Name: Catherine Graindorge
Occupation: Violinist, violist, composer, actress
Current release: Catherine Graindorge's Eldorado is out via Glitterbeat/tak:til.
Recommendations: The album “Open” by The Necks; [Read our Tony Buck of The Necks interview] The book ‘The Animals’ by Christian Kiefer
If you enjoyed this interview with Catherine Graindorge and would like to find out more about her, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I was immersed in classical music during my childhood and adolescence and then one day, the rigorous side of this environment made me want to explore other musical universes - rock, pop, jazz ...
I studied theatre, began to work as an actress until the day I was asked to compose music and play on stage. Shortly after, I bought my first loop pedal and that's when I really started to find my musical universe. Suddenly, by adding other effects pedals, an infinite world opened up to me. That was 20 years ago.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
We are all influenced by others, without always being aware of it. Copying an artist on the other hand is not very productive, at least for me. The few times I said to myself "I'm going to compose a song in the manner of such and such an artist", it never gave me anything.
What inspires me in my musical creations is not so much music as life around me, people, situations I meet or emotions I feel.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
My anxieties, my emotions, life around me guide me in my creations. Identity and creativity are intimately linked.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I had no particular ambition to play solo. In 2010 I created and played the music for a show called Animal. The following year, someone asked me to play the songs from this show live again, so I composed more songs and that's how I created the material of my first record.
The Secret of us all, released in 2012, allowed me to meet and play with international artists such as Hugo Race, John Parish, Pascal Humbert, Chris Eckman ... Great meetings that made me want to create more connections.
But fundamentally, I make music for myself because it gives meaning to my life. And then I love to play on stage, this moment of cohesion with an audience is addictive!
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I've never considered changing instruments, the exploration with my violin, viola and effects pedals is endless.
For this album, Eldorado, the sound of the harmonium is new. I love the way it blends with my violin. I also use may voice, in a kind of ‘violin way’.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Effects and loop pedals have enriched my way of creating music, they are powerful tools.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I love to improvise. Actually, I never sit down to compose on a sheet of paper, everything I create has emerged from improvisations. I love these improvised moments alone or with other musicians, they are unknown journeys. So I have to record everything: I play and afterwards I come back to the interesting parts, in order to develop them and maybe to create a new song.
Sometimes it's not possible.
I composed the album Long Distance Operators with Hugo Race by exchanging tracks at a distance - he was in Australia, I was in Belgium. It’s another way to create, less spontaneous but managing surprises: you discover what the other plays, with a delay …
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I get up early, around 7am. I have breakfast with my family, check the news, my emails. If I work at home, I always try to break up the day by going to yoga, fitness, the pool or to the forest.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
My first solo album The Secret of us all released in 2012 allowed me to meet and work with artists on the international scene such as John Parish (PJ Harvey), Chris Eckman (The Walkabouts), Hugo Race (ex member of Nick cave and the Bad Seeds), Pascal Humbert (16Horsepower), Bertrand Cantat (Noir Désir) and even Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (I recorded several tracks on the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Projects but unfortunately I have not met them) …All these collaborations empowered me, there is no real hierarchy.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
As long as the desire to play is there, all states of mind are interesting to create music.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I would probably be more unstable without music. Not only listening to it but making it, it's liberating. Hurting and healing are intimately linked.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
It's interesting to listen to other music, other codes and cultures, and then forget them, to find your own way.
An influence can only work on an unconscious level, otherwise you deliberately reproduce clichés, which doesn’t appeal me.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I would say that when we play music, we are in a state of hypersensitivity, as close as it is possible to a 'present' time. To this extent, our senses are perhaps in full awakening - but that's only a supposition ...
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I feel very permeable to the world. I wouldn't say that I am an activist but I try to act in my daily life through citizen actions. I can't separate my artistic life from my daily life. They are intimately linked.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Existential questions about our passage here on earth, about death remain unanswered. Music begins where words end.