Rock That Trance
Punk disciple-turned-psytrance guru Skazi aka Asher Swissa on what he’s been spinning
India is an adrenaline rush for Skazi. We caught up with the Tel-Aviv based mixmeister in Mumbai, one of the cities he toured this year along with Bengaluru and Hyderabad. The musician, who started out with a punk band named Sartan Hashad and moved onto psytrance, has come full circle as his sound acquires a nasty growl. Excerpts from an interview where Skazi discusses his current obsession with rock.
We’ve heard that your new work in progress is pretty heavy duty rock.
My new album is like a collaboration with the big stars. I worked with one of the biggest rock bands in Brazil called Charlie Brown Junior. These guys are selling like 25 million copies so I’m working with these big guys to expand my knowledge, combine different styles and become friends with them.
Who’s on your collaboration wish-list as far as mainstream artists go?
Muse and System of a Down. Not even Metallica anymore. For me System of a Down is the new rock age. The new metal. Muse is a combination of electronica, rock and classic. Fuck, it’s too much.
What was your inspiration to get into psytrance in the first place?
Actually I don’t call it psytrance. Even when I started out I didn’t know it was called trance, I just started something and then it was categorised as trance. My first album Animal did not sound like trance to people. For me, after I did it, everyone was like, ‘Wow you’re doing trance.’
But it was electronic music. So what made you switch from punk to electronic?
I think Prodigy. It was between rock and electronic and this is where I found myself combining it.
How did you start DJing and producing?
I first started producing and then started DJing. I worked in the army for three years as a sound engineer. That was my job – to set up sound for special big shows. So I studied and the army paid for my tours. For three years I studied for free and learnt from the best of the best in Israel. I still like producing more than DJing. I don’t care to go out of the studio too much.
Your work features a lot of remixes. Which one are you working on now?
I had a season of remixes. Artists ask me to do remixes, not just trance. But I’ve stopped remixing and am doing only original stuff this year. My best remix till date is Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ I remixed the last version of Metallica’s ‘Seek and Destroy’ last year for a special rock show. That was one of the best because the audience reaction was crazy.
Since you’re in the Indian film hub, wanting to remix Bollywood numbers must be irresistible.
We were just talking about it. And you know what? Bollywood remixes interest me more than regular remixes. Now that I’ve done rock and stuff, I think there is something very special about Indian music, which I’ve never touched in my side of music.
Whose music do you like from the current crop of producers?
I like Aphex Twin. Aphex Twin for me is an example of unbelievable craziness in the studio. It’s just not logical.
There’s been a change in your production style. Was it a conscious effort or was it just a spontaneous evolution of sound?
It comes naturally, I think. You automatically want to try new things. I even changed my studio. I bought a Mac and Logic. I worked on Logic for my new album.
What’s your label Chemical Crew up to?
We released the CD of Rocky – with New Age electronica music — in June. If you have to imagine the sound, just think electro died and there’s a new style in between. We released a few tracks from the CD four months ago.
Have you signed on any new talent?
We’re hoping to sign on two new talents from Jerusalem.
You’ve been to India several times. What are the changes you see from your first gig and now?
I can easily say that the age of the people coming in to listen to the music has gone up. Poison had a really good crowd but the age of the people was a bit on the higher side. And I think now more people listen to this music. What’s more, I think the record for one of my longest sets has been established in India, right here in Bombay. At Fire ‘N’ Ice. I played a seven-and-a-half hour set. I’ve never played that kind of set anywhere else.
Which is the best place to DJ on the map?
I love Brazil and Mexico. I have done a lot of raves in the past – 60,000 people, 30,000 people, special lights. I hosted Sepultura’s drummer Igor Cavalera in my live act for 45,000 people. The guy’s massive. He played full Sepultura drum sets for my gig, with a double bass and everything.
What does your DJ gear comprise? What are your favourite weapons?
I have everything. I use most hardware to experiment. I work in Logic but I work in Q Base 4 too.
Is this jump in technology making it simpler?
I think it’s made things better because now when you want to make something, you have 20 options to do it.
Do you work on fresh material on the road?
I write down ideas on the road on MiDi and drop the MiDi files on the machine and take the sounds that I want. Sometimes I even record on my phone and sing as well. Sometimes I record street singers. This happened in Mexico recently. It will soon be released on radio. But even the songs I’m doing for radio are based on 4×4 trance beats with guitars. It’s pumping.
(DJ 26 Bryan aka Stomp is the founder of Digital Distortion Records, a Mumbai-based label that promotes psychedelic trance music)