Photo: Pini Siluk
Shredhead are one of the biggest, baddest bands in Israel’s metal scene. They started off by releasing their legendary debut Human Nature in 2011, and released two more killer records since then, Death is Righteous and Live Unholy. Their new album, I Saw You Burn, will be released on April 7th. So far, it sounds awesome, so to celebrate this new release, we interviewed the shredders themselves.
We delved into some juicy topics, including Pantera’s reunion, and how well Israel’s metal scene stacks up against the rest of the globe. Stick with us to find out more!
What led to the founding of Shredhead?
Yotam Nagor (guitarist): The band began in high school, around 9th grade, consisting of myself and a friend of mine, and we just did covers of songs by classic thrash bands at the time. After a while, we thought “wouldn’t it be cool to write music of our own?” That was when Aharon came along, whom I wasn’t acquainted with at the time. He lived in the US before then, and after returning to Israel, he went to our school. That was when the drummer said “let’s invite Aharon.” He got the green light, we brought in a bassist who was with us for one rehearsal, and we started writing music.
At 9th grade, we wrote our very first song, “Blood on Thy Hands,” which appeared in our debut album, Human Nature. Then we started playing at a community center in Modi’in called “Hagag Ha’adom (the Red Roof)”. It’s a place that gives young bands guidance and a stage to play on. We were all in other bands before then. Our drummer Roee Kahana was in a thrash band called Betraytor, our bassist Lilo was in all kinds of grunge and rock bands before that. We were kids, and that was where we all met and bonded with each other. That’s how Shredhead was formed.
Why did you choose the name “I Saw You Burn” for your next album?
Aharon Ragoza (vocalist): I Saw You Burn summarizes the concept I had while writing the album, that being ascending from years-long depression and reaching a point where I take responsibility over my life. “I Saw You Burn” basically means “I saw the younger me burn.” I’m talking about myself. I saw the version of myself I disliked, the version that did a lot of bad things to me and brought me to dark places. I saw it burn, and said “great. Now that’s behind me, and I can move forward.”
Lee “Lilo” Lavy (bassist): I’d like to add that throughout the album, some songs, like “Pitch Black” deal with the dark and dreary parts of the mind, but there are also songs like “Bane of Perseverance” and “Breaking True Concrete,” which are much more optimistic, and about ambition.
You started off as a thrash band, but with every new album, your style got progressively groovier. Did you continue going in that direction with I Saw You Burn?
Yotam: Yes, absolutely. It’s a much heavier album than our previous ones. It felt like we found the power we were looking for in metal and music in general, not necessarily coming from speed, but rather a style that’s more melodic and groovy. It’s a much more interesting album rhythmically, as well. Thrash’s power comes from speed, and plays on a different spectrum of emotion, and the spectrum of emotion we were searching for comes from things that don’t characterize thrash much.
Lilo: When you’re younger, the things you enjoy dictate whatever you play. You tell yourself “I’m gonna play thrash / groove / whatever it may be,” and that dictates how you write your music. But as you get older, you understand it’s actually the other way around; I write what I want from a place that moves me, and people can call it whatever they want.
Razi Elbaz (guitarist): I think that once the album comes out, it’ll be difficult for people to label it as any one genre because of the points brought up by Lilo. It wasn’t written out of a pre-conceived vision of what it would sound like, we just went with the flow of whatever came to us.
It’s pretty obvious to any metalhead who’s familiar with your music that Pantera have always been a massive influence. What are your thoughts on their reunion?
Everyone in unison: That’s a tough question!
Yotam: On one hand, it’s difficult to see Pantera without Dimebag and Vinnie. On the other hand, it’s exciting to see Pantera active again… they’re only the best metal band in the world.
Roee Kahana (drummer): Calling it a “reunion” is kind of an overstatement. Maybe “remake” is a better way to put it. But still, people are enjoying it, they’re great onstage, I’d totally watch them live, too.
Lilo: It’s awesome. Some call it a reunion, others call it a rip-off. What I see is a fucking serious band who know their shit. If two of my friends were to leave the band now and I had the opportunity to do a tour for our legacy, I’d take it without a second thought, for everyone’s sake. There are people out there who’ve never seen Pantera live before. It’s better than nothing. I’m all for anything that makes metal stronger worldwide, and everyone else can fuck off. If someone’s gonna be a hater, they should go hate on something else… you got half of the original, so maybe you should be thankful, instead.
Razi: There’s a lot to be said about the reunion, but what I can’t understand is people who are hateful about it. Sometimes, I see replies from people who call it a rip-off, and say bad things about Zakk Wylde. That’s something I just can’t comprehend. I get where the bitterness is coming from, but at the end of the day, like Lilo said, they’re celebrating Pantera’s legacy. It’s not like they’re disrespecting the original band or anything. But above all else, consider the fact that there are a lot of young folks out there who weren’t exposed to Pantera much in the past, and are now motivated to listen to their stuff. You can’t deny the fact that at the end of the day, this is a very positive thing.
