Interview, photo: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
How would you define your art and its aesthetic to someone who is not yet familiar with it?
I’m a singer, songwriter and a poet, but I work somewhere between electronic music and acoustic music.I’m trying to bring them together, hopefully in pop songs, kind of, but a little bit eccentric.
Looking back at your music journey, is there a specific time you reminisce about the most?
There had been a few when I really felt like I was in the flow: carried along by inspiration and even life where I was at the time. Most recently, my process of making this album. It was totally not planned. It just happened when I was living in the north part of Ibiza with musicians and djs, making music every day for a year and a half, eating great food, running and swimming… It was very nice. Then there was the first time when I got discovered and I moved to New York City just out of high school. Also quite an amazing time. So yes, there are a few.
Tell us about the most *beautiful lie*.
There are so many. It depends what you think the song is about. It changes for me but the bottom line is – the biggest lie is people thinking that we are this personality (you are you, they are them), but that’s not really what we are. We are something much bigger. That might be the biggest lie.
If you had to choose between music and sex, what would you choose?
Haven’t been asked that one before. Probably, would have to say music, although if I had a few drinks my answer might be different. But I hope music stays with me my whole life and the songs keep coming.
If a person were music, which genre or song would you be?
It might be a bit hippie, but my favorite song, I think, at the moment is Strawberry Fields Forever by John Lennon. Maybe a bit trippy for where I am at the moment but there is something about that and me – it connects.
What disappoints you the most in your field of activity?
The business of music, the corporate nature of it. That side of it is kind of disappointing if you’re an artist. Most deals I’ve entered into in my career have ended up being sketchy in a way. Probably that and how the role of social media floated above art and the emphasis is on content rather than on quality. But it’s all part of the same thing – marketing. Bringing marketing and art together doesn’t really work that well. I understand why we do it, yet still it’s disappointing.
You’ve mentioned that the ideas of the “multiverse” captured how it felt to create and to live through this album. How would you describe your personal multiverse?
The idea of the multiverse is many dimensions that are intersecting right here and now. This reality is only one of many. I guess it’s not just about my art and my music, but rather all the different parts of myself: my dream world, the words coming into my mind, my romantic world. All the dimensions that make up me.
How to get through times that suck?
Music and art has helped me a lot. It helps to make a big change if possible, to move somewhere that you find beautiful. Some people can’t make a change because you have people relying on you. Also be healthy, eat well, meditate, all these things. But I’d say make a big change. Usually when things suck and they keep on sucking in the same way and you keep repeating the same situation – then it means that you need to make a big change.
Could you describe the best gig you’ve ever performed?
There have been a few. I won’t say any of the times when I was an opening artist because you can walk off and it’s amazing, but it’s not your crowd. It might be right at the beginning of my career, and this is just a memorable one because it’s the first time I played for so many people in one place. I think it was Copenhagen in 2008 or 2009: my record had gone to n.1 and out of nowhere we sold a few thousand tickets. I went and played in this beautiful room, everyone knew all the words, I played all my songs that I had at that time. When I went backstage the whole building was shaking for 5-10 minutes. I had to go back out and play, I don’t even know what I played. That was cool and there have been a few since then that were quite special, yet that was the first one like that. I couldn’t sleep afterwards. You get very sad the next day as well. Like when you’re a kid and it’s your birthday party and then the next day you wake up and you have to wait another year.
What about the best gig you attended as a viewer?
I’ve been to many amazing ones, but the one that stands out is Bjork in New York in Radio City Music Hall. It was a long time ago. There was a choir of Inuit women singing backup vocals with an icelandic philharmonic harp player and a couple of electronic percussionists. It sounded better than the album. Everyone in the crowd was crying. Somewhere between that and maybe the first time I saw Radiohead. That was pretty great as well. On a totally different style of music – Ravi Shankar, aged 88, who played amazing indian music. Also Outcast for hip hop was mind blowing.
There are seven deadly sins, which one are you?
Hopefully not greed. It changes and it’s tricky. Vanity is an issue for most people and lust can be an issue. Anger is not something I have a problem with overtly, and people who know me wouldn’t say I’m angry. Yet I think it is a problem because it’s something I push down and when it comes up every few years – it’s really bad. It’s been a few years since the last time. Maybe anger, because it’s not being expressed in the right way.
Tell us a recent funny or awkward story from your career, maybe about some fucked up situations that happened while touring?
