Tacos and Insanity: A Spicy Interview with Infected Mushroom

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There are some men who will go to the ends of the multiverse… for a taco. I am such a man, and after long questing for the top-of-the-line tacqueria, the crème de la crème of carne-asada-filled comestibles, I have found the Santo Grial. This is the quintessential Mexican sandwich, a fresh hand-made tortilla, filled with pork, slow-roasted to melt-in-your mouth perfection and a full mélange of minced vegetable complements. It took years of blind trial and error with sketchy stands and hole-in-the-walls, thousands of empty Corona calories to wash away failure and many, many ruined nights on the toilet to find this fare, but these setbacks made it all the more savory. Indeed, it has been a long and strange trip, which seems altogether fitting considering it was Duvdev of Infected Mushrom who directed me to this eatery.

Our intentions were to have the entire album be representative of our favorite spots for food, but unfortunately the idea was foiled by evildoers…

My search was realized at Taqueria Franc, an unassuming Tijuana joint that conveyed its age through time-accumulated wall grime, poorly masked by fading Pepsi logos. Yet, something about it exuded undeniable charm, a sense of authenticity and entitlement that superseded any fault my middle-class American sensibilities could point out. In some ways, the same could be applied to Infected Mushroom (aka Amit “Duvdev” Duvdevani and Erez Eisen), the Israeli duo who has stood at the forefront of the electronic music paradigm for over a decade. Emerging onto the scene in the late ‘90s, they began receiving critical acclaim with their debut The Gathering, carrying the seeds of Psy-Trance from underground to mainstream acceptance. Six albums, 13 EPs and countless sold-out shows later, the group is still an active node in the EDM consciousness, firing off dark, atmospheric, head-banging genre-marrying hits. Most recently, the group released “Pink Nightmares,” the first track off their upcoming studio effort carrying the same name, sure to rouse any sleeping soul into a fit of manic, fist-pumping night sweats.

But surely, you must be wondering, what of the tacos? Suffice to say, they are legend. They are the Platonic ideal of a taco from which all others imperfectly reflect. However, what makes them so delectable isn’t necessarily the ingredients nor how they are prepared. Rather, it seems to be the rare combination of hardened experience, unmatched talent and unapologetic genuineness that makes Franc’s and Infected Mushroom so unrivaled.

You have a steadily growing family. How has that been?
We love our families. We both have wives and children, and we think about them constantly. In fact, Erez’s wife is training to be a chef—so he’s a lucky one.

You have even mentioned that if you weren’t working in the music industry, you would be operating a restaurant featuring your favorite street cuisine from around the world. What kind of foods are you talking about? Would mushrooms be featured in your dishes?
Wow, you’re observant! We do love to eat good food. There are a number of excellent spots around the world, but our favorite has to be Francs in Mexico (we named a song after this spot)—this is an excellent taco joint. We do not have any pictures of Francs but there is a video floating around of us eating there.

Legend of the Black Shawarma was supposedly intended to catalogue your favorite restaurants. When trying to create songs like “Poquito Mas,” did you utilize the popular “Baja Taco Stand”—inspired fare as a basis for your produced sounds, or were you just eating their shrimp/fish tacos and burritos while making the track?
Yes, guilty as charged! Our intentions were to have the entire album be representative of our favorite spots for food, but unfortunately the idea was foiled by evildoers such as “Project 100” and our remix of “Riders on the Storm.” I hope you can make exceptions for these nasty tunes.

The fact of the matter is this: electronic dance music has permeated our planet. It has unified the globe because it transcends culture. It is self-expression, it is love, it is a means to let go of everything that holds humanity back.

Aside from your dining experiences, what else influences your music?
We have been motivated by a mix of rock music, like Korn, Metallica and Primus, and of course electronic artists such as Depeche Mode, Pendulum and Skrillex. But what really motivates us is seeing the dancefloor go mental. This is our vision when we create electronic dance music.

The idea of “going mental” is really reflected in a lot of your songs such as “Psycho” and “Becoming Insane.” How do you define madness?
Madness is making you feel like a kid again.

There certainly is a discernable influence reflective of modern electronic artists, namely Skrillex and deadmau5, present in “Pink Nightmare” and some of the other new tracks you have posted online in your video logs. What exactly is this new generation of artists bringing to the table that interests you?
The taste of club-goers changes over time, and as hard as we try to keep our sounds fresh, the world keeps moving with or without Infected Mushroom. On a planet full of artists, it’s tough for us to be on top of all of the sounds coming from around the globe. What we can do is have open ears when we travel from place to place. The sounds that have caught our attention are from the young-guard like the artists you mentioned. Fresh sounds are inspiring, and I’m sure there are many more artists with excellent studio skills, but we only have the opportunity to hear so much.

What about fresh and inspiring technologies? You have posted some videos on Youtube where you play around with Fruity Loops on the iPhone 4 and SampleWIZ on the iPad. How do you feel about touch-screen interface technology? Have you incorporated any of these technologies into your studio, new album or live set?
We love touch screen technology. We have been iPhone and iPad customers for quite some time, which is ironic because we use PC in the studio to make music. It’s interesting you ask about incorporating these technologies. During sound checks, Erez can walk around the venue with his iPad and turn up or down his levels with the swipe of a finger. He also was able to create a custom button that can switch up studio inputs or outputs in a jiffy, which mitigates the need for spending time re-wiring.

Just as trends and technology cycle, the central places where these innovations seem to emerge also seems to move. You have mentioned in other interviews that not too long ago, Los Angeles was the “epicenter of electronic music.” After playing at EDC Las Vegas, do you feel that Sin City will become the new electronic music epicenter?
Los Angeles and Las Vegas are two different beasts entirely. LA’s scene has developed over a longer period, whereas Vegas is just now starting to discover electronic dance music. The difference, in terms of club life, is that Los Angeles is more tolerant of artists with an underground vibe, whereas Vegas tends to appreciate more of a commercial sound. The reason why I think EDC will have a happy home in Vegas is that everyone in the world goes to the city of sin, and at EDC there is something for everyone.

Do you consider your music as being “something for everyone?” How would you describe your sound to a deaf person, for example.
“Fist-pumping” would sum it up to a deaf person.

Do you think you were born with the innate ability to produce such righteous “fist-pumping” tunes, or did you have to acquire additional skills over time? Did others help mentor or teach you?
People are born with certain skills but we were lucky because our parents had us classically trained by talented musicians. This really helped us develop our sound and it gives us an edge up on other groups because we have a real understanding of theory and structure. We are constantly teaching ourselves because technology is consistently evolving. Putting in a great amount of hours sitting in front of a computer screen is an integral part of our training. There is no better skill-building technique than hands-on practice.

Your music has been associated with many different genres throughout the Infected Mushroom lifespan, though most classifications gravitate around psy-trance. Do you worry about how your children will perceive your artistry and music, given the cultural and thematic connotations associated with this genre?
No, I am not worried at all because history will be on our side. Every time a radical style of music is born, there is always some sort of public reaction keeping it stigmatized and on the fringe. Rock was blasphemous, hip-hop was abhorred by politicians, and electronic music is a parent’s worst nightmare. The fact of the matter is this: electronic dance music has permeated our planet. It has unified the globe because it transcends culture. It is self-expression, it is love, it is a means to let go of everything that holds humanity back. Most music now is electronic in nature. Famous electronic musicians are scoring movies like Tron, Swordfish, and the Matrix. The biggest pop artists are working with the biggest house DJs. It is a different world now, and by the time our kids can make a decision for themselves, they will realize how proud they are to have us as daddies.

Burning Man 2011 With Infected Mushroom