Tales of a healthy bass player

Jerusalem-born guitarist-vocalist Ran Nir works some of his Mojo magic into his debut album ‘L.F.N.T.’

Ran Nir 370 (photo credit: Roy Feinborg)
Ran Nir 370
(photo credit: Roy Feinborg)
Alcohol, in various guises and vintages, has oiled the creative wheels of many an artist over the centuries. Some, of course, have gone over the top, producing a number of works of quality before succumbing to the ravages of the amber nectar. Thankfully, Ran Nir has opted for a healthier approach to his work, and life.
The 27-year-old rocker will launch his debut CD, the self-explanatory L.F.N.T - Tales Of A Drunken Man, with a show at Tel Aviv’s Barbi Club on May 30. The extrapolated version of the initials is Live Free Not Troubled, which goes some way to explaining Nir’s excessive elbow bending.
“When we were on tour [drummer] Yonni [Sheleg] and I were the only members of the band who were single, so we’d go out and have a good time, and that always involved booze,” explains the Jerusalem-born bass guitarist-vocalist.
The “band” with which Nir and Sheleg did the rounds of this country and numerous points across Europe was Asaf Avidan and the Mojos, which Nir founded along with frontman Avidan six years ago, and with which he experienced considerable local and international success over a fiveyear period. But all good things come to an end.
“Things started to deteriorate with the band,” Nir recalls. “We knew the act was going to break up – Asaf had told us that was going to happen – and I felt some of the other musicians weren’t giving their all. That frustrated me.”
That also led to more boozing.
But Nir has turned over a new leaf, on an artistic and a health-related level.
“I drink a lot less now and Yonni and I gave up smoking,” he declares. “I haven’t had a cigarette for nine months. I feel a lot better.”
Tales Of A Drunken Man didn’t materialize overnight.
“I had lots of ideas, over the years, and I wrote stuff while I was with the Mojos, but Asaf was the sole songwriter for the band,” he notes. “That was part of the problem.”
Considering that Nir waited so long to set out his own songwriting stall, as leader of his own band, he displays a remarkably light hand on the rudder. One could have reasonably expected him to lay down the law to the other band members, and to make sure everything stuck to his individual straight and narrow, but that hasn’t been the case.
“I play bass guitar, not double bass, and there are three tracks on the album with acoustic bass rather than electric bass, so someone else plays the bass on those numbers,” he says.
In fact the whole project ran along democratic lines.
“I took advice from people and it was cool when the other musicians had observations about some part of the work,” Nir continues.
Nir says he got into music relatively late.
“I started playing bass when I was 15, and studied for about a year and a half.
That’s not so young to start out in music.”
But, once in, he was hooked, even though he originally had plans to follow a different avenue of creative expression.
“By the time I was 16 I knew I wanted to be a musician, but before that I wanted to be an actor. I still haven’t given up on that idea.”
Nir’s first experience of gigging was with a schoolboy group, which mostly played in and round the Jerusalem area.
“That was a sort of wishful thinking band name,” Nir says with a laugh.
After finishing his army service he relocated to Tel Aviv and soon got into the scene there and reunited with the members of his former teenaged band, all of whom, like Nir, had made the move to the other end of Route 1. They quickly became a feature of the Tel Aviv rock scene and built up a loyal fan base. But Nir soon got a slap in the face which, paradoxically, only made him more determined to make it in music.
“I was kicked out of my own band, but it was then that I realized that I was a professional musician. That’s what I was.”
Nir’s path soon crossed Avidan’s when a friend suggested they go and see this “wunderkind” called Asaf Avidan.
“He was only 16, but he was amazing,” Nir recalls.
The two chatted after the gig and the rest is history, a highly successful chapter of Nir’s history, which ended around a year ago with the breakup of the Mojos.
Nir soon got down to putting pen to paper and the result is a polished, if somewhat alcohol-soaked, rock album. Like the Mojos’ output, all the lyrics on Tales Of A Drunken Man are in English.
“English is the language of rock and roll,” Nir states simply. “I don’t think Hebrew is suitable for rock, or for rap. The language just doesn’t flow.”
Nir’s music certainly flows, even if some of the lyrics are – as to be expected – a bit on the dark side.
Nir assembled a highly capable team of musicians for the project, including Sheleg, guitarist Yossi Mizrahi and keyboard player Idan Rabinovich. The Tel Aviv launch will be followed by a similar event at the Yellow Submarine in late July, and Nir and his pals can be expected to maintain a high profile, both in Israel and abroad as the album takes off.
“I’m willing to perform anywhere – in Finland, England, the States, anywhere,” says Nir. “I just want to play my music.”