Zola Jesus— "Sia gives me hope that pop music is ready to loosen its strait jacket." – Telekom Electronic Beats

Zola Jesus— “Sia gives me hope that pop music is ready to loosen its strait jacket.”

The elegant alt-pop singer filled out our latest ABC column with wise maxims about death, nose jobs, and the mainstream music industry.

For Nika Roza Danilova, creating Zola Jesus was a way of coming to terms with quitting the opera training she’d undertaken between the ages of seven and seventeen. While the project came to life as a lo-fi affair, Danilova’s gravitation towards pop became apparent on her second album, 2010’s Stridulum II (Souterrain Transmissions). There, cavernous space and a fondness for gloomy power ballads inspired some corners of the music press to label her sound “goth”—a categorization that was  underscored to a certain extent by last year’s Versions (Sacred Bones, 2013). With her fourth album Taiga (Mute) under her belt, the former philosophy student tells us what’s playing in her mind.

A

…as in ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER. Favorite Schopenhauer quote: “After your death, you will be what you were before your birth.”

B

…as in BBC RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP. When I was doing a Maida Vale session for Rob da Bank’s Radio 1 show, I made someone at the studio show me the room the BBC Radiophonic Workshop used to work out of. It’s no longer used for the same purpose, but I could still smell old tape reels and Delia Derbyshire’s perfume.

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C

…as in CONRAD SCHNITZLER. Conrad & Sohn is the best father/son record I’ve ever heard.

D

…as in DEATH, the greatest motivator.

E

…as in EMPIRES. Genghis Khan, all the way.

F

…as in FRENCH. “Il faut cultiver notre jardin,” as Voltaire wrote at the end of Candide.

G

…as in GOTH. Lazy journalism.

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H

…as in HATERS. Haters love to hate on my nose, yet accuse others of being vain and insecure for getting plastic surgery. Make up your mind, because I have: the nose is staying.

I

…as in INDEPENDENT. If you were the last person on Earth, could you get on?

J

…as in JESUS, a figure that holds all the power for some, and nothing for others.

K

…as in KINDNESS. It’s one of the few things that separates us from the savage.

L

…as in LIBERTARIANISM. Harm principle!

M

…as in MUTE, a legacy I’m proud to be a part of.

N

…as in NO FUTURE. No future for you/No future for me.

O

…as in OPERA, an art form on the edge of becoming obsolete. Microphones killed the opera star.

P

…as in PHILIP GLASS. I recently saw Einstein on the Beach, and it was one of the most transcendental live experiences I’ve ever had. His work puts the listener in a trance and pushes you further inward with each repetition.

Q

…as in QUASAR. The only thing cooler than a black hole is a quasar.

R

…as in RUSSIA, my ancestors, deeply familial. Frustratingly troubled.

S

…as in SIA, who is responsible for some of the best pop songs on the radio. For someone as uncompromising and unique as her to have a hit record in the States gives me hope that pop music is ready to loosen its strait jacket.

T

…as in TRAPPED. It’s easier to feel trapped than to feel free. Humans thrive in structure but that can quickly imprison us if we’re not careful.

U

…as in UNDERWHELMED. I’m allergic to it. If you can’t poke and prod people and incite strong feelings, do nothing.

V

…as in VOID. Fear of the void keeps me awake at night.

W

…as in WISCONSIN. Snow. Birch forest. Deer. Wolves. Ginseng fields. Home.

X

…as in THE XX, an extremely sweet & hard-working bunch with a solid vision.

Y

…as in YOUTH. I fed into the ego/I fought what brought me closer to my youth.

Z

…as in ZOLA. Harsh realist.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue ofElectronic Beats Magazine. Keep an eye out for the next edition, as it will arrive soon!