Every week or thereabouts, Mutant Dance Moves takes you to the shadowy corners of the dancefloor and the fringes of contemporary electronic music, where new strains and dance moves are evolving.
Israeli jazz musicians Gal Anerand and Jordan Czamansk met in a trio setting in the town of Haifa and discovered they had a shared love of electronic dance music. The duo soon relocated to Amsterdam and began releasing acid-tinged deep house tracks on numerous labels like London’s Real Soon and Amsterdam’s own Dekmantel. But last year, JuJu & Jordash’s “Unleash the Golem,” their first single for Brooklyn’s ambitious and idiosyncratic Golf Channel imprint, revealed a darker and more ambitious side of their sound. In fact, the label describes what will be a four-part series culminating in a DVD release (set for release later on this year) to be dance music about the Holocaust. Uh … what? On the eve of another single from JuJu & Jordash, this one a pounding club track called “Jewsex” (replete with the most suggestive hamantaschen in recent memory on the front), we got in touch with Jordash to have him discuss his Jewish heritage and Eurodisco.
So you and Gal met on the Haifa jazz scene?
We met thru a mutual double bass player friend named Ilya Ziblat Shay and played as a trio: Shay on bass, Gal on electric guitar and me on piano, doing bop/free(ish) jazz. As a piano player, it was always a challenge for me to play with guitarists; in jazz pianos and guitars often clash with too many chords and too much rhythmic competition. With Gal things were different. I think we were both musically open-minded and not the typical technical jazz nerds. We actually listened to each other and managed to flow and we never sat at home listening exclusively to jazz. But “Haifa jazz scene” is an overstatement though, as it was more like a group of guys trying to score weed and get a gig at a café.
What made you start experimenting with electronic music in the late ‘90s?
I’d been screwing around with electronic stuff since my early teens. I was listening to a lot of European chart electropop from the mid-‘80s, and for my Bar Mitzvah, my parents bought me a crappy Yamaha keyboard. I started multi-tracking with my tape recorder and later in my teens started making more industrial ditties. During my army basic training in the early ‘90s, I met a guy that introduced me to Detroit Techno and Chicago House music, so that pretty much connected my love of jazz to my love of electronic industrial stuff.
Did you give up jazz then?
I never really ‘gave up’ on jazz — cause I never was really committed. From a very early stage I realized I would never make it as a ‘proper’ jazz pianist. Too lazy. I don’t think there is really anything to resolve between jazz and electronic dance music though. Our approach to dance music is very open-ended and the great majority of our electronic ‘dance’ tracks are born in an improvised jam environment. We just hook the studio up and jam away. Last thing I want to do is limit ourselves to one specific sound. But a great rationalization for me is that jazz itself started off as ‘dance music’ long ago.
When did you guys relocate to Amsterdam?
We moved to Amsterdam over five years ago. Living in Amsterdam gave us the peace and quiet we needed at the time, and the solitude away from everything and everyone. There is something really relaxing about Amsterdam, especially compared to a city like Tel Aviv, where we lived before.
So what was the impetus for this four-part series of 12” you are now releasing with Golf Channel?
I don’t really think our ambitions got ‘bigger.’ If anything, it’s more that the conditions around us started allowing us to explore music and themes we’ve been interested in from the start but didn’t completely know how to fit them into the context of modern dance music. Where we were situated within that band of dance music was generally a pretty narrow confine. We felt that Golf Channel was a perfect outlet for our less dancefloor-oriented stuff. The eclecticism of Golf Channel’s approach to what was appropriate to the dance floor appealed to us from the start.
It was a pretty dark and heavy single and the press release for it stated that it addresses the Holocaust? Is this the first time you guys have addressed your Jewish heritage in your music or has it always been latent?
Well, the Holocaust stuff is always on our minds. Growing up in Israel means growing up with the Holocaust as a major psychological influence and for me, a huge family trauma. It’s always in the background. For me ‘Jewish heritage’ equals Holocaust. And then a little Woody Allen. That mixed with my issues regarding Israeli political stuff sums up my neuroses.
You and Gal also do live soundtracks for film?
We have done live soundtrack a few times to a silent German film from 1920 called ‘Der Golem’ which deals with the old Jewish myth of the Golem of Prague, a story that philosophically deals with the same issues I mentioned earlier, and the same themes the four EP series deals with. As the myth goes, the Golem, a clay monster constructed by the Jews in the Prague ghetto to protect them from an anti-Semetic regime, at first does what it’s supposed to do and protects the Jewish inhabitants. But then the Golem finally goes nuts and turns on everybody, leaving behind devastation for all. We’ll explore that theme within the four EP series. Is Israel like the Golem? Real nerdy stuff but I guess it’s something we feel the need to get off of our chests.
How different is it doing soundtrack stuff versus DJing in a club?
Well the soundtrack is in a totally different setting — a movie theater. People sitting down, watching a movie and being bombarded with what is mostly dark ambient and noise. The only thing in common with our live club shows and DJing is the element of improvisation, which is a big part in all three.
How does the newest single, “Jewsex,” fit into the series after the first volume of “Unleash the Golem”?
We just made this Italo-ish jam at the studio after getting a Korg PolySix, which really lends itself nicely to that kind of Eurodisco sound. For the next two installments of the series, we plan to record some jazz musician buddies for at least one of the final two EPs in the series. It’s been a few years since we worked in the studio with jazz musicians and we miss it. We hope to make it into an industrial free-jazz extravaganza. But after we finished “Jewsex,” we decided it would be fun to release it between all the seriously heavy Holocaust-themed 12″s. Nobody said that we always have to be the pretentious party poopers!