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The making of a musical 'Manifesto' 

28 April 2022
Michèle Ducray performing at Wunderbar. Photo: Lucy Hammond

Christchurch alternative pop artist Michèle Ducray on the inspiration behind her new single ‘Manifesto’ and playing a ‘psycho Barbie’ in the horror-inspired music video. Interview Hannah Brown 

What led you into a career in music, when did you start to write your own songs? 

My inner being loved music from an early age. I used to jump on tabletops wearing my Elton John-inspired Mickey Mouse glasses, singing to my heart's content. 

I began writing my own music when I was around 11 years old. We were living in China, because of my dad's work. To cope at the time, I wrote a lot of creative stories and used my imagination a lot. I created my own musical stories, through lyrics and melodies. My songs were simple at the start but have since expanded from being in my head, to being created in a studio.  

You live in Christchurch, what do you like about the local music scene here? 

I love how diverse the musical community in Christchurch is.  

We've got some amazing hip hop, rap, DnB, folk, house, jazz and pop acts. We are close-knit, and there is a strong base here. I love getting to play festivals together, there's so much support and pride between the touring artists. 

Congratulations on your new single ‘Manifesto’ - what inspired the name of this song? 

Thank you so much! I'm very happy with how amazing the reception has been so far. 

Manifesto was inspired by my interest in how the mind of a serial killer works, as seen in the chorus of the song. It’s about how a potential victim can fight back and how people aren't always what they seem. The song title is based on how some serial killers keep mementos of their conquests. This killer had a "Manifesto" for each of his victims. 

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Michèle Ducray at the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Photo: Jay Guy

What did your writing process look like while working on Manifesto and what inspired the dark undertones and narrative? 

I've always been into songs with a storyline. I wanted to write something more sinister and controversial than a typical love song.  

I love different, dark, wild concepts and this idea just spoke to me. My image is dark and theatrical, as well. I love fantasy and horror. I also love good plot twists! I hope the song and video showcase exactly what I was trying to go for. 

What artists inspire you and have influenced the way you create music? 

I have a lot of different influences. I'd say my main influences are Elvis and Prince. They were haunted, unique beings with incredible voices and a flair for the extraordinary. And both had an image, which is important when it comes to the entertainment industry. They, along with my mum, inspired me to create an image.  

Elvis inspired me musically through his Gospel-based songs, as vocally, I feel he's untouched. Prince inspired my original creativity in writing and elements for using different instrumentation and sounds in my music. Currently, I'm really enjoying Doja Cat and The WEEKND, they are extremely talented. 

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Michèle Ducray at the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Photo: Jay Guy

What was it like seeing the music video vision come to life? Walk us through a day on set. 

It was so intriguing! We shot over the course of two days, and we did things in different stages. The scenes of the "normal" appearing girl singing and dancing were done on the first night and the "psycho Barbie" on the second night. We took photos via polaroid for the backing scene props, went to the store to buy creepy mannequin heads and spent most of the time making sure lighting was perfect and capturing different angles and shots.  

I was super nervous dancing and acting in front of the camera at first, as I'd never done a music video before, but Shae Sterling (the director) made me feel right at ease. We wandered the streets of Auckland with my hands bound and bloody and got a few looks. We also got to drive a classic Mercedes Benz under the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which was super cool. The rest of the time we spent admiring the funky hotel rooms and eating pizza. 

What inspired the makeup looks and outfits in the video? Did you have a favourite look? 

The director, Shae, and I came up with this awesome concept for the video. He then showed me a few ideas of makeup, hair and outfits as we wanted a very eccentric, creepy, doll-like look, yet still with a bit of sex appeal.  

The hair in the video was my real hair, teased beyond reason, which was very hard to get out. Outfit-wise we went for a 60s/70s horror theme. The makeup for the "psycho Barbie" woman was done by the talented, Breezanah. She came up with a concept based off a horror e-girl resemblant, ice queen picture.

I really love the "normal", watery look, that the producer, Aimee, created. It's so raw, feminine and sexy. It's the stripped back version of the protagonist. She's being her most authentic self and I admire that. 

What's in store for you this year? 

I'll be releasing a few more singles and some collaborations with other artists (specifically DnB-based).  

Hopefully, another music video will be in store if I can get the funding for it. I'll be on a few festival line-ups and shows with a potential tour on the horizon, which is incredibly exciting. 

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