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Interview with Nick Grey

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi Tobias, I feel wonderful, thank you very much. I am sitting in the room I grew up in, listening to the bats who live in my shutters and considering the possibility of playing some of my old Iron Maiden tapes : Paul Di’Anno is an amazingly underrated vocalist, and although Bruce Dickinson’s charisma and vocal range obviously took the band to an entirely new level, I still have a great deal of affection for their first recordings. Their self-titled debut LP was already an impressive collection of heavy pop songs, but their second album, Killers, is an absolute masterpiece in my book.


What’s on your schedule right now?
Quite an amount of exciting plans. Two of my most important records (for me, at least) have just been released, “Thieves Among Thorns” on Timothy Renner’s extraordinary label Hand/eye and the 230 Divisadero EP “A Vision of Lost Unity” on Milk & moon. A lot of exciting collaborations are in the works as well; as for instance the next album by 48 Cameras to which I’ll participate elegantly. I’ve joined their collectif à géométrie variable last November after a providential meeting with Jean Marie Mathoul. Also, my “Candlelight Eyes” EP will be out on Barl Fire recordings soon, another label which I respect deeply.


You have only recently become a part of the fast-growing MySpace family. How is it working out for you until now?

Quite well : I just needed a couple of hours and a small amount of clicking to become best pals with William Burroughs, Morrissey and Friedrich Nietzsche. What else could I ask for?


Have these developments reinforced your commitment to your own Milk and Moon imprint? What, do you feel, can you achieve with a self-run label without big financial means?
I’m not trying to achieve anything with Milk & moon recordings as a matter of fact, it’s all about pleasure. It’s a small do-it-yourself structure and designed to stay so, its only goal for now is to release small runs of limited, “collectible” editions and to make them not only attractive on a musical level, but also lovable and close to your heart. Nothing pretentious about it, of course if one of these records gets a proper release later, in a perhaps slightly expanded form, I’d be very happy about it. Very little money involved and I think it’s an excellent thing, I’m no label manager and I would honestly hate to have business relations with the people I work with. It’s mainly about the common will of building something interesting together. A bit like being lost in the deep forest and reading aloud a poem by Henri Michaux to the lovable squirrels.


Your most recent releases seem to eschew the Classical elements of your first efforts, leaning more on folk and singer/songwriter traditions. How come?
It really depends on the people I work with, since my recent releases (except Thieves Among Thorns) are all results of collaborations. Working for two years on the Thieves album has left me a bit raw and very much longing for contact. The Classical element is still very present on my “solo” work though, as on “Thieves...”, however its treatment and integration are now radically different. I think all of the elements of the music blend together seamlessly now, instead of standing out just to prove that the alchemy is possible.


I sense a strong desire for breathing space in the catlandgrey pieces, the will to allow the tracks to simply “be”, instead of having to make a point. Correct?
Very correct, yes. I honestly think “Regal Daylight” was an attempt at creating a piece of music through the process of building a demented architectural structure  rather than explaining to people who I am and what I am about. My views on this have changed now – I have only started quite recently to use elements of my own life in my music.


Some of the music on “catlandgrey” simply repeats the same chords again and again, before ending – which brings a Mike Oldfield quote to mind, who once said: “It is not about how often you repeat something, but about whether it is worth repeating”. What’s your point of view on this?
Yeah, I can understand he was having some second thoughts about his records... His guitar solo on Robert Wyatt’s “Rock Bottom” is great though. In my case, repetition is not really a means to an end but rather an exciting way, I find, to have elements and ambiances combine and slowly build something monolithic. °catlandgrey° is quite radio-friendly though! But yes, I am more and more fascinated and interested by the idea of drones, field recording, tone music etc.; I am often trying to translate elements of what I perceive in the music I listen to into my own musical vocabulary... and frequently obtain surprising results by doing so.


