Interview – Simon Grainger on ShadowFormerSelf

Last week saw the release of ShadowFormerSelf, the latest single from former A Man Called member Simon Grainger’s excellent Enemy Forward album.  Supported by three very different remixes, it’s been climbing the charts backed largely by word of mouth recommendations.

I caught up with Simon earlier this week to talk about going it alone in the music industry, the impact of his long term battle with ME and the highs of rubbing shoulders with Bjork.

AP: What was your recording process? Was this a fully solo effort or did you collaborate?

ShadowFormerSelf is the second single taken from my recent album ‘Enemy Forward’. The album was recorded over 18 months, mostly in my home studio in Yorkshire and then completed with Ian Catt (Saint Etienne) on the outskirts of Croydon in 2016. I’ve been working with Ian for 6 years now and he is pretty much the only person who can coax a final sounding record out of my recordings that I’m actually happy with. I’d always wanted to work with him after hearing those early Saint Etienne albums so I was thrilled when he agreed to work with me back in 2011.

AP: It sounds like there might be some biographical lines in there (What if I crumble/what if I fall on my knees/what if I breakdown and forget to breathe)…or am I wrong!?

No, you’re right! ShadowFormerSelf was written just before my diagnosis of ME/CFS and was a particularly dark time for me. I’d been back and forth to doctors for so many tests over an 18 month period and nobody seemed to know what was wrong with me. I was terrified and feeling so ill and helpless. It was such a lonely an isolating time. The whole album is about the journey of the last 7 years and how over time I’ve managed to make a fairly good recovery. At least to a point where I can manage my condition. I’m one of the lucky ones.

AP: The remix treatments are all very different – how did you choose who you would work with?

I was really lucky with this as people actually approached me to remix the track. Deuce and Charger are a great trio of Drum and Bass producers who I met via the Leeds music scene and LippyKid is a very talented electronic producer. He and I collaborated on the track ‘The Difficult Lies Of Us’ on my album. When I got the remixes back they hung together really well so it felt right to release them as a mini-album in their own right.

AP: ShadowFormerSelf reached the iTunes Electronic Top 10 – what was it like to be in the charts with artists like Bicep….and OMD..!

That was a real shock! I think the EP entered at 122 on the Friday of release and then gradually moved it’s way into the Top 10. It’s such a thrill when something like that happens and it really gives you a boost as an independent artist. ‘Enemy Forward’ made the Top 20, so getting a Top 10 was very unexpected. I think was most excited at being sat alongside Bjork who is one of my biggest musical inspirations.

AP: You’re proudly independent as an artist – what advice would you give to anyone considering making music but without a record label?

Yes, I’m an independent and it works really well for me. I was signed to Ministry Of Sound in the late 90’s but I also worked for independent dance music labels alongside that, so I got to see the workings of both. I think because I’ve been so ill over the last 7 years It’s worked being my own boss and being able to manage my own time. Because of the nature of ME/CFS it’s hard to plan too far ahead and so release schedules have had to change and timings have been pretty loose. I also had to stop playing live. My advice to fellow musicians would be NEVER GIVE UP. It can be a real slog but so much is possible these days. I’ve been doing this for a long time now. I’m not saying don’t go for record deals, but if nothing comes along you can do pretty amazing things yourself if you’re prepared to work hard and put in the time.

AP: Future plans? Can we expect more new material 2018?

There’s going to be an ‘Enemy Forward Remixed‘ album out early next year which I’m very excited about. Various people have been working on remixes over the last few months and I can’t wait to hear them. I’ve taken some time out of writing and producing so I’m not sure when the next album of new material will surface. My feeling at the moment is that I’m ready to mix things up and change direction musically, so who knows what could happen.

“Enemy Forward” is available now. You can follow Simon on Twitter: @graingerboyo

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