Podtext #1 - A Conversation with Grimm Grimm
Grimm Grimm and I did record a podcast at The Rochester Castle in Stoke Newington, London, on the 4th of March 2020. Unfortunately, the audio file was FUBAR, even on my standards. However, we liked our conversation so much that we decided to publish the episode as a transcript. Think of this as a gift for those listeners who can't stand my voice. - Mikko
Koichi Yamanoha has released three albums as Grimm Grimm. The latest, Ginormous, is out now on Tip Top Recordings.
Hazy Eyes Maybe (music video)
Ginormous (music video)
Mikko: I hope the background noise doesn’t…we are like in a zoo right now.
Koichi: It’s quite loud.
M: If we speak really close to the device, it looks like we are planning something.
K: (Laughs) Yeah.
M: We are scheming here!
M: Congratulations on the new album.
K: Thank you. Thank you very much.
M: You had the record release party last week at the Oto?
M: I was planning to participate but I went to snowboarding with my daughter. To the northern part of Finland.
K: That’s nicer!
M: Rainy London had to wait for one more week.
M: Did everything went alright there?
K: Yeah, it went great. I was quite overwhelmed. Many people came…and…most of them I didn’t know…so…I was happy to find out that people actually are into my music…and that was great.
M: Is this like your third record?
K: Yes. Third one yeah.
M: Do you feel like something has changed since the…erm…
K: I guess, yeah.
M: More media and…
K: I don’t know…I guess…erm…I guess I have changed as a person…since…
M: You have changed?
K: Yeah, I mean I’m changing every day. Like hair, you know, growing every day.
M: Your hair is growing…does that affect your personality? I will shave your head and you will be a bald man.
K: (Laughs) Yeah…I’ve shaved my head twice in my life.
M: Oh really?
K: Yeah, it actually changed my personality a bit.
M: How did it change?
K: I was…I become more…like more…less spaced out (laughs).
M: You concentrated more on…
K: Yeah, more focused! (Laughs) Because I didn’t need to comb my hair.
M: Hmm…but then you decided that you want to comb your hair?
K: Yeah! I decided that is enough of that (laughs).
M: (Laughs) Yeah, you should change your hairstyle for every album.
K: (Laughs) Actually, I’ve had this same haircut for a long time…I don’t know…I usually cut my hair myself. But sometimes I go to my friend’s place and he cuts my hair and he just cuts something I really didn’t expect so…
M: It’s weird that…I’ve noticed that every hairdresser…they always got horrible haircuts…it’s really weird…
K: Yeah, I noticed that as well. It’s weird, isn’t it…but I think you shouldn’t think too much of your hair. It gets weird. (laughs)
M: This is a vanity podcast.
K: I was once walking down the street in central London and these people came up to me and said “Do you wanna cut your hair for free?” and I was like “Yes!” So, we went to this place and they cut my hair. It was a horrible haircut. I’m sure they were all doing drugs in the toilet.
M: Ginormous. Is that a real word?
M: Now it is.
K: It’s a bit like slang. Like army slang, like military slang.
K: It’s this word “gigantic”, like a giant, and “enormous” put together.
M: You study military slang in your free time?
K: No, my Panama friend Dominick, he often uses this word “ginormous”. Like, “Shit, Koichi. That’s ginormous!”…and I…I really like the mood…sounds a bit dominant and funny.
M: Do you have like a band behind you nowadays?
K: No. I had a band for my launch and the BBC Sessions but it was just for these two shows. I usually just play by myself. But I’m planning to form a sort of string…erm…
M: A string section?
K: Yeah, like violin, cello and viola. A sort of string thing…in the near future…
M: Do you miss playing in bands? You travel alone quite a lot.
K: Yeah…I miss the…erm…
M: What was that band you had? The Screaming Deputies?
K: Screaming Tea Party. Yeah, it was…that was a long time ago. I used to love being in a band.
M: It’s a young man’s game.
K: Yeah, I guess…being without money, you know.
K: We ended up hating each other.
