Tuesday, 4 September 2007

INTERVIEW: Flip Grater

In 2006, Flip Grater released her debut album Cage For A Song, under her own record label, Maiden NZ. As part of her solo release tour, she gathered recipes from friends, venues, and audience members all over the country, and compiled them along with a tour diary. The Cookbook Tour is a charming and interesting book, filled with simple recipes, and Flip is currently touring to promote the release of the book. Playing at The Mighty Mighty in Wellington, she caught up with Charlette Hannah for a chat before the gig.

Charlette Hannah: Did you know you would write the cookbook before you did the Cage For A Song tour?

Flip Grater: Yes, absolutely. I knew about it before I put the album out. The idea for the tour came about I think in June or July last year, 2006, whilst my album was in production. And I knew it was going to be coming out in August, knew I was going to be touring in August for the album, and I just wanted to find an interesting way to do that tour. It wasn’t just another album tour. And that’s what we came up with.

CH: Did it make the tour more enjoyable having to talk to people to acquire recipes, or would you have done that anyway?

FG: It definitely made it more interesting. I purposely went on the tour by myself because that’s when you end up talking to more people. You stick to your comfort zone a bit when you’re traveling with others. And that was the whole point of it, adventures and meeting people. Everyone loves talking about food. I think it’s quite a common thing, people really do want to talk to strangers and meet new people. Especially if they’ve gone to see you at a gig, then they are open enough to want to meet people. But often there’s no reason to, there’s no talking point to start a conversation. Doing something like this gives everybody the perfect excuse to talk to you.

CH: Is there a particular plan for this tour, or will you just talk about the book?

FG: Yeah, it could be endless, people have joked about that! Collecting recipes on the book launch tour, and write another book about that… but I think I’d like to move on to some similar but slightly different idea’s to do with publications.

CH: Have you always been a writer?

FG: I don’t know how to answer that. I could be a total wanker and say everybody’s always everything… I was born a musician, I was born a writer. But the reality is that we are ever changing and our existence is as well, and it’s not really who I am, it’s just something I do. It’s not even really something I do, I just did it once, I wrote a book. I wrote this book and I may do it again sometime. I don’t know, I don’t think an author is who I am, I don’t think a musician is who I am. But maybe that’s a bit deeper than we need to go.

CH: What do you think of yourself as?

FG: I don’t know, I guess that’s ever changing as well. I’m passionate. I guess people describe me as driven, but that just makes me think everyone is lazy. ‘Cause it’s a shame there’s a word to describe that, as if that’s a weird thing. I’m starting to ramble now, but I like to be busy, that’s all.

CH: Are all the recipes vegan?

FG: No, the majority of them are, accidentally, vegan, or possibly vegan if you omit certain ingredients. I’ve tried to list those options for people who can’t figure it out for themselves. They’re all vegetarian.

CH: Would you do a solo tour again? Are you doing a solo tour?

FG: I am yeah. I didn’t mean to. As I say, the first time it was on purpose because I wanted to have adventures. The funny thing is I’m doing the same trip almost. I’m not going to all the same spots, I’m going to a few less places. But I’m traveling alone, I’m traveling in Lada. My boyfriend was going to come on this trip but he decided to go skiing instead, so now I’m solo traveling again. The problem with that is that last time, part of the reason for traveling by myself was not just to meet people, but also to have all sorts of misadventures and have to find ways out of them. And it was pretty uneventful in that way, I had a pretty sweet time. The car went really well and everything sort of worked. But this trip has turned out to be crazy. My PA broke, and my car battery went dead, and my windscreen broke and I got really sick, and it’s just been crazy. I actually really wish I had someone on this trip with me, but that’s how it goes, and sometimes it’s for the best. I do like traveling by myself.

CH: So you still have Lada obviously? A pretty important character…

FG: Oh yeah, a very important character! The book would be nothing without her! As I say she’s needed some work on this tour. I think she’s getting a bit tired.

CH: Are you happy with how many albums you’ve sold so far?

FG: Yeah, it’s sold quite a few for an independent release so I am really happy. If I could sell as many books as I’ve sold CD’s I’d be happy as.

CH: Any plans for a new album soon?

FG: Yeah, as soon as I get back from the tour I’m going to start recording for the next record. I’ve got some new songs, and a couple of really new ones that I wrote last week. I’ve kind of been doing this business-y stuff for ages and the songwriting brain gets switched off. So I’m quite keen to get back into it, and I’m going to get straight back into the recording studio when I get back.

CH: So you’ll put that out next year?

FG: Yeah, next year. I don’t know if I should just keep doing the same sort of thing over and over. What I’d really like to do is an international cookbook tour, I just need the funding for it. That’d be pretty amazing.

CH: So why did you set up your own record label?

FG: I always wanted to do that, and I thought, there’s no good reason not to. As I say, I like to be busy. But putting out my own record, even though it was a good idea at the time for learning a lot, I’m starting to think that doing your own publicity isn’t the best idea. It’s possible to do it, but it’s just really emotionally exhausting, ‘cause you get really invested in your product. Anytime someone says no to doing a story on it, it feels like a personal rejection. That wears you down quite a lot, because even if 50 people say yes, one person says no and it has much more power. And the thing is, you really need to positive about what you put out there and you can’t let those things wear your enthusiasm down. So I’m starting to think that doing your own publicity is not the best idea. I’ll only do other people’s publicity in future I’ve decided. Having a record label is going to be fun and fantastic for doing other people’s records, but I’m not sure about my own anymore.

CH: Have you got other artists on the label already?

FG: Urbantramper. We’ve just put out an Urbantramper CD this month. It’s such a beautiful record, I love it. I love it so much. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to do, help other artists get into shops and things like that.

CH: Do you have a day job or are you a full time musician/record label owner?

FG: Full time music, yeah. Full time music related things. I do a bit of work for Rockquest, I do some judging for Rockquest, I do mentoring for NZMIC and then I do the record label and I do my projects, and I do a bit of production for music videos.

CH: How did you get involved in Rockquest and mentoring?

FG: Just over the years, getting involved in things, one thing leads to another.

CH: What advice would you have for other NZ artists?

FG: Don’t compromise what you’re doing. Just find the right people who are enthusiastic about it.

CH: What do you think has really helped you get where you are now?

FG: Friends, support networks, good relationships with people in general. I really think that’s the most important thing in life. I think if you can get that happening in your life then it automatically helps your career in whatever you’re doing, especially in music.

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