Hip-Hop, Fresh Squeezed

By @ 11/09/12 in Press

The New York Times

Hip-Hop, Fresh Squeezed


July 31, 2005

White guys and live instruments may be minorities in hip-hop, but

they are not so rare. Julian Hintz, who performs as Julz A, still

manages to be a hip-hop anomaly, however: he rhymes while playing the

accordion. The instrument is less apt to roll with the posse than

roll out the barrel, but onstage Mr. Hintz, 27, is polka’s

antithesis. Fingers fanned out at chest level, terry-cloth band on

his wrist, leaning back slightly, he strikes a classic rapper’s pose

despite playing an instrument that has been relegated to Dorkville at

least since the Beatles. Mr. Hintz has long aimed to sex up the

squeezebox: after he picked up the accordion at 16, the first song he

learned to play was “Purple Haze.” Today he uses a wah-wah pedal and

distortion on tracks like “Julz-A.com” (“What’s that new sound/

accordion lowdown” and “the accordion man/ with the rockin’ hand”)

from his first solo EP, “Squeeze Rock,” to be released at a Knitting

Factory show on Aug. 30. Mr. Hintz discussed a few other modern

appearances of the accordion with Andrew Adam Newman.

“ROCKY RACCOON,” the Beatles (1968): “This is one of those songs

where the accordion fills a theatrical role. It comes in for about 10

seconds – when ‘the doctor comes in, stinking of gin’ – and then

disappears again. And it’s intentionally played badly – the style of

drunk playing.”

“COLD, COLD GROUND,” Tom Waits (1987): “Every time I tell people I

play the accordion, they say, ‘You must love Tom Waits.’ I don’t. The

way he uses the accordion is a gimmick. He’s just taking accordion

waltzes and sticking them into a minor key to create this scene, and

even though he’s trying to create this dark mood it still seems sort

of goofy.”

“THE DOWNEASTER ALEXA,” Billy Joel (1989): “It’s a beautiful swooping

ballad with solid songwriting and a great melody. I can’t really

complain about it except that the accordion is not featured. I

personally play accordion as if it’s the guitar in a rock band – the

accordion is playing the main riff rather than the guitar player

doing it. But in pop music the accordion oftentimes works as padding

to give harmonic support.”

“PARTICLE MAN,” They Might Be Giants (1990): “The riff for the

accordion is the most similar approach to what I do in these

examples. It has a unique line that uses no traditional accordion

style. There’s no one-two style (boom, chick, boom, chick) that’s so

prevalent in traditional accordion music.”

“JESUS DOESN’T WANT ME FOR A SUNBEAM,” Nirvana (1993): “I’m a big

Nirvana fan. The accordion-playing was very traditional, but it was

still a traditional punk-rock song. It had a melancholy quality that

was kind of sweet.”




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