Yoram Markreich (musician, lyricist and author) in an interview with Gil Dekel.


Gil Dekel: They say that there were so many wild stories around the expressionist painter Kirchner (born 1880) that it is hard to know what is true and what is fiction… How much of what was written about you and your band is true? [1]

Yoram Markreich: About half of what is written about us is false… I must say that at the start of our career we were perpetuating the myths ourselves… We would spread misinformation, and tell stories about the band in the media that were definitely not true. You see, it was much simpler talking about these myths than actually living through those experiences… [2]

Is it possible for a rock band to succeed without all the media fuss, and on the merit of the music alone? [3]

It might be possible, but I assume that most of the bands did not succeed because of the quality of their music but because of their public image and stories circulating about the band members. [4]

Killer HaLohetet, 1981

Figure 1: Killer HaLohetet, 1981 (Yoram Markreich, 2nd left).

Killer HaLohetet, 2009

Figure 2: Killer HaLohetet, 2009 (Yoram Markreich, centre).

You are a musician and also a writer. Do you see a connection between composing music and writing a book? [7]

I believe that a creative person can engage in more than one form of art. In my case, the similarity between those two art forms is this: when I start to compose, and when I start to write a book – in both cases I have no idea how it will develop and where it will end… [8]

So, once your music is developed and the recordings over, do you ever look back wondering about where you started and where the song ended up? [9]

Well, in the process of composing music there is another stage, which is the arrangement of the music. It is done by a professional arranger who develops the tunes I composed and takes them one big step forward. [10]

Once this stage is completed and the song is composed, arranged and recorded, I do tend to wonder and be delighted with the final result. A tune that was playing in my head, is now completed and recorded. This is delightful. [11]

I do not play well, so I usually hum my ideas to be played on instruments by musicians who help me. I also hum the guitar solo. The arranger and the players listen, and then they improve on it, contributing from their own talents. [12]

And before the final arrangement and the recording are completed… what inspires you to compose – to come up with the melodies and lyrics? [13]

I always start with the writing of the music. I play around on my guitar, letting my fingers lead the way, playing on different chords. And when I establish a logical structure to my strumming that sounds right to me, I then put words in. [14]

At the beginning I just hum words, gibberish really, with a few words in Hebrew and in English. Usually it is in rhymes, and at that stage it really does not matter if there is logic to the words or not. [15]

Once I have a ‘vocal melody’ that sits nicely with the musical melody, I then look for the words that have a meaning, logical rhymes, and slowly the idea of what the song is really about starts to take shape. It is often that the initial words that came to my mind, the gibberish, set the direction I take in finding the final words. [16]

The words in Hebrew always come after the English words, or after the English with the gibberish put together. While composing a tune happens in a moment of inspiration and can be very quick, the writing of the lyrics can takes days, weeks, sometimes months, until I’m happy with the concept and the words. Sometimes I get used to the initial words that came up and I find it hard to replace them. In such cases, I just leave those words as they are, and convince myself that they must have some meanings… And if I can’t find that – then the listeners will… Sometimes, after time, I do find meanings or messages in those words and sentences that seemed complete nonsense to begin with. [17]

You say that composing ‘happens in a moment of inspiration’. Does music just ‘fall’ upon you? [18]

It is a moment of inspiration; a kind of sudden light over which I have no control. I could play around on my guitar for hours and nothing comes of it, or I can just pick it up and with no preparation a tune is immediately born. This is not something I can plan. It is not even that I have a tune playing in my head and that I am looking for the right chords. When it comes, it just comes… [19]

In any case, I feel that I do create the right conditions for the music to come – I hold a guitar in my hand, I stop any distractions, and then I just play and play hoping for the inspiration from the muse to fall upon me. [20]

You know, when I hear music I have composed or stories I have written, I sometimes find it hard to believe that it was me who gave birth to them. They seem too ‘complete’… Sometimes it sounds so right that I start to worry that I might have ‘stolen’ the tune unconsciously from some other song I have probably heard. The tune ‘sits’ so well with me that I feel I did not create it… [21]

So, would you say that melodies come through the ‘head’ or perhaps through the ‘heart’, or maybe both? [22]

Not through the head and not through the heart. It is a moment of pure magic. A spark that explodes. [23]

And in that moment, what happens to you then? [24]

A sense of satisfaction, a feeling of happiness. I am relieved. Suddenly I feel and know that ‘this is it!’ [25]

Why do you compose? [26]

It’s a form of release, of expression and an outlet for my thoughts. [27]

Many artists talk about creativity as a way of expressing themselves, and this raises a question: why express yourself through art? I mean, getting up in the morning and deciding what to wear for the day is also a form of expression. Meeting people, talking to people, all the daily activities… why do you feel the need for another venue of expression? [28]

Because when I create something, I create it from nothing, and give it to the world. This is a creation. It is something that did not exist before. This does not contradict wearing something unusual, which, by the way, I did a lot during my punk-rock years, but creating something from nothing is much stronger. It is sublime. [29]

