Amir Paiss is an international musician who has chosen to live in the Byron Shire. After years on the road in bands and ensembles, Amir has recorded his first solo album, Zeh, which he launches at the Byron Theatre at the Community Centre on Thursday.
How did you find music, or what was it that put you on your path? Ever since I remember myself, music has been an essential and integral part of my life, always a source of inspiration and consolation. I like to see it as if music found me and I am the one being played by it. A call that I have to follow.
I have a vivid memory as a five-year-old listening to a song that said: ‘you and I can change the world’, and it resonated so deeply in me without my understanding it intellectually.
I first performed as a six-year-old, and started to write poetry when I was nine. When I first grabbed a guitar at 14 I started composing my own songs.
My teenage years were spent in the Tel Aviv singing group, with whom I had hundreds of shows and I served three years in the Israeli army as a singer-performer.
By that time it was clear to me that I didn’t want to be a ‘musical puppet’, and I decided that I would stay away from the stage until I have something authentic to share. I lived my twenties on the road, travelling the world, studying the connection between music and natural healing in different traditions. I played with the people I met, and after my 30th birthday cofounded Sheva with a close group of friends, fellow travellers on a similar path.
With Sheva we toured Israel, Europe, the USA and Australia. That’s how I came here with my family. In Byron I found a new kind of space that allowed me to explore other musical territories, with local talents as well as with international ones.
I cofounded here two ensembles – Nomadic Voices with my longtime musical brother Avishai Barnatan from Sheva, including Laura Targett, Shai Shriki and Yoav Mashiach and Ali Baba with Avishai, Laura, Si Mullumby, Matt Goodwin and Si Durrington.
I produced and coproduced here four albums, and after nine albums with different ensembles this recent release, Zeh (‘This’) is my first solo debut. In a way it feels like it is just the beginning.
What is it like walking out of an ensemble and into your very own solo recording? Coming into solo recording was a beginning of a new phase, like an initiation, a rite of passage, a ripening, still very supported by the people I live and work with, yet independent in a new way. There is a sense of freedom to share aspects of myself that were always there in all the ensembles I worked with but in a different dosage. Now stepping out there, sharing myself in this way, feels like an adventure that I am very grateful for.
Who are the people you collaborated with? My partner in the production, and arranger of the whole album, is Amirel Lachish of Left Bank Records. A man of great integrity and musical genius, he devotedly supported my vision from the first day I came to his studio. Our communication and mutual openness enriched the album, and we had an incredibly inspiring time together.
Amirel brought to the project his Japanese jazz trio – The Akimitsu Iwase trio – Amirel on double bass, Motohiru Shioiri on drums and Akimitsu Iwase on piano. Over five long days we recorded the whole album at Amirel’s studio. I translated the Hebrew lyrics to English, and Amirel and Yuko his wife would translate it to Japanese before each recording.
Jai Uttal, the world-music pioneer and a dear friend, recorded his guitar on few of the tracks when he came to visit, as did Ravi Freeman. Avishai Barnatan, my Sheva brother, played his wind instruments, local talents Cye Wood and Laura Targett added their magical strings, Rachel Mayo played the cello, Jaime Pattugalan grooved with his percussions, Rob Neil with his Celtic harp, Yoav Mashiach played Dumbek, Andrew Cox added vocals and from Israel Ilan Pustopetski played synth and Sheerom played accordion.
Then while touring in NY, I recorded Gilad Dobrecky with his percussion. Michael Bates was always ready to help us with technicalities and the finale was when Assaf Ayalon, an awarded producer, guitarist and dear friend, came from Tel Aviv to Mullumbimby for one month to add his special touch. The album was then mixed in Israel by Simon Winestok and mastered here by Michael Worthington. A really global production.
What should we expect for your launch? A live version of the album. I feel so fortunate to have a fantastic ensemble with me. Amirel Lachish on double bass, Steve Russell on piano, Alan Park on keys, Oles Krolikowski on guitars and Jaime Pattugalan on drums.
Special guests will be Avishai Barnatan on wind instruments, Laura Targett on violin and Shai Shriki on oud. I prepared English translations for the original Hebrew poetry to make sure everyone is included. I will also share some songs from my next English poetry project, and will open the evening with a sacred Hebrew chant. My intention is to share an inspiring evening of spirit and music, celebrating the birth of Zeh, and our connectedness.
Don’t miss this very special show Byron Theatre at the Community Centre on Friday.