I had a chance to interview with the lovely Sasha – lead singer/mc for Jahcoozi who recently put out their newest full length entitled Barefoot Wanderer on BPitch Control. If you’ve been following their music since 2002 at first listen you’ll realize immediately this isn’t your typical Jahcoozi club bangin’ album, it’s rich in melody and their sound is much more refined and catered towards the avid listener so post up and enjoy this mangled array of dubstep, dancehall, pop and hip hop influenced sounds.
You are such a culturally diverse group and from all different parts of the world how did you all manage to meet?
2002 in Berlin…..pre-high speed internet and thus pre-myspace and email at home etc. It was actually a more pre-paid mobile phone time for me! Things were slower….you had to burn CDs not just upload music! I met Robert through a common friend of ours who was a music head / DJ from the U.S. Robert had a little label at the time called Hamton and was making music with different people, but all pretty low key etc. He had lived in New York for a couple of years before that. Probably one of the reasons he was hanging out with our American DJ mate Robert heard my voice on a mini-disc recording that I had done with our American friend. It was a piss-take / satirical love song which i had written for some random boyfriend of mine as a bit of a joke. We recorded it over some ‘illbient’ (yup remember that word!!) records mashed together and I sang like some opium smoking Ertha Kitt type but in a fake French accent ! Robert heard it and told our common friend Andrew to give me a CD with beats and instrumentals coz he liked my atmospheric vocal style! The CD i was given was really varied and spanned a wide spectrum of electronic music….but all of it really nicely produced. Robert and I met up a few weeks later and I asked him to make a Dancehall beat for me because i wanted to record my Ketaminah Ketaminah song which I’d written as a laugh while living in Brixton a couple of years earlier. I wrote a bit more and that song became Black Barbie! The rest is history really…..we slowly started meeting up for often and after 2 or 3 sessions we had the songs Black Barbie and Fish. Both of which were a solid start….I guess we got lucky on our early attempts We also met Oren through another friend of ours…..his former band mate from Israel had met an Italian friend of ours in a dingy squatter house dive. Everyone was pretty open back then and did not have such strong preconceptions about Berlin in the way many people do nowadays….So after meeting Oren and seeing how much studio equipment he had brought with him from Tel Aviv we started going to his place to record with him and make tunes. That is how this 3er combination came to life……We had coal heating, the city was much more understatement than it is now. There were much less tourists…it didnt feel as techno Disneyland as it does now. It was much cheaper back then….we all moved to Berlin during the Deutsch Mark times…. its almost another era now…There was very little expectation at the beginning…..I mean I was doing it for fun. I had never really thought about labels or releases. Robert was the person who burnt demo CDs and sent them to labels like Aphex Twin’s Rephlex for example. It was only after Rephlex actually wrote back to us, that I realised that we might even end up releasing our music!
In your own words, how would you describe your newest album?
Soothing harmonics for cough syrup addicts to be played loud at home or at your local disco ! hmmm… finger licking good…. liquid, morphing, bass music for our jilted generation on a space ship heading for tommorrow?!! or something dramatic like that…..This album’ s much deeper and more abstract than our last album (Blitz n Ass), but still using Jahcoozi typical poly-rhythms and an array of organic and inorganic sounds..Space age meets roots….futuristic urban i.e. post-dubstep, 2-step, dub, electronica, future-step / future bass, ….plus maybe a little inkling of hip hop/digi-dancehall/bashment and even soul influences there…… i.e. BAREFOOT! Or at least a good example of Barefoot … see below!This album shows us being a bit more melodious than we’ve been in the past. It also feels like the most consistent , coherent album we have done to date…..just a lot less all over the place than the other two. We wanted it to be something you could listen to at home from beginning to end rather than just a collection of tracks that we made in our usual style of genre-jumping. I feel like our last album was like brand new pair of sneakers and this one feels like we stripped it down, took our sneakers off, and are doing it Barefoot….
How would you describe your overall sound?
Electronic music with an urban tinge to it.
How did each of you get into making music?
I played the piano when i was a kid…my mum taught me…she is pretty musical. We sang a lot at the hindu temple too! My mum played the harmonium. Later I learned a bit of guitar and the indian violin. I had five years of trumpet lessons as a kid too! But i never sang in a band or was in any kind of music project till i started Jahcoozi. All the music i learnt as a kid felt really institutionalized….but that was just my problem….should have taken it more seriously as a kid, but was always too unconcentrated to stick to one thing or show any real discipline in regards to an instrument. Robot played the drums in a death metal band for quite a few years when he was a kid. Oren played the guitar.
You’ve been together since 2002, what’s the craziest thing
you’ve all done together since then?
