This interview was conducted by Adam Esparza, a very talented writer. He has just been accepted as a featured blogger on The Printed Blog.
A decade later the home grown Italian resides in New York. Up until now her shows have primarily been overseas where audiences still sing along to her anthems like it was 1997, but with a new album “Tough Love” and remixes undergo Gala is primped for another spin on the turntables.
Perhaps the line between Provocateur and taboo was thinner during the 90’s than it is today, when things are more acceptable. That Gala crossed this line in defiance is the main reason why she is iconic in her own right. And somehow she still holds the power in her voice, in the way she speaks and her majestic demeanor of a princess exiled…now to return as queen of an age of music that was perhaps forgotten but nevertheless…epic.
QUEEN OF FREEDOM
Adam: “Freed From Desire” is still played on the radio, what is the formula for the longevity it has sustained?
Gala: Well, this is what I apply to any craft, the concept that I applied with my photography. Take the colors out. By focusing on black and white it is less specific of the time and style in that you now cannot say oh this would be worn in the 20’s or the 40’s or this era or that because it becomes eternal. Beauty is eternal, androgyny is eternal but if you focus on the clothes in a photograph well, it will become old because it will change with the time. The same applies with music- take the color of the moment out. Take the trend out because a trend will change. Be classic, not in the sense of an era but of the sound as well as lyrically and vocally. Make yourself timeless or go with the trend. For example I never liked songs that go “I called you on my mobile and I texted you the thing…yea”!
Adam: Well there are a lot of tracks like that out these days (Giggling). Trends…
Gala: Well don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there is no good dance music anymore, quite the opposite. I feel as if dance music, house, electronica, techno, etc…tracks that make you want to dance on a dance floor are in demand again. In hindsight I’m not surprised that my songs were classified as dance “classics” and I’m saying this from a non-egotistical point of view. The world to me is classic. I like to dress in a classic way and I like to photograph in a classic way and I love watching classic movies. It was always my goal to create things that would sustain their meaning and beauty with the passing years. For instance, when I studied photography I used to think, “will this image be timeless”? I often shot in Black and White because colors can give away the time period. I adored the human face and body in all it’s forms because as subjects they are eternal, more so than clothes or accessories. The same concept applies to my songwriting. “Different kind of Love” is a good example from my latest album “Tough Love” because I really try to focus on the simplicity and universality of the lyrics and message, the “face” and the “body” rather than the “accessories”.
Adam: (She starts singing)…
Gala: This song for me is the new “Freed From Desire”. You can apply it to anything. Boy, girl, gay, straight- love is not black or white. It is classic. It is always the same but always different. It’s funny now to hear me on the radio, because yes of course if you were at the limelight or anywhere during the “Glitter Era” I was played and yes now maybe my songs are not that popular anymore but they are being played. And old fans as well as new will see that on the new tracks coming out, the songs will apply to their lives not because a trend says so but because they are going through it. The titles of my songs are chapters of my life and everyone’s life- they are not what I think is going to make me be cool!
Adam: How serious a songwriter do you consider yourself to be?
Gala: The most serious, I’d rather spend my days on a dictionary. Not even because English is not my primary language but because I think “why this word instead of that word”. It is not the same as poetry. Songwriting requires simplicity but to be simple is not easy. Someone who listens to my new album would not necessarily find the “poetry” because they are more pop songs, positive and happy but my poetry which will be included in the new website is a completely different thing. It shows how serious I am about writing. The workshops I’ve gone to, the classes I’ve taken speak for who I am. I should be focusing on clothing and hiring good PR and booking in New York, which I don’t do! You will find me at a poetry class.
Adam: Do you agree that there is a stereotype that comes along with dance artists in that there isn’t that much thought put into the composition of the songs?
Gala: Absolutely, and it is a stereotype that comes along with reality. Most people in dance and pop are just singers or images. They don’t write their own material, especially in 90’s dance music. People have re-recorded my songs, like “Freed From Desire” but what they portrayed is not my work, it is the exact opposite of how I would portray myself which was my supposed “gimmick” I guess, why I made dance music special in my own way. I was a rock mind in dance music, and a radical feminist …as a woman. I rather wore a pair of tight jeans and a black tank top and focus on the writing. I never wore a skirt, no high heels, never showed my body, never wore make up, I tried not to use what women usually use to sell themselves and I wrote my own songs. If I were a man I would have worn make up and high hills, I would have been Prince. But as a woman it was not a statement as much as a duty. Now I have more fun with my sexuality and clothes and sometimes I feel like a man in drag…but it’s lots of fun.
