Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani
Danniel Oickle’s new album Blitzkrieg is about love as an act of war: from tiny inequities to fallings out to near-fatal attractions. Not simply another album about love, his songs take side roads into identity politics and a deeply religious upbringing, with hints of a military fetish.
Those elements will play out at his CD release show tonight at the Mercury Lounge when Oickle in Stardust-style maquillage takes centre stage with musicians Alison Postma, Emmanuel Simon, and Phil Rushworth. Oickle will be clad in the red Royal Military College jacket he scooped at a Montreal vintage store, further emphasizing that duty-bound-and-booty-shaking dichotomy that’s all over the album and in sartorial cues on concert posters around the city.
“We’re going for this post-apocalyptic military-mixed-with-Clockwork Orange kind of an atmosphere,” he summarizes.
When making an album, the graphical concept is never far from Oickle’s mind. He is a visual artist who works often in photography. It’s clear that the camera loves him just as much, and so during our interview I ask in Bonnie Findley to shoot the discussion.
Findley is part of Oickle’s Torrid Productions, the formal name for a social circle of people with common interests in music and visual arts. She, like Oickle, grew up in a military family and they bond over the details of their similar upbringing. Findley (stage name BonBon) also sings backing vocals on Oickle’s album.
We’re sitting in the basement studio of the house Oickle shares with his husband Yves, a pilot, near St. Paul’s University. A cheeky cross-stitching that reads “Homo Sweet Homo” welcomes visitors. Between stories, Oickle hops to the piano to belt out a song from his new album, or a favourite track from his friend and collaborator C.C. Trubiak.
Oickle talks about being homeschooled, about coming out (his mom cried, had a confusion of faith, and came to accept it and even counsel other parents who asked for support); of dealing with the tut-tutting when he posed in a crown of thorns on the cover of Capital Xtra; of the “demonization of pleasure,” a concept he’s explored on previous albums. Through it all, I wonder about a sense that Oickle is bursting out from repression. It’s a feeling you’re left with after listening to Blitzkrieg.
Not quite repression — but an exploration, he says. “I was raised Baptist; it was a ‘Praise Jesus’ kind of world,” Oickle says. “I play a lot with religion, but it’s not because I devalue it. I think it has value, interest, and power—which is why I think people are afraid to second guess it or debate it or even talk about it.”
Growing up, Oickle, 33, says his questions about religion were never answered. The word of god was simply that.
“It didn’t make any sense. Why can’t we debate this?” he says. “It’s like you’ve cut and pasted it already. You’re not allowed to have multiple wives anymore, you can wear fabrics of two types, and you can sow more than one seed in a field. Come on. You’ve already picked and chosen what aspects of the bible you’re going to follow and yet we can’t debate the rest?” he asks.
That line of questioning flows throughout the album, but in the context of love. He sings “though shall not trespass” in a song called “The Sacrifice” about being in a relationship with someone who is totally wrong for you and that leaves you feeling used, devoured, charred — in other words, sacrificed.
The new album, Oickle’s third, packs a punch in terms of symbolism. There’s a bit of disco relief when he phases in a beat to break up the sentiment, or else he’ll dip back into his 1990s CD collection to do a vivid doo-wop rendering of Marilyn Manson’s “The Dope Show” and a theatrical bayou boom-chica-ow-ow version of that non-sequitur Marcy Playground song called “Sex and Candy.”
The opening track “The Sun Is Up” is a beachy acoustic number that beautifully displays Oickle’s comfortable range. Elsewhere on the album he’s got a basement-low boom and in other spots he’ll ooh-ahh into choirboy territory
— a full vocal range to complement the range of ideas on a clubby and complex album.