After so many years as a composer, journalist, radio reporter, writer, and doing PR, can I ask you: what is really important in the artistic creation? [30]

There is a great deal of satisfaction when an artistic creation is born and the artist is happy with it. I can now look back on all those years of composing music, writing comics, satirical pieces and stories – and I experience a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction. I cannot deny that today, at my advanced age of 50, I can find something additional in this artistic creation – I feel that I am leaving something behind me to the world, and especially to my friends, relatives and family members. Something for them to have after I will have passed on to the next world. [31]

So, what is the most important thing in life? [32]

Music is. At 21 I first went into a professional recording studio (Triton Studios in Israel) and I was elated. I felt divine, and I knew that I had found the place where I want to spend the rest of my life – I wanted to make music. But of course, due to financial considerations it did not happen, and later on in my life I had other personal reasons (divorce, and raising my daughters by myself) which made it hard for me to work in music full-time. I had to leave the music industry when I was 33 until I turned 49 – a full 16 years! When I returned to the recording studio recently it was, again, love at first sight! I have found myself investing a lot of time in it, again… but at my age I am more aware of time being fleeting. [33]

Audio clip 1: ‘Emtza Halayla’ (‘Mid Night’) by Killer HaLohetet, 2009.

Your music has set milestones in the development of the Israeli rock scene, and has influenced many successful contemporary musicians. How do you see the evolution of the music scene in Israel? [35]

When I started in the 1970s, the music scene in Israel was at least a generation behind Britain and the USA. I was not drawn to our local music, because I just did not like the style those days. From a very young age I would listen to foreign radio stations on my little transistor radio: the BBC World Service and the British Army Radio Station from Cyprus, BFBS Cyprus. [36]

During 1985 – 1990 I spent five years in London. I created music in London, and felt myself much in tune with what was happening there. I was far from what was happening in Israel… I remember one day around 1985, I was listening to a British radio show that brought the best rock groups from around the world. They chose Shalom Hanoch to represent Israel. Shalom had just put out a very successful album in Israel. The ‘rock experts’ on the radio kind of made fun of the Israeli songs, and I had to agree with them. It sounded bad compared with the British and American rock. [37]

Toward the end of the 1970s and at the beginning of the 1980s, when I was active in music, it was very difficult for me to find musicians I liked to work with. They did not know or understand the music I loved and the style I was looking for. When I chose musicians for my band, I had to lend them my records and introduce them to the bands I loved… Those bands were almost unknown in Israel. It was very frustrating time. But, in the 1990s the Israeli rock scene did make a progress. Suddenly there were young and hip rock groups coming up, and you could hear Israeli songs sounding as good as Nirvana and The Pixies. For me, this was a celebration… Finally, there were musicians in Israel that knew the American and British music that I liked, and so finally I had a common language with these musicians. [38]

So, a step forward happened in the 1990s thanks to the exposure of television, and MTV in particular. Israel was exposed and then connected, in real time, to what was happening outside. Another step forward happened in the last 10 years or so thanks to the Internet. Today it does not matter if one lives and works in Israel, which is in the Middle East, and someone else lives in a small village in Northern England. They both have the same options and technology to grow and develop, the same influences, and thanks to the Internet – if used right – they both have the same opportunities. [39]

Where does music ‘coming’ from? Is it from culture, or the instruments? Is there a ‘purpose’ to music? [40]

I think that music itself comes from an inner source, an inner rhythm. But, maybe this is only my own interpretation since I am a musician, and perhaps other people experience it differently. [41]

I always put on a CD when I at work. It helps me think, and it also creates a kind of a screen between me and the outside, blocking disturbances and noises… I actually do not ‘listen’ to songs, but just hear them at the background. I can play the same CD by the Remonds, for example, over and over again, and I do not need to change it, because the rhythm and atmosphere that comes from the music is most important. [42]

However, to write in a specific genre and compose a specific type of music I do need to listen to specific types of music. If I am to write a novel under the influence of a Metal band, the novel will come out differently than if written under listening to T-Rex. The music that I create is influenced by the mood I am at. I assume that when I am in good mood that I will produce happy song and joyful music, and vise-versa. I remember once, at age 19, I returned home for a weekend from the Service, and on my way I saw a notice board with the name of one of my best friend. The note was announcing that he was killed a day earlier in duty. He was my age. I was in shock. So I made it home, picked up a guitar, and composed this sad gloomy song. [43]

I do not know if music has a ‘purpose’ in our life, but I am sure that it makes our lives better. Music makes life pleasant. I would not want to live without music… [44]

13 November 2009.

Text © Yoram Markreich and Gil Dekel. Music © Yoram Markreich. Images © the respective photographers. Interview held via email correspondence, February – September 2009. Yoram is based in Haifa, Israel. Gil is based in Southampton, UK.ראיון עם יורם מארקרייך.