K: Yeah. So, I don’t wanna form a band anymore but I miss the people. I miss the chemistry. Maybe when I get old…someday…basically it has to be fun, you know. If you play just for fun you can’t go wrong.
M: Yeah, it’s a bit similar with our festival organizing group.
M: We’ve been like a band but now I want to go to a solo career.
M: I want to try and make a festival where I am the only one in charge. Especially of the aesthetics. That’s a sort of similar situation as being in a band. There’s this artistic…erm…what’s the word…
M: Yeah. I’m tired of arguing about stuff.
K: Yeah yeah. That’s also nice, you know.
M: The only thing I care about festivals is the aesthetics. I don’t care about the other stuff.
K: I felt that when I played at your festival. Was it two years ago?
M: Hmm…it was 2018.
K: 2018. A couple of years. I really liked your festival…it was like “Oh, there’s a weird musician.”
K: And people there they were all really nice. It’s a bit like Green Man Festival but weirder.
M: But Green Man is huge.
K: Yeah but people there are also nice.
M: I need to get there someday.
K: Oh, it’s an amazing festival. I played there last year. I loved it.
M: Is it like a camping festival?
M: Oh no (laughs). Camping in English rain…
K: It’s horrible. It’s kind of satanic…but because music and people are great, we all enjoy it.
M: Now is the time of world wide virus pandemic so maybe all the festivals are going to get cancelled.
K: Oh yes. That’s true. It’s weird, isn’t it? I keep getting this message from government.
M: Oh really?
K: Yeah, like “If you visited any Asian country including bla bla bla, please don’t go out of your house” kind of thing. It’s quite tense. I mean, this is the situation, so…
M: I think it’s tense to get any messages from the government.
M: They are not sending you good news, are they?
K: (laughs) I actually had a cold few weeks ago and I was coughing in a public transport and people just…you know…
K: People were just looking at me like, you know, “Oh no.” And I was looking at myself at a reflection and was like “Oh no.”
M: You also become like a hypochondriac or something.
K: Yeah, it’s just a panicky situation going on. Like in Japan, my mom called me and asked “Are you alright? Do you have any symptons?”
M: Do you think this is for real? Or how much of this is because of the media? I mean, I think a lot of people are addicted to being scared because that’s the only way they can feel alive.
K: Yeah, totally. I mean, many things are generated by fear, you know, it’s an American model…
K: …for sure. But it’s also happening for real. And people are dying. I think there are more people actually dying and the media is trying to hide it.
M: …oh really…
K: …yeah. It’s spreading really fast. And…erm. I think it’s actually happening.
M: I’m not scared of the apocalypse.
M: It’s somewhat comforting thought, because…well, of course, I have a child, but…on some level there’s this egotistical thing that…to leave the party while the party keeps going on…but if everybody leaves at the same time…
K: …yeah absolutely…
M: There’s this narcissistic undertone in everything, you know…
K: You are going to die sooner or later. But we have to be positive about the future.
M: But there’s nothing we can do. The government is sending a message that “Please remember to wash your hands” and I’m like “Thanks for the tip.”
K: (laughs) Thank you so much (laughs).
M: At least you got your third record out before the apocalypse.
K: I think about it a lot actually. When I did the recordings, I often thought things like “Oh no, I might die soon but at least I’ve finished the vocals now. Now it’s fine. Someone might find the file from my laptop.”
M: With the podcast I got this thing that if I’m going to an airport, I send the unpublished files to my friends just in case. I’m not scared of flying or anything but it’s just this some weird superstition that I have. If I go down with the plane this episode will vanish.
K: It actually happened to me about nine years ago. I was at this birthday party at my friend’s house. Like ten minutes away from here. And after this birthday party, the next day, he died. He had this disease, MS, and that was the last time I saw him. We drank champagne together.
M: Like a sudden thing?
K: Yeah. He should not have drink alcohol. Anyway, he had this band and he left his final recording on his computer and I managed to get his laptop to my house.
M: What was his band called?
