Mutter, DJ-ane, Künstlerin: die energie-geladene Sister Bliss aka Ayala Bentovin sprach mit Carl von Students.ch über ihre Anfänge, die Message von Faithless, das Muttersein und nicht zuletzt auch über das neue Album „The Dance“, welches ab 14.05.2010 in den Läden ist.
Carl: This is is sixth studio album and 15 years in the business – quite a ride, I would say. How did it all start – how did Ayala become Sister Bliss?
Sister Bliss: Mad, isn’t it? (laughs) Well, I was Djing – at college as well – and needed DJ name. Basically Sister Bliss was the outcome of a very drunken night with some friends. And all the Djs I was hanging out at the time, like Princess Julia or Smokin’ Jo all had this kind of prefix to the name. My name is actually very hard to say at a club – people would like go „Ayaawhatever“. Plus, I was also producing music at the time so it was also my artist name.
Carl: So when did you get active in the music world?
Sister Bliss: Well, I always played different instruments and knew that I wasn’t dedicated enough to be a classical musician – you have to be quite rarified to be classical musician and think about nothing else – but I was interested in pop music. When Acid House hit the UK, which was 1987 for me, it just stuck in my head, I was fascinated with it and I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved the scene and the sound which was largely based on drum machines and synthesisers. I loved all this fiddling, which I had the opportunity to do, since these things were lying about in my Dad’s house. It was like a love affair – the very early days were very special and it’s hard to say why. You have to have been there to experience it. I started making my own little tracks and when I met an old clubber friend of mine, who had set up a small label, he offered me some free time in his studio after hearing my rubbish demos that I had made at home. That’s where I then made my first record ever. He, Johnny is his name, is the guy behind the Candi Stanton Feat. The Source You’ve Got The Love track which has now been covered by Florence and The Machine. Eventually I met a guy in a record shop, where we started talking about music and decided to make a song together. So we fiddeled something together in my Mom’s bedroom and then sent it to his producer friend, which was Rollo. And a couple of months later, the same guy comes along again and says „Listen, I’ve met this Buddhist rapper and he’s a really interesting guy“. Rollo and I had then just made this track that slowed down to a hiphop beat in the middle and thought it would be nice to meet this rapper – and along came Maxi Jazz and from there the first Faithless album „Salva Mea“. And this friend, who introduced us all to each other is none other than the other half of the band La Roux, the writing partner of Elly, the lead singer. It’s a great, interesting and grand connection!
Carl: The release of your last album „To All New Arrivals“ was a couple of years ago. I was wondering what you guys have been doing in the meantime?
Sister Bliss: Well, we toured the world with that album – my son was six months old at the beginning and one and a half at the end of it (smiles). Suddenly things weren’t so easy, because my son started walking and grabbing things…very independent. Our deal with our major label ended 2007 and we had had a difficult relationship with them at the end, so we got together and discussed what we wanted to do. We decided to continue with making music, but on our own label – something like in the old days when we were on a small independent label. We were like „brilliant, let’s just make music, have fun and see where it all goes!“. We then started writing stuff for our new album in around 2008 – I went to L.A and wrote a whole load of stuff, in order to be away from all distractions, and then Maxi came down some months later for the lyrics. So we went at it with no preconceptions whatsoever, except that it would be an album we would really enjoy and which we would make in our own time. We all had busy lives – Maxi was in his studio in Jamaica, I was also writing stuff for the theatre… but when we got together, we still had the same pleasure we felt in the beginning and just allowed it to flow.We also wanted to bring out an album which was relevant and for the fans, so I was testing the music in the clubs as well. The way that we know best to connect with people, genuinely in an organic way, is to have them dance to the music itself. The dance scene had become global and even bigger with the years, so it felt like there still was place for Faithless. People are still doing bootlegs and remixes of our tracks.
Carl: So what is your „message“ on this album then?
