Jenny Wilson - Interview
by Cila Warncke
published: 29 / 6 / 2018
Swedish electro songstress Jenny Wilson talks to Cila Warncke about confronting the shattering reality of sexual violence and finding reasons to hope on her new album 'Exorcism'.
'Exorcism' is to Swedish electro maven Jenny Wilson's ouevre what 'Guernica' is to Picasso's: an uncompromising masterpiece of equal political and artistic importance. The difference is Picasso painted as an observer; Wilson makes music as a survivor. "I didn't choose the subject, the subject chose me," says Wilson, whose discography includes 'Love and Youth', 'Hardships!', and the double album 'Blazing'. "I was 40-plus, with two kids, a career, and a network of lovely friends. Despite all that, and the fact I considered myself a 'smart' and 'strong' woman, it happened to me. The rape." 'Exorcism' charts Wilson's pain, fear, anger, fragility and struggle to reshape her sense of self after a man raped her, two years ago. Her frank, unsparing lyrics are disturbing: as they should be. Sexual violence is a common theme in popular music and culture, but the tale is almost always told from a male perspective. Women are victims or objects; rarely subjects. Wilson rejects this script. 'Exorcism' lays full claim to her experience as an artist, a woman, and a survivor. She mourns, but doesn't flinch. Her courage calls on us to open our eyes. PB: Why did you decide to make an album about such a painful subject? JW: I was confused and shocked. I had lost my inner compass. The only thing I knew for sure was that I HAD to write about it. Not that I WANTED to, but had to. This disturbing, horrifying thing had to go through my entire system. Otherwise it would’ve blocked me. Maybe shut me up... forever? PB: What order were the songs created in? JW: I worked feverishly, in a manic state of mind. I improvised a lot so the songs came all at once, more or less. But the lyrics didn’t come until very late in the process. It was difficult to know how I would tell this story. Would I tell everything? Would I reveal it all? Would I protect myself and make the lyrics metaphorical? Would I make it political and intellectual? I discussed this with myself and my friends. But my gut feelings told to me to dig from my body, not from my mind. The lyrics ended up being brutal, raw and direct, with a total absence of metaphors. For the same reason, the music turned out physical. PB: What female artists did you turn to for inspiration? JW: I normally read a lot of poetry, collect images and styles and quotes, etc. to build a universe to place my songs into. This time I didn’t look for inspiration anywhere; the feeling was too physical. I only had my music, my own experience, that was it. It was terrifying! PB: 'Exorcism' will make people uneasy because it speaks frankly about a woman's experience of sexual violence. How did you judge for yourself how explicit to be? JW: I didn’t. At all. Not from the perspective of what a future audience would feel. But I hope you can feel many different feelings when you listen to my music. When I listen to my songs now, I feel empowered and happy. I feel a lust to use my body… to dance, to run, to drive a car superfast through a summer’s night. I guess that was my idea of making this album, to create the most delicious and powerful work out of the most hurt and scared and confused parts of me. PB: How do you feel about the #MeToo movement? JW: When the #MeToo movement burst through in October 2017, I was finishing recording 'Exorcism'. I had already nailed the lyrics and the 'concept', but I was very nervous. I was scared to have to be a spokesperson for victims of sexual assaults. The only thing I wished was to make my art, out of my very private story. When #MeToo happened, it was like a God-sent gift! I was relieved - for my own private and artistic reasons. But as a movement, politically, I am excited and proud and not surprised at all. Female oppression has been going on waaaaay too long, as all of us know. It has been the most interesting five months I’ve ever experienced, politically, in Sweden. I have hopes for the future. Modest, but hopes! PB: How did the creative process compare to your other albums? JW: I thought I would be able to use ordinary tools to build this record. But it didn’t work. This story, and its music, had to come from the very core of me. From my stomach, my heart, my sex. Not from an intellectual place, not at all. The process was naked… and very intense. PB: It takes a three-step age verification process to access the video for 'Rapin*' on YouTube. What do you make of the fact it is behind barriers while sexually explicit videos by male artists are freely available? JW: That truly sucks. That is just so fucked up. The world is a patriarchy, you see it everywhere. PB: Which is your favourite song on the album and why? JW: Right now my favourite is 'Angry Bible'. It gives me the shivers to sing. That song is about the aftermath of the trauma, about being weak and lacking the inner compass that keeps you away from bad situations and evil relationships. After the rape I rushed into the arms of something very, very bad. 'Angry Bible', 'It Hurts' and a few more songs on the album are about being gaslighted and treated in a bad way, and knowing it, but not being strong enough to do something about it. PB: What is the scariest thing about putting this album out? JW: I am anxious about being honest and open about all this. But I’ve been taking care of myself and prepared myself mentally to do this, 100%. Now it’s out in Europe I am in a light and good place in life. I’m at peace with myself. I’m proud of what I accomplished. PB: What is the most rewarding? JW: The reward is that so many people are happy about what I’ve done, musically and lyrically. They love the album. The best part: I love to play this music live. There’s so much energy. It’s a sweaty, sexy, great feeling standing in the middle of this music! It’s music to "dance and sweat the pain away!" PB: 'Exorcism' ends on a hopeful musical note. What hope do you see for changing our culture's understanding and attitudes towards sexual violence? JW: When we begin to expose the darkness to the light, bring up this horror, discuss it, enlighten people, make people aware of it… something starts to roll in the right direction. I have two sons, 16 and 11, and to talk with them about this will make a difference for the future. We have to talk. Silence is a dangerous weapon. PB: Thank you.
|871 Posted By: Lisa, Chicago on 29 Jun 2018|
Thank you Jenny and Cila,
This interview is very empowering.
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