Audio architects

CIAM's members think that adding the tag line 'London-Tel Aviv based band' helps portray the art rockers with an international flavor.

CIAM 88 248 (photo credit: Ido Isaac)
CIAM 88 248
(photo credit: Ido Isaac)
By day, he's running the high-powered Tel Aviv advertising agency that bears his name. But Hadar Goldman saves some of his best pitches for his nighttime sideline of creating dense, swirling electric violin solos with his intergalactic art rock band CIAM. "For me, it's a matter of priorities. I don't play tennis or basketball, and I hardly need sleep. So I have time for both work and the band," said the 42-year-old Goldman during a break between meetings with clients. However, even if he wasn't a busy ad exec heading Zarmon-Goldman and responsible for high profile campaigns for fashion clients like Fox and Delta, it's not that easy for Goldman to get together with his bandmates in CIAM. They all live in London. But neither Goldman nor the band's other cofounder Jeff Shapiro think that the distance presents any obstacles to their music making. After all, the two have overcome the obstacle of time. Before CIAM, there was Siam, a Tel Aviv band formed in 1985 by then-19-year-olds Goldman and Shapiro, who had made aliya nine years earlier with his family from South Africa. "We were together for seven years and recorded three albums," recalled Goldman. "We had some success on the club circuit as sort of a cult indie band in London, Tel Aviv and Berlin. After we broke up, I came back to Israel, and Jeff decided to stay in London." According to Shapiro, the only similarities between Siam and CIAM are in the names. "Siam was a different band, which Hadar and I were part of," he said on the phone from London where he works in design - in addition to fronting CIAM as guitarist and vocalist. "It's not the same band and not the same music. It's almost irrelevant, because both the name and the band have been totally reinvented." Reinvention was on Goldman's mind when he returned to Israel in the early 1990s, disillusioned with the music business. "Once I came back to Israel, I had decided to hang up my music shoes. The scene in Israel was very small, which it still is, and back then it was narrow-minded," he said. "I went into advertising because I liked the creative side of it, and I saw it as a challenge to express myself and make a living as well. I began working as a copywriter, and in May 1999, I cofounded Zarmon-Goldman. I'm the Goldman. "Today, it's one of the top 10 agencies in Israel," he proudly added. STILL, GOLDMAN never put down his violin, an instrument he has been mastering since he was six. "I was somewhat of a wunderkind. I played with all the youth orchestras when I was a little kid. But around the age of 17, I started looking around to do my own thing - as opposed to playing someone else's stuff. I don't know how or why, but alternative rock music grabbed me," he said. Goldman and Shapiro stayed in touch despite the distance, and by the turn of the decade, they were discussing collaborating on music again, but with the added dimension of their second career talents in visual design. "We were making music separately and decided to meet and experiment with new ideas. We've always had similar views on music and our tastes, so it was very natural to get back together," said Shapiro. Goldman remembers the exact day the duo regrouped in London with new members. It was September 11, 2001. "That was our first day of rehearsals, so it's easy to remember," he said. Describing its music on its MySpace page as "alternative, emotronic and experimental," CIAM owes equal amounts to bands like Radiohead and Pink Floyd. But with Goldman's violin and electric viola in the mix, there's also a clear nod to The Velvet Underground in motion, accentuated by their version on their new album Anonymous of The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs." "It takes us a while to record an album, but we're lucky to be playing with brilliant people for the last four years - Chris Hall on drums, Mark Ferguson on bass and Farrel Lennon on synthesizers and sequencers," said Goldman. "We had recorded sketches for a new album and we had John Fryer come aboard with his enthusiasm. He's worked with Placebo, Nine Inch Nails, Cocteau Twins: artists that Jeff and I both appreciated and admired." But, in addition to music, both Goldman and Shapiro were thinking along visual lines, even naming their band after the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (International Congress of Modern Architecture), a series of conferences instituted in 1928 by a collective of European architects in an attempt to redesign, restructure and rebuild Modern Europe. "We're big fans of the Congress, and the name is extremely appropriate to who we are," said Shapiro, who added that the band's goal is no less than an attempt to restructure the architecture of modern music. "CIAM is both a band and a multimedia project," said Shapiro. "We work very closely with filmmakers, architects, and animators. I'm very involved in design and Hadar is in advertising. We're a very urban band, and we're trying to take our music to another framework that borders on art," he added, referring to other rock-visual pioneers like Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno. "We're definitely a multimedia group; we had the desire to go outside of the one dimension of the ears," said Goldman, adding that in the works is an ambitious project - a multimedia installation that will travel around to museums, featuring 24 films in the middle of a room with scale-size people, each film representing an hour in a person's life. "Our songs are what jells the whole thing together. Our idea is to break away from the boundaries that you're just a musician, or just a filmmaker. We're trying to create something that's more interactive," said Shapiro. "The songs, of course, stand alone on their own merit. Only after we finish, we look and see how it fits in visually. ACCORDING TO Goldman, CIAM is planning a show/exhibit at the British Design Museum in February in which the band will take over the museum - inside and out - and utilize all of its audio and visual resources. CIAM already had a dry run for the idea last June in Los Angeles when it performed at the Tangier club. In addition to the core band, the CIAM experience included visual stimuli courtesy of British architect Olga Gomez Fernandez, known for her visual effects and motion-graphic presentations, award-winning photographer Jillian Lochner, animator Ron Zohar, filmmaker Omri Taub and artists Stephen McGraths and Brigitta Lenz. "Just picking up a guitar and writing a few chords is not enough anymore," explained Shapiro. "We're trying to create a certain atmosphere. It goes back to thinking about music and not creating video clips, but something more imaginative, like Pink Floyd did before there was MTV. Now, with everyone fixed on that and the other music channels, music video has become quite banal and boring." CIAM's music is anything but banal, and since its on-line release last year (the CD is now available in Israel and will be released in the US next month), Anonymous has received accolades, including ongoing airplay on the influential Los Angeles-based "Morning becomes Eclectic" show hosted by Nick Harcourt on KCRW. "He started playing our album at 9:30 a.m. sharp every morning, and then we got invited on his show with him," said Goldman. "So, inexplicably, we became a hit in LA." Both Goldman and Shapiro think that adding the tag line "London-Tel Aviv based band" is a huge boost in portraying CIAM as group with an international flavor. "I think it's great that the band is seen as being Anglo-English. I'm a Jew and an Israeli, even though I've lived half my life in England," said Shapiro. "It's not like I'm from Australia or New Zealand. It's a statement whether or not you want it to be," added Goldman. "In a way, I feel I'm representing Israel and I hope I do it gracefully. There have been some negative reactions. We played at Hammersmith in London and all of a sudden, two people in the crowd started to shout things like 'Israel is a conqueror.' At the beginning I didn't react, but then I stopped and said something like 'Let's leave politics aside. Maybe art will let us solve our problems.'"