WARREN ELLIS IN SOME/THINGS ISSUE003 & IMAGES OF GRINDERMAN AT BIG DAY OUT FESTIVAL
MONIKA BIELSKYTE / IS the GYPSY TRADITION SOMETHING THAT HAS INFLUENCED YOU IN ANY WAY?
WARREN ELLIS I have never been a gypsy, but I love much of the music, I also love folk music, any music made by people for people, like the blues, there is an honesty & a purity & a directness which resonates deeply with me. Hank Williams could nail an idea or emotion in very few words, straight into the heart of the matter. As I said, my father had an extensive record collection & it was certainly weighted towards folk music, & country music, so that must have had some effect on me. In the late 80’s I set out for Europe for the first time, chasing a doomed romance. I took my fiddle & ended up traveling North to Scotland where I lived on a Whiskey distillery for several months, in a workers’ cottage, trying to learn how to play folk tunes. I discovered that as much as I loved the style, the technique was beyond me. There is something about the way they bow the instrument that was like trying to climb Mount Everest for me. I just couldn’t get that feeling. I ended up rather worse for wear in Hungary, having hitched from Ireland. It was the first time I had heard traditional Hungarian music; I was aware of Bartók & Kodály, but not much else. I hooked up with a bunch of musicians whilst sleeping rough in a caravan park on the outskirts of town. They were under the spell of some prince-like creature who had a pet crow on his shoulder that ate food from the corner of his mouth & he was surrounded by beautiful women & a group of musicians. I had no idea what was going on, but he seemed to be onto a good thing. They played traditional instruments & I joined in with them. It was at a time when Hungary was still closed, so there was something very exotic & alien about this meeting. one of the guys made me an instrument from a reed called a foruya. It sounded beautiful when he played it, like Coltrane meets Finbar Furey. In retrospect, this trip was my first real musical experience.
MB / CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE PERIOD WHEN YOU MET NICK CAVE & THE FIRST RECORD YOU HAD WORKED ON TOGETHER? WHAT IS IT THAT MADE YOU RELATE TO EACH OTHER‘S WORK TO START THIS LONG LASTING COLLABORATION?
WE / We met officially in 1994, I think, a mutual friend arranged a dinner & Nick asked me to come in to a recording session. It was for the Murder Ballads album & I went on tour with the Bad Seeds. It seems we have always enjoyed playing together, but I think the recording of The Proposition Soundtrack showed us we could push the relationship further, It seems to have informed our work also with the Icelandic Theatre group Vesturport & also Grinderman. We both have different strengths & have the ability to recogniSe our respective weaknesses, which means the sum of our parts is very adaptable & we can cover a lot of ground. Also we both like working fast & regularly, & appreciate a challenge, so that helps.
I think we have found that we compliment each other when we work together, each bringing something different to the process, so that avoids a certain amount of issues. Nick pushes me & brings out something in me that no-one else can. There is something perverse in the way we work, goading each other on sometimes to see what the outcome is.
We have finished work on the second Grinderman album & it will be released in September & We completed music for an adaptation of Faust by Vesturport, which opens in September at the Young Vic in London. Vesturport is directed by a wonderful character named Gísli Örn Garðarsson, who is devilishly handsome & very talented. He has a healthy work ethic & just keeps creating, be it films, plays, or acting. He won’t accept no for an answer. We have performed music for three productions of his, Woyzeck, Metamorphosis & Faust. The great thing about doing these & soundtracks is that you do the work, then they take care of themselves. It’s very interesting to see something having a life without your continued involvement.
PORTRAITS & EXTENSIVE INTERVIEW WITH WARREN ELLIS BY MONIKA BIELSKYTE IN SOME/THINGS MAGAZINE ISSUE003
I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO SEE GRINDERMAN TWICE IN THE SPACE OF A FEW MONTHS, DURING THE TOUR FOR THEIR NEW ALBUM 'GRINDERMAN 2'— FIRST AT Cité de la Musique in Paris & THEN AT THE BIG DAY OUT FESTIVAL IN AUSTRALIA. THESE PHOTOS WERE TAKEN AT BDO EARLIER THIS YEAR. / LUKE