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zola jesus

The Wisconsin girl, who reaches a little over five foot, may exude a sinister and somewhat mysterious air live, but in person she’s your average,

bubbly 21-year-old who had a crap time in school and is ecstatic to be finally coming into her own.

She explains that high school was a matter of waiting out the years and plundering through,

which is why she coined the alias Zola Jesus for herself.


“The name I developed before I started high school,” she says.

“I made it up for myself and wanted people to call me that so that they would stop talking to me because I didn’t get along with anyone in school.


We didn’t have anything in common ever, so I just tried to alienate myself.”


Nika’s fight against the small farming town of Merrill, WI, began with opera singing lessons at the age of ten.

“I just wanted to be a really good singer,” she justifies “to the point of being willing to be in an opera, because pop singers aren’t really good singers.

When you think of someone that is the best at what they’re doing… it
takes classical training to learn how to sing perfectly, whereas pop singers are really nasal. jesus

I felt like studying opera was the most extreme way to be a good singer.”


Despite studying it for ten years on and off, Nika never performed in an opera.

“I would make up my own operas,” she says “but there were never really any opportunities to be in them where I lived. The arts weren’t really big there.”


As well as channelling opera into her compositions from a young age, Nika also became interested in more avant-garde music.

“I liked pop music and soul in the beginning,” she states “but then I grew up with punk and from there I started discovering a lot of other experimental music through my older brother.

Bands like The Residents and Throbbing Gristle; that cultivated me to be this person interested in the darker side of things.”

Film and literature also affected her work.

“I like John Carpenter [the director] and things like that.

I like sci-fi and Philip K Dick the author, plus living in the country.

Those are my influences,” she affirms matterof-factly.

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