Published May 19, 2009Misstress Barbara's premier artist album resonates with no-holds-barred, honest creativity. The Italian-born, Montreal-raised Misstress Barbara's reputation as a techno DJ is legendary. For more than a decade, she has enlivened crowds in dance music communities from Spain to Montreal to Argentina. Not quitting DJing anytime soon, Misstress Barbara's I'm No Human shows another side to this artist. Bringing her poetic vocals to almost all the tracks, she sings with stars like Sam Roberts, Brazilian Girls and Bjorn (from Peter, Bjorn and John). She weaves multiple languages into songs, primarily English, with French and some Italian. First single "Dance Me To The End of Love" is a Leonard Cohen cover with deep, groove-driven bass lines and an eerie melody. Putting a new spin on the original artist's material, the song drips authenticity. Second single "I'm Running" is a pop song of sincere warmth and friendship, sung with Sam Roberts. Finally, for all the dancers thirsty for more, "Four On The Floor" has a knockin', 4/4 drumbeat, positive energy and contagious vocals. The clear integrity in the connection between the vocals and the production of her songs shows off her strength as an all-around musician. These haunting, daring melodies would seduce any Björk fan or open-minded techno junkie.
How have you been able to move so smoothly between genres in your career as a musician?
Before being a DJ, I used to drum. And I used to like rock a lot, and hard rock, so I used to play that kind of drumming, and then I fell in love with electronic music and I decided that I wanted to become a DJ. I started buying turntables and records, and I just started DJing. That was really a pure love for electronic music. Eleven years later, my father passed away, then after he died I started writing songs. I ended up with so many songs I thought that it would have been a waste not to release them. I started applying my voice to the music and singing the lyrics I had been writing for a few months after his passing. This hopping between styles, it's just [based on] whatever I feel. If I don't do something out of passion it can't be good. Whenever I feel something I do it and that's the best way for me to be good at what I do: I have to feel it.
So it's more important for you to follow your heart than it is to purposefully explore a range of genres?
Yeah, I don't do it to experiment or anything like that. It really is what I feel and what comes out of me naturally.
Do you expect I'm No Human to attract new fans?
I think so. There are a lot of people who don't like going out in the dance scene. It doesn't mean they don't like electronic music but they just don't go out. So if they don't go out they don't really know the DJs and all that. They would probably end up finding this album and be like, "oh, wow I like that." And they didn't know me and then they might actually try to track some information down and see that I've had a career for a long time. On the other hand, I also expect to lose fans. There are some people, they listen to techno 24/7 and they don't want to hear anything else. And they're going to feel betrayed and they're going to feel disappointed. I'm ready for that. I know I'm going to make new fans and I'm going to lose some but that's life. Artists touch people because they explore certain parts of the brain, or the feelings, or whatever - something. They touch people and people sometimes forget that artists live stuff in order to do what they do. They're not machines. So just like everyone changes artists do too. People can't expect to always have what they want. I understand the idea of trademark. If you buy Coca-Cola, you want to drink Coca-Cola. You don't want it to taste like 7-Up. But after all, we're artists and we're human, even though the album is called I'm No Human [laughs]. But that's a long story. I think I'm going to make new fans and that will feel good for the ones I'll lose.
You can also introduce people who enjoy your techno to something a little different.
I have a lot of my fans who wrote on my website and asked, "Does that mean you're stopping DJing? We don't want you to stop; we love you as a DJ." I'm like, "No, I'm not stopping." On the other hand, last week I was in Argentina and there was this girl. She showed me her mobile phone. In the clubs people try to talk to you. They actually write something on their phone and then they present it to you; it's so loud you can't hear anything. And she's like, "can you please play 'I'm Running?'" And then I smiled at her, and I did some gesture [because it was so loud] that I was not going to. And she was like, "Why?" And I'm like, "Because I'm not playing 'I'm Running' here." In the same respect, I'm not going to DJ when I'm playing live. They are two different careers. There's the album tour and then there's the DJing.
The world of DJs is prominently a male-centric one. You've gone forward and gotten your license as a pilot. You've travelled the world as a DJ and been very successful. Do you have any advice for young women today?
You know what I told you before about changing genres? I responded that it's only anything I feel and that I need to be passionate about what I do. Well, it's pretty much what I did in everything, not just in changing genres. When I wanted to have my pilot license, I did. That's what I wanted to do. Then I wanted to go to film school and I did. Then I wanted to become a DJ and I did. And it worked. And now I want to release this album and I'm going to support it by touring and it's working quite well already and it's not out yet. It's having quite a lot of good success in buzz so I can only imagine what it's going to be once it comes out. It's always going to be done properly if you really feel passionate about it. What many people do is that they don't feel passion for something but they want to do something because they look at someone else and say, "That's successful, I'll do it too." Someone can be much more successful at doing something oddly unpopular if they really feel it and that's what they are passionate for than someone who's going to just try to pick something that's apparently successful for so many people but they don't feel any passion about it and then they try to do it and it doesn't work for them. You need to want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner whatever impassions you. You need to want to eat it. You need to want to dream about it. You need to want to do it every minute. (Maple)