Ever since Claire Boucher released Visions, one of the most exciting albums of the year, her life has been unfolding on the road. But when she’s not touring, the artist better known as Grimes is either at a photo shoot, DJing a party, or remixing her friends’ songs. That, or she’s breaching firewalls. “I’m not very good at it yet, but it’s a short-term hobby of mine,” she says of her proclivity for hacking computers. When pressed, Boucher is reluctant to discuss her greatest cyber conquest. “No, seriously,” she says. “If they find out, I’m fucked. I’ve already said too much.”
Today, the 24-year-old Vancouver native is Skyping from a schoolyard in her adoptive hometown of Montreal, and with her green hair spilling into her even greener anime eyes, she looks like a cyberpunk kid playing hooky from art history class. After Visions netted universal praise from critics and the video for its lead single, “Oblivion,” went viral, Grimes capitalized on her overnight success with three nights of sold-out shows in New York. Suddenly, everything she says matters to somebody. “It’s nerve-racking because I’m very bad at censoring myself,” she says, tugging uneasily at the sleeves of her black hoodie. “But it’s cool, too. In becoming a pop star, there’s a lot of power to change what people see as beautiful, to make a feminist statement.” Perhaps realizing how self-serious she sounds, she grins and adds, “I still don’t shave my armpits.”
Production-wise, Boucher, who makes all of her own beats, is obsessed with experimental hip-hop. “I love Timbaland, Jedi Mind Tricks, Dungeon Family, Outkast, and Gatekeeper—they’re all amazing,” she says. “But as a producer, I hate that people assume that whoever produced your favorite pop song is a male. It’s like assuming your professor is a male. I was a producer first, not a singer. I’m not even that good at singing. I deal with that by producing like the best.” That means synthesizing filmy electro loops with loopier vocals to create a weirdly familiar yet proto-alien sound, for which she’s become known as “post-Internet”—a category she once bestowed upon herself but now regrets. Whatever it’s called, we hope Grimes keeps hacking it.
I loved that interview you did with Nardwuar, where you held up the Mariah record you’d just bought. She’s the best—a lot of musicians our age reference her, and not in that stupid, sort of ironic, “guilty pleasures” way.
Musically, I think if you enjoy something you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. It’s an inherently flawed idea because you’re judging art based on someone else’s judgment.
Right. The only actual “guilty pleasures” for me are, like, drugs. What about yours?
Drinking alcohol. Or beating up my brothers. Kind of feel bad about that, you know, when I was a kid. One time I smashed my brother in the face with a hockey stick and I knocked out all his teeth.
Are you the oldest? Do you believe in birth-order destiny?
Yeah, I’m the oldest, and I was like the bad one. I did all the bad things and got in trouble. We played a lot of video games—talk about guilty pleasures, fucking video games.
What’s your favourite all-time video game?
Well, The Legend of Zelda was the first video game me and my brothers ever got, and so we all got matching Triforce tattoos.
Seems you’ve been doing a lot of remixes in your spare time, if you can call it that. Who do you most want to remix?
Zebra Katz. I love what he does. I also love female rap vocals. The rhythmic qualities of rapping—you can’t play with that so much in singing vocals. I sing out of necessity because I was like, fuck, I wanna make pop music and I don’t know who else can sing it. I wish I could rap. I’m a good rapper, but I don’t want to be, like, Blondie. When she rapped it was just the worst.
Which female rappers are the opposite of worst?
I love Azealia Banks. Her Twitter is horrible and annoying, but she’s amazing. She’s so ghetto, it’s sweet. Dominique Young Unique is so hot and fucking amazing live. She has the face of a baby. It’s a good package.
You recently had an art show in New York. Are you already planning another one?
I’d like to do something in L.A. maybe when I move there. I’ve been painting a lot since I’ve been home. I also want to have free stuff at shows, or really cheap posters. I just made a series of them.
Which visual artists, or what kinds of visual art, are you into right now?
The art that I’m like, into, I’m just really into music videos. All the art direction for the Marilyn Manson videos. I’m revisiting Marilyn Manson right now. That, and Nine Inch Nails. Like, 2000s mainstream goth stuff is really epic for me right now, better than Lady Gaga. I’m really into buto, the Japanese form of dance. The next music video is buto plus mainstream goth.
Styling by Cary Tauben. Hair and makeup: Leslie-Ann Thomson at Folio Montréal.
Photography by Max Abadian