The Sound Gallery: Herb Grimaud Jr.

posted in: April 2009, Articles | 0

Herb Grimaud Jr. has the best list of musical influences that I have ever seen on MySpace. He has great taste in movies and he’s covered up in tattoos. I was glad to catch up to him and talk to him about several things – including his band The Sound Gallery, his wife Leslie Dupre-Grimaud and one of our favorite musicians, Nick Cave. Herb might best be remembered by readers here from being the bass player in The Violet Burning from 1998 until early 2002. He played on 4 of the Violet’s albums including Plastic & Elastic, A Stranger In This Place, Faith And Devotions Of A Satellite Heart and This Is The Moment. Before he ever played with the Violet’s though, he had been around the scene for years. His first band was Nowhere Close, followed by Raspberry Jam – which he started with Wes Faulk from Nowhere Close after he got married in 1991. Herb also played in The Kreepdowns prior to and after the release of their one album Take A Spin. In addition he’s also played with Michael Knott and played and recorded with Café Noire, a band that his wife Leslie was in.

The Sound Gallery is one of the most unique projects that I have come across in the last year. Herb is the sole member, and his MySpace page describes the music as “ambient, experimental, noisy and sometimes beautifully out of tune.” He has put out three different recordings, Designed For Reading followed by Phos and rounded out by my favorite Umbra. I would describe the music as a lush landscape of sonic intrigue. It is ambience that is dreamy, undefined and relevant. I go into my office, pop a disc in, turn it up really loud and just kind of float into the music. This is the kind of stuff that bleeds emotion.

I asked Herb about how the band came about. “While in the Violets I started working on my own material, mostly to see what I had in me. I knew I wanted to stay away from traditional structure and bass playing. I wasn’t happy doing music with the Violets anymore and I wanted to see if the ideas I had would help me get excited again. The first real step to making it all happen was quitting the Violets and asking Eric Campuzano, Jan Johansen and Sarah Hepburn if they would be willing to hear a few tracks I was working on. I wanted to see if they had any ideas they wanted to contribute. When they said ‘yes’ I knew I had to actually work on this, they had called my bluff. From that point I started asking a few more friends to be a part of what would later become Designed For Reading. In my opinion, the best moments of that record are what everyone contributed.”

Each recording from Sound Gallery is unique in its own way. In asking Herb about what he liked about them individually he said, “As simple as it sounds, the strong point of each release for me is that I achieved exactly what I was going for. I was able to say what I wanted to say musically with each one. On Designed For Reading I wanted this to be in the idea of “This Mortal Coil” in the sense that I had different musicians come in and add their take on the material. My favorite parts of the record are the performances they did. Phos was written for my brother-in-law who got me into dark ambient music. A friend of his died and this was a small way of saying I was sorry. I wanted to convey three emotions, one with each track – sadness, anger and hope. This record was primarily guitar and bass which was another goal I set out for myself. I did do a little keyboard and a very short drum beat at the end of the track “Phos III”, but the rest was guitar and bass as the source. As a listener, Umbra is my favorite. In the dark ambient genre I feel Umbra could hold its own. To me it sounds very spacious and claustrophobic at the same time. This is one to listen to with headphones on.”

Herb’s history is long and varied in the music scene, and the future is looking good as well. His next work will be him playing on his wife’s upcoming release. His wife, Leslie Dupre-Grimaud, has also been in the scene for many years. Leslie was in Café Noire which unfortunately has not been together for some time, but you really need to check out their MySpace page and listen to the tracks there. She also did the song “Monica”, which appeared on the Metro One compilation “Hi”, with Steve Hindalong, Derri Daughtery, Tim Chandler and Chris Colbert all playing on the track. In addition she has done vocals on a who’s who of bands including The Violet Burning, The Prayer Chain, At The Foot Of The Cross Vol.1, Raspberry Jam, Honey, The Kreepdowns and The Sound Gallery.

About Leslie’s upcoming release Herb says, “I’m really excited about this project. It’s been a long time coming and we’re finally giving her material the proper treatment it deserves. We did some demo takes at our home studio in 2005, but I’m not the right man for the job when it comes to her work. Andy Prickett approached us and we started laying down the parts. I’ve already done some bass and a little keyboards… we’re taking it slow due to schedules. It’s basically Andy, Leslie and myself. It’s her songs and her vision under the direction of Andy who is the producer and engineer. We’re not working towards a release date at this time, my guess and goal is for this year. Andy is working on a project that will keep him busy for one to three months, after that we will be hitting the studio more frequently. Her MySpace page will be updated with photos and any new information as it unfolds. We will probably release it one track at a time, that’s how we’re recording it. I think the tracks will be available through Northern Records. You can listen to the four demo tracks we did, plus the song she did with The Choir guys at her MySpace page.”

