Interview: Danielle De PICCIOTTO / Intervju z Danielle De Picciotto

photo: Alexander Hacke How hard is to be a woman on the road in a, let's say for most part, still very unfriendly, maskuline parts of the world? Just think of the most banal things, like everyday bath, piece and strengh for just being healthy...
Being a female artist is difficult in general because one usually gets ignored. To be able to "make it " one must be twice as dedicated, work twice as hard and even then there is no great chance of being recognized for all the work.
But at one point I decided to stop being miserable because of it (It used to drive me crazy) and started only concentrating on my work. I am a workaholic, I do not have holidays or weekends and usually work 10 hrs a day minimum.
I do it because it makes me happy happened because otherwise I would not earn any money at all. For a serious female artist there is no free time. In general all successful artists work non stop - this is part of the deal.
Being a female artist on the road in my case is probably easier than for others because I travel with my husband who is very tall and strong. I have met a couple of single female artists that are nomads on their own and I have high respect for them because it is a tough life to lead.

Do you practice yoga, do you meditate? Which is the book do you read lately and had a impact on you, do you like Georgia O'Keefe, for instance... Who or what are the influences, that inspires your art work, your paintings, installation…
I have become every disciplined since I am a nomad - I am vegan, I do not drink alcohol, I do not smoke and do yoga and meditate as often as possible. Being on the road is extremely exhausting and difficult. Jet lag which I have all the time is very unhealthy and it weakens the immune system so with out a very disciplined life style it would not be possible. It is the most radical way of living possible.
I just read a great book on John Cage "Where the Heart Beats" John Cage, Zen Buddhism and the inner life of artists" -it is one of the best books I have read in a long time …
In general I read a lot of female biographies, I love Georgia O´Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Yoko Ono, Camille Claudel, Nancy Cunard, Simone de Beauvoir,Dorothy Tanning etc of course and they inspire me in many ways - especially their patience and perseverance.
I love magic realism in fiction but do not read fiction very often.
My work gets influenced by everyday happenings - I usually have a theme I work on for a couple of years which is part of my life - at the moment it is nomadism.

Tacoma You recently recorded your first album, a very beautiful and emotionally strong masterpiece of lyrics and music Tacoma. Can you tell me a little more, how did you initially approach to the theme on Tacoma?
I have been a nomad now for 5 years. My husband and I gave up our house in Berlin and have been on a quest ever since looking for a new place to settle down. A place that inspires us as much as the Berlin of the 80ies did –which is a very personal search. This journey has changed our lives in every way and of course one of the themes we deal with while looking for a new home is »What is a home«? I was born in Tacoma but only stayed there for three months before we left (my father was in the US army and we were transferred all the time) so for all of my life my birthplace had been a mystery for me, as I never went back. Everything I do at the moment deals with these themes and going back to the roots means »Tacoma« to me. That is why I named the album »Tacoma«.

You start your album with delicious music intro named Tacoma... Can we translate this into a kind of your artistic and life journey from the »scratch«? What memories bring Tacoma in you?
I finally went back to Tacoma in 2014 and it was a very mystical experience – I cannot really explain what happened but it does make a difference to get to know the place you were born. My album deals with issues of what a home is and the magical symbolism of a home, which can be either in the heart, or in a person, in a God or in a place. It is a fascinating theme because one always arrives at a point where rational thinking stops and magic begins. This is what my album is about.

All music and lyrics and recordings were made by yourself. How are you satisfied with your work?
When I started I was not sure what direction I would take so I just instinctively let creativity lead me and I really like the result because I discovered things about myself I had forgotten. In fact it reminded me of things I liked as a small girl: mystery stories, the Wild West and traveling.

Here are two great men, Alexander Hacke on electric guitar on one track, and also produced and mixed album, and Wharton Thiers, who mastered the whole thing. Was Wharton your choice?
Wharton Thiers is a good friend of mine in NY and I was very honored to have him master the whole album. Same goes for Alexander Hacke – he is such a talented musician it is always thrilling to do work together with him. We have done so now for almost 15 years and I hope we go on doing projects together for a long time.

One of the most inspiring and thoughtful moments on the whole album are captured in track Home Sweet Home, where you constantly asked yourself and us: everything takes time/ what is your journey? Future plans? Do you have a favorite perfume? / place/ Do you questioning yourself endlessly? /What does your home smells like?/...etc...Essential topics on the line, can you please tell us a bit more about your views in thus particular piece of music?
One thing I have learned in my life that one cannot force things. They come when they must come and in-between one must have patience. Those in-between times are also those times where one learns discipline – learning to have the perseverance to continue even if things are tough...
In a symbolic context a home is the collection of everything that you have collected in your life - it is a compilation of everything you love but also an assemblage of everything you deny and the older people get the more many people get stuck in their houses. They start talking to themselves and become sad and bitter. I think it is a pity that there have hardly been any new concepts of how people can live together in a different form than only as a family or as a single. All of these thoughts are in my lyrics for »Home Sweet Home«.

Everything takes time... you sing in this poem... Does Tacoma appears right in the perfect time in your life?
I have wanted to compose a solo album since 1995. But some catastrophe always happened which made me stop. So at one point I decided to just wait until the right moment would arrive and in the summer 2014 I felt that it had arrived. I knew exactly what instruments I wanted to use and what the topic would be. And suddenly it was very easy. I wrote the whole album in about 2 months even though I was on the road constantly and conditions were not easy but it just came about very quickly so waiting for almost 20 years was worth it.

