In our first interview with Jus-Ed back in 2015 where we first sat down to talk about music and things, he told us that he and his family would be making the transatlantic move from the States over to mainland Europe, from the state of Connecticut over to the city of Berlin. That was also the year that saw him officially tie the knot with his now wife Jenifa Mayanja, after “12 years of togetherness”. Let’s fast-forward to today – Ed’s chatting to us from his Berlin home, together with Jen and it so happens that they’ve just celebrated their second wedding anniversary.
Ed, Jen and kids Destin and Nia. © Seze Devres Photography NYC
It’s a spiritual thing, being around Ed and Jen. Their words of wisdom, the music they play and the parties they have organised and continue to do so feed the soul, bringing people to a happy place. Perhaps even more fitting that they’ve named their party in Berlin “Zuflucht” – meaning “refuge” in German. The couple open their doors with open hearts. They value the people that make up their dance-floor and encourage them to be creators too… if they feel like it. Not forgetting their impressive catalogue of late, we learn about their recent releases too…
Ed & Jen’s Parties in NY, 2004
Hi Ed and Jen! Thank you for taking the time to speak to us in amidst your preparations for the upcoming Zuflucht, the busy production front and ongoing gigs. So, a few months ago you relocated to Berlin, all the way from Connecticut – kids included. Now that’s a big move…
Hello Tarita, yes it’s been quite hectic! While Connecticut was our hometown as such, our residence, only Jenifa actually resided for many years in Brooklyn. We have a strong connection to the East Coast party-style and that’s because of New York – that’s where we laid our foundations as DJs, producers and promoters.
You must have left behind family and friends who were sad to see you go! How have you found it settling into Berlin?
Yes we’ve left behind some very close and supportive friends, which of course wasn’t easy. Everyone however has been so encouraging about this phase of our lives. We wouldn’t say that we’ve settled in but for sure we’re learning everyday. There’s so many adjustments that we’ve had to make in terms of language, culture, infrastructure, all so different to the way of life we had in the States.
What would you say has been the biggest culture shock?
Jen: The biggest culture shock continues to be the differences in communication. As an English speaker, German as a language is quite difficult to learn – in my opinion – but you also need to consider the everyday non-verbal communication. It gets some getting used to as the energy on the streets is not one that I’ve experienced in any place that I’ve lived before and that’s neither a good nor bad thing. I would say however that where we are, the people are quite accommodating and friendly, if you make an effort that is.
Ed: I’ve been coming to Berlin for over 10 years now and the biggest culture shock came upon securing a flat and then realizing how detrimental not knowing the language can be to a self-sufficient man… not being able to read contracts, having to rely on and trust other people to interpret for you. On the flip side, when it came to medical, I was treated as a human being – an equal, as opposed to the States where the infrastructure in place, or should I say lack of, constantly reminded me of the fact that I was a working class man, at the lower end of society’s spectrum.
Ed: Yes in fact, the move inspired me to write the “Transition” LP which is titled “from Bridgeport to Berlin”.
Transition by Jus-Ed [UQ067]
Jen – why would you say no?
I would say no because my output as a human being has always started from the inside. So while living in any place will eventually shape my outlook on life and spiritually, there are certain aspects that continue to evolve regardless of where I am physically. Berlin is where I am physically living at the moment, with my family – unlike for instance when I moved to New York to follow my dreams. The intentions behind the move to Berlin were different, related more so to the family functioning as a unit.
And Ed – if you can put it into words – what would you say that Berlin has inspired within you?
From a physical sense I feel as though I am starting over again in my life, but with experience behind me, wisdom you could say… so it’s given me a fresh perspective on how I might want to shape the rest of my life, which trickles down to finances, music, fatherhood, husbandhood…it’s just a new perspective on things.
Jen, you’ve also produced “Warrior Strutt” on your own Sound Warriors imprint, part of the double 12” dedicated to Cherushii who sadly passed away in the devastating Oakland fire. Her productions also feature on the album. What did The Ghost Ship mean to you and others?
The Sound Warrior 005 vinyl compilation was in fact ready for pre-production the day I saw the story about the fire in Oakland. I felt it inside of me that Cherushii might have actually been at the event. Dedicating the release to her and her spirit just felt like the right thing to do. She was always so giving of herself, whatever I asked her to do she did so generously, not to mention her incredible talent just waiting to punch through. At the time I felt as though I could do more – that’s what spurred me to ask the underground music community, in particular other women, to contribute to a track enabling a fund-raiser directed to her loved ones. The compilation is available now on Sound Warriors Bandcamp
It’s nice to see that you’ve also started your own party in Berlin: Zuflucht/Refuge. The aim is to bring the East Coast to Berlin right? No doubt in your experience of NYC you’ve been witness to the birth and development of a diverse range of electronic music. But if you had to distinguish the East Coast sound?