Hmmm.. there was an incident that took place in the cabin of a former fishing trawler / squatter / arts ship which was moored in Poland at the time….it was after a show which we had played on the Stubnitz (the ship) back in 2003. All the artists sleep in these really communist looking cabins. It involved other people as well….so i dont want to get into that!! OK on a more serious note, I would have to say something we did 3 weeks ago in Africa. We were in Kenya and were booked to play a show and make music as part of the NRBLN/BLNRB exchange (a project with Gebrueder Teichmann and Modeselektor too… release is comin next year….) Anyway we were booked to play at a cultural club event organised by the Goethe Institute (a German cultural organisation) and to stay in a big house they rented. We took loads of studio equipment with us from Germany (80 kilos to be precise… fun going through customs .. believe!) and just lived in this house together 24/7 with MCs making tunes everyday for 2 weeks. That was mental coz the MCs and drummers and musicians would never leave, all sleeping all over the living room… it just became this madhouse full of artists and one was left with absolutely no personal space! Like some sort of survival tv show, but in real, and where fucking amazing music came out of it. We have incredible memories late-night sessions in the madhouse…and if that wasnt crazy enough, one day we got a van with a driver and got him to drive our soundsystem and mixer set-up down to Kibera which is the second largest slum in Africa and did a free party in front of the church coz it was the safest place to do it! It was a truly moving experience….the people were so into it and touched that we came to a place which is apparently the most dangerous place in East Africa. There were 5 yr old kids dancing like strippers and gangsters… doin the J.A. Gully Creeper dance and all!! We did it with the help of a local ghetto street art collective called Maasai Mbilli…special people, special place. We were greeted with so much hospitality and respect that we had the balls to do down there. I hope we can do it again someday.
What’s the best thing about being a part of Jahcoozi, what’s the worst?
The best thing is the music!! That’s what its all about after all…..the best thing is probably also that we are 3 people with three sets of ideas who come together in this project and the outcome is often unpredictable….but it is probably simultaneously the worst thing about being part of jahcoozi too….coz the discussions that go on can be endless….with 3 egos and all…it is definitely simpler with 1 or 2 people in a project. But who said life was supposed to be simple right? Somehow we are like a triangle….Oren keeps everything in equilibrium and Robot and I rock the boat!
Who or what influences your sound?
I guess the 3 of us influence it with our ideas and how we feel / what we are inspired by at the time we are making it. Technology has influenced our sound to a certain extent too…. we’re part of the home studio generation and we’ve always been interested in sound manipulation and electronic music….kinda where the dub connection comes in. The list of influences are too long.. specially coz there are 3 of us…I personally have probably been influenced by London and growing up there in the 90s… club music was being revolutionized every week at the time and that’s maybe where i developed an affinity for electronic and urban music mashed together…but im influenced by a huge variety of stuff nowadays… learning stuff all the time…. Planet Caravan by Black Sabbath….discovered that about a year ago…amazing tune…I’d been living in ignorance. Never knew anything about that kinda music when i was a kid. Dunno…our song Wasteland for example, I wrote it after reading that Cormac McCarthy book ‘ The Road’ ….dark ass book where the 2 characters are never given names…simply called ‘the Boy’ and ‘the Man’. Its a very post apocalyptic vibe in this book…pretty dark and nothing ever really happens…. but u actually end up feeling quite scared and sad while reading it alone. I was very surprised that i even managed to read it from beginning to end….not usually what i read. Anyway….managed to end up mixing this vibe with the way you feel when you have a really awful hangover. Like being physically and mentally drained of life …. like a bomb dropped and leaving destruction and a wasteland of debris all around. This is the atmosphere I wanted to create. So as u can see the influences are huge….growing up Robot loved Slayer and Fela Kuti and Oren loved the Pixies and I loved the first Prodigy album and Massive Attack. We all love Rhythm&Sound, Anti-Pop Consortium, Moondog and King Jammy!
If you the choice to perform anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Well Papua New Guinea would be nice! But actually I gotta come back to Africa and the free party we did in the ghetto in Kenya on this….playing for people who know nothing about electronic music and dont even have proper sanitation or electricity coz their corrupt government just forgot about them is a real challenge and a hugely touching experience. So a big bus and a soundsystem and to go to places that have been forgotten about eg. ghettos or villages in the 3rd world. It would be great to do that….and to have the capacity to record people we meet out there would be great too.i was amazed at how much musical talent there is in those places….. eg. in Kenya there is so much talent but nobody has access to studio equipment but in Berlin its the opposite…every muthafucker has a home studio but there is a serious lack of talent!! Ok I’m exaggerating but you get my point im sure! There is talk of us taking the project to Congo…but its just talk as yet. I’d love to do it on the East coast of Sri Lanka where the people have been fucked over for decades….When acts like us play in Mexico, Brazil or Russia its often just playing for middle-class or rich kids, it would be great to do a parallel gig for free in places/ for people who don’t usually get to see the kind of music we make or outsiders like us being interested in them.
What’s a typical day with Jahcoozi like?
Right now around an album release = fucking emails constantly …..airports all the time…soundchecks, promoters, interviews… playing shows…quite big hangovers quite a lot…good books and movies to keep us sane while we are traveling.
When at home more i.e. not promoting a new record = making music … listening to music…I love doing Sri Lankan home cooking for friends….going to other peoples shows to get hangovers!
Name 5 artists that you’re listening to right now and would recommend to our audience.
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