This Is Not Exotic Dancing: Interview With Ashley Popoli, Owner of Vertical Addiction; Aerial Arts Studio

“You need to be vulnerable. Doing pole is really different. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before.” -Ashley Popoli, Owner of Vertical Addiction


Ashley Popoli, Owner of Vertical Addiction / Photo Courtesy of Ashley Popoli

The most enticing element of Stamford CT’s paramount pole fitness and aerial arts studio, Vertical Addiction, isn’t the seductive appeal of the street sign of a woman gracefully hanging upside down by her legs. Nor is it the curiosity of the concept of pole fitness and aerial arts, sparking visions of Cirque Du Soleil and going delightfully dizzy. The welcoming appeal of Vertical Addiction emanates from the woman that sits at the helm of the studio, owner, Ashley Popoli. Upon entering the studio, visitors and students of Vertical Addiction are embraced from the start, a result of Popoli’s infectious and dynamic energy.

As an advocate of fitness, self expression and strong women I have long wanted to sit down with a woman not only immersed in the fitness industry, but a woman who is an entrepreneur, and an inspiring  following her passion based on self expression and casting aside the norm within fitness. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Popoli, which instantly felt like sitting down with a best friend, and talked pole fitness, meditation, the Weeknd, vulnerability and the dedication required to train insane.

Ditte Dennisor: Tell me a little bit about how you got started in pole fitness.

Ashley Popoli: When I was little I was a gymnast and I loved it. Later when I was in my teens, I walked away from it and did some high school sports, I played soccer and I danced a little. After I graduated college I came back home and went back to the gym and started working out and I knew something was missing. I knew I liked to workout; I was studying to become a personal trainer- I was always very into fitness! I was working out at the gym and this woman randomly approached me- I didn’t know her, but she taught pole fitness. She asked me if I was a dancer, and asked if I used to be a gymnast. We got to talking and she suggested that I take her class. At the time she taught up in Trumbull- which for me was far, so I kept blowing it off. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, but for me it was a question of ‘Why am I going to drive almost an hour out of my way for a pole fitness class?’ But she was persistent! Every time she’d see me at the gym she’d come up to me and ask if I was going to be at one of her classes and finally I thought ‘Either I’m going to have to not come to this gym anymore or I’ll have to go take this woman’s class.’ I wanted to try something new. I was looking for a change in my life so I decided to take her class and I was addicted from the first minute! It was exciting and fun and challenging! It was hard but it was different. It wasn’t like anything I had done before. It definitely captivated my attention. I was intrigued by it. I was determined to learn it. I’m a little bit competitive by nature- well that’s a lie- I’m a lot competitive by nature- and I remember doing it and feeling those same feelings from gymnastics. I knew I could figure it out but it was going to take time. I ended up going to class again and buying a 5 pack and I decided to try the class 5 more times and I liked it… but I still didn’t want to commute that far. After the 5 classes I was hooked, I was in it. Soon enough I started to commute into the city to train because they realized they couldn’t take me to the place that I wanted to go to. I needed to go to a place where I could train with real professionals so that’s when I started going into the city.

DD: In Manhattan?

AP: Yeah! So now I commute into the city about two times a week and I’ll work with my coaches.

DD: Why did you choose to open your studio in Stamford?

AP: I worked in Stamford previously in a corporate position and I know it’s a big city, and I did my research. I knew there was no pole fitness studio here. And I knew there was a huge chunk of young professional clientele. There are also the mom’s who stay at home and they spend their mornings working out. I got familiar with the area and I thought this could really thrive if we hit the right people. There’s the UConn [University of Connecticut] campus and the Sacred Heart University satellite campus here as well, so I figured there’s enough young people here in this area that I could hit up a good market.


The New Vertical Addiction Studio / Photo Courtesy of Ashley Popoli


“Some people get into this because they’re going through a change in their life. I’ve seen women in my studio get divorced, find new jobs or quit their jobs because they realize they’re not happy. The pole industry and community allows people to get real with themselves and to feel liberated and confident. Pole allows people to say ‘I’m going to live my life to the fullest and be happy’”

DD:  I’ve noticed that the community at Vertical Addiction and within the pole fitness community overall that everyone is incredibly supportive, encouraging and they embrace everybody. Has it always been that way?

AP: I have to say since the day I started pole- and I’ve been to different studios and competitions and I’ve traveled a bit- it has always been this strong. I try to tell people and explain to them that you have to be a part of this just because the community is so amazing! People really don’t understand it until they’re part of it. It is the most supportive environment I have ever been in. You need to be vulnerable. Doing pole is really different. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever done before. You’re probably not feeling so confident at the beginning; you’re starting you might look weird, you might feel weird. But with that, there are other people there being vulnerable with you. I think naturally that forms a connection because you’re all in the same boat together. And once you hit the move, you hit the spin, and you finally get your first climb and you’re so excited and you feel so liberated and empowered! And your friends who have been doing this and struggling with you too are so excited for you that it fosters excitement and a sisterhood and camaraderie. No matter where I go within the pole fitness community that’s all I ever come into contact with; women and men supporting each other in their goals and their journey. Some people get into this because they’re going through a change in their life. I’ve seen women in my studio get divorced, find new jobs or quit their jobs because they realize they’re not happy. The pole industry and community allows people to get real with themselves and to feel liberated and confident. Pole allows people to say ‘I’m going to live my life to the fullest and be happy’  and they can remove those things that don’t make them happy and they now have the support system and confidence to say ‘I’m gonna go out there and get what I want and make it happen.’

DD: I noticed that you have a hammock class. Is that a new class?

AP: We’re starting hammock meditation in our new space. It’s a new class. We’ve seen that people in the city have started this. We’re in Stamford, we’re in a corporate American city- just like Manhattan. People are busy and their crazed and they’re certainly working more than 8 hours. What we want to do is give people – women and men- the opportunity at lunch time to walk away, relax for 30 minutes, close their eyes, de-stress, calm down, do the meditation, and unwind so they can clear their head and go back to work and feel refreshed. It’s certainly not strenuous. It’s more psychological and emotional and reconnecting with yourself and taking it down a notch from your busy lifestyle. It’s for anybody! It doesn’t have to be for the working professional, it could be a mom who just spent her morning driving kids around who needs a space to go and chill out for 30 minutes. In European countries, they do siesta! They shut down in the middle of their day and we don’t here in America.  I think part of the reason that people are so high strung is that they’re never taking time to calm down. A lot of people don’t meditate. I myself just started doing it and it’s hard for me to clear my mind at the beginning, but I have to say it’s so relaxing and calming for me. It helps me to decompress and clear my head. Sometimes from meditating I find really good ideas enter my mind. Hammock meditation could be a popular thing, especially for Stamford because nobody else is doing it.

Before: Vertical Addiction’s New Studio At 575 Pacific Street, Stamford CT

DD: You mentioned that men can take the hammock meditation classes. Are men allowed to take other classes at Vertical Addiction?

AP: Men can take any class! I’ve had men take the pole class. One of our students has a son and he’s taken the hoop class. He’s an actor and he dances as well and he loves it! Most of our clientele is predominantly female but we allow men to come into the studio. Obviously there’s the assumption that you’re going to be respectful and understand this is fitness and truthfully we’ve never had an issue.

” I think that’s what makes people feel so inspired by this sport- they can make it whatever they want. When you can relate to something so deeply- you want more of that! You can express yourself through your movement and your music however you want.”

DD: What’s the greatest misconception about pole fitness and the aerial arts?

AP: The greatest misconception is that people think this is exotic dancing. There’s a platform for that but pole fitness is very different. These are fitness based classes. There are foundational moves, there’s correct technique, there’s muscle engagement and the opportunity to build those muscles that you have to create. We help students create that foundation to build upon. It’s very systematic and there’s a clear plan. You start in intro, move to level 1, then level 2. Then there’s the opportunity to do aerial hoop and we do the same thing. There’s a prep class that helps you to build those muscles and learn the basic entrances and exits in and out of the hoop. Once that feels good you go into intermediate hoop. People think that this is fun and silly and we dance around a pole and it’s sensual. And it can be sensual but these are fitness based classes. Girls are working hard and learning technique. It’s not just turning on music and dancing around a pole. We’re learning specific movements and then learning how to tie them together and build upon them.

DD: How do you stay fit outside of pole fitness? Is this your main form of fitness?

AP: Pole is my main form of fitness. I teach about 4 days a week, I have private clients and I train myself! It’s really important for me- I’m still a competitor and a professional level athlete. I love to train. Whether I’m having a good day or a bad day it’s a nice way to release that out or connect with a song and dance it out and move. I enjoy running- it relieves stress for me. I also cross train at the gym and do my lower body, training my legs, but I never ever lift a weight.

DD: Really?! Even for training for pole moves?

AP: You’ll never see me lift a weight. My upper body is so strong from pole that I don’t need to lift a weight. I’ll squat and I’ll work my hamstrings but never ever will I lift a weight.

DD: So you can build all that strength to do inversions all from doing pole?

AP: All from pole! I’ll go to the gym and people will always ask me if I do CrossFit and I always say no and explain to them that I do pole. At first they’re kind of confused but then they’re like ‘Oh my God! That’s all from pole?’ And I tell them ‘Yes. This is all from pole.’ I don’t need to lift a weight, I don’t need to do crunches. I get such an intense workout on the pole for my upper body, my back and my core that I don’t need to do that. So many girls will say pole has changed their body- and it does! You’re lifting and controlling and balancing your own body weight. You tone muscles and build strength and burn the fat.

DD: What music do you like to dance to?

AP: I’m an R&B fan! I love the Weeknd. His music is sexy. I like music that tells a story. If I can connect to it emotionally that’s what I want to dance to. Sam Smith has songs where he’s talking about something he’s experienced, love or heartbreak. The music that I’ve chosen for every competition that I’ve done is directly correlated to what I’m going through in my life at that time. If you go back and listen to the music that I’ve used that’s what you’ll find. I think that’s why people love this art so much. There isn’t a set style of music or a set style of dancing- it’s what you make of it. If you decide that you just need to go and dance to a sad song and cry- you can do that. If you decide that you need to put on [Ginuwine’s] ‘Pony’ and grind on the pole you can do that! I think that’s what makes people feel so inspired by this sport- they can make it whatever they want. When you can relate to something so deeply- you want more of that! You can express yourself through your movement and your music however you want.

DD: What are you most looking forward to in your new studio space?

AP: So many things! The 13ft ceilings! We’ve been looking for higher ceilings for over a year and a half. When I walked into that space I saw it was a nice sized space. I looked up and saw there was so much height! I was in heaven. Ceiling height gives you the opportunity to do more and connect more movement and it gives us the opportunity to bring in different forms of aerial arts. To do silks you need more than 12ft so now we can share that and bring in the trapeze bar. The ceiling height is going to give us the opportunity to expand our class offerings and get more creative. The location is fantastic! We’ve been dying to move downtown, right near all the young people in the Harbor Point area- it’s a no brainer!


Intro Pole Class In Session At The New Vertical Addiction Studio


Merchandise Wall At Vertical Addiction

DD: What advice would you give to a beginner who wishes to go to the competition level?

AP:  Train! If I know I have a competition coming up I know I need to be focused, I know I need to be taking classes, I need to be training, getting sleep, and taking care of my body. I think anybody can compete. There are competitions for students that are level 1 who don’t need to go upside down! Anybody can do it, but don’t be fooled- it is a sport and it’s a competition- you need to prepare and you need to train. If you think you’re going to throw a routine together in a month it’s not going to happen. The girls that I just had compete at APC [Atlantic Pole Championships] in Virginia, started their routines 2-3 months ahead of time. They booked private sessions and were working with me or a different instructor to coach them to put together their routines. You have to practice. It’s like if you compete in gymnastics, skating or boxing- anything. It’s a sport. You need to prepare and train and perfect your routine over and over again.


Vertical Addiction is holding their grand re-opening party at their new location on June 4, 2016! If you’ve ever been curious about aerial arts and pole fitness the grand re-opening is a perfect opportunity to meet the amazing women of Vertical Addiction. Check out the new space on June 4, 2016 at 575 Pacific Street. The party will be held from 10AM – 3PM and feature free mini classes, instructor performances, food trucks and team races!

You can follow Ashley and Vertical Addiction at:

Instagram: VerticalAddictionCT

Twitter: @vapolefitness



♡ Ditte



Kil Yr Idols | Interview With Artist Josh Kil



Artist, Josh Kil | Photo by Eva Mueller

“I’m looking for things that I wasn’t previously expecting in my art, whether it’s via magic, God, the unconscious or someone else’s daydream.”  – Josh Kil

Brimming with tireless, raw sexuality, NYC artist, Josh Kil’s work is resplendent with a magnetic energy that leaves his audience breathless. Kil’s work is brilliant, evocative, and tremendously quixotic. Prolific in his array of disciplines, Kil possesses a ceaseless vigor that reveals itself in his impressive work. At times Kil’s work is hard to swallow and hard to get a grasp of. His work leaps from peaks of exquisite transcendence to valleys of acrid controversy; and yet Kil never averts his gaze from nurturing his curiosities, shattering perceived boundaries and erecting new frontiers. Kil himself is reminiscent of Barberini’s Faun– half-man, half-beast, mythological and thoroughly enticing. In a city where the avant-garde art scene can dwindle on repetitive and contrived, Kil injects fantasy in concrete reality while breathing life into an art scene that is often flat and lackluster. Kil took time out to discuss his performance art, his roles in BJ Dini’s, “2018: THEE END of the Human RACE RIOT”, Robert Anton Wilson, androgyny, Tarot, riding a bike backwards and the weight of reality.

