Saturday, October 21, 2006

Interview with the dopest electropop massive, JAHCOOZI

10:45 I’m at the spot and there’s a relatively few people around. This is not a proper build up for what I consider to be one of the most hype elctropop bands on the planet today. While the cute ambiguously ethnic Dj is rocking it with classics and new slightly grimy drum and bass tracks, the hipsters with leather arm bands and capoeira moves set an all together different tone than what I’m expecting for Jahcoozi. The problem with Hipsters is that they’re too gourmet and not enough gormound. I could feed each of them a steak sandwich for a week and watch them get skinnier. You know you’ve got a problem when the whole crowd looks like it needs a happy meal. They’re not big enough to cause any problems, but they’re mobile enough to be distracting. For example, why do a handstand in the middle of an empty dance floor? I think this is a night where I’ll get progressively drunker. Then I realize the drinks cost $7.00 a pop.

The whole crowd looks like they just mad best friends with Tina. Two platinum blonds with big titties wander in and quickly realize they’re in the wrong crowd. Maybe it’s that Afrika Bamabatta is on the ones and twos. Or maybe it’s the wrist bands. There are two women now, who may or may not know each other rocking the Sheena the She-devil leather arm bands and doing the wavy dancy thing. Either way, the blondes can’t take it and leave with a quickness. I’m about to do the same when the girl in all black starts doing ballroom dancing to a Goldie track.

So it’s a godsend for me when Jahcoozi finally does make an appearance. They’re late having overslept but they reek of authenticity and a desire to please the crowd so I can forgive anything. I know I’m in the right place when I see Koch, bassist extraordinaire setting up with what I believe to be a Yamaha qy-100. It’s a mini music production piece that all the bad asses from the UK trip hop scene at least knew about. Tricky did a few remixes with it. Before they even get started I ask Koch if that’s what he’s using. “No.” he responds with a happy German glee, “It’s a qy-70”. Same diff. He’s all excited someone else knows about it. I’m getting the happy feelings.

Stock beats get played for a minute or two, and I get the feeling Oren is warming up. He’s running Ableton Live off a Mac along with a MIDI hardware interface I can’t quite see. But he twisting the appropriate knobs back and forth, rocking just as hard as the dj’s had previously.

After a few fits and starts, mostly with the lights and the sounds Sasha, dark skinned Sri Lankan with British accent GOODESS that she is, takes the stage. Ever see a performer change into shorts to perform? I have. Of course, the shorts were only the beginning of the ensemble. She rocked a tan safari hat with the same colored poncho like get up, exposing only her long strong legs.

“Could we have some louder beats?” Sasha demands from the sound board woman. “We just came all the way from Berlin!” It doesn’t help but it does explain the problem. Its 1:30 in the A.M, they’re tired as all fuck and trying to give it their all. Jahcoozi are ready to make a splash on their first U.S tour. 1015 Fulton isn’t ready for them. And as I look around at the wanna be capoeiristas I realize, S.F isn’t quite ready for them.

The first five minutes on the stage Sasha says the bands name fifteen different times in ten different ways, never truly repeating herself once. I’m in love. Halfway through their set Sasha tries to find a date, jumping off the stage and dancing into the crowd. They play the hot stuff of their limited catalog: Fish, Black Barbie, Shake the doom, the stuff you’d want to hear if you’d heard the albums. Then they rock stuff I’ve never heard before. A little more edgy. Less polished sure, but isn’t that what a live set is for? It tells me they’ve been doing new things and not relying on the fattest underground release of 04-05. My favorite is the “Pop your pussy like this” song done with a polka beat. Only problem is out of the sixty people at the show, maybe ten of them knew who they were listening to. It breaks my heart. So while Oren fucks up 1015 with the laptop and the MIDI controller I sneak into an alley that calls itself a backstage to have some face time with the coolest woman to ever blow a trumpet and Robot Koch.

