Exclusive interview with Claire Boucher of Grimes, one of our Winter 2011 Featured Musicians.
I couldn’t help but notice (like many others) all the Dune references embedded in the tracks on your debut record Geidi Primes. Do you feel a relationship between the ever-present dreams you assimilate on this record and the nightmarish future presented in Dune? Is there a moment or theme in the film that you particularly love?
Well, I’d have to say that when I referenced Dune it was moreso from the books than the film, but I really do love the film and probably my favourite moments are anything to do with the Baron or Feyd Rautha ‘cuz I love the bad guys. But yeah, I don’t know, I would say Geidi Primes is quite nightmarish to me.. I think it’s quite a bit how Dune is…kind of scary and caustic but beautiful and sad at the same time.. and like, super escapist, super otherworldly.. I like to think of it as a sci-fi record a bit. It’s funny to answer questions like this because when I initially made the record I never thought anyone would hear it. If I’d known that it would actually have an audience I might have been a bit more subtle with the references haha, although Dune is really one of the most aesthetically influential pieces of art I’ve ever experienced… It’s extremely close to my heart and soul, if I could enter into any alternate reality it would be that one for sure.
The Winter issue of Bullett has a lot to do with some of the conceptions–and misconceptions–we have about what is “natural”. In the video you directed for the song “Vanessa” there’s a heavy use of reverse motion. The physical language of the face-painters and dancers appear unnatural yet completely intuitive. What attracted you to this contrast? If you could re-live a moment in your life in reverse motion what moment would that be?
I just love things that are unsettling…and I feel like backwards motion really accomplishes that because you still see the image, it’s just slightly unnatural but not super overt or in your face. I feel like backwards vocals accomplish the same effect. Backwards vocals to me always sound like demons, people moving backwards always look like demons.. Like, in twin peaks, when they’re in hell or whatever, and everyone walks backwards and speaks backwards. It’s so sinister.. but I love the contrast with like, the beautiful girls. Or undoing the make up. I love the undoing of something. Going back in time. But yeah, if I could live a moment in reverse motion? I’d like to watch some kind of physical injury undo itself. That would be so amazing. Wow, that would be a great thing to shoot, actually.
A lot of your work as Grimes seems to conjoin cold waves of heavy vocal ambiance over a strict grid of electronic beats. Do you find that one mode of sound tends to precede the other when constructing a piece? Do you feel the marriage between the voice of a human and the heartbeat of a machine codependent or polarizing?
Firstly, à “the voice of a human and the heartbeat of a machine”: this is a beautiful sentence. But yeah, I feel like it’s codependent. My instrument is the human voice, so in a sense I feel like it’s like a sonata or something. Like everything revolves around just creating a space for the vocals. Everything to me is about the voice (human or otherwise – I bet aliens have beautiful voices, and birds have beautiful voices). But also about the pulse, and I want the pulse to be deep and thrusting, so I like the electronics because they can do that. Tho in the future I would love to work with drummers. But we are cyborgs, the electronic music is natural and a part of us and does great things for the voice. I feel like a heavy kick drum sample is the next closest thing to my heart after my voice.
A lot of your live work is comprised of manipulating synths and sample sequencers–when performing, do you feel the presence of these instruments as an invisible bionic second member or do these instruments heighten the sense of being human and alone.
The instruments are definitely a part of me. I’ve rarely connected with anyone as much as I have with my gear, as silly as that sounds, and I feel very emotionally attached to it, and very naked without it.
You’re from Vancouver originally if I’m not mistaken—in a country filled with miles and miles and miles and miles of deep woodland and cold deserted coastlines. That might be a romantic stereotype perpetuated by California, but has the accessibility of such a vast natural terrain in any way shaped the way you approach the character of certain sounds? Do you have a specific memory of when you were most immersed or left alone in a natural environment?
I’m really deeply influenced by the natural environment I grew up in but I’m not sure how literally it manifests in my music. I mean… I feel like my music is almost anti-nature… like it’s more about a psychic futurist dystopia or something. My best solitary memories of nature though, I don’t know theres been a lot. Many of the most powerful moments in my life have occurred when I’ve been alone in nature. A lot of times climbing a mountain by myself seems really particularly intense.
What’s the biggest visceral/subjective/geographic difference that you’ve experienced between touring routes through Canada and the U.S.? Does the Canadian government still offer financial support to touring Canadian bands?
The Canadian government does give some support, but u have to lie a bit on grant applications [laughs]. But I dunno, I think the biggest difference is like, social. Both America and Canada are really geographically diverse so it’s hard to really compare them (Canada’s colder I guess) but yeah, American’s are more blunt and entitled (which is a good thing, I think). And more sociable, generally. They talk with more ease to strangers.
Have you ever been attacked by an animal? Have you ever dreamed of attacking an animal?
[Laughs] I’ve actually been attacked quite a few times. I have a pheromone problem—animals are often really aggressive with me. I think they can sense my fear, so it’s like a self fulfilling prophecy. I have never dreamed of attacking an animal, though I shot and killed a quail once.
What insect do you most identify with?
I think they say that spiders aren’t technically insects, but definitely a spider. Or a moth—I don’t know if moths are insects either. Or a black beetle.
Name three things you believe or subscribe to against logic.
Astrology, demons, afterlife.
What’s the most dramatic instinctual reaction you’ve ever had?
One time, some guys were harassing my friend because he was gay—or they perceived him to be gay or whatever—and it pissed me off so much that before I even thought about it, I had punched the ringleader in the face. It really hurt my hand. Haha.
What’s the most human-like thing one of your pets has ever done in front of you?
My cat always stares directly into my eyes, like to intimidate me, and whenever I look away he lunges at me and bites me. Maybe this isn’t human behavior necessarily, but it’s extremely unnerving. Like, my cat is very aware of our social dynamic and actively tries to keep me at the bottom of the social hierarchy in our house. Which I dunno, makes him pretty smart I think.
Have you ever participated in any sort of ritual? What was it?
Haha too many. I was raised in a super catholic environment, so obviously Church and stuff. I’m currently high priestess in this cult my friend and muse Duffy is the leader of. It’s called the holy rain empire or Les Kapitales Industrea (LKI). I’m writing the bible right now.
Do you like to tell long stories or short stories? Do you like to hear long stories or short stories?
I don’t know if I even tell stories… I suppose I must, but I don’t really know any. I think I’m more into dialogues than stories. I don’t like it when one person talks for 2 long. But maybe, I prefer long stories, then, cuz like, if I’m going to spend time with any kind of art I want it to be a long time.