I saw SIKSA during the Solidarity of Arts festival in September this year. I was quite subjugated by their performance even as a poor polish speaker. Alex was slamming all over the place, randomly facing people, while Buri did an amazing job setting up the atmosphere with a great bassline.
It made me curious about them.
And they were kind to answer few questions for We Shoot Music.
We Shoot Music: First, Can you introduce yourselves ? Who is Siksa ?
Alex: Siksa is a Yiddish word and it means “non-jewish girl”. In Poland, we use that word to call young girls like this, young, stupid and immature. It’s a pejorative term. So that’s why we are Siksa. Siksa is an experiment – we decided to check out if it’s possible to act like a 16 years old girl again
and survive the age of puberty on our own terms. That’s why Siksa is a character when I’m on stage, but it is also very much based on my own experience and past life. I am from a lovely conservative family with lots of taboo subjects. That’s why I am on stage that girl I wanted to be when I was a teenager. I am writing the lyrics and create them on stage while Buri is playing the bass and deals with all the invisible work for the audience.
WSM: When did you decide to musically create Siksa?
Alex: It was 5 years ago. We met each other. Buri saved my life and we fell in love. He was reading my stuff which was always “too much” for everybody else and start to encourage me to perform slam poetry. During these events I realized how powerful are my words and what they can do to the audience: how it is moving people from love to hate, from hate to love. But what is more important, it was a big step for me to be brave, to start to accept myself and to speak with myself in front of the public. After few weeks I was like: let’s do the band and he said: “but I can only play the bass” and I answered him: “let’s do it, who gives a shit?”. And after that, I wrote some lyrics, he did the music, and after two months we performed with that in my home town – Gniezno. It was our first gig, I was on stage with a microphone stand and we did it. And people were a little bit shocked but our friends did support us and told us that it was crazy shit. But we knew on that evening – that it was just the beginning for us with this beautiful but full of all kind of emotions journey. We finally found ourselves with the art that we wanted to express with.
WSM: During your performance at the Solidarity of Arts. Was it all improvisation? Or did you have some kind of plan?
Buri: At “Solidarity of Arts” we played for the first time our new live set calling “The Murmur of the Heart”. During our career, people often asked us after seeing us live, about improvisation. But no. Since many years, we prepared five or six planned sets, like “Revenge on the Enemy” or “Taming of the Shrew” if we mention just “the biggest” ones. I know that our live shows sometimes looks like improvisation, because of free form, connection between us, audience and the space, because of raw, radical and disturbing sound. But It is a well prepared set, where there are some “empty spaces” where we can put some spontaneity. You know, it’s not jazz improv, it’s not random cacophony. It’s OK if people are shocked and seeing this like that, but for us, it’s whole concept with a beginning, a middle and an end, where we are playing with emotions – both ours and the emotions of the audience. Basically, we do rehearsals in our small apartment, and the first show is always, like the one in B90 during the SoA festival, a more spontaneous premiere and a test for our live set. It’s always a mystery for us, how will it be? It is something like artist’s terrorism, we are then like a bomb dropped on stage. Of course, during touring our sets are evolving, swelling and morphing into other “songs”, the motifs are showing up to us, we are adding some ornaments to voc, bass and movement. But we rather see this like a spontaneous working-on-living-piece-of-art than a “traditional” improvisation. Also it’s a matter of dialogue between me and Alex during the show.
WSM: What are your inspirations?
Buri: We never thought about our direct inspirations and we never pointed to ourselves at some artists when we started with SIKSA. SIKSA always was strongly connected with our personal lives, moments, times. So the strongest inspiration is the world around us, even if it’s sounds boring and old fashioned. But if you wanted to know which artists we admire and that had a strong influence on us (even if you don’t hear or see in our art), here you go : Tomasz Armada, Natalia LL, Beyonce, Piotr Macha, Uma Thurman, Diamanda Galás, Klaus Flouride, Tori Ferenc, The Clash, The Dark Crystal, Bohumil Hrabal, Paquita Salas, Saul Williams, Federico Fellini, Witold Gombrowicz, The Muppet Show, Raymond Queneau and many, many more. But this is what we could find today. Maybe, if we answered to that question tomorrow, we would mention completely different ones?
WSM: When you started to slam in front of people, being very close to their face, do you want to provoke a reaction? I saw that everybody was very serious and stoic.
