White Creatures – the debut full-length from Swiss outfit Black Sea Dahu – is the type of record that will rearrange your internal architecture and, ultimately, make you see the world and yourself anew. If you let it. When you press play, you are basically committing to a vision quest, an x-ray like rendering of the human condition as experienced by vocalist and songwriter, Janine Cathrein. The entire journey – because that’s what it feels like – is set to a gritty, dusty, yet orchestrally rich and cinematic take on the urban folk aesthetic. The arrangements sound huge throughout, as they support and amplify the carefully calibrated and emotionally saturated songwriting (and performances) – the type that you would normally expect from artists with a long discography. This, on the other hand, is just “day one” of the project. White Creatures was written over a period of four years and was recorded at a remote studio located in Giske, Norway, in a series of 17 cabin-fever inducing days.
1: Many humans have forgotten that animals literally fight for their lives when being brought to the slaughterhouse.
2: You don’t need all that stuff, you need less.
3: Idiots are everywhere and their nationality doesn’t matter.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Anything. Just life. Inspiration is a drug.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I started playing the violin when I was 6. My mother sang kids songs with me and my siblings when we were little. There was always music around me when I grew up either because my mother was playing herself or made us practise, or because my father put on Prince, Erykah badu or Simon & Garfunkel records. I also took piano lessons for two years when I was 7 or so but the piano teacher didn’t like that I always looked at my fingers and played by hard instead of looking at the notes, haha. I was a girlscout and loved the singsongs around the campfire. Once one of the scout leaders taught me how to play one chord on the guitar and I hardly did anything else than practice every chord I could find in the back of the scout-songbook for the rest of the camp, I was SO HOOKED! I was so interested and addicted to the feeling of learning something without anyone telling me that I was doing something wrong or how it’s supposed to look like or sound like, there was NO pressure but my own ambition and interest and that felt SO good. No pressure, the freedom to play for yourself… I wrote tons of songs. Music actually became the reason why I would try and move on, endure hard times and desperation, let myself stay alive: to wait for the next piece that would make me feel something.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Mr Jukes – God
Mnevis – Episodes
Haubi Songs: His album will be released in March and it’s awesome!
Ben Howard – Every Kingdom
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Stories others tell me. The wall, and that my sister was born on the day that it fell.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
Anywhere with a view. I’m desperate for wide open spaces and being able to look into faraway distance.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Probably write. I wanted to say I’d be a dancer but I’d need music for that so… To think of an existence without music makes my chest ache.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Milian Otto – Schattenseite
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Anderson .Paak or Blake Mills.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Phew… I played in Bern at Via Felsenau just recently and everyone was sitting around us and listening. It felt good and natural and we were able to connect to the crowd, the imaginary line between stage and crowd blurred and when that happens then any show is a great show. Andy Shauf blew me away in Switzerland a few years ago and I still talk about that show with some of my friends who are still amazed just like me!
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
I record ideas on my phone and demos on my computer. This is how I worked on my music since I was 12 years old, it’s pretty important to the process of my writing songs. I like to work a couple rounds on a demo on my computer.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
Yes, my big sister and my little brother are both in this band too. We’re all in the same boat. Being as close as we are can make everything more complicated, emotional and intense than it needs to be, but then again we carry each other and we are on this great adventure together. Team spirit makes you feel at home anywhere.
Bleak Sea Dahu is on tour – don’t miss out on the band’s show at Berghain Kantine on Sunday, 10th February 2019!
Photo © Paul Märki