The Body And The Ego – Fizzy Mag Exclusive Interview With London Music Artist CÉCI
The new music video is out now.
CÉCI, real name Cecilie Dahlin, is a Danish artist and producer currently living in East London. In her visual work, CÉCI pairs immersive, heavy beats with surreal CGI and hypnotic choreography. In the wake of her recent video release for new single, 'Tight' – impressively, both the single and video were self-produced – we caught up with the talent in an East London coffee shop to get to get to know who CÉCI really is and where she's heading next.
First things first, tell us about CÉCI, who and what is she inspired by?
CÉCI is kind of an ongoing art project. It started with music but during my sound education, I also studied how the body responds to sound. You know, I think the body is so important. Body movements are such an expression in themselves; you can express your feelings in a lot of different, artistic ways. So I think CÉCI is a lot about movement, about sound design with body expression. I’m working with this choreographer at the moment to make new stuff – dance movements. So yeah, what am I inspired by? I guess that’s what it’s inspired by.
But also… it’s my emotions, it’s my feelings, it’s my life. It’s what I’m not when I'm Cecilie, which is my real name. Beyonce has her “Yonce" ego, so I think I have my CÉCI ego as well. It’s where I can express the stuff I can’t in my everyday life; the stuff I don’t necessarily need to express in my everyday life; the stuff that doesn’t make sense in a conversation like this; the stuff that would be… yeah… weird discussing. It’s where I can be vulnerable yet strong at the same time.
What about your Danish roots. Would you say your roots and heritage influence your work too?
I’m from the northern part of Jutland. I have two siblings and my mom and dad. It was a very calm childhood. There wasn’t much going on in my school and in my city generally, so I had a lot of time to spend in my room. And I just sat at my piano – I’m not good at playing piano at all, but I could play chords and sing. So that was how it all started. It was just, like, consuming time, I think. And I loved it. And then when I was 18 or 19, I moved to Copenhagen just after high school.
Do you think Copenhagen began to play a role then?
Yes definitely. I’d played piano beforehand, more as a singer-songwriter but I couldn’t express myself very well. I played a lot of concerts but it was so static. And I’m not static, you know? It wasn’t enough. I wanted to move and can I really move behind a piano? (Laughing) I just felt like it wasn’t me, I wasn’t feeling it. Whenever I would listen to music, I’d dance to it or move or do something. You feel like you have this urge to feel the rhythm and I was just static. Then I decided that I wanted to produce but it was really from scratch and I was like… “What do I do?” It was in mind but I didn’t go and do it.
Later, I moved into a house where I met this guy, who’s in a big band in Denmark. I talked to him and he was like, “I really like your stuff and your songs but I don’t really have the time to help. But I can it send it to other producers…” And then, there were some producers who wanted to work with me but I didn’t like their styles. So then he gave me a copy of Logic, the producing software, and said “here you go, start producing”.
So, I booked a studio. I went on every day off from the health store where I was working. I’d go and I’d cry so much because it was so hard. It was like learning a new language, and I wanted it to sound one way but it was like looking at Chinese letters. But I knew that hard work pays off. And all of a sudden it started developing. I started hearing stuff coming out of it that I liked.
After that, I went to Engelsholm Highschool, which is essentially a private boarding school. I went there for half a year and studied electronic music and things sort of got a little bigger and I started getting concerts with my producing projects. Then, after another half year in Coppenhagen, I applied to study Sound Design so I could really build on my technique and be able to be the producer, the engineer… like everything. And I got in. I did that for a year and a half. Then I came back to London.
What we know of Sonic College is that its largely male-dominated. What’s it like being a woman in such a working environment? Do you think it influences to your music?
Being around so many guys has always been fine. (Laughing) I’ve loved it actually, it’s been really chill. It’s always been a relaxed space. And I feel like sometimes its easier to ask guys for help. I don’t know why, it’s so stupid. But it might just be because I went to a maths and science orientated high school where there were only like four or five girls in the class. So I’ve kinda been used to that since forever. I’ve never been surrounded by a lot of girls at school or at work so I don’t know how that would be. I guess I’m just used to it. But I listen to both male and female producers, so I don’t think it has influenced me that much, it’s just how it is, I guess.
Would you say there's any gaps in the music market for some much needed girl-power?
Yeah, definitely. It’s definitely male dominated. But I guess everything still feels that way. It’s our history. So we’re developing now. And there’s definitely more and more girls coming up now producing some really good stuff. But you know, I grew up thinking that I shouldn’t produce. Like, that wasn’t my thing. I felt like someone else would do it for me, like the guy sat behind me. I never even considered it and that’s maybe because I didn’t see any role models. When Grimes came out with the 'Visions' album in 2013 and I realised she produced that herself, I was like… “What?!” (Laughing) I didn’t even cross my mind that she might’ve produced it herself. It’s crazy. Like, of course women can produce, but I just never realised it. It’s probably because you see all these female singers. Girls are always singers and I got that question so many times: “You sing? Who produced for you?” ME. I do. Ha, it’s so annoying.
Tell us about your move to London. What’s brought you here?
Well I went to that boarding school and then went to Copenhagen for half a year. A lot of the people I studied with stayed and studied for another six months. So I went back and went back to the health store I’d been working at. And I know B Vitamins are super important but oh my god, that wasn’t my life (laughing). I guess I got a bit depressed then. I gained so much energy being around so many creative people at that boarding school and it was so fulfilling, and then I get back to that health food shop and I just couldn’t express myself selling fucking B vitamins (laughing). I was trying to make music there but it just wasn’t working. I wasn’t gaining anything. So, then I was just like, “fuck this shit. I’m going to London.”