K: The Projects. And he used to be in this band Television Personalities. It’s like this punk band from the 80s. Anyway, so we managed to find this final bunch of eight songs that still needed vocals. He was supposed to sing on those. Then I called Myra, she’s from band Ladytron, and we finished the record and we put it out. Like in 2013 or 2014. Actually, the same record label put out Ginormous. Tip Top Recordings. That’s how I met them. This was years ago. So, I had this really strong trust towards them. They kind of knew that the record won’t sell that much because the band didn’t exist anymore because his sudden death. So, it was really meaningful for me to work with them this time as well.
M: Wow. How long have you been living in London?
K: I have been in here for a long time.
M: Once you told me some crazy stories about Dalston. You moved there before Dalston became this hipster heaven it is today…
K: Oh yeah.
M: You lived there when it still was like a crazy town?
K: Yeah (laughs). So, I had this band, Screaming Tea Party, and when we came to Dalston first time, I saw this guy came out of the McDonald’s and he was like bleeding from his stomach. “I got shot! I got shot!”, you know…so I called majestico, the police, and they came…and he was shot by this Jamaican gang. I was trying to help him and my hands were covered in blood. I said to myself “I will not come to this area again” (laughs), but then, like, four months later I just moved in.
M: What year was that?
K: It was 2008 or 7. Or 9. I don’t remember. It was very different but kind of exciting at the same time.
M: I think it’s still exciting! I love to be in Hackney and in Dalston…
K: …yeah, it’s a strange area. There are many things going on, and Café Oto is there. And many interesting artists are living there. It has just changed so much. I’m not complaining, it’s just different.
M: We have to go further east. London is pushing east.
K: Yeah. Pushing outside of London.
M: I can’t remember when this was exactly but I went to the east side of Victoria Park. There was this sort of industrial area or neighborhood and a very cool venue and there was some experimental music going on. I went there basically blind-folded and…
K: What was it called?
M: God, I can’t remember but it was on the east…wait is it east…yes on the east side of Victoria Park.
M: How often do you leave Dalston? Or are you, like a Dalston cat? When was the last time you were in Central London or in Camden or in Soho?
K: I don’t know. I only go out to see my friends. Like tonight, I’m just out because I came to see you.
M: Thank you.
K: I don’t know. I don’t really enjoy going to parties anymore.
M: Same here.
K: Yeah, it’s…I prefer to talk to one or two persons, you know...then I can have a real conversation. Otherwise you talk…I don’t know (laughs)…You drink and you talk and you don’t remember anything next day (laughs). I mean, it’s sometimes nice.
M: Where you a wild guy when you were younger?
K: (Laughs) I’ve always been like this.
M: Even in your skinhead days?
K: (Laughs) I don’t’ know. This area. I mean, not just this area but I don’t go out much.
M: When I first started visiting London, I stayed in Soho or In Camden. That’s like the touristy thing to do, but then slowly I started to slouch towards east. Basically, I found Café Oto and thought “Hey, this is great”. And now, I think I understand London a lot more.
K: The same. I think it’s natural.
M: My first London visit, I was staying in Earls Court at the crappiest hostel I’ve ever been to. I used to joke that Oliver Twist was complaining at the reception.
M: There were rats in rooms and everything…
K: My first friend in London ever, he lived in Earls Court. I used to go there. There’s this massive graveyard. He’s not a goth or anything but we used to go there.
M: A goth?
K: Yeah (laughs). It’s this beautiful graveyard. Can’t remember its name but it’s massive place. Very quiet and…
M: I love graveyards! I'd like to go grave-spotting all the time.
K: Oh really? Have you been to the one…the Avenue Park Cemetery?
M: Who is buried there?
K: I don’t know. Many Jewish people.
M: I’m more sort of a celebrity hunter.
M: For some reason, I like to see where people I admire are buried. There are some weird, you know, vibes.
K: That’s funny you say that. I get those vibes too. I don’t go to any specific graveyard but I go to picnics there. Take some boiled eggs and (laughs), you know, apple juice.
M: Given that the world does not come to an end soon, do you think you want to live here for the rest of your life? Until you’re an old, old man?
M: Yeah. Do you want to go back to Japan or?
