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Siren Seduction: Q&A With Electronic Musician Grimes

Montreal-based musician Grimes aka Claire Boucher churns up wafts of magic potion for the ears. Her undulations seem vocally improvisational yet instrumentally calculated, her melodies dark yet liberating, meditative but danceable.

She’s garnered quite a bit of attention over the last two years: releasing her first two albums for free, touring with Lykke Li last summer, and getting picked-up by 4AD. Now she’s preparing for the upcoming release of her fourth album Visions, out February 21st on 4AD and Arbutus Records—right before she tours North America and Europe.

As a visual artist and filmmaker, she illustrates her spellbinding sonic landscapes in the second dimension, composing a captivating treat for the senses. We managed to pin her down to answer some of our questions about the genesis of “post-internet,” her influences, upcoming collaborations… and how exactly she makes what she does. We didn’t really get a straight answer, but that’s to be expected—a good magician never reveals her tricks.

The Creators Project: You gave away your first two albums (Geidi Primes and Halfaxa) for free online, which is a very brave thing for a new-ish musician to do. What was your reasoning behind that decision?
Grimes:
I believe all music should be free—I certainly obtain a lot of music for free. It was just a gift I felt like giving. I certainly didn’t expect anyone would ever buy it, either (laughs). But I understand the reasoning behind selling music, and I do relish being able to survive off something I feel passionate about. It was also just a great marketing tactic—if it’s a free record people will listen to it, and if no one knows who the fuck you are, that’s great for you.

What can we expect from your new album?
I hate the idea of expectation potentially changing the way that something is listened to or perceived, but I guess you could say it’s an avant-pop album. Something like future pop. It’s hyper emotional—hyper-condensed emotions, there’s not a minute spared of that. It arcs. Beginning carefree, ecstatic—maintaining the effect but lyrically growing dark. The first songs are really imbued with how beautiful if feels to create music. As it moves along it get’s more intense, and aggressive, and weird, less straightforward pop. To me it culminates at “Be A Body” and then starts to unravel. It ends sadly, the conclusion is a realization of loneliness.

“Genesis” off Visions (2012)

Your sound has been described as “post-internet.” Do you agree with that and if yes, what does that mean for your music?
Grimes could be described as “post-internet” because my brain is biologically different from the brains of people who were not exposed to the internet as adolescents. I (and 99% of my peers) have therefore carved neural pathways that structure the use of the internet as a priority skill and also allow us fluency and adaptability (that is inherent to our basic understanding of the internet) that is leading to what I would consider the beginnings of a musical Renaissance.

So for me, post-internet refers to the group of people who are psycho-hybrids with their internet selves (my Twitter, my whatever). [We] turn through the cyber universe, absorb as much as possible. For music, this means that the potential is endless. Sometimes I feel at such a loss simply because I feel so overwhelmed with the beauty and culture of the past that is rising up through the internet, and meeting things from other eras or communities that have never merged before. It’s like… the world’s fair of all art ever (I’m sure a sad and vast proportion will never reemerge for various reasons, but you know what I mean). This can only be great for us—because it is the responsibility of the contemporary musician to continue the legacy of humankind to the best of his or her abilities, especially as we may not have much time yet.

What are your other favorite genres or musical influences?
Ever? Or now? Hildegard von Bingen, Mariah Carey, Marilyn Manson, Tool, OutKast, Burial, Brandy (I just watched “Have You Ever” synced up with the airplane video where everyone is holding their head in their hands to hide from the impending crash but it looks like they’re all breaking down emotionally. It was pretty funny.), Aqua, Enya, Nine Inch Nails, and Miharu Koshi.

Tell us a bit more about your music-making process. What goes into writing/mixing/producing/recording a Grimes album?
I mix with my manager Sebastian Cowan at our space—La Brique Studio Space. The recording process is pretty intense. I don’t know if I can get into it right now.

Cover art for Geidi Primes (2010)

What’s the oddest sample or tool you’ve ever used in a song?
Myself breathing? Myself screaming at my cat?

If money were no limit, is there any instrument or effect you’d like to incorporate into your music making toolkit/live setup?
A boy’s choir.

Who are the musicians who are doing it right at the moment and why?
Purity Ring, Blue Hawaii, Grimes, Mozart’s Sister: four girls who can fucking sing, who can fucking write, backed by future electro everything—a movement of beauty and style.

You’re also a visual artist and directed your music video for “Vanessa.” Did one particular medium speak to you first, or do they all feed off each other?
Directing is something I’ve just taken up as a necessity but it ended up being amazing. I started doing it because I needed more control and it ended up becoming something that might rivals my love of music, simply because it’s the final step to really realizing a piece of music. I feel like music and video are half of an egg… but the music video is the whole egg. Like a movie has a soundtrack, sure, and you can listen to music while you walk around or whatever, but making music and a constructed reality that exists exclusively with that music is an incredibly united piece of art for me. It means so much to me to be able to bring my songs to life. It seems like such an insane luxury and such a dream. I relish it very much.

You’ve collaborated with Chris d’Eon previously (on Darkbloom) and Pitchfork reported that you were hoping to collaborate with your brother this year. Do you have any exciting collaborations in the works for 2012 or have a dream collaborator?
I’ve already finished my track with my brother and two others—one with Magical Clouds and one with Blood Diamonds. I’m trying to get Burial to work with me, but obviously he won’t (laughs). Visually I’ve collaborated with Emily Kai Bock, Evan Prosofsky, John Londono, Melissa Matos, Nic Brown (of videomarsh) to name a few.

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