I wasn't quite sure where to start with this interview because I can’t say with conviction that I know the exact year I first heard a Perfect Stranger set as it was (most likely) 3 days in at Rainbow Serpent Festival, however, I’m AM certain it was the closing set of the Main Stage and I KNOW he totally and utterly blew my phreakin' mind. I have been lucky enough to have met Yuli on numerous occasions whilst managing the Sunset stage although I didn't really know his 'story' as such. I mean, I know what an incredible talent his is, how down to earth he is and how many beers he can drink in an hour.... I also know a few other things but what happens backstage at sunset, stays backstage at sunset ;)
Perfect Stranger is the stage name of Yuli Fershtat, an Israeli based musician, producer and DJ, born in Moscow, Russia who then moved to Israel at the age of 11. Initially releasing music under the guise of BLT… yes, BLT… which not only stood for the name of his favourite sandwich but also acted as a kind of antithesis to those ego driven names which were pervading the psytrance scene at the time. It wasn’t until 2005 that the name ‘Perfect Stranger’ was born and with it his multi genred psychedelic dance music; the perfect fusion of psytrance, progressive and techno.
His distinct sound which is characterised by lively beats and thoughtful compositions, has seen Yuli headline pretty much every festival on the planet including Boom, Rainbow Serpent, Universo Paralello, Symbiosis Gathering, Glade, Ozora and Antaris.
Perfect Stranger has released 4 full artist albums, Learning = Change (2006), the mind blowing Changed (2007), Free Cloud (2008) and Leap of Faith (2012) as well as being featured on countless remix compilations. Having worked alongside a deluge of the biggest names in the psy/progressive trance scene such as Astrix, Ace Ventura, Captain Hook and Eat Static, he has also been featured on over a hundred other releases for labels such as Iboga Records, Flow Records, Echos and his own label ‘Digital Structures’ where he tends to produce more techy orientated sounds.
So without further to do, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you all to the absolute dead set legend that is Mr. Perfect Stranger :)
Full Name: Yuli Fershtat
Nationality: Israeli living in California
Labels: Iboga Records, Digital Structures
G’day Yuli. Thank you so much for taking time out to have a chat with us all today. Where are you and how are you feeling?
Hi Bean! I am at home and I feel fine!
So, I guess we should start at the beginning right? Tell us about how you came across psychedelic trance and the formation of your first project, BLT?
I first encountered Psychedelic Trance (or more accurately 'Goa Trance') in Goa, India at the beginning of 1993. I knew of the genre prior to that time but it wasn't until around then that I became totally 'hooked'. I was doing lots of partying and travelling and had no plans to make music a career at this stage. It wasn't until my 27th birthday (February 5th 1997) that my friends surprised me with a cheque towards purchasing a synth (or synths ;) because according to them 'I was a natural talent and was wasting my time not making the music'.
So, I did what they wanted and bought a modest home studio and started to learn and understand the difference between a snare and a kick drum. Funnily enough, during this time I managed to make a tune and it somehow got released (Believe me here when I say, I have NO CLUE how this even happened as I truely had no idea what I was doing!). Naturally I had to find my new project a name so BLT it was! Named after my favourite sandwich whilst backpacking around Australia. I didnt really give much thought to the meaning of the whole thing back then.
What music did you listen to growing up and do you think subconsciously these sounds influence your musical taste today? *I’m assuming you listened to Deep Purple considering your alias name is ‘Perfect Stranger’ ;)
I grew up listening to Progressive Rock. I think that a large bit of my creative process was inspired by the psychedelic pioneers of late 60’s and early 70’s. The name Perfect Stranger didn’t come from the Deep Purple song, however, it did come from the Sandman’s track by the same name, and since I was hooked on it I started wondering if there was a band or artist by the same name because it felt so perfect for me. After a short Google search, I found out that there was one band using the name but that they hadn't really been actively making music for well over a decade so that paved the way to calling my (at that time) brand new progressive project – Perfect Stranger.
What was the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself and how old were you?
I actually can’t recall when I bought my first album, but I do remember that the first record that blew my mind into outer space was Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygene’ and that happened around 1976. My Mum came home with this one, and from the first moment I heard it I couldn’t stop listening to it over and over and over again. Being brought up in family of pianists it was mainly classical music and jazz that was played at home with the occasional bit of The Beatles here and there… But the sound that came out of the speakers when my Mum played Oxygene was something I had never ever heard before, and I couldn’t explain what it was ..... of course I couldn’t! It was all synthesizers!
Do you remember your first ever set? Where was it and what was it called? Tell us about it :)
I used to play at a club in Israel in my hometown, Beer Sheva. The club's name was 'The Forum' and it’s probably the longest active mega club in Israel with about 25 years of existence (I might be wrong here but it’s around that number). I was pretty involved in the party scene when I started sitting in the studio and it wasn't long before there were rumours running around that I was making music. It was so weird that the biggest club in town wanted me to come and play and that they hadn't even heard what music I was making!
Initially, I said no. I had no intention to perform at all to be honest, I just wanted to make music. However, after about six months or so I started to understand that if I wanted my music to be played that I would have to do it myself and so I agreed to play and they booked me. I performed at a party with Alien Project somewhere around Autumn of 1997 I think, and was playing DAT tapes. That gig was really awesome and to this day I still don't have a clue how that even happened because I really had very little knowledge of what to do in the studio.