There are also so many and there are some that I wouldn’t tell. I’m just going back in time now. Nothing weird happened in Ukraine. In Russia there had been a few times when weird things happened. We were chased after the first time I played in St. Petersburg: there were these guys waiting after the gig. Basically I came outside with my guitar and there were these three huge russian guys by a Porsche SUV, dressed in black, and they said: “You come with us now.” One of them grabbed me by the arm and then the bouncers got involved, and I pushed them away and ran. We ran and they ran after us. I don’t know what that was, but I think they wanted me to maybe come and meet their boss, because he was a fan, but they went russian style. So we ran away and that was that. I feel like I need my sound guy here because he’s been touring with me for 11 years and many things have happened.
What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life?
There are a few and they are totally different to each other. There’s a place I go to outside of Cape Town that no one really knows about, which is a series of waterfalls in a rainforest. The first time I went there absolutely blew my mind. I knew that there were places like that but I didn’t know that one of them was so close to my hometown. On a totally opposite scale of the spectrum – the first time I went to Burning Man in America. The way the city looks at night when you see it from the distance with those lights everywhere you go and everyone is lit up – it was like some crazy science fiction movie. Absolutely beautiful.
How many times have you been there?
Three in America and then they have one in South Africa “Africa Burn” which I’ve been to four times, so seven in total. And it’s enough, I’m done.
What have you learned through Yoav?
What haven’t I learned… I mean, it’s been my life, a sort of wandering. I’ve never had a plan, it was just one foot down in front of the other and I got carried here and then I got carried there. I’ve learned to let go and trust a little bit more. I’ve learned that when something goes in one direction it maybe seems a little bit sideways and not what you had in mind, but it’s exactly what you needed at the time. Again, it comes down to trust and being able to let go, not to try and control things too much. It’s the same with making music; I used to be a perfectionist and fix every little thing. I try to do it less and less, I just try to let things flow. Same thing with performance as well. I’ve learned to be happy without trying to control every little thing. That’s not a bad answer.
If you had the chance to switch genders for 24 hours, what would you do with that time?
I’m not sure… It would be interesting to experience what life would be like as a woman but 24 hours isn’t much. I don’t know if I’d like to say something like experiencing giving birth, it’s probably too hardcore for me. But I don’t think there’s a specific experience I’d be looking for, I would just want to see how it would feel in general.
What is your personal state of happiness at the moment?
It’s not as much as a couple of years ago when I was making the record; that was extreme and it was such a good time. Since then it’s been a little bit tough. I think I’m quite excited about the future and I’m trying to find maybe one place to be, rather than living out of a suitcase. I think that grounding in one place would be pretty cool, I’ve been living different places for 11 years now. Creating lots of different things too, maybe not just the Yoav project. And maybe some other things in my life could improve. I’m very happy creatively but as far as feeling settled and content – I don’t get that, it’s not what my life is about.
Is there a perfect place?
Not yet. I think it might be two places. I love being in Cape Town, which is my hometown, but not more than a few months at a time: I get lazy, I lose my edge, it’s too beautiful and you’re on the beach everyday surfing. I need to be in the world a little bit more. So I think some months there and maybe some months in Los Angeles, or Portugal.
What do you think the next stage of your life will be like?
I’m quite interested in slowing it down a little bit and finding places where I really want to be for more than just a few weeks. I really feel creative and I want to create different kinds of music. I’ve got some things planned in the future, I’m working with some composers and soundtrack people – that could be interesting. But the way my life is – I make a plan and then something else happens. It’s good to have the plan and to know what you’re doing in 2 weeks, but after that anything could happen.
What question would you want to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
Not this one haha.
Is there a book you could recommend?
There would be a lot. I don’t know if I could recommend it to everyone but among some of the things I love the most would be this comic book series called ‘The Sandman’ by Neil Gaiman. There are some spiritual books I would recommend to people, but those kind of books come to you in a certain time. There is a book by Joseph Campbell called ‘The Power Of Myth’ and it’s pretty amazing. He inspired ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Matrix’. He writes about mythology and the hero’s journey – that’s more of a spiritual book. ‘The Invisibles’ by Grant Morrison is killer as well.
What is your idea of God in the modern world?
If you think of the modern world as something where we’re sitting now, then we just have the spectre of this moment in time. And the whole idea of time, I think, is not what we think of it. So if you consider the dawn of time from the Big Bang to now, to whatever is going to happen next – that whole process is apparently happening at the same time. But there is only a sole God, and I think process is God coming to know itself. That’s what they say anyway.
What’s the wisest thing you’ve heard?
As far as being on tour, one older musician once said: “Bring lots of socks”. And he was right.