Charisma translates into patience and clarity when Judah lines the chords. Their process is refreshingly human; they want to live doing what they love, while reminding others what it feels like to live through pulsing beats. Daniel Davis and Chris Nelson recently took the time to sit down with SIMShows, and it’s been a while since local pride looked this alive.
SIM: Your personal story stretches pretty far back; you both grew up as neighbors basically. What stopped Judah from coming together earlier?
Chris: I went to school [at] Iowa State, and Daniel went to school at the University of Minnesota. All the while I went back and forth [between Minnesota and Iowa], and we worked on [music] by sending [material] to each other. Daniel went out to England in my last two years of school; by the time I got done with school in 2012, he was just getting back.
Daniel: When I came back from England, I lived with my parents for six months, and then Chris lived with his. We were bartending at the same bar, living like right down the street [from one another]; we [ended up] starting to produce together [seriously].
SIM: What made you two take producing seriously? Was there someone you had watched progress? I know Daniel managed a few artists and was networking pretty heavily abroad.
Daniel: I think that [Chris] had school done with, and I accomplished what I felt I needed to do networking-wise. I felt like it was time for me to be more of a musician than a manager for artists. So [in regards to] Chris and I, he was done with school, and I was ready to take music on full time.
SIM: It kind of clicked at that time.
Chris: We were already working on music anyway, we were like, “Let’s just do it and make it a name”. It took a while to actually finish the first track.
SIM: What came down to the name? Is there a story behind that?
Daniel: The name is a Hebrew word, and a lot of people think of biblical terms when they think of it. And I did get it from a biblical reference; it means “praise” and “thanksgiving” and that’s kind of what we want, when I at least thought of it. Chris is agnostic.
Chris: Yeah, I’m not really religious.
Daniel: I’m more on the religious side, and it was something like, “Oh, I felt like this is really cool”. The meaning literally is, “having a good time” and “being thankful”. When I brought it to Chris, I was like, you know, he’s probably gonna shoot it down, “Well what about Judah, it’s pretty cool”, and he was like, ‘Dude, I love it’. For both of us to have totally different religious backgrounds, I felt like that was supposed to be [it] if he thought [the name] was cool. That’s how we kind of came up with it and that’s how it stuck.
SIM: And how long did the first track take to produce?
Chris: It took a year, from start to finish. Like forty different versions.
SIM: WOW. Why so many?!
Chris: It’s like anything that’s your first. You don’t know when you’re done. That’s the hardest part, I think, that we’ve learned working on music; you could never really be done, unless you force yourself to be done. You could work on something forever and never be happy with it until you finally just draw a line and say, “That’s it, done. We’re moving on”. And with that track, we didn’t know how to draw that line, so we were constantly making changes.
Daniel: Our first track is called, “This Moment”. We started that in July of 2012, and it ended up being released in March of 2014. We completely finished [the track] by August of 2013. It took about twelve to fifteen months, and it wasn’t because the track was so difficult, it was because we didn’t really know a style we wanted to do. We were teaching each other how to [create] what we wanted to do and what we wanted to make, and we were using reference points from people that we liked. After hearing something for so many times, for so many months, things start to get a lot more bland and you just don’t know; you become desensitized to [your work]. Because of that, we changed so many different times; probably three or four major changes. It all came together towards the end when we found our vocalist, Kailin, in 2013. We knew we wanted to write something for Andy Moor’s compilation series. We started making decisions, and then we were confident enough to start going forward.
SIM: If you have been working on a track for so long, and then try to pick a vocalist for it, how do you decide if someone fits the production? The process sounds as if it could be a bit intimidating to a producer.
Daniel: Yeah, luckily enough we were working with someone from our home town. [At the time] I had only worked with one other vocalist in England with Andy Moor; he had said I’d done a good job, so I only did [with Kaylin] what I had done before. [The process] can be a bit scary, but I feel that now we’re at this point where we’re super confident in our musical abilities. We know what we want; it’s easier to direct someone. The hardest part [before] was we didn’t know what we’d wanted, so we didn’t release anything. We didn’t know what [worked stylistically], we didn’t know what people were expecting, we didn’t know what worked in the club; we had no idea. Yet now, we totally know how to make those decisions.
SIM: “This Moment” was completed in 2013; how did this track progress in comparison to other releases?
Daniel: “This Moment” wasn’t the most successful track we had ever done. It was the hardest track we’d ever done, but if you want to know about us as producers, “This Moment” paved the way for us; it was a huge icebreaker. It means a lot to me and Chris because it taught us a lot about the process.
SIM: Looking forward, I know you have three originals underway; is remixing tracks helping you pave the way for your name while you work on your originals?
Daniel: [In our remixed tracks], 80% to 90% of what you hear is what we’ve re-created ourselves. We don’t necessarily want to ride coat trails, or try to take out somebody’s fame, or be famous because of someone else. We just picked tracks that weren’t being used in dance music and that we thought were beautiful. We thought [these tracks] should be used in dance music. The whole [track]-remixing thing came out of nowhere, really.
SIM: What’s next for you guys? Are there any songs you are currently working on, any artists you’d like to work with, or maybe another song you’d like to remix?
Daniel: I think this year we are going to work more on original stuff. We’ve gotten our name out to the point where people know we are good producers, and people know we’ll have a good sound. [People] know we’re good DJs, but they’re waiting to see something completely original out of us.
Chris: When we watched our remix [of Clean Bandit] play on [Above and Beyond’s] Group Therapy, we watched the comments people were posting: “Judah originals?”, “Do you have any Judah originals?”, and such. Labels look for getting an original tune out there that is different [as well].
Judah’s take on “Real Love” is one of the official “Real Love” remixes out there; company include the Chainsmokers and Danny Verde.
SIM: And when are you looking to release some new tracks? Is there a time frame, maybe sometime before or during summer?
Daniel: We don’t see releasing any tracks before May. However, we are in the 98% stage of finishing up collaboration with another group from Anjunabeats called Fatum. We finished two original productions with Kevin Wild that is going to be released on Myon & Shane 54’s label RIDE. We also are working on a collaboration with Jaytech as we speak, as well as another vocal single to come later this year. It’s been crazy schedule wise, but we have a lot of material that we are polishing before we share it with the world!
SIM: Is there anything else you’d like to pass along?
Daniel: We want to represent Minneapolis in a good light, you know. We cherish the fact that we are from here; we’re not looking to go L.A., or New York, or Chicago, or be bigger stars. We don’t need to do that; we do this from where we’re at and we’re invested in this place. I think that people like JT and SIM- as well as the other DJs that have come out of [Minneapolis] – are invested in this scene; they’re really good at making these productions happen. We want to be a part of the scene for the future. Hopefully we’ll represent Minneapolis the right way in what we do [down the road].
Judah’s well on their way to carving a niche for themselves in trance; their momentum is on the radar. With collaborations featuring Jaytech, Boom Jinx, Kevin Wild, Meredith Cole and Fatum, Daniel Davis and Chris Nelson have their hearts set on dynamically telling music. What’s more, Judah’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed; the duo was featured in Anjunabeats’ Miami Pool Party this past March. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear an upcoming breath of fresh air at Rev Ultra Lounge this Friday night.
Interviewed and Written by: Annette Lucero