The brains behind the band

Producer Ofer Meiri takes most of the credit for Metropolin's successful new album, but does share some of the glory with his musicians.

ofer meiri 88 224 (photo credit: )
ofer meiri 88 224
(photo credit: )
While offstage he is the quiet, unassuming type, in his Tel Aviv studio Ofer Meiri is master of all he sees. "This is my little kingdom," says the 41-year-old brains behind the Metropolin rock-electronica band. "This is where I spend much of my day." That is, when he's not on the road. If Meiri was a little tired - and he looked like he could do with some time off - he could be forgiven. "We just came back from four gigs all over the country," he explains. "We went all over the place. We played in Metulla and Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, and then we went all the way down south to Beersheba." The desert date was organized by the local municipality on behalf of the high school students there. "They probably thought it would be better if the kids attended our concert rather than hanging around and getting up to mischief..." Meiri adds. The multi-instrumentalist-producer's "little kingdom" includes all the state-of-the-art hi-tech gadgets he needs to mix, process and embellish the work of the Metropolin band members. While we chatted, three computers got on with the business of downloading, uploading and performing all manner of other relevant technological processing. "Here, I am in total control. If I feel like doing something, I just do it." Lack of sleep notwithstanding, Meiri is happy about the way his professional life is going these days. And he has good reason to be. The band's latest album, Haslil (The Reel), has been out for about a couple of months and is gaining a generous amount of airplay on the country's leading radio stations. "It's the most played album on Galgalatz right now," Meiri says proudly. In fact, Meiri is not so much from Metropolin, he is Metropolin. "Yes I am, basically, the band. It is the main part of my work in the business - I also produce other artists, like [singer] Dana Berger. This is where I can write and produce music, and control every aspect of the process. I don't have that control when I produce other people." ALTHOUGH HE is definitely at the helm of the Metropolin project, Meiri gets a lot of help from his musicians and other people in the music industry. He says he consults his fellow professionals on some aspects of his work, and is sometimes surprised by the responses he gets. "I consult other people almost obsessively. Occasionally someone will tell me I didn't do a good job on something or other. That's fine too. I am not offended - maybe at the time, but not later when I reflect on what they have told me. Then I go back to the drawing board and move things around. That's also part of the creative process." And it is a long process. "I do about four or five versions of each song until I am satisfied. That's fine. I have to be happy with something before I share it with the rest of the world. The new album took two years." On Haslil he enjoys the instrumental and vocal support of eight other musicians, including drummer Tomer Tzidkiyahu, bass guitarist Michael Frost, saxophonist Eli Dejibri - better known for his jazz exploits - vocalist-guitarist Barak Gabison and a certain Maya Meiri. "That's my daughter," says dad Ofer proudly. "This is the second album of the band's on which she has sung. She's got a good voice, so why not?" And 12-year-old Maya's not the only family member to get in on the musical act. Meiri's 8-year-old son is an enthusiastic guitarist. While many musicians are happy for their offspring to follow in their parent's footsteps in picking up an instrument, not all would recommend the music business as a comfortable way to make a living. "Yes, it is a hard business to be in," Meiri confesses, "but I love it and I wouldn't choose any other job. If my kids went professional, I wouldn't stop them. Ultimately, I believe you have to do what you love." TODAY, MEIRI is something of a veteran of the Israeli music scene. "I've been in the business for as long as I can remember, since I got out of the army. That's 20 years - that's a long time." While he is delighted with the success of Haslil, and is one of busiest people in the industry, doesn't he ever get itchy feet? Has he ever thought of trying his luck in the big, wide world outside Israel? "I have thought of recording material in English and getting out on the road outside Israel," says Meiri, "but that would mean spending a lot of time traveling. I have a family Meiri says he works best here, and he feeds off everything around him. "My lyrics all come from my own viewpoint on the world, and Israel. I can get depressed about things or be happy about things, but it all comes from here, and from me. I am an Israeli." Meiri also writes most of the music for the band. He says most of his compositional inspiration comes from 1960s and 1970s British bands. "I like progressive rock bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd, and also the Beatles." Closer to home, Meiri prefers more melodic material. "My main influence among Israeli artists is Shalom Hanoch - not his bluesy stuff, but more the ballads." For Meiri, his work is an organic process which he likens to the creation of new life. "Working on an album is like being pregnant for a long time, going through tough labor pains, suffering post-natal depression and spending sleepless nights worrying about the new baby. But, as [veteran songwriter] Yonatan Geffen wrote in one of his songs, in the end everyone is happy with the new baby. Me too."