ME: Didn’t you guys just come from Australia?
Love of my life aka. SASHA: We were playing Singapore and Malaysia two weeks ago…We’re a bit jet lagged.
ME: How do you like playing in the States?
SASHA: It’s nice. I was thinking about drinking red bull but then I was thinking why should I drink red bull if there’s no alcohol anymore (It’s twoish in the morning and S.F has bullshit laws about not being bale to buy alcohol after a certain time. I’m wishing I brought the party treats I thought of before.) I mean what am I going to stay awake for?
ME: That’s kind of sad.
SASHA: I know I’m just joking. What I find shocking is I’ve never been to a city that I’ve seen so much in film…I’ve been to the states as a kid but not as an adult. I know its going to be the same in L.A in New York. I travel a lot you know? But not to places where it’s like everything is in films, yeah?
ME: I know you’ve got a day between here and L.A. You gonna chill in S.F or in L.A?
SASHA: We don’t have a day anymore. We’re playing at Decompression.(It’s where the burning man nobs go to lament the passing of their sacred space, in a nob like fashion.)
ME: You guys ever heard of Burning Man?
KOCH: Heard of it sure…
SASHA: It’s where people sit on top of buildings waiting for UFO’s saying “Take me away”, right?
ME: So you’re ideal crowd, what is it?
SASHA: Mixed I’d say. We do really well in France for some reason. You know they listen to everything from Punk to Dub to everything. I think its just crowds that are open minded and want to dance. Girls too. For some reason Girls like our music. I don’t know why.
ME: Boys don’t like your music?
SASHA: They do, it’s just they stand in the back like this (She crosses her arms). While the girls are up front all winding and interacting. I don’t know man.
ME: What’s the secret origin of Jahcoozi?
SASHA: I can try and make something up right now. Let’s see…We always tell people Koch was in a strip bar and I was on the pole and I say “You know I’m really tired of stripping for a living.” So we decided to make a band and we thought how could we complete this ethnic look of you know, a Sri Lankan and a German? A Jew! Then we went to Jewish web forums where people just had their upper bodies showing and we found Oren. Then we thought this is like Benetton. And since then we’ve been trying to get Benetton sponsoring but no luck as of yet. But we’re still hoping. We’re looking to get our pension paid by them, you know?
ME: You guys get a lot of bookings because of the international multiculti feel or do you think it’s just the music?
SASHA: It’s a mixture but I think it’s mainly the music. I mean it's not like we’re so mainstream that everyone knows us and we’re on the cover of every magazine…
ME: Give it time, I have faith in you.
SASHA: Benetton.
ME: I’m there.
SASHA: There’s obviously a lot of press you can get out of it. We tend to get a lot of questions about it. Like mainstream press was all “You’re like a musical Zadie Smith” and I’m like that’s an insult to Zadie Smith. I mean I’ve read her stuff and she’s all well versed and I’m an indie pop art artist. But no, it’s not the only reason we get bookings, it’s mainly the music. It’s the right time for the music.
ME: Let’s talk music for a second. Trumpet? How long have you been playing?
SASHA: Since I was 11 or 12 until I was about 16. I hadn’t touched it for years though. Very lazy about it. I play on stage but you won’t see me practicing at home.
ME: It looked like you knew what you were doing.
SASHA: We always make the joke, Sasha plays trumpet but only over slow dubby beat. As soon as something fast, like Ska comes along my lips just go numb.
ME: what about singing?
SASHA: Jahcoozi’s the first band I’ve ever been with. I think its gotten better from when we first started. Plus the music we do, its not really melody music, right.
ME: (To Robot Koch) what about you? How long have you been playing bass?
KOCH: Years, I played guitar first. Bass I added about ten years ago for production, mostly.
ME: So tell me about the qy 70. How long have you been fucking with that?
KOCH: It’s the first MIIDI instrument I bought. I thought “Oh great, a computer and an instrument and I just sort of bought it randomly thirteen years ago. In Singapore, I think. Actually I just used it for fun stuff for years. But then we had the idea to do a polka cover of the Kia song then we finally used it and it found its destiny. It’s a good machine it looks good and it has a fat sound.
