Endo - movers and shakers in a big way
By Naughty Mickie notymickie@earthlink.net

Endo, huh? Sounds like some whiny alternative band that should have broken up years ago... Wait, no, perhaps they're actually medical students with a serious hobby, after all "endo" is a medical term for "inside," right? I popped "Songs for the Restless" (DV8/Columbia) into my CD player and listened to it - all the way through - and then listened to it a second time. The vocals were seductive, the music mesmerizing and I hadn't even had my coffee yet. I HAD to interview this band.

Endo, vocalist Gil Bitton, guitarist Eli Parker, bassist Zelick and drummer Joe Eshkenazi, had somehow slipped by me, as their debut, "Evolve," came out in 2001 to rave reviews. The Miami quartet had been making waves, but I had been splashed yet. I guess I shouldn't beat myself too badly, as it seems that their fan base is growing as they hit each stop on their tour with Ozzfest 2003. It will probably continue on its much-deserved upward spiral when the group tours on their own later to further support their new effort.

Bitton is perky as he recalls how he came to Endo, "I got a knock on my door and someone was looking for a singer. They called me in to sing and I had some great skills and some really good performance talents, so I played my first gig. I just really loved being on stage, it came to me really naturally. For my first performance, I said I was definitely going to do this, I was so driven by just being on stage and having people watching me. The whole feeling was so natural so I set to perform with Endo. It's been such a long process with Endo, maybe eight years of trying to find the right people and the right chemistry. It's very hard work and finally I found the right people, the right chemistry and formed Endo.

"Zelick and I have been together since we were about 18, before Endo, so he's basically my right hand," Bitton continues. "He's always been there playing bass for me. He has been through all the shit that I've been through in forming this band. People think you just form a band, but it's definitely not like that, it's so hard. You have to find the right people and not only the right people, but the right look, not only the right look, but the right chemistry, the right vibe, do you share the same intuition? That kind of thing. It's a complex pattern that you go through."

Bitton pauses and I ask him when he first started to sing.

"I sang ever since I was a little kid," Bitton replies. "I would listen to the radio and sing, it was kind of like I'd know these songs, it was second nature to me. And the people I was growing up with, there was all girls -- two older sisters and their friends. The girls were like, 'Wow, you sing great' and 'We can't believe there's a song on the radio and you're singing it' and I was a little kid and I was like, 'What? Really?'"

Bitton's parents encouraged him, as his father sang at weddings.

"He's also a good singer and performer, he can imitate voices. So I get my emotional instability from my father," Bitton laughs.

I am aware that Bitton didn't complete high school, but not sure why.

"I honestly left school because I was going to get kicked out anyway," Bitton chortles. "I wasn't fully conscious in high school. I wasn't all there. I wasn't myself, it was like some dork. I never fit in. I tried to fit in and it never worked. I didn't wear the right clothes and talk the right way. There was so much pressure in high school, it was like I would not want to go. I would ditch or be tardy and I just said fuck it, they're not going to hold me back here, I'm just going to go."

Bitton was good in English, but he didn't care about math or history, still, he felt he needed something more. He continued his education on his own, immersing himself in books and is still an avid reader today.
  
"I got into mysticism and a little into the Cabala. School was just not for me. Even if I knew then what I know now, I would have just pursued knowledge," says Bitton.

Bitton isn't afraid of having a day job.

"I used to wait tables, I used to work at a gift shop, I used to paint, I've done so much. I've done all kinds of things," Bitton tells me.

With the success of Endo, you probably won't find Bitton serving you burgers, but that doesn't mean he's sitting still.

"I just started doing yoga. I'm really really into it. That's basically all I've been doing with my time, I've been doing yoga and rehearsing with the band." Bitton adds, "Just finishing the album, that's an accomplishment in itself. After the album, you just sit around and wait  for things to happen."

This leads to a discussion of the process of songwriting.

