Urban-Jellen Test’s site is http://www.myspace.com/ujtest. This is an interview with their lead singer Blue7, who stayed with us for five nights in Morocco.
“Black Cat here is one of my favorite songs. It has a bit of swamp rock.”
I’d like to quote Ducks Deluxe when they said, Down in the swamp, Daddy put the bomp in my soul.
“Swamp Rock: is that a category?”
Creedence Clearwater Revival. Swamp has Louisiana Soul mixed with Rock’n’Roll. You’ll also find rhythms in Louisianna from this continent that are played down here in Morocco because they were originally influenced by Africa.
“Your music could be a Rockabilly Noir.”
That’s fucking awesome, that’s fucking beautiful. I’ll go with that. Down in the swamp, Daddy put the bomp in my soul.
A swamp is slinky and sensual, like a vampire that dances really good creeping through the swamp. Voodoo. Voodoo boogie woogie.
I wrote my songs in the order they would be played live. I also wrote most of them chronologically as I saw the life of a man.
“Do any specific songs that come to mind which epitomize the development of a man?”
Several. There are several that epitomize the maturing process of a man.
The opening piece that I play with Thym, the one that is a four section piece. The beginning section is about the nebulous other place that we come from, then conception, then birth, then adolescence. So that one piece is the creation process. Then it goes into some dark shit, then some super duper dark shit, then some beautiful information that I had to work really hard to get but I’m glad to have it.
Everything is a self portrait. Copola says, “No matter what you think you’re making, what you’re looking up at is you on the screen.”
It’s true. Everything is a self portrait. It’s what I choose to give energy to. It’s like that. I read a book by Mark Levin, Technicians of Ecstasy. The subtitle is Modern Artist as Shaman. He made a good case for saying it’s the artist’s job to create and heal culture.
“On and On, what’s that really about?”
So finally at the ending you look back to see that you were only dreaming that you were far from me… It’s a song about choosing oneness with the universe. It talks about choice and the Other, and it’s something that I consider to be a really good affirmation.
Every song that someone ever wrote is a mantra. And when I wrote these songs I wrote something that I actually thought was healthy and positive and worthwhile enough to demand the attention of an audience, and something that I wouldn’t be embarrassed, or wouldn’t want to sing about fifty years later.
I know that broken hearts exist / but what I want to know is this / what did you learn when a broken heart happened.
“Can you explain Irony is Dead?”
I think a lot of what passes for irony is a game of one-upmanship, and very often it’s disguised as the brilliant art of irony. It inhibits intimacy though really. Groucho said one-upmanship like that kills real communication.
A lot of what passes for humor is just insult. All they’re doing is using language as a fucking bludgeon. But who really wants to do that? Not me. So I see it as a control mechanism, how these guys use language.
For example, people from England use what they refer to as irony, which American’s don’t get supposedly, mainly because there are so many English cultural references that leave Americans behind. But really “irony” too often is just a bunch of insults that derail, undermine and destroy, in the guise of humor, and it’s really nothing more than a control mechanism. You can say anything in the world as long as you finish it with, “It was a joke.”
Billy Crystal, in “Mr. Saturday Night” during a scene with his brother. He said, “You were always jealous of me.” He said, “When you’re up there and things are going right you got the crowd you feel like the most powerful guy on Earth because every woman wants to fuck you and every guy wants to shake your hand.”
But humor is a pwerful way to control the room. It’s so powerful because it’s powerful.” A powerful comedian is fucking powerful. I am asking for people to ask themselves what is this humor thing? And to use it for building, not for destroying.
Everyone calls me a stick in the mud but I think they don’t really know what they’re talking about. So I ask everyone in my organization to speak to each other with kindness.
“Do you remember why you had the insight about irony, or when?”
I spent six months or a year not talking to people. And made up my mind that I really didn’t have much I wanted to say so I’d just listen for a while. Except for “thank you” at the gas pump I spoke to nobody for a year and would just listen. Even if they thought I was strange I’d just sit there and listen.
