[hr color=”light-grey” width=”100″ border_width=”50″ ]
For many, art can mean only sticking to one medium. When one breaks out of the one medium mold, they become more than just your ordinary artist. Canada’s Danniel Oickle has broken down the walls of creative confinement and has become more than just an artist. From his art, to his music, to his poetry, Danniel is Mr. Do It All. Now, this multi-faceted artist gem has come to us with his new video for the single “The Bed” off of his latest album Blitzkrieg! Sure to wake up your creative senses, Danniel has taken a moment to have a couple of words with us on the creation of the video, the album, and his art. Let art take over your soul, and join Danniel and Fourculture in “The Bed.”[hr color=”light-grey” width=”100″ border_width=”50″ ]
First of all, congrats on the release of Blitzkrieg! Finally, the world gets a glimpse of the album’s first video and single, “The Bed.” The title alone invokes imagery of a naughty kind. What’s the story behind “The Bed”?
Thank you so much. I am very excited to be finally sharing this video with the world. “The Bed” was one of the first tracks on the album to be completed and just stuck in my head as one of my favourites. I worked out the musical composition, and while I was listening to it, this vocal line just drifted into my head. The beat made me think of a sticky summer night in the city; the noises of the street, the vendors, the dust and dirt all billowing up past open windows and loudly grinding fans. But it was inside those windows, past those panes, and behind the white sheers where my interest lay. Those sticky days spent in the arms of someone, a person who drives you wild with desire, intertwined in the sheets of the bed. That’s when the chorus came to me, a repeat to the beat that I wanted to play on. Often writing complex lyrics, I wanted to balance my need for expression and a desire to keep the song uncluttered, unfettered by complexity. With the chorus defining itself, I knew I needed a second section. The verses practically wrote themselves. I started repeating myself while listening to the song. Then had the idea of formulating a verse structured in such a way that each line appears the same but is not. Structured the same and rhyming as well, I still wanted each line to describe a moment in my vision of that room, of that object of desire, for that person. Also, I wanted the listener to be constantly assuming I would say one thing, but to surprise them and say something different yet enticing. Having often been very direct in my lyrics in the past, I wanted something a little more subtle. That’s how “The Bed” grew up.
When hearing “The Bed,” it feels like your own little version of Madonna’s “Justify My Love.” Did that song serve as an inspiration? Can you tell us about how the song came together?
Madonna’s “Justify My Love” is a favourite on my playlist, and I can’t say that it didn’t have an affect on me. Having grown up listening to that song and really loving the sultry feel, the sticky wetness it presents, I was looking to write a song like “Justify.” I also liked how that song managed to present it’s concepts without being too heavy. I was also influenced by the Eurythmics’s song “This City Never Sleeps” which I first heard on the soundtrack to the film 9 1/2 Weeks. You can even hear me reference the city sounds. Though the Eurythmics used subway cars, I used NY city ambient street sounds. In both songs, the vocals are breathy and dense and don’t overpower the mood or detract from the drive the song is presenting. Often with my work, the vocals are primary. In this song, I really wanted that density, that fluidity. That’s why there is a minimum of three vocal lines recorded at the same time, over the top of each other. Their slight differences add to the complexity of the sound, minimal but rich…like “Justify” or “This City…” When I sat down to write the song, I let myself go with it, and recorded it on the spot. The vocals you hear on the final cut are actually the demo vocals. I re-recorded them but felt that somehow, the song died. So, I went back to the original vocal takes that I had recorded at my kitchen table, ambience and all. The sound was somehow right. It needed that grit, that rawness, that reality. Just like Madonna and the Eurythmics, you need three parts: the beat, the musical interest, and the performance. “The Bed” had that, so I didn’t try to overproduce it…and left it. It was exactly how it was supposed to be from day one.
The video feels seems like it was influenced by the 1930s. What was your vision while creating it?
