There’s Only One: An Interview with Diva Dompe of Poptone
by Bret Miller
Poptone is Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and Diva Dompe. Two of those names might sound familiar to you. Ash and Haskins were both members with bassist David J of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets and with bassist Glenn Campling made music between those bands as Tones on Tail. Poptone, named after the PiL song “Poptones”, was created to play the songs of those three bands and in 2017 they played a few west coast dates and performed some songs for a Part Time Punks session on KXLU. This became the Poptone album due out June 8th on Cleopatra Records.
Diva Dompe grew up around music being the daughter of Haskins and niece to David J. An accomplished musician in her own right, Diva has played in bands since a teen and released solo albums on Stones Throw Records and independently. She is the secret weapon of Poptone, playing bass, drums, keyboards, programming, and vocals.
While on their way to play in San Diego for the first night of a short west coast tour, I spoke with Diva about growing up in a musical family, making her own compositions and playing in Poptone.
How old are you?
I guessed 30.
Everyone thinks I’m 20 but I’m not.
That’s a good thing if you look young, but people underestimate you. You’ve accomplished so much, but people might not know that. You’ve been in a few bands, Blackblack being one of them.
Blackblack was in my late teens, I was in that band with my sister Lola. And after that I was in another band called Pocahaunted, that was a really fun band to be in. Since then I’ve been doing solo stuff. I have two different solo projects. One is called Diva and I have put out a few releases and I have another one that’s finished, but I don’t know when it’s coming out and then I have Yialmelic Frequencies which is ambient music. I have one release that came out last year and another one coming out May 18th.
I heard your Diva music on Bandcamp and listened to the ambient music on Youtube with the Twin Peaks waving curtains looking graphics. I love ambient music. What drew you to doing ambient music?
I do guided meditations so all that music for that project I made originally to go underneath. I’ve been making those for about eight years now. I have a show on Dublab. They’re an internet radio station based in Los Angeles. They’re an artist collective as well, they put on a lot of events and I have a show there once a month, a guided meditation show. I’ve done it before in front of live groups and sometimes I dress up. So all the music for Yailmelic Frequencies is made for the guided meditations. That’s the intention behind it. It’s all instrumental.
What was the reason you started the music for meditation?
I started creating the guided meditations for my own therapeutic process. I was trying to process certain metaphysical experiences that I’d been having since my adolescence. They were things I’ve always had a complicated relationship with because its been a rich source of my creativity and who I am and interesting experiences but at the same time they can be very disturbing and have made me question my mental health. I started doing these guided meditations to create a safe space for me to explore that world, without judgement, as an art project.
I also enjoy listening to other releases. At that time I think there wasn’t as much of that around. I like J.D. Emmanuel (https://jdemmanuel.bandcamp.com) and Laraaji (http://laraaji.blogspot.com/) and now there’s just so much of that reissued which is cool. I think in the 80’s and 90’s it got pushed aside or called New Age music and that type of music has been a place of experimentation.
Was there a specific event in your life that showed you that making music was the path you should take?
Growing up around music with my dad a musician and a lot of his friends are musicians and my parents would take to shows as a kid so it was a really big part of my life. I’ve always connected with music so as a little kid that’s always what I’ve wanted to do. There was never anything else. Music has been the way that I’ve understood and connected with the world and myself and my feelings.
Nowadays it’s challenging. It seems like I will always make music. I had a daughter four years ago and I’ve still been making music throughout. I think its something I’ll always do. It is a challenging time to do that as any kind of career. I’ll always create.
I’ve heard a few of your albums and you play many instruments, but it seems bass is your main instrument.
Bass is what I played in bands but when I do my solo work it’s mostly computer production. Bass is my strongest instrument when playing live.
I was watching a recording of your Poptone show from Denver last year and you’re playing bass, drums, keyboards and singing. You’re like the secret weapon of this group.
It’s not that hard pressing buttons on a keyboard.
What I’m saying is that you’re versatile.
There were some songs we wanted to do that I helped with the technology side of it, making backing tracks and making sure how to play them. Actually, most of those songs my dad is triggering the samples which I think is really cool. He’s always utilized samples in an interesting way. He’s a unique drummer. He’s working hard back there.
