Week in Pop: Ed Askew, José Díaz Rohena, LUKA, Midnight Opera

Sjimon Gompers

The prolific José Díaz Rohena steps out from behind the mixing board to showcase new material; photographed by Sarah Macreading.

José Díaz Rohena

The super styling pop master José Díaz Rohena; photographed by Sarah Macreading.


NYC’s José Díaz Rohena has been concocting a new batch of pop tunes beyond the multidisciplinary artist’s mixing desk duties. The former Neighbors DIY pop star continues along some similar introspective trajectories, where exhibitions of inner tiers of the human consciousness are put on display with a humanist flair while taking more experimental risks.

From the succinct Rhodes piano punctuated minimalist pop of “Je’Taime”, emotive connections are told like vignettes ripped from French new wave flicks where the the keys rock & sway no matter how colloquial or dead pan of a delivery that Rohena employs. Fun with franco-phonics & lackadaisical keyboard sequencing synches up the spectrum conducted by José as the listener quickly becomes enveloped into an emotive portrait of a very special someone.

But the nouvelle vague vanities of Rohena is but one facet of the artist’s recent recordings, shining further lights on pop productions that have been in process. Consider the glimmer & shine of “Illumination” that finds José elevating musical craft upward through economic arrangements of electric pianos, singing guitars, harmonic delivery where the engineer/artist elevates themselves upward toward a new level of personal pop composition. And not unlike “Je’Taime”, Rohena remains the constant romantic with take me I’m yours insinuations that rock like electro-glam Jobriath embracing the aesthetic infinity that the no-wave New York City scene offered right as the 80s rapidly approached the anachronistic horizon.

Catching up with the versatile José Díaz Rohena via the following interview exclusive; photographed by Sarah Macreading.

How has your work as an audio engineer further enhanced your your own aesthetic audio evolution?

I learned that the sonics fall into place if the song, arrangement, and performances are good. That none of it matters if the artist isn’t stoked.

From Neighbors to work solo: in what was has the collaborative experience informed your own solo visions?

Hah who knows. Neighbors was working with Nathan, Claire, Evan, Jacob, Adriano, John, and David to fulfill my vision. I’m grateful that I had so much help! Working (mostly) alone makes me miss them.

I revisited one of our records and was overcome with the feeling that we’d nailed it. It totally sounded like GBV-inflected lo-fi that you identify with so deeply that the fact that it never got much attention feels like at best a personal affront. Music for record store clerks. The work is really good! So I’m working on being satisfied with that.

Reflections from José Díaz Rohena; selfie courtesy of the artist.

Interested in hearing the story behind making of the [Wurlitzer] piano punctuated/Francophonic “Je t’aime”. What sorts of affections inspired this song?

I used to think that lyric in “Je’ T’aime…Et Moi Non Plus” translated to, “I love you and no one else” only to find out (too recently) that it translates to “I love you…me neither”.

I’ve been displacing a lot the affection I feel for my girlfriend on her cat. This seems somehow…safer, like I have permission to love a cat unconditionally because the cat can’t say “I don’t love you”. (I know that the cat doesn’t love me).

Tell us more about what you’re working on right now.

1-2 singles a month as José Díaz Rohena and a secret project that I’m producing my friends darkwave project.

Up close & personal with José Díaz Rohena; press photo courtesy of the artist.

How has the current geo-political-socio-foreign-domestic state of things inspired you artistically & activist wise?

It makes me want to spend less time making music and more time organizing. It makes me want to make music that’s aware of how fucked everything is still, in it’s own absurd way, joyful. Like Tropicália.

Other artists & activists that have been fighting the good fight that you would like to recognize?

My brother’s in our hometown doing on the ground organizing work to get progressives elected on a local and state level. He rules.

Books movies, albums & arts that the world should be plugged-into right now?

Gilberto Gil (1968) and Caetano Veloso.

Creative goals & squad goals for 2018?

I want to make enough money to not worry about healthcare and maybe take some days off to organize instead of just posting all the time.

I want friends like Dominic, Norwegian Arms, and Eric Slick to get fat recording budgets and come to me.

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