Matthue Roth and Juez
Beats, Rhymes, and Nigguns, p. 2

As opposed to, you mean, novelty bands like 2 Live Jews? I mean -- G-d bless 'em; "Shake Your Tuchus" was the first hip-hop song I ever listened to and actually LIKED. But they were, straight up, a one-joke pony.

Yoshie: There's a line between using your Judaism to create something, and creating something based on your Judaism. If you just want to draw attention to yourself because of the novelty of your Judaism then the project might be popular, but it might also lack substance. On the other hand, if you are trying to connect with your roots to do something fresh, that's something else. I think there are positives and negatives to both sides.

Erez: As opposed to a band like Yidcore, where they take Jewish songs and play them as punk-rock songs, but if you listen they aren't adding anything or bringing THEIR art into it

Matthue: It depends what you mean by 'their art.'

Erez: It doesn't seem like they are punk rockers who want to express themselves Jewishly. It seems like they want to rock out in front of people and doing the Jewish novelty act is the only way that they can make that happen.

Matthue: My favorite Yidcore songs are the Jewish-kid ones, though. When they cover Abraham Ben-David and Schlock Rock and get all 12-year-old punk, what they're doing isn't an artistic statement about Judaism, but about being disgruntled NCSY kids. Performance is the biggest part, and I think they'd tell you that, too. It's not the kavanah, it's the context. To say it another way -- It's not about being Jewish, it's about being Jews. Yoshie: I agree. There's value to the fact that Jews can simply show emotion, pride, anger, frustration about their religion through art.

Matt W: Our band has novelty character to it -- come on, breakbeat klezmer!? The issue is not being quirky. It's whether the novelty comes with your bandıs personality, or if youıre expressing novelty to make up for lack of personality.

Matthue: But on the other hand, we have our quirks -- I say "vort" when I mean "word" and your "ault shul" instead of "old school" -- it's kind of buffering our real art, isn't it? We're putting ourselves in context, and being hella kooky at the same time.

Yoshie: But as Juez, we're a novelty, inadvertently or not. I mean. our name is Juez, thatıs already exploitative! But itıs about where your motivation lies and what you're trying to do with it.

Erez: Yeah....little things are fine. Juez use klezmer modes, but our pieces are original compositions. And using cultural quirks adds to the fun. What I donıt like is when art isnıt behind it.

Matthue: Well, you straddle a lot of worlds with Juez. There's the Jewish thing, for sure. But there's also a lot of other things going on the jazz/punk dichotomy, most prominently. Onstage, you go through periods of being really quiet and intense with the jazz stuff, and really wild with the punk-rock stuff. Do you connect that with a spirituality in the Jewishness of your playing?

Yoshie: Definitely, we're totally promiscuous.

Matt W: One of the conventions of experimental music is crossing all genres, jazz, rock, classical, folk. Thatıs true in most of the music we listen to and it comes out in most of the music we write.

Erez: That "alt shul" theme is played out through the whole album. Weıre a mix of everything, Jewish being one of them. We do the Jewish thing because, a) we are Jewish, and itıs a definite influence, and b) we all have crushes on Zorn. The music that comes out is a reflection of whatıs going on inside. One person can play the same composition alone and their intensity could be different, because of their feelings, but also because since everyone experiences things differently and every artist wants the outcome to be different as well. And as far as Judaism , I have my intense moments and I have moments that get dull. In the music I have parts where I am not as into it or I donıt want it to go in the same direction as Yoshie or Matt, at that moment--

Yoshie: That never happens. We are the tightest rhythm section ever invented.

Erez: --so I bring the intensity up on drums and he wants to bring it elsewhere on bass. The same way that I go to a Carlebach service with Yosh and one of us may not be feeling it as much as the other, since weıre there together and our neshamot are feeling the same things in different ways, we start to vibe off each other and get into the davening more. That's how Juez works, too.

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May 2003

Zeek in Print
Spring 03 issue available here

Shtupping in the Shadow
of the Bomb

Marissa Pareles

The Mall Balloon-Man Moment of the Spirit
Dan Friedman

Beats, Rhymes & Nigguns
Matthue Roth & Juez

Fish Rain
Susan H. Case

Anti-fada Paratrooper
Michael Kuratin

Josh Gets his Checkup
Josh Ring

Plague Cookies
Mica Scalin

The Ritual of Family Photography
Amy Datsko

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