Ditte Dennisor: How long have you been living and working in NYC?

Josh Kil: I’ve been living and working in NYC since 1996

DD: You’re from New Mexico but you chose New York City for art school – why did you choose NYC?

JK: I wanted to get away from Albuquerque. There are and were some amazing people there, and the natural landscape is amazing. I think I was already frustrated with the pace and wanted to go large. Not just with my art, but with my lifestyle too.

DD: When you first arrived in NYC what was your take on the art scene?

JK: At first, I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do. This was all before I had a computer, Google or social media. The only thing I knew of the contemporary art scene was in book stores. We did have a cool video store back then called “Wavy Brain”, I think, which actually had some of the No Wave films. I remember seeing Richard Kern, Lydia Lunch and other NYC characters. Other than that, I was a fan of Sonic Youth, The Velvet Underground and had a sense or belief in New York’s cool. When I got here and started going to shows, I felt like I had been accepted to an exclusive club. I met people quickly and went to the cool parties. That happened on and off throughout the time that I’ve been here, but never at the level that it happened then. It sort of scattered and splintered. There continued and still continues to be cool scenes, but it’s in pockets.

DD: When did you begin to do performance art?

JK: The first official performance art was in my 4th year at art school. Before that I had played in bands that were sometimes very performative, including one where I dressed in drag and lifted my skirt without underwear. That was around 1995. Around the same time I was in a play where I played both a female and male at UNM [University of New Mexico]. That one actually got written up in the Albuquerque Journal. Now that I think of it, the androgyny thing seems to be an on going subject. After SVA [School of Visual Arts], I was randomly in performances here and there, but mostly focusing on my object-art. Recently I’ve started doing a lot more performance. Not because I necessarily prefer it, but suddenly people were just asking me if I wanted to perform. It came at a time when I didn’t feel like I was getting asked to do very many other shows so I just went with it.

DD: Are you a natural performer? Do you feel that you’re always performing or is it something you can turn on and off?

JK:: I do feel that I’m somewhat of a natural performer, but not that it’s something that I’m always doing. I am often subdued in public situations and don’t often get involved in difficult discussions- at least that’s how it feels from my perspective- whereas in a performance I can get involved in whatever I want with fewer repercussions…so far.


Josh Kil Performing in BJ Dini’s 2018: THEE END Of The Human RACE RIOT

DD: Do you see yourself as androgynous? How do you feel about androgyny?

JK: I don’t really, no. I know that I can be if I want, though. Androgyny is pretty cool. I sometimes imagine that we are evolving into a more androgynous species. I imagine us looking like our depictions of aliens in the future, but I imagine lots of things.

DD: How did you establish yourself as an artist within the New York art scene?

JK: I’m still establishing myself as an artist in the New York art scene. My biggest asset thus far has been productivity. I haven’t always had the best attitude about going out there and selling myself, but I’m making peace with this and even applying for stuff. It’s like pulling teeth for me sometimes. I’d rather be in the studio causing little mental hurricanes, but art isn’t completed until it’s seen. Waiting to be discovered while sitting at the studio was taking too much time. I feel like I’ve been a footnote in a lot of other people’s biographies and now it’s time for mine.

DD: Performance art is meant to be experienced rather than explained- but I want you to try. How would you describe your performance art?

JK: I start by thinking of something that makes me a little bit uncomfortable about myself, or I go out on a limb and play someone who has some kind of power. It’s like therapy in that if you feel uncomfortable than you know you’re on to something. I flail around and try not to simply fall back on humor.  If I’m making something that I don’t even know what the hell it is, then I feel I’m going somewhere.  If I can’t quite figure it out, then I know the audience is like “What the fuck?”  Performance art is a really direct way to test potential meaning and reality. It can also be boring and tedious, but that’s part of how it works sometimes. I’d rather it be challenging than just simply be entertaining. I’m bored with being entertained all the time.

DD: You push boundaries with your art- especially your performance art- and it can sometimes be viewed as shocking or vulgar for the sake of shock value. How do you draw the line between being experimental and stirring a reaction out of your audience and being vulgar and disturbing? Is there a line?

JK: I don’t do anything for the sake of shock value. I could see the value of shock as being useful for a bigger goal, but shock isn’t the goal. Conflict can be a guiding mechanism. To be honest, I don’t think I make people too uncomfortable. If I do, then I think it’s mostly on them because I’m a nice personable type who’s not doing anything wrong. There are artists who I work with sometimes whose work is much more confrontational than mine. Sometimes my bare cock is visible in a performance, but context should cushion that blow to the public’s little constitution. I sometimes forget that penises are so offensive to some people, which is a little offensive to me. People are so used to seeing truly horrific things on television and movies- rape and murder- but they draw the line at a penis! Maybe performance art can help them get over their fear of body parts.

DD: You’re very comfortable with your body and your own body is used in a lot of your work. For you, is the body just a body? Do you approach how you use and access your body in the same way as you would if it was someone else’s body that you’re using for your photography? Were you always comfortable being nude in front a camera?

JK: My body is just a body- whatever that is. I like to think that I have an attractive one. I definitely think the way I use my own body is different than if I were photographing someone. It’s different because it’s part of the content that the body is mine, even if I’m channeling something other. For my performance “Penis Pics” it was totally self-parody; funny and uncomfortable. At the time, I thought it would be awesome to hire an actor to perform it for me, but again, that would be very different.

DD: What does being naked mean to you?

JK: Nudity has been so sexualized in America. I too was brought up this way by movies and the media. Nudity was taboo and this added to the sexualization for me. There is a bit of exhibitionism in me. I try to be thoughtful and respectful enough to keep it where it’s appropriate. On another note, however, after having gone to art school, having visited nude beaches and done nude modeling, I think people need to get over it. It’s not that big of a deal.


Josh Kil By Eva Mueller

“Performance art is a really direct way to test potential meaning and reality. It can also be boring and tedious, but that’s part of how it works sometimes. I’d rather it be challenging than just simply be entertaining. I’m bored with being entertained all the time.” – Josh Kil

DD: You recently took part in BJ Dini’s project “THEE END of The Human Race RIOT” at La Grotta. Can you explain the project a little bit?

JK: I don’t know if trying to explain B.J.’s project is going to do it any justice. On the surface his projects can seem sociopathic. It’s very strange because he is critiquing liberalism and political correctness and getting his typically liberal artist friends to get involved. I’m sure most of the artists who got involved at one point asked themselves, “is B.J. just trying to piss me off?” and “is this racist?” I’ve been assured that it’s not racist, but it is provocative.

DD: What was your part in the project?

JK: I feel that my part was to add to the spirit of complication. In short, I performed a sort of invocation dressed as a little girl and wearing a little girl plastic mask. I danced like a little girl and taped a hexagram on the ground. I then read my invocation in a deep voice as I lifted my skirt. Real drag queens were in the audience and complimented my performance– pretty good for a presumably heterosexual male- but who cares about titles.  I would also like to mention that I had a huge part in designing the stage set and general layout. I did the small mirror sculptures and laid out the backdrop paper and mylar.

DDTHEE End Of The Human Race RIOT is loosely based on Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. It features portrayals of Martin and Zimmerman in hoods versus hoodies which could very well upset people, be misinterpreted and be seen as misguided or racist. Did it piss you off? Did you at times think it was bordering on racism?

JK: I didn’t think it was racist actually, though it was obviously playing to people’s assumptions that it was racist. It was a provocative gesture. Some people think it’s more helpful to simplify matters while others lean towards complication, and B.J. is one who leans towards complication. On the surface, it is necessarily bordering on racism. It is literally playing a balancing act. It probably offends some people, but it’s gutsy. It’s way more than I myself would be comfortable with pursuing, but I was comfortable enough to be a part of the event. Really, it’s playing with the signifiers of racism. There are politically correct ways of talking about things. One of B.J.’s interests is “who decides what’s the politically correct way to talk about things, and whom does it benefit?” At B.J.’s events, there are often more black people than white. His events are probably something more than one would expect by looking at his invites and Facebook posts. Let me say that though B.J. is a bit weird, I do consider him a vanguard individual and a friend. He’s unique and for real, but he does take some very circuitous routes to get wherever he is going.

Upper Detail of Untitled Installation by Josh Kil, 2014

DD: A lot of your work injects themes of the occult. Do you consider yourself an occultist? And why is the occult such a large part of your work?

JK: I haven’t received my membership card yet, but yes. I am an occultist. It feels funny saying it, but it is fitting. I perform rituals. I read books on mysticism, psychedelics, and magik. I don’t, however, think of it as a belief system. If you asked me; “yes or no, do you ‘believe’ in the occult?” I would answer “no.”

DD: How long have you been studying it?

JK: I started studying the Tarot seriously around 2010 or 2011. If I dug out my magic diaries I could tell you the exact date.

DD: Why did you start studying Tarot?


Personification by Josh Kil, 2014

“I’d rather be in the studio causing little mental hurricanes, but art isn’t completed until it’s seen. Waiting to be discovered while sitting at the studio was taking too much time. I feel like I’ve been a footnote in a lot of other people’s biographies and now it’s time for mine.” – Josh Kil


Untitled Installation by Josh Kil, 2014

JK: It started as an inquiry into meaning and to learn the language of symbolism and the unconscious. I have kept a journal daily since I started in which I do a card reading, draw the cards, include a banishing and invocation ritual and finally write a segment that flows from the mentioned activities. How it does or doesn’t relate to the past or the future is complicated. Human superstition is a huge factor, whether a tarot reading works or not. I never initially did tarot for divinatory purposes and would only give readings to friends while drinking or something. Last year, however, I started reading at The Tarot Society in Bushwick. I like it. I have a unique style and I’m getting good at it. It’s very collaborative between myself and the querant. It’s an interesting way to arrive at meaning that is specific to the individual getting the reading.

DD: When did you come up with the idea to give free tattoos and hold free tattoo parties? Why did you decide to start holding tattoo parties?

JK: At one point I was trying to work towards being a tattoo artist in shops. For one reason or another my attention shifted. The parties give me the opportunity to continually get better at the craft, and it’s awesome to give them for free. I am always pressured by people around me to make money on my pursuits and it can really kill the enthusiasm. I have anarchist friends who do a free store, and I like the sentiment because so much of the world has such a raging capitalism boner.

DD: On average, how many people attend your tattoo parties? On average, how many people attend your tattoo parties?

JK: Between 3 and 20 people. It depends on the weather.

DD:  How has the experience of giving out free tattoos been for you? Are you enjoying it?

JK: I enjoy it. Some tattoos are difficult. Some people’s skin is difficult, but the overall experience is fun. I like to have a task, even at a party.

DD: Have you received any backlash?

JK: The most negativity that I experienced was from peoples comments online. There was a nice article written about me on and there were a bunch of people who have no idea about me talking shit. That’s what people do, though right? I didn’t respond because the comments were so stupid. Some assumed that I was doing them for free because I was rich, or that if you get a tattoo for free that you’re also going to contract hepatitis. They didn’t know what they were talking about. Of course the needles are clean. They’re all one use disposable needles and tubes.

DD: Does anyone sign a consent or release form before you tattoo them? Do you use you own tattooing equipment?

JK: After the article I started having people sign release forms.. Honestly, I didn’t need publicity for the parties. They were already busy enough with just friends and friends of friends. I didn’t need the general public involved. I guess I was flattered that someone wanted to write about it.

DD: How do you sterilize your equipment?

JK: I clean my equipment and surfaces with alcohol and matacide.

Untitled, 2012

“…I suspect that reality is weirder than we think, and that there’s very little control that our conscious minds have over it.” – Josh Kil

DD: You’re influenced and inspired by Robert Anton Wilson. When I think of this Wilson quote, “I don’t believe anything but I have many suspicions” I think of your work. I think of your videos where you refer to your agnosticism– at least I think you refer to it. Either that or it’s implied and you achieved connecting with your audiences subconscious or somehow influencing it. Would you consider yourself an agnostic of life with your own suspicions of reality?

JK: I often refer to myself as an agnostic. Part of my issue is that I think the word “believe” is the wrong word. It’s some kind of Christian hiccup where everything is oversimplified to being either/or, black or white, good or evil. In a sense, I believe what Terence McKenna says about the beings within a DMT [dimethyltryptamine] trip. In the same sense I also believe what he said about 2012, even though it’s come and gone presumably. In a sense, I believe in Christopher Hitchens’ atheist arguments even though that seems at odds with Terence McKenna’s. There’s not a right or wrong answer to any of this, but people will get red in the face arguing about this stuff. I feel violated when I get sucked into those arguments too. It’s like having an argument over Obamacare.

DD: Why do you feel violated?

