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A Compelling Contradiction: An Interview With Black Sea Dahu

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A woman taking complete control of her personal narrative and shaping it with just her voice and a guitar is a mighty powerful and liberating thing. Artists like Joni Mitchel, Ani Difranco, and June Carter Cash are some who come to mind, and indie folk singer-songwriter (and band) Black Sea Dahu fits in there as well. It only takes one listen to the tumultuous and compelling recent album White Creatures to understand this connection.

Stereo Embers had the good fortune of conversing with Switzerland-based Janine about her band Black Sea Dahu. Check out the intense personal and enlightening convo below:

Stereo Embers Magazine: Hello Janine! It’s so cool to get the chance to talk with you about your music. So – Who is Black Sea Dahu?

Janine: I am the one writing all the songs, but I have great musicians around me who help me fulfill my sonic vision. We just all work together and I try to stay true to myself and my idea of what it should sound like. We’re a band, but I reserve the right of a veto against everything. It’s strange that it’s so hard to clearly answer this question. We are a gang, a family, a collective, but if I leave, Black Sea Dahu won’t exist anymore. If they leave, it’ll still be here, because I am.

SEM: I needed to ask that because it seems like every time you play, the configuration is slightly different…

J: True, you might see me perform solo one night and the next day we’re a six-piece band. I like performing my songs in various set-ups because I’ve had the experience that music needs to change, to live and breathe – It needs to be able to move. When I’m on stage alone I play differently than with the whole band, and my crowd usually understands the lyrics more clearly. Some people can relate more when I play my songs with the band and others just don’t; everyone is different.

SEM: Your new record White Creatures is imbued with this sense of awe. It feels like the world, even if it’s dark at times, is somehow magical. Is that your regular frame of mind?

J: What a beautiful observation! Yes, you could totally say that. Both sides are very tempting for me, which is why on the one hand I get really desperate and lonely sometimes on this earth, but on the other hand, I am truly grateful to be able to spend time here. Music accounts for a very big part of this magical side of the world.

SEM: Another thread running through these songs is the complexity and complicated nature of love. Do you think love is complicated by design?

J: Love always scares the hell out of me. I never get the closeness and distance thing right, and I trust people, but I expect them to hurt me anyway, which makes me a person driven by contradictions and inner conflicts. I’ve never experienced anything else.

SEM: I could imagine that a life lived on stage doesn’t make it any easier…

J: Being in love with someone who’s touring as well and understands what I’m doing, and most importantly WHY I’m doing it, is definitely making it easier. But I’m always on tour, always busy and working, rehearsing, working a part-time job in my “free time”… Being on tour sucks you in like a vacuum and you forget calling or texting back home, be it your friends or your lover. At least that’s what’s it’s like for me. But honestly, to be the one on tour trumps being the one waiting at home.

SEM: Do you enjoy this lifestyle? Last I saw, you had something like forty upcoming shows…

J: I’ve always been like that; very intense and all-in, looking for difficult and challenging situations, testing my own limits. These days I ask myself very often: “Is this really what I want, can I pull this off?” And then, every fiber of my being is calm and focused and that’s my answer. It’s gonna be tough, as our tour plan is very tight already, and we’re adding shows weekly. We’ll need to be very patient and understanding with each other on tour and give each other space. It’ll be hard, but I know I’m on the right path. This is exactly where I need to be.

SEM: How do you stay grounded with such a busy schedule?

J: I usually feel pretty heavy all the time, anyway, so that helps. (laughs) Anyway, jokes aside, I discovered that reading crime novels clears my head. It’s probably just me escaping into another world, reading about completely other stories and other lives to deal with my own stress. I try to remember that it’s not about money or fame, but about spending my time on earth doing something I love and enjoy; something that gives me the feeling of making sense.

Find out more about Black Sea Dahu