Interview: Catherine GRAINDORGE / Intervju Catherine Graindorge

On The Way To Eldorado

Catherine Graindorge is Belgian violin player, composer and the actor. She has collaborated with many musician in the last decade; with Andrea Schroeder, Chris Eckmanom, Hugo Race (album Long Distance Operators), Pascal Humbert, Bertrand Cantato, among others.
She composes music for film and theatre, also playing in the Belgian band Nile On waX (album Bell Dogs).
In 2021 she released her new album Eldorado, produced by John Parish. So we talked about this and some other matters...

At first I want to congrats you about your recent work. Album Eldorado is a masterpiece. So, I want to you ask, how did you approach to this particular structure on a album? This magnific mixture of your lyrics, spoken words, visions, sounds ...all those instrumental moments, that demonstrate preceding concepts?
I knew that I wanted to add harmonium to my violins, that John Parish was involved and would play on some of the tracks. I wanted to put together pieces that reflected my emotions and situations experienced in recent years, like a diary.

Every compositions on the album has it's story, its vibe. For instace Rosalie tell us a heartbroken story, Eno celebrates the work of a great musician, visionar himself and man with strong political opinion. Then we have Lockdown, or Ghost Train, where the main idea is captured in a title, an exploration of your emotional worlds, thoughts and musical masterpiece. How do you approach to the working process? Tell me please something more about your working process.
As for all my musical projects, I work by feeling. I never start by writing my music but by improvising. I always record everything and then I listen to it again and again and structure my improvisations, make some editing and add overdubs...

What's or who are your great inspirations in life and in your artistic work? You are pure and fragile artist, musician on one side, and possibly a genuine narrator, or curator of influences, the dam for many creative streams. Tell me, please, something more about these influences?
Oh thank you...I think that the sources of my influences are multiple and not always conscious. First of all, there is probably the fragility of life and the absurd feeling of disappearing that pushes me to create, then surely my education and the values I was taught, the people I met in my life, painting - I am fascinated by painters such as Soutine, Bacon, Carravage... And music of course : Bach, Arvo Pärt, Schubert, Pink Floyd, The Cure, Brian Eno, Nick Cave, The Beatles...

4. I'm so glad, that I'm talking to one of the most talented intuitive musicians. I listen to your music for a long time now in I would start this conversation from the beginning; with your instruments, violin, viola and harmonium on this album. When and why did you choose this particular instruments?
When I was 9 years old, I wanted to play guitar. My mother came back from Music School and told me there was no more availability for the guitar course, so she enrolled me in the violin class… I found it too difficult at the beginning and then I started to like this instrument. I like the position of the violin, between the heart and the head, it is like a second voice. In my childhood home, there was an old standing harmonium. I wanted to find this sound again for this new album. I find that it blends very well with the violin and the viola..

5. Your contributions with others are so many..I have at home CD of Andrea Schroeder, Hugo Race, the extraordinary Project for the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions, but there are also collaborations with Pascal Humbert and John Parish, to name it... How did you choose these collaborations?
The collaborations I wanted with Hugo Race, Pascal Humbert and John Parish were possible because of my solo compositions. Pascal and Hugo, I had approached them in 2011-2012 before recording "The Secret of us all" by sending them a video link on Youtube. That's how Hugo came to record 2 tracks on my album. He is a great musician, composer, and has a beautiful deep voice. Pascal Humbert, I had discovered him in 16 Horsepower and in his project Lilium. I really like his playing, his sound. We worked together on 2 projects a few years later (Detroit with Bertrand Cantat and a live film score in Brussels). And John Parish, I sent him "The Secret of us all" and he proposed me to participate in a week of musical improvisation in Derby the year after. All the collaborations that followed took place naturally : I did’nt had to choose anything, it came to me.

And then you decided to go „solo“ and from the start you captured with your way of telling us „your story“... and violin is your faithfull „partner in crime“. How different path is this, Catherine, when you are all alone in this musical exploration?
Playing alone is a form of catharsis. I explore my emotions through sounds, I disconnect from my psyche. It's an unknown journey each time. I like it. Of course I sometimes have doubts but it's part of the creative process.

John Parish did a superb role in producing the album. How are you satisfied with his work on the Eldorado?
He was great in every way, he's not only an excellent musician and producer but also a beautiful person.

Nowadays music and art in general, is often consume and seen as a fast food, a throwaway commodity. What are your thoughts about that?
Yes it is unfortunately a reality, I feel on the fringe of that, I continue my way despite everything. I never tried to fit into anything, I create the way I feel with the people who are ready to follow me and and as far as there is people out there ready to listen, even it’s a few, I will go on.

How important do you think are spoken word, music and art in general in the face of such a worldwide negativity?
I would say that poetry and love should guide our existence but unfortunately these are not the fundamental values that make the world go round. And yet, even if we are in the minority, we have to face bullshit.

What do you read nowadays? Who are your all time movie directors? What inspires you most?
Since the Covid and during confinements, I have watched a lot of movies and shows (The Wire, Deadwood and the most recent trashy Succession.) I like a lot of American films from the 60's and 70's (Sydney Lumet, Arthur Penn, Elia Kazan, William Friedkin, Richard Brooks), and also Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmush, Cassavetes... When I'm immersed in music - which has been the case for the last two years - I don't read much but I discovered Christian Kiefer (The Animals, The Infinite Tides). And otherwise my favorite authors are Dostoievski, Marguerite Duras, Milan Kundera.

11. What are your hopes and expectations, future plans for the years ahead, both personally and for the world in general?
We are constantly told that the earth is doomed and the vast majority of those who hold the power and money do not care. Faced with this distressing fact, what to do? I think we have to act daily, to take care of the others, to live in the present moment... I am worried for my children and the future generations. And yet, I feel animated by a life force, by a desire to create. The coming year will be rich in beautiful projects: there will be in particular the creation of «White Box » in Stockholm in October 2022, a show mixing dance, scenography, images... for which I create and will play the music live. And probably a new collaboration, improbable and exciting, but it's too early to talk about it

And the last questions: will you be touring in support of the album? Any chance to see you Slovenia, Ljubljana?
We are preparing a tour but the current situation is not obvious. At the moment, a few dates are already confirmed in Belgium and there are options abroad. My booker and most of the members of Glitterbeat live in Lubjana so yes, I do plan to come there!

Concert photo: Michel Masquelier

(Rock Obrobje, December 2021)

Varja Velikonja