Art D’Ecco is no stranger to isolation. The enigmatic nouveau glam rocker actually wrote the bulk of his 2018 breakout album, Trespasser, on one of British Columbia’s Gulf Islands, socially isolated from the rest of the world while caring for his ailing grandmother. “I guess you could say I was in isolation before it was cool,” D’Ecco laughs. “That whole Trespasser era feels so far in the rearview mirror now though.”
While Trespasser was the album that introduced the artist and his fresh new aesthetic — complete with his signature wig and white face makeup — it likely feels so distant because D’Ecco never stopped writing new material. In fact, he was sitting on his follow-up album, In Standard Definition, for more than a year before it dropped in April.
In Standard Definition is D’Ecco’s first concept album. It’s a storied collection of songs about the world of entertainment. Obsessed with the excess, he writes about Hollywood has-beens and the role technology plays in how we consume entertainment. He captures the glitz and glamour of Hollywood by adding more arena rock elements to his already unique sound, which combines elements of dark pop, rock, and goth for something uniquely its own. Tracks like “Head Rush” and “TV God” deliver the pomp and pageantry of the entertainment world without sacrificing D’Ecco’s well-chiseled rockstar edge.
While still very much isolated, a lot has changed since D’Ecco’s Trespasser days. He lives in Victoria now, constantly traveling back and forth via ferry from his home to mainland Vancouver to rehearse with his band. Eager to get his sophomore creation out into the world he’s spent the last year throwing himself into his music, becoming a better producer and taking creative risks.
Hoping for a year filled with opportunities, D’Ecco talks with us about taking right-turns to avoid artistic stagnation and his style inspirations.
Congrats on the album. How does it feel to be releasing music in the middle of a pandemic?
It’s more like, holy shit I finally get to release this album after sitting on it for a year and a half. It’s been a real debate whether to even bother releasing music when it’s impossible to promote it in the same way as pre-2020 and the pandemic. This album has been done since January of 2020. It’s like I’ve been sitting on this secret. I just want to get it off my chest.
In regards to you living that isolated island life, do you feel like that time you spent holed up in a cabin with your grandmother helped you prepare for the past year of social distancing and isolation that we’ve all experienced?
I wanted to deviate from and just bury that whole narrative of the tortured artist living in a cabin in the woods. It was literally what I was doing with my life but it wasn’t like someone put a gun to my head and said ‘Hey move to the Gulf Islands and take care of your dying grandmother.’ I did it by choice and the next thing you know six or seven years passed and I’m still living there. Busting out of that island living and moving back to the city, albeit Victoria, was a really healthy step for me in healing and finding myself.
The concept of Standard Definition vs “high def” is an interesting one given that this past year has been so digitally driven – What made you want to make an album about media?
In Standard Definition is about entertainment. It’s told through a few different perspectives. Number one is the perspective of the entertainer. There is a song called “Desires” on the album and it was inspired by an old game show host who hosted Family Feud who was a sort of tortured comedian character. He ended up killing himself and, years later, they found out he had lived a double life. It was such a fascinating story to me, that he felt so rendered useless by the new guard of comedians coming up.
The other angle is how people consume entertainment: us watching our phones and tv all the time. I get a kick out of how technology has shaped the way we consume entertainment. The third angle for the album came from a pure songwriting perspective. What if a song in my head played out like a movie? “Headrush” was inspired by nostalgia and movies like Dazed and Confused and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I felt like I wanted the album to feel like you’re flipping through channels on tv and thus the title: In Standard Definition.
What was your creative process for In Standard Definition?
I started writing the album as soon as Trespasser came out. I went away on tour and I was touring quite a bit so I brought a little recording rig. Some of the tracks on the album were written in hotel rooms all over North America. That took place throughout 2018 all the way till the end of 2019 when I took the demos into The Hive studio here in Victoria and tracked them with Colin Stewart.
How has your persona as Art D’Ecco evolved since Trespasser?
I feel like my stage look definitely morphed since the first show (on the Trespasser tour). I’ve been putting on the glam new romantic aesthetic since 2016, and I’m not sure how much longer I can honestly take. For one, I erupt and get rashes from all that paint that I put on my face every night. (laughs) Aside from that, I’m playing with the idea of flowing into something else. I don’t know what it is just yet. I’m going to try to get inspired and reinvent what the live experience is going to be with Art D’Ecco. I like the idea of being fluid. All my favorite artists constantly change and reinvent themselves. As soon as you get comfortable with the same look and the same sound you become a legacy act.
Ever since you put on the bob and embraced your inner glam, style has become a part of your narrative as an artist. Was that intentional? Who are some of your recent style inspirations?
There are really only three bands in the glam canon that I’m influenced by: Obviously David Bowie, T-Rex, and Roxy Music. You look at early Roxy Music and there are a lot of glammy outfits and suits and ties. I love that version of glam rock. There’s something about wearing nice clothes to a show and dressing up for a show. You put effort into the music so why not put effort into how you present yourself on stage.
What was your favorite music video growing up?
There is something charming about the pre-MTV music video era. There’s not much of a narrative to them, they’re almost like a live performance because you can see the instruments plugged in. It gives you an idea of what the bands would look like if they performed live. So for the music videos that I’m releasing for In Standard Definition, I wanted to recreate that.
What was the first album you bought with your own money?
AC/DC Live. I wish it was a cooler album but that was the first album I bought. I bought it at an HMV in Victoria when I was like 15 or 16.
What is the last thing you bought online?
A fuzz pedal made by Keeley.
It may be difficult to predict at this point, but what do you think this next year is going to look like for you as an artist?
I imagine much like every album that has been released in the last year, after a few weeks In Standard Definition will disappear into the ether because I can’t go out on tour. But fortunately for my fans, I will follow that up with another album, possibly in late 2021 early 2022. And once we’re all vaccinated and able to leave the country I will immediately go on tour. There are plans for the fall to do some US touring and then the UK will begin in 2022 along with a bunch of Canadian gigs. There should be a lot of touring and a lot more music coming in the next year and a half.