Rainbow Arabia – husband and wife team Danny and Tiffany Preston – is another favourite find for me this year (I included Tiffany on my Top Music Makers for 2011 list). They’re inspired by “the purchase of a Lebanese synthesizer playing microtonal scales and lo-fi Eastern drum patterns” so the story goes. The UK’s Guardian described them as, “Kaleidoscopic, intoxicated dance music made out of dervish rhythms, snakish melodica, and percussion procured from the labyrinthine corridors of some smoky souk.” I recently got to interview Tiffany about all things Rainbow Arabia and her musical beginnings – her first concert ever was a Ramones show!
How did you first come to music? I’ve read that you have a background of metal, goth, classic rock & punk rock?
When I was 13 I met my best friend Angie and she tuned me on to The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Christian Death and The Ramones. My first concert was The Ramones. I met some other kids that were listening to more punk and reggae so I got into some of that too. I started playing guitar when I was 16. I went to this continuation high school where most of the kids were into metal and classic rock. I used to beg kids to teach me songs. The first song I learned was Fade to Black by Metallica.
Who or what inspired you to start making music yourself?
It’s funny I gave up guitar for many years. In my 20s I went to school for fashion. I thought I was going to be a fashion designer. I never imaged I would do music although deep down inside I really wanted too. It wasn’t until I was 29 I met a girl who was staying at my house who encouraged me to play with her and I never looked back.
What does music mean to you?
I always had a strong passion for music. Music is an outlet for me. When I hear certain songs, it will take me to another place. Music can bring people together. It can inspire the way people think. The first time I went to a Ramones concert I felt like everyone there was my friend. The power of music is fascinating. When I listen to a Neil Young song I say, “Yes, that’s what I’m feeling” it’s like a friend talking to you. I can’t imagine my life without music.
Both yourself and Danny had been in musical projects previous to forming Rainbow Arabia, when did you realize that you should create music together?
Well we were both on hiatus from our previous bands and for the first time we jammed together.
Rainbow Arabia uses Arabic, North African and Asian elements in your music, where did your interest in these styles/cultures stem from?
At the time when we started the band we were listening to a lot of world music. Danny had a dub reggae band called Future Pigeon they would play shows and get turned on to all kinds of different music. One show they met the guys from sublime frequencies and Danny bought a bunch of compilation cd’s of rare recordings from around the world. For a while that was all that we were listening too.
What’s one of the most exotic places you’ve travelled? Has there been a trip/tour to any particular country that has had a big impact on you?
I love traveling. I think Istanbul was one of my favorite and most exotic places I’ve been to. I think Brazil had a big impact on me, the people are really exciting.
Do you collect sounds for Rainbow Arabia when you travel?
I think traveling really opens your mind up. Ideas start flowing and it’s easy to feel inspired. So we always come home with new ideas.
Rainbow Arabia is inspired by Omar Souleyman; what is it about his work that inspires you? Have you heard the Bjork remixes he did for Biophilia?
Our first EP was very inspired by Omar Souleyman. He had such a raw energy to his music, the first time I heard it I thought this is punk and pissed off. It was so inspiring. The beats were kick ass. When I found out he would be working with Bjork I felt so happy and excited. I heard some of the remixes and they are amazing!
In a previous interview you mentioned ‘we tend to mix a lot of flavors in our songs, but our sound is still developing.’ Have you come to a place yet where you feel as though you have developed your own sound?
We are working with a drummer on our new record, so again the sound and feel are changing. I think this record has a more cohesive sound then our last record. Right now we are really more focused on song writing. I think it’s safe to say our new record sounds like a more mature Rainbow Arabia.
You’ve also mentioned your songs are from ‘personal experiences, usually, overcoming darkness.’ Do you find that when you’re in dark places music helps lighten the mood/situation?
When I write a song or lyrics it’s always sort of on the spot and even when I don’t try to make it about my own experience, it always end up being about something I’ve experienced. There are times I felt sad or dark and forced myself to work on music and sometimes that is when I come up with the best stuff. It’s not easy to work when you’re feeling pessimistic. Although there has been many times music has lightened my mood from pessimistic to optimistic.
As a musician what is the most important thing to you?
Making music I enjoy and that others will enjoy.
What do you do creatively when you’re not creating/playing music?
I like to fix up our house. I would like to paint and draw more. I love photography, fashion, cooking or anything creative. Most of all I like to dream.
What’s your greatest vision for Rainbow Arabia?
Wow that’s a good question. I would love to see Rainbow Arabia improving musically, building our audience and thriving. It would be wonderful to do music for a movie. Hopefully giving back somehow. It would be nice to have a baby playing the tambourine.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m doing a Slits Tribute band. We are playing a show at Part Time Punks on January 15th.
For more Rainbow Arabia.
Wishing you a colourful, bright day!
*Photos courtesy of Rainbow Arabia’s Facebook.