Aloe Records

Grisha Shakhnes Interview: from there to here

Date: mid-May 2023

Question: Sun Yizhou

Answer: Grisha Shakhnes

1 I know it’s been sometime, but, what happened to Mites? What made you start to working with a real name? When did you start doing field recordings and tape music?

I started doing field recordings and tape music during the summer of 2008. I guess I wanted to start making music for a while, but didn’t know how. Several people in Tel Aviv were making music using these Sony voice recorders, which were easily available and affordable (not for a long time, though), and I saw people who in my opinion were making shitty music (thankfully many of them stopped), and I thought that I sure can do better. At first, I was making noise music, running the recording though mixer feedback, and I took a moniker, like a proper noise musician. Rather quickly my music became much less noisy and more personal. Having a moniker started to seem unnecessary, so when Jason Lescalleet suggested I drop it for leave/trace, I agreed. I laid Mites to rest a bit later, with The Last Tape.

2 You moved to a new place, Holon. And you recorded the album ‘Here’. Has anything changed since then?

Not yet. Even all my CD are still in cardboard boxes, because I need shelves. There are some noisy neighbours and a lot of planes just like in the beginning. I’m planning to stay here for as long as we can. I hate moving, especially with all the stuff that we have.

3 I’ve noticed that you’re always interested in your surroundings, in environments, in the easily forgotten and long lasting gaps in life. You released ‘Being There’ on the Belgian label Unfathomless in 2019, and I guess ‘Here’ is its sequel? I been jumping between the two places for years myself, and still found them very difficult to understand. Can you tell us something about the different settings of the two albums?

I think you could say that. Maybe because these are thing people tend to overlook, but I often find fascinating? I didn’t really think about Here as a sequel to Being There, though. I think that the main difference between them is that Being There was mostly about the inside, and Here is about the outside. I always record in the guest room, with the windows open. The old place was looking at a dead end street which was also a parking lot, and on the other side of the building was a wide street with a lot of traffic. This place look out to the rear, and I mostly hear neighbours and planes. I  don’t really hear the street, unless something really loud passes by. I think there are also less birds, and mostly pigeons (much less space between the buildings). There are definitely more bird noises on older recordings. So I really wanted to capture the new surroundings and play with them. I hope to explore the acoustics and the structure of the new flat on my next recording. The acoustics are very different. I think I can even record while not in the room where the speakers are. That would be a real change.

4 Can you give us a brief introduction to the new music scene in Israel? Any interesting people, venues, labels?

That’s a difficult question, surprisingly… There is, of course, a lack of documentation. People just don’t record. There were series of residencies called Noise Agency recently, and some really good stuff happened there, but I couldn’t find anything online. Other than that… Well, I think I’ll start with my main problem with the so called new music scene here: there seems to be an almost total unawareness of any development in experimental music and improvisation since about 1999 (unless we count the omnipresent analog synth resurrection, but we won’t). There are noise/industrial people on one hand, jazz/free improv people on the other (and some of them very good, and I collaborated with some of them and often enjoyed it a lot), but very little music that really fascinates me, and a good percentage of it are musicians from abroad or an occasional Wandelweiser or Cat Lamb work being played. Why is it? A certain lack of curiosity? Fear of influence that will be perceived as “academic”? Or there are just not enough people around for it to happen? I don’t know. There are some really excellent younger musicians, some coming from the Musrara New Music program, and the best of them were able to shed the cliches of ambient, glitch, so-called IDM and such. And, of course, there some older musicians too doing excellent work.

For me, the foremost experimental/new/any underground music venue is Zimmer. It’s now in its fourth iteration, but I probably wouldn’t be making music without the first, which was opened in southern Tel Aviv in 2008 buy Guy Dubious, Ron Katzir and Ori Drumer. The latest iteration is closer to the centre of the city, and still going strong. The venue is not really legal, and is in a basement. Unfortunately, smoking is allowed, so there is no air, and you come back home stinking like an ashtray down to your underwear. So because of that, I (again, unfortunately) rarely attend. There are other venues that host new music, like Levontin 7 (mostly free jazz), HaTeiva (mostly modern classical), Mazkeka in Jerusalem, and probably some that I forget. But Zimmer is the only one that always has been open to everybody.

And now, some links (in alphabetic order): ( (,

5 And last question. Can you tell us one thing you like to do? Could be anything.

I think the main thing that comes to mind is reading. If I had to pick one activity that would be it. If I don’t read for a long period of time (sometimes even one day) it really starts to bug me. And it might sound funny, but sort of a miracle to me. These are just some black signs on paper, and there is a whole world in there! I’m reading a Stanislaw Lem omnibus right now, in Russian. There are his five “first contact” novels, all in one book. It’s great.

Thank you.