Catherine Graindorge image

Before this occasion, I already met the name and the awesome playing techniques of Belgian violinist, violist, and composer Catherine Graindorge in many releases – the one that I vividly remember is “Long Distance Operators”, the collaborative album with the Australian musician Hugo Race (deployed on Sub Rosa catalog at the beginning of 2017), and I am pretty sure that many of our readers could have met them too, as she also wrote music for film and theater and collaborated with many notorious artists such as Mark Lanegan and Nick Cave. Her recent haunting solo album “Eldorado” (released in October on Glitterbeat‘s more experimental division Tak:til), produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey, Rokia Traor), was a good opportunity to know Catherine and her art better by her own words.

Chain D.L.K.: Hi Catherine! How are you doing in these weird days of human history?

Catherine Graindorge: If I only thought about myself, I would say that I’m doing well because I’m working again, and I have some very nice professional projects in the pipeline… But we know more than ever that everything can change in an instant, that the future of all of us is uncertain… I, therefore, savor the present moment.

Catherine Graindorge image
courtesy of Elie Rabinovitch

Chain D.L.K.: I really enjoyed your recent album “Eldorado”, but before an extensive focus on it, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers in your own words?

Catherine Graindorge: I’m a Belgian violinist, violist, composer, and actress.
For more than 20 years, I have divided my life between theater and music as a musician but also as an actress. I am part of a bass/drums/violin trio Nile On waX, I collaborate with various musicians, I create music for theater, cinema, dance…

Chain D.L.K.: How did you get closer to composition? Was it an inherited passion, or did it come from other stimuli?

Catherine Graindorge: I never really decided one day to compose. I just started by improvising with (friends) musicians and then for shows and as I improvised, pieces were sketched out that I reworked. Musical composition for me must emerge from the present moment with my instrument in hand.

Chain D.L.K.: You crossed the path of many big names and music souls during your path… how did you decide to make diversions to compose and produce solo albums?

Catherine Graindorge: It was while creating music for theater shows that I felt like playing solo. In 2011, I sent a YouTube video of one of my concerts to some musicians I liked, including Hugo Race, and he accepted to be my guest on my first solo album “The Secret of us all”. This album allowed me to make other beautiful collaborations.

Chain D.L.K.: Any words about your solo debut, The Secret Of Us All (2012)? Considering the received acclaim by a niche of listeners, did it raise expectations in yourself? What was the more unexpected feedback you received?

Catherine Graindorge: I sent the album to John Parish, I had no particular expectations other than to let him hear my music, he liked it and asked me if I was free a year later to improvise with him and other musicians in Derby. It was an incredible week of musical improvisation with great musicians such as John Parish but also Pete Judge, Sebastian Rochford…

Chain D.L.K.: Some personal facts caused the postponing of a follow-up/second album after that… besides the facts that occurred in between, what was the source of inspiration that sparkled the first idea behind what should have become the current album?

Catherine Graindorge: Between “The secret of us all” and “Eldorado”, I released other albums (with my trio Nile On waX, with Hugo Race) and collaborated on albums of many other musicians. But I lost my father in 2015, and I decided to create a show. It took me a long time to write the text, then I mixed it with music and video. Afterwards, I needed to immerse myself in the music alone, away from the words – even though there are a few on “Eldorado”, they came later. I bought a small Indian harmonium that reminded me of the big harmonium that used to sit in my childhood home. And I composed songs in the manner of a diary, which expressed how I felt about events of today. Loss, the destruction of our planet, the migrant crisis, our need to (re) find a place of peace are the themes that guided me.

Chain D.L.K.: You come from Belgium, a country with a very interesting and lively scene of contemporary music in general, in my opinion. For instance, the title track reminded me of the sound of a relatively old project, that signed two great and pretty unknown albums, Starfish Enterprises, the band by Koen Lybaert before it turned into the electronic entity Starfish Pool. Would you say that your sound has some connection with the sound developed in Belgium in the last three decades?

Catherine Graindorge: If I have a Belgian musical identity, I’m not aware of it. Belgium is a “hybrid” country where many cultures mix, especially in Brussels. Maybe our lack of identity – Belgium exists only since 1830 – has created this open-mindedness, this sense of surrealism… So is the music impacted by this? I don’t know…

Chain D.L.K.: Why did you choose to name your album after the mythical golden land? There’s a personal experience behind this choice, I read. Any word about that?

Catherine Graindorge: In the winter of 2017, some Brussels citizens decided to organize accommodation for migrants via a platform created on Facebook. The government at that time did not intervene and hundreds of migrants were left outside in the cold. We took in two young Eritreans and helped them to obtain papers, one in Belgium, the other in the UK. The “Eldorado” is first and foremost a quest for a better world, for them a necessity for survival… It is also this elsewhere that we are all looking for to give our lives meaning…

Chain D.L.K.: The track “Rosalie” is the impressive overture of “Eldorado”. Can you tell us the story behind this track in your own words? Is there any specific reason for this opening?

Catherine Graindorge: Rosalie, Tutsi of Rwanda, fled the genocide in 1994. She built her life in Belgium with Eugne, a Rwandan Tutsi like her. My father, a lawyer, helped them at the time when they founded an association in memory of the disappeared. In 2019, Rosalie learns that the bones of her family have been found underground in her native village. She goes there, buries them with dignity, gives them a farewell ceremony. Three days later, on her return to Belgium, her heart stops beating… She was 51 years old.

Chain D.L.K.: The catchy track “Lockdown” is obviously referred to the experience you had during the lockdown. In particular, there’s a troubling story to grab a harmonium, right?

Catherine Graindorge: Oh, yes! After the week of recording in Bristol with John Parish – at Jim Barr’s J&J studio – in early March 2020, I left my Indian harmonium at John’s house as I was supposed to return a week later for the mixes. Then the lockdown happened, and I never got to go back for it. In May, I borrowed one in Brussels, recorded the Lockdown track at home; John mixed it at the end of September with the other tracks – remotely, him in Bristol and me in Brussels. And then in October, he sent it to me by post!

Chain D.L.K.: There’s a strong marching between your music and hitting news from our planet. For instance, would you tell us something about the track “Kangaroos in Fire”, that I surmise could be related to the devastating fires that destroyed many natural areas in Australia?

Catherine Graindorge: I saw the kangaroos, the Australian forests burning on TV, then I took my violin and my harmonium and improvised this piece.

Chain D.L.K.: I’m curious to know about the sources for inspiration of the closing “Eno”… I can surmise it was the listening of Brian Eno’s first stuff, or am I getting wrong?

Catherine Graindorge: It’s quite the opposite! I created a loop and thought it had a little Brian Eno spirit. I didn’t try to pay homage to him, it just came to me, and then John recorded his beautiful guitar on it. And I thought that all in all, ending an album with the name of an artist I really like was not bad!

courtesy of Elie Rabinovitch

Chain D.L.K.: What is boiling in your artistic pot? Any forthcoming releases/collaborations?

Catherine Graindorge: At the moment I’m rehearsing a show, Photography of A written by Daniel Keene, for which I’m playing both a character and my music live. The premiere took place in 2018 in Switzerland, and we will soon play in Paris. I’m also preparing the music for a very beautiful project, White Box, which mixes scenography, photography, dance and which will premiere in October 2022 in Stockholm. I’m also looking for a label for my trio Nile On waX’s just-finished album. And concert dates for “Eldorado” are becoming clearer in the spring. To be continued…

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