Listening to Perfect Stranger's 2008 album, Free Cloud, is an experience somewhat like flying. Lighter-than-air melodies and heavenly breakdowns take you up, up, and away, soaring above the perfect, fluffy-white clouds depicted on the album cover. Free Cloud was a breakthough moment for Perfect Stranger (aka Yuli Fershtat), winning him fans around the world. Happily, his next album is coming out soon, as well as his next appearance in Australia – one of his favourite places to tour, he says.
Yuli's just returned from a festival deep in the woodlands of Russia. He sounds a little tired, yet his attitude is chipper. "I'm still collecting the pieces, a bit," he admits, laughing. "But it's coming back... I have a really intensive week until I'm coming to Australia, so I don't have much time to sleep to be honest!"
Yuli's last appearance in Australia was at Strawberry Fields last year, where he rocked the main stage with a midnight set – something quite rare for Yuli. "I never played outdoors in Australia at night," he elaborates. "It never happened before. I normally don't like to play at night... in Israel and many other countries, night is the time for really fast, dark music. I was expecting the crowd to stare at me and say, 'What is this DJ doing, man? It's like 25 BPM too slow, man!' But instead it was like, total rocking of the dancefloor! Everyone went completely wacko."
Anyone who caught his set at the festival will doubtless agree. Even though he played during a particularly intense downpour, during an already rainy weekend, he had a strong crowd cheering him on. Like some manic, grinning Pied Piper (or should that be Psy Piper?) he lured a massive crowd of stomping, cheering doofers out of their dry, warm tents with his tasty lashings of driving prog-psy. Yuri fondly recalls the wild weather of that night: "Let's not call it a natural disaster, but let's call it... natural hardcore times. These are proven moments of glory for trance parties. It's always been like this. It becomes a survival thing, you know? Then you even dance harder and every thing becomes a really romantic moment. I've been in a few moments like that and they've always been epic.
"I can remember a really amazing storm that happened a few years ago at 303 Festival in Bahir, on New Year's Eve," continues Yuli. "It was crazy. It's super hot there normally at that time of the year, about 38 degrees plus 90 percent humidity. Instead, it was crazy clouds coming in with a super cold rain for two hours. It was hardcore, really unexpected and uncalled for! But it was one of the best sets I've ever played, because everyone was going so mad.
"I can recall also a certain Maitreya Festival that will be recorded probably as ‘Mudtreya Festival’”, Yuli chuckles. "It was like three years ago. It was even a little bit dangerous, but the people just wouldn't mind that. I remember a picture of that festival. It was the picture of the year: Aussie chick wearing golden bikini walking persistently in the mud. And she knows her way to the dance floor, you know? She doesn't think twice. This picture is burnt in my brain!"
Yuli started producing music in his late twenties – relatively late in life, compared to many of today's laptop wunderkinds who put their first tracks on Soundcloud while still in their mid-teens. But, says Yuli, he already had musical tendencies: he'd played the piano since an early age and dabbled in singing and playing the guitar. In the end, it was Yuli's friends who recognised his musical talent, buying him a very special birthday present way back in 1997.
"They gathered money together for a synthesiser," he remembers, "claiming I should be a music producer. So they gave me this cheque. I'm an honest individual, so I went to the shop and bought myself a synthesiser – a Yamaha CSX1. I still use it as a controller today."
Yuli started out making psytrance under the rather delicious moniker of BLT. Yet he never completely devoted himself to music as BLT, he says. "I was doing something else on the side: studying, having exams, doing something else. I never gave my whole thing to the music." All that changed when Yuli began a new, more prog-oriented project under the name of Perfect Stranger.
"[Israeli psytrance producer] Sandman made a really cool track called Perfect Stranger," reveals Yuli. "I related to this because I am a perfect stranger, in a way. I have my own way of living my life and interpreting things in a different way than what's expected."
Yuli used his new alias as a chance to throw himself headfirst into his music. "I made a decision at that time. I wasn't young; I was 35 I think. One last chance to make music only and see how far it gets. And it just worked immediately! I just made two tracks and that's it."
Quizzed about his creative process making Free Cloud, Yuli admits that it "just happened." He continues: "I can't really tell you how I wrote it. I had these two good tracks. I said, ‘Damn, maybe we go for an album’. Then after a few months or something, I made another four tracks I was happy about. I needed only two more. Then I wrote them in a week or something. I knew exactly where their order in the album was, their key, exactly how they were meant to sound. It was like I was just transferring information! So I can't say. It just happened.
"I'm an individual with a definite feeling of a goal in his life; I cannot deny that. Having said that, things just happen to me. But I have to say that many things in my life happened by chance. It's my way to take things – they happen to me more than I create them or urge them to happen. I like it when things unveil themselves to me.
One of my best role models is Forrest Gump, so it makes sense. A lot of things happened to him by chance!" Such as getting shot in the buttocks, for instance. "Well," comes Yuli's response, “I only watched the movie, you know. I didn't get shot in the bum. You never know, I might in future! But I hope not."
Finishing up, Yuli reveals that his new album will be coming out towards the end of August this year. "It's exactly four years since Free Cloud. I really tried hard not to think about Free Cloud when I was making it, because every Perfect Stranger fan really knows that album... but, you know, like my guru Forrest Gump would say: I have nothing to say about this matter!"
BY MORGAN RICHARDS
Perfect Stranger [ISR] plays Winter Beats Soundsystem alongside Angy Kore [ITA], Vibe Tribe [ISR], Sesto Sento [ISR] and more on Friday June 22 at the Royal Melbourne Hotel.