Many releases by German-Venezuelan singer and songwriter Yvonee Cornelius aka Niobe show a very intriguing eclectic pot-pourri with elements from jazz, exotica, ’30es cabaret and electronic music coupled with masterfully processed vocals. The brighter mood she radiates on her new album “Child of Paradise”, which is going to be released by Onglagoo Records on 20th June, is likewise engaging. We had a chat with this charming lady about all of that and more!
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Yvonne. You seem to be in top artistic shape, aren’t you?
Niobe: Thank you!
Chain D.L.K.: My previous assumption comes from the listening of your forthcoming delightful album “Child of Paradise”… let’s give it a bit of an introduction… first of all, what’s the “binding agent” of its twelve songs?
Niobe: Insights! Empirical findings, deliverance from incomprehension, why are people so cruel to each other, that is the main binding of this album. “Child Of Paradise” starts to illustrate my complete relief.
Chain D.L.K.: “Child Of Paradise” comes three years after your previous “The Cclose Calll”… besides your intense voice, what are the main differences between these two releases in your own words?
Niobe: This is a wonderful question because you are so right!!! I’ll try to explain it as succinctly as I can: all the years before I produced “Child of Paradise” seemed like “a total solar eclipse” to me. A lot of life secrets, whose solutions were really hard to reveal, or to penetrate into the mysteries of glaring injustice… then I discovered ALICE MILLER!!!!!!! …a psychoanalyst who repositioned the family as a locus of dysfunction with her theory that parental power and punishment lay at the root of nearly all human problems ” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/us/27miller.html?_r=0). From that moment, Alice Miller changed my life. All her books are so important to me. While “The Cclose Calll ” was between “humoresque” and frantic (I am totally desperate about the fact that human beings are capable to destroy each other), “Child of Paradise” is a kind of starting shot, an enlightenment through Alice Miller, Erich Fromm, Marie-France Hirigoyen.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any track you like to sing by your own? If so, why?
Niobe: I did search for other singers for a long time, but at the moment I have to sing all the lyrics by myself.
Chain D.L.K.: Some tracks were composed and recorded in South Africa and Italy… can you tell us more about your specific sources for inspiration?
Niobe: I recover the experiences of my wonderful life. So the inspiration could be the novel “Noces” by Albert Camus or an exhibition of my favourite artist Lucio Fontana, or my wonderful time, when I used to live in a kind of “Bauhaus” building by myself with a swimming pool and, on the first floor, a bathtub with a view of the Atlantic Ocean and a beach, 90 miles away from Capetown (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usN_W027ZBc&feature=youtu.be). I was inspired by my time spent in a wonderful villa residence nearby San Remo as well.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve read you needed a lot of time to enhance and smooth out”Child Of Paradise”… what’s wrong with the very first “draft”?
Niobe: All the very first drafts were wandering in the “wastebasket”. You have to imagine a kind of strained out work. I need a long time until I am content with the whole song from the beginning to the end. When I can hear my song hundreds of times, then it’s a good song. I can not to relish to produce a whole album in a few days. I am often reading how proudly “producers” tell about how quickly they finished a whole album or how they finished a song in 5 minutes! These “moneymakers” seem very decadent to me, like a megalomaniac’s crashing bore.
Chain D.L.K.: Most of your past releases came on Tomlab… is there any reason your new one is not being released by them?
Niobe: Tomlab stopped his labelwork. Onglagoo Records is a fantastic label, which will release great artists in the next months and years.
Chain D.L.K.: Some musical entities appear and disappear in your songs as if they were sudden thoughts. In your own creative process, do you give more voice to experience or memories?
Niobe: I just entertain myself in the first moment with memories, the experience is behind. I say “remote corners” to that or “characteristic winkle”.
Chain D.L.K.: You are half German and half Venezuelan… do you think your double ethnicity has an influence in your own music in one way or another?
Niobe: Of course! My father is a South American musician and my blonde, blue-eyed mother has a really brilliant taste for music. So while my mother was pregnant with me, I heard a lot of good music… ever since I was inside her belly.
Chain D.L.K.: Some exotic moments of your music reminded me of other similar remarkable “syncretic” contemporary musical stuff (for instance “James”, the track which features Nils Ostendorf on trumpet vaguely recalled some moments of Sao Paulo Underground’s “Três Cabeças Loucuras”)… are there any musicians or musical project you consider closer to your way of making and conceiving music?
Niobe: In 2008 I was invited to a Music festival in Sao Paulo. The city of Sao Paulo itself is a real music inspiration! Sao Paulo Underground is a wonderful group and I am pretty sure that we share favorite musical tastes.
Chain D.L.K.: Some other moments sound like nostalgic reveries about some undefined gone l’age d’or (golden age)… is it so?
Niobe: “Radio Los Angeles” is a song inspired by F.Scott Fitzgeralds’ novel about the Golden Age before the Great Depression. I do love the way vocals have been recorded… they are so close and fragile.
Chain D.L.K.: Are you going to bring “Child of Paradise” on a live stage?
Niobe: Yes of course. We will go on a big European tour as a trio with Christian Thomé (Drums) and Marc Matter (Turntables).
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the source of inspiration for “La Toile”?
Niobe: The lyrics have been written by Roberto Cabot. Roberto is a French Brasilian artist and wrote a lot of lyrics for NIOBE. Once Roberto fell in love with a total crazy girl, this girl destroyed him slowly and as a consequence, he wrote these words while in a state of love sickness and total confusion. I loved those lyrics and tried to produce the music with Chris Beemster in a tough way so that vocals seem innocent and sweet like from a wallflower.
Chain D.L.K.: “Form My World Anew” seems to be an open invitation… how can we help you reach such a purpose?
Niobe: It is an invitation to join the tunes and love the melody. I always tried to produce and create a positive song like this – now it happened!
I do see a mix between Jane Fondas Aerobic times and the beautiful People in the Film “FAME” of 1980. In that time, I was a little child and tried to understand the unbounded ambition of each dancer. Today I am producing a song for “these Dancers” – I start with my piano an vocals and after that, Christian Thomé (Drums) and Bernie Deus (bass) battled and pushed that song in a way, that made me obsessed by the idea to produce a video with a lot of super dancers with Luca Mattei (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymYl3YKYvfY)… maybe in Rimini.
Chain D.L.K.: Is the track “Enniio” a reference to Ennio Morricone?
Niobe: Yes, he is my big love.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the analogy between your personality and the same-named character of Greek mythology?
Niobe: I do know a lot of unfairness and injustice. In my eyes I mirror the sad story of NIOBE and the real tragedy of life. People today still believe that Niobe’s myth is all about her fault as all her innocent children got killed by Leto’s son. But it isn’t. She is just a victim of purely free will. She is a victim of pure envy and jealousy. And this is the main theme of “Child Of Paradise”.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you remember your reaction after David Byrne chose your album “White Hats” as the album of the year in 2007?
Niobe: He’s very savvy! I was totally impressed that he recommended me to the legendary “Kitchen” club in New York. A few months later David Grubbs and myself presented a wonderful evening there.
Chain D.L.K.: Any forthcoming projects?
Niobe: Indeed! Next year I will produce an album with wonderful genius drummer Cyril Atef from Paris. He works a lot with Haitian musicians in Port au Prince. A magic potency!!! This year I will go to Rio de Janeiro to produce new “drafts” for the album Nr.8 , but meanwhile I am happy about Nr.7!