Arts & Culture

Judaism: Weird, Dark…and Great Musical Material!

"So, Mr. PunkTorah, does your band play Jewish music?" I’m surrounded by a group of middle aged Jews, trying to explain my rock band Can!!Can…and trying my hardest not to cuss or fuck up or look like an idiot. Because the easiest way … Read More

By / June 21, 2010

"So, Mr. PunkTorah, does your band play Jewish music?"

I’m surrounded by a group of middle aged Jews, trying to explain my rock band Can!!Can…and trying my hardest not to cuss or fuck up or look like an idiot. Because the easiest way to stump a musician is to ask them what their music is like. Try it some time. It’s hilarious.

"My lyrics draw heavily from my sense of Jewish spirituality, like the Rastafarians with reggae. And since I’m the singer, it comes out a lot. But our music is really just heavy rock, like Queens of the Stone Age, The Cramps, stuff like that."

I might as well have whipped out my dick and helicoptered them. This conversation is totally pointless.

They don’t know what to say to me. Jewish music falls under four categories for them: Debbie Friedman, their parents Klezmer records, the Carlebach family, and the soundtracks to Yenta and Fiddler on the Roof. Maybe a fifth category too, the one that takes contemporary music, pours Mel Brooks love-shmaltz all over it, and becomes a Jewish self parody of the cool music.

The truth is, I’ve never liked that stuff. It’s not authentic to me.

The things in the Jewish tradition that are dark and weird…that’s my area. While everyone is celebrating the victory of Hanukah, I’m thinking about all the Hellenistic Jews that got murdered. My favorite midrashim (Jewish legends) are about Aaron’s sons being burned to death and Abraham smashing his father’s idols, then giving him a "fuck you" answer when asked about it.

It’s makes for great music. On my band’s upcoming album, I unintentionally tackled several of these issues including:

-The Nephilim, who I think don’t get enough air-play in Jewish dialogue

-Meeting G-d at the Mishkan as an allegory for getting laid (inspired by Girls In Trouble, interestingly enough)

-Revering rabbis like golden calves

-And Ha-Satan, the persecutor

Is that Jewish enough for you?

But more importantly, I live in the world. So while, yes, I do write "Jewish" lyrics, to the extent that spirituality is a huge part of my life, for every "Jewish" thing in my music, you’re going to hear more Universal things: love, life, paranoia, drug abuse, surrealism, adventure, sex, prophetic dreams, our culture of victimhood, and false heroism.

And to me, these Universal ideas, are just as Jewish as anything else. If you don’t believe me, read the Torah, you’ll find tons of it.