Roee: The haters are already looking for something to waste their time on instead of focusing on what they actually like.
What are your thoughts on the local Israeli metal scene?
Lilo: We’ve been here for over a decade, we saw the generation that came before us, the one that was with us, and now the one after us. Now we see bands comprised of kids even… and y’know what? I think everyone here can agree with me that compared to everything we’ve seen across the globe, the Israeli metal scene’s standard is fucking insane. We’re so well-connected and see what our peers are doing here. Everything’s so crowded, so we become very critical, just like any Israeli is towards everything. But if you take a moment to look outside at what other people make, it’s just not on the same level as our scene. In general, everyone here is competitive, everyone marches forward, everyone fights for all their performances, and that even applies to the really young bands, too… we’ve only got good things to say.
Razi: Not to mention that each generation is smarter and more tightly-knit than the one that came before it. Something truly amazing is going on here.
Roee: On a musical level, when you look at what people do here, it applies not only to metal, but heavy music in general; punk, hardcore, metal, whatever it may be. For as long as I can remember, even around 15 years ago, we’d go to live shows and meet local bands, and everything was always at a very high standard. Everyone plays well, and the music’s great too.
Aharon: These bands all do their best to release high quality products. From each generation to the next, it just keeps getting better and better.
Razi: I think one of the biggest surprises to people outside of Israel is that most of the shows, events, and bands come from the Tel Aviv area. And when you think about it, in relation to the tiny geographic space that Tel Aviv and its suburbs take up, the volume of bands and events here is among the most insane in the world. I don’t think there’s a single other geographical area so small that contains so many bands who take what they’re doing so seriously like Israel, and particularly the Tel Aviv area. I think it’s an enthralling phenomenon, which says a lot about the local scene here and this country. Israel’s not a small country when it comes to metal… I think more and more people will hear about the Israeli metal scene… it’ll go a long way.
Lilo: We had to go on for miles and miles in Europe just to get to our destination.
Aharon: There’s also Houston, Texas, which is geographically the same size as Israel, and there’s no way it has nearly as many bands and events as the local scene here.
If you could give one point of advice to any band wanting to enter the local metal scene, what would it be?
Aharon: To anyone who’s just starting out, the best tip I can give is to enjoy it. Do it for fun, and if you don’t like it, don’t do it. Walk in with a mindset of “I’m doing this for fun,” and from there, if it sweeps you along and you wanna take it to a more serious place, go for it, because you know you’re doing something you enjoy. But if you go in with a mindset of “I want women, I wanna be famous, etc.,” that’s all well and good, but if you’re not enjoying it from the get-go, I’m pretty sure you won’t enjoy it later on, either.
Razi: That’s a great answer, and I’d like to add more to it. A lot of young people ask me for tips about the practical aspects, how to do this, that, and the other thing, but to me, the essence is exactly what Aharon said. Before you even think about tips on what to do, just do it. That’s the tip here; do it. Write, perform, live this thing for a year or three, the fundamental questions will come with it, and so will the answers. I think it’s simply a process that needs to happen naturally, rather than something that requires searching for answers and tips on how, or why, or where to start.
Roee: Even if you get all the tips, if you don’t put in the work, you won’t go anywhere.
Lilo: Each band has their own DNA, and going for it is the best tip simply because in order to understand who you are, and optimize and turn your work into something professional and good, you need to make some mistakes, and enough of ‘em. If you don’t do as much, you won’t make as many mistakes, and therefore, won’t learn as much. That’s probably the first thing we say to anyone who asks. This band is built on mistakes. Any good band is built on mistakes.
Razi: Take the greatest bands in the world, talk to them enough, and you’ll find out that they stepped on every fucking landmine, made every mistake possible along the way, and because of that, they became what they are. That’s how it is with everything, not just metal or music.
Roee: I think Pantera’s a prime example of that. They released four albums before they became famous, so think of how much they learned from eating shit for four albums before making it big. Gojira are filling arenas now, but in 2005, they had 50 people attending a show in London. Look at their latest show, and there were about 9,000 people there, in a sold-out venue. That’s something that can only be achieved by hard work and determination. That’s the path.
Aharon: If you’re doing a show in England, even if you’ve got 9,000 people in the crowd, the catering you get is still just triangle-shaped sandwiches.
Lilo: They have this thing in England where the catering you always get at a round of shows is these shitty, poorly-cut sandwiches. So just imagine having 9,000 people show up and all you get is sandwiches.
There you have it, folks. Hopefully you came out of this article with a better understanding of what makes a strong local band like Shredhead tick, and if not, at least now you know that Israel is around the same size as Houston, Texas… but don’t quote me on that.
Be sure to check out I Saw You Burn on April 7th, as well as the band’s socials, and for all intents and purposes, stay metal, my friends.