Juju & Jordash are giving dance music a good kick in the pants right now, plain and simple. They aren’t alone, but they are perhaps the most exciting. Combining their countless years playing jazz and be-bop in bands and electronic production techniques they are creating thrilling new strains of house, techno, dub and jazz. They have an appreciation for older music eras but aren’t bound to those traditions-check out their Off Minor radio shows for evidence of this fact. This is readily apparent on their 2nd album, Juju & Jordash, which is due out on Dekmantel later this month. Tracks like “Jazzy Trance” and offer up a peak into an alternate universe where Ornette Coleman, Farley Jackmaster Funk and Ralf Hildenbeutel became the Traveling Wilburys. And on “Dirty Spikes” J&J go balls-to-wall italo combusition. But they also dial it back for reflective moments of murky piano, terse middle eastern motifs and shimmering cymbals as displayed on “Jugdish.” I caught up with the two of them to get their perspective on making Juju & Jordash and ended up talking movies, bacon and a bit of politics.
Q: Your bio states you met in Israel, but where are you both from and how did you end up there?
Juju: I was born in Haifa, Israel and my family still lives there.
Jordash: I was born in Columbus, Ohio. My folks moved to the holy land when I was 8.
Q: Are you Jewish and if so how do you feel about bacon? Does religion or politics ever enter into your music, and if so how is manifested?
Jordash: Haha…depends how it’s prepared! Of course, like all good jews I love bacon and shrimps.
Juju and I are usually pretty damn pissed off when it comes to Israeli politics so naturally it seeps into our music – anyway all music is political.In our live show it’s been playing a more overt role – especially if you know Hebrew.
Juju: Yeah, my birth certificate says Jewish, but if there is a God I can’t imagine he would be against bacon. Our most political song was Blue Plates (on Real Soon). That one had some sporadic anti occupation vocals, but not many got it cause it was pitched way low.
Q: Can you translate the vocals or describe your feelings on the occupation?
Jordash: My feelings are too overwhelming to describe in polite written words… They are best expressed by yelling obscenities in Hebrew followed by swallowing a Xanax or two… If your readership was Israeli I would gladly delve deeper into my opinions, but I don’t really feel that Americans/Europeans are necessarily the right people to address with my political ranting.
Juju: The vocals change spontaneously from show to show, because unfortunately every new day in the middle east brings a lot to be depressed, angry or at least confused about.
Q: How did you two begin collaborating on music? And what specifically led you to electronic dance music?
Jordash: We used to play jazz together… Juju played guitar, I was on the piano and together with our friend Ilya on double bass (who occasionally contributes to J & J projects) had sort of a hard-bop and free jazz trio. I was already involved in electronic music at the time, and juju was always into new sounds and experimentations, so I guess our collaborations naturally developed.
Q: You both live in Amsterdam now, when did you move and why? What do you like about living there? How has it impacted your approach to producing music?
Jordash: I moved here a few years ago. I just had to get the hell outta dodge! I always liked Amsterdam – sort of the complete opposite of Tel Aviv (for good and for bad). Amsterdam definitely gave me the peace of mind and seclusion I needed.
Juju: Amsterdam is a great city where everybody can have his own quiet corner if he wants – perfect for concentrating on making music. It’s nice to live close to many great record stores, most notably rush hour. A lot of dope parties around town as well.
Jordash: …and coffeeshops.
Q: If you could think of one defining element of your music what would it be?
Q: You two stand out from most dance music getting produced today. Can you tell me where you see yourself fitting in (or not) and why?
Jordash: Hmmmmm…I think we kinda like to believe we don’t fit in cause we’re full of ourselves…lol…but actually we’ve been fitting in all along. A lot of ‘deep house’ people are very open-minded and know their music. What I’m getting at is that people who love funky music and not only house/techno music usually get us.
Juju: The first guys that gave us a break were people from the Detroit house scene like Reggie Dokes, Scott Ferguson and later Keith Worthy and Patrice Scott. But there is quite a big range of styles and tempo’s in our productions that cater to many people, from the heads to the techno dudes and cosmic beards.
Q: Who do you look up to in terms of music pioneers? And contemporary artists?
Juju: Pioneers: Thelonius Monk, Herbie Hancock, Sun Ra, Larry Heard, Juan Atkins, Scientist
Contemporary: Theo Parrish, Reggie Dokes, Legowelt
Jordash: The list is almost as long as the number of records I’ve ever bought! If I had a gun to my head I would name Eric Dolphy, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Lee Perry, Cabaret Voltaire, etc… etc… etc… and all of juju’s names as well…lol.
Q: How do you think the new album differs from your first album, Major Mishap? Was there a different approach or concept taken?
Jordash: Major Mishap had a lot more jazz in it. We were really into writing scores and working with horn/sax players at the time. Besides that, the approach was similar.
Q: Major Mishap seemed to be a fairly slept on album, are you getting more attention with the Juju & Jordash album and recent 12″ releases? And if so why do you think that is?
