It's an uncommon day in indieland when you hear somebody lay down a song that enriches and fortifies your mind. You know, the kind of food for thought you expect to hear out of a Bob Dylan, a Springsteen, or a Neil Young. This was the reaction I had upon hearing 21st Century by the 24-year-old singer, songwriter, lyricist and actress known as DeMonicka. Musically she is definitely a talent as well but you could tell straight-away that she has something to say, and she does it with a self-assuredness that makes her come off as wise and worldly, way beyond her years. I have heard a lot of indies as you know but I don't recall one with the wherewithall and vision of this one. These songs are bigger, more vast in reach. I somehow picture DeMonicka making a huge impact socially as these songs find their way to the light of day. I must emphasize once again that all her songs are pretty great on the musical end, she is original and no slouch melodically, she has oodles of talent in that regard. However it is when you look at her lyrics on her IMP song pages that you start to freak. Songs like The Mirrors show an enlightened self-awareness. David is a remarkable commentary on someone Monicka knows. I personally could see her doing a whole record of songs about everyone in her vicinity, her mind is this big ball of wax that you wish you could stay inside of. It totally makes me feel hopeful for the world to come across an artist like this. I just want to stand back and listen because this is clearly just the beginning. Anyway I had the chance to ask her some questions and upon receiving her answers, this is I'd say one of the most enjoyable interviews I've ever been a part of.
DeMonicka (in case you want to listen while you read) ______________________________________________________________________________________
Scott: Okay, take us thru your songwriting process. Does it start with lyrics, music, a phrase? What's your background in music. When did you write your first song? Are the songs on your IMP page collaborations or is it mostly all you?
DeMonicka: My journey with music had started since I was a toddler. When my mother wanted to cook or clean the house, she would put me in my stroller and play TV cabaret performances, which we assume was the reason why I’ve become so fascinated with music and performances. When I was 8 I wrote my first lyrics, they were about a fiancÚ cheating on me haha. I was taking singing lessons since I was 10, and when I was 15 I performed in amatour musicals in local culture centres. At the age of 18 I went to college to study music and that's where I learnt to play piano and guitar and I became a member of a prestigious choir Harmonia. Then I composed my first song ''I'm OK (Falling Into History)''. I've been re-writing this song for almost 6 years! It has gone through several transformations, but I finally managed to finish it and it's going to be included in my 2nd EP.
My songwriting process is quite differentiated, I would say. Sometimes I start with lyrics, sometimes with melody, sometimes I create both at the same time. I've been a lyricist most of my life, because lyrics are my type of diary, so usually I write a melody, and then scroll through my lyrics files to find the one that would match the melody. I have almost 400 lyrics, so I often don’t write new lyrics and use and refine the old ones instead. But still, my songwriting process is always different with every song. There are songs I was writing for years like ‘’I’m OK’’ and there are songs I wrote in 40 minutes like ''21st Century''. Lyrics and melody for ‘’Born To Sing’’ were created at once.
I have currently 14 self-composed songs and the songs I uploaded on my IMP are self-composed too except ''As If I Never''. It's a collaboration between me and Croatian band The Employees. I took part as a singer and lyricist.
Scott: When I saw the name DeMonicka I thought you might be a metal band. IMP had a pretty popular band Domenica that was this. What's your relationship with demons?
DeMonicka: Hahaha, I know that my stage name matches more dark concepts and heavy metal bands, but that's not the case. I don't really remember how I came up with that name. I remember that, for some reasons I can't recall anymore, I combined my name (Monica) with the word ''demon'' and I thought that 'demonica' sounded pretty cool, so I chose to keep it. Then I upgraded it to DeMonicka. I personally have no relationship with demons. I consider them fascinating and eerie, and I do believe in their existence, just like I believe in ghosts and Angels (well, obviously, because demons are fallen angels) but I've never paid too much attention to them. I wouldn't say that either me or DeMonicka has anything to do with demons. Maybe I could've created a whole concept around DeMonicka and assign demonic traits to her to make her more mysterious, but no, I don’t feel like it. Stage persona and private self are often two different people and DeMonicka is just a part of me that's capable of everything, is fearless, always confident in anything she does and unrestricted by anything.