I think of the cliche picture of a drummer is like an octopus with eight arms. They’re using both feet and both hands at the same time and keeping that concentration must be hard.
And it’s very physical.
He looks good for his age.
He looks great, he’s very healthy, he eats well, I’m lucky to have a healthy dad.
What is something about Kevin and Daniel that makes you appreciate them?
It’s really fun spending time with them together, they always get to telling funny stories from their past. They’re really good storytellers and that’s always a treat. They’re very different but they make sense together. Danny has a really good heart and he’s a very generous person. It’s been nice getting to know him better.
How long have they known each other?
Since 1977. They were in art school together.
It seems that a lot of bands meet in college.
In England, I feel, at art school is where musicians meet each other.
Do you think you will continue to make solo albums?
Yes, I have one that’s done and hopefully it will come out this year. It takes me a long time now as a mom, it takes me a few more years to complete things because I don’t get that much time to work on it. I have a new solo album. I think it’ll be called Potential Earth Vision. It incorporates alot of the techniques and sounds I use in the ambient music but using that and making pop music. I also have lots of material from the Yialmelic Frequencies stuff because I’ve been doing that for a long time.
I’ve seen that some of the ambient composers, like Steve Roach, will play his music but the audience brings pillows and sleeping bands and blankets and they have a long nighttime show. I know you do this music for meditations but will you be doing live performances?
I just did the first live performance of Yialmelic Frequencies material, though not doing a meditation, like actually performing the music live and that was really fun. I’m going to be doing more of that soon. I want to create intentional holistic experiences for the performances and have every detail of the event considered. I want it to be comfortable, with pillows to sit on and flowers and plants and instead of having an alcohol bar there’ll be herbal medicinal drinks with flower essences in them.
I haven’t done much of my own solo performing in a while because I got frustrated with the environments that I was playing in. Playing in bars and people not being present with the experience and the music. I want to start performing more but really create the whole experience.
You want it to be intentional and immersive or else why bother.
I’m looking forward to that.
Are there bassists you look up to?
Not really. Obviously, there are bass players I like but I don’t approach music in that way. I don’t idolize certain bass players and learn all their parts. I just appreciate music more as a whole. More like how it connects to my emotions is how I relate to music.
When you first started with Poptone did David J. give you any pointers did he just tell you to have fun?
He sent me a message and gave me his blessing. I just learned the bass parts from listening to the songs. There’s this one really great Youtube channel, I think his name is Vito (Taliesin Echoes at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClJ12oSz25h700kAE5b_Niw) and he has all the Tones On Tail songs done by Glenn Campling. He has mood lighting and very informative bass tutorials so I watched those.
What bass line do you enjoy playing?
I like playing the Tones songs because I think those bass lines are very unique. They don’t follow the chord structure, they’re their own part. A lot of those songs are built around the bass lines. Glenn created the melodies and the band followed that.
That’s how I’ve approached playing bass in the past. In Blackblack I was one of the main songwriters and the bass player so the songs would be structured around the bass. So I relate to (Glenn’s approach).
I love playing the Love & Rockets songs too because they’re more fun and poppy and there’s more vocal parts for me to sing on them. For this tour we’re doing six new songs but mostly Love & Rockets songs and those are fun to play because they’re new to me.
I’ll be at the Teregram Ballroom show Sunday.
You should come early to see my sister’s band Automatic (https://www.facebook.com/automaticbandla/). My sister (Lola) plays drums and it’s three girls and they play minimal post-punk. They’re “automaticband” on Instagram if you want to look them up. You should come early to see them.
I’m looking forward to the show. And it’s Mother’s Day Sunday so happy Mother’s Day.
It is. My daughter is coming to the soundcheck. It will be fun.
Poptone will be released June 8th on Cleopatra Records in CD, digital and double vinyl formats. Order now!
Poptone Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/poptonemusic/
Poptone Website: www.poptonetheband.com
Poptone on Cleopatra Records: https://www.poptonetheband.com/
Diva’s Website: https://www.divainparadise.com/pop-music
Diva’s Bandcamp: https://divainparadise.bandcamp.com
Diva on Dublab: http://dublab.com/labrat/labrat-diva-dompe/
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