The entire album was based on a WWII concept, 30s – 40s, hence the title Blitzkrieg!. So yes, the visual concept is very much from that era. With “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” being released almost a year before the album for the soundtrack to the film SILK, I really feel like “The Bed” is the first true single. I wanted the video to correspond with the conceptual ideal I had laid out for the album; “love is an act of war.” What better way than to bring you into the bedroom of a sailor on shore leave, keeping company with beautiful women. As if the album cover had come to life, I used the same two models, Olexandra Pruchnicky and Rebecca Noelle, to appear in the video. Filmed on location at The Gilmour Inn, same location as the cover shoot, the cinematographer was the same photographer who photographed the album cover, Bonnie Findley. I had envisioned that sticky summer day, the early morning after the night before; that soldier, desiring companionship, love, attention, affection. In an era of public sexual suppression but private sexual rebellion, I felt it would be an interesting concept to have two women instead of just one. I also wanted it to be subtle, like the song. Moving towards something, an expectation that never arises, leaving both the listener and the viewer ready to hear and view it again. I wanted a constant state of foreplay. I loved the idea of presenting sex without ever actually showing it. Just as the song never says what you keep thinking it will, the point is never-the-less distinct. I wanted a fluidity to the footage, less “music video” and more “film.” I wanted you to be invited into their privacy, enjoying the small beauties and delicacies of such a singular moment.
When it comes down to it, there is a heavy performance art influence in much of your music and videos. How do you approach writing your music? What is the challenge in matching your music with a proper music video?
I write music for myself first and my audience second. I think it is this honesty and a lack of that ever present “need to sell” that people really respond to. I never approach one of my projects trying to write a #1 top 40s hit. If it happens, it will happen naturally. I don’t want to sacrifice my authenticity. So when I say I write for myself first, I don’t mean to say that I don’t want a response, and preferably a favourable one, from my audience. Music is a shared experience. But what I mean is that I want to write from an authentic place, with a true voice. I think there is enough commercially fabricated material out there and they don’t need one more. What I have to offer is something different, something that is just me. That’s what people are responding to. And, as you pointed out, that “authentic voice” is driven by performance. Having studied theatre and starting my career in musicals and as a dancer, I really am driven to that performance art aspect of music. My favourite musicians are those who combine great music with an element of the avant garde. One of the greatest joys of being an independent artist is the ability to be creative. I really enjoy experimenting and developing new concepts. This leads to an issue of creating music videos that also present my material in such a way that the mood is honoured, the visuals are conceptualized, and yet still manage to add an element of growth to the song. The video should add to the song, not detract. So, selecting a music video concept can sometimes be difficult. Given a budget, schedule, and limitations, it is important to manage expectations and create a video that presents the ideas distinctly and precisely. I want to make music videos that even if I had the largest budget in the world, I wouldn’t change. I feel “The Bed” perfectly presents my vision.
Since your last album, Poison Apples and Other Delicacies, you’ve undergone a bit of an evolution of sound by playing with a wide variety of genres like a bluesy edge in “My Heart Has Teeth”. What was the catalyst to introduce new sounds/genres on Blitzkrieg!? How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist?