JK: I feel violated when I get drawn into an argument over something that is totally aside from the point. There’s always someone in a group who brings up something totally irrelevant, but because they are so loud and speak with such insistence, they drag the whole group into talking about something stupid. My main point was really that getting hung up on a discussion of what one believes or doesn’t believe, can be a waste of time and a deviation from what could otherwise be interesting and productive. It’s awesome to have a discussion with someone who believes in elves or something and not fuck it up by being like, “wait, you don’t don’t really believe in elves do you? Because Jesus doesn’t want you to believe in elves or Darwin either.” I am a huge fan of Robert Anton Wilson. He is very inspiring because he doesn’t just settle for the simplest common sense explanations of things. He finds the ambiguities that can’t be explained by science or philosophy and he inserts some clever and sometimes ridiculous options. I think it’s a beautiful way to look at things even if it seems absurd. He also takes on subjects that are taboo to the average liberal intellectual member of the intelligentsia such as conspiracies, UFO’s and fringe science. Like Robert Anton Wilson, I suspect that reality is weirder than we think, and that there’s very little control that our conscious minds have over it. Maneuvering has a lot to do with balance. You can feel reality by riding a bike– even more so if you learn to do it backwards. I think people get sidetracked on comment threads arguing over whether riding a bike is good or not. I’m trying to think in terms of questions like, “what does my weight mean?” and “how hard is the concrete?”, rather than statements like “If you wreck on your bike it’s gonna hurt”. I have to keep my mind open.

DD: How do you keep your mind open?

JK: It goes back to childhood issues that lead me to not trusting authority that would tell me that “that’s just the way it is”. Simply deciding to be open minded goes along way, though. I try not to automatically decide whether or not I like something before I ask myself why the thing is whatever it is. Controlling one’s emotions helps. I almost feel uncomfortable saying that because I have a fear of sounding preachy- but you asked!

DD: I’m very interested in why you decided to learn how to ride a bike backwards. How did that come about?

JK: For some reason I’m motivated to learn and do things like that. I like tricks. There is a performative aspect to almost all of my artwork. It’s how I get to my special place; feeling the balance and the mind warp effect. I feel like I should elaborate more on what I’m trying to say here, but in any case, it somehow has to do with how I am trying to do my art. It has to do with keeping one’s mind open enough to see the problem from as many possible angles; from the meaning previously attributed to the subject, to trying to find the meaning that the direction of the planet has in relation to an artwork. I’m looking for things that I wasn’t previously expecting in my art, whether it’s via magic, God, the unconscious or someone else’s daydream.

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For more of Josh’s work, please visit his: Website | Tumblr | Facebook | Instagram

For more of Eva Mueller’s Photography Visit:

♥ Ditte Mia

Profound Soul | Interview With Charlene Bagcal

Director, Photographer and Creative Director, Charlene Bagcal

“To me, art is about making someone feel something and letting them into your world.  It is a very intimate and personal experience to expose this part of you.” – Charlene Bagcal

Haunting, sensual, gripping, and rife with intoxication, Los Angeles director, photographer and creative director Charlene Bagcal creates work that gives the viewer pause. Bagcal’s distinguished work evokes an atmosphere replete with wonder, contrasting yet arousing tones, sumptuous hues and breathtaking balance. On the heels of completing filming for the film “21 Days”, of which she was Art Director, Bagcal took some time out to share what makes her heart stir, her lauded technique, her acclaimed work with Chelsea Wolfe, “Scarface”‘s Elvira Hancock’s signature style, and bravery.

DITTE DENNISOR: Tell me about your childhood as it relates to you as an artist today.

CHARLENE BAGCAL: When I was young, I was always encouraged to explore my creativity by my parents. My nurturing upbringing definitely played a strong role in my decision to pursue the arts in my adulthood. My work has also been characterized as being somewhat dark and this does not surprise me because I have always been interested in dark subject matter. As a child, I enjoyed watching rated R horror films (without my parent’s consent) and also played pranks on my parents like walking around the house and speaking in creepy demonic voices or crossing my arms over my chest like a vampire, pretending I was sleeping. I suppose I was a strange little girl with an odd imagination. In high school, I painted a lot and used my own blood for one painting and this really alarmed my mom. I remember her sitting me down and asking me if everything was alright. My paintings were particularly dark to begin with though, and I honestly feel my parents were genuinely concerned and confused because I came from such a happy household. Thankfully, my painting teacher spoke to my mom about how he felt I was a gifted painter and I suppose it eased her nerves a bit. I do not feel my views on art are much different than those of when I was young. My work has only matured and I have learned to develop it into something marketable. I also now know that painting with my own blood may be a bit unhygienic and disturbing to some, as romantic as the gesture may seem to me.

DD: Your portraiture work is gripping and unlike any other portraiture work I’ve seen. How do you approach taking portraits?

CB: Thank you so much. I really try to get to know my subjects prior to photographing them so I get a sense of who they. Taking generic portraits never appealed to me because it says nothing about who that person is.  I want my portraiture to be intimate and reveal something special about someone.

Lara | Charlene Bagcal

Mynxii | Charlene Bagcal

DD: Everybody has their own idea of what a dream is. When I look at your work I feel enveloped in a dream – what do dreams mean to you?

CB: Dreams are very crucial to my work and often inspire my films.  Since I started directing, I have started having very cinematic dreams where carefully composed “camera” angles feel very prominent.  My dreams have matured visually which is really interesting to see my career play a role in my subconscious mind. I am currently writing a screenplay for my first feature film and I am bringing a lot of my dream concepts into this film.  This is definitely going to be the most challenging project for me, mentally and physically. I will begin filming early 2014 and aim to film overseas.

DD: Do you feel that as a woman of German and Filipino descent that you bring a different perspective to your work that isn’t currently present in film and photography?

CB: I do not relate much to my Filipino heritage only because my father was raised in Hawaii and even he feels more connected to Hawaiian culture.  My mother did speak some German to me growing up and also made a conscience effort to surround me with my German grandparents.  My grandparents were amazing people and definitely made me really appreciate my German and European roots.

As far as bringing a different perspective, that is hard to say. All I aim to do with my work is to evoke truth, mystery, and sensuality; while creating a world unlike what you have seen in reality. To me, art is about making someone feel something and letting them into your world.  It is a very intimate and personal experience to expose this part of you.  It took me awhile to be comfortable with having my work out in the world and open to criticism because by nature, I feel humans -especially artists- are sensitive souls. My mother once told me that if you have a gift, it is your duty to share it with the world. Her words always pushed me to do just this, no matter how frightful it may be at times to let my guard down.

DD: Your work is surreal, minimal, while steeped in femininity and modernity, with notes of darkness and sensuality– however how would you define your personal fashion aesthetic?

CB: I love to mix designer pieces with vintage.  I wear a lot of 70’s dress silhouettes because they are cut the best for my figure.  I look for strong tailored

pieces that compliment my frame and I also adore a low cut front or back on a dress, dolman sleeves, and fabrics that drape elegantly.  My dream closet would be that of Michelle Pfeiffer’s character [Elvira Hancock] in “Scarface.”  Women’s attire from this era was ultra sexy.

Charlene Bagcal

Lovesick | Charlene Bagcal

Let The Night Come In | Charlene Bagcal

DD: Who are your favorite designers?

CB: Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Iris Van Herpen, Rick Owens, Maison Martin Margiela, and Tom Ford are my current favorite designers.

DD: Who are the photographers that inspire you?

CB: Patrizio Di Renzo, Rankin, Floria Sigismondi, Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin, and Irving Penn.

© Charlene Bagcal01

Solace | Charlene Bagcal

DD: How has your style and approach to art direction, film and photography evolved since you first began your career?

CB: I just learned to follow my heart and stay true to my vision.  When I was starting out I was still finding my voice and often found myself trying to please too many people.  It was not until I started to do things my way and turn down work I was not interested in, regardless of money, that I started to really understand my place in this industry. The second I let go of all of the things that frustrated me regarding the fashion and film industry, I felt my work started to really take on a life of its own, in a positive light. And, my style is still very minimal like when I was starting out, it is just more sophisticated and refined now. This all came with experience and knowing what was working and what to aesthetically abandon.

DD: Your jewelry line, myYUKIKO is stunning and features pieces that are directional, contemporary- full of structure and architecture with subtle elegance which is achieved through fine woodwork. Has jewelry always been of interest to you? What are some of your favorite pieces of jewelry from your personal collection?

CB: Thank you for the kind words.  Yes, I have always been drawn to jewelry design for its architectural quality. myYUKIKO was a line I wanted to develop for years so I was very thrilled to finally launch this year. myYUKIKO’s next season is something I am really proud of.

My favorite jewelry piece from my personal collection is a vintage signed green enamel pendant necklace by Eisenberg (circa 60s) that belonged to my mother. It has a gold snake chain and it is such a wonderful statement piece.  I wear a lot of black and usually choose to introduce color through my accessories.

Black Oak Crystal Ring by myYUKIKO | $120.00

Black Oak Crystal Ring by myYukiko | $120.00

DD: Fashion is a large part of your work, but there’s also the element of music and musicians that play a role as well. Who are some of your favorite musicians? What are you listening to now?

CB: Music is definitely very inspirational to me and I will definitely be working with more musicians since I am directing music videos now.  Nowadays, working with musicians is more rewarding for me because it feels like a true collaboration, combining their sound and my vision.  With fashion photography, it always feels very one sided where I am orchestrating whole editorials.

I work with Chelsea Wolfe a lot and I am always inspired by her music.  We have a new project in works before her next tour in September ‘13 that I am excited to begin.

I am also a fan of The Knife, Bat For Lashes, NIN, and David Lynch’s music. Although, I do listen to a lot of the same music I did in high school such as Bauhaus, Bjork, PJ Harvey, NewOrder, and Joy Division.

Chelsea Wolfe | Charlene Bagcal

“Nowadays, working with musicians is more rewarding for me because it feels like a true collaboration, combining their sound and my vision.” – Charlene Bagcal

Chelsea Wolfe ‘Flatlands’ : A Converse and Decibel Collaboration from Charlene Bagcal on Vimeo.

Chelsea Wolfe | Charlene Bagcal

Chelsea Wolfe | Charlene Bagcal

DD: Your film Dreamland for Dresslab was chosen as an official selection for the La Jolla Fashion Film Festival and you’re currently working on a screenplay for your debut feature film (congratulations!). You’ve taken a step back from photography and are steadily moving more toward directing film. How has this experience of transitioning from photography to film been for you?

 CB: Thank you! Yes, it is currently a very exciting time in my career for sure. I started to become really interested in moving image in college. This was when I created my first video for a new media course I was taking. From this point, I knew moving image was going to somehow play a role in my creative career. It took me years to find a strong enough film crew to carry out my vision though. Now that I have a solid film crew that I respect and admire, I feel very confident moving forward with each new project that comes my way. My film career has definitely moved at a faster rate than I ever could have hoped for and I owe a lot of this to the hard work of my team, the international press my work has received, the support of publications/commissions, and my amazing producers.

I have only been directing for a little over a year so I am still very much growing as a writer and director, always wanting to push myself and further fine tune my skills. It makes me look forward to how strong my work can be 5 years with continued hard work and perseverance.

Maiko | Charlene Bagcal

Maiko | Charlene Bagcal

“I am a huge fan of surrealism and the avant-garde so, when I first saw Jodorowsky’s work, I felt something truly remarkable. He is a true visionary with a unique way of storytelling.” – Charlene Bagcal

Maiko | Charlene Bagcal

DD: The fashion film “Library Etiquette” for the SS13 myYUKIKO campaign is inspired by experimental student films, academic educational films and European cinema- who are some of your favorite European directors, auteur’s and films?

CB: I really admire Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dario Argento, and Ingmar Bergman. “The Holy Mountain” and “Santa Sangre” are probably two of the most influential films for me. I am a huge fan of surrealism and the avant-garde so, when I first saw Jodorowsky’s work, I felt something truly remarkable. He is a true visionary with a unique way of storytelling. His impeccable art direction is what really excites me the most though…simply stunning. I can only hope to someday create work as wondrous as his.

Slick from Charlene Bagcal on Vimeo.

DD: You’ve worked with remarkable musicians and artists in your films. Are there any actors or musicians that you’d like to work with in the future?

CB: I definitely have an ambitious goal of working with Bjork. I am currently working with a worldwide production company that has directed several of her music videos so I feel closer to actually realizing this dream than ever before. Sending those positive vibes out there!

David Bowie is also a phenomenal musician/actor and it would be a dream to work with him. I am also a fan of Helena Bonham Carter and Eva Green. Both of these women are highly inspiring to me.

DD: Your attitude towards the industry is inspirational. You’re candid, completely earnest and forthright. I read a quote of yours in a previous interview with The Creative Book where you discussed a life changing event that encouraged you to pursue fashion photography. Of the event you said,”… it also taught me to fight for what you want by putting yourself out there and being brave.” In regards to your work when was the last time you were brave?