K: I don’t know. It’s weird, I never…
M: …you never think about it?
K: I do. I miss my family and my friends. But it’s a weird thing because if I’m in Japan, if I’m in Tokyo…I don’t know…I feel so alien in Tokyo. I don’t think it’s about the place, it’s about how you connect to people around you, and what you do. So, I’m not sure if I’ll live here forever, until the day I die, but I like London. I like the people. It’s weird, if I speak to my old friends in Japan, they think I’m left-wing. They don’t care about my music.
M: Of course, they don’t (laughs).
K: They don’t even listen to my records but that’s great. I kind of appreciate that. They are friends, you know, they are friends whatever happens to my career, or anything. But, you know, they tell me “Koichi, you don’t sound like left-wing”. I’m always left over right but I don’t wanna be left either. I want to go middle.
K: But middle is always attacked by the both sides.
M: Yeah. Hmm. I think I’ll have another one of these lovely IPAs.
K: It’s nice, isn’t it? It’s the Spoon. Wetherspoon. I like this place Wetherspoon.
M: This place has a different name too?
K: The Rochester Castle. It’s a franchise. The company is Wetherspoon.
M: You’re a company man.
K: Yeah. It’s a very strange zone. A local zone. I like it, though. I’ve met so many people here. Strange locals.
M: You’ve known Charlotte for a long time?
K: Yeah, one of my friends from Japan gave me this CD, Charlotte’s album, released around 2005?
M: I want to kill my best friend?
K: Yeah! So, I was…actually he gave me few records but this record of Charlotte caught my eye because she was smiling on the artwork and the title was “I Want To Kill My Best Friend” and I thought “okay” (laughs).
M: I want to be her best friend.
K: I can relate to that. I loved the record and went to her shows and talked to her, and gave her my band’s record and thought she is not going to reply to me at all but she did and said “I really like your music” but that was all and I really did not want to stalk her or anything. I kind of let it go but then like 10 years later I met her at a Record Store just on that street there and we became like best friends since then. We play music together. It’s a very strange connection. She’s my best friend.
M: I was in…actually in London a couple of years ago and I was in some café with my laptop and I was writing an invitation to Charlotte to play our festival. But at the same time there was this Google Alert or something, that said that she’s joined Noel Gallagher’s band. I folded the laptop and said to myself “Well, Charlotte is going to be busy for some time.”
M: Weird coincidence.
K: Yeah. I didn’t expect that to happen.
M: Little avant-garde for the masses.
K: Yeah, but I think it’s great.
M: It’s a great gig!
K: It’s good exposure, you know. Her music is beautiful but it’s kind of weird. I am not sure if my mom would get it. But then music like Oasis, it’s really straightforward. The audience gets to listen weird music like Charlotte's. I think it’s a good thing.
M: Yeah, of course.
K: It doesn’t matter. Underground, overground. It's good music, it's a good opportunity.
M: Do you listen to a lots of music nowadays?
K: Weirdly, no. I used to crave finding new music, buying records and cd’s and…I don’t know what it is. It’s so easy to find new music online. So easy. I don’t have this kind of excitement I used to have before.
M: That’s exactly what I’ve been talking about lately!
K: Really? It’s weird, I don’t want to be like that but it’s happening to me as well.
M: I’m sure it will come around eventually. But I think it’s also healthy. It’s a sort of grown up thing to do that I don’t spend all my money on record stores. I have other responsibilities.
K: Yeah. I still do find excitement in music now and then but it’s not like…I used to be obsessed.
M: Have you replaced the obsession with something? Have you started smoking cigarettes or…
K: (laughs) Actually I stopped smoking cigarettes!
M: Did you smoke cigarettes!?
K: I stopped last year.
M: Really? You hid it from the public eye.
K: (laughs) It’s amazing. I smoked for 25 years.
M: How much did you smoke?
K: I smoked a lot.
M: Like a chimney?
K: Yeah. I was heavily addicted. I’ve never been really addicted to anything, like drugs or gambling or sex but I was addicted to nicotine so much. And I was proud of it for a long time. But then one day I was in Tokyo, after the show, I was smoking this Japanese cigarette and I was talking to my friend…
M: Japanese cigarette? Is that a code word? What’s a Japanese cigarette?