Gudrun Gut Another great piece on the album is The Veil; a precious landscape, where you can feel the strong almost feminist note, a tribute to unknown female nature, strong and yet »invisible«, as you write and sing. I can feel it as your strong and powerful manifesto of your self, of all your past and future battles. What can you tell about this song?
Ever since I started working with Gudrun Gut in the early 90ies I have been very conscious of female artists and musicians. Gudrun has done so much to support them. I have always tried to do as much as possible to make female artists and musicians be »seen«. I think that is the biggest problem of discrimination: people stay invisible no matter how wonderful they are because a »blindness« keeps other people from recognizing their beauty – this counts for everybody who is discriminated because of their color, age or gender. This song is about them. A person can be absolutely wonderful in everyway and still be ignored because of prejudice. A lot of this »Ignorance« is not even done consciously. I know a lot of men and women that are prejudiced and do not even realize it. That is why I try to speak about it as much as possible in my modest artistic means to wake people up to the beauty of the »invisible«.

You've already collaborated with Gudrun Gut (whom I appreciate a lot) in Berlin. How important and inspiring is for you this female support in which Gudrun is the greatest? What do you think?
I think support amongst women is very important and still is not happening enough. I believe very strongly that each one of us has the possibility in some way to help the other become more visible. Men stick together much more than women and we have to learn this for something to change.

I saw you live in Ljubljana where you perform Music from Republic der Wolfe in the supergroup The Ministry of Wolves. How are you satisfied with the project?
I enjoyed the Ministry of Wolves very much because of the many different instruments everybody way playing and because of the possibility of working together with my long time friend Mick Harvey. He is incredibly talented and a great joy to work with. More than the concerts I enjoyed playing our music in the theater piece “Republic der Wölfe” for which we wrote the music. We performed the theater piece in Dortmund for all of 2014. It was my first experience performing in a theater and I must say I really liked working in such a traditional setting. Being in such a large group of creative people and doing it together with Alexander Hacke my husband was what I have wanted to do for a long time. Usually all the projects we do we have to finance ourselves because it is very difficult to receive financial support for independent multimedia work – so being in a theater was wonderful - it was a very large production with great stage settings, costumes and anything else we needed. I hope to do more of this in the future.

I'm a huge fan of Crime & the City Solution. Album American Twilight was out at 2013....are there any possibilities, that this magic group of musicians would tour in future? What do you and A.Hacke think?
Crime & The City Solution is a very old fashioned band in the way of having so many band members - it is very difficult to do something now a days with a band that has 8 members and that is the reason why nothing is happening at the moment.
Neither promoters, venues, record labels or bookers are willing to come up with enough money to support such a large endeavor and as we all have to earn money to survive and cannot work for free all the time Crime & The City Solution is on hold at the moment.

Tacoma And least but not last; you are a very talented writer; I read your vivid and beautifully written Berlin memoir The Beauty of Transgression. You've come back to Berlin many times, are there things you particulary miss, that are no longer there?
I will be releasing a graphic novel in August called » We Are Gypsies Now« in English. It was released in German in 2013 and was #8 on the Best Seller list. It is the story of why my husband and I became nomads in 2010 and why we felt it was time to leave Berlin. Berlin will always stay a special place in my heart and I will always go back because we have a lot of friends and family there. It is a great city, which has had an incredibly creative history, and I think it is comparable to an eccentric dancer. At the moment it is becoming gentrified but I am sure it will rebelliously resist at one point and go back to being an anarchist very soon.

Are you currently in Berlin or...? What are your future plans? How will you promote Tacoma?
Currently I am in the Mojave Desert preparing my live shows for the fall. Making visuals and rehearsing my songs. I will be touring the US in the fall together with Alexander Hacke presenting my album, my book and a new album that we are both working on together called »Perseverantia«. I hope that we will be able to tour Europe with this show after that in the late fall or early 2016.

And for the end... how strong and influential was for both of you your mutual collaboration... (in music, art in life...) How different (if) person is Danielle now compare from Danielle at 30, 40?
Working together with Alexander in the last 15 years has been a very transformative procedure. Both of us are very open and flexible, interested in many different things -sometimes too many and get distracted but because we give each other freedom and support we both had the chance to develop and really discover what is important to us. Time to do that gets underestimated...
I am much more grounded that with 30 - back then I was very enthusiastic and friendly, I flew from one thing to the next until I fell on my nose quite hard. I had a phase of 7 years with a lot of bad luck, trauma and tears.
It was a very important phase for me - this way I developed to what I was at 40 - knowing more of what I wanted to concentrate on. Which was basically working on my art and music and to develop myself on many levels and stop wasting time.
Now I feel that this work has been worth it. I feel pretty secure that technically I have worked hard enough to concentrate on content now.

Is it possible to see you in Ljubljana (Slovenia) again? (would love too..)
I would love to come and perform in Ljubljana – it is mentioned in my graphic novel as a very special place that I enjoyed discovering!

(Rock Obrobje, May 2015)

Varja Velikonja