The teaser of “You’re Mine Again”, his album created in collaboration with The Random Orchestra (released last summer by Milk & Moon), introduces a collection of songs about the various states of romantic agitation… and garlic! Let’s discover the reason behind these words by Nick Grey.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Nick! How are you?
Nick Grey: I am slowly oscillating between irritation and relief: my office chair is quite comfortable, however the floor appears to be slightly crooked; this makes it slippery and requires constant manual adjustment. This is a soul-crushing experience, mitigated in part by those rare, graceful moments when one of the chair’s wheels snugly slips into a little crevice in the wood, creating momentary stability.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you introduce yourself and your musical/artistic background?
Nick Grey: My name is Nick Grey and I have – arguably – been making music for about ten years. As my father was a tenor and my mother a ballerina, I haven’t listened to any form of modern music before the age of 10, approximately, when I was saved by a tape of Elvis Presley’s best ballads, which my mother bought for me in Stockholm, as the shop was freshly out of Puccini. From Elvis I went on to discover electronic music (Wendy Carlos, Kraftwerk…), then guitar-based music (Black Sabbath, the Stooges…), and this has finally led me to work on my own environment, with the goal of finding something fresh enough to express. Not counting my work with 230 Divisadero and 48 Cameras and various collaborations, “You’re Mine Again” is my third album.
Chain D.L.K.: Some followers of dark and folk music developed a sort of devotion towards you in the past. In relation to your lovely collaboration with The Random Orchestra, why did you change your style towards a sort of electronic pop?
Nick Grey: Devotion is quite a strong word, I think I am merely tolerated – but thank you! As for the change in style, we try different things with each new record, really. We usually try to avoid experimentation for the sake of it and rather attempt to incorporate the result of our sound and lyrical investigations to a well-defined song format, so “pop” seemed like a natural enough orientation for us. Also, I didn’t have enough drones left in me after “Spin Vows Under Arch”: that record left me pretty much dried out, and musically over-saturated, for a few years. Finally, moving to a more collaborative compositional method in the recent years, with the rest of the band, has been a blessing.
Chain D.L.K.: How would you describe your music?
Nick Grey: I usually use “Oblique pop”, as it’s the only way I’ve found to describe our work encompassing both the idea of entertainment and an atmospheric element of “otherness”. Our music is both very serious and very tongue-in-cheek, I think, both ironic and straightforward. At least that’s what we try to achieve: to transmit existential melancholy without ever taking ourselves seriously. Of course, our mortality is what makes the dancing, the laughing and the fucking so worthwhile – but the fact that we’re all going to die humiliated by age, sickness and/or violence doesn’t make the principles of life immune to criticism, does it?
Chain D.L.K.: There’s a strong influence by some OST of composers like Moroder or Morricone, as well as some possible connections to other bands such as Momus, Air, Husky Rescue, Marsmobil or even Gainsbourg, isn’t there? Are there any other influences?
Nick Grey: There is, yes. But we’ve listened to so much music that it’s hard for us to identify who our influences are, to be honest. I’d say definitely Gainsbourg and Robert Wyatt… However, a lot of my heroes are either outsiders or belong to the past; I’m thinking Rodd Keith, Joe Meek, Chet Baker, Sinatra, Jackson C Frank, Kevin Ayers… I don’t listen to a lot of music these days but I find it easier, generally speaking, to sympathize with the dead.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you recommend avoiding listening to “You’re Mine Again” while in a state of romantic agitation?
Nick Grey: Because that would be no time to be listening to music! More important issues would have to be urgently taken care of. Message for the struggling young people: instead of wallowing in self-pity and depressing music, I strongly recommend solving relationship issues through the heavy use of denial.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you like Omar Sharif’s style? 🙂
Nick Grey: I certainly am very jealous of his moustache – which is, as we all know, the definitive proof of what a man’s worth. No matter how much I try, mine never seems to exceed the status of “weak-willed patch of hair”… but I live in hope.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any song from the “You’re Mine Again” album you keep on singing by yourself while shaving or having a showering? If so, why?
Nick Grey: Shaving fills me with dread. And when I shower, I don’t sing – I moan.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you performed it on live stage? How was people’s feedback?
