Interview with Ze'ev (vocals)
Interview conducted by Michel Renaud
Date online: February 21, 2003
You guys have been around since 1985, yet I've been having a difficult time finding much information about Salem.... Therefore I'm afraid we're going to have to start with you giving us a quick history of the band. :)
Salem was formed in 1985 along with the newly born extreme metal scene and released 2 demo tapes called: "Salem"(1986) and "Destruction till Death"(1987).
After 5 years of a successful underground career and a line-up change to: Zeev Tananboim - Vocals, Lior Mizrachi - Guitar, Michael Goldstein - Bass, Giora Hirsch - Guitar, Amir Neubach - Drums. the band released "Millions Slaughtered Live"(1990). This demo tape sold 1,500 copies and got the band a record deal with the German label Morbid Records. "Creating our sins"(1992) and "Kaddish"(1994) were released by Morbid records and sold over 40,000 copies worldwide. Prior to the release of "Kaddish", Morbid Records released a 7 inch picture EP with the single "Dying Embers"(1994) to promote the album, and when "Kaddish" came out, a limited edition of the album was released on vinyl (picture disc).
The opening song "The Fading" was played on MTV's Headbangers Ball rotation and also got the band to be elected as one of the best 10 up and coming bands in the world by MTV and Kerrang. "Kaddish" also featured a cover song called "Ha'ayara Bo'eret" (the town is on fire), a song that is being associated with the holocaust. This national controversy found its way to the Israeli parliament for a discussion of whether or not it is appropriate for a metal band to play such songs.
In 1996 Giora Hirsch decides to leave the band and dedicate himself to his new family. In 1998, following the best offer the band got from Israeli label B.N.E., producer Colin Richardson, the man who produced such known act as Machine Head, Fear Factory etc, flew over to Israel to record "A Moment of Silence". The album was recorded in D.B. studios in Israel and The Chapel in England and was released late 1998. A big distribution deal was on the horizon with Modern Music (Germany) but due to miscommunication between B.N.E. and the band the deal fell through.
Right after the "A Moment of Silence" recording session, Amir Neubach quits the band to pursue a music career in New York City. Nir Nakav, who just returned from L.A. after 4 years, joins Salem. In early 2001, Salem was released from their contract with B.N.E. In December 2001, Salem signed a 3 album deal with KMG/ System Shock from Germany.
The fourth Salem album is the most aggressive Salem album to date. Produced by the band and recorded in D.B. Studios (Drums, Bass, and Guitars) and Noise Studios (Vocals and mix) in Israel to maintain the bombastic production standard set forth with previous release "A Moment of Silence".
"Collective Demise" contains 12 new songs which textually are snapshots of our reality since September 2001. The released date is September 2002. Nir Gutraiman (Guitar) joins Salem. In their long years in the business, Salem played shows as headliners but was also much obliged to play on the same stage with other known bands like; Megadeth, Entonbed, Ancient Rites, Cancer, Rotting Christ, Disharmonic Orchestra and more.
Ze'ev Tananboim - Vocals
Lior Mizrahi - Guitar
Michael Goldstein - Bass
Nir Nakav - Drums
Nir Gutraiman Ė Guitar
You can visit our web site: http://www.salemband.com
Have you guys been playing death metal since the beginning? Death Metal was in its infancy back in '85, what were the bands that influenced you at the time?
At the beginning we were a black brutal band, our first album was black metal. Today it is very difficult for me to define Salem. In general, Salem plays Death Metal, but if you take the songs and separate them, you'll see that every song has its style, for example: take "Coming End of Reason" and try to compare it with "Slave", those are 2 completely different songs, and that is why this is so difficult. You have to listen to understand the difference between the songs.
Our main influence is life itself. In Israel it's impossible to ignore the news since it has a direct effect on your daily life and as a result you have songs. Another thing that inspire us is the Israeli music roots.
In any case, all 5 of us write the material, and we all like different bands, so when we eventually build a song, it sounds like us.
My early idols were "Iron Maiden", "Black Sabbath", "Judas Priest", "Motorhead" etc... The band that influenced me back then was "Venom", and then came other bands like "Slayer", "Sepultura", "Bathory" and more.
Why the name "Salem"?
The meaning of the name Salem is a town in USA that in the past performed witch hunts. When we named our band, that name was authentic because back than we dealt with diabolical themes.
