“Half way to fucking Milli Vanilli territory”
The enjoyability factor is what drives the truly unpredictable live twosome of Juju & Jordash. When the Dekmantel and Golf Channel associates first started playing live they were mixing up pre-recorded patterns and loops with minimal live improvisations.
“We only enjoyed the fully improvised bits,” remembers one half of the Amsterdam-based pair, Jordan Czamanski. “We felt that we were cheating, like, ‘What the fuck are we doing? We may as well play records’. Then the show got to 50% live, but when we met David [Moufang, aka Move D] and got booked together as Magic Mountain High live, the geographical restrictions between us meant we couldn’t meet or rehearse before the show so we had to go fully improvised. It’s not about making a point; we just want to enjoy our profession. Noodling over some playback or muting stuff on the desk was just boring and I just didn’t see the point of it.”
In turn Juju & Jordash thought “fuck it – it seems stupid to bring anything pre-programmed” and as anyone who saw them play for Boiler Room at Dekmantel festival this year will attest, they are now about as high up the sliding scale of ‘liveness’ as is possible. One plays the keys, synths and bass, the other drums and occasionally guitars.
“One of the reasons why it was important to go live was that we didn’t see any live shows that we liked,” continues Jordan. “It all seemed like an act – everyone was trying to appear spontaneous when everyone knows it’s half way to fucking Milli Vanilli territory. The whole idea of our show is that we don’t prepare anything; we just have to make sure we have the right gear for the gig. It’s nice if we have a proper sound check but as we learned this summer with festivals it’s not always possible so we just do a headphone sound check. We prepare the first beat, first ten seconds and that’s it.”
It’s not about making a point; we just want to enjoy our profession.
“You can’t break rules until you know what they are”
In the case of Juju & Jordash it helps that one half, Gal Aner, is from a jazz background, and is used to playing sessions with other musicians, often in a wholly free-jam fashion that resonates in their current electronic setup. But is it necessary to be formally trained in order to play live? Over to Detroit siblings Lenny and Lawrence Burden of enduring techno outfit Octave One, who got their first taste of live music when working extensively as roadies. “Formal training has probably played a great deal in our live shows, although we can’t really put a finger on where or how. Knowing when things instinctively need to occur during the show so things don’t go on too long, but long enough so that you appreciate them, and to know where it needs to happen, is key. I don’t know if you have to be able to play an instrument or read music to do a decent live show, but any knowledge that you are able to acquire can’t hurt, you know!”
They continue with an important point: “All the music lessons and theory – or lack thereof – won’t make you a good entertainer. That’s something you just have to develop. Whether it’s a given gift or learned, it’ll have to be earned.” Swedish techno titans Skudge put it in equally frank fashion: “Being a trained musician doesn’t make you relevant. We have plenty of technical knowledge, for sure, but we spend so much time confronting ourselves with the most diverse music we can, and that’s even more crucial to what we do.” Or in the succinct terms of Canadian Wagon Repair boss Mathew Jonson: “If you want to be inspired and evolve musically then why not study? You can’t break rules until you know what they are.”
Being an entertainer is something you just have to develop. Whether it’s a given gift or learned, it’ll have to be earned.