The Black Madonna: "Dance Music Needs Some Discomfort With Its Euphoria"

Categories: DJ Dossier , Q&A

Bond Music Group
The Black Madonna prays at the altar of disco and house.
The members of Rebel Disco are being tight-lipped about their newest hangout. Though they haven't dropped dime on its location just yet, however, they've ecstatically announced the headliner and inspiration for tonight's "We Still Believe" party, The Black Madonna. Per Rebel Disco's Facebook: "We are excited about our new venue and even more excited about our special guest."

Such anticipation is warranted, given that the Chicago-based artist (also known by such monikers as the "Avenger of Comiskey Park" and "Patron Saint of Abandoned Daughters") is one of the more unique DJ/producers to come from the Windy City in recent memory. A resident at Chi-Town's trendy Smart Bar, The Black Madonna's intoxicatingly synthy and sample-heavy sounds (which trip between the realms of nu-disco, old-fashioned disco, and soulful house) have been released on such influential labels as Home Taping Is Killing Music and Classic Music Company.

Up On the Sun got the chance to speak with the Black Madonna (born Marea Vierge-Noire) over the phone prior to her trip to Phoenix for tonight's gig.

What's the explanation behind your current DJ name, The Black Madonna?

She comes from a lot of sources: Haitian traditions, European veneration of a dark version of the Virgin Mary. There are a lot of ideas regarding the origin of the figure we often refer now to as The Black Madonna. I've loved her since I was a teenager and I read a book called "Longing For Darkness" which connects The Black Madonna and Buddhism's Green Tara. She's my gal. There was really no other choice when I decided to produce on my own. I knew the name I'd pick.

You work with a pastiche of different sounds, but what genres do you specialize in?

Well, personally, when I'm making stuff, it's primarily house and disco. I do have a history in techno before I worked under this name, but I was just kind of getting my feet wet. The partner I was working with at the time was very techno-oriented and I really enjoyed doing that work and I'm certainly really proud of it, but when I started working alone and whether it was coming out of my brain, house and disco would be the things that I personally really drill down on.

For the disco stuff, it's really oriented more towards the kind of sound that you would hear in Italo or Euro disco, that core of stuff. But [with] house, I'm all over the place. Obviously, I live in Chicago and come from Chicago house and found my way back to a lot of the disco records that I loved through house music that maybe sampled it, things like that. Certainly, that's primarily where my tastes lie, but I'm kind of all over the place.

What's your particular fascination with disco? Why do you love it so much?

Well, I couldn't tell you, other than that, from the very first time I heard anything that sounded like disco from my mom, you know, I've loved it. We were coming out of that era when I was a kid, so I'm not completely generationally‎ removed from it. It's just really special music. I'm pretty exhilarated that you still see songwriting [in] disco, and not just tracks. I mean, some of it is, but you listen to something like -- not that this song is original, but a disco cover -- but if you listen to Sylvester's "I (Who Have Nothing)," it's just so devastating on a level that somethings that maybe doesn't have that richness and the songwriting portion of it.

Some of those records, for all the reputation that disco had for being fluff, it ended up being so much heavier than anybody gave it credit for. To me, it's just that those are many of the best songs. Now don't get me wrong, I know that I play a lot of disco, but I play a lot of straightforward house [too]. I love house music, I play techno, I'm all over the place. While I certainly gotten better known for disco, straddling all of those worlds is really important to me too. But disco is special to me in a way that nothing else every will be. It's just in a league of its own.

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