With the last Sound Gallery release being from 2007, I asked Herb about the possibility of any upcoming releases and if they would be in the same vein as the last three. “I don’t have anything ‘on tape’ at the moment. I’ve switched from PC to Mac so I’m going through the learning curve right now. Not very inspiring, but I have some ideas spinning around in my head. I have a friend who designs and builds analog modules for a living and I would like to see what I can come up with using that kind of gear. I want the next Sound Gallery release to have a Umbra feel with some sequencing, a few beats and definitely some serious modulation. I also have this idea of doing a Halloween soundtrack. Every time Halloween rolls around I’m looking for a good scary sounds CD and they all fall short. It would probably be more for myself and a few friends, but it’s an idea I’ve toyed with for some time and would have great fun doing it. It‘s on the ‘to do‘ list.”

Speaking of Halloween brings me to Herb’s brilliant list of influences. I read his MySpace page and thought to myself, wow – this guy’s list is amazing! I definitely share the list of bands and movies with him. He thinks that Boris Karloff was a genius, and we both share interest in Nick Cave and his unparalleled catalog of work. In asking him what influences him these days he said, “I’m guilty when it comes to long lists of music, but there isn’t anything that’s influencing me in a musical sense currently. The last thing that really affected my music was when my brother-in-law introduced me to “Lustmord“. It had a huge impact on The Sound Gallery. Music became interesting to me again, but that was about five or six years ago. There are musicians out there doing some great music that I still am moved by but aren’t necessarily an influence on my music: Wovenhand, Cat Powers, Grinderman, I Love You But Have Chosen Darkness, Ceremony M83, Nine Inch Nails, Seerena Maneesh, Ladytron, and anything Cyclic Law puts out is always worth checking out. “

Speaking of long music lists, he cites a ton of old school punk rock bands as influences. Seeing the list begged the question was he ever going to put out a punk record. His response was keen, funny and informative. He said, “I’ve already done three of them as The Sound Gallery. To me punk is a philosophy, not a sound or a style. It was a fantastic movement that (like all great ideas) ended up getting whored out and boxed into something that you buy at Hot Topic. As far as a ‘white heat’ feel that people like Minor Threat, The Clash and The Birthday Party did, I’m not in that place. Even those artists are not expressing themselves in that way, but there is no doubt that Ian Mackaye or Nick Cave are not punk rock. I would highly recommend people checking out John Lydon’s book “Rotten – No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs” and watching the documentary “Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten.” The truth is out there.

When it comes to the digital age of music I was interested in Herb’s opinion due to the fact that I found out about his band, and purchased his CD’s through his MySpace page. I asked him how he thought the digital age had impacted and influenced the scene, and whether or not he felt that was positive or negative. He responded, “I like the entire digital movement, from the way records can be made now all the way down to downloading music. From a recording aspect I find it easier and not so costly doing it on a computer, but I must admit there’s something wonderful about recording in an actual studio with tape. I think the impact it’s made for the scene and the music world in general is it allows the musician to be more hands on. It’s more punk rock that way. A lot more people can have a home studio and take their time. If I want to work on an idea that I get and its three AM, I can just turn on my machine, plug in whatever instrument and go. However, it will never replace shooting pool at the Green Room with friends who stop by while you’re working on something. The only real negative I see is there’s no real sense of community anymore. Everyone, at some point, in Southern California recorded at the Green Room. You felt like you were a part of something, if only for that moment, while laying down your tracks. With everyone having a home studio, you eliminate that sense of community. The guys at Northern still have that sense of community which is great. I’ve seen Prickett and Campuzano more recently because of the recording we’re doing for Leslie than I have all of last year.”

So, check out The Sound Gallery! I would recommend buying all three albums, but if you don’t have the coins for all three then I would get Umbra first followed by the other two. Just make sure that you do get all three. Listening very loud is also recommended, perhaps the best way to listen is with headphones because there is a lot going on that you don’t want to miss.


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