The Four Questions: Allen Teboul of Clockwork Allen
Allen Teboul has toured and recorded albums as the drummer for The Slackers, a legendary ska/rocksteady/reggae band, and he's currently making his third attempt at being a ba'al teshuva. Combine Teboul's musicianship with his interest in Judaism, and you get his solo project: Clockwork Allen, a San Diego punk/reggae band for which Teboul is the singer, drummer, and songwriter. Check out Clockwork Allen's MySpace page to listen to some of the band's songs.
Here is Allen Teboul in his own words.
1. How does Judaism impact the lyrical content of some of Clockwork Allen's current or upcoming music?
Clockwork Allen depicts the personal struggle of a Jew who went from yeshiva life in Brooklyn to becoming a drummer in the punk rock and reggae scenes in California. This concoction is my attempt at making sense out of mending together my religious and secular identity. I started this project using music and lyrics I had written over the years. All of my songs in one way or another correlate to my Jewish identity and provide the view of a Jew from the "other side of the tracks." I began the project after spending a couple of years playing drums for The Slackers (Hell-Cat Records), a ska, rocksteady, and reggae band from New York.
The Torah, which Hashem personally gave us, is a tree of life and essential blueprint on how to live. I continually try my hardest to consider how my outlook and actions line up with it. Judaism is the counterbalance that keeps everything in check and a catalyst for the neshama (soul). Studying the various texts, mainly Chassidut, unlocks the hidden messages contained within the Torah. Being a self-proclaimed radical, I would have to say that the words and warnings of the prophets (in the Tanach) have a direct impact on the lyrics I write. We play punk rock, and we tell it like it is, so it is not recommended for the weak-hearted and may not jive with mainstream Jewish thinking. Clockwork Allen pushes the envelope because it needs to be pushed during turbulent times. It’s the storm before the calm as we wait in anticipation of the arrival of Moshiach.
2. What role does your Jewish identity play in shaping the band's outlook, and is that consistent with the spirit of punk?
Jewish identity plays a key role for obtaining clarity through the ways of the Torah. The current band outlook is about the struggle with being ba’al teshuva (coming back to being observant) and the challenge of being cast off and singled out by some of your own people. It’s not easy being an observant Jew with tattoos and a turbulent past. For starters, the element of being rejected by the mainstream is consistent with punk rock. It speaks out against religious people who preach ahavat Yisroel (loving your fellow Jew) but tend to be all talk and no action. It also speaks out against lashon hara (gossip) and how it harms the nation of Israel as a whole. I attend shul at Chabad, and I get mixed reactions from members of the community, but it’s OK. I don’t go to shul to gain their acceptance.
My music has always talked about government and authoritarian oppression, anti-Semitism, real-life experiences, and rising from the ashes. Living the life of a Jew goes completely against the grain of today’s Christian-based global society. It is a rebellion in its own sense as we try once again to be a light to all other nations by coming together as b’nai Yisroel. Thus, I would say it definitely encompasses Judaism in many ways.
Some examples of what I am currently recording: a punk rock version of the "Shema Yisroel" and "Vi’Ahavta," a dancehall song entitled "Eshet Chayil," and another punk song entitled "Loshan Hora." I have a few other tricks up my sleeve too. More recently, I have been experimenting with niggunim to see which ones would make good punk rock songs. That’s going to be fun.
3. When you play drums for Jewish holiday functions, do you feel like you have to be in a different mindset compared to when you've played with punk, rock, ska, rocksteady, and reggae bands?
I think the act of playing music is a state of mind on its own. It’s all about feeling the music you are playing and finding the groove no matter what style or what the setting is. I stay true to myself by not putting on an "act" when playing music at Jewish functions. I am an open book, and I have nothing to hide. I’ve always been known to march to the beat of my own drum. No matter where I am, I think of Hashem. Even when I’m thrashing about in a pit.
4. Jewish punk bands are very scattered geographically. Do you envision the growth of a Jewish punk "scene" or movement?
I would have to say that I do not envision the growth of a Jewish punk scene. It took about 30 years for punk rock to be recognized and accepted by the mainstream, so I don’t see any rhyme or reason for the emergence of a punk movement that is specifically Jewish. Jews have been involved in the punk scene from its inception in the mid/late 1970s. I could totally see more Jewish punk bands sprouting up in the future as the social impact of Generation X on Judaism grows.