CB: That is very kind of you to say. Well, I just wrapped being Art Director for a feature length horror film, “21 Days”, and it was definitely a challenging experience because I worked with limited resources and a small art department.  My art department played a crucial role is realizing my vision as Art Director and I am very grateful to have signed on two very talented individuals to join my team. In the end, I feel extremely proud of the art direction and the film’s overall outcome. It was a very positive experience all around and I am glad I decided to make it work, even though in the beginning I was apprehensive to tackle such a large undertaking with such financial odds against me. I suppose I also try not to shy away from a good challenge. There is a quote I just read by Johnny Depp that I felt very connected to. He said, “There’s a drive in me that won’t allow me to do certain things that are easy.”  This quote sums me up very nicely.

Library Etiquette [myYUKIKO S/S13 Campaign] from Charlene Bagcal on Vimeo.

Dreamland for Dresslab (Spain) from Charlene Bagcal on Vimeo.

For more on Charlene and her vastly beautiful body of work visit

Website Facebook | TwitterInstagram | Tumblr | Vimeo | IMDBMy Yukiko 

Q&A With Kate Rushing Of Foudre

Kate Rushing, fashionable blogger, editor at Style Minutes and t-shirt designer, takes some time out to discuss dressing for your complexion and body type, models, twerking, and her endless love for the Rolling Stones and her cat, Buddy.

Kate Rushing Of Foudre

“…Lots and lots and lots of shoes. Always.” – Kate Rushing on the essentials of a woman’s wardrobe

Ditte Mia: Where are you based?

Kate Rushing: Texas until August when I move to New York

DM: I’m not trying to come on to you but- what are you wearing?

KR: [Laughter] ….pajamas

DM: Foudre is French for “lightning” – what made you choose this name for your brand?

KR: Foudre is the name of my blog, so I figured it would be easiest to stick with how people already know me

DM:What inspired your t-shirts? is this your first time designing t-shirts?

KR: I designed a few in high school for various clubs. I guess I just design what I want to wear!

DM: My personal favorite of your t-shirts is Naomi Campbell’s “Check your lipstick before you come talk to me” which was uttered on The Face – are you a fan of the show?

KR: More so a fan of the sassy drama among the judges! Though “The Face” beats ANTM by miles.

Stack of Kate Rushing’s T- Shirts via Instagram

“People who wear my shirts, I would hope, are sassily sophisticated.” – Kate Rushing

Models in Motion | Gif by Kate Rushing | FOUDRE

DM: Your website, a Hip Pharmacy, is full of fresh, smart, magnetic site with style- how would you describe your personal style and the style of those who wear your apparel?
KR: Thank you! I like to wear whatever makes me feel comfortable. I usually change about four hundred times before I settle on something that looks nice and makes me feel good. People who wear my shirts, I would hope, are sassily sophisticated.

Models in Motion | Gif By Kate Rushing | FOUDRE

DM: From gifs to t-shirt design – it’s clear that you’re multi-talented. Are there any other hidden talents you possess that aren’t featured on your website?

KR: Speed-reading, twerking, politics.

DM: T-shirts are key, go to basics that are a staple of any woman’s closet- what are some key pieces that you feel should be a part of any woman’s closet?

KR: A dress you can throw on and feel good in – especially in the summertime. Two or three pairs of high quality jeans. Simple silhouettes and timeless pieces – the less trend-focused, the better, so you can wear them longer. Colors that flatter your complexion and shapes that flatter your body rather than colors, prints and shapes that are just “microtrends.” Lots and lots and lots of shoes. Always.

DM:  Fashion and music are two of my greatest passions- what are some of your favorite bands? What are you currently listening to?

KR: Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Al Green, Otis Redding, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, The Rolling Stones….all absolute mainstays. The newer music I listen to changes a lot. Right now I love Foxygen, Radiation City, Gospel Claws, Palma Violets, Crystal Fighters, Frank Ocean, Danny Brown and Rhye.

Gemma Ward Gesus T-Shirt Available at FOUDRE

Narc Jacobs Available at FOUDRE

DM: Are there any new t-shirts or designs that are in the works?

KR: Yes! I just switched to a site called Skreened, which allows customers to choose the piece (tee, tank, sweatshirt, tote), style and color that the design is printed on. You can get a baby onesie that says “Too Fat 4 Karl”…

DM: Describe your relationship with your cat, Buddy.

KR: Buddy floated up to Kitty Heaven in March. That same day I got his name tattooed on the left side of my ribcage in my handwriting, so we’re still real tight.

“Check Your Lipstick Before You Come Talk To Me” – Naomi | Available at FOUDRE

Too Fat For Karl Available at FOUDRE

DM: Where do you see Foudre in the next 5 years?
KR: I don’t know! Depends on where I am and what I’m doing. Hopefully all is well!
DM: You’re the fashion week news editor for the online publication Style Minutes– which were some of your favorite collections from the recent collections?
KR: Rochas, Chloé, Stella McCartney, Céline, Balenciaga
DM: Who are your favorite models?
KR: Kate Moss, Freja Beha, Sasha Pivovarova, Mariacarla Boscono- Are there any fresh faces that you’re looking forward to seeing on the runways for the Fall 2014 collections?
Charlotte Carey at Wilhelmina NY!

Winona 4Ever Available at FOUDRE


Kate’s Instagram

Kate’s Blogs: Foudre ・Casting Calls ・HVIDT ・Coup De Foudre

Style Minutes

Spotlight Feature And Q&A: Signe of The Daily Savant

Signe of The Daily Savant

What turned me on to Signe’s blog, The Daily Savant was an impressive pop art gift away– a Pewter Saltine Cracker. Designed by NYC artist Herb Hoover of Potus 31, this pewter saltine encompasses all that is ephemeral, nostalgic, and serves as a reminders of the icons that are beloved in modern culture.  The saturated, colorful, spirited energy which embodies pop art, radiates throughout Signe’s vivid personal style. While color is palpable throughout Signe’s expressive style, her bold style is emphasized through the backdrops of her life. Hardly, ever indoors (or the confines of the United States) Signe is always on the move, taking on adventure, and seeking out locations that add to the story telling allure of Signe’s posts. Currently Signe is gearing up for a fantastic new adventure- a move to S. Korea Germany!

There’s no shortage to the amount of excitement and color to be found on the Daily Savant. The most recent giveaway is a bright and colorful perfume and lotion set by Betsey Johnson! Head on over to the Daily Savant for a chance to win this Spring-into-Summer feminine scent with notes of amber, grapefruit, pear and tangerine.

❖          ❖          ❖          ❖          ❖

DITTE MIA: Pop art lead me to your blog. Who are some of your favorite artists or art movements?

SIGNE SAVANT: I’m more into Impressionism. I love Renoir and Van Gogh. I got into the Piet Mondrian because of one of my French friends. I made him a birthday card using a piece by Mondrian as inspiration and since I discovered my ability to draw and color squares, I’ve been doodling in his style all over everything!

On A Carousel | The Daily Savant

DM: One of your gift-away’s was a pendent designed by your father- has design and fashion always been a big part of your life? What are some of your earliest fashion memories?

SS: Fashion has always been in my life, though I’m not sure why. As a child of the 80s, my earliest memories of my parents’ fashion were my dad wearing short neon shorts and my mom with an afro-perm and glasses roughly the size of her head. As for myself, I always felt the need to be in costume. I’d tie blankets around my waist to make long skirts and had a pair of plastic glasses that I wore everywhere. It really wasn’t until junior high that I started to care about what I put on and started getting creative with clothes and by the time I went away to college, I was designing and making about half of my wardrobe.

DM: One of the most fun parts of your blog is your travels and the fashion finds you discover along the way. What have been some of your favorite fashion finds in your travels?

SS:  I love to travel and I love fashion and I love people watching. This is an ideal combination for picking up new international trends. I think the biggest international trend that I’ve incorporated into my American wardrobe is wearing scarves. It wasn’t until I lived in Paris that the scarf really entered my mind as a fashion item rather than a keep-out-the-cold necessity. I felt like I moved back to the US with this trend in mind and it totally exploded! I picked up combat boots in London last year and it seemed like as soon as I felt like I was ahead of the trend, the trend caught up to me! The same goes for ballerina buns on top of the head, though this time last year, I had a pixie cut and had no hope of making a bun happen back at home!

DM: I really love your Monday Morning Motivation feature. Currently what’s you’re biggest motivator?

SS: The Monday Morning Motivation feature came about, really, as a way to look at fun photos on tumblr and showcase them in some way. It is really a guilty pleasure. My current motivation is my upcoming adventure to Europe to see Trip [Signe’s husband] for the first time in 4 months. You’ll be seeing in the next couple of weeks how thoughts of Europe have completely taken over my life!

Signe In An H&M Dress, H&M Bag, Charlotte Russe Booties, Ralph Lauren Tights And Necklace From eBay

DM: What motivated you to start a fashion blog?

SS: I studied fashion as an undergraduate, finished school early, and moved to New York with visions of giltz and glamour in mind. The expectation that I’d set for my fancy Manhattan experience did not come to fruition and so, I returned to Chicago and decided to pursue a master’s degree in education. However, over the summer as I prepared to student teach and complete my degree, the fashion bug bit again and the blog came about as a way to indulge, have fun, and stay connected to what has turned out to be my true passion

DM: You feature a lot of your own clothing designs on your blog, with a lot of fun prints and colors- what inspires your designs?

SS: I spend quite a bit of time on Instagram and trawling the blogosphere. I would like to thank Pinterest, from the bottom of my heart, for being invented, because I pin everything fun that I find out in the world onto inspiration boards. When I have free time or just need a wardrobe refresh, I comb through my boards and pick out garments that I’d like to recreate. When I was in high school (back in the Stone Age), my wardrobe was incredibly bland. Once I decided to study fashion and got to college, my horizons opened up to the world of prints and patterns. I studied textile design with the most fabulous professor (we are still friends to this day!) who really opened my eyes to how functional prints can be. Now, when I make clothes, I spend hours in the fabric shop. Usually the fabric gods intervene and I find just the right print for the garment I want to make. If nothing jumps out at me, I table the garment and refuse to make it until I’ve found the perfect combo.

Signe of The Daily Savant

DM: You excellently recreated a few of Nicole Richie’s low-key, no fuss ensembles. Which celebrities are your personal style icons?

SS: Obviously Nicole is a huge style icon for me. I’ve been hooked on her since her Simple Life days (cue terrible weave, uber short skirts, and Juicy tracksuits galore). Now that she has matured, her style is even more fun to snag. I also love Alexa Chung, Zooey Deschanel, Emma Watson, Lana del Rey, Jenna Lyons, Camilla Belle, Marion Cotillard, and Pippa Middleton are all, ironically brunette, ladies with styles that I love! They all manage to be chic and quirky at the same time, which is exactly the look that I strive to achieve, as well!

DM: I don’t watch Fashion Star because after the few episodes I saw I didn’t see much that was refreshing, original or worth giving a second glance. I feel this way about Betsey Johnson’s new reality show, Betsey Johnson XOX as well. After a few minutes watching the show I thought it would completely destroy my aesthetic as a designer, but that’s another topic for another day. I know that you enjoy the show and have taken away many valuable things away from it. What would say about the show to turn a disbeliever of Fashion Star into a fan of the show?

SS:  Actually, I just watch Fashion Star to see what Nicole Richie has on! I totally agree with you- the designs tend to be bland and totally in-the-box because they are being marketed directly to mainstream retailers. I haven’t watched Betsey Johnson’s show because after spending hours and hours in her showroom in Manhattan when I interned for– and got to be the errand girl, running around the city picking up samples for photoshoots, etc…- I didn’t want to ruin the glamour that I perceived in her creative space. I actually really love Project Runway, though I’ve only watched the first 4 seasons! I started watching it when I was an undergrad and was studying fashion design and fell in love with Austin Scarlett, Santino Rice, and Christian Siriano and love the fanciful challenges featured on the show. I very nearly worked for Kara Janx (one of the top 4 finalists in season 2) when I lived in NYC and have just always felt connected to Project Runway over all other fashion shows. I’m now working through the more recent seasons of PR and am still loving the breadth of creativity the designers are able to showcase that they really wouldn’t be able to display on Fashion Star.

Signe’s Recreation of A Nicole Richie Outfit | The Daily Savant

DM: You mentioned on your blog that you just recently got Netflix- have you checked out any fashion films or documentaries yet? If so, what are some of your favorites?

SS:  I’m so behind on TV shows. I’ve only had Netflix for a few months and have been catching up on all the hit shows I’ve missed since I haven’t had cable for the last 3 years! I’ve actually been really hooked on Pretty Little Liars and have been enjoying seeing how each of the different characters dress in accordance with their personalities. I saw an interview between the cast members and Joan Rivers on E! a few weeks ago and have enjoyed seeing the synthesis between what each actress said about her personal style and how it translates to their characters on screen. On a side note, I also really enjoy watching Disney Channel shows like Jessie, Shake it Up, and Wizards of Waverly Place for fun and fresh style inspiration.

