Traum Interview with Groj
about himself /// about "Love You Do" (Traum V199) /// about video clips
What is your home country? The city you live in is which city?
Well this is actually an excellent place to begin. “Home country” has often been a confusing notion for me. Especially because I was born in Montreal, Canada, but only started living here at the age of 18. Before that, I grew up in France and Australia with my family. I consider Canada my home now, but my roots are French. Australians a just a bunch of savages.
When did you start to make music?
Well this is tricky question too… My very first compositions were at the age of Six when I was learning piano and music theory. But the compositions sounded very arbitrary to most people (except my mom) and talked essentially about toilet humor. Things began to change when I turned 19 and turned my mind to electronic music.
What kicked off your interest in making electronic music and how would you describe your style of music?
I always liked electronic music. My mother had a large music collection and always played music from the 70’s like Terry Riley and Tangerine Dream, so bathed in it since I was a kid. I personally thought it was always easier to express my ideas on my own or with one collaborator and electronic music made that very easy to do. I had been making my own songs since I was 15 with a Casio keyboard and old Yamaha DX7 and whatever I could find in the house. We had a music room in the basement with a cheap Drum Kit and lots of instruments. I think my style of music has evolved in different ways and has depended a lot on what I was into. First, emotional techno, then AFX, then Krautrock. But I always saw each phases as a learning phase. Only now I begin to understand why I liked these styles and how I can bring the best out of them. But I would not attribute my music to any particular styles, I never intentionally followed any codes. Working with Traum has helped me a lot to follow certain codes of dance music I didn't use to emphasize as much before. I am very happy about that, it facilitates communication and understanding.
Which is the music that inspired you to make your own music. We once heard that you also were quite fond off Krautrock music... what do you think is so special about that music?
Yes this is true. When I first met with you in Koln back in 2012 I was very animated about Krautrock, or Kosmiche Musik if you find the British term a little patronizing. With some distance now, I see still feel strongly about it, but not all of it... Cluster, Harmonia, Can, Faust and Neu are the bands that stuck with me. To me Krautrock sounds much like Mankind reaching for the stars from a rocking chair. There is a feeling of home, which is something dear to me, and it explores the corridors of consciousness. It is very cyclical and repetitive music which has a nice community vibe to it. I think they showed that you can make very sophisticated and simple music with very limited means. Which is quite an achievement in my opinion. There are particular musicians I feel I get a lot of inspirational power from and they are Ennio Morricone, Robert Wyatt, Richard D. James, Hernan Cattaneo, Syd Barrett and Brian Eno. What is more important to me is the connection and tone you get from music - how does it make you feel and move and think! The musician has to give his music, to be generous and not make music only for himself. He is a vessel, not a god.
Which was the first label you released on and what do you think was the track you released which was a breakthrough for you?
I really started to take my own dance music production seriously in 2008 after I heard Max Cooper’s remix of Sansula. This lead to my first release “Edlothia” on Ryan Davis’s label Klangwelt. Since then I think my last EP called “Gala” had the most impact on the EDM scene.
We know basically a little about the Canadian scene, we know mostly about music from people who are close to Richie Hawtin - so that this music is quite minimal and often very machine driven and masculine. How difficult was it for a person like you to establish the kind of music you are doing now?
This was a problem indeed… In early 2000s the minimal scene in East coast Canada gained momentum and so did the post-rock Indie scene with the rise of Constellation records (God Speed You Black Emperor, Arcade Fire etc…). But they were completely different worlds that didn’t communicate at all. I actually went to a lot of local indie rock shows then. I barely went to clubs, but I made electronic music at home. So I was virtually a marginal. As both these movements declined until about 2011 a new hybrid scene emerged and I was actually one of the first to play EDM sets deep into the night after the indie rock shows in the old warehouses on the famous Van Horne street, where Constellation records is based. After that the underground scene morphed into one kind of indie-techno movement. So I am now a happy camper.
When one is listening to your music like the release on Zaubernuss...it seems it is very different from your release on Traum. What was your idea behind the tracks?
The tracks I made for Zaubernuss where at a time when I was still quite disconnected from the club scene, so they sounded more like electronica… I was in a different mood at the time and explored musical gesture pretty intensely at the time.
You are singing on all of the tracks so with that extraordinary voice do you have any background in singing with bands how was that voice developed so well?
I never played in a band. I took some singing lessons for a year when I was 17, but that’s it. Singing had always been a solitary thing that I reserved for late at night. I would play guitar by the pond in a place called Parc La Fontaine when no one was around or otherwise in my bedroom. I cultivated this for over ten years, and made around 30 songs. Only a small handful of people knew about it.
We heard you had a special interest in this kind of music that you have not released before, but the switch was waiting in your bedroom to be released… is this true?
