In Conversation with Denni Ian

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you an intriguing Danish singer-songwriter and visual artist known as Denni Ian. Influenced by German romanticism, French symbolism and Chinese Tang poetry, Denni is combining folk, rock and punk into poetic expressions. We had a chance to speak with Denni about his single ‘Spleen’, staying motivated and much more.

Why did you decide to enter the music industry?

I just happened to drop by my aunt and her husband one evening when they were listening to some heavy metal on their stereo. I was a timid teenager at the time who didn’t feel very welcome at the religious school I went to. It was that evening at my aunt’s I discovered music in a form I didn’t know existed before. The nerve, the style and sound completely mesmerized me. I remember having this feeling of being spoken to with great understanding and I found a catalyst for a lot of oppressed feelings.

The day after I went out and bought a drum kit and my first band T-shirt, which eventually got me expelled from the school. I care for music because music was the first time I remember feeling the sensation and thrill of actually being alive. To me, music is art, nothing else. It is a way to help me keep on swimming in this crazy ocean.

Can you tell us about your release ‘Spleen’?

‘Spleen’ is the follow-up to ‘House of Mandatory Happiness’ which was the first single to be released from my forthcoming debut album. I’m not sure how to describe the single myself, but it has been described as a stripped-back, slow-burning ballad with poetic rhythm by music press.

The release of ‘Spleen’ is also a way to introduce my friend Mau Lindow whose delicate voice is accompanying me on the album. She is one of the people that I invited to be part of the album sessions.

What was the recording and writing process like?

The recording of the album was swift and almost violent in a way. The only thing completed before the sessions were the lyrics and some guitar patterns. Everything else on the album was written in the moment of recording. Two songs on the album were even written in the studio between takes – no rehearsal, just pure intuition. Most of the guest musicians had not even heard the songs before they went into the studio. Improvisation was key.

I don’t like to be treading water for too long when it comes to the creative process. You can easily edit the soul out of the music, which sometimes seems to be the default approach for certain artists. I believe in making art in explosive expressions and not thinking too much about if the lines are straight.

 

 

Does the single have a significant meaning for you?

It does, but it’s not fixed. Things have happened in my life since I wrote the album which has changed the way I hear it. In a way, the meaning of the songs has transformed with me. All of my work is very autobiographical, but the thing with using biographical source material is that it ceases to be interesting if you get lost in the idea that your work is about yourself.

The other day, a guy wrote and told me that certain lyrics of ‘Spleen’ reflected his personal life in some ways he couldn’t exactly pinpoint. The lines just spoke to him and that’s the important part. I want to touch the subjects that leave pressure on my heart without being exhibitionistic about it. I’m just mending old wounds really.

What do you hope people take from your music?

Whatever they need.

What is more challenging for you – melody or lyrics?

I don’t think it’s an either/or scenario; however, as someone who has studied literature for the past five years, lyrics are surely the most important element to me. I spend a lot of time on the lyrical part and it’s often a lingering process. My lyrics are in a state of constant motion until the time of recording.

Melodies just happen. Writing shouldn’t be a struggle and I don’t care much for the concept of writer’s block. If you’re able, you’re able. If you’re not, you’re not. I write because I need it and in that way, it’s hard to force. I’m not a commercial artist, I bleed when I have something to bleed for. When not, I don’t bother.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

By telling myself that life is short and very much worth acting out, along with a strong coffee. Motivation is not something I worry too much about because I tend to become very depressed and dysfunctional when I’m not working. You could say that I’m motivated by holding that unpleasant state of mind at bay.

How would you describe your sound?

I’d rather not, but I want to think of it as bone-seeking, raw and unpolished. I’m influenced by lofi aesthetics in folk and punk music, but a lot of my inspiration, when it comes to sound, is actually found in paintings. I think there is a lot of almost acoustic qualities in paintings which I like to reflect in my sound.

I had a piece by Asger Jorn hanging in the studio when we recorded the album. Honestly, I want my sound to be something like a piece by the Norwegian painter Edward Munch. I would never describe it as such, but I hear a lot of music in his work.

What do you think is the best way to discover new music?

Being around curious people who don’t listen to the radio.

What does the future hold for you?

Thinking about the future often tends to turn into an existential cul-de-sac for me, especially these days. There is a third single coming out in a month or so and I’ll be working on the second album next year.

The rest of 2020 will be dedicated to finishing up my Master’s thesis in comparative literature while launching the release of my debut album. Hopefully, in the absence of hardship and without too much longing, I would like the future to have something to do with love…but who knows?

Do you have a message for our readers?

Smile at a stranger once in a while, it might help them keep swimming.

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