NICK GREY AND THE RANDOM ORCHESTRA and their “Regal Daylight” have been a great discovery for me; an unexpected gift from a new label called Sensitive Records, dedicated to inspiration and emotion.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us about your artistic path.
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: That won’t take too long: my musical career is quite young. I’ve started singing, writing songs and meddling with sounds only about three years ago, when I was working on the first EMPI lp. I must confess I’ve never studied music much, nor have I actively tried practicing an instrument – except on a couple of unimportant and soon-forgotten occasions. My main quality is my intuition, I think. And also the fantastic musical education my parents gave me. Sorry if it sounds like a cliché…
Chain D.L.K.: I can feel different influences in your music, from the Italian opera to kletzmer music (especially in the use of clarinet). What do you think of that? Is it your personal style or is it a resolute choice, or a research?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: Everything in this record is a consequence of our personal style. In fact, a whole half of the band doesn’t have any musical and technical formation (as myself), so most of the musical areas we’ve explored on this record were reached through intuition and sensibility. And a great deal of luck as well! However, the Random Orchestra also features three professional musicians: Jasmine Pinkerton (piano), Shaman Doria (clarinet) and Alina (violin). My work with these individuals was very different from the rest; we had to find a way to communicate efficiently in spite of my total lack of musical vocabulary.
Chain D.L.K.: What is in a multicultural society the future of music? To enforce traditions and “ethnic” styles or to continuously mix and arrange different cultures?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: Both. I’m not sure new achievements can still be made in music. The most difficult part when you write songs is to manage finding your own personal style. This doesn’t necessarily involve making any crucial innovations… In our case, the goal wasn’t precisely to blend multicultural influences together in order to provide the listener with a faded, dissimilar piece of music. Basically we’re just a bunch of good friends who all have very different influences but nevertheless enjoy playing music together.
Chain D.L.K.: In the booklet it says “please don’t play this record on Sundays”. Is this related to a religious matter or what else?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: I think Sundays should be devoted to sleeping, taking care of your family, or dying. The only music I listen to on Sundays is Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” or Gorecki’s third Symphony. On Sundays you should focus on your own intimacy, I think; not concentrate on another people’s artistic visions. Our own record should be explored on weekdays, when waking up on a rainy Tuesday morning or coming home from work. Morning or late night is best, in my opinion. I had a friend who once told me he had to force himself to stop listening to “Regal Daylight” on weekday mornings, because it made him feel lost and dreamy, and he had difficulties leaving home from work. What a wonderful idea! We want our music to bring peace and haziness to the listeners.
Chain D.L.K.: “La musica…come dev’essere fatta? Con allegria! ” (translation: “Music… how should it be made? With joy! ). Do you believe in the cathartic function of Art, both for the artist and the listener?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: That’s definitely our opinion: music must be made in joy. I also believe that most of our songs have a hypnotic, shamanic rhythm which can actually ensnare the open-minded listener and make him lose consciousness of what surrounds him. I’m not sure about the cathartic qualities of this precise record, though: catharsis through Art is surely stimulating, beautiful and can have a quasi religious resonance, but it’s an illusion above all. A painted wall which only makes you forget. On the other hand I can easily confess that music saved my life more than once; so it’s an illusion which I greet warmly every time.
Chain D.L.K.: In the wonderful “The Zealot’ there is a boy. “Was it a good man or else a thief? ” I think he’s like Prometheus, bringing not fire but the liberation inborn in a smile. Is this a truth yet to be given to manhood?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: The lines from “The Zealot” to which you refer to are actually softly ironic: Came across a boy // As lonely as me // A happy smile he wore // “I’m happy”, he swore // I asked the boy // To steal me a smile // “I’m no thief”, he said // “I’ll give you mine”. There’s nothing more sad than a sad smile. Smiles are a lonely, peculiar species of birds; they can be exchanged, stolen or offered. But in the end their meaning is often enigmatic and concealed. Have you ever seen a child smile sadly? Children’s smiles are always sincere; you can’t force a false smile out of a child.
