Demetris "All Around"
How is to listen to one on of the most sonically sophisticated and innovative prog albums of our era (“Propeller” by GRICE)? What is the relationship between NIKOS XYLOURIS (a great folk Greek artist) and contemporary UK crossover prog? How does it feel to deal with “loss, suffering and separation but with some hope” in your album? What is the relationship between sheer soul lyrics and prog music? Prog ladies and gentlemen, this is Jim Grice Peters from Southwest UK and his prog project called GRICE. If I had something to say after my listening experience with this album, I’d convert the name GRICE into GRACE!
Dear Jim/GRICE, thank you very much for your participation in that interview!
It’s our honor!
We welcome you in that interview! Where are you now? Where this interview finds you exactly?!
I’m sitting in the studio at Sound Gallery, in a dark basement in deepest Devon in UK.
Tell us some info about the creation of GRICE. How would you describe it to someone who is not familiar with your music?
Always challenging to describe your music, but we seem to have been labelled as art-rockers by certain reviewers and magazines (Classic Rock presents Prog). I feel that the music is a cocktail of electro acoustic glitch art rock and avant pop synthesis but the emphasis is always on the song. Coming from South London, we have also been labelled as Cocktail punks, especially the heavier side of what we do, which I also like.
Is that a project or full time band? And what are your aspirations with it?
I have been writing performing and recording for years, but GRICE is a new outfit which was put together around the last album ‘Propeller’ and though we’ve done some live sessions to radio and online we are now embarking on doing some live shows in the UK and hopefully Europe.
I was amazed by the sound mix of Richard Barbieri in “Highly strung” song! How is the collaboration with him? Tell us a few info about him. We are all actually amazed by his work with PORCUPINE TREE anyway!
Richard is a lovely guy, I have always admired his work with Japan and of course with Porcupine Tree. He said some very cool things about the album Propeller and agreed to work on a remix of “Highly Strung”. He is currently working on some new tracks for my second album. I believe that he is a real sonic innovation and a bit of a genius.
What does GRICE mean?
Grice is actually my middle name and a family name which dates back centuries and I have adopted it as my artist name as it felt right and it’s an odd word.
You had your debut album out in 2012 called “Propeller”. I noticed that you collaborated with more than ten musicians! Tell us some things about the procedure of recordings plus for your fellow musicians that participated in the record.
I worked with the core band in the studio and as the album evolved and through working with my producer Lee Fletcher, we called upon various musicians that we felt would make the right contributions to the album. The guys we asked were very happy to get involved. Some were invited to record at the studio, such as Raphael Ravenscroft who played sax (he has worked with Pink Floyd and Jerry Rafferty on Baker Street), whilst others worked remotely but with a lot of communication from our side. Artists such as BJ Cole in London, Markus Reuter in Austria, Luca Calabrese in Milan etc. Though we worked in this way it felt it was important to be focused on the concept and I feel that we achieved that.
Please tell us some info-descriptions about each song of the album. I personally enjoyed “Patiently”, “Let it go”, “Propeller”, “Lost and found (006.5)” and “Broken arrow”.
Starting with ‘Propeller’, the title track around which the rest of the album revolves, it is dedicated to my late father who was a fine artist himself. He flew in the RAF during WWII, but suffered in his later years with depression. Some of these elements run through the album, however the underlying theme of the songs is more universal and talks of human loss, suffering and separation but with some hope (I hope). Worth mentioning also that “Let it Go” is dedicated to Nikos Xilouris and his family. I play tzouras on that track which I picked up from Xilouris’s son Georgos, who runs a musical instrument shop in Plaka in Athens. In fact, the album is available to buy from his shop in Athens or on line if your listeners are interested: http://xilouris.gr/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=9197
What's the concept of the lyrics?
They are a conversation with the soul.
Your favorite tracks from the album?!
It’s like trying to choose one child over another, it’s very difficult as I cherish elements in all of them. I do love ‘Patiently’ and BJ Coles and Luca’s work on that track and Markus Reuter’s soundscapes on ‘Propeller”, but if I had to say one particular track I would choose ‘Summer Screams’, it’s direct and appropriately intense.
How is your collaboration with Hungersleep Records? And, how is the promotion going in UK and abroad?
The combination of Hungersleep records and Burning Shed has been very positive. I feel part of a cool family. We have had some great reviews from Europe and UK and the Classic Rock presents Prog campaign was very positive which has helped propel the album. Recently we had some airplay on BBC radio 6 Music with the legendary Tom Robinson who’s been supporting us also and of course your input and dedication has been great. We are now looking to play live which will help spread the word.
I am reading also that you had (or, you currently have) many other side projects like LAUGH LIKE A MADMAN, THE BURNING MARTYRS, THE MARTYRS, SWANSTON and HUNGERSLEEP (any connection with the label?). Tell us some things about your musical activities besides GRICE.
I have played in more brit pop rock flavoured outfits Swanston and Laugh like a Madman over the past years and will be releasing some of this back catalogue soon through Hungersleep records. Hungersleep is more of a production and recording collaborative project that I run with various producers and musicians (who also are involved in the label) and is more aimed at creating soundscapes and film tracks.
The sound of your music is captivating in my mind that I cannot ask but for more! I also characterize that school of sound (starting from PORCUPINE TREE and before) as the neo-Englishness sound, a unique sound, so sentimental and dreamy that can be tender and heavy at the same time. What kind of sound do you strive to achieve in your music?
