Ithaca’s Djamila Azzouz: The 10 songs that changed my life

Ithaca singer Djamila Azzouz talks us through the soundtrack to her life. Spoiler alert: she likes Slipknot. Double-spoiler alert: “F*ck Toploader…”

Ithaca’s Djamila Azzouz: The 10 songs that changed my life
Nick Ruskell
Martyna Bannister

Ithaca are one of the most explosive, exciting, colourful and imaginative bands in British metal. What’s been the soundtrack to singer Djamila Azzouz’s own life? Dad rock, metal classics, sweary evil, and a nightmarish 2000’s indie hit…

The first song I remember hearing…Phil Collins – Sussudio

“My early taste in music was very much shaped by whatever was in my dad's car, like a lot of people. It was a lot of Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, The Eagles – what most people would refer to as ‘dad music’, except I fucking love Phil Collins. This is one of those songs that gets stuck in your head. Even now, it's such an earworm. I remember being a kid and being like, ‘What does Sussudio mean?’ I thought that it was probably a really important concept that I didn't understand as a child, but it's just a fucking nonsense word, which makes it even better. He made it up when he was writing the song, like a placeholder, but when he went back to change it nothing sounded as good, so he just kept it.”

The song that reminds me of school…Slipknot – People = Shit

“I used to listen to Slipknot on the way to school. This was a Sony Walkman special. I didn't even have an anti-skip Walkman, so I had to have it in my blazer pocket with my hand cradling it so it didn't flap against my leg as I was walking and skip the CD. When that album [Iowa] came out, all of my friends were obsessed with it, and I can remember us with marker pens writing ‘People = Shit’ on the floor at school, or on the walls, and being like, ‘Yo, we're so rebellious and angry.’ It's such a fucking good song, and now it's really nostalgic for me. I love that album so much, it really holds up.”

The first song I learned to sing…Metallica – Nothing Else Matters

“The first thing I learned to sing was some choir nonsense, like Gloria In Excelsis Deo. But the first song that I remember singing in front of an audience that wasn't a choir song was Nothing Else Matters. My school used to have a Christmas concert every year. It was mainly the weird kids playing saxophone, or a girl doing a Christina Aguilera ballad. Me and my best friend at school, James, who is one of the best guitarists I've ever met in my life, one year we were bored and decided to audition for it. We wanted to shoehorn something interesting in, and the only Christmas concert-appropriate song we could think of was Nothing Else Matters. I'm pretty sure a lot of the parents didn't know or care who Metallica were, but the parents that did know were super-impressed, because we were like 15.”

The song that reminds me of my first love…From Autumn To Ashes – Short Stories With Tragic Endings

“Oh God, I should have kept People = Shit for this one! I’ve chosen From Autumn To Ashes because if anyone knows anything about me, they'll know that that they are one of my favourite bands of all time. And this song is so emo. It’s unbelievably emo. It has everything you want from a proper sad emo song. I mean, it's called Short Stories With Tragic Endings. It reminds me of that time, in my teenage years when I was experiencing my first love. And also the song, the lyrics, the music, everything is so dramatic. I feel like that really reflects what it's like with your first love – everything feels so important, your emotions are heightened so much, and everything about it is life or death.”

The first Ithaca song I heard on the radio…Ithaca – The Language Of Injury

“I can't remember if we were on tour, or if I was on a work trip or something, but I remember I was in Belgium. Someone called me and said, ‘You need to listen to Radio 1.’ Obviously Daniel P. Carter was playing our song. I was just, like, stood in the middle of the street and caught it on the radio, and it blew my mind. I couldn't fathom the idea of one of our songs being on the airwaves. It's one thing when people listen to your music on streaming services – that's obviously lovely because people are listening to it out of choice – but when you have a song that's played on the radio, you get exposed to so many more people. It was just a really, really super-cool feeling.”

The song that picks me up when I’m feeling down…Cradle Of Filth – Gilded C**t

“They’re not a band that I would ever listen to if I was sad. I'm not gonna cry along to Her Ghost In The Fog – Cradle Of Filth always put me in a good mood. This song is essentially black metal rap, which I think is so funny. Dani’s basically rapping those lyrics really fast. When I was really young I heard Cradle Of Filth for the first time, and I had like a lot of friends who were listening to true, cult black metal. I was like, ‘Hey, have you heard this band? Cradle Of Filth? They're like that, but fun.’ They're one of those bands where I think their music is excellent, but there's an element where they don't take themselves too seriously. I'm very much into theatrics and dramatics, and they do that so well. It feels camp, and you can almost sing along to it.”

The Ithaca song I’d go back and change if I could…Ithaca – Camera Eats First

“It's not because there's anything negative about the song that I would change. I just have a really bad habit of writing more lyrics than I can comfortably sing live. I like to challenge myself and I like to push myself, but singing that song live is hard because there are so many different parts and it’s so wordy! I’m absolutely exhausted by the end of it. I'm never going to phone it in and put half the song on a backing track – it just doesn't feel right. The thing is, I like to like run around onstage and have a bit of a boogie, but when I'm doing that song I feel like I'm gonna fucking keel over because I’m not as young as I used to be!”

The Ithaca song that’s the most fun to play live…Ithaca – They Fear Us

“It’s got such a catchy riff, and it's pretty recognisable. And the groove of the song really lends itself to being a bit of a slut onstage! There's parts where you can jump around and throw yourself about, and then there's bits that are more danceable. I really enjoy that. Also, I really enjoy the melodies and really enjoy singing it. It’s got the perfect balance of singing and screaming in it for me. It’s cool to play live because it's one of the songs that our fans love the most. It's really satisfying to see people singing along with it.”

The worst song ever written…Toploader – Dancing In The Moonlight

"Fuck Toploader. I was going to say something by The Beatles because I hate The Beatles, but I absolutely cannot fucking stand this song. Back in the very early days of the band, we played a show in Middlesbrough, in the function room of this pub. We were in there, and in the main bar they were doing karaoke. They set us up in front of these double doors that were the only entrance the fucking toilets. So throughout our show there were old people going in and out the doors behind us, and there was fucking Dancing In The Moonlight coming out of this fucking karaoke louder than the fucking band were. It was fucking horrible.”

The song I want played at my funeral…Yoko Takahashi – A Cruel Angel’s Thesis

“This is from Neon Genesis Evangelion, it’s the theme music. It’s pretty cheesy, but it’s amazing. It’s got the most insane vocals and guitar on it. It’s really dramatic, though. It’d probably confuse some people – they’d think I was taking the piss, which I sort of would be, but a lot of other people would totally get it as well. They’d understand why I’d want something like this as I’m being lowered into the ground.”

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