There are hints at a lyrical concept behind “catlandgrey”. Would you like to maybe give us a short insight at its main themes?
°catlandgrey° is a story about lions and the death of the oral form, the totalitarian aspects of language and the tragic outcome of Mussolini’s attempt to colonize a star, it’s also a story about pain and limousines, bald cells and armours of skin, and, of course, about Jesus José. Pond songs!


Lest we forget, “catlandgrey” is a collaboration... What can you tell us about Nihiruneko and how did you get in touch with him?
The word “Nihiruneko” literally stands for, “The Nihil Cat” in Japanese, or “The Cat from Nowhereland”. I met him in one of those tiny plastic toy capsules they sell in Japan, we very quickly decided to record an album together, something we could cherish as a souvenir, before falling apart again (which was ultimately inevitable). The Cat’s back in the darkness now and I miss him sorely.


How did the collaboration take shape in practise? Lots of emailing or even some live jams? Who was responsible for the “director’s cut”?
Lots of telepathy too, although some of the songs were recorded at my home as well. All of the °catlandgrey° songs came up using the same method : Nihiruneko’s stellar guitar parts first, then a good deal of talk about what the song was about, then finding its title, and finally my vocal and instrumental interventions. What’s a “live jam” though?


Are there still some creepy animal hand-puppets left from the limited edition?
Nope, all gone, but you (usually) always get a small surprise with our stuff. It’s very childish, yeah, but ordering records directly from artists or small labels has always made me feel like a kid, exactly like receiving childhood gifts from my grandma for easter. She sent me a fascinating German book once about a hysterical gnome (or was it a mischievous kobold) named Pumuckl... Anyway, I’ve never lost that childlike amazement whenever I get a package through the post and I’d really love people who order my stuff to feel the same way.
 

As these limited editions are being produced with a huge deal of love and personal input – do you, just like a painter, find it hard to actually sell them?
No, it’s a real relief, just like any musician I suppose I need for my records to be “out there”. But yes, the Milk & Moon editions are all assembled by myself with unreasonable amounts of love and care and body fluids. I try to make each new release slightly different from the last one, yet part of the same “collection” , generally by adding a small, original element to it. The problem is, I’m not a very visual sort of person, I loathe photography and cinema, however I always take great care to make my records interesting on a tactile level ; the 230 Divisadero EP, for instance, comes with a piece of burnt parchment on which the lyrics are printed. °catlandgrey° comes with a tiny googly eye ; and Les Eaux Territoriales with a piece of mirror glued to the digipak.


What can you tell us about the 230 Divisadero project?
230 Divisadero is a collaboration with the amazing Matt Shaw, of Tex La Homa – the name of the project was borrowed from Neal Cassady’s correspondence. Matt & I hooked up through the internet while I was living in Canada and started swapping files through the post, from Montréal to Poole, Dorset. We recorded an EP (released on Milk & moon) and an album (still looking for the right label to release this) with this method, and then we finally met last month and I must say it was very much like meeting up with an old friend. Consequently, 230 Divisadero isn’t just another virtual project – we have a lot of exciting plans for it, the pleasure is constant and the ideas keep flowing, so let’s see what the future holds. Also, a new Tex La Homa EP should be out on Milk & moon soon.


Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Oh no, I am much happier when people have trouble deciding which one of my records they like the most. I’m doing my best to give them a lot of colours to chose from. Moreover, the idea of a “magnum opus” generally involves either dying young or drifting slowly into mediocrity after that precise record, and I just received my blood results which are fine, so I guess the other solution isn’t particularly appealing.

By Tobias Fischer


Discography:
Thieves among thorns (2006) Hands/Eye
A Vision of Lost Unity (2006, as 230 Divisadero) Milk & Moon
Catlandgrey (2006, as Catlandgrey) Milk & Moon
Les Eaux Territoriales (2005, with Nicholas Davis) Milk & Moon
Regal Daylight (2005) Stateart


Weblinks

www.nick-grey.com
www.milkandmoon.com
www.230divisadero.com
www.48cameras.com
www.texlahoma.com





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