Alex: It comes very naturally. I was becoming more self-confident on stage and decided to leave it one day because it isn’t exactly my place in the word. I need people like air. From the very beginning when I started to slam in front of people, I was acting like a psycho a little bit. Because at that time, SIKSA was telling about body and problems with having sex, she was thinking that she can’t do the sex but also I was acting like a drunk polish celebrity and talking about politics, so it was a part of the role to be in front of people and catch them. This show which you saw, is the more calm season for us ever (we use term “season” like in Tv series). We were performing season about body, then about political situation in Poland, and it was wild, after that I decided to talk about rape which is my personal story so I was acting like a superhero, like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. These material was called “Revenge on Enemy”. After that we decided to do a live set about tiredness and about all these things which we heard from the audience or self-styled critics. That is maybe the wrong way to talk about rape like that, maybe we should elaborate more a accessible formula or change the form. I was also invited to TV or newspapers to talk about rape or how to be a feminist, and I was refusing it because I realized that at that time, mainstream needed a feminist who could be a celebrity, so I was also like: it’s not my style. I preferred to do a season called “Taming of the Shrew”, based on a Shakespeare’s piece (same title) and talk with SIKSA as Alex, argue with her and ask myself a few questions, how to make our own freedom, on our terms, and not hurting anyone. And this material which you saw is “Murmur of the Heart” and it’s more metaphorical and more melodious. I am not spiting out a ton of word from me, like it was a few months ago. We decided to do a season about a war, but our inside war. I am singing that I know we need new songs to sing but I can’t, and this is all I can do. That is all. Here I am without rape and traumas. Here I am as a war veteran who survived, but experienced post-traumatic stress disorder with all that shit, so I need to rest and find who I am and piece myself together after this war, because I don’t know who I am when I am not singing about big things. I don’t know who I am after my death. So it is a new situation for some of our audience because it is a season without catharsis. And I think that people were like this because they got used to it – what she’s gonna say, it will be stronger than last material or not? And also it is very flattering that the audience want to listen you very focused. But this time I think we are giving them disappointment more than big emotions. And that is good. Because we don’t need heroes no more, and I was hero once. That is the end of this story. Kill your idols, and I decided to be killed as a stage character and deal with it – show life after this symbolic death.
WSM: Did you ever had a bad one doing so? I presume all people coming to your concerts must be receptive to your messages, but you know, there is always the possibility of a very susceptible person.
Alex: Of course. But it means nothing for us to be honest. Sometimes some boys are coming to our gigs and start to scream something or even do something to me. But I think it hurts me more when some self-styled expert is coming and try to show me that I mean nothing to him, or when people from the art-world are saying in lobbies that for example I am a primitive because of what I am saying about rape in that form. Those people are more fucked-up and disgust me more than few right-wing lost boys without perspectives because of fucked-up system.
WSM: For the bass part. How do you manage to play for over 30 minutes without pause? It looked really impressive. Simple bassline but very effective.
Buri: At the beginning we used the traditional form of “song”, we used a setlist during the show, one piece was different from the other, one song was a closed form, focused about one theme and the other song was about something else. But since, I don’t know, 2017 maybe, we started to think about the setlist like a whole, closed story, finished narrative act. You could have a spirit of this thinking on our debut LP “Stabat Mater Dolorosa”. Then, we played two very hard, live sets which Alex already mentioned: “Revenge on the Enemy”, about rape and “Taming of the Shrew” about powerlessness and struggling with the audience and pressure. Themes of those two were traumatic and transgressive, so we started to play faster, wilder. It was obvious for us that we could not be thinking about songs, but rather a monodrama, ouverture, one bigger form. So we stick to that. I like the changing of the mood, tempo, climate like in Dead Kennedys or Mr. Bungle albums. “Murmur of the Heart” for us is rather something more calm than our previous live sets. For example our last shows with “Taming of the Shrew” set were around one hour bass noise and text without any pause. And about the simplicity? Yea, it’s simple because we wanna be communicative. But melody, harmony, typical riffs are hidden behind our communication and expression. Probably that’s why people often just see us as a shitty musical band. But who cares.
WSM: Do you think that artists can have an impact in pointing out what is wrong with society? Can they make a difference? Do people take them seriously?
Alex: It is a matter of believes. I believe in that. I know that other artists always help me with dealing with things, problems. They always were helping. Art saved me also. And I know it can help. I am always watching with red cheeks and admiration how some of the artists with big influence are mixing politics with art. A great example of this is Beyoncé with her past two movies – very feminist movies. But I also love Solange and how she is putting the idea of sisterhood in her songs. So I really don’t know but I know one thing: let’s do the things that we believe in. Because every work is important and can have an impact to big things. I believe that the changes will come when every little thing will be pushing them such as art, politics, social work, science, family talks.
WSM: Since I’m in Poland – 12 years now – I see that the society is more and more divided. And sometimes I’m afraid that it doesn’t take the right direction. When I see what happened in Biaĺystok during a Pride walk, I wonder if it will ever be a peaceful country where people accept others. What are your thoughts about it? About where Poland stands now and where it’s going.
Alex: Lots of people are working to change this direction. And what is important they are doing it also in small cities. We are living in a small city (it is not so small but still about 60 000 people are living here). I am thinking that we can change things in small groups and here I can see myself. We are trying to make an alternative space for children, teenagers and adults offering them workshops, great gigs, inviting artists there to work with this small society. I believe that that kind of work is helping people live together and we have to be visible with our values in society. So organizing Pride Walks is very important (we did it with a group of great people for the first time this year in Gniezno) but also inviting writers, poets, musicians who can talk with their art about this values like equality, ecology, that are playing world music rooted in various religions, cults and cultures are important too. Because we need to fight about our space in this world. And the world is not a safe space.
WSM: Thanks a lot for your time and we hope to see you again in 3City.