JM: This is the first time we get the chance to have you in our music magazine, so could you please introduce briefly yourself?
GC: My name is Gavin Castleton, I’ve been making music since I was very little. I use it to dust off and clarify things I feel strongly about, and then package them into songs and then into albums and then out to you so I can stop thinking about them.
JM: Your album has been released today in Japan. Congratulations! So please tell us about your feeling.
GC: I am very excited to have my music in Japan! I am curious to see what my music will do in another culture. Will I be relevant?
JM: What makes you decide the album title? Who is Pete? What is the main theme of the album? I know a lot of love songs about your love and your girl friend.
GC: For the Love of Pete is a collection of songs I wrote for my ex-girlfriend spanning the six or so years we were together. During that time we developed our own language, as lovers do. We had a game where we referred to each other as “Pete,” but preceded by another “P” word. Like, “Oh, don’t be such a Presumptuous Pete” or “You’ve been a real Prickly Pete lately.” The phrase “for the love of Pete” is an old American expression of exasperation. Since the album is a collection of love songs I wrote for my Past Pete, the phrase seemed fitting.
JM: I actually love the album jacket because it is so natural and beautiful! I assume that it has your girlfriend and you, where is the place?
GC: Yes, that photo is of my ex-girlfriend and I. We took it in the stream behind the house where we lived together in Lincoln, RI.
JM: I think that you use nature image terms/words as animal sometimes in your lyrics and it make me think you might grow up in the nature…? Or many chance to hang around with animals in your childhood? Or can you please explain about your childhood?
GC: A love of animals is one of the characteristics we shared, she and I. We had two children, Lumas: a Doberman/german Shepherd mix, and Queso: a mut of questionable decent. She had several pets throughout our time together (one of which I sang to in the song Cecilia). I had many animals in my home growing up, so they are a constant theme for me.
JM: All the songs in the album have been recorded between 2002 and 2007? Are there any topics during the recording? You played all the instruments?
GC: I played most of the instruments and did all of the programming/sequencing. Any additional instrumentalists are listed in the liner notes. I also engineered and produced the record.
JM: How do you write a song? I assume that you build up a song by yourself?!
GC: I write my songs alone. I have no set way of doing it – they come differently, each of them. I keep all sorts of tiny recording devices around me at all times in case I have a good idea. Sometimes I have a melody in my head. If it sticks around for a few days, without me writing it down, I will use it. Sometimes it’s just a beat rolling around in my mouth all day and I start with that. Sometimes, it’s a lyric. Sometimes I just steal someone else’s song and change the title.
JM: How did you get various kinds of faces, folk, rap, electronica, church/hymn, harmony and symphony, in your music? Did move around many places to inspire your music? Or … ?
GC: My family moved all over the US growing up. I don’t think that had much to do with my music, though. I was classically trained until I was 15, then I took jazz for a while. I came from a conservative upbringing, and we didn’t have any modern music in the house, so it wasn’t until High-school that I started taking an interested in modern music. I learned most of what I know by listening to as much as I can and watching as much as I can.
JM: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you the most?
GC: I am most interested in finding unexplored territory in music. It is harder for me to explore new areas if I am taking my inspiration from already discovered ideas. It helps to hear what people are doing, but it hurts my process too.
I think I am taking more inspiration from other fields now – programming/technology, the process of aging and family making, new relationships, books/movies (especially documentaries), and web development. Most concepts in music are analogous to those in any other field, so a lot of the progress made in other fields is applicable to music. But where most other fields embrace progress and development, American music is very hesitant to embrace anything but what we’re already comfortable with. It is very loop-based and set in its ways. Often times it is designed for background as opposed to foreground, which I am not interested in right now. So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to look for inspiration there if I want to try new things.
That being said, I have learned several valuable lessons from other musicians:
Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke showed me that falsetto is cool.
Brian Wilson and John Brion showed me that you can make complex instrumentation sound simple.
Bjork and Elliott Smith showed me that honest lyrics are the most powerful.
Those are a few off the top of my head but I’m sure there are tons.
JM: Do you think that the performance is as important as the music itself? Do you like touring around?
GC: I think music recording and music performance are two entirely different beasts, and they grow further apart every day. I know many amazing performers that are not amazing songwriters, and vice versa. I enjoy both, but right now I feel like a stronger producer/writer than a performer. This year I hope to bring my performing abilities up to speed as I tour everywhere to promote my next album.
JM: I heard that you have some side-projects as a musician in addition to your own music such as this solo album. Can you please explain about them?
GC: The most entertaining side project I have right now is called Ebu Gogo. We are a three-piece instrumental band that plays music inspired by 80’s adventure movies and old Nintendo music. It is very fun to play. I also collaborate with many friends and help mix and produce other artists. It is important to me to have different outlets for every kind of thing I want to make, so I am always doing a lot of things.
JM: What is your goal? What would you like to do the next? Any plan for 2009?
GC: I don’t have a set goal really. I’m pretty primordial in that sense – I operate on very basic needs and whims, “get things out so I can sleep.” I don’t even plan anything a week away. I intend to keep making music until it stops bothering me. Right now, there are two more records in my head to get out. I will probably do that while I tour as much as possible this year to promote my next album, Home. After that, maybe I will try a different life.
JM: Finally, do you have a message for our readers?
GC: I’m very happy to make my music available to you! I hope the instrumental arrangements will fill in the holes left by our language barrier.
Interview by Miyuki Ikeda for Juice Magazine in Japan