After a while, around 2013 I had come up with a project for an album of only bass guitar and singing, with some drum stuff. I felt like some ideas were good enough to be released at some point but I never was happy entirely. I thought the tracks were too slow and emotional to release with my Groj project and for a long time I thought of releasing them under my own name. But I don’t like dividing myself, so they had to be adapted to Groj somehow… and at the same time I was making more and more club oriented music. So when I heard you asking me whether I had some unorthodox spiritual music with singing and weird recording arrangements it all came together in my head and I knew we had to make it work together somehow.
Are the tracks love songs?
Yes. And yes they are about only one person. For me… “Closer Space” is about all the thoughts you get when you meet the person you fall for. “Follow Her” is about trust and surrendering to that person’s energy. “Love You Do” is about what it takes to keep that person, even if it means that you are sometimes wrong…
We see you have played in lots of festivals in North America and what would you describe is your status in Canada and in America? This seems to be more to North America them minimal techno so when we listen to the remix of Flowers and the sea Creatures… that show a pretty good understanding of melodic deep house music. So has the scene pretty much changed over the last years? And how did you come in contact with them?
Well most of the exciting EDM events in Canada are in Montreal. Aside from the underground scene I was describing earlier there has always been a more mainstream scene in Montreal coming from Stereo Afterhours, Piknic Electronik, Igloofest, Mutek and La Bacchanale. They bring all the big names: Dixon, Maceo Plex, Henry Saiz, Hernan Cattaneo, Jeff Mills etc... So I think deep house has just become big everywhere and now it is also being mixed together with the underground indie-techno scene here. It is kind of like a nice spectrum of colors here. Aside from that the guys at My Favorite Robot have brought a lot of musicians together. I met Flowers and Sea Creatures through them and through Strange Town Recordings. We aren’t that many producers here, there is Van Did as well. So we end up meeting a lot at the same parties and playing at the same clubs together and have pretty much the same taste in music.
Which clubs did you play in Europe you liked most?
Definitely Sisyphos in Berlin was a highlight and I really liked playing at the “Under the Bridge” for Bergwacht. It was the final days of a very special venue collective in Koln under a railway. It was damp and dark and had an epic vibe. The club was built on three storeys, so had three dance floors spiraling on top of one another. Was really a special place. I digged out an old video of that: https://www.facebook.com/grojmusic/videos/10101014079847787/
I see the video clips were made by your friends and your brother, how did that come about across? Tell us about the footage and how you shot the scenes? The video by your brother show some extraordinary cinematic shots, is he a professional photographer?
Well close… My mother was a professional photographer. She is now retired, but I can imagine she taught him a few tricks. He is very talented and has an extraordinary eye. A true cinematographer in the making! So my brother and his girlfriend Merilin have so many great ideas and we tried out a lot of shots. They are just not afraid to try impossible things and take risks, nothing stops them. “Follow Her” was shot in extreme conditions. It was in the deep of the Canadian winter biting winds were hitting us at -30 degrees Celsius. We managed by taking 30 minute breaks in a car with no heating, to wait for the pain in our hands and feet to calm down and then went back for 5 minutes of shooting. “Love You Do” was mostly shot in the Tasmanian wilderness. My brother hiked for two weeks in different locations with his equipment to get perfect shots of those unique place you see. We have many cute and entertaining shots “behind the scenes” that my mother documented while we were shooting. I’m sure they will come the light at some point. “Closer Space” was made by a team of friends from Grenoble, France. They have an awesome collective called “reafforests” that really brings the underground scene in the that city to life. That video clip was shot in the Alps and involved some really cool DIY set-ups.
Would you describe yourself as an indie musician although I really don't know if this term is still so important and valuable but if you see people just doing beats beats and beats doing this merely to become famous or to get DJ Jobs. Perhaps the word "indie" again gets some value!!!
Well… I think that from the moment that someone is making music from scratch and using equipment altogether under 2000 euros, I would call that being pretty damn independent. But the hard part is not making the shitty equipment sound cheap or too much like punk. An indie musicians knows a lot of tricks and has explored things much further than your average engineer. So to me the word Indie means being resourceful and uncompromising, but also doing it with some degree of class.
Here's some Philosophical question in times like these… in times of war and insecurity, how do you see this effects the music people are making and the attitude of people listening to music?... the opinion from some people is ... What is really important NOW is reliability and something stable during these times, which are so insecure. So music also has to give something to the instincts of the people to make them feel good. In a way this is nothing new but becomes recognizable in our generation.
The function of music can be quite complex. I actually happen study the effects of music on the brain for my PhD and in scientific terms, it activates the same connections and circuits in the brain as food, sex, drugs and reward in general. Biologically speaking it is an enjoyable activity that 98.5% of the world has enjoyed for over 40 000 years. So the content of music may change according to the times, but I think music serves a fundamental biological function. It is here to help us along the way… with our emotions, our troubles, our frustrations… with letting go of bad energies. More important….it connects people together and conveys understanding beyond language and culture. It is like a little a dose of magic on this reckless earth, and it can never run out.
______________________________ _ ______________________________