Nick Grey: The new album? Not yet. Hopefully soon! Part of the group and me has just moved to Berlin, so I’m sure a few gigs will pop up in that area.
Chain D.L.K.: Could you introduce The Random Orchestra and other musicians whose collaboration was really important for the development of the sound of “You’re Mine Again”’?
Nick Grey: With pleasure. My main, and most important, current collaborator is Louis Pontvianne, a brilliant French multi-instrumentalist, who has written most of our latest music, together with me. Another important contributor on the record has been Boyarin – and I invite everyone to check out his Bandcamp page as his solo work is truly great and very, very original. The record’s closing song, “Enchantée”, is the work of Sarah Maison, whose heart-breaking and witty music should be heard world-wide, if you ask me. And last but not least is Peter James, who not only mixed and mastered the record but provided constant input and guidance – somewhat like a very powerful and wise wizard. (Links to all of these good people’s solo work are available on our main website.)
Chain D.L.K.: Would you consider yourself anequivalent of Roland Barthes in music?
Nick Grey: I wouldn’t dare, no, but his work must certainly have agitated my train of thought, indeed, and the amount of distance I apply to my own writing. I assume you are referring to Fragments d’un Discours Amoureux (A Lover’s Discourse)? “You’re Mine Again” is of course a much more modest contribution to the subject, although I have tried to be sincere and thorough, and to analyze the subject as much as display my own experiences. I am not much of a romantic: I have so to speak abandoned ship – not the ship of sincere, rewarding emotional association with another being, but the very tiresome ship of intolerable theatrics usually linked to existential loneliness that nothing or no one can ever fill. I only say this because this is what is usually associated with romance, in popular media at least. Drama is part of the process of passion, it seems. The idea of passion is a tyrannical social construction though, I think; very tiresome. Surely there must be some better way to love than the constant mental fuckstorm of angst, jealousy and self-depreciation only solved by the loving stare of your better half? Back on topic, though, I haven’t read Barthes in a while, although I did read his essay on Histoire de l’Oeil (Story of the Eye) last week – I mostly read German and Austrian authors these days – Bernhard, Mann, Hoffmann (a treat), Musil. I am working on my German. It isn’t going smoothly.
Chain D.L.K.:Who’s (or should I say who was) the dead Dogman?
Nick Grey: The Dogman is the entity inside of us that pushes us towards stagnation, addiction and apathy. As you can see, to deal with these issues, I’ve found anthropomorphism to be very helpful.
Chain D.L.K.: …and who’s the Wasp Lover?
Nick Grey: Sapience is the ability to act with appropriate judgement, according to the dictionary. What if lovers were unable to act in such a manner, because their decisions are filtered through the prism of passion? The song is a playful reflection on how love could eventually strip us of our “homo sapiens” status.
Chain D.L.K.: A definition of love by Nick Grey?
Nick Grey: Self-imposed complications.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides this album, what’s the most romantic action you ever done?
Nick Grey: To be frank, none of my songs or albums have ever been directly autobiographical, or dedicated to someone I know. The danger of sounding immature and self-centered is much too big. That kind of catharsis should be kept for the therapist – or the family, at the very least. So the most romantic thing I’ve ever done would probably be once allowing a girlfriend to remove Darkthrone from the record player to replace it with a Lionel Richie album. The saddest part about this is how much I enjoyed “Say You, Say Me”.
Chain D.L.K.: By chance, are you a lingerie collector? Who did the cover artwork?
Nick Grey: My ex-girlfriend took the picture and yes, I was lying on the floor among her lingerie wearing her make-up. Naturally, we parted ways shortly after that. As for your first question, I barely manage to keep my own underwear in order so collecting more just appears as an unnecessary burden to me. I don’t need to hoard lingerie: whenever lingerie is needed, there are ways to access it.
Chain D.L.K.:Any work in progress?
Nick Grey: Lots. A new Nick Grey & The Random Orchestra coming up later this year, a full-length collaboration with Empusae, a 48 Cameras cover EP, and probably some other things which I forgot about. I have also worked on the music of an indie iOS game called “In Churning Seas” (brilliant little thing) which should be out very soon on the Apple app store. Thank you!
Visit Nick Grey online at: www.nick-grey.com