Interview with Maor Appelbaum of
By Mark1340 of 1340mag.com
The End Records is fast making a name for itself for may reasons, among them is the incredible strength of bands like Sleepless. This Israeli band is one of the best I've heard in a long, long time. We recently had the chance to talk with Maor Appelbaum about Sleepless and its inspirations and aspirations…….
Can you give our readers some background on Sleepless and the inspiration that started it? The project is 5 years old - well, 4 and something at least. I was working with a lot of bands and I had some metal bands of mine. I DJ metal here in Israel as well as do production of gigs that come here and I wanted to do something different. I also like dark ambient, gothic, and industrial, so I wanted to do something different. I met this guy whom I had gone to school with when we were little. He does different kinds of music, not metal or gothic or industrial - he's not into those kinds of scenes. He did his own stuff also so we talked and did some recording. Everything we did was improvised even though I was still DJing metal and everything. So, we did a demo of 5 songs and sent it out to labels. All the labels said "Yeah, we like it. It's great!" but they wouldn't put it out because they were afraid. All the magazines and radio shows really liked it and we got known in the underground which led to get signed to a compilation on Nightbreed Records (an English gothic label) and also an American compilation. So, we recorded with really bad equipment. I am also a sound engineer as well as technical supervisor at gigs - I actually teach sound engineering in studios. I had to work really really hard to make the sound of the recording good despite the bad sound card! Later on the album became better and better but we definitely worked hard for it!
So did someone end up putting out the record in Israel or did you do it indie there? Yes, well, it was pressed by Raven Music but it we recorded, produced, and mixed by ourselves. I play bass guitars, regular guitars, some vocals, and fretless bass as well as various noises and effects. The mastering was done by the band Regenerator from California. They liked our music very much. We got reviews in magazines like Outburn and Sideline and that’s how we met Rex Mark and his wife (they write for Sideline). They really liked it and offered to master our stuff and they did a great job! We like the mastering a lot. The cover was done by Travis Mitt and then Raven Music did the pressing.
So the U.S. release on The End Records is the same as the other releases? Most times there is a difference from country to country, I thought. Yes, there is so they can sell both releases! Ours is the same everywhere. Same cover, same songs, same mastering. I don't want it to be a hassle - one album for everyone!
There are so many different elements to Sleepless, who are some of the artists that inspire you? My partner is more into mainstream and jazz and even a little (very little) progressive. I am more into progressive, metal, rock, alternative, industrial, dark ambient, and avant-garde. I have certain bands I like - Devil Doll, Tiamat, King Crimson, Sigh are a great band, Bathory, Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, I have a ton of bands that influence me. The thing is sometimes I am influenced by how a band does things rather than actually being influenced by their material. I don't have to listen to something a lot to be influenced by it. I can be influenced by the vibe I catch from it. My taste is quite diverse but I like a lot of dark ambient and avant-garde also. I like Megadeth up to and including "Countdown to Extinction". I like Iron Maiden up to "Fear of the Dark" and "No Prayer for the Dying" (a few songs off those two) but nothing after that! I like Anthrax until "Attack of the Killer B's"! (Laughter and lots of it here as interviewer, Mark, totally agrees with all the declarations just made!)
1340mag.com covers stuff just like you said, that’s our philosophy. We believe people listen to many styles of music like we do. In one update on our site you could see bands like Bathory, Britney Spears, and The Seventy Sevens all right there together ( editors note- we do realize most peoples "listening area" aren't this drastic, but ours are!). Yeah, The Backstreet Boys have some good songs. They have GREAT production. There are many bands that are great like that, I just take them for what they are and I don't say, "oh, the guitars should be heavier" or whatever. That's why I have more than 2,500 cds and I don't even know how many LPs! I like Dire Straits, Deep Purple, some eighties stuff. Pop and electronica also - Skinny Puppy are a great band and Die Krupps. I also like Heathen a lot and the first two Crimson Glory albums are great. After that though…eh.
So, there are only two of you. Do you ever play live then or is this strictly a studio project? Studio Project. Since all the music came out of improvising it would be very hard to do it live. I play 5 tracks of bass on the songs - high notes, low notes, same time. Some of the bass parts are me playing the same thing at the same time but on different basses for different sounds. That would be quite hard to arrange for a live setting! Plus, it's just 2 of us. We would need a drummer and I can't sing and play bass. Well, I could but a do a lot of whispers and it's hard to whisper really loud plus have a bass on you. Y'know, we'd also have to have a flute player , a classical guitar player, and a sax player all for only certain songs. Economically it would be pretty hard! If a big festival were to invite us then we would consider trying to do that. We have spent a lot of money on this (Sleepless) with phone calls and sending demo's out, etc. A lot of money has already gone out. And even if everything came together, who would book us anyway!? All that time and money and then we'd have a hard time getting booked. I have a side band called Vulture that is a live band that plays industrial/techno/metal. I play keyboards for them and I just finished recording, producing, mixing and mastering it. We just finished yesterday and its gonna be 4 tracks and one remix. I am also looking for a label for an album I've done with only bass guitars. It's really weird avant-garde stuff, like dark ambient. It's called Screaming and it's only bass guitar, no other instruments. Screaming will be on a DTS records compilation soon.
