THREE FEMALE MUSICIANS ON THE VERGE—SKY FERREIRA, GRIMES, AND CHARLI XCX—GET TOP-SHELF ADVICE ON NAVIGATING THEIR NASCENT CAREERS FROM INDUSTRY ICONS ELTON JOHN, GENESIS BREYER P-ORRIDGE, AND GERI HALLIWELL. READ ON FOR THEIR VIEWS ON SEX, DRUGS, AND POP STARDOMPhotography Sabastian FaenaText Elton John Genesis Breyer P-Orrifge Geri Halliwell
You’ll have to forgive me if we ask questions you’ve heard 100,000 times. Believe me, after doing interviews since ’65, we know it happens. Have you been trained vocally?
GRIMES I have not. I actually have a lot of trouble singing live because apparently I sing from my throat and not from my stomach. I used to try warming up, but I gave that up a couple months ago.
When we first listened to the music, the core sequences or rhythms sounded incredibly like Throbbing Gristle around D.O.A. There was a track, “AB/7A,” that has a really similar sound to it. What kind of equipment are you using?
G I use a Roland Juno G. I think I like crunchy sounds. I like as much bass as possible in the drums and multiple kicks. I definitely listen to a lot of industrial music, more modern like Nine Inch Nails–style industrial.
Can you actually get really raw emotion out of a digital machine?
G I think it’s about the actual sonic experience. When you have that loop going and going on the computer and you’re letting it do it for hours, you’re so into it. For me that’s a really emotional experience, just getting so bound up in the loop that’s happening. It’s like the computer is just my means of interacting with the sound.
It’s your doorway to that space.
G Well, I was raised with a computer. It’s been a pretty big par tof how I have always interacted with the world.
Can you see yourself bringing in other instruments like guitars or violins or orchestras or live percussion?
G If I had more time, that is something I’d really want to do, but right now everything is really immediate. When I’m inspired, if I need to make something, I need to make it right now.
It’s so modern! The contemporary young person who wants instant gratification! We grew up when there weren’t even calculators. When we were 16, there were no calculators.
G Did you use an abacus?
No, silly! You used your head and a piece of paper and a pencil. In a way it isn’t so different. Whatever was available, whether it was a drum or an old tape recorder or putting the microphone into the wrong socket, whatever was there we would use it to make sounds and noises.
G In some ways I’m the opposite of you. I’ve always had such a technical issue with being able to play instruments. I took violin lessons when I was about seven and the woman I took lessons from actually told my mom that I was shockingly bad and that I should just not play. [Laughs]
What’s your approach to lyrics?
G I have a weird relationship with lyrics because my music is pretty personal, so I kind of smudge things lyrically. For me, meaning in music is more of a sonic and nonlinguistic thing.
My ongoing band Psychic TV uses video-created light shows and we notice you have a high visual aspect to your live performances. Do you think of the visuals and sound as one thing?
G I try to think of it as one thing. A big thing about pop music is it’s a really visual type of music. It’s very much the face and the voice—they’re as much a part of it as the music is. For me, the live show has been a really hard thing. But it’s something that is really cool to force myself to do, and it’s really good for the audience when they are interacting and part of it.
Young people are using Facebook and Twitter, and although they say they’re having more contact, in a way they are becoming more and more isolated.
G It’s a huge curse on my generation. I feel like people don’t know how to talk to people. I don’t have a cell phone because my world is so digital that I need to have it not be digital 100 percent of the time. I just think it’s important to use the Internet wisely and know when to stop.
Do you have any questions you want to ask me?
G Oh God, yes! What do you think will happen to you when you die?
When we met Lady Jaye in 1993, we started to experiment more and more with what we call Pandrogeny. At one point we spent a whole year using ketamine every half hour, every day. We had a lot of out-of-body experiences, and it took us a long time to retrieve what we were learning and seeing in these other realms. Jaye had this way of expressing it, which was Existentialism is door #1, door #2 is organized religion, door #3 is what else is there? What can we individually discover about perception and possibility? Then Jaye, as you know, dropped her body in 2007. When one dies, what are we going to do to communicate if it’s possible? Through working with Tibetans, we realized that they do seem to reincarnate. So my answer to your question is, we believe we live in loops. Perhaps the whole point of life is to break those loops: habits, addictions, issues, and at some point it will be possible to leave the physical world and maintain a sense of self. Our ambition has always been to find each other in whatever realm, embrace and become one being, made of the two of us. That’s our goal and that’s the nearest picture we have so far of what might be.