by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2007-05-09
As Teapacks fly to Finland to represent Israel in the Eurovision semi-final, lead singer Kobi Oz talks to SJ's Caroline Westbrook about what we can expect from their performance, what they think of Eurovision and the controversy surrounding their song Push the Button.
Israel had a disappointing result in last year's Eurovision - how are you going to avoid something similar happening this year?
Well, I'm not sure we are going to win but we are going to make a good impression or at least an interesting impression. It would be an honour to win but our music is a partitularly special brand of Israeli music, it is something we're not hearing a lot of in Europe, so I'm not sure how it will be received.
Were you a fan of Eurovision before you were asked to take part?
I liked Eurovision in the time when Eurovision was alive but now it's become some kind of a competition. But year's winners Lordi made us hope that we can do well at the contest. If Eurovision is not about being nice and smooth, it can be a place where you can be special, and Lordi proved that you can be special and win the Eurovision.
What do you think of the competition?
We watched the other songs, we can say it's less boring than last year's, it's interesting. There is a change in the Eurovision, the competition this year, which is great.
What do you think of the UK entry, flying The Flag by Scooch?
(hesitantly) It's.....nice! I think it's a bit plastic, like it's made up by a committee, it's not something fluent, it's professional but it doesn't shine.
What do you think about the fuss surrounding neighbourly voting at Eurovision? Do you think it's made it impossible for certain countries to ever win?
Ask me after the semi-final! If we win it's all about art, if not it's because of anti-semitism! But they do have to find a way to make the vote more fair. And those that pass from the semi-final to the final have a stronger chance because the song is heard twice.
What can we expect from your performance on the night?
It will be anarchy on stage! And if we win the first prize our accordion player is going to moon on stage.
Push The Button has caused some controversy ahead of the contest is it true you were nearly disqualified?
Well, the BBC started all this scandal! It's very nice to know that the BBC thinks the Iranian president is crazy but we didn't intend this song to be written only about Ahmedinejad, there are a wide selection of cuckoos all over the world and every one has a button and this is very dangerous, so this is a danger coming through we can't close our eyes to, a lot of fanatic violence around, and the Israeli people are not fighting back, just waiting for another blow. So this song says that you have to laugh in the face of terror it is terror versus rock n'roll and rock n'roll will win! There was a very serious discussion about the song among the organisers, they talked about the words and everything. But I heard something funny, that in discussion every one of the delegation had a microphone with a button and when they wanted to be heard they said 'push the button'! So they understood this is something to laugh about and not something without taste. Oddly enough, the Finnish were really against our song, after sending Lordi last year they said our song was tasteless.
It's not the first time Israel has caused controversy in Eurovision either, what with Dana International in 1998...
It's our job to cause controversy! We are the reality programme of the world.
Where did the band name Teapacks come from?
We were originally called Tippex, as in wipeout fluid, because we are trying to wipe out differences between people. We are combining together different kinds of Israel, like Arab Jew Israel with East European kind of Israel. But we found out there are students that are sniffing this fluid and it caused brain damage so we changed our name to Teapacks. We didn't want to take responsibility for this.
What's your own background?
My parents came from Tunisia, and when I was a child we spoke French and Arabic at home. I don't speak French, I understand it and I can write in French, but my English is better! I'm from Sderot which is a border town, it's like the Israeli Liverpool because there are a lot of artists that come from there, there's something very warm and special about it. I've also written two books, I have a TV show of my own, but this is new, I only started it a month ago.
How did you get into music?
I started playing when I was a kid and afterwards I was a keyboard player in a Moroccan group so I learned a North African beat very powerfully. And aftewards I met some Moroccans on a kibbutz outside Sderot and the miracle happened, two kinds of sounds mixed together.
What plans do you have for after Eurovision?
We are going to sign a record deal abroad and start a career for the rest of the world. There is now a lot of interest in our music, our manager is happy and we are happy because it's a challenge for us to sing in different languages and accents and make a lot of noise.