Scott: Love your song David. Is that based on a true story? he hates gusts oh so much. I wondered what kind of people you surround yourself with in real time?
DeMonicka: Thank you :) Yes, David does exist, although it's not the boy's real name. I decided to change his name, because...well, he had a very Polish name that couldn’t be translated into English. He was my college friend and he was a type of person who always needed to be in the spotlight. He talked too loud, always joked around (even when he shouldn't have) and he was constantly showing off. Everyone seemed to love him and I couldn't understand why, as his demeanor was really pissing me off. One night I talked to my friend who was his friend as well and she admitted that it was his way of hiding his complexes. There is a lot of people who act in a vulgar, controversial or silly way to shift people's attention from their flaws, so it made sense to me. I was once like that too, so it's not like I am shading him. Actually I am warning him like ''hey, learn to accept yourself and your flaws, act normal and you will meet people that will accept your flaws too.''
I personally have very few friends, as it was said once: ''It's better to have few real friends than to have a thousand fake ones''. The majority of them are my childhood friends, people I basically grew up with, so we trust each other and we don't let each other do stupid things...alone :) I'm a naturally optimistic person, and I choose to surround myself with positive people. We have our problems and worries, but we believe that life's good and if we have a hard time, it will get better eventually. We believe in each other, motive and entertain each other.
Scott: What is it like to have a riot in your head, and what results?
DeMonicka: I put down the riot long time ago but it was a nightmare. It was a constant battle betwen what I truly wanted and what I made myself believe was true. It was like wanting to love yourself, but then thinking ''but first I need to lose weight or get a promotion to love myself.'' You know it's a lie, but the belief is so strongly programmed inside your subconscious mind, so it takes months or years to change that. I would compare it to a very stormy debate between two people of different opinions. I was rebelling against myself and at the same time I was fighting back, so obviously it was mentally tiring and confusing. Results? After many years I’ve become a very a happy person, I finally know what is true and what is not and I follow my new beliefs. No more chaos and havoc. Now I have a peaceful mind.
Scott: In your song Born to Sing, you mention all the hopefuls around you. Have you found indies that you prefer to mainstream acts? Are there any mainstream acts that have made a big impact on you?
DeMonicka: The hopefuls I sing about are all the singers and musicians, who try to become successful. I especially focused on people I had met on castings in which I had taken part as a teenager.
Oh The Radical Face, they're my favorite indie act ever. Their songs have the most heart-rending lyrics I've ever read and in terms of lyrics, they totally win over mainstream acts.
As regards mainstream acts, Evanescence had a massive impact on me. Their music made me want to play piano and everytime I want to learn something new I start with Evanescence. I'm not the best pianist in the world, so some of their songs are quite challenging to me, but it doesn't stop me haha :) Their leader Amy Lee has been a great inspiration for me since I was 12. She's the reason why I chose to have my own style and get my eyebrow pierced. Except them, there's a Korean band BTS that I truly admire and look up to. Their own achievements are one of the biggest motivators I have received in my life. They're very passionate about music and they never miss the opportunity to express their gratitude towards fans. In spite of growing popularity at a very young age (they're betwen 18 and 24), they have remained humble and down-to-earth. I want to have an attitude like that.
Scott: Have you yet felt any frustration from being as good as you are in the midst of a huge glut of indie artists? Have you run into any adversity (jealousy, writer's block, etc) in your journey as an artist?
