giraffes/girafot band 311.
(photo credit: Amit Israeli)
Drinking to tell the tale, singer/songwriter Gilad Kahana has a unique way with
words. He doesn’t need more than two sentences, four chords and several pints of
beer to tell the most profound truths with eerie levity.
Kahana, 40, has released four solo albums (both in Hebrew and in English) and
two books (short stories and poetry). Known as the lead singer and writer for
The Giraffes, the outspoken lyricist, singer and social commentator has already
established himself as an astute iconoclast, with his intelligent, biting songs
full of left field humor and observations of Israeli society and the human
Their third album, No Elephants Allowed, is a collection of
little heartfelt stories full of terse, poetic scenes.Where did you find
the stories for No Elephants Allowed?
There are so many places to find poetry.
For a while I’ve been taking methodically aimless strolls around the city, and I
came to feel at home in the streets. Instead of being an observer, I was letting
myself disappear into the scenery, which allowed me to connect with the littlest
stories around me. That’s what “No elephants allowed“ means, by the way: No big
When you’re off the streets, how do you get started on a
Songwriting is not something I do deliberately, in the sense that my art
is constantly intruding on my life and vice versa. I feel that my inspiration
comes from some sort of collective-wealth of inspiration that everyone shares.
Some people could be intimidated by this thought; it basically makes artists
seem less godlike, maybe even less talented. But the work of a real artist is to
be keen enough to recognize when he receives something from this collective
wealth. Your distinction as an artist is your limitation as a human being. Since
my mind is so limited, I naturally narrow and compress it to fit the templates
of my mind.
So the power of an artist is his ability to filter?
inability not to filter.
You often said that recording this album was an
extremely positive experience. What made it so?
First, recording Roof
previous album] was hell.And what’s worse, it was enormously successful,
and success is often more difficult than failure. With success come much strain
and arguing. But once we survived all that, we could take on the next album with
our egos tamed and cleansed of emotional toxins. I think we truly longed to work
together again on this one.
How far are you aiming for your music?
Honestly, let me conquer the world. Alexander the Great-style. But first and
foremost, I want to make it here. This is my home, Hebrew is my
But you write in both Hebrew and English. Do the two ever
battle for your attention?
No. Those two languages are like two parallel lives
in me, like schizophrenia. Also, there are plenty of songs to be written in
both. But I’ll admit that being bilingual, I do crave to reach audiences that
don’t just use English but actually live the language.
What part does
music play in your life?
It’s a matter of sanity; writing songs, playing,
recording, everything. When you work 12 hours in the studio, it doesn’t matter
whether you come out with two complete tracks or with nothing. What does matter
is you go in there and try hard to twist time, to invent, to touch, to enrage.
Results and accomplishments are only the by-products of this work.
concerts are known for your fiery and extravagant presence. What’s your secret,
apart from your notorious beer-only diet?
Everything before a show has to be
prepared and rehearsed super meticulously; God is in the details.
stage, everything turns into total chaos. This kind of chaos has a sort of
effortless charm because it’s not the result of carelessness or laziness. It’s
achieved through rigidly maintained order and after scrupulous
But what triggers this passionate chaos?
My everyday rage,
I guess. I think what separates an active artist from a dormant one is whether
or not you have some need screaming in you. It doesn’t have to be a topical
scream, like in my concert monologues; it could just as well be about personal
You’ve got to have this inextinguishable flame in
I believe I have more flame than talent. I recently went to an
acupuncturist and he said, ‘What’s wrong with you? You’re on fire!’ He also told
me I was “overassertive.”
In what sense?
The moment I start working on
something, I latch onto it, no questions asked. My decision-making process as an
artist is mainly intuitive. It probably derives from my improvisational habits
on stage. I think standing before “a blank canvas” is one of the hardest moments
in creative work. But I never put myself in front of a blank canvas. I start
immediately, without even knowing where I’m going. And often it comes out
ridiculous. So what? I throw it away. No need to make a big deal out of it. The
road to brilliance is paved with ridiculous drafts. For he who fools around gets
to be brilliant, and he who is wise takes longer. I guess I’m not too wise, in
The Giraffes will be launching their new album tour in a
special concert at the Zappa Shuni Amphitheater in Binyamina on Tuesday,
September 21 at 9:30 p.m.
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