They are considered innovators in the electronica subgenre psy-trance, but Erez Eisen and Amit “Duvdev” Duvedevani, better known as Infected Mushroom, aren't so quick to agree with that classification. “To be honest, we don't see ourselves too much as psy-trance,” Eisen says. “I think you can call it electronic rock or something like that. We don't think about these things too much anyway.”
The band's new album, due out in mid-September, is called Legend of the Black Shawarma (Perfecto, 2009). Eisen and Duvedevani produced it in their studio — located in a custom-built structure behind Eisen's house — in L.A.'s Studio City. Of the new CD, Eisen says, “I think it's a little bit more aggressive, and I kind of compare it to our last album [Vicious Delicious, Reincarnate Music, 2007] because it's diverse. A lot of the tracks are different. It's more aggressive and has more songs, and even the songs are more like heavy-metal.”
Infected Mushroom was formed in Israel by Duvedevani and Eisen in the late '90s. The band moved to the Los Angeles area four years ago. Legend of the Black Shawarma will be their eighth album together, and it clearly shows off their impressive production talents. Eisen, who got into music production originally through his interest in computers, took time off recently from his busy touring and production schedule to talk to EM.
Although you use a full band for touring, when you record it's just you and Duvdev, right?
Yeah, it's only us.
What are each of your roles in the production process?
It's basically the same. We both know how to do everything. I like to play more with sound and stuff like that. Duvdev brings the vocals and the lyrics to the studio. He does the singing. I like to tweak, build sounds and stuff like that.
Tell me about the origins of the band. You are both from Israel originally?
Yeah. We were both in the Haifa area.
What was the music scene like back there.
When we started, when we were pretty young, we were listening to a lot of heavy-metal stuff, and the scene was mainly rock — heavy-metal. My partner used to go to Goa parties and things like that. He was really into listening to the music, and I was more into computers in the beginning. So I was thinking, ‘How could I make music just with the computer?'' I didn't have the budget to invest in a studio; I just had a computer. So I started on a really weird program called Impulse Tracker, it's very old.
Was it a sequencer?
It was a sequencer/sampler that you basically just play WAV files with — very limited. But I did two albums on this software. And I met with my partner, and we said, “Lets invest some money and build a decent studio.” We brought a really horrible Gemini DJ mixer, and we had the first Nord [G1]. And [we used Steinberg] Cubase XT, I don't remember which number.
How did the band get its break?
The first album, nobody was interested in. But still one guy listened to it, and he thought it was cool and he gave us a chance. And then the second album, that was the break [Classical Mushroom, YoYo Records, 2000]. It was very commercial, a lot of classical influences, which were not so common in techno music at the time because the music was very monophonic. We said it was boring for us because we'd both learned classical music. So we just put some scales in and stuff like that, so we did more classical scales and more melodic [lines]. Everybody hated that in the beginning, but it was a big hit for us. It was our best-selling CD. We got a Gold record at the time, and we didn't expect that.
How long ago was that?
It was eight years ago, I think.
How did you get your production skills?
Just sort of trial and error. We didn't have too many people in our area to teach us so we did it ourselves. We bought some kind of gear, like the first Nord, and we just played with it and we learned.
In their control room, Duvdev typically sits at the Yamaha Motif (left) and Erez at the Nord G2.
Photo: Corey Lashever
Tell me about your studio.
It's next to my house. We built it in the backyard.
So it's a freestanding building.
It has a live room and a control room?
Exactly. We built it for our needs. We had so many studios before, so basically we designed it and we did everything so that we would be very comfortable in it. We had no mixing desk whatsoever. We have Apogee 32-in, 32-out, with RME AES-32s [sound cards]. And basically, this is our desk for routing and [sending signals] to external gear. We have Moogs; if we want to send to a ring [modulator] or whatever, we just have a send in Cubase. It works like a plug-in for external gear coming back. It's so easy for us to record this way.
So you use Cubase as your DAW?
Yeah. Cubase 5. We know it really, really well. We started with it.
Are you running it on a PC or a Mac?
That's unusual. It seems like the majority of established recording artists are using Macs.
Especially in the States.
In Israel, do most people use PCs?
Everyone there is using PCs.
There are guitar parts on this album. Did you bring in guitar players?
We did the guitars ourselves. We have guitars going through a Zoom effects machine.
So you're playing the guitars.
We record them, but we are really, really bad players. So what we do is basically record it kind of note by note and we then glue it [together] in Cubase. For us, it sounds different than bringing in a guitar player. We do that as well, but rarely. On this album, we only brought in a guitar player on one song.
Was that “Herbert the Pervert”?
Exactly. But only for a few parts. We like it to sound extra precise so you're not sure if it's a real guitar or not.
One of the songs had what sounded like an acoustic guitar at the beginning, but it didn't totally sound like one. That was a sample?
That's also “Herbert the Pervert.” I think it was the new Yamaha Motif. And the riff afterward is also not a guitar, it's a synth.
Are most of your synths software-based or hardware, or do you use both?
We use mainly external [hardware] synths. It used to be only software. I think the Nord G2 is one of the best out there. I really like the quality of it, so we use it a lot and I don't know many VSTs that can compare to this kind of — I can't say “analog quality” because it's not, but, like something different. After going through some good preamps, it makes a big difference.
What are you using for preamps?
We have the Avalons and we have the [Neve] 1073, we have API and SSL. We have also some stuff that I don't think you know about — it's an Israeli company, and it's really, really amazing. It's called Lev Solutions.
And you have a preamp from them?
We have a preamp that sounds really, really amazing. Equal to all the other stuff that we have. And they have an amazing, amazing compressor. You have to check it out.
So you do a lot of outboard processing?