Did you guys play in any other bands before forming Salem? What's the musical experience/history of each current member?
Every member of Salem has been playing for many years. Michael Lior and I have played only in Salem. Nir (The Drummer) played with several bands before joining us, and Nir (Guitar) is playing with another band - Lehavoth.
You've produced a few videos for songs off "Collective Demise". Are you aware of these getting any airtime in some countries?
Salem has released 3 new video clips from "Collective demise", the first one "Al Taster" deals with the pain of the people who lost their loved ones, the second "Act of War" shows the absurdity of suicide terrorists on buses in Israel, and the third "Broken Yet United" is dedicated to the Israeli Metal scene, to the audience and it shows the relationship between Salem and the fans.
We are now sending the clips to several countries and we hope they will get airtime. In the past, a Salem clip was featured on MTV Europe and also on the German show: Viva.
Do you see videos more as a gift to the fans, or do you think they really have a good promotional value (especially in the price/return ratio)?
I think the videos are a good way to pass our message visually. Also, the fans that can't see us in live shows, can see how Salem shows go.
Did you guys come up with the concepts for the videos, or did you get some external help?
Salem members chose the songs for the videos. Nir Nakav, our drummer, directed all 3 of them.
We chose those songs because we think they describe the situation in Israel, and it was very important to us to show this situation visually.
The lyrics of the video "Broken Yet United" are describing the situation in Israel, but we dedicated this song to the Israeli Metal scene, because in spite everything, we are still living.
I know you've sent the CD-ROM with 3 videos on it to some magazines and webzines, but I'm sure some "non-media" people would like to get the CD-ROM. Is it available for sale anywhere?
You canít get the videos for now, but soon "Act of War" and "Broken Yet United" will be on the Salem web site.
There's a possibility that we will release a DVD that will include those videos and more.
Did you have to expatriate yourselves to record your albums, or are there suitable studios and expertise for recording metal albums in Israel?
We worked in two different studios because every studio was capable for different technical things. We recorded in D.B. Studios (Drums, Bass, and Guitars) and Noise Studios (Vocals and mix).
How's the metal scene in Israel? I'm not aware of many bands coming from your country.. I believe Melechesh were based there for a while, but beside that... Are there a lot of bands, labels, fanzines, or simply a lot of metal fans for that matter?
The metal scene in Israel has had its ups and down, new bands come and go all the time. These days the metal in Israel is growing and a lot of kids listen to metal and support it and come to live shows. Some good bands are: "Arallu", "Nail-Within", "Lehavoth", "Untropia", "Melechesh", "Orphaned Land", and more.
I try to help bands, I produced several bands like "Arallu", "Azazel", "Aztec", "Betrayer" and I just returned from Germany, helping producing "Nail within" with Harris Johns. Also we have a great label here in Israel, "Raven Music", that supports metal.
Salem shows have great energies. The audience knows and sings all the lyrics with me, almost every show is sold out (800-1000 people).
The show is 80 minutes, and it includes songs from all of our releases. Every show is different because we have 4 CD's, and we try to give the audience something new every time they are coming to see Salem live.
In some shows we put video screen with Salem's video clips, or projecting the show.
I noticed on your site a short note to the effect that "Collective Demise" treats the reality of life since September 2001. Have previous albums treated of such subjects? If not, what were the inspirations when writing the previous albums?
Our First album - "Creating our sins" (December 1992), talked about the social situation in Israel and about the stressful filling in the Gulf War.
Our second album - "Kaddish" (December 1994), talked mainly about the holocaust.
Our third album - "A moment of silence" (October 1998), talked about the situation in Israel between war and peace, and about the terrorist attacks that we experienced at that time.
Our fourth album - "Collective Demise" (September 2002), talked about what we experienced the last 2 years in Israel, and what may happen because of the suicide terrorists in the Middle East and the United States of America.
Could you elaborate on that controversial song that resulted the Israeli government addressing the issue? How did this all happen, and how did it end?
"Ha'ayara boe'eret" is a cover for a song that was written after the Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938, when hundreds of synagogues and Jewish businesses were vandalized or destroyed by the Nazis) .
