Joel Isaac Black, a.k.a. Hazy Pockets, is the curator of the legendary playlist for Zermatt’s eco-chic hotel CERVO. In the panoramic terrace and restaurant of the hotel, which is decked out entirely in vintage market finds including a well-travelled camper van, guests and visitors will hear tunes from Benin to Bolivia. Isabella Sanai speaks to Black and photographs him in his adoptive hometown of Berlin.
LUX: When did your interest in music begin?
Joe Isaac Black: My father is a fantastic blues guitar and harmonica player, his organic sounds permeated every moment in my childhood home. Some of my very earliest memories include positioning a small stool in front of a quite temperamental vinyl record player, stepping up and learning to balance coins for weighting on the tone-arm, and dropping the needle on a remarkably diverse collection of records. Hearing the dusty crackle of the needle in the groove, and sprinting to the sofa to perform an improvised dance routine in my underwear was where the lifelong musical love affair started. I suppose I am still reliving this moment to this day.
LUX: You describe seeing music in 3D spaces/shapes – what does that mean?
JIB: I would describe it more as my ability to project myself into hypothetical sonic spaces, to really “hear” and “feel” what it might be like to be in a certain room with certain music or sounds. I can often slip into my own imagination, and have a very powerful and tangible gut feeling of what needs to fill these spaces.
LUX: You mentioned you were first drawn as a child to the geometry of percussion. How did your affinity with rhythm evolve into music curation?
JIB: This can be understood in a bit more of a dry and scientific manner. I am a drummer, DJ, and dancer, all pastimes that at their best have an inherent coordination and swing to them. Symmetry, repetition, the quiet spaces in between … This rhythm is an essential human energy, a level or mood that affects every individual in a room whether they know it or not.
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The architecture, dimensions, and materials of a space reflect the sounds and music, and are factors in that basic rhythm. Curating music is an imperfect attempt to match that geometry with a beat that makes everything feel just its proper place.
LUX: What do you think makes a DJ successful?
JIB: The right song at the right time is the most powerful tool in the universe. Knowledgeable channeling of shared moods meaning more right songs at the right time helps with the success. I sound like a grumpy gate-keeper, but a deep understanding of music genres, strains, traditions, and histories allows one to make those choices. Also, personality, character, and presence sell the songs, but in the end, it’s elemental synchronicities lining up that make a DJ magic and thus memorable and hopefully building momentum to a crude definition of success.
LUX: Do you feel your music taste is influenced by your surroundings?
JIB: Absolutely. I am a compulsive integrator, imitator, absorbing everything around me and consciously or subconsciously mixing this up with all of my older instincts.
LUX: You mentioned your involvement with Allah Las. What do you think of this rebirth we’re seeing of psychedelic rock?
JIB: I was close with them from their infancy as a band as we were colleagues at the record store. The boys are just sweet and genuine west coast surfer golden children. Rock and psychedelic are slippery words these days. Kids are becoming more genuinely open-minded, factually-driven, and informed about altered states and beneficial psychedelic experiences, and thus they really need the right soundtrack. Set and setting. The bold experimentation and indelicate purity of 60s rock psychedelia and guitar music must be very very appealing to kids coming of age in an era of digital overload.
LUX: Are there any new projects on the horizon?
JIB: I am dedicated to launching my agency, Wild Mountain Honey, a unique address for sourcing and building immersive music experiences and collaborations for the finest luxury hotels, restaurants, and unique clients world-wide. It’s really an exciting culmination of my music curation and event-building activities, a highly-refined expression of all of my network and skills, a chance to work with incredible talent from live music, to DJs, to culinary stars, and create unforgettable magic moments.
My work with my home base, True Blue Music Berlin continues to provide thrilling soundtrack, sound-design, and studio production undertakings…and as the germans would say, I am a ‘Rampensau’, a shameless slave to the stage, so my live band Tegel Boys will release new music and tour, while my true love, my endless DJ voyage continues as Hazy Pockets.
LUX: What advice would you give to young creatives?
JIB: Own your talents and flaws, and refine and shape those into a form that is irresistible to your patrons and clients and still fulfilling. Unhitch the trailer of ‘giving a f*ck’ what peers, competitors, or critics think of you and your work. Repeat it. The show must go on!
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