Yeah, a lot. We have the Eventide [H8000]. We have the Lexicon 960. We're putting stuff through the Sonic Core Scope [DSP platform]. Scope has plug-ins called Modular III and the Adern [FleXor]. It's a modular, but it sounds amazing. The processors are just really unique and they sound amazing. And we're putting stuff through there.
Erez Eisen (left) and Amit "Duvdev" Duvedevani
Photo: Greg Watermann
In the song “End of the Road,” there was a synth sound playing a distorted riff. Do you remember what that was?
The riff is the [Roland] V-Synth XT going through the Eventide. So the distortion is from the Eventide and the basic sound is from the V-Synth.
You also have a Doepfer modular synth.
It's a custom system. Do you know Analogue Haven? We are friends with them, and they designed a custom system for us. There's very weird stuff in it that we love.
What's weird about it?
They're not the typical oscillators that come with Doepfer. They said it's a rare kind that they only have a few of. I can't explain by words, you have to hear it.
There were some really cool effects on the song “Franks.” There was one point where the whole mix is filtered out and then comes back in. Do you remember what you were using for that?
I'm not sure. I think, if I'm not wrong, it was the Nord G2. We went through it and we make our own presets.
So you plug the audio through the Nord and used it as a processor.
Do you do that kind of thing a lot?
Yeah, a lot, to use some really great filters.
So you're using the synth as a processor.
What other effects do you use?
We're using a lot of [Universal Audio] UAD. We have almost all of their effects. Lately, we've been using the Moog Filter, the lowpass. I think it sounds amazing. We have also the real thing.
Do you use some of UAD's vintage-processor emulations?
Yeah, they're all amazing. I compared the real LA-2A to the plug-in, and it's so hard to tell the difference. The only real way to tell the difference is if you really push the gain to the max and the peak reduction to the max. Then you can hear the difference. Then the analog sounds a little bit better, but who uses presets like that? If you use it like a normal person does, I don't think I can hear the difference.
Do you also do the mixing?
Yes. [We have] a lot of arguments on mixing.
Do you enjoy mixing?
Yes, but sometimes we get too crazy about details.
Do you mix totally in the box?
It's a weird way we're doing it. We have the RME AES-32, and it has its own 48-bit mixer inside, basically kind of a digital mixer. We record only in 32-bit, 96kHz. And then we record analog to the Prism Sound converter to convert it to 16-bit, 44.1kHz.
And it gets recorded back into the computer.
Actually, it gets recorded into another computer; we do the mastering over there.
I noticed on the album you do a lot of stutter-editing stuff, where the whole mix kind of stutters a little. How do you achieve that?
It's pretty easy. There are many ways you can do it. But I guess the easiest way is to export the part that you want to apply the effect to. Let's say we exported a whole track, two channels, and it's kind of a gate effect; it's a MIDI gate.
What note values do you use? Thirty-second notes?
It depends on the part. Many times it's 32 and sometimes its like 16. It depends on what effect you're looking for. You could export the whole song, and then apply it on top of everything.
In the studio, both Eisen and Duvdev (right) produce and play virtually all of the instruments. Duvdev provides the band's vocals.
Photo: Greg Watermann
So you're not actually cutting it up, you're just sending it through a processor.
Sometimes now, in Cubase 5, it's easier just to cut everything. Just Alt-click and it cuts everything by the time [setting] you wanted, and then we just make each beat shorter. Draw the envelope and then everything is cut more precisely.
What's up next? I assume you're going to tour a lot to push the new CD?
Actually, we are already touring. Because we have kids and stuff, we're trying to have a kind of sane life, so we try to tour only on weekends. So we do like two or three gigs at the end of the week, and then the rest of the week we're home.
In what country do you find the most appreciative audiences?
Mexico was always really, really good to us. I must say that in the States, the last two years it's really, really taking off, it's amazing. I think here, this kind of music is more fresh, people are just discovering it. So it's more exciting for them, they're finding a new thing. I think today I like to play the most in the U.S.
When you're playing live, I guess you probably use hardware rather than software synths?
For live, I use only the Yamaha Motif XS rack, with a controller of the Roland R-800. I really like its keyboard.
When you play live, you use a live drummer and guitarist, right?
Yeah, so I'm playing the keys. We have a guitar player, and he's playing through the Zoom G9.
Into an amp?
No, no amp. I don't like the sound of amps, especially not onstage.
Do you each have individual monitor mixes?
Yeah, we have in-ears by Shure.
So you're able to keep the volume in the mixes reasonable.
Some of us do, some of us are deaf. [Laughs.] I work at a low level, and each of us has our own mix in the headphones. We have a great setup onstage. We've got a Yamaha [01V] digital mixer. We just plug in the mixer, load in the presets — one button — and the mix is 99-percent done.
So there are presets for each song. What about the drums? Does your drummer have a regular kit that's miked up?
We used to do that. But again, we had difficulties making it sound as good as we wanted and as clean as we wanted. So we went to the Roland V-Drums. It sounded immediately much better than real drums onstage — in most cases. Because so many times, if you play in a club and you need to use at least four or five mics [on the kit], you need to start EQ'ing, removing some frequencies to avoid feedback. And in the end, instead of trying to make the best-sounding kit, you're just trying to fight the feedback.
Having the V-Drums means that you keep the stage sound way down, too.
So basically you're all going direct onstage, except the vocals.
That probably means that it sounds (to the band) almost the same everywhere you play.
Almost the same. I'm so happy that we found this system. We soundcheck in a half-an-hour and we're done.
Mike Levine is EM's executive editor and senior media producer. He hosts the monthly Podcast, EM Cast (www.emusician.com/podcasts).