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Asaf Sirkis: The Endless Realm

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AAJ: Had you opted to be what they call a refusenik, if you had refused to do your military service, how might that have subsequently affected your career as a musician in Israel? Is there a lot of prejudice against people who refuse to do military service?



AS: There is and there isn't. Of course there is, but I know if I hadn't done my army service I would definitely be three years ahead in my musical career. A lot of musicians, or artists, a lot of people who don't want to do it, go to live somewhere else, or just don't do it. There are many ways not to do it, but I don't want to get into that. [laughs] Some of them are kosher, some of them are not. [laughs]



AAJ: I just wondered if perhaps refusing to serve later makes it difficult for musicians, or anybody, to get ahead professionally with whatever their career choice may be.



AS : It's not so much a problem in music, but if you're doing other jobs, like governmental jobs, then you have to do the army.

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Inner Noise



AAJ: Let's get back to music. The Inner Noise project actually started in Israel with Adi Goldstein on organ and Amir Perleman on guitar. How did that idea for a church organ-centered trio come about?



AS: When I was in Israel I made my first album, One Step Closer, (Self Published, 1995) I had a trio then. But after recording the album, I immediately started to write new music, very different music. It was a real shift. Waking up the day after the recording session, I had the very strange feeling that I was somebody else. It was really quite eerie actually, and I started to write different music.



At that time I was listening a lot to the music of Olivier Messiaen, mainly listening to the organ works. I was absolutely obsessed with it. I would come home after a gig and I wouldn't listen to any jazz, or anything else, just Messiaen's organ works. [laughs] I was completely obsessed with that music for a long time, for two or three years. And I started to hear church organ in my head. I had a keyboard and when I wrote. I wrote church music. And I thought, "How about adding drums to it?" So, I tried it one day with Adi Goldstein, who is a very talented musician from Israel. Then we added a guitar, for the melody to come out. That is how The Inner Noise was born.



Asaf Sirkis and The Inner NoiseThat project has been a strange one for me because it was always very difficult to gig with it. In Israel, we didn't have an organ. but we played with a specially adapted keyboard setup. The Inner Noise was a total flop in Israel, by the way. [laughs] Nobody really wanted to listen to it. I remember one gig in Israel in some kind of art center, quite a nice place with a good audience. I closed my eyes and before the first piece was finished I opened my eyes and everybody had gone, except my girlfriend at the time. [laughs] They just couldn't take it.



We did some church gigs in London and elsewhere, but it was difficult for that project to gig, because the music is so specific, and you have to find a venue with good acoustics. But we are doing some concerts here and there.



AAJ: That project was commissioned by the Arts Department of Tel Aviv City Council, and it reminds me that you receive support today for your touring from the Arts Council in England and the charitable organization Jazz Services Ltd. Could you tell us something about Jazz Services Ltd. and just how significant this support is to you and other musicians?



AS: Jazz Services is a really wonderful organization. Basically, it offers tour support for musicians in the UK, touring around the UK. It's the first time I applied for funding and I got it and it was really quite helpful. So you kind of cover the petrol expenses, the hotels and top-up the fees so they are kind of reasonable. It's really great. It's amazing that there is something like that.

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Touring



AAJ: On the subject of touring, I see from your gig list that from September through to the 19th December 2008 you are playing about fifty gigs in no fewer than twelve different lineups. Do you ever look up from your drum set and think, "Oh it's these guys tonight!"



AS : [laughs] No, I've got quite a nice setup with a few bands that I play with. Most of these bands, like Gilad Atzmon, or [guitarist] Nicolas Meier or [saxophonist] Tim Garland's band, are bands that I've played with for a long time. We've made a lot of CDs together and done a lot of tours together. I love it when things integrate, musically crystallize in a certain voice.



I've been working with some great people here for a long time and I'm really glad about this. I like to keep busy, I like to play all the time, and I like to go out there. I make my living playing gigs, which I always wanted to do. It's what I dreamed about when I lived in Israel. It is a dream come true for me.



Tim Garland / Asaf SirkisAAJ: Of all these gigs, and I counted 50, only five of them are the trio with Yaron and Tassos to promote The Monk. Why so few gigs to promote this album?



AS: It's because of a few reasons. One is because of my history as a solo artist. A lot of promoters are still not so sure they want to book me because they are a little bit afraid of the music, a little bit afraid of what I'm doing. When I came out with the first Inner Noise record, people were in shock and didn't know what to think about it at all. They looked at this drummer who came from Israel that played with Gilad Atzmon, a kind of Middle Eastern, jazz-fusion thing, [laughs] and with Adel Salameh, traditional Arabic music. So they expected it to have at least a world flavor, but it had nothing of that. Instead they got gothic jazz. [laughs]



Many people in the industry here were put off by that. I'm quite sure of that. So it's still a little bit of a struggle to get gigs. The second reason is just that I am extremely busy playing a lot of gigs. It's hard to find time in my schedule to do gigs or time where I can hustle for them. You need to be around to do it.

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