One thing that impresses me when hearing new music is difference. I enjoy that people interpret ideas and thoughts differently and I also enjoy that they output those ideas through unusual means, whether it be musically, through instrumentation, vocally or lyrically. During the several listens through Brigitte Aphrodite’s new single, ‘Creshendorious’ I encountered a real mix of feelings.
Excitement, uneasiness, intrigue, and a real sense that music is perhaps just a mere cog in Brigitte’s creative wheel. I get the impression that, for Brigitte, if it was not music then it would be theatre, if not theatre then poetry and if not poetry then she would find some other way of expressing herself and upon further investigation of her press release it appears that my first impression may be true, with Brigitte having written her own musical ‘My Beautiful Black Dog’ (recently performed at this summer’s Latitude and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals). The title refers to Winston Churchill’s code name for the depression he was suffering, calling it ‘My Black Dog’.
From the off Brigitte, her ideas and her music were intriguing so I decided to find out more by emailing her a set of questions. The interview touches on her creative process as well as her feelings on depression and how, if at all, it impacts on her life and creativity.
EP: Depression is obviously an important subject matter for your art. How much of your art is created as a way of you dealing with mental health issues?
BA: This show & album has mental health at its heart. It really is a piece that helped me make sense of myself, my illness & the world around me. Currently i am writing about other things but when I am feeling unwell I makes collages with glitter as a way of therapy (see picture below).
EP: How does depression impact on what you do musically? How does it impact on your life and career choices?
BA: A. Without shitty dog-shit depression I don’t think I would be the lyricist I am.
B. It makes a big impact on my life. I am more aware of it now and because of that I sometimes have to take my time with things. For example, if I’m starting to feel overwhelmed at work I just have to slow down & communicate this with the people that I am working with. I am not ashamed of this but I used to be.
EP: You appear to have a deliberately upbeat attitude towards depression, using the word Beautiful as opposed to just calling it ‘Black Dog’, are your intentions to lighten the subject in order to try and remove the stigma attached?
BA: I am not saying depression is beautiful but I am, we are & the world can be. Whopping the word ‘beautiful’ in the title of the show is about taking ownership over the depression. Even when the black dog is all consuming it is still only a part of what I am made up of, it does not define me. It does not define us! Nothing does, not our relationships, not our sexuality, not the colour of our skin, not our difficult past, not our class, not our age, not our rage, not our partners, not our gender, not our race, not our socially deemed disabilities, not our jobs, not our dress sense, not our weight and seriously fuck any one that tells us it does!
EP: Do you ever see a day when the understanding of depression and mental health is wider and greater?
BA: Yes I feel like something is about to shift…more people are talking about it than ever before in the UK.
The big problem we have is the government. They really need to recognise & take responsibility for the fact that we are in a time of the crippling austerity, normal people are much poorer, living conditions are much harder hence mental health illness is on the up, but funding for mental health is lower than ever before. This is fucked up. This is a social emergency: people are very ill and have nowhere to turn to. We all need to keep shouting for change.
EP: I get the impression that music is only a small part of how you creatively express yourself. Is this the case?
BA: Music makes my soul fly; I could not live without it. But yes my work is informed by many things- poetry, comedy, social change, writing shows, dancing, painting, cooking, acting. What I wear is also part of my expression (i sound like a right wanker don’t I!? Haha Sorry!)
EP: With the last question in mind, what would you be doing if there was no music?
BA: I’d be a market stall owner selling fruit & veg – I like being loud so the outdoor environment would suit me & I am good at selling shit & market stall owners sort of sing the offers which is cool “Pouaaand for a Pouannd!”
EP: How does the creative process begin for you? Does it begin musically or do ideas, stories or concepts come first?
BA: Step 1: Reading, research, listening to songs, watching films, going out & chatting to people.
Step 2: Next I lock myself away & stories & lyrics come first.
Step 3: I then pick up a guitar and start doing melodies then put it together, the lyrics inform the feeling of the melody. ’Bish bash bosh’ a new song is born.
For more info on Brigitte’s upcoming shows, new music and performances check out her website here.