I found this goes through all cultures, this language war that is based on humor and irony and I disagree with it. I think it stops communication. It’s really just a battlefield. It’s just something people learn how to do.
I do not think that irony is truly dead. I love irony, but by stating it the way I state it, I force people to try to understand what they think of irony and humor as a whole in their culture.
“I think you said that Burning Man changed your life.”
I would describe it as the first time I felt what a community actually felt like. Everyone talks about community but that was the first time I actually experienced it. It felt really fucking good, really natural.
“So I see your band as a cross between the ecstatic and the scientific. Encapsulated by your name, Urban-Jellen Test.”
On some level, yeah. The entire experiment. When I moved to Krakow, I started to experiment with many philosophies. I didn’t go to start a single band. I started an entire scene based on the concept of good heart. And upon that I built a dynamo of energy that has invigorated dozens and dozens of peoples’ lives.
We’re proving that magic exists. At the fundamental root level of everything I’m doing there I proved that magic exists, based on good words, good heart, and good choices.
“Did going to Thailand help you develop your philosophy?”
No. It was just a place for me to relax and enjoy. It’s a country that my country had never bombed. I kept hearing about the wonderful Thai smile. I thought, I would like to be around that. It’s a Buddhist culture, southeast Asian, and it has the longest oldest reigning monarch in the world. It’s been a kingdom throughout the whole colonization era, never colonized. Everybody else was. So I wanted to see what was going on there? How were they able to stay so soft and not be colonized? I wanted to be around that. Mainly I wanted to find some beautiful place where people were smiling and it was off the grid. I give them a smile, and they gave me a smile back.
And I went to go paint some paintings which were describing what I would call my third psycho spiritual paradigm shift. Those paintings describe concepts that I finally formalized by making those paintings. They record my transformation that took about five years to go through.
And the beginning of that transformation, that’s what ‘Bad Man’s about.’
“So the concepts are magic exists…”
Oh yeah, Baby. And irony is dead. Most of what passes for irony is destructive, so it is dead. It’s death.
And also I’ve told all the people with whom I work that there are four questions we put our decisions through: 1) does it have good heart 2) does it have wisdom attached?, 3) is it great art? and 4) is it fun? I’ve asked everyone since day one to use those guidelines in decisions regarding our project. And it bore great fruit.
So everyone works well together, holding those values. And I proved that magic fucking works based on good heart and good words. And everyone busts their ass because it is worthwhile. Everyone fundamentally appreciates and agrees with the sentiment. Everyone says, “You know what, that makes sense to me.” The universe supports love, and efficiency, and airplane wings.
“Why did you decide to leave the US?”
I wanted to get the world inside me, and the United States out of me.
“Are you going back to the US?”
Perhaps. I told Thym I would go back to the States as a touring band.
“You usually avoid politics. Why?”
I’ve tried to formulate that answer to a reasonable level, but it’s pretty complex. Fundamentally I believe the political agendas of the world get enough energy already. My job is to be a spiritual person talking about spiritual things. It’s a different path.
On a personal level, staying aware of current newsworthy topics, for me, is extremely debilitatingly depressing. I’m not supposed to be paying attention to the finer details to all these problems because they’ve existed for all time. Pinochet, George Bush, it doesn’t matter. The names change but it’s always the same. I’m trying to write lyrics about after the heartbreak.
This is all based on good heart. So this is a musical paradox. The first name for the album was going to be “Smuggled Love.” I think the tensions between opposites is powerful. It’s how paradigms are created, the fusion of opposites. And I was trying to create a powerful paradigm with a community of artists.
“Are you afraid of being tied in with the hippie ethos?”
No. But a lot of Europeans, especially the English, like to brand me as the hippie guy.
“Where do drugs fit in to your life?”
I think of drugs as sacramental.
“Are drugs necessary?”
You can never say never and never say always. It’s impossible to break it down to that. That’s a ridiculous question.
“Are they transformative?”
Of course they are. That’s what they’re meant to do.