The Canadian musician Denique is releasing his first solo album, Shape 1, today, Friday October 6th and he has chosen to release it in Iceland first with a launch party at KIKI bar tonight at 20PM.
A Canadian launching an album in Iceland? What is that all about? GayIceland got in touch with Denique and asked him every question thinkable about his new album and the reasons for choosing Iceland to launch it.
Tell us about the album, how would you describe the music?
“Shape 1 is my baby. It’s wild to think of this as my debut album, as it feels like I’ve been doing this for 1000 years. During the beginning stages back in 2013, I really didn’t know what I was doing. Over time, the audiovisual side of the project continued to develop and it wasn’t until 2015 that I realized I was onto something. Finally, after my first summer in Iceland, around the time I filmed the music video for “Vegvísir”, I felt that I had found my sound and wanted to create a body of work that people could enjoy not only visually on YouTube, but sonically on the bus, walking down the street or in the car on the way home from work. I look at the songs on Shape 1 as fifteen different stories from my past. While most of my favourite albums are cohesive bodies of work, I did the opposite for this album, putting each track/video onto a planet of it’s own. What connects them all together is the galaxy I created, which is Shape 1, my helmet of thoughts, fears, dreams and hopes for the future.”
The title, Shape 1 [listen here], what does it refer to?
“Shape 1 refers to the galaxy helmet I wear on the album cover, shot by Sydney MacLennan, a shape with fifteen edges that connects the 15 stories of my past. Throughout my years in elementary/high school, I was told by multiple teachers and my parents that I was “in my own bubble” or that “I was on my own planet”. And while I definitely struggled to fit the mold of a studious academic (haha!), I saw the value in thinking differently and critically, despite sometimes feeling bad about it. In retrospect, they were right, but I quite enjoy the planet I live on, I’m quite comfortable. I guess it’s time to invite some people over, eh?”
“… The “Shape 1 Party” is a celebration of the album release, but more specifically a night that welcomes freedom of expression … In a nutshell, it’ll be a night where people are free to dress up however they like, to dance, sing and celebrate this release with me!”
This album has been in the making for quite a while, right?
“Honest to god, I dreamed of this moment for over ten years. I remember watching Canadian Idol at my grandma Grant’s house in the middle of nowhere, at age 10, saying: “I’m going to do that one day. I’m going to be a singer and have my own album”. I’d walk to the beach and sing to myself, pretending I was on stage in front of a sold out crowd. Although I wasn’t any good, I still believed in the dream. Never in a million years did I imagine that 14 years later I’d release a full length LP in Iceland. It’s absolutely wild! Of course, it took a huge amount of patience and hard work, which still drives me crazy, but I never let go of my inner 10-year-old voice. I really can’t express to you how much hope, pain, frustration and joy this project has brought to me. I am obsessed with the process, the good, the bad and the wave of emotions in between.”
After launching the album you’re planning on a releasing a video for the single “Fruit”, tell us about it. Where did the idea come from?
“Yes! While, I filmed a video for every track on the album, there’s something particularly special about the “Fruit” video. I wouldn’t spoil the surprise, but what I can tell you is that I worked with the fabulous Montreal directors Schaël Mareus and Katharine King So, to create a timeless piece of work. I mean, when I first started this audiovisual project, it was just me and my tripod doing all the work, relying on natural light and my own instinct to guide the way. I’ll still continue to make my own videos, but it was so inspiring to work with a film crew who could take it to the next level. I was lucky to have Zion Lipstein-Saffer on lights, which gave the video a whole new perspective. What else can I say? I designed my costume from scratch, which turned out to be exactly what I hoped it would be!”
Where do you usually get inspiration from?
“I’m obsessed with the process of creation. I’m not sure why but my brain has always been attracted to things that it hasn’t seen, or things that are challenging visually or sonically. If it challenges the norm, I’m all in! From a global standpoint, we’re in a political crisis, the environment is suffering and people are feeling extreme emotions… naturally, this ignites creative flames and I definitely felt that while writing this album. In 2017, it just has to mean something, to push against something. And if I’m being honest, I want my listeners to feel challenged, to allow themselves to discover a new headspace, a new area of their mind that they have yet to explore.”
Not only do you sing and make your own music, but you also create your own videos. Isn’t that a little bit challenging?
“It’s so difficult! But the filming itself is always the best part. I dress up, put on my black lipstick and feel empowered. It’s almost like Halloween, except I’m not wearing a costume, I’m wearing myself as I evolve into my pop star version. It’s rather strange to talk about it, but it all feels right. That’s the fun part.