Juju: I think the main reason is that it was only released on mp3’s. We still plan to release some of those tracks later on Vinyl or at least CD. Hopefully people will go back to check that out after the current album.
Jordash: Well in general things have been picking up gradually since our first release – we don’t expect our music to ever blow up suddenly – we’re in it for the long haul. Regarding Major Mishap — I think it was hard for us to promote an mp3-only release — it just didn’t seem that real. We love the tracks but it just felt weird pushing it too much.
Q: You are both obviously highly musically inclined. How much of what was played live was by you guys? And which instruments do you both play on the album?
Juju: We play keyboards, synths, some guitars and percussion. I like to think of the mixing desk as another musical instrument. Some horns and live drums were played by musician friends. No samples.
Q: Your tracks sometimes have an improvisational feel. Do your final recordings come out of jam sessions or is there a fair amount of composition prior and editing of the tracks?
Jordash: Depends… sometimes we have a specific parts we write out for guest musicians to play. Other times we just jam. Really depends.
Juju: Different tracks call for different methods. But yeah we do like late night jamming in the studio a lot, and stuff we can use almost always comes out of that.
Q: There seems to be a large amount of jazz, dub and experimentalism going on within the album without having it subscribe wholesale to any one of those genres. Can you describe how those musical style influences your approach to production?
Juju: Well as Model 500 said: jazz is the teacher. That’s why we started to play instruments in the first place and it influences a lot of the structure and interplay between the elements in our music. Jazz is all about experimenting, not only with different notes and scales in your solo but also with sounds and textures. Production-wise we are heavily influenced by classic dub and we use a lot of outboard gear from that era (70’s).
Jordash: In general we try to keep a completely open mind in the studio. We try not to think too much about it – and just do what sounds cool.
Q: The track titles you choose are sometimes humorous and playful
(“Jazzy Trance”, “Used to Hate Fusion”). Is that a strong influence on your approach to music?
Jordash: Man…the final titles are always edited down. We should start using the original file names like ‘poopymountains13’ and ‘heya heya tbizla supreme 7b’..lol
Juju: Naming is a fun part…by the time we get to do that (usually at the very end ) we often end up with something that makes us smile.
Q: “Deep Blue Meanies” has that breakdown which is quite psychedelic, was the track named after the Yellow Submarine characters or the potent mushrooms?
Jordash: “Deep Blue Meanies” is actually from the movie Vanishing Point (which the DJ character probably borrowed from the Yellow Submarine) – referring to cops. We started the track a day after I saw it. Only later we thought of the shroom connotation – kinda fitting!
Q: Since you guys are into films, have you actually written scores for any or is it more of an influence that seeps into your music?
Juju: We’ve been asked that a lot. We have scores and soundscapes for a few imaginary feature films, but haven’t done the real deal yet. we’re definitely into doing that though, as soon as the right opportunity arises.
Jordash: I’ve done scores for a few short films.
Q: And if you were to re-score a movie of your choice what would it be and why?
Jordash: I think it would be fun to take an old Frank Capra feel-good movie and replace the soundtrack with brooding dark themes- adding some post modern angst to that mofo!
Juju: Most of my favorite films already have great soundtracks, so maybe some silent film classic like Woman in the Moon.
Q: Favorite film soundtrack?
Juju: Amongst hundreds others… Naked Lunch, Sorcerer, Mulholland Drive
Jordash: From the top of my head….Chinatown, Bladerunner, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Do The Right Thing, the Lone Wolf and Cub films.
Q: Juju, you played guitar on Walter Jones latest release and he contributed drum programming on the album. Can you tell me how you made that connection and do you ever see further collaborations
Juju: Walter is a very talented producer who I know for at least 7 years now. I got to know him through Jordash who knew him even before (they remixed each other’s tracks way back). In 2005 the three of us collaborated on an 12″ for Cisco records Japan, and we’ve sent each other since musical ideas. When I heard the first version of the track Living Without Your Love” I thought it was dope, and just offered to drop some guitars on it that I heard in my mind. Luckily Walter liked it and mixed it well in, and it ended on the DFA EP. Do expect some more joint productions of the three of us in the not to far future…the wheels are already in motion.
Q: Are there any other artists who you both would like to collaborate with?
Jordash: all of our friends at once! But seriously the list would be too long… Juju wouldn’t mind a date with Sade if that’s considered a collaboration.
Q: What’s on your tech rider? And how often do you play live and what does that look like?
Juju: we currently play live with 2 synths/keyboards, guitar/guitar synth, 2 microphones for vocals, a melodica, 2 laptops, some light percussion, a 16 channel mixer on stage and some outboard effects. Our next live shows are at the Dekmantel showcase during the ADE in October and in November at the Panorama Bar as part of the Aesthetic Audio/Sistrum night. But the more the merrier.
Q: What do you guys like to do outside of music?
Jordash: Sweet sweet lovin’.