Adam: How do you want to be perceived now? If you could name your niche like Madonna is the “Queen of Pop”, Bjork is the “Pixie of Electronica” and Courtney Love the “Grunge Goddess”…what would you be?
Gala: My songs sustain themselves in a genre where so many tracks die after a short period of time. Even now when I wish to re-introduce myself “Freed From Desire” is still played on the radio. Brazil, Chili, Peru, Russia, from Israel to Italy even when I am not well known in the USA I am still out there being danced to, that is more than I could ever had asked for. It’s a different story outside of the states. When I was little I would come home from school and throw my uniform on the floor. I wanted to be free. That image of me was “Freed From Desire”. Success became an obligation to me and I became pissed off by the record label and the way they wanted me to do things and I wished to be free from it whether one would think it wise or not. The money that goes into an artist that is willing and succumbs to the label is insurmountable and even at that time I wouldn’t sacrifice my beliefs or identity. That wasn’t my desire. Now I don’t have that success on the grand scale that I once did and I would like to have it again. People think you should be happy when you have success, but that doesn’t coincide with freedom. So let’s call my niche the “Queen of Freedom” (Laughs).
Adam: Tell me about “The Kiss” that was before its time.
Gala: The Kiss? “The Kiss” was eventually banned from television. This was many years ago when “Let a Boy Cry” first came out on MTV Italy and Italy is not only home to myself and other people of expression but also to The Catholic church so there may have been several influences that caused this particular scene to be censored. The scene was portraying an affectionate exchange amongst two young me. Nowadays it is normal, now you see it all the time on prime time T.V.! But to do it in Italy at that time was different, and mind you it wasn’t raunchy for they were kissing sweetly. Gay men were accepted in places like Milano, at the heart of the fashion industry but that was it. The typical notion I would hear in Italy, that it’s ok to be gay but just keep it private, keep it to yourself. Italians are very physical and are all about public display of affection but not exchanged between two men or two women. “The Kiss” was perhaps simply before its time.
Adam: What was the perspective on gay women?
Gala: Gay women…even worse! Well for instance, take the “L Word”…The word “lesbian” is harder to pronounce.. It is similar to using the word “feminist” which in the real meaning I consider myself to be one. Sometimes people put values and meaning to a word that are not the actual meaning. “Feminist” becomes a girl that is angry with men, similar to “anarchy”. You think of war, bombs, terrorists and disorder. The misunderstanding evokes feelings that are quite different than the concept.
Adam: Did you intend to push buttons or anticipate any consequences?
Gala: Oh of course, why do you think I did it in the first place! And the consequences were only good. In fact the response from many of my gay fans was that when they heard my song “Let A Boy Cry” it empowered them to speak to their families about being gay. The video may be black and white, but sexuality certainly is not, I don’t think it ever was.
Adam: It can be pink and purple!
Gala: And Tangerine and all the colors! In my reality I didn’t understand, but finally now in Italy things have changed. It is a new decade. See, we live in a world that is not the rest of the world. In New York, …many are bisexual or this or that, at some point in their lives.
Adam: Now you didn’t set out to be a gay icon, would you say it just kind of happened?
Gala: Well it occurred in my life that I associated more with people that were not so defined into sex roles. But personally this went for any cliché, even a gay boy that is too flamboyant and overzealous about being gay and puts himself into that “box” I was not interested in, that’s a box just like the macho man who says “hey bitch” and the girly girl who whines, “no I don’t know math, I’m bad at math”…every cliché, it always bothered me.
Adam: Would you say you embrace androgyny?
Gala: Absolutely and completely, to me androgyny is the most fascinating thing in the world. Somewhere in-between is where I am most comfortable. This dichotomy is present in my writing and actually when I was studying photography in university I did my thesis on Androgyny- beautiful boy-men, you know at the age where they could resemble either sex. (She takes out her portfolio, the works of her thesis are daring in appeal, soft and hard and can be looked at from many different angles. All her subjects are androgynous and the photos in their entirety send stories through my mind- seductive, mysterious and all beautiful.)
