Israeli band still slammin after all these years

T-Slam is back together. Again.

The popular Israeli rock band never really broke up. They just take long breaks between recordings and tours. So long that they have released only six albums since first forming in 1978.

The good news is the original lineup remains intact, and they still love playing together when their schedules permit.

T-Slam will headline Israel in the Gardens this year, performing at 3 p.m. on the main stage. They are one of several Israeli groups taking the main stage; others include local groups MusicCA, the Peatot and Ya-Rock.

Though most of the members of T-Slam have several irons in the fire (keyboardist Yair Nitzani, for example, is well known in Israel as a comedian and TV personality), they still can’t give up the band.

“We’re very busy people separately,” Nitzani says. “Everybody has his own career. On the other hand we love to play together. We just do it in our style, our flow, our good spirits, with no pressure and no obligation to anything.”

T-Slam performs at 3 p.m. on the main stage

This concert marks the band’s San Francisco debut, and is part of a quick U.S. tour that also takes them to Los Angeles and New York. It’s their first American tour since 1992.

Excited by the prospect of returning to the stage, the band went back to the studio to record several new songs, included on a recently released CD. But performing is where T-Slam shines, says guitarist Itzar Ashdot.

“It’s a special energy that surprises us on stage,” he says. “In the beginning we started as a recording band, but after we started playing live we created our sound, which is more raw than the studio.”

The sextet first formed after the members befriended each other during their military service. They broke big with their debut single “Give Me Rock ‘n’ Roll,” from their 1981 album “Radio Hazak” (Loud Radio).

At the time, they looked, dressed and sounded like a typical high-treble hair band of the early ’80s, but they soon refined their style. After three platinum albums, T-Slam broke up in 1983 as members sought other careers.

Nitzani and Ashdot went on to produce hits for the late singer Ofra Haza. Subsequently, Nitzani served as a record label executive, while Ashdot produced other artists and ran his own recording studios. The band reunited in 1990, parted again, then came together in 2003.

Seven years later, they’re back at it.

“In the beginning we were together 24 hours a day,” Ashdot recalls. “After we split up and came back, we were older. We managed to integrate this band into our lives in very cool ways.”

The band members say fame in Israel is not the same as fame among the glitterati of Los Angeles or New York.

“We always say stardom in Israel is impossible because at the end of the day you have to take the garbage out,” Nitzani says. “Everyone sees you: no walls, no limos.”

In April, Nitzani and Ashdot returned to the army radio station they knew and loved 30 years ago to launch a weekly two-hour music program. It’s one way they stay current with new artists.

Current artistically, certainly, but nothing can stop the pages of the calendar from turning. Kids themselves when they started, the members of

T-Slam are now on their third generation of fans.

That means some of the very first Slamophiles are now grandparents. That’s also true for one member of the band. ”Our drummer [Sami Avzardel] has five grandchildren,” says Ashdot, “and he’s the youngest in the band.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.