Ballet Beautiful | Signe Of The Daily Savant

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Bemused Vintage | Interview With Darin Persyn of Muse Studio Vintage

Despite their unwavering dedication to vintage, the women of Muse Studio Vintage (a mother-daughter team of Darin, Dondi, and Dani) inject a refreshingly glamourous bite into their vintage finds. It is in their discerning eye for choice vintage finds that have a one of a kind charm, finds that remind of us of luxury, decadence and adventure and pieces that are sure to become cherished staples of your wardrobe that make the clothing and accessories at Muse Studio Vintage so tempting.Located in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Muse Studio Vintage is filled with irresistible treasures from extraordinary, designers like Yves St. Laurent, Christian Dior,  Hermes, Stuart Weitzman, Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, and Chanel. Amidst the sea of luxury, the shop also boasts incredible vintage finds at a steal.

Darin Persyn | Muse Studio Vintage

Ditte:  What was the inspiration behind Muse Vintage Studio?

Darin: Muse is about inspiration, we like the idea of finding your own inner muse and inspiration when making fashion choices.

Ditte: What is a typical day like at Muse Vintage Studio?

Darin: Photo shoot, measuring, listing, shipping, dancing, laughing (pause) crying (pause) but in a hysterical sweet hormonal way- we are lucky to be blessed with an awesome crazy team of people.

Darin Persyn | Muse Studio Vintage

Ditte: Where do you find your vintage pieces?

Darin: We love to hit up estate sales in little towns- every small town has at least one fashion diva!

Ditte: How would you describe your personal styles?

Darin: We are a mother daughter team, so this basically describes us: Dondi,”mama muse” has coined her style as “bohemian Capricorn” free- spirited but smart, I’m a twist between classy and edgy and Dani is all glam all the time! Our Pinterest page shows it best!

Ditte: You’re based in Ardmore, Oklahoma- how would you describe the local fashion scene in Ardmore? Do you have any fashion favorites that are gems in the area?

Darin: The fashion scene in Ardmore is kind of Michael Kors and Tory Burch’d to the max. We are based in a community that I feel is on the cusp of an artistic and free thinking revolution. When I say this I mean hopefully soon they will stop wearing camouflage and bling- so in the meantime, it gives us a great opportunity to do what we do in a sleepy little community.

Vintage Studded & Grommeted Denim Jacket | $42 | Available At Muse Studio Vintage

Ditte: I read on your website and blog that you’re partnered with Greenhouse. Greenhouse describes themselves as “eco-friendly” and “chic”. How does this tie into Muse Studio Vintage’s philosophy and beliefs behind fashion?

Darin: We own Greenhouse as well- Muse is actually the birth mother of Greenhouse. Greenhouse is the physical place Muse is located. We share our space with other eco-friendly shops that want to incubate and grow like we have. The shops that we are in partnership with have all committed to only selling items that are recycled, organic, made local, etc.  Our philosophy is simple: we believe strongly that everything we wear makes a statement of what we value. We believe in stewardship and we try to make a difference a step at a time.

Ditte: I became familiar with Muse Studio Vintage from the popular selling site, Copious. While browsing around on your website I also saw that you sell across multiple platforms such as Wiseling and Etsy. How have websites like Wiseling and Copious changed the face of retail for boutiques like Muse Studio Vintage?

Darin: Well, for one they are more personal and accessible. We love the social aspect of the sites and we love that we have so many opportunities to sell an item. We especially like to export internationally!

Vintage 1930s Brick Red Beaded Flapper Cap | $150 | Available at Muse Studio Vintage

Ditte:What are the greatest rewards of owning your own vintage store?

Darin: The best reward is when the vintage piece and their owner find each other! It’s the best to know when a piece finds its way home!  We love getting to know our customers, and I can’t lie, the hunt is  awesome as well!

Ditte: What are the greatest challenges that you face?

Darin: I’m just gonna say it- The damn post office! They need to stop raising those rates already! We do love our local post office peeps –  Becky, Chris , Vanessa & Shawn  – just not the rates.

Vintage Gucci Cigarette Case | $200 | Available At Muse Studio Vintage

Ditte: Who are some fashion designers and/or fashion icons that inspire you?

Darin: Halston, CoCo Chanel and Jean-Paul Gaultier

Ditte: What importance do trends play in your selection when you’re looking for vintage pieces for the store?

Darin: We watch French Vogue but we don’t really follow trends. We just pick pieces that speak to us.

Ditte: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to open up their own specialty store?

Darin: Figure out how much grit you have. Operating your own  store takes grit and no fear. If you have that- you’ll be fine. If you don’t, find someone who does and become a buyer for them!

Darin, Dondi, and Dani of Muse Studio Vintage

To keep up with all the fabulous fashion and finds of Muse Studio Vintage please check out:

Muse Studio Vintage




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Greek Goddess | Interview With Anastasia Lavdaniti

Anastasia Lavdaniti, 21 year old artist, based in Athens Greece, says that it was love at first sight for her and her pens. When I first stumbled upon her drawings it was something out of wonderland. A wonderland of birds, burning churches, wooden keys, delicate swans, soft roses and precious skulls that could spark the envy of any anatomy periodical. It was my pleasure to track down the brilliant and imaginative mind behind these vivid and ethereal works of art to discuss her passions, her inspirations, music, and fashion.

Anastasia Lavdaniti




Ditte Mia: Tell us a little bit about your background.

Anastasia Lavdaniti: My name is Anastasia Lavdaniti. I’m 21 years old and I live in Athens, Greece. I love homemade food, photography, long walks, sunsets, sweets, the beach, nature and people that make me laugh.I was always amazed by people that draw and love to draw and since I was a kidI remember myself drawing and making crafts all the time. I started drawing more and more in early 2009, I took drawing classes and have worked only with charcoal, pencil and some color for a long time. I really like drawing with pens (many kinds of them) and I love dotting and textures that can be formed by the dots. Me and pens– love at first sight!

Anastasia Lavdaniti

No Exit #6 Cover Illustration By Anastasia Lavadaniti

DM: You’re a creator and a contributor to ‘zines. Tell us a bit about some of your own zines and the zines that you contribute to. 

AL: I like contributing and working with many people in general. I think it’s more fun! In the near future I want to take part to even more ‘zines and make some myself as well!

Anastasia Lavdaniti | “Jean-Paul Sartre”

DM: How would you describe your personal style? 

AL: I always surprise myself! I never shop with a specific mindset. I just buy what I like. But in general I prefer black, minimal and somewhat girly!

DM: Who are some of your favorite designers?

AL: I like Givenchy a lot! I really find interesting. I’m amazed and always be by Tavi GevinsonGevinson came to public attention at the age of twelve because of her fashion blog Style Rookie. By the age of fifteen, she had shifted her focus to pop culture and feminist discussion. Amazing!

Anastasia Lavdaniti

DM: Are there any periods/decades in fashion history that resonate with your personal style? 

AL:  I think my style resonates more to a music scene rather than a decade and especially here in Greece not a lot of people ever had that specific style as it’s more of something of  my own.

DM: Describe the fashion scene in Greece? Is there any street style or trends in Greece that are  particularly exciting? Is there anything fashion-wise that you’d like to see more of? Less of?

AL: I reckon there’s the same scenes as in every country, only a bit shifted and manipulated from the different culture so the outcome is not the same as other countries. I guess the street styles are always linked with arts or hobbies of the particular individuals who chose to have that style. What I need is for people to be more open minded to the versatility of human expression through clothing and style.

Anastasia Lavdaniti

DM: In your opinion, how does the fashion in Greece differ from American fashion?

AL: I guess fashion is the same everywhere. A trend begins from the catwalks and ends on the high street– greatly altered, but you can always see the traces left behind. I guess it’s the same everywhere.  Culture can be a great inspiration to how people dress even if it’s done unconsciously.

DM: Tell us a little bit about Evil On The Brain clothing and your affiliation with the company. Will you be designing more pieces for them in the future?

Design By Anastasia For Evil On The Brain Clothing

AL: Evil on the Brain is a label from London, the owners asked me to make a design for them and probably i will make some other in the future!

Anastasia Lavdaniti

DM: When designing clothing do you approach a design as you would for pen and paper? Or is it an entirely different process? 

AL: All my illustrations are done by hand. Computers are very handy and still an important part of what I do as I work on the finished image a bit on photoshop as well.

Anastasia Lavdaniti | “She’s Lost Control”

DM: Have you collaborated with any other clothing companies? How did you start designing illustrations for clothing? 

AL: Although I had never thought of designing for a clothing company, it was something that happened and I really liked it and would love to do it again. I do have plans with my best friend who is a fashion designer and we are slowly going to build our own shop with our collaborations and desings.

Anastasia Lavdaniti

DM: You’re a music lover- what are some of your favorite bands? Have you ever thought about designing clothing for any particular bands?

AL: Some of my favorite bands are Ceremony, Jawbreaker, The Swans and Cold Cave. I definitely want to design something for Cold Cave, as I have been a huge fan of Wesley Eisold and all of his projects!


Anastasia Lavdaniti | “Wes Eisold”

Anastasia Lavdaniti

Anastasia Lavadaniti | Custom Tattoo Design Based On Wookid’s Keys

Catch up with Anastasia @: Tumblr 

Visit Evil On The Brain @: Facebook Store

In Perfect Harminee: An Interview With Harminee Brook of Hotel Brahvo

Harminee Valenzuela , Owner of Hotel Brahvo

Harminee Brook , Owner of Hotel Brahvo

23 year-old vintage retailer Harminee Brooks of Hotel Brahvo in Las Vegas, Nevada is beyond colorful.  Brook is boldly impressive in her eye for vintage fashion finds and her personal style. From Cosby sweaters to her signature, smile inducing Doc Marten’s Harminee Brooks is a fashion forward darling with an influential voice that is all her own. There are no boundaries when it comes to Brooks’ inspirations and influences when searching for vintage treasure or seeking an adventure– she’s fluent in Spanish,  has lived in Mexico, Utah, California and currently resides in Las Vegas with her husband (and model for Hotel Brahvo), Mason. When talking upcoming trends, bold colors, fashion fearlessness and grit, I could think of no one else to sit down and talk to with about Pantone’s color of the year- Monaco Blue.  When seeking personality and individuality Harminee is the go to gal. Between her busy schedule as a newlywed wife and full-time vintage retailer, Harminee and I discussed Marc Jacobs,  ombre tights, vintage treasures and of course- Monaco Blue.

DITTE MIA: How long have you been running Hotel Brahvo?

HARMINEE BROOKS:  Hotel Brahvo opened in March of this year. My husband gifted me a beautiful camera for Christmas and that was a huge help getting my motivation going.

DM: What inspired you to start a vintage shop?

HB: I fell madly in love with vintage clothing at a very young age. I have been buying and re-selling pieces that I personally “treasure hunt” for since I was in high school. My mom let me use her Ebay account when I was 15. After I realized that the magic I saw in an item was seen by others, I couldn’t be stopped. I’ve opened multiple shops at different points in my life. Every one was such a huge stepping stone. I learned important things from every attempt. My best inspiration and drive with this shop is that my husband and I can spend hours hunting for pieces together and share in the excitement of finding something truly outstanding.

DM:  What have been some of your most exciting vintage finds? How much of your personal wardrobe is vintage?

HB: I feel that an important part of making vintage relevant to todays trends and fashion require you to be up to date with a lot of your basic pieces. I wear the vintage as the “stand out” items in an ensemble. My closet is about 50/50 right now. It changes a little as I find fabulous new pieces , I donate/sell a piece, or if my sister visits I can’t resist giving her the garments she falls in love with.

Jhonaii Debow, model for Hotel Brahvo

Vintage aztec print sweater / Model: Jhonaii Debow

DM:  What are some current trends that you enjoy or are looking forward to for the upcoming seasons?

HB: Wide brimmed hats are making me so happy right now!

DM: Yes! I always think of the vintage glamour of wide brimmed sun hats when I see them!

HB: It seems that femininity is becoming a trend that has caught on more widely as of late. I love seeing the silhouette of a woman’s body. I love the sheer, flowy skirts and tops. Even menswear for women seems more delicate and shapely at the moment.  I am a huge Marc Jacobs fan and am eager to see how his use of sleek, bold prints in his 2013 collection will be interpreted among the fashion savvy.

DM: How would you define your personal style?

HB: I always try to keep it playful. A sense of humor and a dash of confidence go a long way.

Vintage Blue Paisley Dress / Model: Jhonaii Debow

Vintage Blue Paisley Dress / Model: Jhonaii Debow

DM: Pantone has recently announced their color of the year as Monaco Blue for Spring 2012. Monaco Blue is a timeless, classic color that lends itself well to vintage garments and accessories. When I think of Monaco Blue I think of vintage French Country or Sharon Tate’s blue wrap dress. Are their any vintage eras or designers that you’re fond of that use Monaco Blue?

HB: Monaco Blue seems to have been used quite frequently in paintings of men, women, and children in the 1600’s. That feeling of peace and grace comes to mind when I think of an era prone to don the color.  As for a designer, well, Vera Wang seems to have a soft spot for using Monaco Blue. Often times her gowns remind me of a modern version of those of the 1600’s.

DM: How do you implement current trends (such as Monaco Blue) into your store? Do trends play a part in how you choose garments?

