Discover thrilling artists in 10 questions…
From the beautiful city of Palermo in Italy, here’s… JUJU
Experienced and eclectic singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist GIOELE VALENTI
is the ingenious mastermind behind spellbinding psych collective JUJU. Valenti is not
only an exquisite musician but also a fascinating, broad-minded human being with
a multicolored vision on mankind’s past, present and future. The way he combines
astonishing soundscapes with profound reflections on our troubled planet is nothing
less than remarkable. Last year Juju released OUR MOTHER WAS A PLANT LP. A trippy
work of transcendent vibrations. From cinematic Pink Floyd echoes to Hawkind‘s spacey escapades and some king-sized Massive Attack jams in between. After seeing/meeting signor Valenti last month in my hometown Ghent (Belgium) where the band played an impressive set we got in touch for this interview. Let’s start the acquaintance first with
one of the highlights of the LP…
Welcome Gioele at Turn Up The Volume!…
1/ You were in several bands before, Gioele. When and why
did you start the JuJu project ?
“Back in 2015. The reason is always the same, I think: to make music without frontiers.
In this case, I just wanted to say something on the migration of masses we’re facing in this
particular historical moment. Sicily is one of the poles of the crisis, in the Mediterranean, we have been defined as the ‘gate of Europe‘… a term with a very ambiguous semantic value, because it could conceal a discharge of responsibility from a political point of view. Anyway, I think that migration of bodies, languages, symbols are a very fertile soil
for an artist’s imagination.”
2/ What’s the story behind the project’s name?
“Juju is a West African word. It refers to a system of belief. JuJu can be a spell, can be incorporated objects, amulets… It sounds good, with its powerful witchy meaning. I love playing with symbols.”
3/ When did you know “this is how I want to sound, this is
what I want to tell the world”?
“Mmm, it’s quite hard. Riding on a highway with God as co-pilot, facing the hell of passion and the transcendence of a free-form spirit. I’m a songwriter, and I’m a drop in an ocean, so I’m just following the path of my predecessors, with a light in my head and an abyss of shadows behind. Sorry, I know it may sound a little naïve, but I cannot define myself better than this.”
4/ Only two months in the new year and I already saw two great Italian bands play Belgium (Secret Sight and JuJu) and I interviewed two (The Bankrobber and Japan Suicide). Is that a coincidence or is a new Italian wave on its way to conquer Europe?
“When I hear “conquer” I’m scared. It has to do with a tradition with which we have
to break. I feel closer to the spirit of Renaissance. Sweetness, otherness proposal, brotherhood in the beauty. As an Italian, I can only claim an aesthetic supremacy
over the pettiness of politics. Anyway, it’s great to see great Italian bands around,
5/ Which song would you pick as Juju’s signature track?
“‘In A Ghetto’, I think. It’s the one with my friend Capra Informis from Goat at the djembé.
I think it incorporates all the magic I’m just trying to express with JuJu. I hear on that track the feminine power of soil and a mood that is close to a Mercurial point of view. The transformation is the point. We are all living in a ghetto, in a way. Call it drugs, sex, technology… we are not free as human beings. It’s sad.”
6/ What’s the story behind the album’s title ‘Our Mother Was A Plant’ and how is it related to the music and to the image on the LP’s front sleeve?
“I was reading a lot of beat literature. I love the lysergic aspects of life, and I think that we should demonstrate more respect for plants… they are very ancient beings, more powerful than we think. The relation with the cover instead is more subtle. If we’d be able to expand our consciousness over a routine world, we would find a deep connection. No separation, no sexism, no racism, in a word brotherhood. There’s a Maya greeting called ‘In Lak’ech’, it means ‘I am another yourself‘. The ‘A Chosen Few’ was the first motorcycle club made by black people. They opened to white people. I think that is a very successful experiment of integration. Al those meanings mixed together make sense to me. Tout se tient, they say in France.”
7/ JuJu’s music covers a whole range of psychedelic genres and is influenced by several decades of mind-expanding music. Is it also a reflection of your private record collection?
“Definitely. I love music and I live through rhythm. JuJu is a tribute to the great music
I have grown up with. From Mozart to Joy Division, Tom Waits, John Zorn, Dead Kennedys, Misfits, Billy Idol, The Cure, Janis Joplin, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Telescopes, Procol Harum, The Doors, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Angelo Branduardi, Ligeti, Ennio Morricone, Grieg
and so on and on…”
8/ What movie would you pick to visualize JuJu’s music on
a big screen on stage when playing a show?
“Lord Of The Flies, 1963. The human being is flexible and adaptable.
The deepest fears are the same everywhere.”
9/ If you could go back in time on which artist’s front door
would you knock and ask to have a selfie together?
“Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The hard part would
be to explain the concept of a ‘selfie‘ to the master of portraits!”
10/ Plans for 2018?
“I’m desperately planning to not make plans! As Woody Allen
once said:’If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.'”
Many thanks for this highly interesting and rich interview, Gioele!
Mat the road rise with you and Juju…
Live in Ghent, 18 February – Turn Up The Volume’s review right here