“I am very much the conundrum of immigrant youth identity crisis, an alien everywhere.”
Debby Friday’s music ceaselessly circles beauty and brutality, questioning their respective limits and underscoring the possible impossibility of their implicit separations. On her new release BITCHPUNK, Friday echoes, samples, sings, speaks, and reverberates through innumerable Black diasporic sonic geographic landscapes and fields, a churning critique of strict categories. Summoning running hum and clamor, Friday’s BITCHPUNK assembles dissonances casting attention towards moral disorder and insurrection. It’s a grounding and a sounding where love/hate and good/evil are named and tuned to revolutionary uses.
Debby Friday states: “who I am is a confrontation.” What does it mean to identify as a challenge, as trouble? It might mean that “I got vision, yeah I got guts,” as Friday relates on their track “STAY UP,” continuing: “And I flood and I rain / and I seed and I weave.” Written after a period of time touring the United States, Canada, and Europe as a DJ, BITCHPUNK announces Friday as an intricately dexterous and dangerous artist whose spiraling interconnections span oceanic speakers and pan in and out of Yoruba poetries, contemporary queer woman and non-binary-identified underground music communities, and various generations challenging the order of things, its against-ness as a propulsion for creation.
Debby Friday and I corresponded to discuss her various experiences of music, politics, and thoughts on the through-lines of Blackness, gender, queerness, and power congregating in her work. They currently reside in Vancouver after living in Montreal. (Friday uses she/they pronouns.)
The album opens with the question: “C’est Quoi Ça, BITCHPUNK?” Could we start with that question – “what is that” – by discussing the name BITCHPUNK?
For me, naming the album BITCHPUNK was my way of bearing witness to myself. A making of me in my own image. I am a bitch and this is my punk. And it’s a punk that is intimately tied to centuries of Black oral tradition and musical history, both arenas of confrontation with oppression and also confrontation with the Self. These confrontations are informed by fantastical c(h)ords of Love that span generations and also a very kinesthetic experience of violence.
As I’ve gotten older and more serious about what it means to heal, I’ve been able to better reconcile the place of violence in the fabric of the universe and my own life. And for me, violence and beauty, diaspora and home, hate and love, have become two sides of the same spectrum: a duality that collapses the more I come to understand the very human capacity for both. We can be very good and very motherfucking bad. And this requires a space to be made for the full complexity of who we are. And who I am, as a human being, as someone who is Black and woman and queer and alien and wicked (among other things), who I am is a confrontation, it is something to be witnessed. This is the space in which BITCHPUNK was born.
What is your process for incorporating samples and other pieces of music into the work? How does this process of making “your own” music maybe differ or feel the same from the process of DJing and making mixes? The last track, “AMOR FATI,” features/samples Yoruba poet Mayowa Adeyemo singing a praise-poem for Ogun. Finally, could you discuss the importance of Yoruba to you?
Well, firstly, I am Yoruba. I was born in Nigeria and immigrated to Canada with my mother when I was about two years old and have grown up here my whole life. I am very much the conundrum of immigrant youth identity crisis, an alien everywhere. I used to struggle with it a lot more when I was younger but now, I’ve more or less made my peace with it. My personal experience of diaspora is one that is heavily shaped by the processes of hybridity and abstraction. And these processes inform all of my work.