Salem never compromised with our music and style, even if we had problems with the religious or with the government. We did have a problem when we did "Kaddish", we had an argument because they thought this isnít appropriate to play "Ha'ayara Boe'eret" with Metal, This is a very sensitive subject and some people thought the music was too aggressive, but eventually we decided that it is appropriate to cover songs like that, and that is why we did it, after all we have the freedom of speech and creativity.
Judging by the number of reviews of Collective Demise on your site versus reviews of the other albums, it seems like it's enjoying a good promotional push? Are you satisfied with your new label so far?
Until now we are getting great responses, excellent reviews and a lot of interviews. We appreciate it a lot. This is a good stage to say thank you to all of you for the support and for the good responses of the audience and the media.
KMG/System Shock treats us great, They are doing a great promo for "Collective Demise", They are very satisfied from the sales of the CD - and if they are happy, we are happy.
Have you ever played outside of Israel?
Salem hasn't played outside of Israel. One of the main reasons is that some of our band members at that time serve the army, and they couldn't leave Israel because of that. We where supposed to go twice to a European tour: with Death, Pestilence and with Cradle Of Filth.
In any case, Salem played with such known acts such as: Megadeth, Entombed, Rotting Christ, Cancer, Disharmonic Orchestra as well as headlining tours throughout Israel. Salem was featured on MTV Europe and also on the German show: Viva.
KMG/System Shock is planning an European tour for Salem in 2003. We don't have the exact details right now, but we will be happy to inform you when we will.
I guess you guys have day jobs beside the band? What are your occupations?
It is possible to make a living here playing music. We chose not to though because of the simple fact that when you depend on your band to be paying your rent you will have to make some compromises regarding your band and your music and we are not into it. So the rent is being earned elsewhere and when we make music we are in direct contact with our inner selves instead of with our bank accounts. We are not 16 years old anymore, we don't fool ourselves by thinking we should get rich and famous because our band is so hot. We learned by now that metal is our way of life. If we ever get big, that's great but if not we are still having lots of fun doing it.
I believe military service is mandatory in Israel.. Your region of the world is not exactly the most quiet, did any of you guys encounter some... "bad situations", or was your military service pretty much uneventful?
All of Salem members served the army. I was in a combat unit for a year. At that time the situation in Israel was calmer, so I didn't attend in a war.
One of your videos makes a strong point against suicide bombers - I found it very well done and straight to the point. I was just wondering if you consider Salem a "political" band, or if it is simply to be interpreted as the point of view of normal citizens who have to live daily with terrorism? (or both?)
First of all - thank you. We try not to use politics, we just want to show the situation as we live it.
Do you guys live in a peaceful area of the country, or are you stuck in the heat of the action? I'm not too familiar with your country, but some co-workers with family there told me that some areas are relatively free of terrorism and other stuff like that?
It's important to say that we are not living in the middle of the war (we are living in the center of Israel, the actual war is on the borders of Israel) so of course we hear every day about our soldiers that been killed, and it is very hard, but we are trying live a regular life, we donít see the soldiers and the war is not in our streets. We do have a problem with the suicide terrorists it's hard to cope with the fear of being somewhere crowded (like buses, restaurants, or even live shows) without knowing how it will end. The fact that innocent civilians are dying gives you a feeling of helplessness. It is difficult for us to see a solution for it right now, but we don't know what tomorrow will bring - therefore we try to keep hoping.
Israel is a small country, so everything is close. The thing I experienced was that my wife was very near to a terrorist attack on a bus, luckily, nothing happened to her, but she saw all the horrifying things like blood, dead people and people with no legs and arms.
Also, the situation between USA and Iraq add a lot of pressure, because we have already experienced missile attack from Iraq.
What are the short-term plans for the band?
A European tour, The release of album Number 5, The re-release of "Creating our sins" and "Kaddish" and then we'll see. We want to remain active as long as we feel that we have something to say and that there's someone who's interested in hearing it. Salem try to be as much original and come up with good material cause we work a lot on the songs to make them interesting and have no rush to write songs that will end up being crap in the end. We will continue as long as we have support from our fans in Israel and worldwide.
I'm out of questions, so I'll let you have the final words...
Thank you very much for your support. Keep metal alive!
|Other information about Salem on this site|
|Review: Collective Demise|
|Review: Live Demise|
|Review: Strings Attached|
|Review: Playing God and Other Short Stories|
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