I think you have put it very eloquently yourself. That’s a very valid description. We create sonic missiles aimed at your heart.
You also have composed music for television and documentary features. I find that kind of music always in the front line, from the beginning of the movies back in the late 19th-early 20th century until today, something that I am thrilled with. How did you come up with that kind of composition?
Visuals have always been very important part of the music, my music has been described as cinematographic by some, so working to film and documentaries is a logical progression and it’s a good place to put all the other sounds that are trying to escape from my head. I have a great stable of artists and friends that I can call upon to work with and to create different moods. We recently released a re-working of the iconic track ‘Love theme’ from the film ‘Blade Runner’, with Raphael Ravenscroft on saxophone (the original player). This was a real challenge but is an example of a track is in a classic movie and has haunted me for years and it was a joy to record.
What about your live performances? How are they going for you and what are the people’s reactions?
We have only just started on some live shows to promote “Propeller” and have done some warm up gigs ahead of our ‘Tour of Duty’. We will be playing in some selected churches and venues in December and the New Year. The live sessions to radio have been very well received.
Any plans for a DVD release? Or, is that too early? You also have released “Patiently” a 2012 EP.
Funnily, we are working on a 5.1 surround version of Propeller with Super Audio Mastering (founded by Simon Heyworth, co-producer and mastering engineer for Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells), which will be available to download with a whole bunch of extras. So have a look on the websites http://www.gricemusic.co.uk and Bandcamp http://hungersleeprecords.bandcamp.com/ for more details. In terms of new material, we have already done a lot of work on the next album ‘Alexandrine’ which is going to feature master percussionist Hossam Ramzy (he’s played on Peter Gabriel’s Last Temptation of Christ) and Richard Barbieri. We will be releasing tasters and previews of these very soon. I’m very excited about that.
What’s your personal philosophy in life? How do you overcome barriers and how do you use your strengths?
Music and songwriting has always been a way of alchemising and transforming life’s challenges and experiences into art. My aim is to take these seemingly dark things and turn them into something beautiful and valid.
Does music come first? It’s all about the lyrics? Or, both?
I tend to write in a way where both of these elements happen at once, I have to say that my finest work has been written without labouring and refining, but the music sparks the lyrics and forms the foundation for the songs.
We almost agree with your categorization as crossover prog but also we believe that it’s easy to make such simplistic descriptions. We will leave it up to you to describe your music to someone who's never heard of your music.
Art rock: A cocktail of electro acoustic glitch art rock and avant pop synthesis with an emphasis on the song.
What is prog rock for you? And prog music in general, anyway? We think this is a concept and not a genre, as many believe.
The word progressive has very wide and far reaching connotations and meanings and can encompass a lot of styles. I agree that having a concept behind the music is a cool thing.
Also, what do you think about the future of prog rock and prog music in general? Are there any ways for the betterment of its promotion through internet and other means?
In this age of downloads and disposable music, I guess prog and art rock have a smaller but more defined fan base a lot of whom understand and appreciate the work that goes into creating a sonically sophisticated album or record. A lot of these fans are also prepared to buy and support these artists and their work and are often audiophiles who are interested in different formats and high res files as well as the artwork that goes with it. This sounds a bit more old school and it reminds me of the old days when we used to buy vinyl - these principles are still very relevant to many people, buying something that you can feel and hold. So maybe this might be a saving grace for these genres of music.
Is there any possibility to record with a major symphonic orchestra? We strongly believe that this would be a completely “must listen” experience! Also, this is one of my “classic” questions for every artist, hehe!
Interestingly enough, I am working with Hossam Ramzy on the next album and we are discussing recording Arabian orchestral arrangements in Cairo. I am very excited about this prospect. Back in 1984, Hossam Ramzy was invited by Led Zeppelin to bring together a band of Arabian musicians and work on their reunion album 'No Quarter- Unleaded' unplugged tour ... So hopefully, the answer is yes.
Tell us a few things about some of your plans for the near or the long-term future.
We have started a ‘Tour of Duty’ set of gigs. We will be playing in some selected churches and venues in December and the New Year, namely St Stephen’s church in Exeter on 14th December. This Church was one of the only buildings to remain standing following the Blitz of 1942 - a fitting venue for an unplugged performance of the debut solo album Propeller. The performance will be accompanied by visual projections and is paired down to 4 performers, myself on vocals and guitar, Al Swainger (Bass Double Bass), my brother Jim Peters (keyboards, Vocals) and Duncan Chave (Loops and samples). I’m looking forward to it. Event details: https:// www.facebook.com/GRICEmusic
Have you ever been to Greece? Is there any possibility to see you playing in Greece? Have you ever been to Greece in general and do you know any artist from here?
My wife is Greek and yes of course I have been to Greece, I very much like Athens and some of the islands. I love the music and instruments and especially the music of Nikos Xilouris. We would love to come and play in Greece, in local venues in Athens and Thessaloniki or as part of bigger festivals, perhaps you can help?
A message from your part for the listeners of JustIn Case Prog Radio and for all prog’n’rollers out there is…
Keep supporting your local radio stations especially since they are run by such enthusiastic people like you, keep buying music from the artists you love and if you dig something spread the word, because it’s tough out there!
Anything that you might add?
Just thank you for supporting new music. We salute you.
Dear Jim/GRICE, thanks a lot about answering those few (lol!!!!) questions!
Demetris “All Around”
Founder and Progducer of JustIn Case Radio (www.justincaseradio.com)