Names: Omri Shmulewitz, Sasha Lee and Faani answering on behalf of 15 band current members.
Current release: Carpet Album on Kryptox
Recommendations: The work of Don Cherry, as depicted in the great 1979 documentary on Swedish Television "It Is Not My Music” / The Color of Pomegranates by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov.
If you enjoyed this interview with some members of , and want to find out about live shows and buy music, visit their website www.enhancement.center
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Spiritczualic is composed of quite a few musicians with various backgrounds and influences. Over 60 artists have collaborated in our traveling “Enhancement Center'' since its genesis on Christmas Day 2017. Some of us indeed met there and have been collaborating ever since. Others we met moments before a concert – but they’ve since become dearest friends. We definitely have a shared passion for spiritual jazz, fourth-world, cosmic, improvisational and experimental electronica. Most of us have had all sorts of collaborative and production experiences. Since there are many people here with different answers to these questions, we will also individually answer some of them.
Omri Shmulewitz: I was raised in a type of household where playing Chopin and Bach was strongly encouraged as part of our upbringing. My mother, aunt and uncle all played classical piano rather well. So I started to study at the age of 6 and even won a prize in Washington state for a short composition I wrote around the age of 10 (dedicated for my newborn sister, the title was Für Adee). Growing up, we always had classical or vintage vocal stuff playing (like Sasha Argov and Yoni Rechter) and I still sing oldies in harmony with my three younger sisters. I got positively deprogrammed via trance raves and later even wackier dance-floors, and even thought for a while that I’d never play piano again because Keith Jarrett is too damn good. But from the beginning, I was lucky to receive the message that music is home.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
If we can achieve moments of blissfully synchronous “instant-composing”, it's due to all of these distinct learning processes that everyone is bringing to the table. We always say that we are “outernational”, since we do have people with all sorts of cultural heritage - spanning from Denmark to Iran and Japan. Something really fresh has to happen when you’ve spontaneously gathered a spectral-jam comprised of an Andalusian instrumentalist, a noise-box builder, a jazz pianist, a punk guitarist, a synth-solo freak, an A/V sound artist, a sound-healing percussionist and so forth. So we have fused because we seem to be receiving the same “spiritczualic” trance-jazz newsletter. Rather than emulating, since nothing is scripted, we are definitely hoping to resonate with the spirits of the elders - like Miles, Steve, Don and Terry.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Maybe it’s better to describe a sense of unity, as in this truly trippy place where sound helps you realise you are actually seamlessly blending into one another. When losing the identity with questions such as "What am I playing?”, and “Do they like it?”, and really focusing on the music that is being created almost subconsciously by everyone at the same time, you get some kind of unified phenomenon. So that maybe, you’ll hear only these telepathic whispers echoing between the players, telling you “Love it!” and “That’s the note, now let’s go here”. This type of relaxation and acceptance of the improvisational process, especially when it's still searching and isn’t really “there yet”, is meditative. We say that it is like fish. Whereas it's common to think about the creative process as “catching” or “fishing” for them — we prefer the word associated with their group identity, which is school. For them, “to school” is a verb, a process in itself.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
As a band that jams (but not a jam band!) - our challenge is always to leave space and to know when and what not to play. Also, we don’t want to script or rehearse anything — so our repertoire is rather of shared experiences. These have to be arranged and sustained, which is often an effort with potentially a dozen or more people joining forces. Our musical vocabulary will also naturally tend to become more familiar to one another over time. So, in many ways the practice has been to retain this type of novelty and curiosity in one’s approach, as in the magic you can have when you’re jamming for the first time.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Sasha Lee: When I was a teenager I really wanted to play bass but my parents couldn’t afford it. So I bought a beaten up acoustic guitar and tried to convert it into a bass guitar myself. The result was terrible. In highschool I saved up some money and got an East German Musima bass. That was my first real instrument. For the next few years I played in various metal bands. At some point I wanted to buy a distortion pedal, but again didn’t have enough money - so I decided to build one by myself. Very soon I discovered the whole scene of DIY electronics and ended up building more and more stuff. Eventually I started to be interested in making electronic and experimental music, rather than just playing bass. I believe limitations have always been an influential and inspiring thing for me.
After a few years of making music only with DIY analog instruments, I embraced the digital world. Today I mostly deal with programming and making patches in Pure Data. I’m trying to keep it simple, so going all-digital was a natural choice for me. Digital tools allow me to be flexible, but I can still make anything I want by myself. My most recent setup consists of Raspberry Pi running Pure Data and a few homemade MIDI controllers. And it really is a minimalist’s dream come true! Obviously, this ascetic approach makes me spend more time building my instruments than actually playing and making music — but I do believe it also makes me more aware of what I’m doing and why.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
We obviously grew up when vintage synthesizers already existed - and we do love still being able to play around with wonderful old guitars, keyboards and effects. But maybe the most relevant change bestowed by the modern era is the common presence of digital mixers in venues, allowing us to capture multiple channels and to eventually produce studio-quality recordings from live concert materials.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Well, in our case it’s all collaboration. The project started in a squatted Ottoman space repurposed as our musical temple (hence the name “Enhancement Center”), which was intended to spontaneously draw together like-minded “spectral jammers”. We ended up becoming a traveling nexus of activities - taking place via longer residencies in warehouses and DIY nature spots, and when gathering on occasions of concerts, tours and studio weeks. From people we originally met on stage as “blind dates” - to curated invitees with whom we’d looked forward to playing - we’ve hoped to sense ourselves re-embodying the spiritual relic of that formative ancient space from which our particular collective journey was born.
For our upcoming Carpet Album, we’ve embraced for the first time the admittedly fun process of overdubbing on top of our live recordings. While being kept apart due to well-known lockdown reasons, many participants on this vinyl recorded via remote-overdubs while isolating in various countries. The material was collected by Nicolas, our drummer, who then mixed and produced it while slowly moving along the Adriatic coasts. Our artists Joel and Dima worked on the cover from the mountains in Sochi and seaside in Mexico. The backside depicts a mandala of the faces of all 18 collaborators on the LP. Woven around them is Omri’s handwriting, completed while he was hiding-out on a ranch and animal sanctuary in the desert.