‘Enthralling, macabre, waltz’ | Interview with Astral Gray

Brighton-based multi-instrumentalist and producer Graham Anthony Nunn delivers Joker and the Clown, a honest and full of heart, hypnotising guitar centric work enriched with a theatrical vocal delivery and the delicate, warm sound of the organ. Read our discussion with the artist below!

Describe your sound in 3 words

Enthralling, macabre, waltz

Joker and the Clown is about someone you were very close to who struggled with psychotic episodes and schizophrenia. Tell us a few things about it.

At the time we were in the blossoming of a rather quaint and fanciful relationship. Without getting into too much detail, the said individual had a few manic episodes while I was present and hadn’t been seeing anyone for help, which I had suggested. I was deluding myself in thinking this was a lasting relationship because, as we should all know by now, you can’t help someone who won’t help themselves. Alas it didn’t last, but I still see them from time to time and they are now in a really stable place, which made me feel an abundance of joy and prompted me to write this dark yet hopeful ballad. The moral of Joker and the Clown is that we don’t have the answers to someone else’s well-being or happiness, I think they have to find that for themselves.

Can music have a positive impact on social issues? And if so, why?

Music to me has always been about relating to artists life and mentality. We as a society in England still struggle massively in opening up about our problems so when you hear someone else’s raw take on the same thought or emotion as you it makes you feel a part of something unique yet prevalent. I believe this sparks chats on these topics between friends in small circles but that really matters in the larger conversation.

Playing in a band (in your case Tokyo Tea Room) and then moving into a solo project, for many, feels a natural progression. Your experience? Pros and cons?

Well you don’t take your fan base with you so you are starting from scratch, which is so tough, but you just have to keep pushing if you believe they are worth people hearing. The main goal is to have fun. When you’re writing or playing your hearts out in a room with people, you have a sensation that’s indescribable and really is the greatest feeling ever, we musicians are constantly in search of that feeling, I just wasn’t getting it in Tokyo Tea Room anymore.

Artists and people that have influenced you?

Ah so many! Oldies but goldies Talking Heads, Roxy Music and The Modern Lovers. Newies I’d have to say I love Mac Demarco, Weyes Blood and Thee Oh Sees.

The freaky rock fair has come to town. Which songs (music of Astral Gray included) are in its soundtrack?

Pablo Picasso – Modern Lovers
Waltz – Elliot Smith
Despair came knocking – Daniel Johnston
In every dream home a heartache – Roxy Music
Joker and the clown – Astral Gray
I’m waiting for the man – velvet underground
Some velvet morning – Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood
Fare thee well, Miss Carousel – Townes Van Zandt

What do you love/hate about Brighton?

Brighton has a feeling like very few other places, a quaint regency city always buzzing and by the sea! But what’s best is our music community. We have a real supportive spirit of each other’s work, it’s so sweet and wholesome it makes me well up. There’s not much to hate but I’d avoid any bar on West Street if you are a decent human being and enjoy life.

What is the story behind your name?

Astral Gray was my rather poor attempt at me trying to fit my name (Graham) into the way my music felt. Astral for the ethereal, dreamy feel and Gray (my nickname from school) for the macabre, eerie melodies and themes.

Thank you!

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