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Interview with

Jaymie Valentine of Cindergarden

For anyone who’s a fan of dark Electronica the name CINDERGARDEN should be indelibly imprinted on your brain. If it's not, it's likely to be because you haven't yet heard the groundbreaking machinations of one Jaymie Valentine, the brains and brawn behind the whole concept, who, as well as turning out some of the most startlingly original and innovative music also turns out to be a very interesting lady. On the eve of the release of her latest album ' Grim Confections' I had the pleasure of interviewing her and it went like this...

Reflections of Darkness (RoD): Your debut album 'Underground Light Machine', which was released in 2006, was greeted with rave reviews in the dark music scene. Can you tell us what you were doing prior to that and what led you to that point?
Jaymie Valentine (Jaymie): Underground Light Machine was definitely a new chapter in my life. Prior to 2006 I had been doing my own song writing, piano playing, and experimenting with drum machines for quite some time. But there was always someone else doing the recording and production for me. At the time I never even imagined that I would be doing it myself. Strangely, back then I went by just a solo name/alias and hence I was seen as a solo artist, whereas now I have a project name but do much more work ‘solo’, and yet I am perceived as though I am in a band. Anyway, back then I had a fancy pants manager and everything. Major label folks literally sat in my apartment so I could play piano for them and they would say how much they would love to sign me if only I would do this or that slightly different. One A&R literally said to me, ‘...we need to get you some power guitars like Evanescence’.  Well, I don’t much like this kind of talk, so that was the end of that. My manager soon lost hope in me. Around that time I had just started getting into recording and producing my own material.  He didn’t like that too much either, as my own production had a way less ‘commercial’ sound to it. So that was the end of my trip to mainstream music land. Underground Light Machine was my way of saying, ‘I don’t much care for your styles anyway’. Luckily, the underground peeps got what I was doing instantly.

RoD: You had a brief but productive liaison with MachineKUNT Records. Was it a desire for total creative control again over the whole vision of your work that caused you to break with them and go solo again?
Jaymie: Essentially, I don’t like other people making any final administrative decisions about my product, even when it comes to the packaging of an album. CINDERGARDEN is something I have put a lot of energy into and so I am very particular about how it is treated.  At some point I realized that I wasn’t happy with the situation and I had to make a decision. A lot of the outcome came down to a reawakening of my own purpose and potential. When I first decided to work with MK, I was recovering from some disturbances in my personal life which had drained me a great deal. Much time has passed, and not only do I feel more grounded as an artist, but I can sense my potential as a record label. Basically, once I was able to dig myself out of that particular emotional pit, I was able to have my own dreams again. MK has been understanding and supportive about this decision.

RoD: Are you going to be touring with any of your own work in the near future?
Jaymie: Yes! I am putting together a new live show as we speak. It has actually been over a year since playing a show. But I have just sold my car in order to purchase a ‘tour van’ so you know I’m very serious.

RoD: How does the creative process work for you? I notice that some of your drawings are included as “Easter eggs” in the new album. Do you simultaneously work visually and musically, because lyrically speaking this is a very “visual” album?
Jaymie: Sound and vision make good love together and I constantly draw inspiration from one to feed the other. There is so much interesting work in the visual art world right now that I get a lot of ideas from modern paintings. To answer your particular question, I do spend a lot of time drawing out concepts when I am working in the studio. I have yet to expose most of these studio “drawings”, but perhaps one day they will be nice in a box set booklet.

RoD: Your lyrics are very incisive and catalyze the listener's mind. Is that intentional with the listener's response in mind, or do you just “create” within your own spectrum?
Jaymie: Creating gives me the opportunity to deliver the kind of experience that I would like to have if I were the listener. Since I want art to bring me to a deepening of myself it is no mistake to find that kind of idea projected here. In that way I do consider the listener’s response, but I mostly use my own reaction as a gauge with the understanding that we are all connected in some way. So I am happy to know that you have picked up on that.

RoD: How old were you when you started musically and how did you progress along the path you've taken?
Jaymie: Music is something that I turned to as a child like a caged bird singing. I could probably mark all of my major life disappointments and traumas with some major step forward artistically. Funny and true!

RoD: What does the future hold for CINDERGARDEN?
Jaymie: The crystal ball tells me that we are all in for quite a surprise.

RoD: What really matters to you, both musically and as an individual?
Jaymie: Becoming a more conscious person is very important to me. I think that whatever kind of person you are translates through your art, and I think your energy can spread to those that are *infected* with your sound, so it is important to bring some level of awareness to what you are doing. Finding out what is hiding in the darkness, overcoming challenges, and facing fears are all very big on my list. Of course there is much more...

RoD: Who were your major influences and who do you recommend to listen to at the moment?
Jaymie: I have been majorly influenced and inspired by far too many artists to name but PJ Harvey, Mike Patton, Portishead, Neurosis, Cocteau Twins, Leonard Cohen, The Cure, Billie Holiday, and Skinny Puppy are a good start. Some of the music that I think is particularly relevant right now and makes me feel especially alive is Sonic Death Rabbit, Henry Strange, The Tleilaxu Music Machine, Realicide, Birth, and Soul or System. These all happen to be Los Angeles based artists and I conveniently have links to all of them from my website.
I would like to mention that there are going to be some mystical additions to the CINDERGARDEN website very soon. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I will tell you that visitors will be given immediate access into some mysterious new realms of the Cinderverse. Signing up for the newsletter is the best way to know when these treats will actually be unveiled.

Check all and more of Jaymie's Cinderverse entails at

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