A Q&A with Gwenifer Raymond
From the South Wales valleys, solo instrumental guitar drawing from American blues and folk – call it ‘Welsh Primitive’…
What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
My latest release was my second album, entitled Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain, which came out in November of last year. Like my first album it was a collection of guitar instrumentals in the ‘primitive’ style. I feel as though this album is leaning more into the left-field than the first – the songs are longer and more ‘compositional’ for lack of a better word, rather than deriving so heavily from the folk and blues traditions. In many ways I think it’s perhaps a more personal album, more reflective of my own upbringing, rather than of the records on my shelves – turning it into something more like ‘Welsh Primitive’.
What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
I’m quite a slow writer, it takes me a long time to fully compose and realise a piece of music. I think this album is more complex than the first; the song structures are more evolving and less based in a traditional verse-chorus structure. I guess I was more ambitious in what I wanted to create, and harsher with myself about what I was writing as I was writing it. Thus, my song writing process – already pretty slow – has gotten even slower. Of course, I think is was absolutely worth the effort.
What do enjoy most about producing your own material?
I produced it myself, although there’s obviously not too much production that goes into a raw album of solo instrumental guitar. I had intended to go into the studio to record it but the pandemic hit and my plans had to change, so I ended up recording it myself in my basement flat where I live in Brighton. I’m not sure if I’d call this an effect of ‘production’ exactly, but I do think these circumstances in recording influenced the mood of the album. In my opinion solo instrumental music is innately very intimate, and so I think the effect of recording in isolation – with no other person present at that moment to listen in – has done something to intensify that sense of intimacy between recording and listener.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
As I just mentioned, I think that listening to solo instrumental music is often innately quite an intense and intimate experience. I think the strength of this style music is also in its ability get across quite verbally inarticulable expressions of something… I personally wouldn’t want to dictate, or even suggest what a listener should take away from my music. Rather I just want them to find something – anything – in it that reflects or resonates within themselves.
How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
My tracks come together slowly over time. Typically, I happen across a hook upon which I think a song could hang, and then rest of it is more a matter of discovery. It’s kind of an evolutionary process, hence why it can take so long. I wouldn’t say I write the song as opposed to figure out what it’s meant to be. The process is no more sophisticated really than playing an awful lot of guitar whilst sitting and staring out of the window.
What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
I take a lot of influence from all over the shop to be honest. The most obvious sources would be your key acoustic fingerstyle guitar players: John Fahey, Blind Boy Fuller, Skip James and the like. However, there’s direct references (whether or not they’re obvious to anyone but me) on the latest album to Erik Satie and Master Wilburn Burchette. I don’t really like listing strict influences though, as I tend to be a bit of a digital crate digger and draw my influences a bit more piecemeal from various folk, avant-garde, doom metal, outsider, blues trash and garage rock sources that I stumble upon in internet excavations. That and basically anything put out by Numero Group.
What countries would you like to tour? Are there any standout venues you’d like to play in?
I’d really like to make it across to the states for a proper tour, there’s just a vast expanse of world there – I’m sure it’s an endless place to explore. I think maybe Japan would similarly be a great adventure. However, in my experience, it’s oftentimes the unexpected places that turn out to be the most fun and rewarding. Fundamentally I just really like travelling and playing, and I’m not too fussy about where. I think I like playing unusual and lesser-known places: spots that as a non-local you often don’t know about.
If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
That’s the impossible question, as I’m the person who’s had to listen to myself more than anyone. Why not, in that case, go with the single off my latest album: ‘Hell for Certain’. It’s got a lot going on compositionally but its also got solid hooks and an aggressive pacing to it, so I think it probably bundles up most of the defining characteristics of my music.
What ambitions do you have for the band/your career?
I don’t think I’m a particularly ambitious person career wise, but it would certainly be nice to be able to do music full-time – to be able to expend all of my energy on touring and writing. I think I’d also like to pursue some film scoring at some point if that was ever viable.
Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
So long, take it easy, pet your dog, drink a wee drink, have a nice sit and listen to Bingo Gazingo.
For more info visit: gweniferraymond.com