What is it about Progressive Trance that you love so much? What made you fall in love with that genre specifically?
I think what bummed me the most about Goa/Psy trance was that by 2004 it was becoming so predictable and the vocals that started coming along with it were too much of a cheese fest. I felt like there wasn’t that much psychedelic aspects to it anymore. At the same time, some of the finest psychedelic music was being created on Iboga Records, Digital Structures, Spiral Traxx (to name just a few) and it was a pretty natural transition for me, especially given that Iboga was really into the slower BLT stuff I was making. They had also been supporting my music since 2000 and were even releasing some of my tracks off my albums on HOMMega Productions as BLT to vinyl, so it was pretty smooth sailing even with the changes of names and genres, eventually.
How has Progressive Psy changed since you started playing it?
In many ways it became the same as the Psy Trance sound in 2004, you know eventually.... it’s the way things go. There is an underground movement that creates whatever scene there is to begin with that doesn't have too many ‘rules’ in regards to the way you make things etc...
Then this movement becomes successful and the financial element becomes more present, and certain ‘rules’ (on how that music works ‘better’) are already there – eventually when this music becomes so popular that some of it is played by superstar DJ’s from out of the scene, producers then want to create that kind of sound to cater to more people and this in turn makes it easier to access...
Perfect Stranger at Boom Festival, Portugal
Your back catalogue of production credits is quite impressive! You have worked with some of the most important artists in the progressive trance scene. What artist(s) have you been the most excited to work with? Are there any artists you are yet to collaborate with that you would like to in future and do you have a personal favourite Perfect Stranger track?
I have a lot of Perfect Stranger favourites and I could never choose just one. If I have to pick just one though then it would probably be Ode Ao Sol, just because it has opened so many doors (or dance floors ;) for me and my specific way of doing things in the progressive genre. I still play a bit of a version of that track to this day. Regarding my collaborations – every collaboration is special in its own way. Every remix of another artists music is a window to a creative process of a very talented individual. It’s not only a lot of fun, it’s also a very interesting musical and psychological process that I really enjoy. On the other hand, I was lucky enough to have my music thoroughly remixed by quite a lot of awesome artists and I am super grateful for that also. I still have requests to remix this or that current (and not so current.. 17 year old!) tracks and it’s just fantastic that these requests are still coming.
What track can you count on to always kick-start a dance floor?
Manifestation (there is a new version of it that I've just finishing by me and Sphera... just sayin')
Away from music, how do you relax? What hobbies etc do you enjoy?
Did you know that these days DJ’s are using their great DJing techniques to wash dishes? I have been doing a lot of that… How’s that for a hobby? And a lot of laundry too!!! Seriously though, for a long time while I never considered music making as something that makes you tired… So, I was just making music and all my prior hobbies weren’t needed. But these days, while we are not so busy running around gigging I find myself watch occasional NBA game, or try to teach my daughter chess which was quite a thing for me back in the day. I think what I love to do best is to walk around the hills of the East Bay and enjoy the amazing nature and the smell of the trees, that’s a winner for me!
What track do you wish you wrote?
The Sky Was Pink by Nathan Fake or Cactus by Union Jack
What is your all-time favourite album?
It’s funny regarding the all-time favourite album. Firstly, I don’t have just one, but since you asked, and I given it some thought… Normally it would be something like 'Selling England by The Pound' by Genesis or 'Abbey Road' by The Beatles but I actually have been responding emotionally to an Israeli band named Tamouz, they only made one album called 'Orange Season is Over' but I love it to bits.
You are definitely a household name within the Psytrance and festival scene here in Australia. What is it about the Australian dance (dust) floors that you love so much?
Aussies are great party people. I just love how it feels at the parties down under. It seems that they were all really connected to my sound from the get go and we have been enjoying ourselves ever since!!
Perfect Stranger @ Rainbow Serpent Festival
How has 2020 & this whole pandemic changed your views to how the dance scene will recover? Do you think live DJ streams are here to stay?
I really hope the scene will recover, and I think it will. However, I am unsure just how much time it will take. Regarding the DJ live streams, I am not so sure that when we get back to 'normal' that they will stay... they might fade away?
So, in closing up today Yuli, what does the future hold for you? What are you most excited about? Any new releases coming up we should keep note of?
There have been many things happening during the last year in Yuli’s musical world… Firstly, I've spent a lot of time releasing some quality stuff on Digital Structures with a lot of new connections, new artists presenting their talent and new partnerships which are all continuing into 2021… At the same time, I have making some music in the studio (not as much as I would like though!) but I can say that there might be enough material soon for an announcement of something, however, that may still take some time so it's baby steps right now.
Although, last Monday saw the release of a pretty massive project of mine on Iboga Records. It’s a compilation named 'Been There?' that contains quite a lot of really cool music and is a real journey in between genres in psychedelic trance. It was a long ride to compile this one and I think that that long ride is what makes it so expansive and exciting. There is a lot of good stuff on there and it has quite a large representation from some peeps from the Land Down Under! Go check it out ;)
Thanks so much for your time today Yuli. See you back at Rainbow soon! Stay safe xx
You're welcome and for sure!