Interview Aviv Geffen and Steve Wilson of


Studio M was very fortunate to speak with both Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson about the origins and future of Blackfield, and how their working relationship produced one of 2004ís most impressive releases.

Tell us about the origin of Blackfield and how you first got to know each other.

Aviv: I first heard Porcupine Tree back in 1995 and for me it was one of those moments that Iíll never forget. I invited them to play in Israel (Tel Aviv). I told them I was very popular here, so they checked me out on the web and agreed to come here for 3 gigs (of which I was their guest). Later, when I was living in London, I gave Steven a CD with a few demos. He really liked them, so he wrote lyrics for one of my tunes (Open Mind) and gave it back to me. And that was the first step for Blackfield.

Steven Wilson:
My main motivation was because Aviv became a very great friend and I wanted to bring his songwriting talent to the English speaking world, as until then only the Hebrew speaking world were aware of it.

What inspired you to want to work with Steven?

Aviv: I think he is an amazing artist and producer. To be honest, I'm not into prog rock and sometimes itís hard for me to hear Steven's 45-minute guitar solos. But I think that at the end of the day we're talking about the same things. I consider myself as a new hippie, like a flower child with poison in my thorns. I feel like I'm the only rebel in Israel: I'm talking against my government, against the occupation against the settlers, etc. I refused to serve in the army (which is very hard when my cousin (Mozes Dayan) used to be the security minister. I arranged a peace rally with Izchak Rabin (he was our prime minister) in 1995, which brought over 300,000 people- then someone shot him in front of my eyes. But this just gave me more power to fight against my government, and I became to be the spokesman for the young people in Israel. Anyway, Steven doesnít include political issues in his tracks, and this is the only difference between us.

So far the release has only been in Israel- how has the reaction been?

Aviv: Itís doing great here! We will have a gold album (20,000 copies) in Israel very soon! But the big game will be outside, in Europe and the USA.

What tracks did you bring to the table?

Steven: I only brought Blackfield and Lullaby to the project, which were two songs that didn't seem right for Porcupine Tree. The rest were Aviv's songs, or collaborations between the two of us.

I wrote the text and music for Pain, The Hole In Me, and Hello. I wrote the music to all the others expect Lullaby and Blackfield. Cloudy Now, Glow, and Scars were written by me and were released in Israel before Blackfield. Steven translated them to English.

This has been a long process of bringing the CD to fruition, and yet it sounds like it was recorded in 2 weeks- to what do you attribute this?

Steven: Because it was! Although it was recorded over a long period of time, we probably only spent 3-4 weeks on it in total, over a period of nearly three years. When we got together the Blackfield music came very easily and naturally.

How was working with Aviv different than the numerous other collaborations you're involved with? Is it closer to No-man?

Steven: Not really because we didn't write together so much. In No-Man myself and Tim really do write together in the same room. Blackfield was more about Aviv coming up with music and the melody in Hebrew, and then I would write an English set of lyrics. However when it came to the recording, it was again the opposite to No-Man because with No-Man once the song is written Tim very much leaves me to create the arrangement. But in Blackfield, both myself and Aviv contributed to the performance and creation of the sound (except on a couple of songs where I played and sang everything).

What track are you proudest of?

Aviv: Pain and Summer. But I kinda like them all.

I really like Summer, Open Mind, Cloudy Now, Lullaby... actually I like them all as well. None of them were difficult- the whole album went down almost effortlessly.

The track that sticks with me the most is Pain. Can you share a little (more) about the circumstances surrounding that track. Lyrically, it is kindred to Porcupine Tree's "Buying New Soul" - are you familiar with this track?

Aviv: Pain was written about the ugliness in deserting people in friendships, when you figure out that love canít rescue us from our loneliness.

I know each of you wrote lyrics, but tell me a little more about how the songs came together. Which track was the most natural in its creation?

Steven: For me "Cloudy Now", because I actually made it as a gift for Aviv's birthday. It's a very famous song of Aviv's, and I never intended that it would be on the Blackfield album. I just did it for fun, but it came out so well that we included it.

The breakbeats on Scars work really well and are something we've never heard from you (short of the occasional decade-old No-man remix).

Steven: That's all Aviv- yes, they work very well.

There seems to be more restraint on Blackfield than in any of your previous releases. You can hear several of these songs wanting to blossom into epics, but you keep the reins firmly gripped on them. Do any of these tracks exist in longer form, and will they ever see the light of day?

