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Interviews   

Blackfield: Aviv Geffen in the spotlight


What with Steven Wilson being a jack-of-all-trades in perpetual motion, fluttering from one project to the other, Blackfield has become a complex entity. Although Aviv Geffen, the actual man behind the band, takes care of composing the albums, it was Steven Wilson’s fame that put the first two records, Blackfield and Blackfield II, in the spotlight. But as Aviv Geffen himself tells us in the following interview, Blackfield’s fans know who he is now. What could be wrongly seen as Wilson’s umpteenth personal project began to be considered as something more with Welcome To My DNA.

Aviv Geffen will tell you all that himself. He also talks about the involvement of Brett Anderson and Vincent Cavanagh on the new record, and about his vision of pop music – a genre that would put the wrong sort of tag on his music, when his main goal is simply to deliver good songs.

« For the first two records, I had the feeling I was hiding behind Steven [Wilson]. »

Radio Metal: The first two records were called Blackfield and Blackfield II. The third was a concept album called Welcome To My DNA. This new record is called Blackfield IV: what does it represent?

Aviv Geffen: For the first two records, I had the feeling I was hiding behind Steven [Wilson, guitar player and leader of Porcupine Tree]. Welcome To My DNA was a sort of turning point because the fans were getting to know me. I am the one who writes all the songs in Blackfield. So now, as the fans know me, we have put another number after the band’s name. It’s better, you know, especially after so many years of touring.

On the album’s cover, there is a satellite dish. Is it a metaphor of you trying to connect with the world?

No, it represents all the answers we try to get from above. We try to find our gods, our love, but the fact is that we are all alone. All this album, and even the most artistic songs on it, expresses this point of view. There is only chaos, totally chaos.

Steven Wilson is less present on this album than on the previous ones, even if he’s still concerned about the band’s career and sound. Since he’s got so many projects, do you think he’ll be able to contribute all Blackfield’s future records?

Yes, of course. The only thing about the new record was that Steven was working on his solo album, The Raven That Used To Sing (And Other Stories). So we had a talk to see if we’d wait until he’d finished touring or if I’d start right away. You know, on Blackfield IV, he sings, he plays guitar, and he also mixed it. We are going to tour in Europe and in the USA in February.

Brett Anderson and Vincent Cavanagh sing on the new album. It seems that Vincent Cavanaugh’s choice looks like an obvious choice, considering the music he plays and his friendship with Steven. What can you tell us about it?

Anathema opened for Blackfield in the USA two years ago, so I had the chance to meet and know him, like his brother Danny. He’s a great person and a big fan of the band. He asked me to tell him when Blackfield would make another record, which I did. I asked him to sing “X-Ray”. He came to London and did a great job.

And what about Brett Anderson? How did you get in touch with him?

I was one of the biggest fans of his band, Suede. I travelled around the world to see his band play live. One day, I had the guts to tell him “Look Brett, I have a band called Blackfield, which is composed of Steven Wilson and me and we’re doing pretty fine. We have a great fan base, so would you please listen to one of our demos, because I think you could sing it quite well. » I waited a week and he said that the song, “Firefly”, was great and that he would do it. For me, it was a great moment, because it was like having this royal band, Suede, stamped on Blackfield’s passport!

« When you listen to all Blackfield albums, including the new one, my biggest influence was Serge Gainsbourg. His orchestra arrangements are just genius, really genius. »

In Blackfield, your main influences are pop artists. The word pop is generally used by fans of specific or underground styles like jazz or metal in a negative way. What would be your answer to those who critic music that is more accessible, in a way?

Firstly, I find songs like “Pills” or “X-Ray” pretty dark. I’m not a fan of cataloguing music in genres. Blackfield is about Steven’s guitars, the orchestration, and the piano with my songs. I don’t know, the music may be symphonic pop at some points on the record. I’m not only into progressive metal: I’m beyond that. I’m like Steven who loves groups like Abba or The Carpenters: we want to be a band that writes good songs, like Pink Floyd, Genesis or King Crimson. We are not only a prog band. It’s all about songs.

Is pop music less profound than the other music styles?

No, I don’t think so. I love bands like The Bee Gees or A-Ha. People tend to say “Pop is not music” but of course it is, and it’s great. Some artists that play a kind of pop music are geniuses, some of them are amongst the biggest influences for me and Steven. I think you should only consider weither it’s a good song or a bad song or an ok song. And we feel like we have to give great songs, one by one, to our fans.

What do you think of today’s pop music compared to the one of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s?

I guess my roots go back to the 80’s with Eurotrash. And this goes pretty well with Blackfield with all the guitars, the live orchestra. I think what really works with Blackfield, is that it’s really melodic, the voice is mellow but also a bit bitter. I’m a big fan of the 80’s.

You declared that Thom Yorke, from Radiohead, is today the biggest musical genius still in activity. Have you heard his last project, Atoms For Peace?

Yes, but I must say that I prefer his earliest works, such as The Eraser. I’m not a big fan of Amok at the moment. To me it’s too much, too dubstep. It feels like it’s trying to be cool. Like Trent Reznor who started as an angry boy and now he’s trying to imitate his early years. I’m not a big fan of those things.

« I think it’s time for Blackfield to go bigger. »

You have a very special relationship with France and with French artists. I know that Raphaël is a great fan of yours and that you enjoy Daft Punk or Léo Ferré. Which French bands did you listen to recently?

I think that Daft Punk and Justice are amazing. When you listen to all Blackfield albums, including the new one, my biggest influence was Serge Gainsbourg. His orchestra arrangements are just genius, really genius. I took one Léo Ferré’s song, “Avec Le Temps” and translated it into Hebrew. It became a big hit in Israel and now, all the young generation in my country knows who Léo Ferré is.

Do you have any plans for a next solo album?

Currently, no. I’m only focused on Blackfield, I think we [have the potential to] get bigger. We have to put our attention on it, at least on touring, to promote the album like I’m doing now, have a single go on the radio… I think it’s time for Blackfield to go bigger. And Steven and I are going to play in Europe and in the USA in February, with a full band. Of course, we’ll play in Paris!

You said two years ago that you would like to do something with Dream Theater’s keyboardist, Jordan Rudess. Since, did you get in touch with him?

Yes, I went at his place, in New Jersey. Maybe we’ll do some acoustic shows together, because we’re friends. And he’s really a genius, a great pianist.

What’s you opinion about the situation in Egypt?

I think it’s dangerous, because if the army takes control of the country, the whole region will become more unstable. It’s risky and dodgy, so I’m really scared, to be honest. When the army takes control, it’s very dangerous. And the region is already fairly unstable and now with what’s happening in Egypt it’s even worse.

Interview conducted by phone on July, 4th 2013 by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription: Jean Martinez – Traduction(s) Net.
Introduction : Alastor.

Blackfield official website: www.blackfieldmusic.com

Album Blackfield IV, out since August, 26th 2013 via Kscope.



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