Full disclosure: I missed the boat on Audrey Napoleon.
Let me explain. These days, there seems to be a recent trend in electronic music where labels and promoters trot out a pretty face to front a record, claim he/she is a DJ, and build a slick-looking press kit and send it out into the world, hoping the style of the presentation triumphs over the substance of the artist. So, upon first glance at Audrey, a raven-haired beauty of Sicilian descent, it was really easy to pass on “Foxy Boxy”, Audrey’s first single, as yet another attempt to use a pretty face to cash in on electronic music’s sudden hip factor with mainstream audiences.
Thankfully, something told me to come back to her material when her latest single, “Bitchy Queen”, was released. A tech-ey electro stomper, “Bitchy Queen” established that Audrey has some SERIOUS production chops. Further investigation lead me to jump into her “Sex Tapes” mix series, where lush soundscapes and tight grooves meet to create a signature style that can best be described as “moody tech-funk”. As much at home in the booth as she is walking runways at Europe’s largest fashion events or impromptu modeling sessions with the hottest designers in fashion, Miss Napoleon is quite a renaissance woman and force to be reckoned with in modern dance music. I had the pleasure of speaking with Audrey not long after her return from London Fashion Week.
RK: Where are you right now?
AN: I am in Los Angeles…
RK: You kind of made your bones in LA and are based out of Los Angeles which seems to be the epicenter of dance music right now. What do you think it is about the LA scene that makes it such a creative hotbed?
AN: You know, I think it’s the sunshine, to be honest with you…
AN: the sunshine seems to make people very creative as well a very dreary day. I think people have come out for the sunshine unfortunately (laughs).
RK: It’s kind of interesting because you think about sunshine you think of happy times and happy days, but I have listened to some of your original material as well as the mixes you have put together. There is certainly a moodiness and a very distinct European influence in some the material, particularly Bitchy Queen. Are they any specific artists that have influenced you to make music in that mode?
AN: It is not necessarily that I am influenced by any specific artists; it’s just that I am a very moody person (laughs). The European electronic scene has always been a huge influence of mine and I’m always in Europe doing tours. It’s the people mixed with the weather, and I am mostly influenced by different sounds that you hear walking down the street, like pots and pans. My family’s from Sicily, so the sounds of pots of pans in the kitchen are things that inspire me musically. As well as the cars on the street and the people in restaurants, things like this.
RK: Aha. You just recently returned from London. Was that a business trip, pleasure trip, tour?
AN: I think London is always pleasure (laughs). It was business; I was there for London Fashion Week. I attended a few shows, the PPQ show and the Mark Fast show. I attended a few meetings and then did the clothing party for Elite Models in London, which was a blast. I also did a photo shoot with Rodnik.
RK: Oh, Wow.
AN: Yes, Rodnik is a really fantastic clothing line. It is pop art on clothes, it’s really brilliant. I was very pleased to an off-shoot with them. I meet the designer the night before at his party he asked me, “Hey, want to do a shoot together”, and I was like yeah, ok.
RK: Yeah, twisting your arm, how can you say no to that? The video for “Bitchy Queen” is being billed as the second chapter in a 4 part series with started with “Banana Soda Es Muy Loca”, how did that project come together?
AN: Well my management team wanted me to do a series of music videos. I just don’t like music videos especially with dance music. I find music videos very 1980’s (laughs) and I just don’t think its conducive to dance music so I decided so I wanted to make a film and cut it into chapters. I meet with 4 or 5 directors and basically I sat down with Nicole, and she just got it. She got me, she got the direction I wanted to take the films, and how I saw them. She gave me a lot of perspective on my ideas and I found inspiration in that. She sent me a gorgeous treatment and she was a perfect match for it [the film]. Nicole Macdonald did Marilyn Manson’s Dopelhurz, so immediately I wanted her.
AN: With a dark side, and glitchy aura…
RK: It’s fantastic. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t ask do you want to hint at anything that is coming in the final 2 chapters of this or should we just wait and be surprised online?
AN: I think you should just wait and be surprised, absolutely (laughs).
