When people think of Israel they don’t think of psychedelic trance, but DJ duo, Infected Mushroom is changing all that, winning top ratings on DJ lists, and selling albums worldwide.
Mention the name Infected Mushroom to a patron of dance clubs featuring trance and electronic music, and you’ll get an enthusiastic nod and grin. That’s because the fabled Israeli duo of Erez Eisen (IZen) and Amit Duvedevani (Duvdev) who formed Infected Mushroom more than a decade ago, are among the most celebrated practitioners in the world of psychedelic trance music, better known by its nickname psytrance.
In fact, the two Israelis are credited with helping to invent the musical genre – characterized by hypnotic arrangements of synthetic rhythms and complex layered melodies created by high tempo riffs. IZen and Duvdev were among the countless Israelis who, upon completion of their military service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), journeyed to the Goa region of India in the 1980s and ‘90s where ‘Goa trance’ had taken hold.
The young Israelis returned to Israel, combined what they heard in Goa with some homegrown ingenuity and began holding their own trance parties at locations like Ashkelon’s Nitzanim beach. Their experimentations evolved into a thriving club scene that eventually included such fledgling Israeli artists as Astral Projection, Intense Sanity, IMIX, Elec3, Alchemix, and… Infected Mushroom.
“When I grew up, I was a metal head, I was really into Metallica, Guns & Roses, even though I was a keyboard player,” Duvdev tells ISRAEL21c from his Los Angeles home a few days before a full band ensemble of Infected Mushroom is due to fly to Israel to perform at a Hanukkah trance extravaganza in Jerusalem.
Duvdev joined his first band in high school, playing keyboards and writing for the Haifa punk group Enzyme. “But when I went to my first trance party in 1991, [a week before his mobilization date for the IDF] I was just amazed at the high level of energy. It really changed my life,” continues the 35-year-old native of Kiryat Yam, near Haifa.
Hooked on Goa trance
After spending a year in Goa after the army, Duvdev was hooked on trance and in 1998 he began performing and recording with Eisen as Shidapu & Duvdev. Within a short time, they had formed Infected Mushroom and started working on their first album. Over the course of seven albums and countless DJ-headlining shows, they’ve established themselves as one of the world’s top electronic music acts.
Infected Mushroom has twice been ranked among the world’s 10 best DJs by the bible of the scene, the UK’s DJ magazine. But Duvdev says that he and Eisen have grown far beyond the scope of DJs, with their live shows now featuring a full-fledged rock lineup and incorporating some of the early heavy metal-tinged styles he grew up with.
“It was a great honor to be on DJ magazine’s list. It’s funny, because I’m sort of torn between the two worlds of DJs and the band. I like the DJ world, I was fed up with it a few years ago, but this year I’ve come back to it,” he confides, adding that he’s motivated by the challenge of combining all the different types of music he’s been exposed to.
The duo’s most recent album, this year’s Legend of the Black Shawarma, is their most accessible to non-trance ears, and features guest appearances by rockers Perry Farrell, founder of iconic band Jane’s Addiction, and Korn’s lead singer Jonathan Davis.
“Legend of the Black Shawarma was almost three years in the making and it encompasses rock, trance, breaks, psychedelic and many more styles,” Duvedevani told DJ magazine, adding that famed DJ Paul Oakenfold played an integral role in synthesizing the band’s trance and rock sides.
“Paul’s known as a House DJ, so we weren’t sure how he’d feel about our heaviest material,” Duvdev reveals, “but he loved it. He really brought a lot of great energy and advice to the table.”
Living in LA but “still 100 percent Israeli”
However successful their records, its Infected Mushroom’s live performances – 120 per year on average – that have cemented their reputation. Among the high profile shows they’ve recently performed are the Ultra Fest in Miami, the Virgin Festival in Baltimore, Mexico’s OMIX, California’s Coachella, Brazil’s Ipanema Beach and Melbourne’s Metro Club.
Despite having relocated to Los Angeles five years ago, Duvdev says that he and Eisen are still 100 percent Israeli and feel like they’re presenting to the world a side of Israel that’s been overlooked.
“We’re definitely diplomats for Israel. Most of our audience isn’t Israeli, and we support Israel whenever we can. We’re not political and don’t get into that part of it, but we never hide the fact we’re Israeli,” he asserts.
Ironically, Duvdev has found the lifestyle change from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles to be relaxing for him: “It might be funny to say but LA is a very chill place for me compared to Tel Aviv. I have a nice, quiet life with my family, and it’s a good hub for what we do, since we’re flying so much.
“I miss many things about Israel, the great food, and just being Israeli, because that’s what I am. I’m able to come four or five times a year, even if we’re not performing. My goal is to become so successful that I can move back to Israel on my own terms.”
As evidenced by the accolades being awarded to Infected Mushroom around the world, that day appears to be coming closer all the time.