Grimes: 808s, bird calls and dentist’s drills
Since 2009 Claire Boucher aka Grimes has been releasing her own unique brand of electronic music to an ever-widening audience of indie and discerning pop music listeners. A series of critically acclaimed albums – Visions and Art Angels being the most recent – and single releases have established Grimes’ signature mix of exceptional singing, songwriting and sonically rich, propulsive production. This winning combination has led to gazillions of views of her music videos on YouTube, multiple headlining tours and primetime performances at major festivals such as Glastonbury and Coachella.
Admirably, Grimes’ path to success has been entirely on her own terms and her decidedly independent stance as the writer and producer of her own tracks is helping to upend outdated notions of the “female performer in the spotlight and the male mastermind behind the curtain”. And so, with all of this in mind we were happy to chat with Boucher about her production techniques, how and where she gets her sounds, and the process of translating studio tracks into stage performances.
Does a song first take shape for you on piano or guitar before you move on to choosing the sound palette, recording the instruments, the vocals? Or are songwriting and producing more interwoven?
I would say the latter, they are very interwoven for me. It's sort of a seamless process where I produce as I write.
How do you make beats? Are there pads involved or is it all mouse/trackpad?
A bit of both. I like to use an Akai MPC and a keyboard MIDI controller, but sometimes I build it out manually. I like to build sample packs that I use mostly for drum sources. Usually by combining drums (like the high end of a real kick and the low end of a digital kick, for example). Once I get a good one I use it a lot. I have some sample packs that my friend Bloodpop made or acquired that I like to use as well. I typically start with kick / snare and work backwards...