Chain D.L.K.: You are Rumanian. Did you find a particular influence being in France? Is this the same country that charmed Henry Miller and artists from all over the world?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: I have Rumanian origins, yes, but I’ve never lived there; my main places of residence were France and the USA. Vasile, however, would have a lot to tell about Rumania. As for me, I’ve especially been influenced by the deep, haunting quality of the Rumanian gypsy music. Maria Tanase! Beautiful.
Chain D.L.K.: In my opinion there is a line passing through the songs and the CD booklet. Despite the different influences, the use of electronic drums or electric guitars, I find in all the songs (and above all in the sweet and dismal piano chords) and in the photos and drawings, a sensibility similar to the French “fin de siècle” Symbolism or Romanticism. It’s like being transferred inside a Parisian bistro or in a café surrounded by poets, listening to Chopin or Debussy. Is this something you share or is it only a vision of my own?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: Well, if I should try and find some kind of aesthetic “scenery” to “Regal Daylight”, I would firstly think of a place between Klimt and Münch… a desperate mosaic of coloured lost souls. In my opinion, our music also has a good deal of English irony to it, mingled with a kind of Rumanian, Cioran-esque desperate wit, rather than being directly related to French Romanticism. On the other hand, the piano songs are totally “fin de siècle”, absolutely. But what influences mostly in France is Surrealism – and food.
Chain D.L.K.: Talking about the “Random Orchestra”, the name seems to suggest a sort of Solar System, with interchangeable musicians revolving round the central figure of Nick Grey? Is their role only to execute or have they an active part in composition and arrangements?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: They have an active part in everything. Most of the time, when we start to work together, I provide them with an electronic esquisse of the song, giving them precise indications about the atmosphere I wish to develop. Then we start throwing around suggestions and experimenting. Of course every musician is totally free to follow his own ideas, provided they are in harmony with mine – it’s always the case, in fact. I must say working with the Random Orchestra was an absolute delight. There’s an exception to this method, however: all the piano songs were written by Jasmine Pinkerton exclusively, without my interfering. On those songs, I only sang and gave them some electronic arrangements and hazy background.
Chain D.L.K.: How did the collaboration with Vasile Moldoveanu start?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: I gave him a ring and told him: “Hey, would you like to play Bono & Pavarotti with me? ” He hung up immediately, of course (laughs). But then, when he listened to the whole project, he found it extremely interesting, very modern and luckily very different from the Pavarotti & Friends concept. So we gave it a try, and it worked. But unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to make it a real, full-time collaboration. The thing I regret most about “Regal Daylight” is the fact that some of Vasile’s interventions (as in “Song For Wyatt”) may sound like samples, simply pasted there. But they’re not; he really worked with us on this record.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you tell us something about the other projects EMPI and PINKERTON & GREY?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: Those are my two main other musical projects. EMPI is a romantic (but nightmarish) exploration of our experimental side – featuring spoken-word lyrics in French and lots of electronic and neo-classical digressions – while Pinkerton & Grey is a sweet, soft and sad piano/voice project which only features Jasmine Pinkerton and myself. If “The Zealot” and “November Fadeline” are in your opinion “Regal Daylight”’s best tracks, then you’ll surely find the Pinkerton & Grey album most appealing. Both records are to be released by Sensitive Records around the end of the year. Lots of samples available on the label’s website, as well.
Chain D.L.K.: Is Nick Grey and the Random Orchestra only a studio project or will you also play live?
Nick Grey And The Random Orchestra: We would love to play live. Unfortunately, the band simply features so many members that gigs and rehearsals are a real chore. Shows will have to wait for the band to adopt a smaller, cozier formation. We’d love to play live as Pinkerton & Grey, though. Our next EP as the Random Orchestra is ready as well (“The Candlelight Eyes” EP), and will feature less members than “Regal Daylight” – so perhaps we’ll do some gigs in 2005. And – thank you, sincerely, for this wonderful opportunity you gave us to talk about our music.
[interviewed by Ferruccio “Kobal” Milanesi] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]