You wouldn’t think that klezmer and Rammstein would work together, but somehow it does with you guys. How do you account for that?
Amit Peled: Yeah, Even the name: Rammstein – Ramzeilech: it’s all there. I think that klezmer music is the roots of punk rock. The fast upbeats, the “Oi! Oi! Oi!” / “Oyoyoy!” It’s all there. Rammstein were also young curious musicians who self taought themselves and and cared for nothing but the music itself during their early years (before the fall of the Berling wall) in different bands such as “feeling B” and others. They simply wanted to make music. it’s the same for us, it’s more about making the music you want to hear. Although we do fantasize of doing a high production duet with Rammstein someday. Here’s another story for you – we’re good friends with Element of Crime’s Jakob Friedrichs, We met him during our first tour in Berlin, Jakob became our German brother. He gets us.
Tell me about the “Secret Handshake”. What was that all about?
We had a chance of playing with Langtunes (from Iran) a year before the tour, randomly as we tried to book a show in Nuremberg. We didn’t put too much thought into it. For us, it’s crazy enough to tour overseas. We deal with all the costs and headaches ourselves. So when we had a chance a year later to do another German tour, but having another band onboard would be great. Both bands wanted to go on the road. Since we can’t bring Langtunes to Tel Aviv or Ramzailech to Tehran, Germany was a perfect place to do that. We didn’t know what to expect but it was one of our best tours in Europe.
Whereabouts was that in Germany?
The first time was in Nuremburg, but we played all over Germany. It was my first time in places like Münster, Wiesbaden, Kunzelsau and others places we don’t get the opportunity to usually play at. So that was really fun. The tour was longer than usual for us. three weeks. And the Bataclan shootings happened only a few days before the of our tour started. I didn’t know if we going to do it or not. It’s surreal when a band like Eagles of Death Metal gets caught in the middle of this (being the avid Queens of the Stone Age fans we are), that’s just life being crazy. The tour itself was unforgettable. Being with the same band every day. Trying to play a little better every day. It’s a rare treat for most bands nowadays. So that was an unforgettable experience.
So how did it work out? Did you do a set and then they did a set?
Ramzailech usually meets on the road when we do shows, we’ll try to do run-shows in Israel a few days before we head out so we will be in shape and not like a fat athlete, we also do food, workout and metal warmups before our show starts but that’s too crazy to get into right now.
Langtunes had a their own share of concerns with travel German visas. So the first shows were really about getting everything working together. We (Ramzailech) have been playing more often and I think they saw it as a positive kick in the butt to get into gear. You could see that after a couple of shows they were getting better and better. It was so cool to witness. I would add and say that seeing people from a different part of the world which you usually don’t get a chance to talk to who love the same goofy TV shows and music, is truly inspiring.
What about the press response. So there was a lot of coverage in Germany.
The biggest response was in Germany of course. We had to explain that the interviews would have to be non political. Not that we are political but people would ask questions like “what’s the agenda with this tour? what’s the message behind it?” And we would say, “The tour the agenda! This is it right here!”. Musicians can meet up and bring two cultures to the table, and it will be fine. When you do that with enormous corporations or governments it gets messy. But here we are: two different bands from different parts of the world, who just wanted to sit together and make music. And for us having another band to do that with was so easy. It was really nice, man. We look back on that time – it’s been a bit more than a year now and it’s hilarious, all the fun we had.
And you played in Berlin as well.
Yes. We played Hanger 49 a really cool spot. Pasha, the guy who runs it, is a good friend. Also, we had two drivers, and two vans instead of a tour bus. it was awesome. It was like a little field trip every day. In Berlin we stayed at the same hostel room, eleven guys. it was a mishmash of languages from the band and crew, English, Hebrew, Farsi, Czech. That aspect was really cool.
Can you tell me how did the band got together?
We refer to Ramzailech as “the joke that’s gone too far”. Oddly enough, this is our high school band. Gal (vocal, clarinet) and myself, started playing together in high school where we studied music. There is no reason on earth for a band that plays hardcore in Yiddish to succeed. It’s the opposite of a business model. Yet, things kept rolling and we got bigger. We started at eighteen, just finishing high school, Then the service, then we went to music schools, then there’s life that we have to deal with as well. But throughout all these phases and limitations in life, we made it happen.
Gal came from a background that was more traditional and Jewish music. You can hear it in his playing. He brought the klezmer to the table. I grew up with German industrial metal, like Oompf! Ministry and NIN. We always looked at Rammstein as schlager music idols. it was mixing those two worlds: the heavy and the traditional together. It started back in high school, Gal and I would sit at the same table, we had a line that we drew halfway across the table, Gal’s side had all Jewish music kinda doodles over there – Hasids dancing – and I had quotes from Dillinger and Sepultura.
The sound of Ramzailech – what are you striving for?
Lately I’ve been thinking of us as the Jewish Mars Volta haha.
