Larkin Grimm Discusses Tony Visconti, Michael Gira, and Soul Retrieval
From the safety of his car seat, the four-month-old interjected a couple times during my interview with Grimm. Larkin and Otis are on tour, headed in her Prius to Albuquerque, New Mexico for another gig.
"I'm playing a lot of house shows, because I have my infant son with me, who's four- months-old," Grimm says. "It's all set up through friends, and friends of friends, so that I know that it's all mellow enough for my baby to be there."
An infant tour-mate is hardly standard, but not much about Grimm is.
"I asked the pediatrician," Grimm continues. "She said, 'Yeah, it's good. It'll help build immunity.'"
Otis is just one major way that Grimm's life has changed since leaving Michael Gira's Young God Records after the release of her 2008 album Parplar; since splitting from the label, she moved to New York, married the fire-breathing artist Master Lee, became a mother, and recorded a stunning new record, Soul Retrieval, with David Bowie and T. Rex producer Tony Visconti on electric bass and co-production.
The new album (due in February on Grimm's own Bad Bitch Records) is beautiful. Opener "Paradise and So Many Colors" shuffles on a lilting waltz cadence, with Grimm's kaleidoscopic images swirling via the lyrics; "Without a Body Or a Numb and Useless Mind" borrows a Cajun-cum-Paul Simon's Graceland bumping beat to dance with its existential questions; and "The Road Is Paved With Leaves" is already one of 2012's best, a low-soul jam, with aching, reverb bathed guitars, horns, gospel vocals, sawing violin, and buzzing analog synths.
That such a lush record was recorded in two days is insane. Over the course of our conversation, Grimm discussed working with Visconti, leaving Young God Records, and her hope (imparted to her by a white shaman, natch) that 2012 will be a very good year.
Larkin Grimm is scheduled to perform tonight at Funny World.
Up on the Sun: Your infant is with you. Four-months-old. That's tiny to be on tour.
Larkin Grimm: Yeah. He's good. I asked the pediatrician. She said, "Yeah, it's good. It'll help build immunity."
He'll be able to say he was on tour when he was a baby. Talk about future rock 'n' roll cred.
My dad was a musician, so I was on going to shows when I was a little baby, too. When I was little, we didn't have any hearing protection, and now I've got a set of noise-canceling headphones for him to wear and stuff like that.
That said, I imagine the shows are pretty low key.
Well, I play electric guitar. So it's not as quiet as an acoustic show, but I'm playing solo, so it's not as loud as playing with a rock band. I play with a band and sometimes that gets pretty loud.
You previously recorded on Young God. When and why did you leave that label?
Michael Gira is very difficult to get along with, and I'm not the only person to be on his label for one or two records. I knew it was just a matter of time. I decided to collaborate with him on my last record, because I admired his work and I always wanted to work with him I thought, "How exciting to do that?" So I did and then the next record...you know, he really like dark, heavy, intense music. I wanted to make a more beautiful album and Tony Visconti wanted to work with me, as a collaborator and co- producer -- he recorded a lot of the classic David Bowie records and he plays bass on my whole new record.
"They Were Wrong," from Parplar, produced by Michael Gira
I had to choose between the two, and I was like, "I already worked with Michael Gira. So...I'm going to try this guy out." It was between the time between my last record and my newest record, I moved to New York City so, it's just a whole different community of musicians, and a different scene. And the music world has changed so much that I really don't think there's any point on being on a record label. If you've got enough money to put your own record out, you should do it. That's what I did. I don't have to split my profits with anybody now. That's great.
So Visconti contacted you about the record. How did you two hook up?
Well, when I was doing a tour in Italy, I recorded a cover of a song by Tyrannosaurus Rex, which his a pretty obscure acid-folk band.
Marc Bolen, before the glammier T.Rex stuff.
I recorded a song called "She Was Born to Be My Unicorn," and Tony Visconti is the guy who produced the original track, so somebody who knew him heard my cover and forwarded it to him, and he was just so surprised that anyone still listens to Tyrannosaurs Rex. He was like, "Who is this person?" He lived in the West Village and I lived in the East Village, so we met through a friend, through a photographer who knew us both, and it was basically her idea that we work together musically. I don't think I would have ever had the nerve to ask him. We ended up producing the record, and he played some shows in my band. He's such a legend in New York City. He would show up, and just be backing me up, and all of the sudden people would be treating me differently, like, "Oh my god, Tony Viscontti is here, what?" He's been working on a lot more projects, he hasn't been playing in my live band lately.