"Certain guitar melodies lend themselves to certain phrases," explains Bitton. "But basically it comes intuitively. I thank God that I have the intuition with word patterns, poetry and lyricism. It comes naturally and also certain life experiences. Being in relationships  throughout my life, all of these experiences, the ups and downs, it comes from there, but basically it's the collaboration of the band. Someone will come up with a guitar melody, I'll come up with some lyrics, we just go from there. No set way, ever, it's got to come naturally.

"I'll write something one day," Bitton goes on. "Some poetry or something I dreamt or anything and take it into rehearsal and we'll try something and I hear this music and it will go really good with something I just wrote. We'll collaborate like that."

I note that Bitton's background is unique and query about the influence of culture in his music.

"I'm French Moroccan and I was born in Israel, but I left when I was three years old," responds Bitton. "With 'Songs for the Restless,' I guess (I was influenced) emotionally because I come from a very emotional background. My parents are old fashioned and had a lot of passion, so  in that respect, yes. I would like to pursue some other avenues of music, I listen to all kinds of music. Nothing on the radio, I can't stand it."

He explains that he is influenced by a wide range of vocalists, including Bono and Jeff Buckley.  It's hard for me not to blurt that Bitton's vocal abilities may influence other aspiring singers.

"I was never really confident in my voice until David Schiffman (producer of "Songs of the Restless," as well as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Petty) pushed me to realize that I have something to say and that I really have a good voice to say it. That was important, that was a step for me. It's like, 'Whoa, I can sing,'" Bitton says humbly.

We talk about the music scene.

"It's a very crucial time; there's got to be some sort of revolution in music. Who knows where it's going to come from, but it's going come and it's go to happen soon, well it does have to, but I think we're due for it," says Bitton. "It's just a very diverse time right now and there  are a lot of things happening. I think it's OK. I think there's a lot of good bands that have a lot of good things to say that are not only positive, whether it's positive or negative I think it's the best for right now, it's commeci, commeca."

Bitton may seem blase about the music scene, but he isn't where it comes to the effect on the industry by the Internet.

"To me, as a musician, trying to sell records in the business and to have some sort of career, it's terrible. I think people should buy records. But not only that, if you like a band go buy the record. You want to look at the lyrics, you want to see the expression of what they are trying to do with their music. That's comes with the CD, the whole CD from the front cover to the back cover. This is an art form. We're trying not only to give you the music, but an artistic view," states Bitton. "I think it's important to go out there and get the record, but I do not agree with records being 16 bucks. I think that's fucking awful. I think that records should be no more than $10. I don't think that people should pay any more than $10 for music. I think a lot of places are rip-offs and people get pissed off and they want to burn music because it's there and it's free."

I take a deep breath and bravely ask, "Do you use the Net?"

"I don't have a computer right now," laughs Bitton. "But when I did, yeah, it's a great thing. There's a lot of knowledge. There's nothing wrong with the Internet, it's great, but as a musician, I just want to sell records. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to be rich, I just  want to be comfortable."

Whew! Bitton continues, telling me that Endo is hoping to do some intensive touring.

"I don't want to take a break ever. I want to be out and about for two years," Bitton chuckles. "I don't want to take a break, I just want to be out on stage. If I'm not on stage, I'm not totally 100 percent. I want to be out there, I want to meet people, I want to explore the  world. I so love it out there."

As we close, I offer Bitton an opportunity to speak his mind on any topic and he obliges.

"I hope everything goes well with this whole situation we're in right now as far as being at war and realize that we're all human beings and we're all feeling a lot of the same emotions, not beliefs obviously, but we're all human. I hope we can get through this, I think we will." Bitton gets personal, "I just want to bring a positive message to everything even though some of our music can be on a negative front. From all negativity comes positivity. I think everything is going to fall into place I hope."

Endo and their album "Songs for the Restless" are probably coming to your town. Find out at www.endomusic.com

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