Carhartt WIP Radio warmly welcomes Prinzhorn Dance School, a stripped-down post-punk duo from the UK's south coast music capital, Brighton. Since 2006 they have been one of the most unusual signings of the New York based label DFA Records. The duo consists of music and visual artists Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn (who is also a DJ). Their self-titled 2007 debut album was included in the 120 best LPs of all time list in the UK's Sunday Telegraph newspaper. After a string of highly acclaimed 7” singles on DFA they released their second album Clay Class in 2012, another indispensable LP, full of left field lyrics and lo-fi tracks, mixed with bass, guitar, and drums. Their music equally reminds the listener of bands such as The Fall, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, and – in terms of lyrical ambiguity – Television Personalities. For Carhartt WIP Radio Miss Horn dives deep into her DFA vinyl collection. The New York City based imprint was founded in 2001 by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, Jonathan Galkin, and Tim Goldsworthy and so far they have released landmark records by artists like The Rapture, Hercules And Love Affair, Yacht, LCD Soundsystem, and of course Prinzhorn Dance School. In her vinyl mix Suzi Horn melts with her very own perspective fresh and older music by the likes of Junior Senior, Le Tigre, Black Leotard Front, Radio 4, and for sure some hot Prinzhorn Dance School material! We talked to her about her musical background, her influences, Prinzhorn Dance School’s creative process, life on DFA Records, and much more...
Image #73566(Suzi Horn and Tobin Prinz aka Prinzhorn Dance School, photo by Melanie Klein)
Hello Suzi, can you tell us a bit about your musical background?
Suzi Horn: Apart from the horn, none. I worked at The Monarch in Camden, behind the bar and in dance nightclubs most of my early life. I still work the bar now at parties. I love it. Back then it was a way to see bands and DJs for free. Michael, who ran The Monarch back in the 90's was very good at making sure every one of the barstaff got to see at least a few of the bands they were interested in. It’s a lovely coincidence that this is the venue that Jonathan Galkin and Tim Goldsworthy (DFA Records) first came to see us play and soon after that we began our life as recording artists!
How did you first get into music and performing and when did you decide you wanted to make music your career?
Suzi Horn: My sister was a big musical influence on me. I would listen outside her bedroom door and swap her tapes with my friend at school. Performance? That's down to Ava Jones and Tobin Prinz. I was always a facilitator - never an artist or performer - until I met Tobin. I'm not sure music is a career, more a life choice. If I ever lose my drive for music my mate Steve always reminds me "what else can you do?" I probably could do other things, but the art of working with sound is definitely something I'm naturally good at – experimenting with sound and mixing records.
If you could describe the sound of your band Prinzhorn Dance School in one sentence, what would it be?
Suzi Horn: Raw and real. But sometimes sweet and yearning.
How did you end up on the label DFA Records and what makes the label special in your eyes?
Suzi Horn: We sent them a demo CD and they liked it. We have become family over the years and it's always nice to spend time together wherever we might be in the world. It's great to get to play with our pals on the DFA label in random places - to play a live show and then have Shit Robot doing the late party round the corner for an after show dance.
What are your biggest musical influences?
Suzi Horn: Tobin Prinz. I love music in many forms, but Tobin forces me to actually think and feel and go deeper into the what and the why. The music I listen to is for enjoyment. I actually don't listen to a lot of music whilst writing my own music as I need to stay focused on Prinzhorn Dance School.
What do you want to accomplish with music?
Suzi Horn: Nothing. And everything. I think I make music in a selfish way to satisfy my needs, so as long as I can grow within that experience I feel that is an accomplishment in itself.
Can you describe the relation between your work and your identity?
Suzi Horn: It's one thing. I am it and it is me. There is no place to hide in our music - it's all out there for people to see, naked and raw. I hope I can continue to express myself honestly going forwards, be that in music or any other creative medium.
Which of your own tracks are you most proud of?
Suzi Horn: I am proud of everything we have released. Nothing has left the studio without us being totally happy with it. And I’m also proud that everything we have ever released is available on real vinyl with beautiful sleeves!
What is your creative process like?
Suzi Horn: Tough. Pushing yourself to the brink to see what's inside is a hard experience. Working in collaboration can make that both easier and tougher at the same time. But I love real sounds, how they make you feel inside your mind and body, so it's a very exciting process too.
And what's the status of your upcoming album?