Then there’s the editing process, something I’ve grown to absolute hate. It’s really awful and yet I’m so addicted to it. There’s this burning need to achieve a certain look or feel, and because these are my videos and visions, I’m really the only person who can do it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will ever change, regardless of how miserable I become (hahaha). I hate it so much but I think it’s extremely important for artists to be involved in every step of the process, regardless of what your interests are. This business requires discipline and you can’t only do what you like to do. It’s what ultimately builds a strong brand as your energy stays connected to everything, the costumes, the videos, the website, the business cards, the promo… Sometimes editing is manageable, sometimes it’s fucking horrible and I want to throw my computer down a flight of stairs. Either way, I have no choice but to keep going. It’s the only way this rocket ship will continue to accelerate.”
“… I dress up, put on my black lipstick and feel empowered. It’s almost like Halloween, except I’m not wearing a costume, I’m wearing myself as I evolve into my pop star version. It’s rather strange to talk about it, but it all feels right. That’s the fun part.”
You also play the fiddle and have a background in traditional music. How did you end up doing this type of music.
“I am indeed a fiddler, although I wasn’t classically educated! I grew up on the East Coast of Canada which has a fantastic traditional Irish and Scottish music culture. While my roots are very connected to Celtic music, I felt limited in that genre as I only ever played other people’s music. The tunes I grew up with will always hold a special place in my heart but it felt more exhilirating to create my own galaxy of songs. In the beginning stages of Shape 1, it was difficult for people to classify me as a singer, as I had always been known as a fiddler. I also felt the pressure to choose one over the other, which in retrospect, is ridiculous. I’m a singer, fiddler, photographer, filmmaker, writer… these are just some of the skills I’ve acquired. I’d be so bored if I focused only on one thing.”
How did your background in music help make this album?
“Of course, my fiddling and piano days helped me understand music theory, which ultimately helped me write digital music. I couldn’t have used such a broad range of sound without understanding basic music knowledge. I’m no theory expert but I know enough to achieve a full sound. I also have to thank my mom for introducing me to the coolest music when I was a kid. She swooned over artists like Love Inc., Loreena McKennitt, Missy Elliott, Peter Gabriel, The Verve… the list goes on.”
Where does your interest in music come from? Is the family immersed in music?
“My dad is tone-deaf, couldn’t sing a note to save his life. My mom and sister, however are very musical. My body experiences a very intense sensation when listening to music, which is 100 percent genetic from my mother. I feel music the exact way that she does. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s intense. My sister feels it too. She’s in a touring choir in Canada (currently on tour!) and her voice blows my mind. It’s so pure and clear, with a very smooth power. I keep pushing her to record a few songs but unlike me, Shila thrives out of the spotlight. She wants to fly under the radar and I respect that. But let’s be honest: with enough sibling bribery, I’m sure I’ll convince her to feature on one of my songs. Perhaps on Shape 2?” Laugs.
Do you think you have already found your own style, your own voice, or are you still developing it?
“That’s a lifetime process. As for right now, I found the sound for Shape 1 [on Spotify]. It’s a distinct style, very representative of myself at this stage of my career, but isn’t immutable. Vocally speaking, I know I what I like and what I don’t like. I’ll always be competing with myself to reach greater heights (literally) and continue to try push my vocal cords in a different, healthy ways. Some of my songs are vocally challenging, and for me, that’s part of the fun. I love people who can really sing, and always looked up to the vocalists who could do more than just sing the same note over a whispy guitar loop. I live for that adrenaline rush of, “will I be able to hit that note again?””
“I remember watching Canadian Idol in the middle of nowhere … at age 10, saying: “I’m going to be a singer and have my own album” … Never in a million years did I imagine that 14 years later I’d release a full length LP in Iceland. It’s absolutely wild!”
You are going to have a party at KIKI tonight at 20PM to celebrate the launch of your album. Tell us about it.
“I am so thrilled about this! Kiki Bar was a second home for me, where I felt comfortable and happy. Held on October 6, the “Shape 1 Party” is a celebration of the album release, but more specifically a night that welcomes freedom of expression. I wanted a NYC Club kids theme, as I’ve often fantasized about being part of that generation of creators who wore unconventional outfits and felt empowered by their differences. In a nutshell, it’ll be a night where people are free to dress up however they like, to dance, sing and celebrate this release with me!”
Why did you decide to launch your album in Iceland?
“Iceland holds a special place in my heart. It’s very deep, I’m still pinching myself when I talk about it, but I just love the people and the energy that the country gives me. When I first came in 2015, I was so surprised by people’s reactions to my work. It was the first time I felt like people truly “got” what I was doing, what I was trying to say. I truly never imagined I’d build a network of close friends in a foreign place like Reykjavik, but I’m just so grateful for all the support and love I’ve gotten from such a small place. Icelanders are full of soul, always striving for a better future. To release my debut album in Iceland… it’s the biggest highlight of my life so far.”