This Saturday, a rare and unconditional love will descend on Holocene. Marea Vierge-Noire, aka Chicago’s the Black Madonna, makes her Portland debut. Born in Kentucky and active in the midwest house scene since 2001, her bubbly, high-energy production and strictly all-vinyl DJing have led her to a position as both a resident and talent buyer for the legendary Smart Bar. We talked to her about Berlin, vinyl DJing and her (very unwarranted!) fear of coming off as an ass.
Willamette Week: First off let me say that I’ve read all your interviews and you definitely do not sound like a toolbag in any of them!
The Black Madonna: Great! *sigh of relief*
Your distaste for digital sounds is becoming more and more rare, though I know you embrace it as something that puts you further apart from a growing pool of producers. What is the single worst thing about digital?
Well I actually do use digital tools as a producer. I avoid them whenever possible as a DJ though. The worst part about digital DJing for me personally (others don't have the same experience as me) is that I never stop thinking. I'm reading words on a screen, thinking about which digital crate something is in, searching for keywords. All of those things put me back into conscious thought, planning and rational thinking. I want to get as far away from those things as possible. Records are great for me because I know that the labels look like and there's an impulsive reaction to the way they look visually. I know what's going to work without really bringing that thought to the front of my mind. I like to work from the gut and focus on listening and reacting rather than planning and thinking really hard about what I should do. Planning is a big no-no for me as a DJ and digital DJing is the expressway to that kind of mindstate.
Do you ever use any digital tools in producing?
Yes! I almost exclusively use digital tools. I use Logic to produce, but I've started adding outboard gear, the Volca Beats and a 505 at the moment and I am loving the richness that they add.
Glad you like that one! I also love the remix that Nicholas did for "Alright This Morning."
What was working on a split with Rahaan like? You gave him a shout-out in the track name, so you must have enjoyed it.
At the time I didn't know him. That's how we met. The crowd at a party he was playing was sampled on the record I did. It was really a tribute to him. I admire him so much and have learned a lot just by watching him and listening to his mixes. It was only right to credit him on the record, as he was the impetus for it. After I did the record, Stripped & Chewed
reached out to him and asked him if he'd like to do the other side and I was thrilled when he agreed. He's such a great person and we're actually going to do some dates in Europe together this fall.
How’s the creative direction at Smart Bar going? Do you have a favorite act you helped book?
Bringing Levon Vincent
was a great experience. Talk about a class act! When he was done he wrote a long thank you on his Facebook which was really touching. So many DJs look annoyed when the fans want to connect with them, but Levon thanked people for taking the time to give him CDs and demos. He was so humble and warm, making sure to connect with everyone that wanted his time, which is the one and only way to be. Things are going really well in general though. Credit really goes to the team. Jason Garden (our resident Olin
who is also my assistant), Lenny Lacson, Joe Shanahan, the rest of our incredible residents, bar staff and security. They deserve the credit rather than me.
You’re working on an imprint too, right?
It's going to be for my own material. I think we're shooting for the fall. It's a daunting task but it's time. I'm also beginning work on an imprint for the Smart Bar residents for next year. You heard it here first!
Awesome! I saw on Facebook that you’re missing Berlin. What was it like to play Berghain?
Well, I won't be missing it for long! I am going back to play again at Sonntags in Panorama Bar on March 30th. I know there are a lot of things about Berghain that mystify Americans, the Lab, the door policy etc, but what I found when I went was a really warm and welcoming place. I suspect that the door policy is there to protect a very special and welcoming culture from being overrun by techno tourists. Contrary to what you've heard, Disneyland isn't the happiest place on earth.
I remember seeing this statue of a black Madonna, Our Lady of Andacollo, in Chile—I totally understand the power and mystique there. Do you have a favorite visual representation of the black Madonna?
The Black Madonna of Częstochowa is a favorite. She is both Haitian and Polish, touching elements of vodou and Polish Catholic tradition (that makes her near to my heart). I remember long ago I worked in a Polish bakery and one day I looked up and her image was behind the counter. It was very comforting for me. We have a good relationship.
The Black Madonna of Czestochowska
Anything else we need to know about the Black Madonna?
Also this week:
- Dru Deep, Demetre Baca, Easy Company Music @ the Rose (Friday, 9 pm, $5, 21+)
- Portia, Drank Sinatra, Sister Sister @ Langano (Sunday, 9 pm, free, 21+)
- PDneXt: Mike Q, Ghost Dub, Graintable, Danny Corn, Plumblyne @ Holocene (Wednesday, 9 pm, $5, 21+)