The latest project from the Israeli guitarist /composer Eyal Maoz is the band Hypercolor, with bassist James Ilgenfritz, and drummer Lukas Ligeti. Their self-titled record is on John Zorn’s Tzadik Records. Though the band is based in Manhattan and Brooklyn and has hints of American Avant-guitar pioneer Sonny Sharrock running throughout their music, they also evidence a Euro sensibility in their combination of discipline and freedom, as well as their willingness to explore both melodic and dissonant textures.
In addition to his work with Hypercolor, Maoz leads the bands Edom (combining Jewish music with new wave, electronic music and disco), the acoustic Middle-Eastern band Dimyon, The Crazy Slavic Band, 9 Volt, and the Maoz-Sirkis Duet (with drummer Asaf Sirkis). He also performs the music of John Zorn with Cobra and Abraxas. Across all these projects, he demonstrates an enormous sonic vocabulary to go with his technical prowess.
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
It started with chords for Israeli songs I knew, and then came the blues.
What led you to create more experimental (non-mainstream) music?
I was into the avant-garde quite quickly. My friend from fourth grade (before we even started playing instruments) is Asaf Sirkis, now a renowned drummer in the United Kingdom. He cooperated with me on experimental things. We have a duet with a third album coming out soon. Our previous album was released on Ayler Records.
I was naturally drawn to the Avant-garde. My guitar teacher was a very inspiring rock musician, but not experimental. The first album I bought was Revolver by the Beatles; I became a big fan. But not long after—at around 16±I started to wander into Weather Report and more modern jazz.
Whose music inspires you?
The Beatles and Weather Report were my first influences. Later came Ornette Coleman and John Zorn. Frank Zappa is still a strong influence, and Keith Jarrett too.
How did you get better at your current style?
By playing with musicians you like, you develop a style that is the real you. Playing my music, or a friend’s music I like, forces me to give the best I can. That is when my true musical self comes in handy. I feel any musician is like that in these kind of “real music” situations: real music means music you like to play and play out of joy at home—not music you supposed to play only to work, etc.
What are you trying convey with your music?
Basically the human energy and beauty that is hidden within and can only be conveyed by music, and in my playing of it on a good day—I hope. This is not to say this is the only kind of human energy or beauty in this world. It can have many faces and shapes: poetry, literature, visual art, and dance. Any human interaction—even small talk—shows a particular face of this beauty. Music possesses one of these faces, and I am trying to capture it and express it to myself and to the world.
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I use a 1979 Gibson SG that has a Kahler tremolo, and two humbuckers whose names I don’t know. Guitar experts told me that these pickups are the strongest you can find. Its original owner (a pizza store owner in Bronx, who also gave me a free slice after I bought the guitar from him) probably wanted to make it a metal guitar: extreme tremolo, hot pickups. This was lucky for me, because I really like those things, though I am not a metal guitarist. [Maoz has been known to also play Danelectro and Epiphone semi-hollow instruments as well. Usually through a Gallien Krueger ML250]
I use SansAmp and Pigtronix Disnortion distortions, a Line 6 DL-4 modeler for delays and loops, and a Korg AX1G multi effects processor for crazy sounds. I don’t change it from song to song: the effects are part of my instrument. I don’t consider them “effects.” It is just another version of my guitar.
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
I like to play live a lot; if it’s not my music, I enjoy recording as well—maybe even more than live. If it is my music, it is probably the opposite, as recording my own music always has some elements of a traumatic event. I worry too much whether it’s turning out okay. However, if I spend enough hours in the studio, I seem to not care so much any more—and that’s always the best for music.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
I think people have come to know my style throughout the years, and know my bands. I hope that I give them something in return.
With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
I don’t have anyone in mind, apart from the great and fascinating musicians I am collaborating with now. I am sure that interesting new projects will come. When I am collaborating with other musicians I feel like a child in a toy store.
What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?
The Hypercolor album just came out on Tzadik Records (Amazon has it too A new guitar-drums duet album with Asaf Sirkis is being mixed.
There is so much great video of Eyal in different contexts I felt compelled to post these as well.