Josh “Socalled” Dolgin of Chelsea, Quebec is the kind of artist who defies categorization, in his case openly and verbally. He is different and that will be evident at his Canada Scene concert with Yves Lambert Saturday night in the Babs Asper Theatre at the National Arts Centre. While his music is most readily seen as hip hop, his sound incorporates elements of klezmer, jazz, funk and folk. His music is different, exciting, often challenging, and it stands out in a world of hip hop that Socalled sees as encumbered by an abundance of rules.
“Hip hop is conservative,” he says. “It was a free for all in the beginning but it has really become codified. I felt like I didn’t fit in.”
Every song Socalled creates adheres to its own rules. And as a producer, he has learned to follow his gut and create music that sounds good to him. If his popularity is limited because his sound is admittedly odd, it is also what makes him the experimental artist that he is.
“I’d love to make a big fat hit, and I try but I keep adding shit that’s kind of weird just because I like it,” he says. “Eventually this stupid pop song I was trying to make comes out a bit too esoteric for most people.”
Socalled is always trying new sounds, mixing old with new with old again to create something unique. Over his career, he has worked with many artists that at first glance would not seem to be the obvious choice for his sound, but it somehow works. His guest stars have ranged from classical violinist Itzhak Perlman through Fred Wesley of Parliament-Funkadelic.
Most recently, he has been working with Yves Lambert, a legend of the traditional Quebec folk scene. They pair met in Copenhagen at a world music conference at which they were both performing and, according to Socalled, hit it off immediately.
“I saw him play and the band was awesome, he was hilarious and charming. He was playing his ass off and could sing his ass off,” he says. ““Next thing you know we’re out back next to a canal smoking dope and talking about accordions. I thought it was a match made in heaven.”
They began to collaborate, with Lambert adding vocals to Socalled’s most recent album, Peoplewatching and Socalled producing a record for Lambert. The pair will take the NAC’s Southam Hall stage tomorrow night in a concert that should be a delight for those who seek compelling new sounds.
Socalled and Lambert will each bring their entire backing bands on stage, joining forces and taking turns at playing each other’s music. It promises to be a show that will expose a lot of people to some new sounds, and perhaps just as many to old sounds. Socalled wants to expand people’s musical horizons.
“For me, a lot of that is about opening people’s ears,” he says. “If you’re open to it it can expose unexpected new avenues in music.”
Socalled and Yves Lambert take the Babs Asper Theatre stage Saturday July 15 at 7:30pm as part of the National Arts Centre’s Canada Scene programming. Tickets are $25-39 and are available through the NAC Box Office.