Steven: Not really - Aviv's approach is very much about the 3 minute song, so any of my inclinations to introduce longer solo sections, or have the tracks extend beyond that were quickly squashed. But I have to say that it was really interesting for me to work in this way for the first time, and to limit myself to creating great music within the confines of the 3 minute song format.

The lyrics are very dark, and seemingly personal. Do you actually experience as much of the emotional turmoil as you write about?

Steven: I've spoken about the "dark" side of my work before - the words are a catharsis for me that means I can exorcise much of these aspects from my personality. But of course many of the things I write about are inspired by feelings/emotions I've had, otherwise I would not be able to write convincingly about them. The lyrics on Blackfield are more direct and perhaps not as sophisticated as I would normally write, but that is something to do with the discipline of working with Aviv and the Blackfield project - to keep things simple and direct. Perhaps that's a good thing.

Aviv and I both share similar songwriting concerns/themes so in many ways Blackfield did feel like a continuation of some aspects of Porcupine Tree. For example you pointed out the lyrical similarity between Buying New Soul and Pain, which shows that although we are very different as people there is a strong similarity in the way we see the world.

Aviv: My lyrics are dark because my life brought me to be in the dark many times.

Can you elaborate?

Aviv: I donít believe in stones and holy places. The question is not "Do I believe in god", the question is "Does god believe in me?" Life in Israel made me a sad person. I canít stand the thought that the government rules other people lives, the occupied territories are like a cancer in Israel's body. The world has become colder and faster, and a stupid cowboy is running the whole show. I feel like I'm living on the other side of CNN.

What is your personal philosophy of life?

Aviv: I am god and god is me.

Could you talk a little about the idea behind Cloudy Now- especially the We are the fucked up generation outro. Is this also a political statement?

Aviv: It's the most famous rock line in Israel, it means that our generation is fucked up! This line made me famous overnight, but it's not a political statement.

How is our generation fucked up, and is there any way to fix it?

Aviv: My generation is fucked up because of AIDS, Bill Gates, George Bush, techno and trance music, the wars, Al Queda etc. It's not the 60's or the 70's dude, we are the garbage of the century. I donít think I can fix it, all I can do is sing out all my pain.

Would you agree Steven that this is your most accessible work? How would you react to the idea that it is also your most impressive?

Steven: Definitely the most accessible thing I've even been involved in, but I still think it sounds very classy. Whether it's the most impressive or not is a matter of opinion of course, and depends on whether you like the more mainstream song approach. I guess at this point although I'm really pleased with the Blackfield album, it's hard for me to say whether it's among my most important work. Time will tell.

Do you plan to perform Blackfield songs either solo or with Steven? What is the status of US and UK releases for Blackfield?

Aviv: We (Blackfield) will perform in the US and UK and the rest of Europe sometime after the album is out worldwide around late July. We cannot wait to tour with those tracks, there's a lot of Blackheads out there...

Itís difficult to say anything about touring at this stage - I think it's going to be tough with Porcupine Treeís commitments.

What is the status of US and UK releases for Blackfield? Can you tell us about some of the tracks that will be added to the new versions?

Steven: There will be a 3 track bonus CD EP with 2 songs left off the album, and a live track from Israeli TV. Plus the video to Hello.

Do you expect there to be more Blackfield releases in the future?

Steven: Yes, I'm sure there will be.

Aviv: We are definitely going to record more albums!

How would you describe Blackfield to someone who had never heard it?

Steven: Classic melancholic songs with a lush and warm production.

Like Radiohead but better. It's hard to say it's a classic rock and epic album- it's kind of ELO meets Pink Floyd- very 70's in a way. It doesnít sound like anything else because Steven and I are coming from such different cultures. I believe that gives the album a very fresh flavor. I think the world has become smaller, and for all the music seekers like me it's nice to discover new bands like Sigur Ros, Bjork, Blonde Redhead etc.

For others just getting to know your music, where would you suggest they start? Will you do any other English language albums in the future.

Aviv: I suggest that they wait for the Blackfield album.

Marillion, Paatos, the Death Metal projects, and everything else. Do you ever feel overwhelmed?

Steven: Yes! And it just gets crazier every year.

How bout a juicy tidbit about the new Porcupine Tree album.

Steven: It's the best yet.

How much will the success of this release dictate future releases, tours, etc?

Steven: Success or lack of has never really made a difference to me to whether I continue with something or not.

Thanks: www.studiomlive.com.


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Updated 22 May 2004 by Nick.
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