DeMonicka: I think that adversities are the inseparable part of my journey. Through most of my life I felt not good enough in anything. My friends were winning contest after contest, and I never won anything (until last month). When I performed in musicals, I would get less lines to sing, even though I had a better voice. When I passed the TV audition, I got eliminated right away, because stressed made me sing off key. So yeah, I was very familiar with jealousy, because I thought that everyone was doing better, even though I was working equally hard. But in time I learnt to stop being jealous. The awards my friends won in high school don't matter to them anymore. People who performed in musicals don't do music anymore, meanwhile I, who wasn't that lucky back then, am writing my own songs that are liked and positively reviewed. It's no use in comparing my life and achievements to other people, because I have no idea what their own journey is about, what their career is about and their achievements don't make me a failure. As a result, my friend has released a music video, but instead of being salty about it, I'm happy for her and I hope she will achieve more. I know I will be successful too, just in my own time and in own way.
Oh writer's block, I have experienced that so many times. But inspiration in general is such a whimsical thing to cope with. It hits me unexpectedly, at strange hours (2 in the morning, for example), can last for 24 hours or only for 5 minutes. But it's temporary and it always comes back. I've had some creative slowdown recently, but one day, out of the blue, I composed a song ''Hero'' and I think it's one of the best songs I've written so far. I experience writer's block, but it's always temporary so I never let myself get frustrated about it.
Scott: You mention you had low self esteem. Has music empowered you? How long have you had your music out there and does it affect your self esteem negatively when you're somewhere on the web where they don't notice how good you are?
DeMonicka: Hmm, this is actually a bit complicated to explain. I had low self-esteem because I used to be overweight and had trouble making friends and uhm, there was one time when music was the reason why my self-esteem disappeared completely for a long period of time. It was during my studies, because everyone was far more experienced and was better pianists or singers, so I didn’t feel talented enough. I even didn’t like my voice, because I thought I wasn’t a good singer and I even wanted to quit music. But my guts convinced me that I couldn’t give up, because music is my life calling, the reason why I’m still alive (sounds dramatic, but it is true). Music has been always my strength, even when we had this love-hate relationship and I wasn’t confident enough, but 2 years ago I began uploading my covers on soundcloud and my cover of Evanescence’s ‘’Thoughtless’’ (it’s KORN’s song, but I sang Evanescence version) became quite popular. It gave me the confidence to upload my self-composed songs.
I uploaded my songs on several websites, but the poor response or no response at all doesn’t affect me too much. It makes me sad, but I don’t get disappointed. There are so many artists and websites and I don’t expect to become a top star of every web haha :) and I always think ‘’if not here, then somewhere else.’’ You never know when Lady Luck is going to smile at you - I randomly uploaded music here on IMP and the response I have received was beyond my comprehension! I honestly shared few tears of gratitude when I read comments and when someone called me ‘’one of her favorite artists.’’ My music doesn’t have to be appreciated everywhere, it has to be appreciated in the right places, by the right people and I’m glad IMP is one of them.
Scott: your present won't kill my future - I'm in control, I am my own ruler
Can you elaborate, tell us anything that comes to mind about those lines.
DeMonicka: When I was a teenager, adults used to paint the adulthood in the worst light possible. Many times have I heard ‘’Enjoy being a teenager, because it’s getting worse later'', meaning I will get a job I‘ll hate, I’ll earn little money, I'll be always exhausted, I’ll never go out anywhere because I won’t have time, I’ll have bank loan I’ll be unable to repay, I’ll have a husband who will disrespect me, kids who will annoy me, mother-in-law who will hate me...and the same people tried to tell me how I should live. Tell me what job should I have, that I should quit music, because it's just pipe dream...people who gave up their dreams tried to talk me out of mine and make my life as miserable as theirs. That's why ''your present won't kill my future'' – just because you hate your life doesn't give you a permission to make me ruin my life. Let me live my life on my terms, because I'm the only one who's in charge of it.
Scott: be who you are but on terms of 21st century. What challenges are unique to this era? Are you hopeful about the world? Do you feel your part in the world can help make things better?
DeMonicka: People don’t learn from the history and keep making the same mistakes...We still fight for things we had fought before, we still have a very strong racism, double standards, misogyny, sexism, islamophobia...There were wars and revolutions meant to end all of this and yet it seems as if they had never happened. Not only this, but people tell you to be yourself, but once you are, they point out what’s wrong about you - you’re too this or too that, you’re constantly ‘’too’’ much of something.