I went to London in summer 2015. I’d had some success with an EP in Copenhagen so I came to London with it, even though I had no money. I wrote in this Facebook page and found a free room in Camberwell for a month. I came and I wrote to loads of labels and went to events and… I got a response. Coming from Copenhagen where I felt like nothing was going on – selling those fucking vitamins – to a place as fast-paced as London, where people were enjoying what I was doing, was really cool. I met a lot of industry people in that month, and they were like, “you know, this is good.” I felt like I could breathe here more than I could in Copenhagen, maybe because Copenhagen is smaller, but I was hyped here.
Then I got into Sonic College so I had to go back. But I knew I had to come back here and during my time at Sonic I kept coming back to visit. I came back at the beginning of this year after I’d finished at Sonic and now I even live with the guy from the label who was the first person to email me back. It was just that music-wise, people liked what I did here. I felt like in Copenhagen, maybe, they didn’t understand it. There’s a bigger audience here so more people are gonna get it.
Was the networking process here in London intimidating?
No, it was fun! It’s so much fun here. People are easygoing. I think I gained my network through partying (laughing).
Do you think moving out here to London has had any influence on your music over the last few months?
Well, I have a lot of ideas coming up right now – I’m working on something new. The stuff that I’m making right now is… well, I’m not afraid of doing weird stuff. I think to be a big success in Copenhagen, you need to have a verse, chorus, verse chorus, break, chorus… that pop song format. But here, you can do whatever, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all so much more free. I don’t care that much anymore. Of course it’s nice to have everyone appreciating what you’re doing – you want people to listen to your stuff, otherwise you wouldn’t release it – but now it’s like, if they like it, they like it. And that’s fine. So I feel much more liberated being here. There’s an audience for everything here I guess.
Tell us about the process, how do you tend to get going with a new track?
Oh… it starts in the heart. It starts with my emotions and then I start writing stuff. I write a lot of poems, just anything that’s going on in my mind. And that’s everyday. And then I might go to the piano, add some chords and make a song. Well actually, there’s two ways. There’s making a song out of the written words that I have and then producing it afterwards, and it totally changes its form. Or, I make a beat on my computer, add some chords and take it from there. That’s usually the more experimental stuff.
What’s the most challenging aspect of that process?
Doing it. Just doing it! (laughing) Just opening my computer sometimes is the hardest thing. I have an electronic piano and it sounds so stupid but just turning it on sometimes can be the hardest thing because sometimes there’s just so much pressure. Like, you have so many ideas, you want to make this, this and this and you just don’t do it because, what if you fail? The most challenging part is always to just do it. Because when I’m doing it and I’m in, it’s easy because it’s fun. It’s nice, you feel good. Switching off that button in your head that’s aware or judging and being able to stop comparing yourself to other artists and inspirations and just doing it. At that point you can just do whatever you’re feeling, instead of trying to do something that’s already out there.
What excites you most about growing as an artist?
I guess it’s the same as growing as a person. You get smarter everyday, you learn from your mistakes.
Your music has a pretty immersive feel, where do you think that comes from?
I think it’s because that is my inside… (laughing) it’s like I invite you inside of my body. Because it’s not the stuff that you listen to and look up into the sky, it's something you have to experience in a bubble. So, it is my emotions, it’s very close. I think that it’s really about the stuff that’s beneath my skin.
CÉCI is a lot about sound and rhythm and you’ve recently started practicing dance choreography – what do you think moving on the stage is going to do for your music?
So much, because I don't have a band. You know, you see it when you go to a concert and nobody is moving – it’s not right. I think it’s because, like you said, my music is immersive, so I really need to draw the audience in. When I’m on stage, I want everyone to be one and I feel like I can do that with my movements. I think I can invite everyone into my universe.
How important do you think aesthetics and visuals are in your music?
Ahhh so important. It’s half of it! That’s a part I’m definitely working on here in London because… I can. I was only really working on the music back in Denmark because there wasn’t as much going on. But here, you can reach out to a lot of artists, so that’s really what I’m working on now. Like I said, CÉCI is not just about music, it’s about everything, so its super important.
If you had to pick two artists, one to tour with and one to collab with, who would they be and why?
Tough question! Hmmm… He’s not as big as I wish he was, but there’s this guy called serpentwithfeet. His music is insane. I watched his concert with my friend and we were both so dragged into his universe. He’s just one guy on stage, yet his music is so big. I’d love to tour with him because his music is so beautiful that I cried. It’s like gospel but electronic and pop at the same time. He’s also a really cool looking guy. It was one of those concerts where we couldn’t really speak to each afterwards, my friend and I… you know that feeling? It’s really fulfilling. I would love to tour with that guy.
And work with? Tyler the Creator, maybe. I’d like to collaborate with a rapper, definitely. No! I know! The Wknd. He’s so sexy (laughing). Or Drake. Like some rapper, I think.
What’s the next big thing coming up from CÉCI?
The music video release! It should be out ASAP, with a track. I’m completing the four-part video series that I started with my first two videos.
Thanks so much for the interview!
Catch CÉCI’s new video, Tight, below.
This article has been edited for length.