With Poison Apples & Other Delicacies and the corresponding The Corruption of Flesh – EP, I was really working in an experimental field. I was writing music with my mind, structuring songs like “This Sting in Me” on the human heartbeat and having the entire project mastered in a 3D LO-FI underground 80s style. I was truly breaking boundaries and pushing the edges. After the catharsis of releasing those two twins, I felt I was ready to make something else. I took what I had learned and some of the creative concepts of the first album and EP but wanted to grow as well. I wanted to create a project that caused reactionary growth in my audience, as Poison Apples… did, but that was also easy and enjoyable to listen to. I didn’t want a solely cerebral experience for Blitzkrieg!, but didn’t want to lose the complexity, experimentation, raw energy, and artistic maturity I was fostering on my earlier work. It took some soul searching to come up with the proper balance. Having been told by one label that they wanted to represent me but that I needed to “dumb down” my lyrics, I wanted to prove that this was not necessary. I don’t think audiences need to be spoken down to. We all love a simple song, but that isn’t what people are looking at me for. You go to Dolly Parton for country and sincerity and Madonna for pop and sultry. I knew the audience that enjoyed my music was a cerebral audience, but I also wanted to expand my listenership. Though critically acclaimed, Poison Apples… was often alienating to the listener. It was almost too internalized. For Blitzkrieg! I wanted to invite the listener into my world, and not from behind a pane of glass. I really wanted you to join me, and dance and sweat and sing and fuck to my music. Being an audiophile, I love every style of music from death metal and noise to opera and folk. As a producer I’ve worked on pop, electronica, folk, and country and have always found the lines between genres to be so easily blurred. I was listening to a lot of blues, country, and hard-core electronica experimentation at the time I was working on Blitzkrieg! and felt there was no reason why those genres can’t mingle. Using “My Heart Has Teeth” as an example, I was originally performing that song a cappella during The Corruption of Flesh tour and when I set it to music…it was coming out as an electronic number. But, it never felt right. I was listening to some bluesy creole music from the True Blood soundtrack and the beat started to change for “My Heart…” I was then talking to a friend, Emmanuel Simon, who has worked with the likes of Lauryn Hill, about adding his vocal touch to the song. I sent him the song sung to a simple beat. He worked in his blues inspired vocals, and we recorded it. Next came the embellishments and the addition of what I call “the soul” of the song.
As a whole, I was eager to expand my style as an artist. Loving so many different genres, I’ve always wanted to sing everything from Broadway to country, heavy metal to easy listening. So, I also wanted to give myself something fun to sing on Blitzkrieg!. As it started to develop I noticed that my songs were taking one of two forms: the more electronic and harder edged types, and the softer acoustic inspired types. With the concept of a “blitzkrieg” as a military strategy, it contained two parts. The attack and the aftermath. That’s how the album became divided into two parts, titled as such. “The Attack” – the first 7 songs – drive forward, ruthless and aggressive. They push their points home with driving beats and dense layering. The second group of 7 songs, “The Aftermath,” is acoustically based, with vulnerable notes, delicate and subtle. It was like the emotional remnants of a lover’s war.
Through this process I was able to build Blitzkrieg!. There was a moment early on when I decided I wanted to continue my musical exploration, but I also wanted to expand my audience’s reactions. I truly wanted to create a sonically pleasing album. I wanted to present complex material in such a way that it could be absorbed or simply “listened” to.
As a multifaceted artist, is there a point in which one art medium you’ve dabbled in can influence the other? If so how? Has this happened with your work at all?
Wow…well, for me, I always had a hard time differentiating between my mediums. They are constantly influencing each other, like a family of siblings, fighting and forcing each other to grow. I always find it a challenge to tell someone “what I do.” I simply say that I am an artist. I am everything, good and bad, that such a title would dictate. As a musician, I am visual. As a visual artist, I am aware of the surroundings of their presentation. When I write, I also think of the work in terms of visuals, and presentation. I feel it very hard to differentiate between mediums, and as such, each one influences the others. A perfect example of this was The Corruption of Flesh performance series where I combined mediums in the final presentation. There was of course the music, and as such, the performance. Then there was the performance art aspect, by presenting the music in my fantasy world and a stage set of fauns, the tree of knowledge, and the creation of man and god. Then there were the spoken and written word aspects, done with a live theatre aesthetic during the show. Also, there was the video presentation in the corresponding room, the paintings, the photography, and even an installation art piece concerning the quantification of god (a crown of rose thorns on beef heart laid on a bed of hay, a manger if you will). All this encompassed the live performance of the albums (Poison Apples & Other Delicacies and The Corruption of Flesh – EP), each medium borrowing from the other, each art piece influenced by and equally influencing the next.
As I grow as an artist, I find I am honing my reach. I am limiting the mediums to some extent. Without losing my initial drive to experiment and grow, I hope to fine tune my direction, sharpen my arrow and shoot straight for the heart. I was taught that art should be visceral, and I strive to evoke reactions. As I said years ago during a heated controversy concerning some of my work: love me or hate me but don’t ignore me.[hr color=”light-grey” width=”100″ border_width=”50″ ]
Photo Credit: Bonnie Findley (www.findleyfoto.com)