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15 Questions to Nick Grey

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello. I'm mostly fine, except for a slight headache which I plan to fight by absorbing a reasonable dose of paracetamol. At this precise moment I am sitting in my room, near my window, watching the sea below and the rain above, and feeling extremely gothic.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Mainly listening to unusual amounts of calypso music and drinking energetic soda. Yes, I am a slave of the seasons. On a more trivial level, I also plan to give birth to some new material soon, and I'd especially love to work with my father once more. Lately I have been concentrating my efforts on the Thieves Among Thorns LP, which is a near-solo project, and I feel very impatient to resume jamming with the Random Orchestra.

Classical influences frequently make their appearance in your music, but in a rather unusual way. Did you deliberately avoid a more “authentic” approach or could it be that you were trying to reconstruct something unconscious hidden at the back of your mind?
I've always thought of myself as some humble catalyst. I enjoy putting myself in presence of a number of different artistic sources, and then observe the reactions on my own creative process. As I always said, I don’t think of myself as a regular musician. I don’t write, read or plan music. I don't control it, unfortunately. Moreover, I rarely deliberately avoid any traditional compositional technique. My records are mostly the result of the combination between my immediate context and my artistic sensibility. Also, you are very right : when I start thinking about my music, I often have the feeling I'm trying to reconstruct a precise atmosphere, which I experienced during my jetlagged childhood. Images of opera aisles and falling asleep in velvet seats, translated into songs. When I followed my father on tour, I was always very impressed by the contrast between the clinical qualities of the airports and hotel rooms where we spent most of our time, and the gorgeous, chatoyant opera houses where he actually worked.

You’ve been received with open arms in parts of the dark scene (See German Orkus-Magazine). How does that feel like?
It's a real pleasure. Our clarinetist already gave some serious consideration to the idea of painting his fingernails black. Joking apart, the open-mindedness of the so-called "dark" scene is extremely energizing. Our music was always recieved very well by such audiences, it's fantastic, very rewarding.

On a more general level: What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
I'm afraid our experience of performing live is quite limited. So in our opinion, a good performance would probably be a performance where everything goes more or less as planned (laughs). We aren't a rock band; energy and rythm aren't our main appeal. This is why, when planning a concert, we always try to surprise the audience with a non-traditional approach of the performance. This doesn't necessarily involve any ground-breaking techniques though : our concerts are usually intimate, original, hazardous, tense, also comical at times. Sometimes we even make love to each other.

How would you describe or characterise your composing process?
I work on sound. My songs rarely follow any traditional narrative structure. They don't begin, and they don't end. Most of them just "throb", moved by inflexions, modulations, emotions. I usually first work on an instrumental base, in which I sculpt tiny depressions, spaces of silence. These depressions will later contain my voice. I know nothing as indecent and at the same time beautiful as the human voice. I often feel the need to express precise ideas, rather than global emotions, and this is why I sing.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
Haha... I'm not sure. I rarely think in terms of "artists", "creators", or such. I'm not very interested in techniques or intentions. I prefer listening to their music over and over, until I make it mine and later recycle these impressions into something of my own. It's a quite egoist process, but I sincerely believe all process of creation is merely a declination of an external source. Anyway... I do have some major influences which I refer to constantly, such as Robert Wyatt, Philip Glass, John Cale or Brian Eno. My father also, obviously. Legends ! We'll never get close to them, of course.

How do you see the relationship between music and business? What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

On the business level, most certainly. But when it comes to creativity... I don't have the feeling there are less interesting artists now than twenty years ago. I discover beautiful, fascinating music every day. But the context is certainly different, yes, music is more than ever limited to precise and growingly minuscule market niches. People really need to be educated about music now, since they no longer have an easy access to it. This wasn't necessarily the case when I grew up : as horrible as they were, the media still gave us a minimal feedback of what was happening elsewhere. A band like Nirvana wasn't certainly the best band on earth, but it was in my opinion the very last example of a perfect synthesis between art, market, availability and legend. There hasn't been anything like that ever since.

Some feel there is no need to record albums any more, that there is no such thing as genuinely “new” music. What do you tell them?

In my opinion, where you find spirit, you also find novelty. But the idea of novelty isn't limited to a technical level : it can also arise from minuscule variations, interpretation, timbre, intention, context. Once again - the Sex Pistols were musically minor. But they were absolutely ground-breaking in terms of communication and intention. Please stop me if I'm out of context (laughs).

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
I don't know anything about composition. I only work on sound. In my case, composition is a declination of the forms taken by my sounds.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.

False, I think. The beautiful thing about art is the absence of rules. I don’t know anything about duty, but I know that excellent results can be obtained by faking as well. David Bowie seems like an obvious example. As for myself, I'm afraid I'm an old-school Morrissey-ish artist : my personal emotions, feelings and experiences are all over my music.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
What a wonderful fantasy! Free instant noodles, four days of Einstein On The Beach and a strict dress-code involving black and white mini-shorts and no glasses. Seriously : I would love such a position, but I would hate working with people whom I dislike. Moreover, I have the feeling that such a festival would satisfy only myself and my crazy family.

What’s your favourite CD at the moment?

I have several : the OSTs of The Hours and Last Days, Six Organs Of Admittance, Matt Eliott.

Does the success of stars like Britney Spears sometimes make you wish you had chosen for a career in Pop?
But I have chosen a career in Pop!

Regal Daylight (2004/2005) Stateart

Nick Grey

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