This was a great interview – Dani Siciliano sassed the shit out me.
Dani Siciliano by Huwston
Dani Siciliano likes music. Dani Siciliano likes to laugh at herself and as Huwston finds out Dani Siciliano also like to talk about her new album.
Dani Siciliano’s voice comes down the line at 8pm in the evening, crackling and husking its way through the morning’s first cup of tea. She’s been suffering a cold but is extraordinarily perky for someone who’s just arisen to a sea of questions. Whilst nothing during the course of the interview went to plan (poor phone connection, curve ball answers) such is the esoteric nature of her debut solo release ‘Likes…’: a combination of influences from her contemporaries as well as the soundscapes that have influenced Dani in her stays between San Francisco, London and everywhere in between. Said influences, such as partner Mathew Herbert and Bjork collaborators Matmos certainly could have underlyingly shadowed the release with their involvement, so it was important to ascertain just how important it was to Dani that this was her album.
‘You know, it was not a burning importance to me,’ she says. ‘I’m not trying to make a frustrating point,’ she continues, diffusing my question as it alludes more to identities and profile rather than content.
‘I guess I’ve laid a lot of ground work for this album… and through my sound, my production, my song, I’m just trying it all on for size.’
Did you feel the pressure oft associated for a debut with a profile?
‘It comes at different times. You want to convey an honest and natural record, that’s the pressure… and making everything sound cohesive.
‘Likes…’ covers the full musical spectrum, taking in a Jazz cover of Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’, a very Mr Oizo sounding house trudger called Walk The Line, the sweet nothings whispered alongside vocalist Ornelias Mugison on All The Above not to forget the twisted 12 Monkeys-esque accordion heard lurking in the background. With a list of influences from the click and glitch of early 90’s acid house to country, Jazz, Go Go, punk and beyond, which influence is it that makes Dani’s music so bent?
‘Well there’s a sensibility attached with working with Matt (Herbert). I guess my biggest influence would be my first sampler which Matt let me borrow. I like to sample words and syllables so the sounds that have eventually evolved, the ‘bent’ ones as you say; I guess is just structurally my style. Djing in San Francisco in the early 1990’s introduced me to some pretty new sounds, in terms of the glitchy stuff. I only had a small setup which has limitations, so I had this sampler and a hard drive sequencer and I guess then I was realized and was introduced to ‘the joy of sampling’ and that would be my biggest influence.’
Apart from your partner having an influence across the spectrum of arts, music and politics, the under representation of women across the electronic music genre is ever apparent and seemed like it would be daunting knowledge to have, going in to the studio. Artists like Neotropic, Mira Calyx and Andrea Parker have had varying degrees of success at home and abroad, so is there ever the need to feel to buddy up?
‘I haven’t felt any pressure to collaborate with female artists. We play some parties together… it’s kinda strange… almost like the sixties and seventies didn’t happen. I was reading a page of reviews from female Djs in a magazine the other day and none of them charted any records made by other females. When you see something like that you realize how little there is going on for or by women. There’s a very twisted view of feminism… I mean it sometimes can be daunting but there comes a point where you relax. As a woman you encounter moments where you tap in to the divine sisterhood…’
It’s not necessarily a delicate issue, more like a deflating reality. Siciliano is quick to wave the flag for female empowerment but her comments about the sixties not really happening rings through. Her album ‘Likes…’ has playful connotations but there is an underlying dourness to her music. Does Dani Siciliano also like to be sad?
‘I don’t know why that’s the direction it goes in some times. I can be quite giddy; I like to make myself laugh. I’d say I have a dry sense of humour.’
The exquisite artwork and packaging of ‘Likes…’ has the kind of story attached to it that aptly illustrates this kind of poignancy that surrounds her music.
‘I’ve always admired the work of John Patrick Mckenzie, an autistic artist from the States. I’d sent him a list of all of the things I like as a starting point. Every part of the artwork he sent back started with ‘Dani Siciliano likes…’ and it was this really big thing!’
Indeed the collage style artwork conveys all of the aural associations one might have with Dani’s music. A mish mash of colours, prints and pictures that are both challenging and rewarding to endure.
Is it difficult to combine all of your influences and still make a coherent album?
‘There’s a natural point where I started to really involve myself. All of the songs come from original demos, my first studio experiments. It wasn’t very hard a concern to me as it wove together really easily off the back off all of this ground work that had been laid over the years.’
It’s certainly not piece-meal but such is the charm of Siciliano’s music. This patchwork mentality has been embraced the world over when Dani has collaborated with Mathew Herbert but now the world we hear just what makes up Dani Siciliano and will now know just what she likes, or is like. But what does Dani Siciliano not like? In true form, she tosses out the unexpected. The usual answer of Bush, racist politics and homophobia is cast aside for something that has her down.
‘I don’t like a lot of the irony that is so rampant in music these days. It’s almost exceedingly subtle… Some people understand the irony more than the artists that are performing it and that itself is ironic. When people know it, it annoys me.’
Wise words from a woman on top. Dani Sicialiano likes to challenge the listener and the interviewer with a sort of child-like experience, though she’ll leave you figuring out it’s you who needs your hand held crossing the road. It’s the road less traveled, a place where freeform jazz and tight electronic programming skip merrily on high and people get on with their affairs without a veneer. Dani Siciliano likes to make great music. Dani Siciliano likes to play with the listener and is offering experience and depth not heard in many releases these days. Dani Siciliano really likes you and wants you to step in to her world…
Dani Siciliano’s ‘Likes…’ is out now on !K7 thru Creative Vibes.