Five Firsts: Sean Altman of Jewmongous
NAME: Sean Altman (Jewish name is either Moshe David or Israel Moshe; my parents can’t remember. wtf).
BAND: Short answer: JEWMONGOUS. Long answer: For 11 years I led the acapella group Rockapella of “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” mid-level TV fame and, as such, I am considered the “Father Of Modern Acapella.” Behold my glory. I gave up the wealth and prestige of the acapella world to become an acclaimed, mid-level Jewish novelty song musician. JEWMONGOUS is the current vehicle in which I attempt to reconnect with my long-ignored Semitic roots. Since my bar mitzvah, I’ve only been observant in that I like to observe other Jews practicing the religion. JEWMONGOUS allows me to ease my guilt, honor my forbears and do what I do best — sing and write songs — all at a safe distance from the synagogue. My set list includes the fractured Passover story song “They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat)” (featured on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross); the rollicking tarantella “Blame The Jews,” which purports to expose the ancient papal roots of antisemitism (it all started with a pop song penned by Pope Antisemiticus); the Irish drinking song ode to the infamous Blood Libel “Christian Baby Blood”; the venomous anti-Jews-For-Jesus punk anthem “Jews For Jesus”; the ska-inflected “What The Hell Is Simchas Torah?”; and the swingin’ “Blow, Murray, Blow!,” about a Yom Kippur shofar (ram’s horn) blower so virtuosic that his playing purges listeners of all their sins, no matter how despicable. The concert’s only cover song is a semiticized version of the Ramones’ classic “I Wanna Be Sedated,” as I believe that Joey Ramone (born Jeffrey Hyman) would have wanted it sung that way.
INSTRUMENT: guitar, voice, shofar
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. Ok, I didn’t actually purchase it; it was a bar mitzvah gift from the then-smokin’-hot Laura Mecke, who shunned my teenage advances, probably married an investment banker and now wishes she could turn back time and have her shiksa way with me. Everyone knows Jewish men make the best husbands.
2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Art Garfunkel at Carnegie Hall. How pathetic is that? Couldn’t it have been Zeppelin or Queen or even Foreigner? I’m so ashamed. Don’t judge me.
3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … the violin. Problem was… my ear was so damned good that I was acutely aware of how badly I sucked. Singing always came naturally to me and has proved to be my ticket out of the ghetto of the unlaid.
4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “16 Going On 17” from “The Sound of Music.” How ironic that Rolf, the character who sings that song, was a frickin’ Nazi.
5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … my almost-famous new wavy pop band Blind Dates. I mean, we got on “MTV Basement Tapes” and everything. Throughout my career, the record company response has been pretty consistent, though: “Great singer, great songs, great presence, too old and too ugly.” F ’em.