K: It’s this cigarette called Echo.
M: It’s really strong?
K: It’s really, really strong. It’s so strong it’s mental. So good. Anyway, I was smoking this orange colored tobacco and for some reason I said “This is the last cigarette of my entire life”. This image came up, back of my eyeballs. This is the last one. And since then I’ve never touched…I’ve had no interested in…I don’t know why. It just happened.
M: But listen to me Koichi. The coronavirus is coming…You should start smoking again.
K: It’s going to get me.
M: Yeah. I used to smoke for a couple of years only but I’ve been regretting that a lot. It really is as stupid as everybody says it is.
K: Yes and no. I like people with a cigarette. There’s something….
M: You like the aesthetics?
K: I just like the stupidity.
M: The Marlboro Man thing?
K: (laughs) I just think smoking is very human…I don’t know…if you can quit that’s the best, but if you can’t that’s also…I get it.
M: I think this pub will be in my future.
K: (laughs) It’s very dangerous, Mikko.
M: This is dangerous?
K: This is a dangerous place. I’ve seen so many majesticos in front of this place.
M: You seen what?
K: Like, ambulance car.
M: Okay, the ambulances know how to find here.
K: People get heart attacks…
M: Yeah, but heart attacks are like…I was more worried about violence…
K: Yeah, I like this place…There are so many misfits here. It’s like a mix of misfits and trendy Shoreditch people. Mixed quite well actually.
M: Let’s blend in.
K: You know, there’s a local pub called Kingsland, near Kingsland station.
M: What’s that?
M: What’s the name of the pub?
M: Oh sorry. Is it on the same street?
M: Yeah, I’ve been there!
K: They do karaoke night. I don’t go there often anymore. There’s a guy there who sounds like actual Roy Orbison.
M: My favorite pub in London is probably the Fitzroy Tavern. It’s an old place. George Orwell used to drink there.
K: Oh, wait I know…
M: There’s like this chapel ceiling…
K: Yes! Yes!
M: It’s a really cool place. I think it would be a perfect environment to record a podcast.
K: Yeah, no chatting.
M: Do you like to read a lot?
K: I used to read books in a hot bath when I was having hot baths.
M: You gave up hot baths?
K: I love hot baths. That’s quite common in Japan.
M: Oh really?
K: Yeah, it’s something I can really get rid of. I just love it. I just love it. But I read books in hot baths.
M: How long did you stay in the bath?
K: It depends if the book is good. If the book is good, I stay for a long time.
M: Can you recommend a book?
K: Some people hate this book but I love this book. It’s called A Death is of Vital Importance. It’s written by this psychologist called Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. She’s from…I think she’s from Sweden. She’s first person who analyzed death in academic way. And a first person who spread the hospice scene in America. It’s an amazing book. I’ve read it for like six times.
M: You’re really into that darker stuff?
K: No, I mean, it’s something very real. Like reality. When you face the reality of death every day, you see the sparks in something that used to be boring, you know.
M: Do you know the poet Allen Ginsberg?
M: Every time he met young people, he used to say them something like “Remember to enjoy your eternity” and I realized what he meant, like…
K: That’s so true.
M: …like, two years ago. When you are young everything is eternal.
K: It is eternal.
M: You step out of your eternity and you start to face your own mortality and you are actually maybe enjoying life more when you are not living in that illusion of eternity.
K: When I was in Tokyo last January I was hanging out with my niece. And she’s four years old now. And I asked her “Where were you before you came to this planet?” and she was like “I was in the universe”. I don’t wanna go too spiritual but I think lots of my friends believe that we are going to disappear, vanish after death but I sense that we are going to stay…this energy is going to stay. And my niece, she told me these weird stories about time before she came to this planet. She said she used to be a fisherman.
M: In the past life?
K: Yeah. Believe or not.
M: I’ve been into that Eternal Return concept of Nietzsche that we live the same life again and again and again. Lately, that’s been sounding like a truth to me.
