Name: Janine Rainforth

Nationality: British

Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current Release: Maximum Joy's BBC Radio 1 Sessions EP is out via London Field.

If you enjoyed this interview with Janine Rainforth and would like to keep up to date with her work, visit her on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter. She also has an official homepage.

Where does the impulse to create something come from for you?

Innate; instinctual; need.

What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?  

Huge – e.g. “Ultraviolet” by MXMJoY started out about something from a talk I heard about butterflies, how they see colours that really struck me - butterflies see an extra colour in the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum that even the males of their species cannot;

politics – sure, a lot of my inspiration comes from my observations of the world or myself in the world, about injustices I percieve and ultimately my hopes for a peaceful world where we are all able to live in harmony and be kinder! Most of my tunes/writing have some of this in – if you dig deep!

“Searching for a Feeling” by Maximum Joy  is quite political  - in an unovert way. In a way it’s a call to peaceful arms!

For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work?

Not neccessarily – sometimes I work like that,  often I work more freely to start with coming up with a tune; some lines; some sounds; some juxtaposition of sounds that then inspire me to create some more with those starting nuggets

What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you? Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?

Not really, apart from needing to walk to start with / during – literally – walking in nature - then headphones a mic;my keyboard; a DAW and some (hopefully) unadulterated time!

I do sometimes work through several versions

Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?

Walking is where a lot of my work happens and starts. And I try to improvise on a tune daily/create a new (start of) tune

What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?

It depends on what comes first. Sometimes the words (with a tune); sometimes a tune – with words added. What can be challenging is taking the first nugget of an idea that you’re excited about and growing it into something you're still excited about!

When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?

A track can start with lyrics – they often do;

I don’t know where they come from! They arrive generally –  from ideas  or feelings I’ve had ; most times the start of them -  just arrive when I’m walking or sometimes when jamming on a tune

What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?

Lyrics can be personal but also can reflect something that might resonate with someone else. That's the sign of a good lyric to me: When it pierces and has the ability to reach you and to make you, the listener feel something – and also when the words paint a picture create an image a feeling a time a place – describe a feeling that is difficult to describe!

Words fail often but that’s what makes it challenging
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?

It can be fast or slow. Sort of depends on the tune / content and what it means to me and also sometimes on the track - if it’s an easy track to assemble or a challenge...!

It often is  a bit like construction work once the initial idea is formed / down.

Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?

Follow where they lead – with some eyes on the original idea / hope / notion! I try to keep the producer head out of the way until the idea is created = get out oft the way of what is / maybe flowing as it were.

In my experience work becomes what it wants to be in a way though ! You can’t force ideas ...

Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?

Sure it can do – and new versions can emerge. New ideas get recorded / noted when they arise.

There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?

The creative state is multi-faceted in my view. It can stretch from a delicate glimmer of an idea that arrives to an applied structured work state.

 I think it needs to be nurtured – creativity - and involves going back to the table as it were, setting up the conditions that work for you to allow for possible inspiration and maybe getting lost in that moment; the flow = that is the best bit isn’t it?

Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?

Someone I work with who’s gifted and wise ... when I said I can’t listen to this anymore,  said that's a sign it’s finished is you’ve had enough of hearing it!!This is so true – at least in that moment.

Or on that rare occassion when you know the work is complete after one writing session – that is golddust and can happen.

Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?

Yeah you need at least a few days, or more if possible, of distance before mastering or finalising the project. On some tracks I will make changes until I think it’s as right as it’s going to be (until I’m fed up with hearing it!). Others need less – what does that  say about the track?

One I wrote recently (a solo track which isn’t released yet) centres on a poem I  found in an old diary that I wrote 40 years ago after a traumatic event in my life. That track  was noticeably long and drawn out in the making and completing.

But the tracks change / take on different meaning and life when they are out in the world, released (– and can sound different depending on your mood / the day / the weather -) so in a way are they ever finished?

What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?

It’s such an important part of the process. I’m very involved in the production side – I take a production role working closely with a sound engineer I’ve worked with for years - I worked like this on the MXMJoY album and on my solo tunes, too.

For Maximum Joy tracks, we would all be in the studio for the mix and production and took an active part in the creative process there. Actually my love of studios and working in them grew from that point. It’s a place I can spend hours and hours in, alchemical moments happen there.

Mastering I have huge respect for. I do attend the sessions when I can but I let the master(s) do their work! The last MXMJoY material (and my solo) were mastered by Noel Summerfield – he’s a bit of a master (!) -  he has a fantatstic analogue set up in his studio.

After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?

No I don’t really. Yes that work structure moment has finished but it’s incredible to then witness the music taking on a new life as it’s released into the world and experienced by listeners and when playing the tunes live.

I tend to have a lot of projects going on so that there’s more to do – but it’s also good (and neccesary!) to have a break sometimes and just breath!

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Its true that’s the beauty of life and us isn’t it? We’re all so different and one persons creativity can be another’s mundanity ...  creativity can be digging the garden or, yes, making a great coffee (baristas especially get that creative buzz I expect).

I guess I try and talk through music – try to express because music talks to me and does things to me that I find hard to put into words ...! It lifts up, it heals and it moves and it stirs and does so many other things – it  reaches parts that I don’t think we’re concious of or have fathomed yet ...!