RK: Booooo! Ah, ok (laughs).
AN: A lot of unveiling starts to happen in the last few chapters, and in the last one you will get a full, 5-minute long video with all the pieces put together… Just give it a couple months, let it simmer.
RK: We were fortunate enough to be able to run part of the “Sex Tape” mix series as a guest DJ set. It was one of the more well-received sets that we have run in a long time. I am just curious, was there any particular inspiration for you to start doing that series and when and where did it start?
AN: I decided to do Sextapes when I was releasing my mixes. I was sitting with my management at SQE and that they wanted to keep releasing these mix tapes every month. Of course, with my mouth, I made a kind of joke that turned into “Hey, you know what, I am going to release a sex tape every month”.
AN: Then everyone kind of looked at me in the room and I was like, “Ah, that’s the name, that’s the name I am going to go with”. So I release Sextapes every month. I do the artwork for them, I make the collages. I cut all the collages and put them on a 6 by 6 paper and I turn them in and they make the cover. The artwork is by me and the mixes are by me, so that is how the Sextapes came about.
RK: Now, it’s got to be at times to be trying, or challenging, essentially hearing the words “one of the best FEMALE DJ’s”. I have seen that all over the web and all over the press releases for you. Does it bother you to hear that in relation to your male peers? Because to me, if you are a good DJ it shouldn’t matter if you are a dog who can spin…
RK: As long as it sounds good, you should be considered. Particularly in Europe, where the techno scene seems to be so male dominated, do you get any pushback when you play places or have you kind of overcome at this point in your career?
AN: There is always going to be pushback when a woman grabs men by their balls…
AN: I don’t pay attention to any of that, I just go and play my music and if people love me, they love me, and if not, then I am not bothered. It is a male dominated industry at the moment, and I think being a female is a positive which is why they put female in front of it. Maybe they are putting as a negative, but I prefer to think of it as a positive statement.
RK: I am guaranteeing that three tracks in, people don’t care. Like I said, after listening to both “Sex Tapes” vol. 2 and 3, you are hooked immediately. It sets a mood and it sets a vibe and if you’re down with it, you’re in it for the long haul, if not, it’s just not your thing. But our fans seem to be really into it so Kudos to you on that. We seem to be in a renaissance for dance music here in the US, which we haven’t seen for 10 or 15 years. What do you think is the state of US dance music and where do you think it’s headed?
AN: I am really excited for everything that is going on in dance music for the states, it’s about time we caught up (laughs). The predictions of electronic dance music, I try not to think too hard about these things. I tend to just follow my own creative flow and I like not knowing where it [the music] is going.
RK: You have “Bitchy Queen” that’s out right now, you have “Sex Tape Vol. 3″ which is out now, and you have Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival in Miami coming. Do you have any plans to be in Miami?
AN: I do, I’ll be in Miami for Ultra with Heineken. I’ll just be enjoying the music this year round and I’ll be there next year and for the rest of my life (laughs).
RK: As a fan and a performer, that is a great way to be.
AN: I definitely think that artists should stay fans, and just go out and do events, festivals, and clubs and be in the crowd and be a fan. We all started out fans so that I feel that if you lose that than you will lose part of your soul, of your creative genius.
RK: And a connection to the people who will ultimately be fans of yours.
RK: Personally, what is next for you? What do we see in the future of Audrey Napoleon?
AN: I am Heineken’s 2012 Ambassador, so I will doing tours and shows with them and I plan on touring…the planet Earth(laughs). I am in the studio writing an EP which is due on April 1st which will be released on June 1st. Also, a monthly SexTape, I will also have another single with Carlos Martinez coming out next month, as well as another chapter to the short film. I will be doing everything humanly possible (laughs).
Audrey Napoleon’s “Sex Tape” mix series can be obtained at audreynapoleon.com, where she will also be premiering the next teasers in the 4-part short film based upon her music. You can also catch up with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Rudy Kizer is the host and producer of “Hit The Decks”, Sundays at 10pm on X103, and is attempting to extend a face-to-face apology to Miss Napoleon at this year’s Ultra Music Festival.