HB: Paying attention to trends is very important to me when searching for the perfect items for my shop. Using trends is how  vintage stays relevant to fashion now. I love seeing the looks that people pin on Pinterest as well as reading magazines and following fashion blogs. I try to pick trends that are interesting, but also classic to inspire me. Using vintage to enhance your wardrobe has an added bonus…nobody else will able to run to the mall to pick up that same piece!

A peek inside Hotel Brahvo's closet

A peek inside Hotel Brahvo’s closet

DM:  In your experience in the industry is Monaco Blue one of those colors that is hard to pull off or a color that customers gravitate toward?

HB: I am happy to say that Monaco Blue is for everyone. I believe that people do see it as a pleasant color.  After all, isn’t blue the color of trust?

DM: What advice would you give to a customer if they wanted to experiment with Monaco Blue in their personal collection, while adding a vintage twist?

HB: Working with accessories is a perfect way to ease into vintage fashion or just add a unique touch. Try a Monaco Blue skinny belt, a lovely pair of earrings, or perhaps a scarf. For the bold, I say bring on the Monaco Blue trench coats and dresses!

DM: Last year Pantone named Tangerine Tango as the color of the year- which was a bright, shocking, curious hue for many. How do you feel about Monaco Blue? Is it more subtle? Wearable? Versatile? Or just as intimidating as Tangerine Tango?

HB: I was devastated last year to hear that Tangerine Tango was going to be a part of my life. I didn’t believe it would match my skin tone at all. In that case, I did the best I could in implementing the color. I wore Tangerine Tango nail polish and on a few occasions, lipstick. I also found a gorgeous pair of ombre tights that started tangerine at the top and slowly melt into white at the bottom. I ended up loving those! I am much more excited starting out this year with Monaco Blue. It will work much better with peoples color palettes and basics that most already own. I’d like to start my Monaco Blue year with a YSL Monaco Blue Leather tote.


Personal Notes on Harminee:

Harminee Brook

Harminee Brook

❖In March of this year, Hotel Brahvo got its name from the pilot alphabet. It was my husbands idea. He was only my boyfriend at the time and we were not engaged. I was playing around with thoughts for the name of the shop and he suggested I try the pilot alphabet words with my initials–HV. Hotel Valor. I thought it was not quite right sounding. He then suggested we try HB. His last name is Brook. That’s when Hotel Brahvo happened. He and I were married in Sept. of this year.

❖ I was born in Michigan, I have lived in Mexico (twice), California, Utah, and Nevada. I am fluent in Spanish. I am the oldest of 4:  2 sisters and 1 brother.

❖ Hotel Brahvo has sold many items in the United States of America. It has also sold items to over 20 countries! I would like to get a big map and put a little pin in every place I’ve ever sent an item. Sometimes I look up the addresses on Google Maps. It’s thrilling to imagine an item that I found, spreading magic in a new place, so far away.
❖ The shop has had an array of models, their names are Kimberlin Win, Rachel Spencer, Libertee Valenzuela, and Jhonaii Debow. Of course my husband, Mason Brook, has been the only male model so far. He’s just so good at it! No reason to hire anybody else.

❖ Hotel Brahvo has moved locations, as in, we’ve moved it with us- two times and it’ll be three next week. HB is heading back to Utah from Las Vegas, NV.
❖ My favorite color is what my husband calls “old lady” green. The kind of green that you’d find in a thrift shop on an old floral, velvet couch. It is just the best.
❖Fabrics that draw my attention: furs, sequins and anything sparkly, bold patterns,and chiffon.
❖When I was younger, my mother would shop in the thrift store so long that I could be found sleeping in the furniture section after a while.
❖f I could, I would buy every garment that Tom Ford has ever made. I think his clothing is badass.
❖I love Disneyland and traveling

Photos Courtesy of Harminee Brook

You can keep up with Harminee at:

Etsy Pinterest Facebook Copious

♡ Ditte Mia

Interview with Jmzs Smith

I  have an affinity for the elusive and the alluring.  It’s not uncommon for me to get my hands (and sometimes ears) dirty with anything that borderlines the sinister that threatens to seep into your darkest desires. The sounds and melodies that are just out of reach but so tempting to touch.  Such is Jmzs Smith. For the past week the e. coast has been dark and dreary, stormy, thunderous and electric. There was no perfect soundtrack (not to mention more sweet discovery) than Jmzs Smith and his erotic, earnest, sultry, tugging-at-your-sheets tunes. It’s enough to give you goosebumps. Once or twice my breath escaped me. When I think I’ve had enough I find myself longing for more.  It’s wonderfully provocative. The stuff rainy delirious nights are made of. Enjoy.

Ditte: You’re based in New York City now, but where did you grow up?

Jmzs Smith: New York. I wasn’t born here, but have been here most of my life.

D: What was the first thing you learned about yourself upon moving to New York City?

JS: You can’t always get what you want.

D: “Girls”, your latest effort, has the feeling of rain tapping on a windowsill, the feeling of autumn leaves falling at your feet and the feeling of fog looming just over the horizon. How did you intend it to feel?

JS: The feeling of being hung over and staring at the napkin from last night with a phone number scrawled on it, trying to remember what she looked like.

D: You’ve ambitiously released your LP “Heartbreaking Woman” on reel to reel, which is fitting for the mood and tone of your music. It peaked my curiosity; how have your fans responded to it? Do you own a reel to reel player? How did the decision come about to release “Heartbreaking Woman” on reel to reel?

JS: The response was great. People were very keen to get the tapes. I do own a reel to reel machine; I was at a vintage store in Brooklyn and there was a gray tolex mystery case in the back, it opened up into a japanese reel to reel machine from 1967, that had never been used, even had the factory tags still on. No one knew much about it or if it worked. I bought it, plugged it in, the tape started recording and I was obsessed with the sound. So releasing it on tape was a natural progression.

D: What is your affiliation with PlaztikMag?

JS: I work with them closely to supply the soundtracks.

D: If I’m not mistaken, you’re a photographer too? What do you try to capture in your photography and what do you find most engaging about photography?

JS: I enjoyed taking photos a long time ago. Now it’s just force of habit.

D: What comes first- the melody or the girl?

JS: Vodka and regrets.

D: Who/what are your musical influences?

JS: Early Stones. Serge Gainsbourg. The Stooges . Iggy’s Bowie produced Berlin albums

D: What inspires you?

JS: Scotch. Late nights. Old Playboys. 7 day weekends. Guitar pedals . A girl with bangs.

D: Have you ever thought of covering Suicide’s “Girl”? I think you’d do it up wonderfully.

JS: I had never heard the song before; now that you suggested it I looked it up and I think that’s a good idea. I really should do a cover.

D: Where can we catch you playing live?

JS: I’m planning on playing some shows in Williamsburg over the summer. Dates will be posted on my site & twitter.

D:  I once had a conversation about garters vs thigh highs in my office with my supervisor. She voted garters and I voted thigh highs. So I ask you: garters or thigh highs?

JS: In a perfect world I could have both. In an imperfect world I’ll settle for thigh highs during the day and garters at night.

Jmzs Smith’s EP Girls is available for digital download and on cassette tape at select record stores.

For more on Jmzs Smith please visit:

Jmzs Smith




Interview with Photographer Bella Howard


London based fashion photographer, Bella Howard, draws forth candid, bare, brazen and confidently colored images (in attitude and hue) that beckon and intrigue.  She’s shot for Topshop, Nylon, Vice, Lanvin i-D and DSquared.  Having documented her trip across the United States, the 24 year old photographer exhibited her Drive-Thru ‘zines at the Wayward Gallery in London, and is gearing up for the release of her book which also documents her Drive-Thru experience.

Ditte: What is your sign?

Bella Howard: Gemini

D: Did you make any resolutions for 2011?

BH: Just the usuals of doing more exercise, drinking and smoking less and travelling and shooting as much as possible

D: Is fashion photography your first love?

BH: I love fashion but I also love documenting my friends and my travels as it is more natural and real. I try to bring a sense of that into my fashion photos though as well.

D: “This Is England” is one of my favorite shoots of yours and I especially love the polaroids. Did you choose the location of the shoot.

BH: Thank you!! I love that shoot too. I chose the location as it was  estated near my old house and I always wanted to shoot there.  Luckily it fit in perfectly for this story.

Bella Howard | This Is England

D: On your blog you cite Jarvis Cocker as one of your heroes. Who are your other heroes?

BH: Ooh gosh I have soooo many. I  guess Greg Araki the director is definitely a mega inspiration, I love Patti Smith, morrissey, John Waters, Kim Gordon, Courtney Love, Juergen Teller, Wolfgang Tillmans, the list goes on. I discover new heroes everyday.

D: The one theme that is prevalent among your photos, as I see it, is: youth. Wild, unapologetic, brazen, spirited youth. Is this something that you unconcisiously tap into? What were you like in your younger teenaged years?

BH: It was deffo an unconscious happy accident. I started to get my photos published 4 years ago when I was 19 so I was and I  guess pretty much still am the same age as my subjects, most of them are my friends so I  guess the spirit of fun is actually genuine, what you see is what is happening at the time. As a teenager I was obsessed with music I went to an all girls boarding school in Yorkshire so I was pretty sheltered from the real world, but still sneaked out to see bands and made a fanzine as a form of escape.

D: How would you describe your personal style?

BH: In the day it’s extremely casual and tomboyish, normally just a baggy t-shirt (usually a champion t) with leggings or tracky bums, a pair of timberland or new rock boots and a jumper or hoody. But by night I’m super girly if I’m going out, I love to dress up, generally I wear thrift store buys or hand me downs from my mums wardrobe, but I also get a lot of stuff off ebay.  I only wear stuff other people won’t buy.

D: Recently you had an exhibition of photographs taken while you were traveling through the United States. Was it cross country? What were some of your most memorable moments from your trip?  Do you have any plans to exhibit your photographs from Drive-Thru in the States?

BH: It was a cross country trip, starting in NY then down through the west coast to New Orleans and ending in LA. My fave places from my trip were definitely Lafayette in Louisiana; it was so different to anywhere else in the USA. We had the best friend ever to guide us around and danced all day and night to Zydecco music. I also loved Dollywood and the area around there;  it was so random so many amusement places and things to do in the middle of a strip in the middle of nowhere in Tennessee.  Sedona was beautiful but a bit touristy. I would love to exhibit in the USA, but it is just finding the time.

D: Are there any destinations you’d like to photograph that you haven’t already?

BH: Soooooooo many!  I am desperate to go to Iceland, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, Russia, you name it and I wanna go. I’m going to Tokyo next week to shoot Vogue Girl and it is my first time there.  I am ridiculously excited.

Bella Howard | Topshop

D: You’ve got a book coming out soon that Luv Luv Luv Records is putting out. Is film also an aspiration of yours?

BH: I would love to shoot film and have been asked to on a number of occasions but the deadline is always so soon and I refuse to shoot on digital so it is a bit tricky unles it is for a personal project.

For more Bella Howard please visit her site and her blog

♥ Ditte

Interview With Anoraak

Anoraak | Long Hot Summer Night

Affectionately known as “the boy from Nantes” Frederic Riviere née Anoraak, never ceases to mesmerize his fans by knocking out danceable, transfixing tracks and striking remixes.

Anoraak’s 2008 EP “Nightdrive with You” encapsulated the sound and sentiments of 80’s synthpop nostalgia and Italo-disco with sweepingly illustrative tracks such as “Nightdrive With You” and “Midnight Stars”. His followup debut album “Wherever the Sun Sets” keeps the emotion and energy soaring with his ode to endless summer romance, carefree destinations and boyish desire.

Ditte: You’re a member of the Valerie Collective, which consists of College, Russ Chimes and Minitel Rose to name a few. How did the Valerie Collective get started?

Anoraak: It started in 2007, we all met thanks to Myspace, and we were living the same city, and shared an interest about late 70’s and 80’s pop culture. So we just called it collective, because there was no willing to be a proper label, just keeping it more like a family.

D: Back in July you DJ’d with MSTRKRFT at Webster Hall in NYC. It was a bit of a teaser for your fans in the US. Do you have any plans to tour in the States?

A: I’ll be able to say more about that in a little time…

D: You’re a master of remixes and recently you remixed the Psychic Neon track “Psychic Chasms” Do you feel that these collaborations/remixes have increased and broadened your popularity outside of Europe?

A: I guess so, regarding the fact that remixes just became a promo material, or a way to send a bit more records. But I’m cool with that, I see remixes as a good exercise, where I can try new things.

D: After the track “Above Your Head” was released, I read that it was the first of your songs to sound exactly in it’s final execution, as it sounded in your head.  I’ve always been curious about the arrangement of the songs on your EP “Nightdrive With You”- especially “Never Ending Romance Disaster” and the title track “Nightdrive With You”  The title track captures the feeling of driving around a cool night perfectly. Did either of those songs evolve from inception to completion? Or was it a similar process as “Above Your Head” where they sounded exactly as they did in your head, as they do on the album?

A: Not really, because they were not made the same way. “Nightdrive…” and “N.E.R.D”  took more time to get done, they were like drafts to me, evolving every day, I think I have 5 or 6 different versions of these songs, I was trying things with them. “Above Your Head” was composed on a 2 hour flight from Spain to France. I had the full song in my head before taking off, I switched on my laptop straight when the belt sign turned off and wrote it.