Sister Bliss: Well, Maxi’s lyrics work on various levels – it’s a very direct record. One of the songs on the album pretty much explicitly says what it is and the lyrics are „I see genius in everybody, but to perceive it in yourself is the difficulty“. Until you believe you have greatness within you, I think it is hard to be effective in your life, to be happy, to not be crushed by external events, to stand up for what you believe in, to be able to ask what you want in relationships – on many, many levels, you have to believe that you are something special. And once you do, you start to attract people. This comes very much from Maxi’s own life experience and his consequent attraction to Buddhism. He used to be very vexed, moody and frustrated because he was not getting paid for what he did. And why wasn’t he getting paid? Well, because he didn’t value himself at the time – don’t just do a gig for free. You do a show, here’s the money. It’s a very simple example. As soon as he started practicing self-belief, and I don’t mean delusion, meaning being connected to other parts of life and not just floating about on the outside with life happening to him, so to speak, things started to happen. Everybody can take the piss out of you because you’re a small, nothingy person – but that’s just not true! I think this is the message Faithless has always tried to convey.This album is called „The Dance“ and it is about that neverending dance, the relationship we have inside our heads and with the rest of the world, you know, nature, the environment, the relationship we have with authority. There’s a bit of a protest song on the album called „Crazy Bal’heads“ which is directly related to the financial crisis and the political situations we find ourselves in. It’s kind of unprecedented and Maxi wrote it in a kind of indignated way – it’s a tough little reggae number with a sense of humour.
Carl: One of the songs I really like is „Feelin’ Good“ with Dido on it – it’s one of those songs that makes you close your eyes and drift to the rhythm…
Sister Bliss: Yes! Good reaction! That’s exactly how we want people to feel. And I think Dido sounds really good on it. It’s about that moment, when you can get rid of a heavy load on their mind or weight on your shoulders. I also like Maxi’s lyrics on the track, well, it’s actually more like poetry, where he says „I want the view from the top of the hill“. Imagine standing on a hill, looking down at your whole life spread before you, an infinite space where all sorts of things can happen.
Carl: Where do you find your inspiration for the sound?
Sister Bliss: Ohhh, all sorts of places! Since I wrote most of the album in L.A this time, I was influenced by what was around me there.
Carl: And how’s the tour been so far and how have people been reacting to the new tracks?
Sister Bliss: You know what, it’s been great! It’s been brilliant watching people react to the new music. In a Faithless set you have music from all six albums, and my job is to weave it together, to make it sit really well. But before we went on tour, we actually where on the road with something called Faithless Soundsystem, which was a stripped-down version of the band, basically me Dj-ing and Maxi MC-ing with a live percussionist. We did that for six months and were actually tweaking the new songs in the process. So we got a really early reaction before we sent anything to any other Djs. So we’ve had a really long testing period – my DJ-ing, Faithless Soundsystem for six months and now the tour.
Carl: You mentioned you had a son…
Sister Bliss: Yeah, he’s out and about somewhere…he isn’t going to bed, he’s gone all rock ‘n roll! (laughs)Students.ch:
Carl: I was just about to ask how you manage to cope with your music career and being a Mom…
Sister Bliss: Well, I have a lot of help – a nanny, who’s amazing, my Mom, my partner, who works in music as well and who’s self-employed… so we kind of share it. But it is hard. I used to work until 3 o’ clock in the morning, which I can’t do anymore. I take my son to the nursery in the morning, then we have lunch together and some cuddles, then I go back to the studio and work until around sixish, and that’s it. And on the weekends, when I’m DJ-ing, my partner looks after him. My partner spent years going out and now basically never wants to go out ever again – so it’s brilliant and my son has some Daddy-time. (smiles) I also try to DJ less. And the thing is, now that he’s older, he has a social life as well, so we have to go to birthday parties, play-dates… (makes a face)…where’s my life gone? (laughs) He’s a wonderful boy and I love him.
Carl: Well, thanks a lot for the interview and all the best!
Sister Bliss: Thank you and hope to see you at the show tonight!