Name: Catherine Saint Jude Pretorius aka Dope Saint Jude
Occupation: Artist, musician, composer, writer
Nationality: South African
Recent release: Dope Saint Jude's Higher Self EP is out via Yotanka.
Recommendations: A song – Santigold: "Chasing Shadows"; a book - The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
If you enjoyed this interview with Dope Saint Jude and would like to find out more, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started making music when I was about 12, very much inspired by Tracy Chapman, Tupac Shakur, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz and Alanis Morissette.
I was drawn to the authenticity of these artists. I enjoyed that Tupac could be tough, yet vulnerable, I loved Alanis Morissette’s unfiltered and raw take on things, and I loved that Lenny Kravitz is a black rockstar.
Each of these artist’s embody a different characteristic and ethos I hope to cultivate within myself.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
When I listen to music, I experience a range of emotions. I always have some kind of emotional response. My approach to music is often visual, and I see music as a score to my life.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I have developed so much as an artist. In the early days, I struggled to find clarity in my voice. These days, however, I find so much solace in the fact that music is where I am most honest about who I am.
A big breakthrough stemmed from moving to another country. I was able to establish my sound and voice outside of the context of my upbringing, which added a different kind of value to my sound. I have not abandoned where I come from, but I have been able to explore a different part of myself.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
My identity stems from various different things.
There is my identity as a woman, as a queer person, as an African, as a black person. These overlapping and intersections identities have informed my relationship to music in obvious ways, for example, wanting to feel a connection to my blackness, my queerness my African identity and womanhood, by seeking out artists who share a similar identity.
But I have also pushed back against this, by wanting to be and experience what it means to defy the constraints of being tied to an identity.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
My art is about reflecting my lived experience in the most authentic way possible. In some ways, I feel I am making statements through my music and videos.
For example, the "Home" music video features my wife and I. I am making a statement, but I am also reflecting my lived experience in an authentic, albeit stylised, way.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I believe there is a middle ground for both.
I believe that human beings are inherently innovative and this is woven into the fabric of who we are. However, we are also masters of perfecting a craft and continuing a tradition. I believe we can “build on tradition” by being innovative.
There will always be a place and appreciation for traditional approaches to music, having said that, we must innovate, as this is just what we, as human beings, do best!
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The most important resources have been other people. I have developed so much as a result of the work, advice and skills of others around me.
My approach to production and writing changed with the help of Pete Boxsta Martin. My voice control and live performance changed because of working with the right people to develop my skills. Throughout my journey, other people have been the real resource in my career.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I wake up around 6am and I either run or do some other kind of exercise. I shower and have coffee and then get to working on admin.
After that, I work on creative projects, either making music, writing or more recently, editing videos.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
For the Higher Self EP, I was very fortunate to have the proper time to create it. During the lockdown, I was able to reflect and really conceptualise the project.
I started by writing a theme for the project, identifying what kind of songs I wanted to make and creating a visual and sonic mood board for the project.
Once I had a strong idea of what I wanted to do, I approached my production partner with everything and we started work on turning my idea into reality.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I enjoy doing both. In the very early stages, I work alone, because it is important that my music is rooted in my reality. Once I feel that my ideas are strong enough, I then feel comfortable to share them with others and take their input and collaborate on the music.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Music has many roles. It can be for entertainment, to create a sense of community, to score an important moment or set a mood.
For me, I am happy for my listeners to use my music whichever way they see fit, as I can’t dictate the purpose of my music in their lives. I am just happy that they connect enough to it to want to listen.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
When I lost my mom in 2016, the day after the release of my first EP, listening and performing that project helped me through the process of grief.
By some kind of divine intervention, I created those tracks in her home, in the last few months of her life, and they carried a lot of her spirit in them.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I do not separate or place in opposition science from things like art and spirituality. I believe these are just different modes of understanding and interpreting our reality and I believe they are all valid. So I am very much in favour of integrating a scientific approach to making music. There is definitely room for it.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Music, by it’s nature and place in society, is an easier way to express emotion and creativity. However, if one can find beauty and value in the creativity of a mundane task, then that is just as valid. These things are so subjective and I don’t feel qualified to judge how people experience or express creativity.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Well, I can’t speak to the science of it, but I know that certain instruments, time signatures and keys, can provoke certain emotions in us. Whether this is an inherent response or a socialised response, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that we have an emotional reaction.
Some things don’t need to be understood as much as they need to be experienced.