Suzi Horn: We're currently working on a collection of new songs and enjoying seeing where this takes us. The way music is consumed has changed so much. It's hard for me to get my head around because I don’t listen to digital music at all (apart from my digital radio). I never link a laptop to an amp. The idea actually upsets me. I love vinyl and the process of selecting a record and taking it out of its sleeve. It's a celebratory thing for me. I don't use music as background noise. I prefer to hear my surroundings.
Can you give some advice to someone who is interested in starting his or her own band?
Suzi Horn: Just do it. Personally I always need to understand the look and feel of what we are trying to achieve from day one. But, on the flipside, we can all think and talk about things too much. So yeah, just do it, make it happen. Dedicate yourself to it. And never pay to play. It's a job and it’s a tough job. Think of all the rehearsing and lugging black boxes around and that's before you even hit the stage. As Lou Reed sings on Songs For Drella - it's work.
What's the craziest thing you've seen on tour?
Suzi Horn: You know you can't ask that ;-)
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
Suzi Horn: When I met Tobin. It was completely unintentional. We were supposed to be screenprinting, mixing inks - but we ended up playing the drums and the bass. That was it - off we went.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
Suzi Horn: The day I realized that I could take the things in my mind and make them real – that was massive. When we stood for the first time on the stage at Brixton Academy and Tobin turned to me and said "this stage is bigger than the venues we usually play.” We have been fortunate to work with some formidable people – and I have learnt a lot from them. James Murphy, Bob Weston, the crew at The Barrowlands in Glasgow and the volunteers at Les Urbaines Arts Festival in Lausanne (Philip thanks for the fridge full of vodka – and if you reading this, get in touch!).
What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
Suzi Horn: That’s a tricky one. Right now it’s thinking about to what extent we want to involve other people in the mixing and production process. We write, record, mix, and produce all of our own music. But collaborating in some of these areas would be interesting.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
Suzi Horn: Sometimes you don’t actually realize that you’ve been working on something until it’s finished. Other times you get a beat from the bus ride or overhear a conversation that sparks something inside you. Or it can be as simple as Tobin sending me a lyric or an image or anything that initiates a dialog, something for us to explore.
How do you keep your work fresh and continue to evolve?
Suzi Horn: By living as full a life as I can - not just being a person in a band and sitting in a recording studio or on a tour bus. It's so important to actually remember to live and love.
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Suzi Horn: I don't try to live up to anyone else’s expectations. We make work that reflects how we feel and the society we inhabit. So we just write about what we know, what we are interested in and the lives we lead. I feel a sense of shared responsibility, for myself and Tobin, to present things honestly. I even ask Tobin to look over my playlist if I'm DJ-ing so I can feel I am representing us both, even if the music I'm playing isn't ours.
And how did you select the tracks for your Carhartt Radio show?
Suzi Horn: I wanted to do a real DJ mix. I haven't been mixing long so this is a good way to play real records as one long performance. DFA Records got me excited enough to send them our very first demos and so I wanted to pick things old and new, that highlight all I love about the DFA and hopefully this makes for a mix people can enjoy.
What distinguishs DFA from other labels?
Suzi Horn: It's just a couple of very cool music lovers and a big gang of music-makers getting on with it.
And how would you characterize the sound of DFA in your own words?
Suzi Horn: I don’t think it’s possible to do that. The span of music is pretty vast. Go from Delia and Gavin to Black Dice to Peach Melba. It's a funny family!
Can you remember where you first started DJ-ing and the kind of music you were playing?
Suzi Horn: I haven't been DJ-ing very long and when I do I hardly ever play dance music. I love 7”s and I play them out all the time. I've only been buying vinyl for about 10 years so there is still space for more. I've been lucky enough to get to play with friends and other people in bands that I’ve performed with in the past, which makes it more fun.Some of my favorite DJ sets have been after live shows (at afterparty's) playing back-to-back with the local DJ. Punk versus Funk at Kill Your Idols in Rome was a great night!
(Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn aka Prinzhorn Dance School, photo by Melanie Klein)
What is your first musical memory?
Suzi Horn: Singing with my sister in our shared bedroom when I was a sprog.
Can you name us three records to start a party?
The Cure: Killing an Arab (Small Wonder Records)
Bob Dylan: Subterranean Homesick Blues (CBS)
Happy Mondays: Step On (Factory)
And three to finish one?
