Heathen Harvest: A tiny, yet increasingly prolific post-industrial scene is emerging in Israel, especially within the power electronics sphere. Instrumental to the emergence of this scene is the small but prominent label Topheth Prophet, founded by Uri Shaham. But despite its size, Topheth Prophet has survived, if not prospered and July marks Topheth Prophet's five year anniversary. For Uri, this represented the culmination of a long-time dream.
I have been a fan of experimental music ever since I was a teenager back in the 80's and I always wanted to do something for my scene. After I met with Vadim Gusis (Chaos as Shelter
) in 2002 I decided it was time for an Israeli label that will support Israeli artists trying to get local and international recognition and support the music fans who like this type of music but most of the time are not aware of the things done next door.
HH: This echoes sentiments felt by many in a world where Anglophone and European artists dominate, a world where even mediocre international artists gain more attention than the talented musician in the same town. His desire to promote Israeli artists is reflected in the roster, which is largely bereft of foreign artists. Indeed, it seems that Italian legend Maurizio Bianchi (albeit in a collaboration with prolific Israeli noise maestro Maor Appelbaum) is the sole foreign artist represented on his label. But Uri is quick to amend this perception.
is an American project from New York, Grundik (of Grundik & Slava
) also lived in New York for a few years and is now moving to London, and of course the Der Blutharsch
compilation we released for the Tel Aviv show that never happened...
HH: But Grundik did live in Israel for a while and the aforementioned compilation was supposed to be in conjunction with a show in Tel Aviv. Barzel is in America, but he is also Jewish and this fact alone arguably establishes a significant connection with Israel. This does not escape Uri.
Another reason why I chose to deal with Israeli music or music closely related to Israel is that it was a new theme in the industrial music world and it is a part of the labels identity.
HH: Indeed. Israel has several other labels releasing post-industrial music, and the largest is probably The Eastern Front which does have a few Israeli artists on its roster, but the majority of their releases are by non-Israeli artists. There are a few other labels, but they are smaller than either and none are as established as Topheth Prophet. In addition, at the time of formation "it was natural for me to focus on Israeli artists as a label's work is not limited to just releasing CDs but also arranging events, promoting the artists ,maintaining a link between the musicians and the fans and a lot more." However, Topheth Prophet does plan to have more international artists on their roster, in light of changing circumstances.
In 2002 the Israeli scene was almost unknown and it was very difficult for Israeli artists to release their music and get any sort of recognition. [Now] There are quite a few great labels in Israel (The Eastern Front is the best one of them but not the only one) that Israeli artists can work with and I feel that our artists and scene is more recognized in the world so Israeli artists can also release their stuff on international labels. I feel it is time for Topheth prophet to release also international artists. Topheth Prophet will release CDs by selected international artists that I am a fan of but will remain loyal to the original goals and ideas.
HH: But surely Topheth Prophet has achieved its goals? It sure seems like it to me, but Uri is ambivalent.
In a way I did. In other aspects I didn't. My original idea was to introduce the Israeli scene to the outside world and to support the scene by promoting events and releasing local artists. I think these two were achieved in many ways. However my personal vision of how Topheth Prophet should act and how experimental music should be produced and promoted have changed many times and are still changing. That is one of the things I love about running my own label. Each and every release expresses the things I feel at the time about these things. That is why I am not so concerned about financial success. I am concerned about doing the things in away I will be happy with without having to compromise and what makes me happy is something that can always change.
HH: Are their any releases that Topheth Prophet considers to be particularly important?
As expected Uri claims that “each and every release is important to me and stands for something that was important to me at the time.” He admits it is difficult to choose any as the most significant but nonetheless provides a tentative list of the most significant releases.
It is difficult to choose but if I have to, I would say that 'The Geometry of Soul
' as my favourite music-wise. I think it is one of the best noise albums I know. Grundik & Slava – ‘Frogs
’ would be my second choice. ‘Noise.Il
’ (an Israeli noise compilation) will always be special for me as I feel I am responsible in many ways for the phenomenon that is represented there.
HH: To commemorate their fifth anniversary a few events and releases are being planned.
Starting on June 23 we will arrange three special events in Tel Aviv with major artists like Ori Drumer (the forefather of industrial music in Israel and the leader of the legendary act Duralex Sedlex from the 80's), Grundik + Slava (their first show since 2004) and Ganzer
(a Russian noise project) and in the next few months will release no less than five new CDs:
HH: I for one will await all these releases excitedly –but with a slight bias towards Drone Lebanon. Finally, I ask where Uri where he sees Topheth Prophet five years from now.
- Kadaver - "This Time its Cancer”: Kadaver is a death ambient project from Tel Aviv who released numerous CD-Rs over the last years on seven Israeli and international labels. This CD was supposed to be released on Slaughter Productions but due to the sad death of Marco Corbelli, Kadaver had to look for a new label for his album and I offered him to release it.
- Drone Lebanon vs. Wertham - "Rome & Jerusalem": a split between two of the most interesting power electronics projects today, based around an old Jewish saying "Rome & Jerusalem cannot fall together and cannot stand together. Each one is fed by the destruction of the other"
- Seventeen Migs of Spring vs. Moljebka Pvlse - (TBA): again a split\collaboration between two fantastic drone projects.
- UR - Trieb: UR is an Italian group who sent me a demo. I was shocked by it. it was one of the best demos I ever received so I decided to release them as soon as possible
- Barzel - Born to Destroy Amalek: the long awaited second full length by Barzel is an amazing album. it will surprise many people. I am sure.”
I will be happy to afford (time wise and financially wise) doing more of the same and supporting the scene. continue releasing the things I love. I am asking nothing more. I am not looking for being a major label or to make a lot of money.
HH: Indeed. Long may Topheth Prophet prosper!