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dimanche 12 octobre 2014

Album de la Semaine : Zola Jesus - Taiga

Zola Jesus

Interview de Zola Jesus, par Jenn Pelly de Pitchfork

Pitchfork: Taiga is a kind of forest, and you're from rural Wisconsin—do you have especially vivid memories of forests from when you were growing up?
Nika Roza Danilova: My family still lives on the land where I grew up. It's totally raw. My parents built their house there, and my dad uses it for hunting and firewood. Other than that, we respect it and leave it as is—more than 100 acres of forest. I believe in evolution, so I like to think about my ancestors. My family came from a weird tribe of German-Russian farmers, and their sense of independence is still in my family today. That's why they live in isolation in northern Wisconsin. They've adapted to being Americans, but their soul is the same. 
Sometimes I would experience freedom from going out into the forest. I felt like no one could hear me. I could sing as loud as I wanted. I could scream. And sometimes I would feel a sense of vulnerability, like my safety was at risk, because there were bears out there. It's a weird contrast, like you're a part of nature, but nature's against you, because you're a human. We haven't adapted with nature in a long time—we just conquered it, or found ways to live outside of it. I find that really interesting and I wanted to interpret it musically. 
Pitchfork: Forests are some of the only places on Earth that people haven't completely destroyed. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about that?
NRD: It sucks, but I do. I feel like humans are a disease. It's a hard thing to communicate in a pop song. [laughs] I mean, who wants to hear that? We fight against the world and we're not trying to live within it. There's no progression without destruction, but this world was one thing and then we came, and it became another. It's going to become so uninhabitable. We're writing ourselves out of the world. But this isn't an environmentalist record. It's not about trying to save anything. It's about trying to understand why we're doing these things—to question how we view nature and why we feel so alienated from it.
"How exciting would it be to hear a pop song on 
the radio that's actually saying something?"
Pitchfork: What was your biggest transformation on Taiga?
NRD: Finding confidence with my voice. My whole life is singing. The voice is my only true medium—it's what I can express the most clearly. It's primal. It's part of you. It's the only thing you have total control over. I can be standing in front of you right now and I can communicate a song to you perfectly. The voice to me is the only instrument, and I wanted it to be the most deliberate element of the record. At the same time, I was so afraid to sing in front of people. I needed to conquer that.
Pitchfork: Lyrically, it sounds like confidence is a recurring theme. You mentioned last year that you wanted to write songs about "overcoming."
NRD: With Conatus, I was writing songs about struggle—wanting, but not getting. All my music up until now has been bathed in vulnerability, doubt, maybe sadness. I just didn't want that anymore. You become sick of dragging around a little bag of fear everywhere you go—touring and going onstage every night and having to feel bad. I want to go onstage and feel ambitious. I want to feel excited and I want to empower people. I felt in the past like I was constantly digging myself out of a hole. But for this record, I've dug myself out of that hole, and I'm standing, and it feels great.
I want to console people and make them feel like they can create their Taiga. When I made this record, every time I doubted myself for being overly ambitious, I was like, "No, man. I got my inner taiga in me. I can do that. Who says I can't?" When I wrote the title track, I thought, "Come on, it's so dramatic." At the same time, it’s my opportunity to tap into something boundless. I want people to feel like they can access that world that's so feral and raw and ready. You can invent your own tradition at any time. You have full control.
Pitchfork: On the single "Dangerous Days", you sing, "It's dangerous to go and listen to what they say." It seems like it's about resisting what other people are telling you, and going with yourself. 
NRD: This record is about figuring out your path and not letting anything get in the way of that. I'm going to sound like Oprah, but—you can dream. You can do whatever you want! People forget that. I forgot that for a while, too. And if you think you can't do whatever you want—that's a corrupt idea. It's a disservice to humanity to not do what you want to do. That's why I wanted to make such a big record. I wanted to synthesize these ideas and show that you can still make a big statement, and you shouldn't be afraid to.