The lyrics on the Sleepless album seem to have an "anti -war" theme/sentiment to them. Would you agree? You have probably noticed that the lyrics were written at different times and that was important to me to write them that way because it shows that some things change and some things stay the same. The lyrics are like a general thing. What I mean is that everything you need to think about can be put into the right places and you'll see both answers. The right one/wrong one, good one/bad one, evil one/nice one, real one/fictional one. Everything has at least 2 sides. The underlying statement is that sometimes we don't think too much and go with our impulses. In reality sometimes we have to dig deeper than our boundaries to find a meaning to an answer. When I wrote the lyrics….well they are still relevant. What I saw then still happens. I get a lot of questions about the lyrics and all of them saw different things in them so those lyrics can fit any person’s situations any time. It's general stuff that everyone is thinking about in the same form. I wrote them before, when we had terror all the time but it wasn't "hip"
y'know? Now people read them and say "Wow, you were saying stuff before it happened." "Hip" terrorism happens everyday now but then (when the lyrics were written) it didn't. Those lyrics took so much from me that I have writers block now. Some people don't understand them because they are looking for a "point" rather than using them as an analysis for other things. They say "Is he saying that war is god or bad?" but all I'm saying is "This situation can lead to this or it can lead to that." They are like stories with different endings.
So would you say they are political in any way? No, they are not political. They lyrics are based on human behavior.
Would you say then that you didn't have anything in mind when writing them? That perhaps it's more about peoples' interpretations rather than what you actually wrote? No, cause I did have specific things in mind. The lyrics are definitely from life experiences but I tried to show the good and bad parts of it. When you live you have nice/not nice, bad/better, hot/cold, and those are feelings I have passed in my life but I wrote them as general experiences. We are not political but we don't like war either! I'm not taking any stands in terms of religion or politics, (the lyrics) are global issues. They talk about life in a physical/mental/spiritual way. When I say "spiritual" I mean that in terms of the mind.
So when you look back at the cd now, does it unnerve you at all to listen to it? No, I'm still very happy with them and still relate to them. The things is that we still pass through everyday. Someone who is sad all the time is probably missing something. Same with someone who is happy all the time. We don't sue terms like "happy" and "sad", we show the listener the "outskirts" and the "in between" y'know? So they are personal when I wrote them but the minute I wrote them they became public. It is for the public to read and interpret now. I know how I felt when I wrote them but other people read them and see different things.
Since Sleepless has been around a little while now, how do you feel its been accepted? I here a lot of people saying its great. The thing is to make people understand it, it needs to come from the underground. People telling people. When you promote something you are trying to sell it but when you tell people what you like you are not doing it in a selling way. It's a more true way. We have more than 25,000 hits on our website last time I checked and I think that is saying something because that's a lot for an underground act. If people buy this album it is saying something. They are not only promoting it but much more than that. We are band from Israel, we see terror everyday. The States also know the word terror now sadly. I have a father who was in the holocaust and like that was horrible, Sept. 11th was horrible for America. What's happening with our cd is this - Sleepless is very calm music. Israel is a great place to make aggressive music (industrial/hardcore/metal/etc.) because we feel the tension and the terror all the time. With Sleepless you have a band that with peaks of aggression but we're not really aggressive, we are quite calm. So picking up our album is like saying that terror can't stop our music. We are still calm and it's not because we are stupid or cold hearted , it's just because we understand what's happening and we are living with it. We are not choosing an aggressive way. You can do things without aggression whether it is sad or happy. I like aggressive music but that does not mean I have to do it to show my point.
Do you have a particular favorite song on the album? I like the instrumental because I wrote it on the fretless bass! All the other music was written together. I like that it was so experimental. "Strings" is also a very good song. With "Strings" you can just dive into it. Just make the lights dim and crawl into the abyss and think about stuff. I have always liked that song - it was part of our demo also. In terms of recording "Lying In Wait" is my favorite song.
To end, let me ask you this. If you could tour with any band in history (full scale tour around the world) who would it be? The Beatles. Maybe The Who I suppose. The Beatles were the best band ever right? If I had to choose from recent bands I'd say Therion. Christopher is a good friend of mine and he invited me to perform Accept's "Balls to the Wall" with him! He is a really nice person and I'd like to do a gig with him. Sisters of Mercy also, they are my biggest influence probably. Maybe even Iron Maiden in the early years before "Fear of the Dark!"