Graingerboy, aka Simon Grainger, spoke exclusively to Gutter this week about going it alone, coping with ME and his fear of job interviews.

Graingerboy, musician. Why?
Probably because it’s the only thing I think I’m any good at (!!) and also because it has been the one skill I’ve consistently pushed and developed since I was young. I started teaching myself keys on an old pub electronic organ that arrived in my house when I was 5 and discovered I was lucky enough to be born with some natural musical ability. Also I’m terrified of job interviews. I’ve had a couple in my life and I never want to have to go through that again !

Previously you were one half of Electrique Boutique and backing musician for AMCA, how is solo life treating you?
Solo life is treating me very well indeed. I would never have had the confidence to go it alone though if it hadn’t been for those collaborations and working with Jerry (EB), Sally and Steve (AMCA). My time with AMCA (both playing and working at their record label) was my apprenticeship and initiation into the music industry and my first real job. Collaborating with Jerry (EB) and having chart success made me realise I could make some kind of living through recorded music and composing which came as an unexpected surprise, particularly as most people around me were pretty sceptical of my chosen career path. Sometimes I miss the collaboration aspect but I’ve got to a stage at the moment where I really want to push myself and make music alone. No compromises.

What did you draw on for inspiration when initially shaping your sound?
I grew up with the pop music of the 80s and became an obsessive Top 40 taper passed down from father, to older sister, to me. I wrote the chart in a book and recorded it each week. I started listening to the Jeff Young show on Radio 1 and discovered house music, techno and the 12″ remix. Those early house and techno tracks blew me away – they were like nothing else I’d ever heard. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. I just connected to them instantly. Next stop was to buy a four-track and a sampler and have a go myself. I got into the singer/songwriter element much later with artists such as Depeche Mode, New Order and then people like Bjork and Kate Bush who were completely doing their own thing. I have a lot of respect for that kind of musical bravery.

Your album Shadowformerself includes your personal account of the Christchurch Earthquake, what went through your mind when writing/recording it?
Everything changed for me that day in New Zealand. Literally my entire life. The way I see things, the way I treat people, the way I think about my future. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make it out alive of the building I was caught in and I had about a minute to reflect before I thought the roof was going to cave in. Because I was trapped in the city for 5 days before I could fly to safety, I spent that time writing. It was a way to be productive, to cope with the situation really. Shadowformerself also focuses on my ME diagnosis which also happened last year – I’m hoping for a less eventful 2012!

Does your work as a community artist/music teacher have any impact on your music? Does it inspire what you write about in any way?
My work as a community artist/teacher allows me to escape from the isolation of being a solo musician and keeps me grounded. There’s nothing like the feeling of sharing music and seeing the huge impact it can have on individuals. I’ve worked with students who have no language skills, who are suddenly able to stand up and sing as soon as I get on the piano or keyboards. Part of that job involves leading songwriting workshops, so I get to learn about a lot of people‚Äôs lives and hear many stories. Each story unique, each one inspiring. It may sound depressing but to me it’s often uplifting. Some of those stories influence me lyrically. There’s only so much you can write about yourself.

What’s next?
At the moment I’m learning to live with having ME. My life has changed quite dramatically over the last few years as a result of being ill and I can’t do anywhere near as much as I want to. If I push it too much I just end up bed-bound. There’s single number 2 (Vintage) coming shortly and the album will follow that. That’s all finished and ready to go. I’ll be taking the album out live at some point too so I guess that’s going to be a big enough project in itself.

Shadowformerself is out now on Pop Crisis Recordings.