"Dangerous Days" is about standing up for what you believe in and remaining skeptical about what a civil world is telling you. So many people assume the world is according to what they're told. I wanted to make a huge pop song that would break in and reach people I've never been able to reach, so I can tell them this. How exciting would it be to hear a pop song on the radio that's actually saying something? It's saying, "Wake up!"
Pitchfork: I was recently speaking with an artist about how, in the past, kids could get these kinds of messages from mainstream "punk bands" on MTV and on the radio, but there aren't really any of them today.
NDR: I have a 13-year-old cousin who I adore and I'm trying to mentor her—I keep feeding her Bikini Kill and Björk, but she's not ready for it. I want her to have a song that tells her these things I got from Fear and Minor Threat. Some people will never be ready for that music, but they still need to hear the things that Black Flag was saying.
Pitchfork: Coming from an underground noise scene, what is your relationship to mainstream culture like at this point? 
NRD: I'm fascinated by the mainstream, and I want to conquer it, but I'm incredibly intimidated by it because it's not where I come from. The fact that it is this thing that hovers over society makes me so passionately curious—I will succumb to being extremely uncomfortable in a mainstream environment, if only I can understand it better. You've got to feel afraid in life. I'm not afraid with the music, so I've got to feel afraid in another aspect. That's one of the reasons I left Sacred Bones. They're my family. I felt comfortable with them and I needed to feel scared.
"This is my legacy. I'm not going to have babies. 
I'm not going to mother anything other than this music."
Pitchfork: Do you listen to much Top 40 music?
NRD: I listen to as much Top 40 as I listen to noise tapes. Pop music—especially reallypopular pop music—is as visceral as noise. When a pop song comes on, you feel something. I was just in the car and that Eminem/Rihanna song ["Monster"] came on—[sings] "I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed!" I was like, "Whoa! Hold the car! Hold it!" My world was spinning. I couldn't see straight. It's the same thing when I'm seeing [noise artist]the Rita play in a basement in Vancouver. You're like, "What is going on? Where am I?" You go blind for a second. It's totally sacrilegious to put the Rita and Rihanna in the same sentence, but I don't care because they give me the same feeling in a different way.
Pitchfork: Is Rihanna your favorite pop star?  
NRD: I love Rihanna, but she is not my favorite. I love Beyoncé because she is a perfectionist. She is trying to create order in her world. Lady Gaga is interesting because she's trying to attain quantifiable success. But, I really love Kanye. You can see him wanting and striving. He never said he was the best rapper, but he knew he would be. That's what I love about him. He didn't even have talent; he learned talent. It was all ambition, and he's failed sometimes.
Pitchfork: You recently told Billboard that you want this record to hit #1 on the charts. With those ambitions, was this record harder to make than others?
NRD: It was harder because I had way higher expectations for myself. But it was easier because I knew that I needed to make an album that fulfilled my vision, whereas, in the past, I felt like I had to make albums that were good enough for those moments in my life. 
I don't want people to think, "She just wants to be Jay Z!" It's not that. Whatever you do in life, you should want to be the best and fulfill the highest level of order of what you're trying to achieve. I would never make music and be like, "Oh yeah, whatever, it is what it is." This is my legacy. This is my life. I'm not going to have babies. I'm not going to mother anything other than this music. You want it to grow up and be something that lives beyond you.
Pitchfork: You turned 25 this year—do you feel like reaching your mid-20s pushed you to be more ambitious? I feel like it's an age that people tend to set specific goals for, and there are some lyrics on the album about getting older.
NRD: My whole life I've wanted to be a musician. Having confidence in my fate has been a blessing and a curse—because knowing what you want is very powerful, but being ready for it is another thing. I've always wanted this, but I struggle with the responsibility of having to fulfill my dreams. Every time I make music, I have to fulfill the dream I had when I was 4 years old, or when I was 10 watching "TRL". Those moments in my life where I was like, "This is what I want to do. I want to be a musician. I want to change peoples' lives." That responsibility is terrifying! I needed to come to terms with that, and I feel like I have.
Age has definitely been on my mind. When I was 19, I thought I knew it all! That's the classic story. As you get older, with wisdom and experience, you start realizing that the things you were doing—which you thought were righteous—were actually your ego. That's the [Taiga] song "Ego". You thought you knew what you were trying to conquer, but it was actually your youth whispering in your ear. 
