Matthue Roth and Juez
Beats, Rhymes, and Nigguns, p. 3

Matthue: People always ask about the relationship between performing my poems and my praying. In some ways it's an obvious question, but it's still weird -- like, if I was a hot-dog vendor, nobody would ask "are you praying when you grind meat?"

Erez: Well, around my new apartment in Williamsburg they might.

Yoshie: It's more the way we react to different things in our prayers and Judaism. If youıre around people that are really into, for example, praying, youıll be influenced. The whole idea of influence is something that connects our improvisational and even non-improvisational music.

Matt W: Like prayer, the structure of our songs is mostly the same at every performance. But each time, weıre challenged to bring out something new, to make the moment unique. One of my favorite messages in Judaism is that every activity, even grinding meat, should be a profound religious experience. Juez isnıt a band with a religious message. But we really try to make the most out of our performances.

Matthue: I've been wanting to integrate more actual prayers, psalms and stuff into my poems. because really, when I pray, it's like 2 hours a day default that I'm performing. Iım performing, except my audience is G-d.

Erez: The intensity of doing Jewish rituals around other people that you can connect with, it definitely translates to playing music with people that youıve chosen to connect with.

Matthue: But it's also weird. When you pray, you don't have to worry about G-d clapping or laughing or dancing. Whereas, when you interact with an audience, you absolutely do.

Matt W: Thank G-d for that. Literally.

Matthue: Are your audiences mostly Jewish?

Yoshie: At the Campus Hillel shows, itıs Jews. At club shows, itıs the eclectic music buffs. And, of course, the Jews.

Erez: Depends where we play. This past Saturday we played with Gutbucket, 302 Acid and MC Son of Nun, and they werenıt mostly Jews. But yeah. You want an audience to clap but if they donıt and you played what you wanted to play, they heard you, and ultimately, thatıs what you wanted.

Matthue: How about dancing?

Erez: Ah, dancing...

Matt W: We love it when people get into our shows! Whether itıs dancing, clapping, yelling, singing, or the occasional stage dive.

Erez: We had one of the craziest out-of-control dancing at that show last Saturday.

Matthue: Do you ever get shit from the rabbis about mixed dancing?

Yoshie: Rabbis usually avoid our shows like a plague. I mean, breakbeat klezmer jazz? Itıs basically heresy.

Matthue: And performing?

Erez: It's more important that people listen to you then that people like you. When I spun records at Zeekıs event at Makor--

Matthue: --where the crowd was mostly Jewish and mostly informed--

Erez: -- I had no idea if people would like the sound poetry that I did. It was sorta abstract. But that ended up not mattering. What mattered was that they heard what I hear in my head, and maybe that will affect them at a later time

Matthue: Did they stick around for your whole set?

Erez: Yeah. And it worked. I mean, I don't know if people dug it. But I do know that they said that they had never heard anything like it and that they thought it was cool.

Matthue: Do you really feel like you're doing something that absolutely nobody else is? We do stuff together, but are there any other hipster Modern Orthodox bands out there that are mixing up hipness and yiddishkeit like you guys are?

Erez: I'm sure there are others. I havenıt heard anything like Juez yet. Zorn commissions musicians to perform experimental Jewish music, like Marc Ribot and John Medeski, who play his original Jewish compositions. Ribot told me that some bands would be playing experimental Jewish music if it werenıt for Zorn, but then thereıs Naftule's Dream, who do Jewish prog-rock/jazz and also play as a wedding band. And bands like Satlah and Ori Kaplan.

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Image: Erez at Zeek's "Readings and Misreadings" Night
Photographer: Lora Lavon Dole

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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