Interview with Annette Ezekiel of Golem

By: Sarah L. Myers

Tell me a little bit about the history of the band.

I started the band a few years ago and I wanted to play Jewish klezmer and Yiddish music in a way that wasn’t nostalgic or old fashioned. I wanted to do it in a modern way that would appeal to people my own age instead of just an older crowd, because I had always gone to see that kind of music with my grandparents. I wanted to make it contemporary.

How do you fuse the aspects of punk and pop with traditional music without losing the integrity of each one?

I feel like all the attitude and the edginess of the meaning of the songs, and even the sound, is already there. I don’t feel like I’m putting that in. Definitely we play the songs as if they were written today instead of hundreds of years ago. Mainly that comes through in that we have a rock drummer, and we kind of have a punk rock attitude about the music and we’re screaming and jumping around and not acting like we’re playing in a museum, or (playing) music that was written hundreds of years ago. In terms of the Yiddish language and the Russian songs that we do, the edginess and the sexiness and all the contemporary stuff about it is already in there. I just feel like we’re bringing it out.

With so many different elements coming together in your music, do you see one as more important than the other? Or does one contribute more to the sound of the band?

I think it’s traditional music filtered through a rock sensibility. I guess that’s how I would describe it.

The definition of “golem” is an animated being created from inanimate objects. Is that a metaphor for the band?

Yeah, exactly. No one’s ever put it that way before but that’s exactly what it is. We are taking this music and treating it in a rough monstrous fashion rather than careful. The golem legend is of a monster that was created to protect the community, but at the same time he was pretty wild, and an outsider, so I kind of feel like that’s a metaphor for our band.

Lenny Kaye plays guitar on the record, Fresh Off Boat. How did you make that connection with Lenny Kaye?

The producer of the record engineers and produces for Patti Smith all the time, so he was like, ‘Lenny would really love this!’ So he came in and was amazing and Lenny loved the band and we loved him and he just does this crazy solo right off the bat, so it was great. He was nice enough to come to our CD release show and play and it was great.

Amanda Palmer (of The Dresden Dolls) sings on “Warsaw is Khelm”. How did you meet up with her?

Aaron (Diskin), the singer, and I are from Lexington, Massachusetts, we went to high school together, and Amanda also went to our high school. That goes way back, and of course I love what she’s doing, and she liked our band. It was pretty funny to get someone who had no connection with Yiddish stuff at all to be singing a Yiddish song, basically, even a little bit in Yiddish. Yiddish is very similar to German, and she knows some German just because she’s really into the caberet type thing, so she did it very easily.

When The Dresden Dolls came out, they were extremely hard to classify and no one was doing that kind of music. Does your band get that same reaction?

Yeah, definitely. I can’t even classify it. We’re been trying so hard to find two words to put it into, but it’s really hard. We’ve been called Klezmer Rock, Punk Klezmer, Folk Punk, it’s hard. We’re not punk, we’re not rock, we’re not totally folk, but we’re kind of… there’s elements of all of that. As you said, which element is the strongest? It’s hard to say.

Could you explain a little about klezmer music for people who may not know?

The word klezmer actually means ‘lowlife musician,’ like wedding musician from Eastern Europe. They were the types of the musicians that didn’t play in orchestras but they were going from town to town playing parties and whatever would come up, and they weren’t very respected. The whole tradition of folk music that they played in Eastern Europe is now called klezmer, and there’s been a whole revival of it in the United States and in Germany and stuff, called the Klezmer Revival, since the 1970s, and people have been playing that kind of music.


January 2007 : Golem! concert review




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