Infected Mushroom are an EDM duo from Israel who now live in the United States. They are known for their instrumental prowess, their vocal intensity, and their relentless dance grooves. Musician's Friend caught up to Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani on a one-day break from their hectic fall tour. As they prepare material for a 10th studio album and perfect their mastery over the Emulator from Smithson Martin, we ask them about gear, music across the world, and the appeal of EDM.
Musician's Friend: Has moving to L.A. influenced your music?
Eriz Eisen:With the hectic touring that we do, this is a good base to go out from, as it is harder to travel from Israel. I think our music's changed a little bit because our influence changed over the years, not only because we moved to the United States.
Amit Duvdevani: It's easier to do collaborations here. We collaborated, for example, with The Doors and Korn and Jane's Addiction and Perry Farrell. We could never put down these collaborations from Israel.
MF: Is the EDM scene thriving in Israel currently?
EE: In Israel the scene was always big. Even when we started it was pretty big. I think obviously way before America started getting it.
AD: But what's going on now, America has exploded the EDM scene, so it's much bigger than anywhere else around the world.
MF: When you were in Israel, do you think that your music helped to unify people in the face of struggle, or was it maybe more of an escape from that struggle?
EE: It's both. The makeup lady in the morning here came and told me, "listen, I have so many good friends from Iran that are fans of yours," and we meet a lot of them around the world, but we've never been to Iran and we cannot go.
So the music goes without politics, you know? And in Israel it is an escape from politics. So that's cool that music has no borders. Borders exist. We cannot go play in Arabic countries, but the fans come and see us, so our music is not Israeli. Well, it is Israeli, but it's for everybody to listen.
AD: I talked with this guy from Iran who told me they are not allowed to listen to our music over there because we are from Israel.
EE: And we have a lot of fans from there.
MF: Do you find it hard to keep the music that you do true to its underground roots while still preserving and growing your draw?
EE: It was in the beginning, but now I've got to say, because EDM is so big, you can present any kind of music today on the dance floor. So I feel at the moment we can play tracks that we have never played before, 110 BPM heavy stuff. We mix drum and bass in our set. We'd never done that before.
MF: So the general audience for this is pretty open-minded.
AD: Very, which is amazing to us.
EE: I'm talking about here in America. In Europe, where they have had EDM for 30 years already, they are not as open to different stuff. When they come hear Infected Mushroom they expect one thing. But America is really open at the moment.
MF: You guys have developed some powerful instrumental ability. Do you think it's important for electronic music artists to have some kind of formal music training?
EE: For us, it helped us to the longevity of the product. We have nine albums already and it helped us because both of us are classically trained, easier for us to write melodies and stuff. But it's not a must. I've heard amazing musical people...
AD: Who never learned...
EE: Never learned how to do music. They just have the ear for it. And that's amazed me even more. Because I hear a track, it's amazing, and the guy says, "I've never played an instrument in my life."
AD: Lots of these EDM artists can't play. They just write notes in a computer.
EE: They have the music in their head and they know how to put it out.
MF: So it's compositional instinct.
EE: Yes, it's amazing.
MF: Are there any collaborations in particular that you enjoyed working on from the Friends on Mushrooms series?
EE: Friends on Mushrooms was a fun project to do and we're still working on it. Vol. 3 is going to come out at the end of the year. We basically collaborated, usually back in the past we used to think, "Let's collaborate with big names with the tracks," but here in this album we changed that. We said, "Let's work with fresh names that people don't know."
MF: So how do you hear about these acts?
EE: We check it online. We heard the track from this Savant guy from Finland. It was amazing.
EE: And Opio from Australia.
MF: They must have been really happy
EE: Dude, they're major fans. They all had the same response. "I'm a huge fan of Infected Mushroom," even though we never heard of them before. The collaboration was so fun to do because these guys are so fresh it gave us a challenge to collaborate on these tracks. And this is the approach of Friends on Mushrooms.
MF: How did you first get introduced to the Emulator from Smithson Martin?
AD: I saw it online and then I just called in to see how we could get one to play with it. Luckily he knew us and said, "You know what, let's just send us one. Play with it. If you like it, buy it." The guys from Emulator were amazing with us.
EE: What's great about when we produced the new show, the Fungus Among Us show we put an Emulator in it so it looks like basically a controller of a spaceship.
MF: Isn't it an incredible interface?
AD: Very futuristic. Amazing.
EE: First of all, it's incredible, but imagine in our setting of the show it really looks like you're controlling a spaceship. And that had so much, besides the functionability of it, how it looks to the crowd. So it's amazing.
MF: Amplified music has always had a visual component to it. You think of rock bands, huge drum kits and a guy with his foot on the monitor playing a beautiful guitar.
EE: Correct. And EDM is usually a table with a keyboard and a controller. And finally you get a touchscreen, and a touchscreen that looks like a spaceship or [something from] Minority Report. So we were intrigued. When it came, actually working with it, it changed our visual show a lot.
MF: Did you have other controllers with touchscreens?
AD: No, never.
MF: Did you find any kind of a latency thing that you had to adjust to?
AD: It's pretty good.
EE: It's pretty good. What gives the latency over here is the – Both: Soundcard...
EE: And we work with a low-latency soundcard, so no. The touch was great. The working was great and programming it, actually, was not that hard, so it's cool.
AD: Yeah, it's really easy.
MF: Now, you mentioned the visual appeal of it. What were your audience's first reactions?
