Back Issue__ FAN DEATH: PSYCHIC HEARTS HEAL
Fan Death is bringing disco back. Having gained recognition from Perez Hilton and Diplo, the duo is now working on spreading their dark disco music worldwide. In an intimate interview we unveil Dandi and Marta as people, not just stage performers. The duo recently visited the place where Frida Kahlo, one of their female idols, used to hang out in Mexico City, and in our exclusive photo shoot shot by Wayne Webb, we feature the duo as Kahlo but with a gothic twist.
Interview: Mish Way
Photography: Wayne Webb
Styling: Gillian Damborg
I get a text from Dandi, one half of the dynamic disco duo Fan Death, five minutes before our scheduled shoot. She has had an emotional day and her face is puffy. We've been warned. But when Dandi finally walks in, rain soaked and sullen, I surprise her with a mini-bottle of Fireball—her favorite cinnamon whiskey. She smiles at the bottle and lets out an infectious laugh. "After this week, I really need this!"
After this year, the members of Fan Death, Dandilion Wind Opaine (formerly of industrial-punk duo Dandi Wind) and Marta Jaciubek-McKeever (formerly of Girl Nobody and currently of E.S.L), could use a bath tub of cinnamon whiskey. In the last twelve months, Fan Death has toured throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Russia, conceptualized and produced three new music videos, two of which landed them some major attention on gossip site, Perez Hilton and finally gotten the go-ahead to record their full length album on Last Gang Records in North America and Mercury in the UK. Luckily, the ladies of Fan Death thrive in these sorts of chaotic circumstances.
Dandi and Marta, who have been performing as Fan Death (named after the South Korean urban legend that says a fan left on overnight can kill those inside) for about two years are gaining attention for the elegant balance they strike between electronic pop ("Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode," according to Fan Death.) and golden disco glam—effortless female vocals protecting a swarm of ear-pleasing, mid-tempo strings and twinkling keys. With two 12-inches, adoring love from superstar trend-setter Diplo, and a DJ Erol Alkan remix (Erol added his touch to Fan Death's track, "Veronica's Veil" and the song blew up) under their glittering belts, the ladies of Fan Death are working harder than ever to keep the praise alive. This month they embark on a European tour with New York's latest new wave sensation, Vampire Weekend, and another Fan Death video will premiere upon their return to their hometown, Vancouver BC, Canada, in March. A video, Dandi says, has been brewing in her mind for years, long before Fan Death existed. Hence, the emotional day. The puffy face. "After the forty hours of shooting. I had the most bizarre emotional experience. Like a shedding of the skin. It was very strange," Dandi says.
As Dandi and Marta get their hair done—and drink whiskey to calm their spark—I sit with them to talk about making music videos, eating animals (no veggies or buns), not knowing who Prince is, Grace Jones, psychic healing, touring and how Courtney Love once saved Dandi's life.
You've been doing more directing. Why do you like making music videos?
Dandi: I'm a very visual person and I like exploring that with film and animation. Today, the best way to promote your music is by making videos and it is fun. That's why we make so many videos. And for me, it's kind of obsessive. I just can't stop.
I like the guy who spins the plates in your Reunited video. The guy who plays Prince.
Dandi: I found that guy on Craigslist. He used to be in Cirque du Soleil. His name is Mr. Fantastic. He is from Kenya. He has all kinds of circus talents. He jumps through rings of fire.
Marta: Remember he didn't want to be in the video as Prince, he wanted to play himself. He was all angry like, “Who's this Prince guy?”
Dandi: [Laughs] I had to loan him "Purple Rain."
Marta: I got to play Courtney Love in one part.
I never would picture her as one of your idols.
Dandi: It's a weird story. When I was seventeen I met Courtney Love at the airport. I had never been on a plane before and I was on my way to Brazil, all by myself. I had a panic attack because I had no idea you had to go through customs and security. I was shaking, crying, asking people where my gate was. I finally just huddled in the corner. Then, Courtney Love spotted me and she walked over. I was completely star struck. She asked me what was wrong and I told her I couldn't find my gate. Then she screamed so loud, “Somebody fucking help this girl! She needs help!” Her outfit was insane. She was wearing like, a thong and a scarf.
Of course she was. Courtney rules. You guys are constantly touring. How does this make you feel?
Dandi: Sometimes I really hate it. It can be amazing because you get to see so many countries and cities, but it's just so fast. It's weird when you come off tour because when you are traveling everyone treats you really well, especially in Europe. Then, you come home and you go back to the basement and it feels, you know, lonely. [Laughs] I get a crazy come down from tour.
Marta: Tell the story of the last time we were in Venice!
Dandi: When we were in Venice we were supposed to play an outdoor party and they said they would feed us. They had a barbecue set up where they were cooking full animals. We were starving because we had been traveling and we were so excited to eat. Then, they plunk down this massive tray of meat, just meat! Grisly, fatty, meaty-meat! No vegetables. They didn't even give us cutlery. We had to use our hands like Vikings!
Marta: Not even a bun! The whole time on tour Dandi kept saying, “Wait until we get to Venice. The food is so amazing!” [Laughs]
Did you both grow up in musical atmospheres?
Dandi: Not really, although my dad did play acoustic guitar. I grew up North in B.C. in between two small towns, in the forest, in a cabin. A tiny, tiny cabin. We grew our own vegetables and my dad hunted. We'd eat like grouse and wild chickens and stuff.
So, you could have been a vegetable farmer.
Dandi: If I hadn't had left right before I was a teenager who knows what would have become of me. [Laughs]
Marta: I grew up in Poland and moved to Canada when I was twelve. At four I started playing piano. I'm classically trained. My grandpa was self-trained accordion player. My dad was a healer.
