The enigmatic divas connect
Zola Jesus Talks To Soap & Skin

Zola Jesus, AKA former philosophy student Nika Danilova, is an avant-industrial pop challanger with a fondness for haunting melodies.

Austrian-born Anja Plaschg records as Soap&Skin, crafting beautiful classically-infused electronica as dark and enchanting as Vienna at night.

Suitably connecting at night time, the two enigmatic divas met via the power of Skype, and attempted to meet somewhere in the middle of the language barrier that divided them, so as to discuss Austrian film directors and the risk of losing one’s self.

Zola: You have a new record coming out right?

Anja: Yes.

Zola: How do you feel about it?

Anja: Oh, I’m glad that I made it. But it’s not a whole album, it’s just a mini-album. It was important to do it and I thought I could not do it. Maybe I should tell you I have my English support here because my English is not that good.

Zola: Really? Your English is quite good. I feel the same way about my French, because I can speak French fluently but I get so scared when I’m in France because I think I am so bad at it, so I can understand how you feel.

Anja: You’re very good at interviews from what I read.

Zola: Do you do many interviews?

Anja: No, no.

Zola: Yeah, you’re lucky.

Anja: Why? You don’t have to do interviews.

Zola: I feel like I have this duty. I feel like when I make music, I feel very lucky to be able to make music and so I need to stand by it and support it and people want to know about it. I think I agree with you, that interviews probably make you nervous as they do me, but it’s just something I can’t say no to. I have to do it. Here we are; now we’re both doing an interview with each other! So, you have a new record and you said you didn’t think you would be able to do it - why is that?

Anja: It’s not about pressure. I think it’s... I don’t know, I had a feeling that I lost myself a little bit. Zola: Like in what way? Angya: As a human. Zola: Yeah, I agree. I feel very similar.

Anja: Really? Everything went so fast with my music and now after the tour for ‘Lovetune For Vacuum’, I had the feeling that everything goes very, very slow and I had no idea how to handle the slow life.

Zola: Yeah. I know what you mean, because your whole life has been slow, but then it goes so quickly in one year? Anja: Yeah, it was a few years, from fifteen.

Zola: Sometimes I feel like, you know you said you lose yourself as a human? I feel the same way. Having a job where you’re just making music, you’re just creating something, it’s the only thing that is very special to being a human being, because no other animal does it like that. No other animal makes or creates something of beauty for a living and sometimes I feel like that’s a blessing, but sometimes I feel like it’s a curse too. Like maybe I should be more like the other animals in the world and less like this, you know? I think humans forget that they’re just animals and that they need to come to terms with that more. But I don’t know if that’s how you meant it or not. I saw you were also in a movie coming up? How was it? Had you acted before?

Anja: Yes, in theatres, but not really. This time I play a prostitute. But they wanted that I not act like a prostitute. It’s a very short part of the movie, like seven minutes, but very essential. Zola: Is there quite a film industry in Vienna? Anja: Yeah, maybe you know Michael Haneke? He’s very famous.

Zola: I know there’s Ulrich Seidle, is he Austrian?

Anja: Yes! He’s my favorite.

Zola: I love him! I love him a lot. That’s the thing - I have a lot of respect for Austrian art because Austrain artists aren’t afraid to explore things that other people try to avoid, like Ulrich Seidle or like Actionism, which is maybe a bit more academic now - maybe it’s more for the museums, but I think that it’s still very interesting. In America, people are very afraid to explore those sorts of feelings, but over there it seems people are doing that. So who directed this movie that you’re in?

Anja: It’s his first movie, he’s a student of Michael Haneke. The premiere was at the San Sebastian Film Festival, and the premiere in Austria is in two weeks, and in the cinemas it starts in autumn. But at first only in Austria - I don’t know how international [it will go]. It’s very difficult film, very slow and dry and cold.

Zola: Do you think that’s a reflection of Austrian art?

Anja: Yeah, of course, it’s very typical, I think, of Austria. And maybe that’s going to be a problem here because Austrians have had enough.

Zola: They’re sick of it? Well, in America, everything is very like escapism: everyone is trying to hide or escape from something, so all the movies are very happy and very forced. It’s uncomfortable to watch them in a different way because that’s not a true reflection of how people actually live here.

Anja: Mmm, I can imagine.

Zola: What do you think about touring?

Anja: I always played a maximum of two days in one week because I always thought I don’t have the power in my voice. At my concert in Vienna recently, I played two and a half concerts in one day because it was filmed. I had to do it without the public. Then, I realised it’s so possible; I never had that strength in my voice before. It was really strange. I want to break those borders and fears.

Zola: I’m on tour right now. I really understand how you feel and I feel the same way. Even now, you think that you need to break those borders and those fears. That’s pretty much the only reason that I tour, because I know that I need to challenge myself and I need to have that strength and have that power to keep going every day. I think at the end of it I feel very much about survivalism, to survive. And if you have fear, if you give in to weakness, then you’re letting everyone else win, or you’re letting the world win. It’s very important for me push myself to survive always.

Soap&Skin’s new EP is out January 2012.
Zola Jesus tours the UK in November. Her album, ‘Conatus’, is out now.


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