Juju & Jordash on Embracing Improvisation
The Israeli duo talk process, politics and more
Over the past few years, Dekmantel has expanded into something of a global enterprise, but Juju & Jordash’s ties to the crew date back to the days when they were just throwing niche parties in the Netherlands. In fact, the very first release on the Dekmantel label was a 2009 Juju & Jordash EP. That relationship has continued to prosper over the years, and the Amsterdam imprint is now issuing the latest Juju & Jordash record, What About Tuesday? To mark the occasion, the Israeli-born duo spoke with Shawn Reynaldo on RBMA Radio’s First Floor about their new EP, their improvisational approach and how dance music can make a political statement.
Listen to First Floor on RBMA Radio here every Thursday at 1 PM EDT.
Let’s talk about the new record. It’s called What About Tuesday? There are three tracks on it, all of them referencing a different day of the week. Is there anything to those titles or are you guys just messing around?
To be completely transparent, we recorded the jam [for "Monday Mellow"] on a Monday. It was a mellow track, it was Monday... With the name of the file, we try to somehow remind ourselves which track that was. Gal comes to the studio for a week or two weeks, and we record, like, a jam a day, so we need good names that we’ll remember the next week so we can talk about them. So, the name was “Monday Mellow” and Thursday, too, it was Thursday and we recorded a track. It was kind of heavy, the vibe of the track, so it’s “Thursday, Heavy.” And Wednesday, we recorded on Wednesday and we didn’t know how to describe it, so it was “Wednesday Something.” We weren’t messing around, but we’re just not really that clever.
The EP is ostensibly dance music, but at the same time I don’t necessarily imagine any of these songs as club tools, or at least being designed as club tools. When you guys are making music, do you think about the whole divide between music for listening versus music for DJing?
I’d be happy to hear those tracks in a club. I think it could work.
I know what you mean. It's definitely an interesting question and definitely something that we are aware of and deal with, not necessarily on a conscious level, but it comes up. I think our challenge is to enjoy what we’re trying to do.
We’re trying to make music we enjoy and that we can listen to a million times in a row, and we do imagine how this would sound in a club. We don’t necessarily ask ourselves specifically, “OK, let’s do 16 bars this, 16 bars that, to make the DJ’s life as easy as possible.” But we’re listening to these tracks, working on them super loud in the studio. In our mind we are trying to imagine, “How will this sound in the club?”
Now, not all the tracks are 126 BPM. We’re finishing up an album right now which is varied. But still, I want to hear a 90 BPM or even a 70 BPM song or track in a club super loud, as well. I know it likely will not happen unless I come early to listen to the opening DJ. It’s not a matter of trying to make it fit for the club, but we want it to sound good in a club.
When people talk about Juju & Jordash and the music you guys make, the word “improvisational” almost always comes up, usually in reference to your live shows. Do you ever feel like all of the focus on the live show means that your records get overlooked?
I’m pretty pleased with the way our records are accepted. I never felt that that’s the reason we’re overlooked. I think we’re overlooked for other reasons. We have a branding issue. I’m not naïve about our branding issue, but we’re not really willing to even toy with those kind of thoughts. Besides that, with the new album that we’re finishing up now, we’re planning a whole new live show that’s not necessarily improvisational. That would be interesting to see how we go from there, and how our live show develops from that new kind of way of operating.
If anything, a lot of people think that the music improvised in our live shows is produced in the studio.
The grand majority of the people in the crowd at our shows have no idea that we’re improvising, they have no idea that we’re playing live. Most people think it’s a DJ playing, which is a compliment for us in many ways.
Composition is just improvisation slowed down.
Once you guys get into the studio, how improvisational is the process in there? When we hear a Juju & Jordash song, are we just hearing an outtake of a studio jam, or is there some level of post-production or editing or mixing that happens as well?
The amount of post-production and mixing is insane. I’ll give you an example. I’ve been mixing jams we did for three months. Everything is improvised. Composition is just improvisation slowed down. I didn’t make that shit up – I’m sure I heard someone smarter say that. I truly believe it. There is a lot of production, a lot of studio work and a lot of editing. Our jams are half an hour, an hour, and there are a lot of overdubs and extra parts that are recorded outside of the initial jam. We use the jam as a tool to compose better, I guess.
And to try out things without pressure. When we play live, it’s more of a situation where we have to change ideas every few minutes to keep the party going. In the studio we can jam on the same groove for half an hour and just try out different things, and then select what works best later on.
I think all producers nowadays work that way. I don’t think there are many producers that are sitting with their notebook under candlelight like classical composers, writing musical lines in their head and taking notation.
You guys have mentioned a few times that you’re working on a new album. The last album was Clean-Cut, which came out in 2014. Can you tell us anything about the new album at this point?
What can we mention? Not much actually. We’re pleased with the direction it’s taking. We managed to keep ourselves interested, so that’s super cool. A lot of music in it – a lot of guitar, a lot of Rhodes, so it’s a big difference. We’re super excited to start finishing and getting the release date and all of that. And the live show that we’re planning, too. For once we want to perform tracks from the album, but in a way that mixes our regular improvisations with a lot of elements from our album.
In the past you guys have done some records that could be considered political to a certain degree. I’m thinking about the Unleash The Golem records, for example. Given the current political climate, do you guys feel pressure to make music that takes some kind of a stand or makes a political statement?
Nah, I think we kind of just want to make people happy now. Now it’s beyond. We lost. Now let’s just try to make people happy and dance. I’m not saying let’s make dumb, stupid fucking dance music with no depth or meaning, but... What I mean is, this isn’t what’s going to push us to make any more obvious political records. The Golem project is super interesting, and we’re not done with that. We love that project. And that’s a political thing that we still have something to say about.
I don’t think the world needs more opinions right now from producers.
I don’t know if I agree about that. My point is that all music, in my opinion, is overtly political. If you make totally dumb dance music, yeah, you’re politically conservative. We’re going to do whatever we can not to make conservative dance music, that’s for sure. In that sense we’re very political and always will be.