D: You collaborated with jazz-folk singer. Siobhan Wilson, and Sally Shapiro, Sweden’s disco princess, on your new album. How did those pairings come about?

A: Spontaneously! I saw Siobhan singing in a club in Paris a couple of months before starting the album recordings, and when it came to Dolphins & Highways, I thought something was missing so I asked her.

For Sally, I had this track that I  liked but I didn’t feel like singing on; I sent her the track, she sent it back with the vocals!

D: On “Wherever the Sun Sets” there are a lot of come down moments or “watching the sunset moments”. By that I mean there’s the rush and the excitement of “Long Hot Summer Night” and “You Taste Like Cherry” and then there the subtler moments such as “Here You Go” and “Above Your Head” What’s the story/meaning behind “Here You Go” and what does the line “Give yourself a chance to forget” mean to you?

A: It can appear a bit abstract as it’s a 4 sentences song 😀 It’s like compressing 30 lines to 4, and the story is basically about leaving everything to a new place, a new job, a new love a new whatever, like “Give yourself a chance to forget what you already know, everything is possible”. I hope you understand what I mean, it’s totally clear to me but a bit hard to explain ahah!

D: There’s something about your sound that is nostalgic. There’s an element of the film “Risky Business” and a certain Miami Vice-ish and “Midnight Express” mood to your music. Would the opportunity to score a film appeal to you?

A: Sure, I would love that!

D: What are some songs that make a “good indie road tape” for you?

A: I could mention many many things, I  actually wrote this song (Talk To Me) thinking about my teenage music loves, like Pavement, The Rentals, That Dog!, Pearl Jam… But as an example, here is a mixtape I made a couple of weeks ago for a french web magazine called Brain Mag :

D: Although “Wherever the Sun Sets has the mood of summer to it, it was released just at the close of summer, into autumn. What is the transition of summer into autumn like in Nantes?

A: Days are getting shorter, the sun begins to be shy, and the tree takes crazy colors, but still it’s really beautiful. But I hate November, it’s the worst month of the year to me, sooo cold and not enough light. I’m really obsessed with summer and sun because i grew up my early years in the south of France, and since I moved from there my goal in life is to find back a sunny place ;D

D: What did you, the boy from Nantes,  want to be when you grew up?

A: I was changing every 2 days! I really loved sport as a kid, but I couldn’t keep going on one, I had to change all the time, i got bored really fast ahah!

For more on Anoraak please visit his Myspace and Website.

“Wherever The Sun Sets” is available on iTunes

♥ ♫ Ditte

Interview with Twin Sister

After having just wrapped up their European tour with Devendra Banhart and The Grogs,  it’s all too apparent that you can’t stop Twin Sister and their exquisite daydream.  Secret Girls found them in a moment of  pause, coming down from their joyous, sultry, reverie just long enough to get the answers to those questions that keep you awake into those wee Autumn hours.

Ditte: Astrologically speaking: What are your signs?
Twin Sister: Dev is Cancer, Bryan is Capricorn, Gabe is Aquarius, I (Eric) am Scorpio, and Andrea is a Gemini.

D: Your music is so intimate and I would imagine that you’re a closely knit group- when and where did you all meet? Was music something you always knew you wanted for yourselves?
TS: That is very true. We all did our prime growing up on Long Island, about an hour east of NYC. We’ve been friends playing music together since some of us were 12 and 13. I can remember nights sitting in Bryan’s old bedroom in our underwear playing guitar saying how cool it would be if we could be musicians for even just a year, so we feel very lucky.

D: You’ve been touring steadily, most recently with The Morning Benders and soon to be with Devendra Banhart In Europe. Has it been a whirlwind? Do you guys get the chance to spend time in any of the cities you play? Are there any cities that you particularly fell in love with/looking forward to playing in?
TS: The dates with Devendra and the Grogs were amazing, we got along really really well. We are on the Morning Benders tour right now and it is going really really well, they are the sweetest. Unfortunately we don’t get to spend enough time in the cities we play, but some of them we do. We had a day off in New Orleans that was a lot of fun. We just played the Fillmore in SF and fell in love with it. I think it might be my favorite venue.

D: On both “Vampires With Dreaming Kids” and “Color Your Life” there’s a lot of imagery created with lyrics. Who writes the lyrics for the band and are the lyrics a reflection of personal experiences, a reflection of the places you’ve been and faces you’ve seen or do you pull from anything that moves you?

TS: Andrea writes most of the lyrics, I write some, and Dev wrote the song Milk & Honey. I have no explanation for them!

D: As well as being intimate your music has a nostalgic feel to it and it often evokes feelings of yesteryear; days gone by. Is there any particular era that you feel connected to or that inspires you?
TS: Not anything in particular.

D: You’re a melodic, soft, hushed band- even when you’re loud you still remain a snowstorm. Is there anything your fans would be surprised to find in your music collections?
TS: Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, tons of hip hop, tons of old Hindi film music, tons of old House and Techno, J-Pop, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson

D: There’s an amazing performance of “Lady Daydream” that I scrounged up on Youtube. And I was too involved in the performance itself to notice that Andrea’s eyebrows had mysteriously disappeared! What happened to them?
TS: Haha! This is the best question. The answer is, I do not know. Keeping up with her additions and subtractions is a futile effort.

D: Speaking of “Lady Daydream” who is the elusive “Green”?
TS: A character in one of Andrea’s comics she made.

D: What are you all most looking forward to in the upcoming New Year?
TS: RECORDING! everything in general. life is nice.

To keep up with Twin Sister please visit their site

♥♫ Ditte

Interview with Catherine Parr

Catherine Parr, an illustrator born in England and presently based in Los Angeles, creates images that are drenched in high fashion reverie, amorous imagery and the unmistakable allure of cinematic moments.  Strikingly expressed through the use of bold and subtle yet captivating colors and backdrops, Catherine Parr reawakens our senses to the luxury and brilliance of a fine moment, of glamour, of haute couture, to the refinement of a stunning garment , and to the whimsy of a decadent fantasy. Her clients include The Los Angeles Times, Dickies, Detour Magazine and Village Voice

Ditte: When did you know you wanted to be a fashion illustrator?

Catherine Parr: I never made a conscious decision to be a fashion illustrator – I honestly just stumbled into it. I don’t consider myself a illustrator in the traditional sense. I find I am increasingly more interested in the simple act of painting. I really admire illustrators such as Julie Verhoven and Natasha Law who have incredibly strong and unique styles and believe they are great painters in their own right. For now, I still haven’t found my style. Until I do (or don’t) I am simply experimenting. Luckily, clients and customers respond to my work.

D: What is your relationship with fashion?

CP: I am inspired every time I see collections at the fashion shows, look into Liberty’s windows in London, or by someone on the street who looks amazing. Annie Hall was on TV last night. Diane Keaton in those clothes…fabulous!   Fashion is all around us. And of course I love the Sartorialist’s blog!

D: On your Etsy shop it states that you gather inspiration from numerous sources such as French and Italian cinema, dance and theatre. You can really get a feel of that in your art; there’s movement, it’s dramatic, captivating and there’s a hint of something vintage and European emanating from your work. What are some of your favorite French and Italian films?

CP: Thank you. A hint of vintage and European influence is a wonderful compliment! There are so many films – some that have just one or two unforgettable scenes, and  others I could watch a hundred times. I am drawn to European cinema. In fact, I love all kinds of film, not only because I watched them extensively growing up (my mom watched every classic movie in existence), but many films that I love captivate me with beautiful cinematography and inspiring costume or set design.  Some of my favorite classics are La Dolce Vita, La Strada, The Red Balloon and The Bicycle Thief. Also, Institute Benjamenta is a memorable film  that doesn’t follow a particular structure or formula. Jules and Jim – when Jeanne Moreau walks out of the house disguised as a man. New films such as Amelie, Seraphine and Dans Paris, which has a beautiful scene in Paul’s house – the sets are gorgeous.

D: Are there any particularly memorable projects that stand out for you in your career?

CP: Costume designers Mona May (Enchanted) and Kym Barrett (The Matrix, Monster in Law) are two of the nicest women to work for in Hollywood.

D: You were raised in England, and currently you’re based out of Los Angeles- has your career provided you with the opportunity to travel? Have you been able to visit countries you’d never thought imaginable?

CP: I have been fortunate (or cursed) to have the kind of wanderlust that enabled me to take off on a whim, fall in love with a place and then decide to live there for awhile! I have lived in some major European cities and spent months in Greece and Italy working summer jobs because I didn’t want to go the tourist route or stay for just 2 weeks. I love Los Angeles, and when I arrived I planned to just stay for a few months.  I recently realized that I have been here the longest of all! LA has so much to offer beyond the obvious lure, and my goal is to eventually live here part of the year and England the rest of the time. Maybe I will just head for Australia!  But I love Europe because you can be in Paris in a few hours by train, spend the weekend in Amsterdam, and fly to Italy to do some people watching…..! The beauty of a successful Etsy shop is that you can live anywhere.

D: What are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year?

CP: Painting! Going to my studio with that first cup of coffee with the whole day ahead of me to just paint. Visiting the English countryside to paint ancient oak trees and rolling hills.

For more on Catherine Parr and to view more of her work please visit: and Etsy

♥ Ditte

Interview with Nick Hessler of Catwalk

Since their emergence on the California music scene in 2005, Catwalk has offered up blissed out, fuzzed up, garage pop rock, that yanks at the hem of the forefathers of white noise before them. Never shirking and always honest, front man Nick Hessler offers a gift wrapped blend of school boy/school girl love and longing that looms well beyond adolescent naivete. Nick and the rest of the gang have put out two EP’s on YAY! Records (“Shiny Girl” and “Past Afar”) and currently a full-length album is on the horizon.

Catwalk|One By Words

Ditte: What is the origin of the band name?

Nick Hessler: Always been kind of scared of this one. It was just a name we came up with in 2005 that didn’t sound completely ridiculous. It stuck and seemed to suit us, somehow. I guess I’m hoping the meaning will develop itself somewhere along the line.

D: Catwalk is based in Oxnard, California. What is the Oxnard music scene like? Do you think your sound is representative of where you’re from?

NH: There really isn’t a lot happening in the Oxnard area, or at least nothing we’re a part of. And typically when we play in the area, it’s usually put together by Eric from YAY! Records. I’d really like to start playing more out of the area. Now we’ll play in Oxnard rarely, if at all. The music isn’t significantly influenced by Oxnard, but the beaches and farmland areas have supplied plenty of space to daydream, which is where most ideas begin.

D: Has the lineup of Catwalk changed since you first assembled the band? Does a changing lineup of members influence your sound or your process?

NH: We’ve been through several line-up changes and still don’t have a permanent bassist. Thankfully my brother KC has been helping us out as much as he can, which has been more than any other bassist of ours! Fortunately, we’ve maintained a pretty solid idea for how we want to be. If it has played its role in how we sound, it’s not too significant. One thing’s for sure, constantly juggling members can really slow you down.

D: When did you first start writing music? Was Catwalk your first attempt at a band?

NH: I started recording in my garage sometime in 2004 just fooling around with some equipment I found. Then I got a four-track the following Christmas and that’s when I started taking it seriously. I put together a really short-lived half-baked version of Catwalk with my best friend at the time. I can’t tell you our band name because it’s far too embarrassing. We played one show at a Skate park and split. A few months later, I recorded some songs I felt were solid enough for a more serious band and started fleshing out a band with our drummer Rob. About 4-5 line-up changes later, it continues to expand in a positive way.

D: Despite your age, your music has depth and maturity that is multi-dimensional. Catwalk bears lyrics, chords and harmonies that extend beyond the traditional fuzz and cotton candy of traditional pop. Do you hear that often? That you’re beyond your years? Is it intentional, unconscious, something that happens along the way or just a fluke?

NH: It’s been said often, but I try to remain humble. Most of the time, everything’s subconscious and just comes together over time. I can’t help but write songs and I really enjoy recording at home. It comes very natural, in and out of itself, and usually unexpectedly. I take my time with songs and try to leave plenty of gaps between periods of writing so the songs can develop and work themselves out. It’s all about timing, really. Just like everything else.

D: The bulk of Catwalk songs carry the theme of love and longing. What inspires you when you write music? How do you go about crafting your songs?

NH: The three L-words: love, loss, and longing. I suppose it’s what some of the songs reflect. Inner-turbulence, things like that. I feel like in a sense I’ve been documenting my youth, now young adulthood because a lot of the songs are just about what I’m experiencing. The songs are generally pretty straight-forward and can be played with just three people. I usually start writing when I’m playing guitar, otherwise it could be a melody I’ve had in my head all day. I’ll be playing and naturally I’ll stumble across something that sticks. That’s when I’m able to tell if it’s worth expanding upon. I have this tendency to record every phase of a song before it’s actually complete. There will be 3-4 demo versions of a song before there’s a final recording. It can be a bit excessive, but it helps the songs flourish and I get a better sense of where the song is headed. Although I go through periods of writing and not writing, I remember what I first had in mind so the ideas are always there. Lyrics are usually written separately and brought to the table later once I’ve finished the music. It’s a different process entirely but it works for me. Then I show my demos to the band and we do the final touch-ups to adapt them in a live setting.