I think it’s about doing whatever you want to hear. The music we’ve made is so weird. Our first show was in a little Yiddish center in Tel Aviv, Audience age range was 65 and up, and it was a tiny room that smelled like formaldehyde. We just played for old ladies. That was our first show. And we would still do the stage dive and jump into the audience and play with people. Because klezmer is personal in that way. You get close and personal with people right in their faces. So the fact that the music has no title to it, no labels attached, you play who you are – and it’s a ten year quest now. So naturally, you grow and develop. We love our albums but we can’t listen to them anymore, after we’ve played that music for so long. We heard everything a hundred times more while mixing. So, we’re past that point now we want to make the next thing. taking those traditions we really dig and combine them with the modern music that we like now.
What’s the state of klezmer today? Where’s it headed?
I’m curious to know what you think.
I really like Amsterdam Klezmer Band. Where they mix it up with Balkan music.
We’re trying to make something happen with Amsterdam Klezmer Band. If you can throw in a word, tell them we say hi! We want to make that happen. We also met Mama’s Babaganoush and started fantasizing about playing in Okinawa together. We think big.
Where’s the hot spot where it’s really goin’ on?
Well there’s Israel. The scene here has a bit of everything: old school masters, like Giora Feidman and these guys. They’re still hanging around. And they’re doing their thing. At the same time in Israel you have all the hipsters, all the heavy music, all the jazz, and they’re all playing in their own scenes, and every once in a while something clicks together and something happens like Kruzenshtern and Parahod – a trio that plays clarinet, drums and bass guitar. it’s somewhere between Mr. Bungle and Klezmatics. I saw them live recently and it sounded like a doom metal band. They had their backs to the audience, dark doina like drones. Almost like a klezmer drone for minutes in full volume and then they would blast beat out of nowhere. Grindcore vibes, that’s so cool that they’re not playing the same old stuff.
And then you have Germany. I think there is a scene in Berlin that is really happening. And then you have New York. There is also a Jewish scene there. So maybe it’s your calling, to make a documentary or something.
I’m looking into the scene in Berlin. There’s some great stuff here.
Are you in Berlin?
I am in Berlin…But when you think of Israel it seems that is where the fresh Oriental vibe is.
Definitely. When I grew up, my grandparents and my mother, they would all listen to Oriental and Arab music. There would be Umm Kulthum, Farid El Atrash, and Abdel Wahab. And as a kid I hated it because it was recorded from an AM radio and dirty cassettes, and I couldn’t stand it. And now it’s an inseparable part of my playing. it’s in my DNA. And oddly enough, you don’t feel it in Israel, but when you go abroad, people would say “Oh, you can play Arab shit? Oh, you can play Jewish shit?” You know, it’s an added flavor. That exists in our music as well. The first song on out new abum, “Tsuzamen” is “Ribono shel Olam”, which has that plastic Oriental pop sound. Once you study the theory behind it, Klezmer and Arab music have a lot in common..
Is there kind of a renaissance going on with regards to this Oriental Mizrahi music in Israel?
Oriental? Yeah, totally. that’s a good thing. Two generations ago our grandparents’ generation came to Israel and tried to become to the the new pioneers. They wanted be part of that new ideal. A lot of tradition was overlooked when people trying to build this country from scratch. People would speak hebrew but wouldn’t speak Yiddish anymore. Now, here we are, two generations later and there is a renaissance of that tradition. All of a sudden it’s hip to do that and sing in Yiddish. How cool is that?
I really like Boom Pam.
Yeah, Boom Pam are great. They are more in the hipster scene. They’re not trying to do Modern Oriental pop, They are showing tribute to the old-school sounds of their favorite artists and the sound aesthetic of that era, not a watered down version of it.They go back to those roots. I think Boom Pam is a big part of that new stream of music happening in Israel now.
It’s in clubs. mostly hip clubs. Israel is small place so there are only so many people you can play to. So these talented musicians are here, but the audience is limited in numbers. Balkan Beat Box can still sell out big shows, Boom Pam can do it sometimes too. But for the newer acts coming up, playing abroad is sometime the only option to maintain their band and stay busy.
The connection between klezmer and punk.
I would listen to Nazum. Their albums are less than thirty minutes long, filled with angry one minute songs. We loved that stuff back in our high school days. It would remind me of fast klezmer songs, it’s very similar. And I think that back in the day, being a legit klezmer musician: a traveling nomad musician, is like a modern version of a punk band. You’re always on the road, broke. There’s a rough side to it. That’s what being a traveling musician was like.
Gal and I played in a Dixieland band in high school. I played the banjo! it was part of the high school curriculum. Those original Dixie bands would play at funerals and weddings and everything in between. That’s also similar to traditional klezmer bands that would do the same thing, playing everywhere, any place could be a stage. There is always the common cultural function. People wanted music to celebrate the high and low points in life. That’s exactly what we try to do.
Do you play weddings?
Yes, weddings and funerals too.
What’s in store for Ramzailech?
Our albums are out online, you can check us at Ramzailech.com
Our new video Lord is out, so check that out too. We also made a cover for a Queens Of The Stone Age song so keep your ears and eyes peeled for that one!