Changing his tune

Oran Zilberstein enjoys the challenge of being a tech guy for Asaf Avidan as well as honing his own musical skills

Musician Oran Zilberstein. (photo credit: Lear Landau)
Musician Oran Zilberstein.
(photo credit: Lear Landau)
Oran Zilberstein is a musician’s musician. HIs songs are as mutli- layered and full of emotional depth as the man himself. As a tech guy for Asaf Avidan, Oran tours the world and helps the popular Israeli artist get ready for his shows and stay in tune, literally. But the 31-year-old is a talented songwriter and musician in his own right. He has thus far released two albums, Checks and Times Do Not Change (translated from Hebrew).
Can you talk about your creative process when it comes to songwriting and recording? I write all the time, although I do write more when I feel hungry for new songs.
Melodies and words come into my head all the time, it’s just like humming familiar songs to me, just that the songs are unfamiliar and unwritten. A lot of melodies come to me in the shower, while riding my bicycle, or when I’m playing my guitar in the living room. As far as recording goes, I like to record intuitively as opposed to having a structure ready before I start recording. Of course this is possible only when I’m recording myself on my own time. I usually start with the main guitar part, just the chord progression and then put a rough vocal track on it so that i have the structure of the song.
Then I start building on top of it, usually adding a lot of guitar parts and whatever else the song seems to be wanting.
How did you first get into music? A friend’s dad had this beat-up electric guitar in the attic. One time he showed it to us, and I was hooked. I started taking lessons.
That guitar is now laying in my parents’ attic, but I love her very much. I do remember writing some songs in my head before I started playing. My mom asked me what I could do with them. I replied, “Well I need to contact a record label of course.” I think I was 11 years old then.
What instruments do you play?I’m a guitar player, first of all. Other than that, I play bass, drums and very basic keyboard parts.
Who inspires you musically?Bob Dylan is the first name that comes to mind. His way of writing and singing inspires me the most. He always seemed street-smart to me, not some intellectual view of life from a distance. He is someone who is in the midst of it all and is still able to describe it most beautifully and clearly, even when he is unclear.
Who are your favorite Israeli artists? Shlomi Bracha, who I had the fortune to play and work with.
How would you describe the music scene in Israel today? Well almost all mainstream music sounds like a bad dream to me. It can have nice productions and catchy choruses sometimes, but the overall feeling is way off to my taste. I don’t like the pathos that is almost always there, and the reality shows make it even worse. I like having some degree of modesty in singers. In the underground scene, it’s much easier for me to find stuff I like or that interests me.
I think a lot of that ‘underground’ music could occupy the mainstream radio easily and make everyone happier, as it is plainly better. But it also might make people think and feel more, so nobody at the top would ever want that.
What exactly do you do for Asaf Avidan? What is it like working for him and traveling the world with him? I put all his and his band’s gear on a van, place it on stage and get it ready for use. They do a soundcheck, and I tune the guitars and put the guitar amp on stand-by. During the show, I help Asaf switch his guitars and tune them, so he doesn’t need to deal with this stuff during the show. At the end of the show, I pack it all up and put it back on the van. The whole thing takes something like 12 hours because there is a lot of waiting involved. Touring is equally fun and hard. It’s fun because I get paid to move around and play with guitars and amps, but hard because it’s long days and heavy lifting.If you could perform your music for anyone in the world, who would it be and where? A lot of people, anywhere. I would have said Bob Dylan, somewhere, but I write in Hebrew, so it would be kind of missing the point.