Putting on a new JuJu album and closing your eyes always lands you in a place you could not expect before. Coming from the African vibes of the highly respected self-titled debut album on Fuzz Club records on which Sicilian native Gioele Valenti collaborated with members of Swedish cult psych outfit GOAT, the band and its albums have never sounded the same since. Each album turned a different corner and explored different angles but always kept their dark and brooding atmosphere and psychedelic overtones.
La Que Sabe, JuJu’s fourth studio album takes us deep into 80s wave territory this time. Closing my eyes I walk dark and sweaty alleyways and in and out batcave discos where bands like Bauhaus, Anne Clark, Sisters Of Mercy and Echo And The Bunnymen entertain the black clad audiences. It’s sexy, danceable music and quite a departure from the dark ritualistic psych chants of the early JuJu days. What is left is the repetition in the pounding beats, and the overall hazy atmosphere. JuJu is back in a more celebratory mood this time and wants its listeners to go out and sweat blood.
But behold! There is more to La Que Sabe than meets the eye, apart from an excellently executed tribute to the dark ages of gothic new wave it tells a very relevant story about our society’s current state of affairs and its dystopian destination. There can’t hardly be a better soundtrack than this for these times. I had to see if I could find JuJu mastermind Goeile Valenti willing to talk to the Shrine, but luckily he did! I am pretty darn proud of the interview below so please treat yourself and check it out below:
Hi Gioele! How are you, and how have you been these strange two years of the pandemic?
Nice too meet you man. I am fine thanks. I passed them between incredulity and amazement. The world has always lived with pandemics. But this time they are turning the world upside down. I spent a lot of it writing, composing and playing, as always. But also to
have fun with my friends. A life worth living must be a life of sharing. We also recently played at Fekete Zaj in Hungary. Well, after two years of enforced detention, it was like touching the sky with a finger.
Also: where have you been? And how has your geographical position influenced your work? In my view, Sicily must be awesome to live, yet it is also extremely far away from everything else…
Sicily is a place geographically and psychologically in its own right. Here cultural differences have always crossed and you cannot find something similar elsewhere, I guess. Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish… a crossroads of different cultures. I can’t say that I was
musically formed from Sicily, because I grew up listening to punk, new wave, postrock, shoegaze, psychedelia… but surely this tendency to mix everything together, forming a kind of melange in baroque sauce, well, this definitely comes from my origins. Sicily has the reputation of being a place of sun and sea. But the Mediterranean has a double soul, one solar, we would say Apollonian, but also a tragic face, which follows us like a shadow, and comes from a Dionysian and dramatic environment, directly from Ancient Greece. JuJu comes from there, I fear.
Can you tell our reader the background story of JuJu? What was it at its conception, and what has it become now?
I started JuJu while playing in another band, Lay Llamas (Rocket Recordings). A band that I am still a part of and that is about to come out with two new records.Then I felt myself developing some topoi connected with African culture, polyrhythm and connection with
mother earth, the magic of the soil. In fact in the first two records of JUJU (Fuzz Club) you can hear this Africanist inspiration. The third album, “Maps And Territory” instead entangled with new wave, glam rock and industrial music. With a hint of avant-garde jazz in it, I
presume. One of the biggest influences I ever acquired it, it was during two support tours for the Swedish masked ensemble GOAT. In fact, a couple of founders (Capra Informis and Goatman) played on my first albums. I like to imagine JuJu as an organism in constant motion. Only chaos generates dancing stars, you know.
With La Que Sabe you have once again reinvented yourself into something else completely, can you describe the writing process and what influenced your sound to turn into this?
Sure. I always wanted to pay homage to the music I grew up with. From dark wave to new wave, from post punk to no wave to art rock. I believe that La Que Sabe embodies all this, passed through my interest in the Vedanta culture, where spirituality is articulated
through the experience, even extreme and vital, of the path of the left hand. In this historical moment it is good to connect with the deeper parts of the cosmic self. Only in this way will we be able to escape the exploitation that politics is implementing on the basis of a
perennial emergency government. In short, try not to go crazy and being alive.
To my ears, La Que Sabe sounds darker, and perhaps more 80s inspired than ever…would you agree? Are there perhaps certain artists you listened
to more to inspire you?
You hit the mark perfectly. The stylistic code of La Que Sabe is precisely that between 80 and 90. From Joy Division, Dead Can Dance and The Cult to Pere Ubu and Jesus And Mary Chain, The Telescopes, Barbie Bones up to Depeche Mode and New Order ending with lapping territories near Swans and Sonic Youth, just to name a few, this record has the ambition to articulate itself through two decades of vital and politically incorrect music.
Can you explain the title and the overall lyrical concept?
Sure. It’s a powerful archetype that resides in the deepest psyche of our soul, of every woman’s soul, specifically, it is in fact a feminine archetype. It is the wild, ancient essence that belongs to us, that we deserve, that is ours by right. Society wants people to be wheels of a functionalist machine. Society wants endless production and tame people. The duty of every human being is to rebel against this capitalist reductionism. The KAPALIKA, the man portrayed on the cover, is an Indian holy man, a practitioner of Shaivism. Shaivism is considered the oldest spiritual path in the world. Society wants divided beings, but if you are connected to yourself, no one will be able to divert you. The lyrics speak of destruction and regeneration, of disappointment, of being a light to oneself, against the false heroes and weak myths of which even Rock’N’Roll is made.
The first self-titled album has become quite a classic in my book. I was excited to recently buy it on vinyl! Can you recall the responses of its release at the time? And have the responses to that album and JuJu as a band changed over time?
The debut of JuJu, initially released on the US label Sunrise Ocean Bender and then reissued for Europe by Fuzz Club, was immediately received enthusiastically. In that record I was talking about people who in 2000 still die at sea while politicians pass the ball, literally making a career out of the lives of refugees. A very nihilistic record. JuJu immediately earned the affection of many fans, especially British ones. This affection and loyalty have grown over time, cemented by a great live activity. We can say that we have a lot of
friends who are willing to go on long trips to one of our concerts. Of course, I always ask for a lot of trust from the fans, even jumping into the dark, as I consider myself a game changer, and I love that each record sounds different. I don’t like bands that don’t mark an artistic evolution from one record to another. They bore me.
You have other projects as well, right? Are they still alive and can we expect new music in the future?
Yes, I have another dark folk project called Herself, on whose last record I hosted Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev. I am about to complete the recording of the sixth official album and I hope to be able to release it soon.
Speaking about future plans: what are your plans with JuJu in the immediate future? And can we expect some live action any time soon too?
We’re trying to organize a tour on next Spring. Not easy, these days. People are very afraid in planning something. We’ll see.
What should our readers do directly after reading this interview?
I can’t really say. Maybe hug your partner and tell him/her he/she’s precious?
Thanks for your time Jasper, it’s been a pleasure.
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