With a career stretching 12 years and a string of gold albums Aviv Geffen is one of Israel's most high profile and controversial artists. The nephew of Israel's Security Minister Moshe Dayan, Aviv rejected the macho stereotypes and national service and found himself as spokesperson for the young generation, in his words a mixture between Kurt Cobain and Bob Dylan. Deciding it was time to bridge out into Europe and the States he hooked up with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson for Blackfield on what was initially going to be just an EP. The results however were so good that they decided to make a full album and at the time of going to press the band are in discussions to tour with Nick Cave and Mercury Rev and are already thinking about a second album. Designer Magazine caught up with Aviv in his hotel room the morning after their first ever UK gig together.
Q: Obviously we know of Steven's work with Porcupine
Tree, but despite being massive in Israel you're virtually unknown in the
UK apart from Blackfield. Could you give our readers a potted history so
they can gain an understanding of where you come from?
A: I've been working in Israel for 12 years and i'm the main rebel in Israel. I was the first one who wrote songs against my government and against the occupied territories in Israel. It makes me the spokesman of the young generation. Since then i've just been doing my singing which is a mixture between Kurt Cobain and Bob Dylan, if you want.
I came from a family that is like the Kennedy's, but the
poor one. I'm the nephew of Moshe Dayan, who was the security minister
so I just cut the chain of the army. I was against all the macho stereotype
and resented having to wear a uniform. I'm very gentle. On stage I would
wear dresses and put make up on and initially holding the flag of the weakest
Q: How did such a conservative country react to a rock
star wearing a dress and make up?
A: Very badly. In Israel we've got a very macho stereotype and I was the first one who was the big bisexual on stage. In Israel we don't have Glam Rock and we don't have a David Bowie or someone because we exist 50 years behind. We've been so busy with wars that occupied people's life's. For me, people really took it hard, but other people got it really quickly. I had my track "Cloudy Now", which is on the Blackfield album, and it was the anthem of the youth. "We are the f**ked up generation" - nobody had ever cursed on radio before that and I went on to sell over a million copies in Israel. But I think now is the time to go out into the States and Europe. That's why Steven got into the bigger picture.
Q: Was it quite hard to get hold of artists like Bowie
when you were growing up?
A: No, no, no. Right now we're a very hi-tech country, but we don't have that love of music. In England last night I was shocked to see 600 people clapping and singing along to the music. I think in England you respect the arts because you have the time. In Israel we spend the money on tanks and guns unfortunately.
Q: The initial idea of Blackfield took so long to actually
come to fruition Did you ever think that it might be an impossibility of
ever finding the time to get together?
A: Yeah, because i'm the busiest artist in Israel and he's got his band. We were trying to set it up together for about 2 years and we'd just end up collaborating in Abbey Road or in New York...and suddenly it's all blown up to the point where we're talking about touring with Mercury Rev and maybe Nick Cave. Right now it's all about Blackfield because it took so long for me to leave Israel. In Israel i'm like the symbol of the peace process, against the occupation, so it took me time and it was a very brave step to take.
Q: What was it about Steven's work that made you want
to work with him as opposed to anyone else?
A: Steven is a great producer and I really adore his band. But I think also it's time for him to make music like Blackfield that is a bit more commercial with short songs. Only now he's begun to hear the real music. For me, I'm not into prog rock. I appreciate prog rock, but I think it was always Glam rock that had the great albums. For Steven, believe me this was a big change. He's very cynical and like to say 'this is my art, you can love or not and f**k off'. Now he's really into it, he's working on Blackfield everyday and I don't think we ever imagined that we'd be on the recommended list in Virgin Megastores next to the Prodigy and Morrissey.
Q: I think I mentioned this in the Top 10 Chart you
topped. On the last Porcupine Tree album "In Absentia" it was more of a
straight up rock record than previous. With the Blackfield album you've
really took it back to the sound of the older Porcupine Tree material.
When was it you got into Porcupine Tree specifically?
A: I got his album 6 years ago, "Signify", and I was just amazed that there were still bands like this with great vocal harmonies and guitars. I was that amazed that I put my own money to bring them to Israel for 3 shows because I really wanted to give my people in Israel a chance to hear him. Right now, every week, the biggest Radio Station is putting all their album from the top for an hour every week. When I opened up your website it was so exciting that you chose us as your Number One Album. Really, it was so great. It proved that good music will reach ears sometimes.
Q: Coming over here to the UK in some respects must
be really hard. I read in another interview you did recently that you have
a lot of disdain for bands like Muse et all.
A: When I see the cover page of the NME with Muse, he thinks he is the wild boy and believe me he's not. I want to see him singing and writing songs against his government and getting death threats. He doesn't, so for me he's just a joke. He's not brave.
Q: Do you see that with a lot of bands today, they
just don't say anything at all.
A: Yeah. I just hate it because we've got a lot of problems unfortunately today, and with the exception of Radiohead who are my friends and talk against Bush and the government, bands just won't do it. They're cowards. I think music can change the world because I came from a country that I changed. I told the people in Israel that we've got to give more value to human beings and we've got to give Jerusalem to the arabs and we cannot rule other people's life's. My sister goes every week to the check point to defend with her body on the arabs. I think in a way art can change the world, so when I see short scoops on the NME or Q it's a big laugh for me because I'm doing the real job I think.
This isn't just a one off album. We've wrote some new
songs and next year we're hoping to go out near New York in Woodstock to
record out there. It's very important for us because we don't see Blackfield
as a side project in our career. We are hoping now to leave everything
behind and just to create a new world. Blackfield is really unique. I love
Blonde Redhead because there's an Italian, Japanese and someone from New
York and I think the world has become very small.
Q: Finally what did you want to achieve with the Blackfield
A: I wanted to make a classic rock album with meaning like the bands and artists I like - Placebo, Radiohead, Blonde Redhead, Pink Floyd, ELO, Leonard Cohen, Dylan. In England its very hard to break through the media because everything is so freshy and trendy, but I think we really need to bring back the classic rock albums.
Blackfield's self-titled album is out now on Snapper Music
The band support Nick Cave / Mercury Rev in the next few months (TBC)
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