Wednesday 22 April 2015

Interview with Zafrir Tzori from Dukatalon

For those unfamiliar with the band, Dukatalon are an excellent Israeli sludge trio founded in 2007 by Zafrir Tzori, who is the guitarist, vocalist and chief songwriter. These days he is joined by Yariv Shilo (drums, percussion, since 2007) and Roy Ben Samuel (bass, since 2012). I caught up with Zafrir to ask him about the future of the band, their relationship with Relapse Records, their routines, equipment and tone, about the difficulty of coming from such an isolated part of the sludge/doom world and more.

E. Thanks for doing this interview for The Sludgelord, man! How are you doing?

Z. Great, just finishing work on our new album. It's been slow going actually, because we wanted to take more time with it. It's far more diverse and complex than the last one, and right now we are in the last stages of mixing it. Also, we felt under no pressure with deadlines, which was good... We are kinda free again right now, so we can't say when it will be out, that depends on which label we release it on.

E. So have you left Relapse Records?

Z. Not exactly... Last time I spoke with them they told me they are cutting off with their releases, but lately their manager told me they do want to hear the new one, but we want to see if maybe we have better offers. I'm not making any decisions yet.

E. OK, let's talk about the history of the band, you founded it in 2007 and released the self-titled EP that year. How have things changed for the band since then? I know you played with a couple of bassists before 2012 when Roy joined...

Z. Musically we became less stoner-sludge, in the traditional sense, and become much more precise and complex, exploring new sounds. Our writing formula has changed a lot also. We've played with a few bassists, but Roy's been with us for 3 years now, and definitely the best.

E. How would you say the band has developed tone-wise over the years? Can you give us a run-down of what you use?

Z. The sound definitely has changed, but not only guitar-wise . I think each one of us is a better player than at the time 'Saved By Fear' came out. I pretty much still play on the same gear because it's timeless gear, I just changed the way I'm playing... I think it's also the way the songs are written, and it's a different writing situation now. I use an old '69 Marshall Super Bass head with Boss dirt pedals and a '93 Les Paul for my tone. On the new album I've also added a few other things here and there.

E. What is your usual writing/rehearsing routine, do you bring riffs, beats, etc... to your room and work them out, or jam, or... ?

Z. The routine is that I bring the music and we all start to play it together. The final result is a piece that each one of us has added to, or sometimes the song changed with time and became a different thing. On our album, all the songs started one way when they were recorded, and then a different thing came out than what we had originally planned.

E. Many musicians from the Louisiana sludge scene have cited the intense heat as a factor in their slower grooves. Being in a Middle Eastern country, you experience your fair share of heat, though it isn't the drenched heat of the southern swamps... How much would you say the climate affects your style of playing?

Z. Well... I don't really think it affects me at all, to be honest. I know where we come from leads people to make a lot of assumptions about how our music should sound, but none of this is affecting me. I just have my own style and my imagination, and I'm going with it.

E. How do you feel about the Israeli doom/sludge/stoner scene? Many readers may have only heard of you guys and (the now defunct) Rabies Caste, but there are and have been a few seriously cool heavy bands from there, such as Sheen Daled, Ke$$ef, Verminn and Buzzer...

Z. They are all friends of ours and we share stages with them often, all I can say is check them out also.

E. So who are your favourite bands currently doing the rounds on the doom, sludge, stoner, etc... scenes internationally? Are there any European festivals that take your fancy for the future, such as Temples, Desertfest and Roadburn? Have you approached any of these outfits or vice-versa?

Z. Temples seems really good. Every festival, each and every year, has good bands and bad, in my opinion. We tried to get on these festivals before, the DIY way, but it's useless. Even with Relapse we didn't really tour much... And this is what gets you known well enough to get on these festivals in the first place. Believe it or not, I don't really listen to stoner and sludge most of the time. I also think that a lot of bands these days, in this genre, focus more on getting big, sludgy sounds than on good song writing.

E. How do you view the Israeli DIY scene, and where does Dukatalon fit in to it? There are a lot of punk/grind shows and venues that host underground extreme music, and I know that you have played alongside a lot of punk and grind bands over there...

