Nicolle Rochelle, who performs as Modern Gaeisha, is not only a musician to be reckoned with, she’s also an actress. She’s one tough cookie, who stood up for herself and other women in front of a courthouse in Philadelphia, being led away by police, with the words “Women’s Lives Matter,” painted on her bare torso. Her latest music video and single, “Hey Hey Hey,” is about Mod G giving a voice to the thousands of women whose charges of assault against rich and powerful people go unheard.
We had a nice discussion with Mod G (as she also calls herself) about her the inspiration for her music name, the powerful message her new music video and single give to women AND men, her vision for it, and her connection to the director, Steff Warrow, and much more.
You perform as Modern Gaeisha or Mod G; what inspired or influenced that name, and what does it mean to you?
Modern Geaisha: I call both myself and my project Modern GEAIsha because I am truly inspired by the Japanese Geisha and can identify with an eclectic artist who has been training and working since a very young age and is dedicated to constantly advancing in their skills and career. In my case however, I changed the spelling of GEAIsha in order to mean GET knowledge, GAIN perspective, and GIVE back because that is the kind of artist I am and strive to be. The goal of my life and my project is to always be advancing in some way, questioning everything and sharing with an audience, imploring all to explore more in a humanist and feminist way.
You are sending a strong and imminent message in your latest single, “Hey Hey Hey,” and is a powerful sentiment, especially for women…what do you hope women and girls take away from it?
MG: I wrote the song “Hey Hey Hey” based on the cases of the women abused by Bill Cosby, channeling their voices as a form of empowerment, but the song is actually for all victims of any injustice and any gender anywhere. I hope not only women and girls but also men and boys will take away a message of strength and be encouraged to speak up for themselves, saying to any and all predators, “Hey Hey Hey! You do NOT have the right to hurt me and you can NOT break me!”
What was your vision for the music video with “Hey Hey Hey,” and the director Steff Harrow?
MG: The vision for the music video of “Hey Hey Hey” was to show an environment of fun and happiness where there is also looming danger and a plethora of lurking predators, much like in real life. In essence, the video is a microcosm of the world, especially for women who are so often targeted and silenced, where so much happiness and sadness constantly co-exist.
How did you both get connected and what was it like working with each other?
MG: I actually found Steff and the company he works for, Z Clip, on the internet. I met with them and they respected my vision so we discussed a plan to film. It was a great experience because they understood the vibe I was going for and we filmed the video with a bunch of my friends who believe in my message and my music.
Not only are you a musicians, you’re also an actress, having appeared in popular television shows as “Law and Order: SVU” and “NYPD Blue,” among several others. How do both allow you to express yourself creatively, and do you prefer one over the other?
MG: Being a musician is a great experience because there is a lot of freedom in singing, dancing and sharing with an audience onstage. Acting is usually scripted and more rigid in some ways but there is also a freedom in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and emotions, getting in touch with another side of your personality. Singing is my first love and dancing my second, and I find that acting is involved in both singing and dancing so I don’t really choose one or the other because I am always doing all three somehow simultaneously! So the answer to your question is basically I prefer them all.
Who was your first concert, and do you have a favorite, thus far?
MG: The first concert I remember going to was a Boyz 2 Men concert with my friends when I was in middle school. I don’t remember much about the concert specifically but I know we had fun! Recently, I have a strong memory of the last concert I went to in Germany. I went to see Glenn Hughes from the band Deep Purple and I actually didn’t know him as an artist beforehand, but when he played his bass and opened his mouth it felt like he was singing and playing rock, blues, gospel, and pop all at the same time, straight to my soul! His emotions, words and ridiculously high skill level profoundly touched my heart and had me simultaneously dancing and crying most of the concert!
What was your first album on cassette, CD and/or vinyl?
MG: When I was about 4, I remember loving this one Disney cassette (Disney Mousercize) that I would play over and over and over… It had great melodies with distinct characters, speaking and singing with funny lyrics; I was hooked! I listened to it on repeat for some time annoying my family and learning all of the songs by heart.
Which five albums and/or artists would you not want to live without?
MG: So…let’s see, that’s tough and kind of impossible to pick just five artists, so :
- Josephine Baker
- Billie Holiday
- House Music in general as a necessary genre to my life.
- Jeff Buckley
- Martin Sexton
Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
MG: (laughs) Well, I don’t really know why it should be “guilty,” but I do thoroughly enjoy Britney Spears’ single, “Work Bitch,” and lots of twerk and trap music!
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