Danny Ashe Moved to Germany, Started Cygne Noir, Realized His Hispanic Roots

When Danny Ashe relocated to Germany in 2010, he left behind a tangible void in South Florida's music scene. As a DJ and musician, his presence had been felt in the tricounty area for numerous years with his eclectic sets of rock 'n' roll infused with Motown, postpunk, and pop music. As a musician, his numerous projects furthered his selector ethos with a dark wave/"pop noir" aesthetic with outfits Lunabelle and Marqui Adora.

Moving primarily for new job opportunities in Europe's culinary fields, Ashe has had resurgence in his musical recording as Cygne Noir while balancing new surroundings and his growing family. His latest EP, Smile at the Sun is his most accessible and tropical work to date and betrays the nature of the "black swan" as an object of simple beauty.

We had a chance to speak with him about the release and his current musical climate.

See also: Head Spins: Danny Ashe

What, if anything, do you miss about South Florida?

Danny Ashe: I miss being able to see the ocean whenever I want. I also really miss Cuban food and going to bed at 7 a.m. in the morning.

Since moving to Europe in 2010, you've had a real upswing creatively. How did you manage to continue creating music while adjusting, finding employment, etc.?

To be quite honest, when I moved to Europe almost five years ago, I thought I was pretty much done with music. The thing is that change is always a good catalyst for creativity. I find that the busier I am, the more music I write. Then it's just a matter of finding some time to record it. Moving to Europe, and particularly Germany, was a very exciting time in my life which opened up so many possibilities that I think it was only natural for there to be an upswing.

Do you still DJ?

Actually, I'm retired. Although I'm all for a one-off once in a while!

And you're in Bonn now; how's the music scene like there?

Bonn has a great art scene but not much of a music one, unless you're into classical. Cologne, on the other hand, which is only 20 minutes from home, has a lot going on. From rock to electronic, it's full of cool venues, pubs, and a few cool record stores. Although I've become quite the recluse, I still try to get out there and catch some shows from time to time.

You cite the '60s and funk as influences, and they're clearly there, but this EP, Smile at the Sun, has a slightly more tropical feel than the previous ones. Was that deliberate, or was there an underlying nostalgia while you were putting it together?

You know, you're the first to mention that. I hadn't really noticed, so no, it was definitely not deliberate. I mean, I think I've become much more aware of my Hispanic roots living in Europe, so it's nice to hear you felt that while listening to the EP.

"You Make Me Feel"

What was your approach while composing these tracks? You play all the instruments, right?

With this EP, I wanted to get away from the heavy synths and electronics as much as possible. One of the reasons I write music is because I hear it in my head, but I can't find it anywhere, so I write it. I missed the standard five-piece band sound. Vocals, guitars, bass, drums, and rhodes/piano. It's as organic as I could get it while playing all the instruments myself.

The overall sound is very clean and crisp; in comparison to previous works, this is your poppiest, but it isn't without some dark moments. What caused the tonal shift in your music?

I'm a product of my surroundings, and most of the songs were written and recorded while my wife and I were expecting our first son. I love dark music, but when you're happy, it's pretty hard to hide it.

You've released an album and, with this, your third EP. Any plans for another full-length?

I'd love to do another full-length, and I definitely will; I just don't know when. Right now, I'm enjoying my new life as a father and think releasing singles or EPs will make for more realistic goals for the time being.

Personally, professionally and musically, what are your future plans?

As I said, being a dad is my number-one priority right now, and I want to make sure I'm there to raise my son. Musically and professionally, I have a few songs waiting to be finished, which may be the next release hopefully sometime in the spring. I've also begun writing a lot about my life and experiences, so that may turn into a future project. As for the not-so-distant future, I'm gonna go make myself un pan con bistec, tostones, y un batido de mamey!

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Abel Folgar