EE: I'm telling you, they were blown away because when we started doing the Emulator in the sphere not a lot of people saw it before, so it literally looked like I'm controlling the whole stage from a touchscreen. Even the majority of people didn't know what it was. They were amazed. Then they started learning it. Today people know of it and saw it in a few other places, but they are still amazed. Still, it looks amazing, so people were blown away and it added a lot of the power to the new show.
MF: How about in the studio with the Emulator? How beneficial can the Emulator be for use inside the studio when you're producing and creating music?
AD: Well, you can control everything, so you create your own interface so you can make your own shortcuts. You can do like one button opens a plug-in, and then another button processes the plug-in, or that's it, or you can do both of these things in one button.
EE: It's a huge touchscreen that basically can control most of our gear.
AD: Anything, yeah.
EE: So it has endless possibility.
AD: We are very lazy. Not lazy, but we want to be very efficient. Trying to...
EE: It's lazy and efficient.
EE: They're both. They collide. We want to do everything fast. We want to produce fast because of our touring schedule. So a piece like that saves us a lot of time.
MF: You must have a lot of audience members that come to a lot of your shows and they appreciate the fact that the show gets refreshed.
EE: It's a must for us. Our fans have been fans for many years and they saw the show so many times and when we came with this new thing it was a fresh thing for them to see, besides the new audience that were coming.
MF: That must be exhilarating. Do your audiences give you free reign to play only new material? Both: Not really.
EE: We wish. If we don't play our hits, we're dead.
AD: Not only that, the promoter asks us to play certain tracks.
EE: There's like six or seven tracks that we have to play. So we do that and then we mix it with a lot of the new stuff.
MF: What software do you use primarily?
AD: Cubase 7.
EE: We've been working Cubase from the beginning, since Cubase one.
AD: Yes, we're just used to it. I'm sure we can do the same with other software, but we are really used to it.
EE: We just love Cubase.
AD: It's very stable. The latest version is insanely good.
MF: How about sounds?
EE: We work a lot with Native Instruments stuff. Spectrasonics is one of our favorites. Omnispheres is beyond amazing.
AD: Because it's really based on samples, you know? And the samples are so well made.
EE: Eric Persing, the guy behind it, is on a different level. Even before Spectrasonics. He used to do loops before and he was always the top of his game.
MF: So in your live show you bring a rig that's loaded up with the Cubase and control it from the Smithson Martin Emulator?
MF: Is there any other gear that has got to be there for your stage shows?
AD: We have the MOTIF, the MR MOTIF XS, the control with the [Emulator] controller keyboard, ECM 800 and we have the Yamaha O1V96, the new mixer. We've got the one with the soundcard inside, which is great. Saves space.
MF: So your fall tour is on right now?
EE: It's on.
MF: You going somewhere tomorrow?
EE: We arrived yesterday at 1:00 a.m. and now doing this today and leaving tomorrow for Monterey, Mexico for a show, then Monday, Hong Kong, back to South America for Argentina and Chile, back to Asia to Japan, a little stop in Europe, in Israel, and then off to Calgary and back to Europe and then back to the States.
MF: Some of your shows on this tour are going to be full live band and some DJ sets.
MF: What are some of the benefits and limitations of one relative to the other?
EE: The DJ sets are more, first of all, easy setups and we are more open to play other people's music. So we can change the dance floor environment really easy because we can play a lot of artists' music. As for the live set, it's only Infected Mushroom music. No other artist is involved so what you hear is what you get. But the energy of the show, the visual for it, it's much more exciting. So that's the benefit of live versus the DJ stuff.
MF: Okay, so do you book it on the front end as a DJ set or do you book the venue and then say, "Gee, what would be better, live band, DJ?"
EE: Sometimes promoters ask for a certain show and sometimes the limitation of stages cannot fit the big spheres shows. So sometimes it's a dimension thing. Sometimes it's a promoter thing and sometimes it's our own choice.
MF: Do you have a favorite festival to play? How about in the U.S.?
EE: Burning Man, for sure. It's beyond amazing. And what's cool about it, it's not about the music over there.
MF: It's just the scene.
EE: The scene, the place, how it looks. It's unheard of.
AD: The people, everything.
EE: When I came first time to Burning Man I didn't believe something like this could exist. It's beyond real. It's amazing. So you see stuff like that all over. The first time we went we were blown away and now we try to come every two or three years to do an Infected Mushroom show there.
MF: How about globally?
AD: We did Tomorrowland, which was amazing. One of the best festivals around the world. EDC in America is always a good one. There's many. Greenfields in South America. Yes, there are a lot of them.
MF: What's next for 2014? Do you think that far ahead?
EE: Oh, yeah. Friends on Mushroom, Vol. 3 hopefully before 2014, end of this year, which will end the Friends on Mushroom concept and maybe we'll print the CD out of it from all the EPs. Then 2014 starting working on our 10th album. We don't know what it's going to be, but it's a big deal for us.
MF: It's a nice round number.
AD: Yes. Maybe double album.
EE: There's a lot of demand for another Converted Vegetarians album, which was our fourth album and a double album. Definitely more touring as we always do, and trying to keep on doing what we're doing and enjoying it.
If you really want to know about Infected Mushroom, follow us on Twitter and Facebook because we are really into it. We don't have other people doing it.
AD: Facebook is our biggest thing.
EE: It's really us, answering fans that ask questions.
Now on tour and coming to a venue or festival near you, Infected Mushroom brings their catalog of Electronic Dance Music to stages across the world this fall and winter.