By Luigi Maliambro
Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, dragged me to a Chinese Buffet in Aylmer called Bambou. On a snowy Valentine evening, I spoke with the prolific artist about Marc Chagall, getting kicked out of karaoke, and bring “old shit” back.
Cheezy Luigi: What the hell is this place?
Josh Dolgin: It’s called a buffet.
CL: It’s the smallest buffet ever. How long have you been coming here?
JD: As a young teenager we use to come here from Chelsea—there use to be karaoke.
I got kicked out of karaoke. I was told by a women that I ‘’disrespected the spirit of karaoke’’
JD: Yeah, that’s the quote.
CL: What was the song?
JD: ‘’My Way,’’ Frank Sinatra. It was kind of hilarious, I sang it too much. It was an important moment for me as a performer in the development as an artist.
CL: That’s when you decided . . .
JD: Yeah I decided to be a professional karaoke singer. Have a chicken ball, it comes down to the chicken ball. You don’t come here for the vegetables.
CL: Pass the red sauce.
CL: Did you go back to DJ for the Marc Chagall show in Montreal?
JD: Yeah, I did another gig there, it was rocking.
CL: How did music influence Chagall?
JD: On so many levels: the musicians in his life, his uncle, the music from his synagogue. You’ve seen his paintings, I mean the subject matter. His folk imagination of his weird childhood, violinist coming out of the sky.
CL: There’s alway people floating
JD: Yeah people floating, rabbis, people singing around a table. I played hasidic songs and klezmer, gypsy music, and theatre.
CL: And everything was on vinyl ?
JD: Yup. His granddaughter came up to me and she totally dug it, it was great meeting her. I played some really weird shit. I played Enrico Macias singing one of my songs in French. He’s an Algerian jewish guy singing in French, a hasidic melody. It’s pretty cool. I actually sampled him before I ever met him.
CL: That’s weird; you sample an artist, then you meet him.
JD: Very weird, it was from a project this crew of Italian rappers that I use to produce for. They were called ‘’Fratelli Fortunati.”
CL: Do you like producing other people’s music?
JD: Yeah for sure.
CL: You’ve worked with Ben Caplan,
JD: Yup, Sarah Toussaint-Léveillé, Geoff Berner, Yves Lambert, Canailles, Abraham Inc, Enrico Macias. It’s a heavy gig producing, being efficient about time and money and budgets. Each one requires a different strategy, each musician, each engineer, so I can get them to do there shit well and do a good job, and direct them, motivate them, it’s deep, it’s like political, social, working with egos or lack of egos. I work it until it becomes what it’s suppose to be. . . Try the mushrooms
CL: The last time I saw you perform was at the 50th anniversary for your parents’ synagogue, that was really great. You played obscure Jewish music that you arranged for a quartet.
JD: The room was electric for that show, they were totally attentive. People are hungry and thirsty for that kind of shit, you never see that ever. People are used to love songs, what I was playing has been lost. I’ve been collecting it for years and learning how to do it. I just determined what’s good in that whole repertoire.
CL: And all that music you found was on vinyl?
JD: 100 per cent . . . I picked all my favourites artist and songs and pinned point where they came from on a map. It was cool learning about those artists. It was an education, where they came from: Lasi in Romania, Poland, Lithuania, born in Belarussia. It was about the arrangements, it was about not compromising the musical accompaniment for the songs. This was the attempt. Having real arrangements written by people based on old shit. Mostly old transcription of old recordings or taking old sheet music to hear the real f*cking harmonies that go with the songs, from that time. And that’s usually the first thing to go when musicians try to interpret this music. It’s like singing a Frank Sinatra song without Nelson Riddle, it’s going to be a good song but the way Nelson Riddle worked with Frank Sinatra that’s the thing! •