Adam: How much of a role does photography play in your life?
Gala: It was the beginning of it all. Nowadays everyone has a camera whether it’s digital or on their phones but a decade or so ago people weren’t walking around with a Blackberry or an iPhone in their pocket ready to snap at anything just to post it to facebook. I had a Nikon Film camera, you know the big one you wore around your neck, that was me everyday and I considered my camera a “key”. Being a photographer was an intimate thing, anybody I’ve photographed in the past I usually had asked permission. Permission to capture a piece of them, it wasn’t like “oh my God, don’t move let me snap a photo with my phone, I’m going to send it to everyone”. With this camera I opened doors of places I otherwise would never had gone in. To be completely honest and to make a long story short, I had taken photographs of people from many walks of life because I was so curious. One of those people happened to be a DJ and “Freed From Desire” was recorded with them…the rest is history.
Adam: Last question and I’m being serious…Are you freed from desire?
Gala: I ask myself this question every week of every month of every year that passes since this whole thing started. I remind myself that I said something during that period of my life. I was like on a wave surfing and it was because I was freed from desire, I didn’t care and I think I am in that state again. It is a very hard place to be in though because it means not depending on the results or anticipating the consequences. Not caring about achieving is something very difficult to do in New York because this city is about achieving. It is like I am in the city of the “Non-Freed From Desire” people and I’m repeating this mantra of being free but at the same time I must try to achieve. You can do things and want things and make things happen and at the same time remain unattached to the results if you have a sense of self. You always know you, your value and you can be happy just knowing your quality. I feel this sense of self when I write a good song, or even a good poem, which is the most useless thing in the world! What is a poem, it does not bring you money. Even the most famous poets, they’ve got no money. Even those poetry magazines, you may get published but you’ve still got nothing. And I spend my days writing poetry, which is absolutely useless. Even if you are a famous, famous poet…so what, you are not a millionaire. A poet. Being a poet is like the “Freed From Desire” job. You write because you see poetry in life. Poetry: useless and beautiful. I spend days sometimes writing a poem and then when I’m done I am so happy when it turns out great. The beauty of the words gives this happiness to me and it’s so…self-satisfying. I don’t have money or the success that I once did but I’m so happy. A song, now a song is different. When I write a song I want to share it and to sing it but not like “I want to be famous, what, what, wha look at me!” I recently read an article on one of these girls on the radio where she had said she would kill to get where she wanted. I myself would not…please. If I have to kill for something then it wasn’t meant to be mine in the first place. I don’t have that spirit. I just want to bring people together. I know it may sound hippy and naïve but when I started that’s what happened. That was my only intent. I was in high school and all my best friends starting getting their own lives. My very closest friend that I almost had a crush on of course, you know when you are girls and you are young and you just want to be with each other all your lives? Well, she got married and had kids and the other one went off to another city to work and I was alone, my circle was gone. Of course growing up in Italy at that time we were all very close but I assume it can’t be much different in other countries. Anyway, I thought to myself about how I could bring everyone back together. You know one was in England, one was in America, my best friend was in London and the other one in Paris because in Italy there wasn’t that much work so they were looking for something more. But I had such rage and such desire to gather and share. So instead of going off to foreign cities I went out to the clubs. So when my song became so big it was my way to scream at everybody “Come back”! It was my way to keep the web together. Remember at the time there was no Internet. The radio was the only way. And everyone would call me; “I heard your song in Germany, in England, here, there, everywhere!” We were all linked with one song, and then another and another. I kept sharing and sharing. It was much harder with out the music pages on Facebook and Myspace and this space and that space. My fame came from sharing without those tools. It’s ten years later, though when I was just in Brazil people remembered every lyric by heart. There was a photographer who came up to me after the performance and mentioned a lyric of one of my songs, “nobody loves me, nobody loves me enough, enough to save me” and then he says…”Gala well I want to love you and save you”. People quoting the lyrics of a dance song with that intensity is not quoting “This is the rhythm of the night!” and it’s great that people realize that these lyrics are deep that you can quote them like that to someone and have them be touching. I’d like to think that was something I helped contribute to dance music in the past and I hope to share more in the future. And now that it’s a decade later well, I think I have a bit more to share.