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Dekel on deck

May 2nd, 2012 · No Comments

BAND LEADER OF NEON WINDBREAKER MEANDERED BETWEEN JOURNALISM, MUSIC

DJ Dekel at one of his Yes interactive dance parties. They are usually held at Oz Studios (134 Ossington Ave.). Courtesy Jonathan Dekel.

By Karen Bliss

Annex resident Jonathan Dekel’s first DJ gig was in 2003 at the age of 18 in London, England at an after-show party for on-the-rise Montreal band The Dears.

He had flown there from Amsterdam, where he was living at the time, for his first international article as a budding music journalist-for the defunct Chart Magazine.

“I was with a friend of mine who also works in the music business and The Dears’ manager at the time, Nadine Gelineu, said, ‘You guys DJ!’ So we said, ‘Yeah, of course,’” Dekel says. “So the first time I deejayed was in front of every major A&R scout in England.”

Today, the 27-year-old Dekel continues to DJ monthly and his interactive dance parties with Michael Joffe of GlassBOX Television are always a sell out.  The thematic nights have ranged from Yes New York, for which he played music from 2001 Strokes-era NYC to Oui Paris, which was 2007 Daft Punk/Justice era.

The next one, Yes Toronto, is April 13 at Oz Studios (134 Ossington St.), inspired by the recent The Grid and newyorktimes.com praising Toronto’s latest music output.

Dekel has also become one of the most respected music scribes in Canada. His pieces have been published by Spin, National Post, AOL Music, Spinner, MSN, Eye Weekly, The Grid, Chartattack, Amsterdam Weekly and Gasoline Magazine.

In September 2011, however, Dekel left freelance music journalism to accept a full-time office job as online editor for dose.ca, mainly writing about television. The day of this interview, he had just spoken with Jersey Shore’s Pauly D.

“I used to do more serious writing and now it’s more pop culture,” says Dekel. “But it’s also for Postmedia wire so everything I write gets picked up by every newspaper. Once in a while, I’ll do the music [pieces] for the National Post, like that Sheepdogs piece that was on the cover.”

Dekel, who was born in Israel and moved to Canada with his family when he was barely four-years-old, has always carved out a unique and independent path.  He likely inherited that trait from his parents who suddenly uprooted the family to Amsterdam when he was 18.

“They said we needed a different viewpoint,” Dekel explains. “They were from Israel; we were too North American. They took us out there for a year and I started the music magazine, Incendiary. They came back to Toronto and I stayed there and ran the magazine for another two years.”

When Dekel came home, he started writing for Gasoline,published by family friend Darryl Fine, also the owner of Toronto establishments, the Bovine Sex Club and Shanghai Cowboy (I was actually Dekel’s editor for a while and noted his promise). After Gasoline’s demise, Dekel kept freelancing and landed some candid interviews with such artists as Yoko Ono and Jack White.

Dekel is also a musician. He plays guitar, bass, piano, drums and sings. In 2011, he joined Neon Windbreaker as its guitarist and backing vocalist. “It started out as a joke,” says Dekel, explaining that singer Eric Warner, a local promoter, wanted to put together a band that had no music background and was comprised entirely of music industry people, just to see how far it could go.

At their first show, they just asked the audience how long each song should be. Bigger opening slots came and eventually Dekel started writing songs for the band and the line-up was solidified: Warner, Dekel, bassist Patrick McCormack, guitarist Matthew Wronski and drummer Benjamin Reinhartz.

“We tried to figure out a musical style that would be the hardest for people to like and we ended up with hardcore music,” says Dekel.  “I don’t like hardcore music, but I was writing the songs so I wrote these pop songs that were hardcore-ized, so we got ‘pop-core.’”

Jonathan Dekel, pictured at centre advertising The Black Keys, with his bandmates in Neon Windbreaker. Courtesy Jonathan Dekel

Dekel did the publicity for the band and Neon Windbreaker ended up with a feature in Eye Weekly after performing numerous gigs at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas.

“It was a big story called “The Jokes Over” about us starting to take this seriously,” he says. “It ran at the same time as The Juno Awards story and our story became way bigger.

“We created this band to expose the idea that talent has very little to do with band success in Canada. It’s all about who you know. We thought it would be fun to expose that and be completely obvious about that.”

No longer a joke, Neon Windbreaker got a government grant and will soon release its new album, Perks.

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