K.O.S (Oren Balbus) Interview

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Full disclosure, I’ve known Oren most of my life, together we discovered whole worlds of music. Oren has always been a follower of more extreme music, in metal it was always the fastest and craziest thing there is and in electronics it was always the most psychedelic and the strangest possible. Oren was always busy creating as a singer, DJ and more. Oren recently released his first solo album that combines his two favorite worlds, metal and electronica and we thought it was a good opportunity to fill in gaps and talk a little about music once again.

Oren, it’s good to talk to you again, tell us a little about what’s been happening with you in recent years and your musical work.

Thank you. After I quit Eternal Gray (Death Metal Band) around 2009-2010, I decided to give up being in a band in general. Apparently, I have a problem with working when there are 5 different opinions, and metal always had that “disease” of writing songs very slowly with a lot of excuses to go around. So, I focused on being a guest vocalist, if I got invited and that was it. Around 2017, a good friend who is an excellent photographer named Sharon Shapira, sent me a link with music of an unknown band named DPS (Damage per second) from Haifa area and told me that I had to listen to them, I said OK, but didn’t really listen. About a month later, we met again at a concert, this time she was more decisive and told me they were looking for a vocalist, you must hear it. I got home, and I listened to the link on Soundcloud. From the very first song

I understood that there is something here that I haven’t heard in Israel yet. Amazing music that has been laying around for a few years, waiting to be released. It sounded so professional, and everything was ready to record vocals. The original lineup was a drummer and a guitarist (Ofir and Mike). They had an extra small studio on the rooftop of a mike’s apartment, which overlooks the harbor and the amazing view of this beautiful city. So, alongside this pastoral view, we got together to record this album, the click was immediate, and the energies were sky high, as if I had returned to being a metalhead teenager who likes extreme music at the age of 14, only 800 years ahead. We recorded the vocals quite quickly, had a few rehearsals to get the lyrics right, and straight to recording as soon as we were all satisfied. We added a killer bassist named Guy, and a talented young guitarist named Ran to the lineup. Everything was very fast, and the first concert we put on was a free gig, a sort of an initial introduction of the band, in the “Chaos” rehearsal room, in Tel Aviv. The place was full, and the energy was crazy. Unfortunately, this show was the first and the last of my previous life, because a few months later, I got cancer and everything we wanted as a band just stopped for a period of almost two years. After a long recovery, I returned to the microphone position, and we managed to perform with very big names in the metal scene, such as Jinjer, shredhead, Eternal Struggle, Orphaned Land and more. Currently, we have released one single under the name ONCE HUMAN which is actually the first song written by the new and full band

After so many years of making music, what prompted you to sit down and write a solo album?

Let’s start a little back. I never managed to learn to play anything. I tried drums, keyboards, guitar, even learning musical notes. so, I went for a DJ career, and as a DJ you are exposed to a lot of musical styles beyond metal. As a child growing up between the seventies and the eighties, I was probably exposed to electronic music and consumed pop til the Penguin club era around the age of 13, when my older brother was one of the DJs there. In general, my older brother taught me alternative music combined electronic rock Like Bauhaus, Skinny Puppy, Sisters of Mercy etc… After graduating from my service, all the metalheads I’ve known suddenly disappeared from the metal scene. Most of them went out to discover other worlds of music, and I was on that road as well. straight to the underground parties all over Israel.

You know… acid parties. The birth of psytrance, and with that, discovered a lot of other worlds. also pop, hip-hop, house, club trance, etc. I collected huge amounts of music at home and went out to DJ at parties in all colors of the rainbow of musical range. I always told myself that the day I got tired of music, it would be the saddest day of my life, and I tried to keep that faith, because there are many types of music today, and because I grew up on diverse styles, whether it was from my parents, whether it was from my older brother, whether it was from the environment I used to hang out with them.. I was always learning from new music and probably somewhere it was rooted well in my head. About two years ago, Ofir, my guitarist, gave me a license to use the STUDIO ONE software which is a sort of a replica for Cubase, only friendlier and simpler to use. He told me to try to write something. In the first months I would open it, try some sounds, try to understand it, open YouTube to understand who is against who And every time I close it with some kind of swear that it won’t work for me, then I saw a lecture by Infected Mushroom at a BPM music school in which Duvdev and Erez said in a very simple way how to approach the writing of the songs, and roughly described the same mistake that metalheads make, which is digging the same song while trying to improve it more And more and it never ends. I took this lecture with both hands and internalized what you shouldn’t do for starters, get stuck on a song. (By the way, I recommend everyone to watch this lecture at least once a week, they explain all the questions you have as a beginner musician, in the best way you can ask for).

