Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Flesh and fancy

Danniel Oickle's oeuvre is beguiling, diverse and growing by the day

Credit: Jonathan Hobin

On Sept 18 Danniel Oickle’s new book of poetry, My Heart Has Teeth, will be released nationally. It’s his second published book of poetry accompanied by his own quirky illustrations and just one of seemingly dozens of projects he’s either released or is set to release this year.

Pop music, avant-garde performance, video, photography and painting — Oickle is without a doubt one of Ottawa’s most prolific artists, producing work at an astonishing rate in a variety of mediums. It was just last March that Xtra called Oickle’s multidisciplinary performance work Corruption of Flesh “a piece where sexuality and religion collide to electric effect.”

He’s the first to admit that his pace is unusual: “Some people take 20 years to do one thing. I would get tired of it,” he says. “I want to complete it and move on to the next vision.”

The opposite of an angst-ridden writer or composer, Oickle is a stream of creative energy constrained only by the time he has to put down his ideas.

His first book, Dancing in Silence, charted last year at number four on iTunes Books. His poetry is informed by a roving curiosity: the poem “This Child of Mine,” from My Heart Has Teeth, was based on conversations with female friends who were having children, an experience Oickle laments he can never have.

“I wanted to write about that topic, so I sat down and I talked to them about it,” he says. “It’s their honesty that enabled me to write it.”

The result is a queasy anatomical narrative that is both intensely personal but also reflects his observer status. The poem is stripped of the clichés associated with childbirth and is more powerful for it. The rest of his poems cover a lot of thematic ground, from imagining loss in “How You Left It” to a nostalgic ode to 1980s club hopping in “Club Nuvo Maasai.”

Oickle was raised in a straight-laced Baptist military family. As harsh as that sounds for a creative queer kid, it was his early experiences singing in church and being home schooled by his artistic parents that sparked his interest in becoming an artist.

“Baptists have a very strong musical side of their church. Music was huge!” he says.

“But a lot of the creativity that I was working on, I couldn’t share with my peers in church. I remember one girl at 13 telling my sister I was going to hell.”

His parents continued to get more religious as he got older, making coming out a tricky proposition. When his brother also came out, they had to evolve or disintegrate. Their love, he says, saved them from that fate.

Today, a steady stream of friends and collaborators passes through Torrid Productions, an art collective Oickle cofounded that has been at the core of many of his myriad projects. A regular schedule of creative brainstorming with other musicians and multidisciplinary artists, like folk singer and photographer CC Trubiak and PepTides lead singer Olexandra Pruchnicky, keeps everyone’s fire lit. “We have some incredible artists working in this city,” notes Oickle, who says that 10 years ago the music scene didn’t really exist.

“Before it was all guitar-based folk rock. Now we have an avant-garde music scene and an avant-garde art scene.”

But Ottawa is still a button-down kind of place, and Oickle recognizes its limitations. For all his civic boosting, he recently bought a condo in Montreal so he could work out of both cities yet stay close to his husband of two years, a military man.

“You become a big fish in a small pond, and eventually you need a bigger pond. It would be nice if the pond could grow, too.”

Currently, Oickle’s working on music videos for his songs “Caring & Hate (Halos’n Horns Remix)” and “Son of a Soldier Man,” to be released this fall. A Christmas single, “Greensleeves,” featuring Aileen Martella, is in the works, and a new full-length album with the working title Blitzkrieg should come out next year.

Previous albums — Poison Apples & Other Delicacies and The Corruption of Flesh EP, both from 2011 — contain a mix of pop experimentalism, moody electro production and glam melodrama that has earned him a small but loyal following. It was his beats, he says, that attracted attention in the gay world, but it was his piano work that sold more units.

His visual work matches the glitzy fantasy of his music: studies of his face in stage makeup, centaurs and videos that focus suggestively on his own body. He likes the honesty of being so exposed in his work.

“I grew up feeling very unattractive,” he says. “I went through a whole buck-teeth-and-glasses phase with braces and bad skin. When you see yourself, you see all your flaws.”

My Heart Has Teeth

By Danniel Oickle
Lulu Publishing