Making Music With Socalled

Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, is a Canadian musician with a cult following both online and off. His marriage of klezmer music, hip-hop and magic tricks makes him one of the world's more unique performance artists, and he's got millions of views on YouTube to prove it. In this interview, he discusses making trans-genre music, artistic empowerment and what it's like having a documentary made about yourself. That documentary is now available for rent. You can preview it here.   

1. What was your reaction to the runaway success of "You Are Never Alone," and why did you think it resonated with so many people?
I'd like to believe that it was the marriage of the music and the visuals that touched people, but I have a feeling that while people all loved the song (well, not all, eek) it was the very inspired scenario that Ben [the director] came up with and executed with such skill and style that made the video stand out. In the history of videos about people taking off pieces of their face to reveal a movie projector, I feel like this one ranks pretty high.

2. What impact did the success of your videos on YouTube have on your career?
Hard to tell. I still live in a basement hell-hole apartment and ride a bike, so it didn't really translate into massive record sales, licensing, merchandising, etc... Having stuff up on YouTube is just really awesome for making your art available to the curious around the world, and satisfying that curiosity leads to connections, which in turn leads to meeting other creative people or fans of creativity, which hopefully leads to more collaborations, concerts, opportunities... 

3. Your combination of klezmer and hip-hop is, needless to say, in a class all its own. What advice would you have for other young artists trying to bring together such seemingly disparate genres?
Keep it real. Know your sources. Know your history. Practice. And yo, I don't say that mine is a combination of those two exact genres of music; I try to include elements of all kinds of amazing traditions. On my next record, I do a song with Algerian troubadour/pop star Enrico Macias, the king of calypso the Mighty Sparrow, rap legend Roxanne Shante, Boban Markovitch and house legend Derrick Carter, just for starters.

4. How is the artist more empowered now than 20 years ago? Less?
There are no excuses now. We should be making the best music in history, but we're not! Why not? Too many options, too many variables we can control...limits force us to make choices and hone our skills, but wow, the potential! The opportunities! We don't need million-dollar studios to make songs any more. We don't need to get into million-dollar television studios to have our music heard, our videos seen... Democrazy!


5. What was it like being the star of your own documentary?  Is there anything you wish the filmmakers hadn't caught on camera?
It was kind of a pain in the ass having people follow me around for almost two years, but the whole crew was so cool and generous that I was lucky, they were my friends. I felt honored that they felt that the work I do is worth capturing, that the people I admire and create with were captured for posterity; that's awesome. Actually I wish they'd caught MORE embarrassing, dirty, gritty stuff – sometimes I think this film is too polite and friendly. I'm not always so smilin' and chillin' and normal; I get crazy, I have a dirty, wild life... that'll be the
Socalled Movie Part II, I promise. Now download my new tune and rent my movie please so I can buy a sandwich!




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