Suzi Horn:: I like to have slow dances at the end if the night to allow new lovers to come together, so:
John Cooper-Clarke: Night People (Epic)
Roxy Music: More Than This (EG)
Aretha Franklin: Do Right Woman (Atlantik)
What was the first record you bought?
Suzi Horn: Nico: Chelsea Girl (Verve Records). I wasn’t a record buyer until 2003.
What was the last record you bought?
Suzi Horn: Kraftwerk: The Man Machine (Kling Klang)
What track gets currently the most rewinds on your player?
Suzi Horn: Lee Scratch Perry: Caveman Skank (Rhino Records)
What are three albums that you'll absolutely never get tired of listening to?
Suzi Horn: Any three by Jonathan Richman.
What are your favorite places to play/hang out in?
Suzi Horn: I like to hang out at home. You can smoke there. I like to play everywhere. I have been so lucky, I have played all over the world and I haven't had a really bad experience or a shit gig.
What can music do which all other art forms can not?
Suzi Horn: I think each genre has its place and they overlap. We are artists - we make music, film, visual art. It's all encompassing.
What kind of music would you make in a world without electricity?
Suzi Horn: Depends if there were coconuts or not! Plus I love glockenspiels and primal screaming.
What's something you've learned through music that has helped you in life (and vice versa)?
Suzi Horn: Touring teaches you so much about yourself and the world. Making music tests you and pushes you to your limits, trying to externalize thoughts and feelings. And I do this with Tobin, so we have to become the same brain whilst maintaining our separate identities.
What is your favorite music video of all time?
Suzi Horn: I don't really watch music TV. I like to listen in the dark.
What was your musical intake when you were younger?
Suzi Horn: In my house growing up my Mum and Dad didn't have a record player or anything. I grew up on an estate and we would have beat boxes in the street. It was very multicultural so you got to hear all kinds of music. But I didn't realise how much I loved music and dancing til I reached my teens.
Do you have any idols when it comes to music?
Suzi Horn: Tobin Prinz. He is the hardest working person and he never settles. I have so much respect for his tenacity and drive as well as his beautiful lyricism and his hair stand on end guitar.
What was your dream job as a child?
Suzi Horn: I wanted to either be the Fat Fairy from Will O’ The Wisp or a barmaid. Luckily I got to do one of them. I was a lollipop lady once and I totally dug that.
When or where do you feel most at peace?
Suzi Horn: In the hills with a flask of tea. Or at home with my cats and the lovely views.
What is your idea of happiness?
Suzi Horn: I don't know.
And your idea of misery?
Suzi Horn: Again, I don't know. These are very tough questions for a manic depressive to answer.
Can you send us a picture (of you or of something/place) that best illustrates your current state of mind to post along with you answers?
Suzi Horn: Thomas and Jeannie and my view.
What gift of the nature you which like to have?
Suzi Horn: Green fingers. I’ve grown stuff in the past and I loved it. I grew a butternut squash once and that was amazing.
What is a typical weekend like for you?
Suzi Horn: Quietly working and pottering. Plus the odd one where I may not come home.
What are you most looking forward to in 2014?
Suzi Horn: Everything! It's such a good year so far I just want it to continue as it is!
What are five words that would describe your personal fashion style?
Suzi Horn: Well I've been collecting clothes since I was fifteen and selling them off when I'm over them. I like to have outfits with shoes and coats to match. I haven't moved into bags yet but I eventually hope to be one of those older ladies who look super sharp!
What are your top five obsessions at the moment?
Bubble and squeak
Who inspires you?
Suzi Horn: Tobin Prinz, my sister, my friends, and my neighbours. The society in which I live and breathe. I am lucky to be part of a community and I love it. I think if we all took the time to get to know our neighbours our lives would be enriched in so many ways.
If you could be in any band, living or dead, for a day which band would it be?
Suzi Horn: Prinzhorn Dance School!
If somebody give you a million quid and you had 24 hours to rinse it, what would you do?
Suzi Horn: Call the guys.
What's your poison?
Suzi Horn: Whisky and weed.
Which celebrity would you like to bed?
Suzi Horn: Ted Danson - even now after Bored To Death.
What is your favorite place outside of a bar/club/record shop?
Suzi Horn: I love the Pavilion in Brighton. I like to sit in the gardens and the tearoom is nice. The Museum and Art Gallery there has great visiting exhibitions plus they rotate the permanent collection regularly.
Prinzhorn Dance School discography
DFA Records discography