Friday, May 09, 2008

The Plaza of the Mind Interview with Vanessa Daou!

In 1995 I was thumbing through the latest issue of Mondo 2000 and I came across an ad for Vanessa Daou's Zipless. I was intrigued by the cover photograph of Ms. Daou and the way the advertisement described her music. I picked the album up a few days later and listened to it continually as I wandered around my West Michigan home for what would end up being the last time as a resident.

In 1997, after I had moved to the West Coast and was struggling to make ends meat her second album Slow to Burn was released. I listened to it continually as I would ride the bus to and from work, her voice replacing the sensory overload of my bleak reality.

In 2001 my friend Greg gave me a copy of Make You Love. The second song on the album, A Little bit of Pain, is most likely my favorite song of all time. It is the only song that I truly never tire of hearing. In many ways I think it may be the perfect song.

I have bought every album and single that Vanessa Daou has ever released and I will continue to do so until she stops recording.

All of this being said, you can only imagine how thrilled I was when Ms. Daou accepted an invitation to the Plaza of the Mind. Her music has always resonated with me in a way that suggests success and contentment. Her voice is ethereal and yet sultry at the same time. She is truly singular in the world of electronic music in that she cannot really be easily categorized. In my home audio library she has her own category.

If the Plaza of the Mind were a place that could be physically visited one would more than likely hear a disproportionate amount of Ms. Daou's music. She has been quite an inspiration for me and her voice has gotten me through some incredibly tough times with its promise. I hope you enjoy the following interview:

[The Plaza of the Mind quotes appear in Bold-type, Ms. Daou's in normal-type]

I have been a huge fan of yours since Zipless came out in 1994 and am quite happy to see that you have a new project in the works, a sound & visual project which will be a synthesis of new music, poetry & art, could you describe it?

The idea behind the album developed over time - Since 9/11 I've been keeping journals, audio tapes, making sketches, writing melodies & poems about my experiences & observations - For the poetry part of the process, I collaborated with 2 sound artists who are working on cutting-edge ideas about sound & its convergence with technology - I've always wanted to approach writing an album as a process of creation, as a record of the transformation of information. For me, that's what art is all about, the transformation of everyday experience into something heightened, essential, transcendent

It's been quite a dry spell for Vanessa Daou fans, the last thing you've released being the A Little Bit of Pain single. What have you been doing since it was released?

Since recording & releasing 'Plutonium Glow', I've been fascinated by computers & the alternate world it creates: the potent power of the 'virtual' world, how it intoxicates, lures & seduces. It's more than an object, it's a creative tool for me as well - Once I discovered that there was a unique language behind the computer's screen, there was no turning back - I set out to learn HTML & Javascript & learn to decipher the coding languages in order to create & shape my new project into a visual as well as audio experience

I think you are best known for your music but you also paint - how long have you been doing visual art?

My major in college was Visual Art/Art History - I've been drawing & painting since I was in high school & studied with Barry Moser, best known for his wood engravings & ink washes - In college I focused on the synthesis of the arts & started to incorporate images into the poetry I was writing at the time. On 'Slow to Burn' I painted acrylic portraits of the 11 women artists I wrote the lyrics & songs about -In terms of portraiture, Barry Moser influenced me immensely & you can see this influence in these 11 portraits

Have you ever had a public showing of your paintings?

I had an exhibition of my artwork from 'Plutonium Glow' at untitled(space) in New Haven, Connecticut - A piece from that show was submitted to the National Arts Club, NYC, which subsequently won an award - I'm playing with the idea of making my new project a performance/exhibition....

What does a day in the life of Vanessa Daou look like?

Every day is different - the only thing that doesn't change is my morning coffee, black, early, strong & sweet - I spend most of my days creating - writing, drawing, painting - When I'm not creating, I'm reading, walking, surfing the web, thinking about my next song or poem or drawing...

I believe that you grew up in the Virgin Islands but that is about all the information I could find, could you fill in some of the blanks from then up until now?

I lived in NYC for a few years while I was growing up & went to public school - For most of high school I went to boarding school in Massachusetts, college at Vassar 2 years Barnard/Columbia 2 years - Early years at college I studied dance with Erick Hawkins and poetry with Kenneth Koch -

Which project have you been most happy with up until now?

Hard to say - they've each been uniquely interesting - I would say that with my new project, I feel like I've come the closest to synthesizing my ideas about merging poetry, spoken word, song, music, drawing & painting

What has been the favorite part of your career?

Connecting with fans & hearing about their lives & their stories - that's the ultimate.