Marta: Yeah. He healed this girl back in Poland who had fallen ill. No one knew what was wrong with her. She and I were born on the same day, an hour apart. My dad sat with her for a whole summer while she was sick and suddenly, she got better. He taught me some stuff when I was little.
Are you also psychic?
Marta: No, but I have a lot of powerful friends who are psychic and heal. Like, “Hey dude, what's in store for me? I don't know, let me just check your guides.” [Laughs] “Your guides say you should not be drinking your tap water.” Actually, that did happen, too much metal in my tap water. Thanks guides. [Laughs]
I used to be way into witchcraft when I was a kid, but then my Christian friend got me in trouble.
Dandi: We should play Ouija.
Marta: Oh my god! I've never done it! That is the one thing that kind of freaks me out.
Ouija is awesome. Okay, if you could live in any city in any time period where would you live and why?
Dandi: Maybe this is cliché but I think it would have been pretty cool to live in New York around 1973. I would love to have seen Times Square during that period, the old porno theaters and see the live sex shows. Experience that seedy vibe. There was so much amazing music and film during that time. [Fan Death] is very inspired by that time period.
Marta: I think I'd want to live in Berlin in the 1920s or Mexico City. The first time we went to Mexico was to film “Veronica's Veil,” which was in Puerto Vallarta and a totally amazing experience. Then, we went to Mexico City and I fell in love. We went to places where Frida Kahlo used to hang out. Mexico City must have been incredible during its heyday.
Who is your fashion icon?
Dandi: I don't have one single fashion icon. Maybe because I am a Gemini, I dress completely different every day. I really like the pimps and prostitutes of the mid-1970s. They were so classy and eccentric. It wasn't tacky. The 70s were such a beautiful era.
What about musical muses or people who inspire you?
Marta: Nina Simone. Grace Jones! Grace Jones, I've always found her-
Dandi: Out of this world, man!
Marta: Yeah, because come on, what the hell? Same with Nina Simone. What the hell? Amazing. I'm kind of obsessed with black women vocalists. I think black women just embody sexuality a lot more comfortably than white women. It was really apparent to me when I lived in New York. Maybe there is just something about our culture that makes us feel weird in our little bodies.
Do you feel weird in your body?
Marta: I think performing has helped me get over any insecurities I might have had because with performing you get to dress up and channel something bigger than yourself. But every day life is different. I mean, I feel awkward a lot of the time. I actually have to consciously meditate and work through it. I grew up Catholic, so I harbored a lot of guilt and shame about sexuality and my body.
Dandi, do you feel the same?
Dandi: No, not the same, but I think everyone has hang-ups about themselves. I am very tiny. So much smaller than the average woman, but I am still a woman and I am comfortable with myself. It's hard being a performer, doing photo shoots and stuff because you are always forced to think about your body and your image. I'm used to it now.
Why do you think it's important for girls to have strong female role models in music?
Dandi: I'm thinking about when I was younger, I first found Siouxsie Sioux when I was fifteen. I read an interview where she talked about her icon, Kate Bush. At the time, Kate Bush wasn't very popular in North America, I had to search for her stuff but when I found it, she changed my life. I think it's important for women to have access to all kinds of icons. Growing up I had Madonna and Janet Jackson records, but none of it really spoke to me until Kate Bush. I think that right now is a hard time for girls. I don't know who their icons could be? Lady Gaga? Girls today have like, what? Five choices?
Do you ever think about building yourself in an iconic way?
Dandi: I know that it is really hard to break through to young people. Fan Death is still new. I can't imagine something that big right now. I'd be happy connecting to fifty kids.
Marta: It's funny because my dad... okay, well I'm 5'4 and I weigh, like, a lot [laughs] and he said, "I’m really proud of you because I think that you are changing the image of what it means to be a woman.” This meant a lot to me. I really do feel like with [Dandi's] body type, she is so athletic, small and strong and me, well I look like I was born to harvest wheat. I'm burly! I think if anything I would have loved to have seen my body type growing up, especially in contrast with someone like Dandi. I grew up watching 90210 and I remember my first boyfriend was in love with Tori Spelling.
She was the worst one.
Marta: Yes, but she was also the skinniest one! So I grew up thinking that is what men want and it totally distorted my conception of my body should be like. So yeah, I hope that if we get to that stage we can set an example that let's girls know that it is okay to be the way you are. I'd like to think that we live in a world where people can do what they want with there bodies, but on the other hand, why can't we exist in a society that accepts the natural progress of our bodies?
When you perform are you conscious of your gender?
Dandi: When I performed in Dandi Wind I was not conscious of my gender. Actually, Marta was the first person to tell me that I was sexual on stage. I always just thought that I was asexual or just filled with aggression. With Fan Death it is much more feminine, slower, elegant. Marta would come to my shows and she would tell me that she would see people feeling uncomfortable because of my performance. Then, I'd have girls come up to me and say things like "I had to cover my boyfriends eyes when you were dancing!" I had no idea. But with Fan Death, it is much more glamorous and conscious, of course. I look at Marta and I riff off of her energy.
What would you be doing if you didn't have music in your life?
Dandi: Obviously if I didn't have music I would keep doing film, video, animation and sculpture. Music is not my number one form of art. I always say that I have not especially great at one thing, I try to do it all.
Marta: Dandi is an amazing sculpture! Her whole apartment is filled with these beautiful clay heads she has made. [Laughs] But if I wasn't doing music, I'd also probably get really bummed out, then go try some acting. I'd also have a million babies. I think right now I am plugging my baby hole with music. I would also have an aroma therapy farm. Grow lavender, heal people.
For now, you can just heal people with disco.