Why did I decide to write solo? It just happened After the release of the band’s album, the band was in an “outage” of writing, so I said, I’ll take the reins and try to write. Needless to say, as a beginner who doesn’t know how to play anything, the challenge was too great, but very addictive. So I started writing a song and another song and another song, and I sent it to the band to listen, I realized pretty quickly that the music I was writing was different from what the band was looking for, and somewhere I decided to adopt my own music, Not to be limited by anything, let my mind just run. Got max out writing a shit song? Save and close the software,

it’ll sit there in the computer’s memory drawers.

Tell us a bit about the writing process of the album.

Wow, it was a two-year journey…Because of my inability to understand notes, I went by hearing and humming, then worked on a midi keyboard note by note, until I found the right note. After I find the notes, I try to set it at the right speed, in the right rhythm, and has the sound I choose that will fit in some way with the texture of the song. I have a problem, I have to hear everything on repeat many times, and sometimes I put the part I wrote in a loop for an hour, I hum it and try to see what will be the next thing that should come after the first riff that you wrote and you are satisfied with it. Most of the time it suits me well, but in many cases when I opened the day after, I realized that it was a piece of shit, So either they improve the sequel, or you come up with something completely different, and throw the riff you didn’t like into the “storage” (all the riffs you put at the end of the track that will wait there until a suitable solution is found)

I use also lots of sound banks and somehow built a basic “structure” for every song I started,

I added a lot of synths that I bought/downloaded (the free ones) and played with them as much as possible. Since I started writing songs, I suddenly realized that I had enough for almost 3 albums and it still on going. So, I decided to release a solo album and that’s it, I don’t have the energy to start writing lyrics and I certainly don’t have the energy to look for a vocalist, as well I didn’t really feel like singing on it (although I started looking for a vocalist for the next album).

Because this is a first album, I wanted to invest every penny I have that I can afford (after all, I own a house with 3 children, and music is a never-ending money pump, especially if you deal with metal) and took an artist who is also into extreme metal, but he is also extreme electronic And of course as I like it, extreme hahaha. DJ Zardonic is THE dinosaur pioneer and one of the iconic founders of the drum n’ bass metal scene (that’s my opinion), and I asked him to mix and master the album for me. His price was very high, so we tried to reach an equal footing, He is an incredible and lovely person who really liked my music. He really urged me to put vocals on the album, but I was very adamant that the first album would just come out, and that was it. The constant fear in my mind is to leave music in drawers all my life, I don’t like this thing, if you have music that you think is good enough, release it and move on to writing, that’s the essence of being a musician for me. There will always be room to improve the same song, but why invest your energies there and not in new songs, new ideas, open your horizons to where you and your mind take you. So, we had quite a lot of arguments (in fun of course) about recording vocals. In the end I won, and the RE-BIRTH album was released… Honestly, I’m quite pleased that I succeeded hahaha…

In this album you worked with your brother, working on an album is intense and tough as you said, what is it like working with a family?

Chen, my little brother, is quite an inspiration for me, a child who dreamed and, in the end, made a dream come true. He loved Orphaned Land all his life, learned every note in their songs and finally became a lead writing guitarist in this special band. Basically, I wrote the whole album by myself including guitars that I wrote in midi with a shit pile of effects that would sound like a guideline for how the guitar should be, sent the guides to Chen and he recorded guitars and bass for me. It’s time to proudly say that the speed at which he recorded everything was insane. He listened, learned and recorded the album in one day, the day after that he recorded a bass, and we finished the story of the strings section. Now that everything is almost ready and recorded, Chen explained to me how channels should be sent to the studios for mixing and mastering, and it’s literally arranging each channel separately, with its name, with effect/without effect, a whole world that I didn’t know needed to be messed with, and it’s terrible. It might be the administrative part of writing a song, which I really don’t like, but there’s no choice, it creates less problems for the guy who took your album with 2 hands. I will recommend to many people who are afraid to take the reins, and have tons of tunes in their head or on their phone that they haven’t done anything with, get a software, make time for yourself (for me it’s mostly at night until quite late) and start playing with this “Lego”, maybe it will work A lot of shit of songs, sounds, riffs and what not… But among all the little diamonds you find, there will be one gem that will be a blast track, and the cool part here, that from that moment on your head will continue to produce melodies, harmonies, etc.

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