21st Century for me is like a vicious circle - we repeat the same old mistakes over and over again. Even self-proclaimed social justice warriors fight for justice to the extent of forgetting what justice really means and end up fighting against everything and everyone. You say ‘’I like girls with blond hair’’ and they translate it into ‘’I hate girls with black hair.’’
In spite of that, yes, I am hopeful about the world. There are 7 billion people and I believe that the majority of them are good people. It’s just the bad ones go viral, because they attract bigger attention. It’s much more entertaining to talk about murder instead of a man who rescued family from conflagration or policeman who helped the homeless man get back on track. I don’t watch TV, instead I read positive news, about the good stuff people did and do, so my faith in humanity is always restored.
I’d love to help make things better and I hope that it’s already happening. You don't necessarily have to become some kind of leader who make ground-breaking speeches that unite nations to make a positive change. Change starts within ourselves so if we perceive the world as a horrible place, we turn it into a horrible place. If we're positive and we help others, we become natural role models that silently inspire others. I am into random acts of kindness - helping friends, carrying someone's groceries, buying someone a gift without a reason. I once read a story about a teenager who witnessed a boy being bullied. He stopped the bullies and chose to become friends with the boy. Couple years later the boy admitted that the day his friend had stopped the bullies was the day the boy had wanted to commit suicide, but this random act of kindness saved him. Random kindness is just as helpful and world changing as big, televised revolutions.
Scott: Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you do some of the things typical ladies of your age do? Are there parts of your life you'd consider pretty normal? :)
DeMonicka: I’ve always had trouble sleeping. I am a night owl, so I am most active at night - I would literally build a house at 2 in the morning, because I have so much energy and sometimes I get inspired at that hour. As a result, I am unconscious in the morning haha :)
Hmmm, what are the typical things ladies at my age do? :) Because my age-mates are either still students or are married and have children. That’s what differs me from the majority of my friends, because I graduated last year and marriage is not even on my to-do list. Hard to say, but I hang out with friends, I go shopping, help my parents at home, work towards my dreams...I think it’s pretty typical, right?
Hmm, I have a lovely, supportive family, house, food, clothes, friends, education, and having those things makes my life normal. Other than that, I meet crazy people, I experience crazy things, I have crazy goals, crazy ideas and thoughts in my head. I've seen, read and experienced so many unbelievable and crazy things that sometimes I fear that nothing can surprise me anymore :) But it's good, I like it. I want that normal part to stay normal, but at the same time I want my life to be as crazy as it's possible.
Scott: We ask this question of all the Spotlight interviewees. Have you had any experiences of high strangeness like UFOs or with the supernatural (ghosts, etc)?
DeMonicka: I live in a haunted house :) My house is very old, almost 110 years old if I remember well from my dad's story and many people had lived here. I was 10 years old when I met a ghost for the first time. It was a large man walking upstairs from our basement. It wasn't anyone from my family, because everyone was in living room and it couldn't be a burglar, because the window in the basement is too small for a human to fit in. I remember it like it was yesterday. Besides, everytime I walk through my corridor I sense someone's presence, and sometimes I have to stop, because I feel like I just bumped into someone. It sounds scary, right? Haha, I know, but I'm not afraid, they're peaceful ghosts.
Scott: I noticed you mentioned a list of do and don'ts. I know that was a bit facetious but do you have any rules for yourself that you live by?
DeMonicka: I have several rules about being good to people, being positive and having faith, but the most significant rules I follow are a) follow your dreams and b) be yourself.
I was born with specific talent, personality and plans. I have specific beliefs, opinions, preferences and style. No matter how weird, impossible or absurd any of this might seem for other people, this is me and I'm proud of it. Since I was a kid, I knew what my life calling was, why I am the way I am and how it can help me achieve any of my plans. I can't imagine my life without following these two rules and even if it's hard sometimes, I prefer to have it hard, but at least while being true to myself instead of having it easier for being fake.