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  Issue 26 - Feature - Jordan Cohen

Profile: Jordan Cohen, “Does This Guy Ever Sleep?”
Deanna Rilling

While you may not know drummer and percussionist Jordan Cohen by name, you’ve definitely heard his music. As the former percussionist for the rock/metal band Powerman 5000, Cohen is still actively involved in making numerous contributions to the music world. Now a full-time member of the Blue Man Group band in Las Vegas, he somehow finds the time to work on outside ventures, including his current solo project, Sons of Jupiter. After a career spanning 27 years, Cohen is still making music and exploring new territory.

Cohen’s journey into music began when he learned to play drums at age ten while living in Niagara Falls, NY. His household was largely involved in all things music related and his father, Norman, was involved in the jazz scene of the 1970s. Cohen’s two older brothers, Jonathan and Adrian, also became heavily absorbed in music and learned to play the bass and keyboards, respectively. When the Cohen family moved from Niagara Falls to Albany, NY in the early 80s, the brothers played rock and fusion music together and Cohen had his first exposure to the world of a recording studio at twelve years old. He then further expanded his repertoire of musical abilities when he was sixteen and joined a local New York reggae band, Iwa.

Following in his brothers’ footsteps, Cohen enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston when he graduated high school. Although he briefly studied jazz drumming and history, Cohen had to leave Berklee after only a year of studies. “I couldn’t afford to keep going,” explains Cohen. However, while in Boston, he started working in bands and decided not to return to the college. Through the local music scene in Boston, Cohen was introduced to Powerman 5000 singer, Spider One, when the band was looking for a percussionist/back-up vocalist. “I started playing with them and we built up a big local following,” says Cohen.

Powerman 5000’s “slinky hip-hop/funk grooves and balls-out metal” helped make the band one of the most popular acts in the Boston area. The exposure drew the attention of record labels and this led to gigs opening for major-name bands such as Korn and Slayer. The interest even landed the group an appearance on the popular 90s television show “Beverly Hills 90210” for an episode where the characters David and Donna film a video for Powerman’s song “Strike the Match.”  With the group’s fame increasing, they moved to Los Angeles and inked a deal with DreamWorks/SKG Records.

The band barely had time to unpack their moving boxes when they arrived in LA. and were immediately approached to open for Danzig. Powerman 5000 then joined the Ozzfest lineup. The next two years were spent touring with Marilyn Manson, Kiss, Primus, and the SnoCore tour, to name a few. After being on the road non-stop, Cohen and the members of Powerman were worn out and needed to regroup. “There were differences in the band and how to handle things, and personal differences between people in the band,” says Cohen. He left Powerman 5000 and moved back east to New York City in 1998 to focus strictly on playing drums instead of working mainly as a percussionist.  

Once in New York, Cohen fine-tuned his songwriting and played gigs, but found he ended up taking a break from immersing himself in music. “I kicked around there for almost two years and played in smaller bands, but I didn’t really play music that much,” says Cohen. To make ends meet, he picked up a few odd jobs doing temp work. Ironically, he says he “even temped at record companies for a while.” Cohen realized that wasn’t what he wanted to be doing with his career. “I was, like, ‘fuck this,’ then I got my act together and started auditioning. I was going to be flown out to audition with 3 Doors Down, and I was going to audition with Smash Mouth AND Blue Man, but the other auditions didn’t quite happen. I got the Blue Man audition and it went well.” He pauses and laughs, “I didn’t really want to play with either of those other bands anyway.”

Cohen relocated again, this time to Las Vegas to join the performance art troupe Blue Man Group as a drummer/percussionist in late 1999 when the show was beginning its production at the Luxor Resort, Hotel, and Casino. Cohen has also periodically performed in Blue Man Group’s Boston and New York shows, but remained with the Vegas show when it relocated to the Venetian Resort, Hotel, and Casino. In addition, Cohen contributed to “Complex,” Blue Man Group’s second album. “There was a group of drummers from Vegas and I was one of them that played on that record.” Additionally, he played with Blue Man Group and Tracy Bonham for the cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” during a guest spot on the TV show “America’s Got Talent.”  Cohen mentions, “You can probably find video on YouTube.”

If this wasn’t enough of a workload, he continues to play drums for the improvisational band Überschall, which Cohen describes as “real heavy and ambient/tribal” music. The lineup has included a roster of past and present Blue Man musicians, including occasional guest appearances by Tim Alexander from Primus (who has also played drums for Blue Man Group). “I’ve been playing with Überschall for almost six and a half years,” he says. Cohen is joined in Überschall by two to three additional drummers and percussionists, along with two guitars and a bass player. They still perform at their regular gig on the last Sunday of every month at Las Vegas’ Double Down Saloon. Previously, Cohen played drums in the now defunct rock/pop band Read Means Go with other Blue Man alumni.

His newest project, Sons of Jupiter, came to fruition when Cohen began working with fellow Blue Man musician Thaddeus Corea (from the Wild Colonials and jazz musician Chick Corea’s son), who works with Jaguar Recording Studio (http://jaguarstudio.com). Corea co-produced and engineered Sons of Jupiter’s recently released album, “Sentia.” “We’ve been working on it on and off for three and a half years… Mike Burns played all of the guitar parts, except for a couple; Aki Ishihara played bass.” A former band mate from Powerman 5000 was willing to lend a hand to the project. “Adam Williams, A12, or Adam 12- I don’t know what the fuck he calls himself,” jokes Cohen. “He played some small guitar parts on a couple songs.”

Cohen refers to Sons of Jupiter as “hard rock/metal with an alternative twist.” He continues, “it’s kind of horror/Sci-Fi themed… it encompasses all these different musical styles I’ve been involved with for years.” He sees the album as a loose narrative or light concept record. “There’s a whole story about an individual’s transformation and blaming the world, politics, and other people for his problems, then gradually taking responsibility for himself.”

Cohen explains he wrote all of the songs for “Sentia.” Moreover, he stepped up to the mic and took on lead vocals, in addition to playing drums, keyboards, and percussion. However, Cohen doesn’t have any immediate plans to play live shows in support of the album. “Right now, I’m just letting the album live a life of its own. If I get more interest, I’ll put something together. Currently, I’m just writing more stuff.” Yet, he feels he may consider finding new like-minded musicians if he were to play live as Sons of Jupiter, now that Burns is busy as a music director for Blue Man and Ishihara moved to Blue Man’s show in Japan. “(The album) was kind of a labor of love, something I needed to do, get it out there. Basically, I just wanted to make a piece of art and let it stand on its own.” Cohen mentions Sons of Jupiter has received some interest and support from members of Korn and Marilyn Manson, who are helping spread the word about “Sentia.”

If all these endeavors weren’t enough, Cohen recently joined the band Thirsty and might be working on a percussion-based ballet with some of the other Blue Man musicians for a local ballet theatre. For more information about Jordan Cohen’s current projects, visit www.myspace.com/sonsofjupiter, www.myspace.com/thirsty, and http://www.myspace.com/lasvegasuberschall.

 Copies of the Sons of Jupiter album “Sentia” can be purchased at www.cdbaby.com/sonsofjupiter. The album is also available via digital download at online retailers CD Baby, iTunes, Napster, and Rhapsody.

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