How would we distinguish it from other scenes and influences – it’s a collectif. It’s open to everyone and anyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation. It’s for music lovers, it’s for dancers but also the non-dancers who learn to dance because the music compels them to move. It then becomes a cultural exchange, the impact of which is life changing. The sound is very raw – it touches your soul.
A party hosted by Ed & Jen- NY 2004
Jenifa Mayanja playing at Body & Soul circa 1995
How about the New York party scene? And what about the legacy that David Mancuso left behind – how and why did his parties at The Loft influence the city and world club culture?
Ed: I was an “our gang” member – I still have my little rascals membership card. As an experience, it was eye opening, inspirational. A basement house party in the very sense of the word, but on a more public level.
Jenifa: I went to several of the loft parties in the 90s when they were in the East Village. It was a totally fresh experience – it had a profound impact on my perspective of DJing – almost as though I had come home. I saw and I felt that I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed music just for music’s sake. David’s influence was far-reaching, what mattered was the community and the music, the two in sync.
Is there a stand-out moment for either of you?
Jen: I would say that my first time there was enough of a stand-out moment for me, simply because I was at “the legendary loft”.
Ed & Jen at Concrete, Paris
Other than when you play, do you go out in Berlin at all? Do you notice differences between the European and US dancefloor?
Ed: Yes I go out in Berlin, and yes there is a difference. In the U.S. people aren’t watching the DJ as much, whereas the Europeans are more DJ focused – the dancefloor is very much centered around the DJ.
Jen: I very rarely go out in Berlin, I don’t have much free time and I’m quite picky about where I want to spend my time. Like Ed said, the dance floors are quite different in the U.S. – at least the crowds I have played to respond to a wide range of musical genres and they support you, by dancing. Whereas on the European dance floors it’s not so certain how the crowd will react, to a DJ pushing the boundaries musically, especially with the physical focus being on the DJs, but having said that, it also depends on the country you’re playing in.
Zuflucht Opening at Anita Berber 2016
So with Zuflucht – you had your opening at Anita Berber. The next edition is on February 4 at Loftus Hall in Neukölln. What was once e a slot-machine factory, it’s also named after a haunted house in Ireland. Spooky! But perhaps there are other reasons that make it an ideal place to host a house and techno and everything in between party. What does it for you?
For us, it’s the location, the atmosphere and the staff. We went to check out another party at The Loftus Hall and we both loved the vibe. For the style of our party, the venue offers us the opportunity to carve out our own path in a city that offers a seemingly endless supply of parties. We feel that music lovers would appreciate the opportunity to go out and dance yet with the freedom to express themselves in a non-imposing environment, where they don’t feel the pressure to be something they are not. At our past parties we’ve had hard-core music enthusiasts come to enjoy the music and socialize, we’ve also had people come to dance off the stress of the week – there’s room for both and all of them.
On February 4, Radio Hobo will be playing in the chill-out room. How did you get to know him?
Ed: I met him at the “Underground Mindelo Festival” in Cape Verde actually. He’s one of the artists with whom I instantly connected. It was a spiritual journey, for the both of us. He has an extensive music library too, and the hip hop connection. When I heard him play on the islands, I felt that he was the link missing from our party element. Our aim is to center our parties around the music not the headliner. To be honest with you, we don’t plan on ever having any headliner parties, this is an ideology and concept that stems from our very first parties back in the States.
Are you hoping to recreate the vibe and energy that you had back in the States? Or do you see Berlin as a different trajectory?
What we’ve noticed is that Berlin is a melting pot of nationalities. People love good music but they’re not necessarily “club people”. How we see it is that there’s an opportunity to build a foundation here, as we did in the States, where people would come to our party and feel so at ease with the atmosphere and vibe that we had cultivated. There was and there will never be an obligation to dance. This is a grown up party where you can just sip a drink, meet a friend, come solo, play an instrument, hear jams you haven’t heard in ages or experience something totally new that blows your mind.
Both of you will play in the main room representing the EDJ label. You’ve mentioned before that EDJ label nights are special as you don’t often get to play together. Aw!
We play together from start to finish together, as always on EDJ label nights. And it’s 100% spontaneous, nothing rehearsed or pre-planned.
I don’t know if it’s possible to encapsulate this in words but what’s the best thing about playing back to back, other than Jen being your wife and best friend…
Well, we’re both strongly opinionated and have excellent taste in music but our musicality follows two different directions. Fortunately for us, when we come together, these two directions gravitate towards one another and our visions merge into an undeniable vibe!
Freerotation 14. Listen back to their set here.
Do you have any plans for the label that we don’t know about yet?
There are more releases on the horizon for sure. The EDJ 006 12” vinyl Love It Or Leave It is our latest release, available at www.undergroundquality.com together with our CD album EDJ 005 Love It Or Leave It. As for our DJ gigs, Ed & Jen are being booked by our agent firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again for taking the time to interview us and giving the “Zuflucht” party some love & exposure.