In my conversation with New York-based songwriter Jonathan Dagan, who goes by the alias j.viewz, I found that he was a man who assimilated much from what he observed, constantly learning and adding it all to his music. Dagan’s stin...
In my conversation with New York-based songwriter Jonathan Dagan, who goes by the alias j.viewz, I found that he was a man who assimilated much from what he observed, constantly learning and adding it all to his music. Dagan’s stint as a musician began with his band Violet Vision, an electronic, breakbeat group that was pretty popular in Israel, the country of his birth. It was in the downtime between albums that Dagan began making some of his own music. The more chilled-out sound that is associated with j.viewz began this way and it continued to flourish while he experimented with it. “I had no expectation for it, which was pretty beautiful. But somehow, labels began picking up my demo and it was getting released in compilations alongside big bands like Massive Attack and Paul Oakenfold,” says Dagan. It was during this time that he came up with the name j.viewz. “Someone called me from one of these labels in the UK and said he needed a name right away because he needed to put it out. My demo was called j.viewz so I just went with it,” he explained. All this happened in 2003 when Violet Vision moved to Los Angeles. Dagan had now found the music that he had begun to make for fun was slowly turning into the outlet he always wanted. He quit Violet Vision and agreed to let his partner Shay Raviv continue using the name.
Over the next decade or so, j.viewz made innovative music and the music videos that went along with them. He’s collaborated with a very broad range of artists and released two albums, Muse Breaks (2005) and rivers and homes (2011) and one EP, The Besides EP. We’ve even debuted his innovative music video for ‘rivers and homes’ on our website (check it out here). This year, j.viewz will play the Delhi NCR edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, and if you haven’t already, get your tickets here.
I spoke to j.viewz about his outlook on music, creativity and his ambitious plans for a new album.
NH7: Since you started j.viewz, you’ve played with genres of music. You’ve still got the chilled-out elements in there, you’ve got powerful vocalists bringing in a lot of soul, and you’ve even got some great covers. Is this experimentation part of what you decided to start j.viewz for in the first place?
Jonathan Dagan: I guess so. When I just started j.viewz, I was just into jazz and I was kind of intrigued by it. I felt that there was something so amazing about chill-out music, but there was also something so annoying about it. I felt that there were two kinds of chill-out music, one that made me happy and blissful and really chill and one of them made me feel like I’m in a porn movie. I was kind of fine with that thin balance, and I started to add a lot of electronic and jazzy elements. It was around then that I started to form the live act that I wanted for j.viewz, which consisted mostly of jazz musicians. It was really cool to play electronic music with jazz musicians because it gave the music that kinda of jazz twist. Now that twist started to bleed into the music and in the studio, and I started recording the people who I played with on tour.
That was the first version of j.viewz, that had this jazzy and chill-out element. We did ‘Smooth Criminal’ which came about in one sound check that we did. We just couldn’t play our own songs anymore and so we just launched into the song. Slowly, over time, we just enjoyed doing it and so we slowed it down. That was when it became fun. That’s the thing about the fun element though, when fun presents itself you just go, “Fuck everything. This. I want this!” You have your mainstream and you have your main focus, but then something pops out in the corner of your eye and you feel okay with it. It’s almost like the real enjoyment exists in the outskirts of what you are doing. With j.viewz, I find that I have learned to look at things from the corner of my eye a