K: You are right. This moment is an eternity.
M: Many neuroscientists, they say that free will is not real. We’re on this weird autopilot. Everything’s been already determined. I don’t have the brain capacity to go further. I always switch it around. Maybe I’ll dive into Scientology next.
M: Please, donate money to my podcast.
K: (laughs) I went to a Scientology HQ six years ago.
K: Not to take a piss. I just wanted to see what it is like but they kicked us out. They thought we were drunk. We were sober. They just said “You have to leave.”
M: Who was that singer on the first two songs on the new album? You had like guest singers there.
K: Yeah, Paz. She’s my flat mate. She’s in this band called Value Void. She’s from Argentina. She’s an amazing person.
M: Do you smell weed here?
K: My nose is blocked so I can’t.
M: This is a professional interview.
M: I don’t like to prepare too much.
K: it’s like your festival.
K: Can I play your festival again in the future?
K: Or you don’t have this policy?
M: Yeah, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Personally, I’m quite bored with Southern Finland. I want to go back to where I’m from, the North, and to live and work there. You never know what happens.
K: A new chapter.
M: Yeah, a new decade, a new chapter. But for the past decade, I was so totally in it that I don’t know. it feels weird to me to bring back our old festivals, we had two, to bring our old festivals back. But I don’t know. To do something new is always…I enjoy doing this podcast. This is sort of like a psychoanalysis to me. It’s like a flee-flow, sort of improvising…that’s basically what psychoanalysis is.
K: Oh really?
M: Well, you know. Like a stream of consciousness, so I’m learning about myself as we are doing this. I don’t always know what I’m thinking about.
K: (laughs) Subconscious in Wetherspoon.
M: How was that BBC?
K: You mean the live session?
M: You were at the Marc Riley show, weren’t you?
K: Oh yeah, yeah.
M: Maybe two years ago I went to see this…I was packing my bags in Mile End when I got this note from a friend that Fontaines D.C. are playing…they are an Irish band…
K: Yeah, I know them.
M: They are playing a secret show somewhere not far from here and I went there and there was like ten people. They were not as famous then that they are now. And Marc Riley was there in really expensive clothes. He’s really iconic guy but he also looks like that. He’s not in hiding. He was not wearing a hood or a cap.
K: Yeah, he’s a nice guy. It’s weird. When I talk to him even when it’s not on the radio program, he sounds like he’s on radio, you know (laughs).
M: You mean I don’t sound like a radio guy?
K: You sound like my friend.
K: I was talking to my friend Paz. “Do you think he always talks like that in his house? To his children?”
M: Yeah, he’s always talking like an announcer.
K: He’s very…like, up. Like, “Wow, how do you do that?”
M: Maybe he’s on coke?
M: He introduces lots of new artists to big audience so he does important work.
K: Yeah, I think so. I was quite nervous to play radio. It was really weird experience. I’ve played there few times.
M: Where is the studio? Is it the Maida Vale place?
K: It’s in Manchester. It’s the BBC Studios. We were all quite nervous. My friend Yuki said “Koichi, I’m nervous. I’m looking at my fingers I feel weird like I miss my fingers.” and I was like “You know what, it doesn’t matter. It’s kind of a nice thing to make mistakes” and he was like “Yeah, that’s true.” and it went very well. I like musicians when they make mistakes. It’s like stuttering, when you are talking you make mistakes.
M: During this podcast how many mistakes have you done?
K: It’s all a mistake.
M: One. Big. Mistake.
M: I used to stress out about English early on. It’s very silly to imitate Oxford English. Do you the philosopher Slavoj Zizek?
M: He’s like this Slovenian guy who doesn’t give a fuck about how he pronounces his words.
K: I used to be scared of using any swear words when I came to London first time. I was embarrassed to use any. Once my old landlord ripped me off. My deposit. I was so angry. I was swearing a lot. That moment I started to speak English. I said to him “Thank you.” (laughs) “Thank you, asshole.”
M: Thank you, Koichi.
K: Thank you, Mikko.