Pitchfork: The lyrics to "Ego" sound more confessional than anything you've written—"I used to think humility was everything..."
NDR: "Ego" is the song where I'm like, "Look, this is how it is." There's no story, there's just truth. Being extremely humble is in itself an egotistical thing. I've been saying things throughout my career, but I started to realize that people actually couldn't understand what I was saying before. So I really felt like I needed to speak up. I feel like "Hunger" is the sister to "Ego", and that's what I'm singing about, how I've been doing this for so long, trying to say things without being heard: "It's been five years waiting for it to unfold/ Throat sore and swallowed whole."
Pitchfork: Are you referring to creative hunger on that song? 
ZJ: It's all of it. Everything in my life is about wanting and striving. I've never completely gotten what I wanted. I've never gotten straight A's. But I've always been the type of person to stay up until three in the morning, as a 12-year-old, studying, and still get a B+. I'm always that person. That's what makes me who I am, the fact that I'm constantly trying.
For most people, “Hunger” is going to sound like a really intense song, but for me, it's the anchor—it is the record. The vocal is kind of like Rihanna—[sings] "I got the hunger!"—but it's a chaotic song about wanting, which I don't think would ever make it in a commercial world. I like the juxtaposition of something very mainstream put against something that would have to fight an uphill battle to exist in that world.
"Even if I get a #1 record or sell out Madison Square Garden, 
I will not be happy. It's my personality. I will 
always feel like I've not gotten there."
Pitchfork: You've been doing a film column for self-titled, and one began with the line, "I don't understand balance." This album definitely moves between extremes, from totally epic passages to moments that are completely a capalla.
ZJ: Anything that is great in the world is done in extremes. I have a hard time being in the middle. I can be extremely quiet, or very loud. Anything in the middle, to me, feels like you're not accomplishing anything. So many of the songs were a capella when I wrote them. And I was like, "Fuck, I've got to put other stuff in here." It felt fine to me, but I know I can't have six a capella songs on the record.
Pitchfork: You've collaborated with a lot of people over the past few years, like M83 and Orbital. Did these projects inspire you to want to work with other people and make bigger-sounding music? 
NRD: Yeah. I saw that [M83's Anthony Gonzalez] had a greater vision for his record [Hurry Up, We're Dreaming], and he brought me in because he wanted a texture that he couldn't do on his own. That was so inspiring. When I listen to that record, I feel like it is something bigger than Anthony or any of the people he works with. You've got to work with people if you want to make something that is going to be a large-scale piece—he taught me a lot about that.
I've done so much in the past by myself. I wrote all of these songs by myself, but when you collaborate with people, you can create something that is transcendental—that is larger than what one person can create. There are ideas [co-producer] Dean [Hurley] had about how to interpret my idea, which I would never think of, or that I couldn't do yet in Ableton or Logic. Why would I compromise the potential to achieve my ideals for the record, just because I didn't do it myself? That's something I've had to come to terms with. Being so DIY for so long has made me sensitive to that—if I don't do it myself, I don't feel like I really did it. But I need to break away from that if I want to accomplish something that lives beyond myself.
Pitchfork: Was there anything else you learned from Dean?
NRD: He would see my insatiability and try to help me control it. Because even if I get a #1 record on Billboard, I will not be happy. Even if I sell out a night at Madison Square Garden, I will not be happy. Even if I achieve whatever musical greatness you can quantify, I won't be happy. It's my personality. I will always feel like I've not gotten there. He taught me that you need to learn how to be satisfied with yourself, otherwise you're never going to be. I want to think it's quantifiable. That's why I have things like Billboard and arenas. But it's truly not quantifiable, and that scares me.
The world is inherently chaotic—you've got to accept it, but humans cannot accept it. I cannot accept chaos. I know that that's my flaw as a human. So I need quantification because it helps me create order in my life. I know very well that there is no order, but still, you try. 

Label :

Tracklist :
01 – Taiga
02 – Dangerous Days
03 – Dust
04 – Hunger
05 – Go (Blank Sea)
06 – Ego
07 – Lawless
08 – Nail
09 – Long Way Down
10 – Hollow
11 – It’s Not Over

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