Control: Well, I’d hardly call it a tour. We were the supporting act for their main concert in Israel. It was fantastic though, I really enjoyed warming up for them and they gave a concert that will long be remembered in Israel.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you think that could be your break in Europe and other places as well, rather than being a well kept secret of the Middle East?
Observe And Control: I sure hope so. Currently we do have enthusiastic comments from all over the world, mostly Europe, so I think that the answer would be yes, but time will tell.
Chain D.L.K.: Where did you get the artwork for the latest CD? It looks like a public campaign poster of protest! Also kind of looks like PM Ariel Sharon a little bit on there.
Observe And Control: Huh, I never noticed that really. The artwork for the CD was done by Shepard Fairey, an artist whose work I find brilliant. He was kind enough to allow us to use his work on our demo.
Chain D.L.K.: What is a live show of Observe and Control like?
Observe And Control: The line up for live shows consists of 2 guest musicians, both keys players and myself on guitar and vocals. I add guitar riffs to most songs on stage so as to make them more energetic, so the general sound of the shows sometimes differs from the songs on the album. I think it’s important for the listeners to have something different than what they got in the album.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you plan to bring that sound over here to America?
Observe And Control: But of course! We are currently negotiating a possible contract with an American label, which will get our sound to to the US.
Chain D.L.K.: With your music, would you say there is more a factor of rage or of hope in it? Does it feel at times like an explosion of anger towards something?
Observe And Control: Some songs really are an outburst of anger; other songs derive from the more subtle feelings. I can’t generalize here; it depends on what mood I am in when composing.
Chain D.L.K.: For those who haven’t heard it, tell us about your new songs? "Monsters" and "War". What are they about (well the latter is probably a bit obvious) and what brought you to write them?
Observe And Control: "Monsters" is a hard sounding instrumental track with samples of old movies that I liked. "War" is a track that differs from most of my songs; I used harsher sounds and very distorted vocals on this one.
Chain D.L.K.: With America and EBM bands, clubs tend to pick up on them very quickly (and often run them into the ground). Was the result the same for you over there?
Observe And Control: I was actually really surprised at how quickly the songs caught on. The DJs in Israel and abroad have been a great help in promoting O&C.
Chain D.L.K.: The lyrics behind "War" are kind of mysterious at first glance. Could you explain them a bit for us?
Observe And Control: Though we usually would rather not explain our songs, since we believe that one needs not know the intention behind a work in order to enjoy it, an exception can be made for "War", since any misinterpretation might make it the opposite of what it really is. That said, "War" was made to show the absurdity behind wars in general (and not merely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though, needless to say, that is what inspired the song). Both the lyrics and the harsh sounds aim to show war for what we believe it to be, a meaningless sacrificial ritual. The song is an objection both to the act of war, and to it’s underlying premises.
Chain D.L.K.: Sometimes there are distorted vocals and at times clean vocals. What determines which one you will use on a song?
Observe And Control: I will usually use what I feel will fit the song best. It’s not done to make the song louder or noisier, its done to get a message through, or serve the general sound.
Chain D.L.K.: What are some future plans for this magnificent group, and are there more tours planned for the near future?
Observe And Control: Our main goal at the moment is to get the debut album released. Hopefully this will happen very soon. We haven’t got any international tours planned at the moment, but we do plan on playing in Israel again soon.
Chain D.L.K.: Any side projects planned?
Observe And Control: I’m currently working on 2 side projects: Zero Knowledge – a collaboration with Erik Boykiss (one of our live keys players) and Treble Noise (this is a one man project featuring the harsher and more avant-garde side of ebm/electro industrial).
Chain D.L.K.: Ok, I rarely get political (I see politics most of the time as big time babysitting gone wrong), but I have to get your opinion on this one?…You are familiar I’m sure with President Bush’s new push to force the Israelis to give up a good share of their land to the Palestinians. What are your thoughts on this? Will it end the violence, both from terrorists geared towards the USA and from radicals, or will it make it even worse?
Observe And Control: We think that most Israelis today realize that a territorial compromise is not something Israel can avoid. It seems obvious to us that the road to real peace with the Palestinians goes through such compromises. Consequently we view President Bush,s roadmap as hopefully the first step towards peace. PM Sharon’s acceptance of this roadmap is the first spark of hope to have appeared in Israel for quite some time. However, we do not believe that a cease-fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians will put an end to international terror; there have always been, and will always be conflicts between men, and there have always been, and will always be individuals (not necessarily Palestinians) who view violence as a mean to solve these conflicts. It seems to us that terrorism is really the modern form of war, tailored for a world undergoing cultural privatization.
Chain D.L.K.: How would you describe a typical day walking through Isreal?
Observe And Control: Well, due to political circumstances normality has become somewhat an ideal in Israel, and we do what we can to achieve it. Ironically, this quest for normality is what makes life in Israel so crazy; For instance, during the past two years Israel has undergone such excessive violence, that it has become simply impossible to feel fear, or even grasp every tragedy (both on the Israeli and the Palestinian side) in it’s fullness. In light of this, it might seem to someone unfamiliar with the Israeli reality that we have lost touch with the real world, and have taken sanctuary in escapism. But on the up side we do have good falafel. 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: Ok, lighter questions now! Is anyone along with me in saying that falafel is quite possibly the best food on earth? I’m still yet to have a real one, though, I’ve only had the crappy American ones. 🙁
Observe And Control: Although falafel is REALLLLY tasty, it cannot be compared to Humus from Jaffa or Sabich (which is pita-bread with eggplants, humus, a bit of tchina and a touch of amba). Oh, and of course spaghetti, which is my favorite food in the world.
Chain D.L.K.: Anything else you’d like to add before we go?
Observe And Control: Thanks a lot to all our listeners and supporters.
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the Chain D.L.K. team
[interviewed by Shaun Hamilton ]