BLiSS is the live solo project of Israeli producer, Yonatan Marcow. His signature sound & uncompromising production levels have led him to the top of his genre, becoming one of the top influences in the scene. Now incorporating live guitar during his sets, BLiSS is largely considered one of the hottest acts in the global electronic music scene. We had a chat with BLiSS ahead of his performance at PsynOpticz – MAGIC of Jungala next month in Cape Town.
Psymedia : Hello Yonatan! How has 2016 been for you, so far? Any standout moments?
BLiSS : This year has been a great year so far, with many moments to remember. One in particular, was the event in Curitiba (Brazil), the day they had the Olympics closing ceremony. I closed my set with their national anthem on guitar (while wearing their national football team t-shirt) and the response was overwhelming. A few days later, I played in Buenos Aires and felt I must do it again, this time with the Argentinian anthem. They all started singing along to the melody (the crowd is crazy for this – singing many melodies during the set). All of this was great, but it doesn’t compare to my son’s birth earlier this year. That was definitely the biggest moment of my life.
Psymedia : Lately you’ve taken your live sets to a new level. Can you tell me about incorporating guitar & how your live setup has progressed through the years?
BLiSS : The guitar was my first love, so incorporating it in my music and performance came naturally to me. The first time with the electric guitar alongside Roy (Painkiller) with our A-Team project. It’s much easier to do this when you have one more person on the knobs, controlling the mix and levels, but we never incorporated it too much.
In 2013, I was looking into getting a midi guitar for my solo gigs, but the pro ones I saw Rob Swire using (from the band Pendulum) were $3000 & more. I came across YouRockGuitar, which is kind of a ‘Guitar Hero’ for advanced users, with midi capabilities with a smaller price tag of $300. I emailed the company and said I’m interested in one. They were so kind to reply to me that they wanted to work together and sent me one to check out. Since then, they have given me their endorsement and helped with newer models and technical support. I love them and their products.
It took many gigs and practice to be comfortable with it like I am now. It has a different feeling than a normal electric guitar, but it has many benefits as a performer tool in electronic music.
At the moment, my main instrument for live shows is the midi guitar plugged into virtual synths inside the Ableton Live software with a small wireless midi controller to modify them.
Sometimes (for special events) I bring the electric guitar as well. One of my dreams is to have 5 guitars with me at shows (with a tech guy running around me, of course). As for the mixing (let’s not forget what we are here for!), in past it was done on Ableton, then I switched to Traktor and now I use Pioneer USB decks and the computer only serves for the instruments.
Psymedia : Any other gear that you’ve been playing with? Anything that’s worked its way into your sets after experimentation?
BLiSS : As I mentioned before, to extend my modification capabilities, I use a few extra midi controllers, such as the ‘Wing’ by Livid, which is a wireless one you can attach to any guitar and control stuff on your computer. For me, as a performer, it’s a great tool.
Psymedia : What is your process for writing riffs?
BLiSS : Normally it’s just jamming around in the studio or sometimes recording ideas into the phone with my voice and later translating them into actual tracks.
Psymedia : Now, naturally, as you’ve become a bigger name, your touring schedule has increased. How many shows do you play a year? Can it be quite tiring catching planes often? What’s the best and worst thing about touring?
BLiSS : Every once in a while, I stop and appreciate the place I am in. I feel lucky and blessed to be touring, seeing the world from my perspective. Sure, it can be tiring at times. However, the biggest sacrifices this lifestyle has is mainly family and friends. The best way to survive more than 120 gigs a year is to keep your body working with some exercise and good nutrition. Or just do cocaine and replace your blood once a year. I feel like the first option works better.
Psymedia : In a previous interview you mentioned you don’t listen to much psytrance at home. Has that changed?
BLiSS : I absorb psytrance all the time with my work online and events. I can enjoy a good mix while I am having a long night drive, but when I am home with my family I usually listen to any kind of music but trance.
One of my biggest inspirations is the band Muse. I am absolutely in love with them, like a 12-year-old girl, since their Origins of Symmetry album in 2001. They are true masters in the studio and so tight live. I don’t know a better live band than Muse.
Psymedia : Have you considered implementing a full band and/or branching out into other genres?
BLiSS : I am sure I will be there one day [regarding the full band]. About the branching out part, we will have to live and see what life brings!
Psymedia : Have you thought about a new full-length album? Are full lengths still an appropriate format to release psytrance music [as opposed to EPs]?
BLiSS : I am thinking about an album all the time. I don’t think the concept is irrelevant, but it did change. Nowadays, it’s more of a business card showcasing your work, not as a random collection of tracks, but as a big picture that the musician wants to sculpture. A good example is the latest album by LOUD – I love what they do. Releasing EPs does serve well as a promo tool and getting your music heard, but it’s not really a must. There are so many ways to get your music out there today.
Psymedia : Speaking of collaborations, you’ve released as A-Team [alongside Painkiller] and with Azax in an Azax vs Bliss series. Are there any plans to revisit those projects?
BLiSS : I’ve been really busy focusing on my own music. However, those projects are with very good friends of mine. They don’t need revisiting, just a little bit of time.
Psymedia : You’re no stranger to SA. Do you have any particular memories of South Africa that stand out for you? Why are you excited to be back for PsynOpticz’ party, MAGIC?
BLiSS : I was in the Kruger National Park in 1987 with my parents and a huge elephant was chasing us (we have it all on tape). I have been to South Africa several times since then. I have heard good things about PsynOpticz parties and the crowd. My last event in South Africa was pretty mainstream and I am happy to be back to a wild one with a true psychedelic vibe.
Psymedua : Thanks for the interview, see you at PsynOpticz – MAGIC of Jungala! Anything to add before we finish off?
BLiSS : Let’s fly the freak flag!