Z. It's a small scene. The unique thing with the scene here in Israel is that because it's really small, a lot of styles come together. That way you can easily catch a show with a metal band, then a punk rock band and then a noise band, all on the same bill. That's also because all the people that are doing 'different' music pretty much all know each other.

E. With Israel being so small and isolated, do you think this has contributed to the lack of Israeli metal bands 'breaking out', so to speak? Right now we are seeing bands such as Orphaned Land and Melechesh (who are no longer based in Israel) have relative commercial success compared to most Israeli bands, do you think this may be the beginning of a trend? If so, who do you see making waves internationally?

Z. I think it's more a matter of how people in Europe or the USA see us. It's weird for them to see a band from here making this kind of music because they mostly see people from their countries do it, and when they see a band from here doing it I guess it can be seen as different. That's why bands like Orphaned land can make it, because it's more reasonable for a metalhead from Europe or the USA to see a metal band from Israel playing metal with Israeli or Middle Eastern elements. You can't really make it from here. You need to make an effort and be where it's actually happening.

Saved by Fear cover art

E. Has the BDS movement affected the metal situation there at all? I know that Behemoth, Biohazard, Iced Earth, Taake and Cannibal Corpse have all played there in the last year, despite being petitioned to cancel, but do you know of any high-profile bands that have declined to play for political reasons, and has Dukatalon personally been attacked in any way for being an Israeli band?

Z. I never heard of a metal band that cancelled a show here because of BDS. I know of other bands of other styles that have cancelled, such as The Pixies... We've never really got close to this kind of thing yet, except stupid comments online, and even when we do... We don't care because we've got nothing to do with it and we couldn't care less about involving politics with our music.

E. Drugs and alcohol play a fairly significant role in this kind of music, generally speaking, and Israel is a comparatively very religious and conservative country. Many bands in Western countries wear their alcohol and drug use on their sleeves, would you say attitudes differ amongst the fans and bands themselves in Israel from their British or American (for example) counterparts?

Z. I know about this phenomenon regarding heavy music and drugs, here it's no different to the rest of the world. I can say about us that it's not what we're all about. I personally choose to focus on the music.

E. What are your favourite and least aspects of gigging/touring and recording?

Z. Well there is nothing that I don't like about gigging. Touring is great, but I can't really say that much about it as we've only toured a few times, I hope that will change in the future. Recording is awesome. The only thing I can think of that's bad about it is the pressure to get the best results that you can, and to know when to stop trying to achieve it, because it can be an endless pursuit sometimes and you need to know to let go.

E. Are most of your domestic shows DIY or promoted by others?

Z. DIY, for sure.

E. What has been your primary source of new heavy music, before and after the internet explosion? Would you say most Israeli fans of similar music would say the same thing?

Z. They will most definitely say the same things, the fans of my generation at least. I think all of us that are a little bit older (past the 30 mark) all got our music from countless visits to record stores, from magazines, word of mouth, tape trading... The good thing about the internet explosion, in my opinion, is not the fact that you can find new music easily, it's that you can also find older stuff that you could not get, or have heard, back then.

E. What is your vision for the band over the next few years? What are your short, mid and long term plans?

Z. I definitely want to make it a more serious thing than it has been up to now. The new album is going to be really good, so I hope it will get the attention it deserves. We kinda took it slow in the last two years because of the work on the album, and also some personal stuff.

E. And who are your favourite bands of all time, your biggest influences, and why?

Z. Well, it's always changing. I think right now I find myself going back to a lot of bands from the time I started to find interest in heavy music. The bands that really influenced me are bands like Slint, Melvins, Sepultura, Meat Puppets... A lot of 80's and 90's hardcore and post hardcore. Sleep, Today is the Day, Helmet, the third Alice in Chains album was a big influence on me, and so many more... These are only the ones that jumped into my head right now, there are so many.

E. Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, it's really appreciated and I wish you well with the album release, CHEERS!

Z. Cool, Eytan, thanks a lot. We will keep in touch.

DUKATALON – 'VAGABOND' - From the album 'Saved by Fear'

Interview by Eytan Dorron

I want to thank Zafrir Tzori for taking the time out to talking to Eytan at Sludgelord HQ. 

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