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INTERVIEW: Grant Armour

Born in Greenock, Grant Armor, Southend-on-Sea raised conductor and songwriter, now lives in South East London.

Grant has traveled the world for the past 10 years making documentaries on topics such as drugs, rave culture, climate activism, fetishes, mental health, prisons, ancient rituals, the homeless, LGBTQ + rights, and space tourism, to name a few.

He made the first documentary about Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement and has collaborated with Brian Eno on a film about the anniversary of the moon landing.

Grant has recently made documentaries on cartels distributing counterfeit drugs in Mexico, human rights abuses against indigenous peoples in Guatemala, and the drug death crisis in Scotland.

We have had the pleasure of speaking with him and this has been the result.

Can you tell us a little about your experience? Where are you from / how did you get into music?

I was born in Greenock just outside Glasgow. All my family are from there. It’s where they built the QE2 and Ken Loach shot Sweet Sixteen but I grew up in Southend-on-sea in Essex as my folks moved down south during the Thatcher years as there was no work in Scotland at that time. My dad was involved in the New Wave scene in Glasgow so I was exposed to that music from an early age. Apart from growing up in the age of p2p music sharing, being a teenager in Southend introduced me to a lot of music as there was a scene centred around a night called Junk Club which bands like The Horrors and TNP came out of. So I guess those years were formative in opening me up to other forms of post punk, no wave, psych, proto-dance music and being in the South East you couldn’t escape the rite of passage that was jungle, dnb and uk garage. Since then I’ve always engaged in multiple genres online and IRL as most millennials do. Music in the future will be purely based on mood I think.

How is your sound evolving? What artists and genres do you enjoy mixing right now?

I’ve been in various bands in the past and have been making instrumental music for years as accompaniments to the films I make, but I’ve always wanted to return to singing and make a vocally driven project. I wrote the first song, Forgotten What You Look Like on my birthday in 2020, which was in scorpio season in the middle of a heavy lockdown. I spent the day writing the song and aimed to finish it that day to capture the mood I was in so I wanted keep everything simple. I don’t want to clutter the music with too many elements to their space for the listener to immerse themselves in. I’m not fussed by genre but artists I’m interested in right now are Sockethead, VTSS, Vegyn, Lil Ugly Mane, Pink Pantheress, Yazzus, Kelora, The Big I Am, Tirzah, Real Lies, MT Hadley, Anika, Cosmo Vitelli, Bad Boy Chiller Crew, Neggy Gemmy to name a few.

How do you feel that your music influences or impacts your listeners?

Making music is compulsory for me and I find the process therapeutic. I hope listeners find comfort in listening to the music I make and it has healing properties.

What projects are you working on right now? What can you tell us about your last job?

I mainly make documentaries for a living. The last film I made was a documentary about the wrongful imprisonment of an Indigenous leader in Guatemala called Bernardo Caal Xol after he successfully filed a series of injunctions against the construction of a dam in the Rio Cahabon. I also scored the film. I wanted the score to sound authentic so I asked his daughters to record each note on the marimba they play at home and I made an instrument out of it in Ableton. I used the sounds from it, processed electronically in one way or another throughout the score to convey the clash between ruthless, capitalist modernity and its exploitation of natural resources at the expense of Indigenous Peoples and their culture.

Where are you and what have you been doing now?

I’m mainly stuck in my flat in South East London directing films remotely and making music. It suits me right now to be honest because I feel like I can actually focus on writing and recording music without much distraction.

Has that sound changed a lot in recent years? What is your musical criteria?

I believe in limitations in timbre to create space in music, to capture the emotion and energy of the song, to communicate the initial idea - so I typically write and record songs within 24 hours. I write music based on mood rather than genre.

Do you feel safe now to play a more experimental sound?

It’s never felt dangerous to me.

We all know that the digital revolution has affected sales, but has it affected creativity?

It’s now easier than ever to make and release music quickly and without the need of a label. There’s so much more music in the world now. Artists are tougher and more well rounded. They behave more like conceptual artists and their own media entities.

Can you tell us what your present and future projects are?

I just directed and scored a documentary on Scotland’s cocaine epidemic which should be coming out early next year. I’m always writing new tracks and typically trying to finish them within 24 hours. I want to execute the initial idea and capture the emotion of the song quickly before it gets lost in the process.


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