D: You’ve released “Shiny Girl’ and “Past Afar” on Yay Records, and currently you’re working on a full length album. Are there any plans to release the album on CD or do you prefer vinyl?

NH: I prefer vinyl but I’d like to have CD’s available to those who never hung on to their parents’ turntable. Vinyl’s big, but still not everyone has a record player. We’ll be doing a few cassette releases as well, so it’d be great to have our music available in every source.

D: . Catwalk has been playing a lot of shows lately– what are some of your most memorable shows?

NH: Eric puts together an annual Pajama Party in his garage, and I have early memories of those being fun. Also, there would be shows at this shack in Oxnard called the Kenji Shack. There was a point where the turn-outs were always good there. Our last show was at Spaceland with Woven Bones and the Meek and that was special for us, even though we couldn’t stick around for being underage!

D:. What are your greatest influences? What are some bands you’re enjoying right now?

NH: Recently, I’ve been kind of obsessed with just songs. I’ll be really into a song for about a month or so, and then I’ll find something new and listen to that for the next month. I really like Devon Williams’ “Sufferer” 7″ on Slumberland. Arthur Lee & Love, some Joe Meek stuff, Pete Drake, Alex Chilton…

D: What lies ahead for Catwalk?

NH: I don’t want to speak too soon or anything, but there are a few labels interested in putting out our album, as well as some short EP’s. It’s just a matter of getting it together to present in a live situation and start recording. So we’re just rehearsing the songs we want to record for the album, as well as some new songs that might be on something else. Hoping to play some more in LA and a show in San Francisco with the Never Never. We’ll begin recording our album very soon.

You can keep up with Catwalk on their Facebook and Myspace.

Should you be in the Los Angeles area you can catch them live at The Smell on Oct 10th with MMoss, Haunted Tiger, and Residual Echoes
“Past Afar” and “Shiny Girl” EP’s available on YAY Records

♫♥ Ditte

Interview with Michael Cameron of Waterlaso

Waterlaso – Time Lapse

Michael Cameron sits at the helm of the Los Angeles band Waterlaso. It could be said of Cameron that he is not of this Earth and more so an ambrosial being. One could say that affixing a label to Michael Cameron, and trying to give his style and unique sound a name would be impossible. For he is indescribable and far too multifaceted to keep boxed in. If it simply had to be done, it would be said that Michael Cameron’s genesis as an artist has manifested itself in the form of an incomparable darkwave, dance, synth-pop sound, that feels strikingly familiar and yet distinctly fresh. Ever evolving and always challenging (to the man and to his dedicated following), Michael Cameron and his engaging Waterlaso are the stuff longevity is made of.

Ditte: Right now you’re based in Los Angeles, but you’re from Sedona, Arizona. Is that where you spent your formative years?

Michael Cameron: It was a wonderful experience; we had only lived in the suburbs of bigger cities until we moved to Sedona. Our backyard opened up into the forest, and it hadn’t yet built up like it had when we left there. The only high school that was an option for my Freshman year was an hour drive each way. There were cliffs you could dive off, a natural water slide and some extremely beautiful views. We even went tubing in an irrigation ditch once. It was an easy place to live in a lot of ways; maybe we should have stayed haha. It was nice living in a city that for the most part embraced new age culture, and Sedona was widely known for being one of the Earth’s major energy centers. The energy was strong there, but it felt like you could make it whatever you wanted, in Los Angeles there’s strong energy as well but it’s a lot more specific.

D: When you were in Arizona you played with There Goes Atlantis. What was that experience like? Was that the first band you performed with?

MC: It was a pretty amazing time, we had no rules, me and the other half of There Goes Atlantis, Levon, would record hours and hours of tapes on my portable stereo. We met in art class and oddly enough we were both drawing the same thing during a free drawing exercise. It was my first band and I believe it was Levon’s as well. We played quite a few shows in a short time, we started in 1994 and by 1996 we had played every garage in Sedona and started playing in Phoenix. This dive bar called The Mason Jar loved us, they let us open for national touring bands and wanted us to play weekly. We were all still in high school and sounded like Jesus & Mary Chain meets The Buzzcocks, so we were really noisy live, but didn’t appreciate what we had at the time, but this is around the time where some of the first Waterlaso songs come from, just newly recorded versions appear on the albums now.

D: When did you first start writing music?

MC: I wrote my first song when I was 8 on my keyboard, but I didn’t start to really get into songwriting until high school and Levon and I really got into it. Devoting all of our spare time and weekends to songwriting. It really is a craft, and you have to develop it over time.

D: What/who influences and inspires you creatively?

MC: I’m inspired by anyone who aspires to make something perfect, who isn’t willing to settle, someone who wants something better for our lives than what we have now, someone who goes the extra mile to not just give us more of the same. From Plato to Walt Disney, when someone really sets their sites to create something perfect, and wants to share something amazing that makes our lives better, I believe they’ll find it.

D: When did you settle on the name Waterlaso? It’s a fanciful name. Fitting. I’m curious about it’s origin.

MC: In 1999 I was considering words that I liked, and had heard of this band from Japan that a friend mentioned who only used water and wire to create music. I liked the mental image of trying to create music with tools that really almost made no sound if you just splashed them around together. Trying to define something that’s indefinable is what I have always taken Waterlaso to mean. Or, trying to hold on to something you can’t. The name came about when I started working on the first album.

D: When did you first start performing as Waterlaso? What was your first performance like? Was it a solo performance or had you already assembled a band by then?

MC: The first live performance as Waterlaso was in Oct of 2001. Some friends who ran the only indie club in Phoenix were putting on a synth-pop show and they asked me to be on the bill. They had been playing each song from the album as I had finished them. It was really exciting to see a club full of people dancing to these songs back to back with New Order, The Smiths, Suede and The Cure.

D: You’re at the forefront of the band as not only the lead vocalist, but also as the sole lyricist, and you write the bulk of the music as well. Do you plan to continue this way or do you one day intend to collaborate with other artists?

MC: We’ve started working on the new album as more of a collaboration. Nick and I have a couple songs underway. I’m really excited to have someone to bounce ideas off of. He’s an amazing musician; the entire band is extremely talented so it will be great to have all of their input on the next album instead of just working the songs out alone.

D: Throughout the history of the band you remain the one constant. How does the evolution of you as an artist contribute to the maturation of Waterlaso as a band?

MC: I’m used to working this way. it’s always been the easiest and only way for me. I think it’s forced me to push myself beyond what was possible with my tools and abilities each time I set out to record. It’s allowed me to create a sound and carry it forward through a variety of different styles. I think it’s been amazing for me to explore so deeply as to what the thought of Waterlaso could become and is still becoming.

D: “There’s something about What Have You Ever Done To Deserve Everything You’ve Ever Wanted that makes me feel dirty — and not in the Barry White sense of the word. Listening to Waterlaso is sort of like hearing a creepy, trenchcoat-clad guy on the bus mumbling to himself when he sees a girl in a Catholic school outfit. It’s stripped of all emotion, and presented in such a clinically cold way that listening to it feels like a strange violation of decency.”
I recently read this in a review of What Have You Ever Done to Deserve Everything You’ve Ever Wanted. And at first I was completely excited by it, mostly because I jumped the gun and neglected to read the rest of the sentence. By the time I read the rest, my excitement had drooped and confused by this reviewer. I wasn’t sure he” got” it. Do you feel that there is a lot of misconception regarding your music? Would you rather leave it ambiguous and open to interpretation?

MC: I think he missed the playfulness, and possibly the entire album. I’m not sure he listened to it. I wish I had made the album that’s he describing, but “What Have You Ever Done…” is extremely emotional, if nothing else it’s emotional, and it’s far from sycophantic or creepy. It’s an extremely sad record, I was setting out to make something that could stand up with the saddest music I had heard, and I wanted to make a concept album about life-long pain and it’s true impermanence if you just took another perspective. I just wanted to say that none of us are scared and that we can be whatever we want at any given moment. A lot of that album is very whimsical, but I’m fairly convinced he didn’t actually listen to it. I like leaving things open to interpretation, it’s necessary for you to mistake the lyrics and create the song that you’d prefer to have stuck in your head. It’s more personal, and it creates something you’re much more attached to.

D: With song titles like “Use your Illusion” and “How I Accidentally Got Us Killed On the Oregon Trail” I can’t help but feel that you’re in touch with your youthful days. And you are youthful. Though dark at times you remain playful and bring in the breeze. Your lyrics are often dark and sometimes haunting, but at other times you seem to be taking it on the chin so to speak and winking at us, reminding us that it’s okay to find the light-hearted side to the darkness of life. Do you often inject playfulness in your music? Is it a part of your nature?

MC: I think that’s very important to realize you can take a step back from things and lighten it up, or you can dive head first into the drama and become fully overtaken by it. You can live life on any of those levels and it’s absolutely fine, but obviously some of them are more difficult. I want to make songs that tell people they are fine just as they are, and that there’s nothing to fear or worry about. I hope that’s what people take away overall from listening to my music. Some of the darkest places I’ve been have also been the funniest as well. Things can get so ridiculous all you can do is laugh at it. You can come back from anything, you’ll be alright.

D: Your style is unique and purely your own. Your voice is often an instrument all its own throughout your songs. I’m always pleased when you include your lyrics with your albums because your lyrics create depth and layers that add so much more to the melodies. And the melodies are often strong enough to stand on their own. In an interview on CNN David Byrne said that to him, the lyrics aren’t important. He’s more concerned with the way the words sound: “In a certain way, it’s the sound of the words, the inflection and the way the song is sung and the way it fits the melody and the way the syllables are on the tongue that has as much of the meaning as the actual, literal words,” Do you agree with this? Do you use this method in your own music-using the lyrics with the intonation?

MC: I don’t have just one way of writing, but I believe that lyrics are essential and something that adds multiple dimensions to melody. Melody can describe things that words can’t, but I think you can use words in a way that implies meaning but doesn’t ground it. The story and the song concept are extremely important to me, and I will do what it takes to get those across, but I don’t stick to one style or another. It just depends on how important it is for that song. Byrne is an amazing writer, one of the best, and all of the other people who take the time to actually craft a song I take my hat off to. Morrissey has accomplished some superhuman things lyrically, so has Byrne.

D: You’ve been steadily recording, writing and performing for over 15 years. In that time what sort of changes have you seen within the music scene and the music industry?

MC: You could write a book on this alone, I think that quality control is gone, and I think it’s really easy to create a cool seeming project now, even if you don’t ever plan to actually write a song or an album, or even play an instrument. People are buying cool rather than good. The established artists who already had their foot in the door before the floodgates opened were safe and some have done well, but I’m not seeing that the music industry is encouraging any more originality than it was before. I think most projects are tossed off, and as long as you can make it seem cool, and you have some friends in the right places then you’re set.

D: I had the opportunity to listen to some of your early recordings from the 90’s. I enjoyed them. Do you think you’ll ever revisit your acoustic guitar days?

MC: Haha, well there were only a few acoustic songs, but I really enjoy acoustic music. I doubt there’s a future for me as the next Elliott Smith, but I’d like to start playing a few of those songs live at shows. We’re mostly playing dance sets, but I’d like to return to a more dramatic set list with more of the slower songs, and a few acoustic songs thrown in. I have about 150 songs prior to 1999 recorded on my 4-track, a lot of them are very experimental but I think that there’s some great stuff that I’d like to use in the future. A lot of weird keyboard songs.

D: Legendary producer, Kramer produced your most recent jewel Wild. How was it working with him? Kramer is a specific sort of producer, he has an eye (or rather an ear) for making the seemingly distant within reach and relatable. He polishes and shines the artists he works with to ethereal perfection. He revived Neil Diamonds “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” with Urge Overkill for the film Pulp Fiction, he Godfathered Galaxie 500 and worked with Low and Daniel Johnston- what was the experience like for you? Lay it out for me.

MC: Kramer did some amazing work on the album. He took our rough tracks and really balanced them out and brought out a lot more clarity. We only got to work with him over the computer, but he gave the album a really polished sound. He didn’t take it and suck the life out of the sounds, everything still sounds natural and alive which was exactly what we had wanted. He’s an amazing producer, and I hope we can get him to work with us in the studio on our next record.

D: I enjoy all of your albums; Wild in particular stands out for me. It’s the most cohesive of your albums – it opens like a fairy tale and ceases like a dream. There’s a theme throughout. What was the process of writing this album—how long were you working on it? When was the moment you knew that you had had “it” and your album was complete?

MC: It was sort of a narrative of everything that had happened since I moved to the apartment building that’s on the cover, some of the songs I had started working on back in 2002 like “We’re The Sonic Sisters,” but I decided I wanted to go all out and make a really big album. It was an extremely challenging album to make, and it was the most emotionally difficult set of songs I’ve ever worked on. I just wanted it to be very honest, and not judge the subject matter, and not judge my life. I called the album “Wild” because it’s a word that doesn’t specifically have a positive or negative connotation. I thought that era would end with leaving that building, but I guess life is wild.

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