Interview: Delia Gonzalez

DFA’s synth explorer resurfaces with a new album

Delia Gonzalez’s new album Horse Follows Darkness is the latest in a long string of hypnotic, boundary-pushing efforts for the vaunted DFA label. In this excerpt from an interview on Red Bull Radio’s First Floor with Shawn Reynaldo, Gonzalez digs into the inspiration she took from Western films and her own painstaking visual art practice.

Delia Gonzalez Tsakonas

You recently moved to Athens, Greece. What brought you there?

It was pretty unexpected. If you would have told me last October that I was going to be living in Athens now, I would have been really confused. I was about to move back to Berlin in December and a friend found a sublet in Athens. At the time I was and I still am homeschooling my son. I thought, “Why not just try Athens for three months?” I had a lot of work to do. So, I went there and decided that I loved it.

Delia Gonzalez - Vesuvius

When you first started releasing music it was part of the early years of DFA, a time that was really formative for a lot of people, but at the same time the music that you were making with Gavin Russom didn’t have a lot in common with its dance-punk scene. Did you feel like you were a part of that scene or did you just get lumped into it?

I don’t think I ever felt like I was part of any scene at all. Before Gavin and I started working on that project, before we started working with DFA, we were actually in a heavy metal band together called Fight Evil With Evil. One day we were supposed to have a show, and for some reason our band members couldn’t play that night. Then we just started doing this music together. I don’t really know what to call it. During that time, Gavin started fixing all the vintage synths at DFA, since he’s a synth wizard. We had a show one night and I think Jon Galkin came to see us. He really liked our music and he just decided to put out a record.

Now that you’re more than a decade removed from the height of that DFA era, how do you look back on that time?

That was just a completely different time in general. I feel like that was several volumes away, just because the world is so different now. I guess at that time things felt more exciting. There were other bands involved with DFA. There was a different energy in New York at that time.

I have a really good relationship with DFA. I really respect them because they really respect me.

DFA as a label opened up quite a bit stylistically over the years, but even now your music is something of an outlier on the label. What’s your relationship like with DFA? What keeps you working with them?

I have a really good relationship with DFA. I really respect them because they really respect me. Two years ago, they put out In Remembrance, and that record was completely outside of the DFA world. But somehow they really like what I’m doing, and they really push what I’m doing.

With this last record, Horse Follows Darkness, I told them that I was ready to record a new album, and I started working with Abe Seiferth. He added all his magical touches.

You’re not living in the city right now, but how do you view New York? How has it influenced your music over the years?

The funny thing about New York is that, because I also make artwork, I find it easier to make music in New York than make art. It’s almost impossible for me to make art in New York. It’s really hard for me to sit there and focus. Music works faster for me, it’s more intuitive, and since New York is so super fast and chaotic, it’s easier for me to make music in New York.

Your new album Horse Follows Darkness was heavily inspired by the Western film genre. Could you explain a bit about that?

I stole the title Horse Follows Darkness from my son. He made a horror movie and the movie was titled Horse Follows Darkness. He didn’t want me to steal it, but I was just like, “You know, I gave birth to you. I have all rights to it.” Also, he’d started watching Westerns and he got me really into Westerns.

During this time, I had also moved back to New York with him. It was this initial shock where it was like, “Oh my God. The United States and New York are like the Wild West.” I was living in Berlin before, and comparing it with society and culture in Berlin, or in Germany, or in Europe, there’s more of a social behavior within the community. When you go back to New York, everyone’s in for themselves. I guess it all boils down to the economical setting in the United States, like the government doesn’t really help you, therefore you have to take care of yourself independently. In Europe, there’s a really good social system. So everyone’s responsible for each other.

When people think about the music of Westerns, artists like Ennio Morricone come to mind, but this album doesn’t really sound like a classic Western soundtrack. Was that an intentional aesthetic choice?

Yes and no. The album cover was definitely intentional and contrasted the music. I was doing a lot of research on Western movies, and it was after World War II that the idea of the Western expanded. So, anything could be considered a Western. A lot of people even consider Star Wars to be a Western. The music is my interpretation of a Western.

This is your second solo album, but the first one was essentially a piano score that came out of a series of exhibitions that you participated in. Was this record the first time that you sat down and thought, “I’m going to make a solo album?”

No. With that last record, although there was a film idea that went along with it, I also thought, “Oh, this is going to be a solo album.” I am planning to make a video to go along with the record at some point. Actually, this record was intended to be a soundtrack for a film that I want to make. When I make music, I always think of it as a soundtrack, even when I made music with Gavin. I’m really inspired by films.

Krautrock groups like Neu! and Cluster were referenced in the album’s announcement. What is it about those groups or that kind of music that appeals to you?

When I make music, I do so intuitively. I’m not thinking, “Oh, this is inspiring me or that’s inspiring me.” I’m not thinking about making a certain kind of music. I write my songs on piano and then I take it from there. It’s just an extremely intuitive process.

Delia Gonzalez - In Remembrance IV

Looking back over your catalog, even to the stuff that you did with Gavin Russom, it always had this sort of meditative, hypnotic quality to it, with subdued or nonexistent percussion elements. That’s carried through on the new album as well. It’s not really dance music, and I imagine it’s not meant to be. When you’re writing music, are you imagining any kind of particular functionality for it, or maybe a specific space in which you want your music to be heard?

No. I’m pretty self-centered when I’m writing music. Actually, the music really mirrors my artwork and drawings. I make drawings of tiny little circles, these tiny little repetitive cells. They’re super organic and I feel like if you saw my drawings and you heard my music, then you’d be like, “Oh my God, it fits in together. It makes sense.”

That’s why it’s very difficult for me to answer the question of, “How are you inspired by bands like Cluster?” A lot of the music that I’m making comes out of my artwork and my artwork also comes out of the music. It’s like this marriage between them. So, it’s also very visual.

By Shawn Reynaldo on May 15, 2017

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