SASHA: The depressing thing is that people love that song. They love it more than the music we make.
ME: Maybe it’s just more recognizable.
SASHA: Yeah, it’s like why don’t we just make a whole album with that thing and be done with it? That song is my mother’s favorite song but she can’t understand a word of what I’m saying. She’s all “What’s that song called?” The one about the donkey mom?
ME: Do you guys play mostly queer venues?
SASHA: What you mean like all Batty?
ME: When we say queer here it means anything not straight.
SASHA: All right, Nah we play some commercial stuff. Like we played in a festival a couple of weeks ago where Public Enemy played, Peaches played, The Rapture played. Ok, it’s not Madonna but you know we have range. Sometimes we play art exhibitions where we have terrible light and a quiet room at nine in the evening. It’s just weird you know, because we have these older people. But they get into it. I think it’s because we just have fun on the stage and that’s contagious.
ME: So what’s next for recording?
SASHA: We’re recording a second album now. If we can stay at home for a bit we’ll get it done faster. It’s gong well though.
ME: Does it have the same sound as the last album?
SASHA: Well the last one is quite old actually. Black Barbie is really old. That’s a really low fi sound. We did it all on home computers. Now we’ve got big fat monitors, so there’s been a progression.
KOCH: It’s always different. The first one was made over a longer time. Two to three years. It was a bit wild like let’s make a dub track a ska track, you know? This one is also a bit weird. A bit more vocals, we’re a bit more together.
ME: How do you guys record? One on lyrics, one on beats, one on production?
KOCH: Sasha writes all the lyrics. She comes down to the studio with some basic beats over it. Then we add vocals, a bass line, you know...
SASHA: I tend to get the beat at home and work it out there. I’m not a brainstorm type person. I like to write in peace.
ME: So the lyrics. You want to be adopted by Eskimos and taught how to fish? (I’m not being random. It’s a line from the song fish.)
SASHA: That was one of the first songs I ever wrote. I had just got my degree and I was like “What am I going to do with my life?” and that’s literally what it is. It had a different title before…it’s was like where’s the instruction manual you’re supposed to get when you’re born? I just write about things that I want to write about. I feel really lucky that I get to make songs about whatever I want to write about. No ones like “What’s that?” There are a few “What’s that?” but…
ME: You think content is going to change with the new album?
SASHA: I don’t know. It’s hard to predict. Like we have some racial connotations in Black Barbie or like Asian Bride magazine, and I want to include that as well but I don't want it to be a must. I don’t want to have albums where it’s like you have to have one track about them and one track about them. That’s not what I’m about. Either it comes in a way where I want to do it or it doesn’t come. I think it would be terrible to produce like a machine and be all there’s the cutsie track about whatever, know what I mean? Like we wrote a track about Berlin. Actually, you must have noticed our live set is so different from the recorded stuff.
ME: Yeah there was stuff I hadn’t heard before…
SASHA: But you wanted the familiar stuff, didn’t you?
ME: I was totally forgiving after I heard how they did you on the sound. (To Koch) Any new sounds for the new album?
KOCH: Well people’s ears are always changing you know. So you can’t stay the same. We’ll be doing some new things.
SASHA: I think we’re going to be a little more clubby. Not so low-fi. The first album was luck. Black Barbie was the first track we did. Back then we had no expectations. Now we’re expecting more. I think we’ve got a healthy development.

We parle for another twenty minutes or so about this and that. Goddess Sasha has traveled in my adopted home country of Morocco. I’m officially sprung. LA and New York had the benefit of Jahcoozi. Next time they come to the states, or if you’re in Berlin or anyplace else they play, DON”T SLEEP! P.S: I think I want to marry Sasha.


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