Sally Dige is a Canadian multi-disciplinary artist and musician currently based in Berlin. Her music is rooted in minimal/darkwave with hints of synth-pop and a sweet taste of pure 80’s pop. Her art and music mirrors a fascinating and mysterious style that is uniquely her own. The appearance of Sally Dige is a post punk angel; looking stoic and dreamy, with a mandolino in her arms. Cherubic but at the same time dark and enigmatic, Sally brings a feeling of a cold and gloomy past into a modern age with hints of humour, symbolism and longing. In her eyes you can see the melancholia of the artist who strives to express herself, facing her demons and ethereal voices.
Which bands influence you the most? How have those influences helped you in developing your own sound and identity?
I guess when we think of “influential bands who inspired us” we always look to our teenage years (even if I do not connect at all with my teenage mind-frame today). A band that really opened up my eyes (as a teenager) was DEVO. When I first saw all the early DEVO art films and music videos I felt my world open up. I love that DEVO is more than just a band. They are artists in every sense. Their integration of storytelling, a manifesto, films, art, music and design all into one was everything I wanted to do. They found a way to glue it all together and have it be something serious but also fun and humorous at the same time.
I have always been interested in all the creative aspects of what it means to be in a band: to write and produce the music, to make the music videos, to do the design, artwork and storytelling and more.
Can you tell us about something specific that ignites your creative side?
It’s so hard to pinpoint one place that ignites that creativity in me. Sometimes it’s just seeing the wrinkles on a stranger’s face on a train-ride that tells me a story and history, dreams I have at night that reflect my inner thoughts or narratives, histories of the past (especially those that are connected to my own roots) and so much more. I love stories and I love history. I want to tell the stories that play out in my mind: whether they are nice or ugly.
I often have recurring dreams which I reflect on, over time. I wonder what these dreams are trying to show me – what I cannot seem to let go, or what affects my inner soul. These reflections and stories often take shape into my films.
My family also comes from a long line of traditional farmers and that culture is always very much grounded and connected to the land, soil and history. A lot of the dysfunctions we carry in the present generation of our family, stems from the complexities of living that “simple life”. The repercussions (beauty and sadness from it) live in all of my family today. I think whether I realize it or not, these stories from it play a big part in my film and art narratives.
How do you feel about the evolution of dark wave music since the 1980s?
I guess it’s pretty cool, but honestly I don’t really think about it. I never really pondered about its evolution (I don’t think?). I haven’t listened to darkwave music in a long time (even if I am connected to that music scene).
I am more fascinated with the construction of pop music and how to write hooks and melodies. The idea of pop music has always fascinated me because in it’s essence, it is about ‘getting to the point’.
If a musical part is not adding something essential, it has to go. There is no time to linger. How can the Aqua album “Aquarium” be so flawless with each track being so catchy, so melodic, so cheap and so perfect at the same time?
How was your attraction born for a romantic and cold sound? (I’m referring to “It’s you I’m thinking of”. Let’s talk about that song and “why this love hurts”)
I think my attraction for the more ‘romantic’ sound comes from being an emotional and sensitive person. I want my music to reflect the emotions I feel inside. I’ve always liked the feeling of a sound that is both melancholic but also happy at the same time.
That feeling when you are sad but also hopeful and optimistic. To me that is the best feeling and emotion you can capture in a sound. I’ve always been drawn to more emotional songs by female artists.
Those are the kind of songs I can listen to over and over again, forever and ever. I want to lie alone in my bed, in the dark, close my eyes, listen to those kinds of songs and allow myself to feel the way I do, but also know that there is always a peak of light over the hills.
For It’s You I’m Thinking Of, when I sat down to write it, all I thought about was: “want to write a pop song”.
I wasn’t sure which direction I was going in the beginning, but I knew I wanted to do less with electronic synths and more with acoustic instrumentation and organs. I was sitting with friends for lunch one day, and a friend was talking about the “ABBA formula“: where an ABBA song has a two part chorus: the first half is the vocal chorus and the second half is the instrumental chorus, and the intro of the song always begins with the instrumental chorus. This inspired me to do the same on my own track, where the first chorus half of the song is the “Why does it hurt…” and the second chorus half is where the guitars and arpeggiated strings come in.
Before I had the mandolin, I had written the sketch of the song, but I still had no idea what to do for the breakdown part. I kept that part open but was struggling where to go with it. I went to visit a friend and he was showing me his collection of instruments, one of which was a mandolin. I asked if I could borrow it (even if I had not played a mandolin before – but I don’t believe that is ever a problem) and with it I fully realized the song.
I was so set in my mind that I wanted the song to be as close to ‘live’ as possible (contrast to my last album which was so electronic and programmed) so even though I had written programmed drums in the track, I wanted to also double those electronic drums with acoustic, live-performing drums to add sway and transience into the mix. This became a nightmare for my friend Ådne Meisfjord who mixed the track, but I feel it did add a nice feeling.
How much do you draw your lyrics from personal experiences and how much from external sources?
I usually draw from my own personal experiences but I still struggle with opening myself up. I’ve never been good with words. Sometimes I write through someone else’s perspective about myself and a situation I am in or I will write through my own eyes. It’s all mixed up and mashed together. I don’t know if I really have a formula. I’ve never felt lyrics were my strongpoint nor did I feel that lyrics were as important to me, as they might be to other people.
I’ve always felt my strength was more in melodies. I think the melodies and emotions in a song are more important than the words. There is a lot of music that I listen to where I don’t understand the language of the words but I am moved by the emotion of the voice. We often look to the lyrics to provide the emotion but I think the emotion in the voice and instrumentation is more important. Of course if lyrics are too stupid, I can’t enjoy the song, but I am also not the type to be overanalyzing lyrics either.