Danniel Oickle loves attention, even the bad kind. After his shoot for Xtra Ottawa’s September issue, featuring the writer/musician with bleeding palms and a crown of thorns, was published, a conservative blogger lambasted his queering of religious iconography, suggesting Canadian embassies would need extra security for the onslaught of angry Christians.
“I was hoping he’d make more of a stink,” laughs Oickle from the Ottawa home he shares with his husband. “Conservative outrage can make you an instant celebrity in the art world. I wish he’d given me the full Marilyn Manson treatment, blaming me for all the evil in the world.”
The video for his song “Caring and Hate,” from 2011’s The Corruption of Flesh, features plenty to set straight-laced nostrils flaring. Dressed as devilish fawns in PVC fetish boots, Oickle and his co-performers gyrate on the dancefloor and cuddle in bed. It’s a taste of what to expect at his live shows. The last gig saw him feed bushels of apples to the crowd and strap a crown of thorns to a beef heart before launching it into a tree. And that was before the first song started.
Oickle was raised in a Baptist household, and religion appears often in his work, though not merely as a means to offend. His twisting of Christian imagery forms part of a deeper process of understanding where he comes from and what he’s overcome.
“I like mixing androgynous bodies with religious imagery because I was raised in a very religious household where feminine men couldn’t be attractive,” he says. “It took a while for my family to come around. At the beginning there was definitely a sense I was doing something wrong. But it also taught me how to aggressively defend my work. Over the years they’ve grown drastically, and now they’re super supportive.
“Even the gay world still judges femmes,” he adds. “So we have a lot of work to do before the straight world can accept these differences.”
Not being allowed to be himself is also the core of the song. When he sings, “I sit here in my leather restraints/I never loved you enough for this to be my fate,” he’s not talking about sex. Rather, it was an ex’s inability to accept his flamboyant nature.
“He always felt I was too over-the-top and had a certain way he wanted me to behave,” he says. “I’m not very good at that. But I’m also someone who likes to please. He had zero artistic understanding, which was part of the attraction but ultimately led to the relationship’s demise. Eventually, I realized I was losing myself. I need to flaunt and flash, and the person I’m with has to be okay with that.”
Despite his out-there attitude, he’s made uptight Ottawa his home for more than a decade. Though his husband’s job keeps them tied there, Oickle sees a genuine value in trying to loosen up the city.
“People are so conservative here,” he laughs. “But I’m working my ass off to help them grow.”