Interview with D E N A

Photo Credit: Obi Blanche

Photo Credit: Obi Blanche

Hiya D E N A!  I’m so excited to have this chance to touch base with you.  You super-catchy song “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” made big waves around the world this summer.  You’ve also released a run of other infectious singles this past year, the latest being “Bad Timing”.  How did 2013 go for you?  Will you be dropping your debut album soon?

Hi! 2013 has been a great year, thank you! “CDR$P” was released on Kitsuné in early February, then I dropped my video for “Thin Rope” a few months ago.  In March I played at SXSW in Texas and a few club shows in Italy, Paris and London. Excited to be putting out more singles, before I eventually and hopefully drop my full length album this year! 

Will all the songs on your debut album be in line with the material you’ve already released, which is rhythm and rhyme-centered?

They are all rhythm-centered actually! Even the ones I call “ballads” end up being very influenced and basically composed around beats.

You were born and raised in Bulgaria, but are now based in Berlin.  What attracted you to Berlin instead of Paris or London, or even NYC?

Berlin was a more realistical opportunity for me to move to, when I first came here in 2005. It was affordable to study and live in, and I already could speak German from Bulgaria, so that made sense. It turned out to be the ultimate choice of a place, since there is so much going on here, creatively and musically.

Speaking of international links, how did your connection with French record label Kitsuné come about?

They reached out after seeing the video for “CDR$P” and wanted to put it out, which I thought was the best link ever, so here we are now.

From what I’ve read, you’ve already made a name for yourself on the live circuit in Europe.  What is the vibe like at your shows?  Who shares the stage with you?

It’s really cool, I play with Anna; she’s the backing vocalist from Copenhagen, who I met in Berlin. She is singing and triggering some beat sequences and, yeah, helping me do those vocal harmonies live. It’s really fun onstage; I kinda dance a lot and in the meantime play some keyboard.

Video still from "Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools"

Video still from “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools”

Going back to your tunes, “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” was released as an EP with 5 remixes a while back.  How did you decide who would remix your song? Do you have a preference out of the 5?  I’m digging the Lou Teti remix because he smoothes it out with a mellow to bouncing beat.

I love all the remixes! Every one of them is special and cool to be played on the dancefloor. Yeah, the Lou Teti one is great, ‘cause it gives the track a whole new perspective that’s more connected to an acoustic or indie vibe! Personally, I connect to the one that Stefan Goldmann made the most, ‘cause we talked about it and he made a reference to this Bulgarian pop-folky crazy genre called chalga. It’s a crazy genre down there in Bulgaria, connecting oriental beats and pop music kind of vibes. So his remix of “CDR$P” is a reference to that style.

I just have to ask about that recurring ringing door bell sound found in the song.  Why did you include that in the mix?  Is it an announcement that your friends have arrived and the party by the pool is getting started?

Haha, that’s a cool question! Yes, that’s definitely the “HELLO, I am here” bell. More precisely, Jonas Verwijnen, my producer, put it in the song while we were finalizing it and I thought it represents exactly the “Hi, we are here and can we use your pool?” feeling.

I don’t think that everyone who listens to the chanting refrain of “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools” catches the nuance of your lyrics.  You’re basically saying that you *don’t* need the cash or diamond rings and that you just want to chill with your friends by the swimming pool.  Hypothetically though, if you did have a massive amount of cash, what would you splurge on?  I would help out my family and friends first, and then I would buy a private tropical island à la Johnny Depp.  One can dream, right?

Yeah, I also think I first would be exploring the opportunities of hanging out and paying everything for everyone. But then again, probably that’s gonna get super boring very fast. I was in a pool just yesterday thinking, the cool thing about a pool is actually sharing it and there being some kind of an action around it. Must be kinda boring to hang in there by yourself.

The direct video for “Cash, Diamond Rings, Swimming Pools, which was shot in the middle of a bustling marketplace, effectively drives home the point of your lyrics.  It looks like you were having a blast with the sellers and customers.  Where exactly was the video shot? I love finding obscure treasures at flea markets and garage sales.  What has been your favorite find?  Mine is a vintage single earring enclosing a tiny seahorse and mini seaweed.

We shot it here in Berlin, in a neighbourhood called Neukölln. It was the biggest fun ever, indeed. It happened very naturally, that people wanted to participate and were totally vibing on the track! Plamen Bontchev, who I shot the video with, has this talent to go talk to everyone around and making everyone feel comfortable, so yeah, that wasn’t very hard. The craziest thing I saw at this flea market was a bulletproof vest for € 1.

To read D E N A’s reply to a surprise secret question, go to: http://voices.yahoo.com/exclusive-interview-bulgarian-hip-pop-icon-d-12099434.html

Lastly, D E N A, can you please list your official site(s)?

WWW: http://denafromtheblock.com

FB:  http://facebook.com/denafromtheblock

TW: http://twitter.com/dena_ftb

SC: http://soundcloud.com/denaftb