Dissecting the evolution of Infected Mushroom’s live show [Interview]
Over the last 20 years, Infected Mushroom have been a powerfully influential force in the global electronic music industry, helping to bring psytrance out from the shadows of a niche subgenre into the eyes and ears of the masses.
The revolutionary sound of Infected Mushroom was originally conceived by Amit “Duvdev” Duvdevani and Erez Eisen in the 1990s — two classically trained musicians who teamed up in the psytrance world and began to push the boundaries of electronically-created music — a collaboration that continues to this day. Now Infected Mushroom are about to embark on the next phase of their journey.
Following up on the mechanical and electrical engineering feats of the past two tours, Animatronica and Fungusamongus, Infected Mushroom will be premiering their brand new live show, along with new music from their forthcoming album Return To The Sauce, at the Avalon in Hollywood, CA, on December 24. The concept of the new show, as can be deduced from the title of the album, is to return to the more classic Infected Mushroom sound and visuals.
“Last time [with Animatronica] we went with the burner vibe,” says Duvdev, “This time we are returning to world of ‘psy-tech.'” He went on to describe some of the details of the new stage: “Our new LED Mushrooms are transparent, made of fiberglass, and inside are color changing LEDs. We are also using projectors and visual media from our friends at V-Squared Labs – the same talented people that made our killer Fungusamongus visuals.”
Going back to 2013, the Fungusamongus tour had Eisen and Duvdev performing inside of elevated, projection-mapped orbs, which Duvdev dubbed “The Balls.” The entrancing aesthetics were accompanied by other futuristic aspects, such as the transparent touch-screen interface that Duvdev used as a live controller.
That interface was something that had never been seen before, and even with current touchscreen technology, has not really been done since — a testament to their constant innovation. They somehow managed to lug the giant structures on a global tour, visiting prestigious festivals such as Coachella, Ultra, and Paradiso in the US, Alfa Future in Russia, îleSoniq in Canada, Emmaboda in Sweden, and Playground in Brazil.
Infected Mushroom play an average of 120 shows per year, and have been doing so for longer than most artists’ entire careers. In and of itself, this touring schedule is a feat of endurance — especially considering the extremely high level of energy they exhibit at every stop. Anyone who has been to an Infected Mushroom show knows that they never hold anything back.
The number of shows the band plays becomes even more impressive when the level of production they bring along with them is taken into account. Playing 120 DJ sets in a year, which comes out to around one set every three days, could be considered normal in today’s world. However, it’s not very difficult to travel with a laptop, USB stick, and a pair of headphones, as opposed to a whole set of live instruments and an entire stage, lights and all.
With such an intense touring schedule, it’s a wonder that they are able to build entirely new shows as quickly as they do. The process of continual evolution over the last 20 years means that the members of the team have learned to continually be thinking about where they want the next step to take the band and the production.
“Usually we are already thinking about our new show while we are on tour for our current show. To conceptualize, build, practice, and deploy a production could take about 3-6 months.”
The level of technology and engineering that goes into each tour’s stage, along with the fact that they are constantly traveling around the world, makes this timeline incredibly ambitious. Another prime example that proves their whole team’s dedication to innovation is their previous tour, Animatronica, which had a number of large mechanical mushrooms and trees that created a scene not dissimilar to a dystopian, steampunk-style theme park.
For an art installation, the timeline seems reasonable. However, the team had to build this in such a way as to make it possible for the stage to be built and broken down on a daily basis, while on the road, playing multiple shows every week.
Bigger productions tends to lead to more complex logistics and larger teams. Consequently, the increased number and complexity of the moving parts involved in each tour causes more stress throughout the process, particularly when on the road. These dynamics can easily lead to quick burnouts and a shorter career. For Infected Mushroom, however, this is just another part of their evolution, and is ultimately something that can be modified and refined with every iteration.
“For us, to get bigger, we had to get smaller – if that makes sense. We have tried to simplify over the years. We started out with a massive crew, huge truck, countless set pieces, crates, tour bus, etc. Why do all of this when we can be just as effective by being smart about the show? Streamlining our production has helped us to be as effective and prolific as we can be.”
Another issue with having enormous, technically complex stages is that they take up a lot of space. Not only does this take space on the stage away from the band – their Fungusamongus stage only had space for the duo – but it also restricts the band to playing only venues that can support a large production.
For their new tour, Eisen and Duvdev explain that they are really excited that the versatility of the new stage allows the entire band to partake.
“We love that this new production allows us to perform with our band…our past big productions didn’t really allow room for our band players, because the set pieces took up too much of the stage. Additionally, we love the this set is scalable so we can play in big or small venues.”
Being a musical group with foundations in experimentation, incorporating the live aspect lets improvisation take more of a central role in the performance. Live instruments leave room for on-the-fly experimentation at each show, creating a unique experience every time — something that is deceptively difficult to do when playing multiple shows every week.
“[Improvisation] plays a big role in our show. As a band, it’s great to be able to jam, or play parts differently. Especially during our encore, we really enjoy just going for it! Improvisation allows our fans to come each time and stay entertained – they can experience our performance in a different way each time.”
Over the last couple of years, the duo’s musical production has been less focused on the classic psytrance sound from which they built their career, to the dismay of many long-time fans. However, the only constant is change, particularly in the music industry. Infected Mushroom have always been about experimentation and innovation — Eisen and Duvdev could easily be considered some of the maddest scientists in the music industry — which, by definition would lead to a constantly-changing sound. Veteran fans can rest assure that the band will never neglect their origins, and that this new album and tour truly represents their Return To The Sauce.
Check out the schedule for the first phase of the Return To The Sauce tour below. Tickets for the debut performance of their new live show on December 24, 2016, are available here.