From The Inside

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Ramblings with Charlie Romijn

Thought Forms, Hammerstein Ballroom NYC October 2011

A few years ago I started interviewing women who inspired me to showcase on my blog, as well as a separate feature on women in rock, and I interviewed Charlie for both of those features. Life got in the way as it does and I didn’t publish anything. Earlier this year I decided to get back on track again, creating an ongoing series featuring people who inspire me, starting with Simay’s essay, Dara’s interview and just recently Henna’s piece. I have more coming over the next few weeks, but today is for Charlie Romijn from Thought Forms.

I’ve written about Thought Forms several times over the years, a band I have seen move, evolve and grow and who have always managed to rip my heart apart and sew it back together with their music. Thought Forms are Charlie Romijn, Deej Dhariwal and Guy Metcalfe, hail from England, and I consider all of them to be part of my close group of friends. Charlie and I go way, way back, and jokingly consider each other “sisters from another mister”, and have always felt that we can talk about anything together, even if we live thousands of miles apart in different countries. She is of the most inspiring people I know, and not just musically, her ability to have an idea and actually do something with it is amazing. She is constantly creating, whether she knows it or not. She gracefully answered a few questions for me that you can read below, and I encourage you to check out some of her work, whether it be music, art or poetry.

From the Inside: What type of music do you play?

Charlie: I’m in a band called Thought Forms, which has evolved over the years from mostly instrumental post-rock style improvisation based compositions through drone rock, grungy-doom-gaze to whatever it is we’re doing now… Songs about drowning.

The solo stuff I’ve done up until this point, under the name Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan (after the Richard Brautigan poem) has all been improvisational.

Can you describe your influences in a few words?

Some musical influences that spring to mind right at this moment in time are Pulp, Nick Cave, Get The Blessing, Melanie De Biasio, Sonic Youth, Portishead, PJ Harvey. Because of words, space, intensity, growth, transportation through sound and trust.

Who is your main woman in rock influence?

There are so many amazing women who have inspired and influenced me over the years but I guess I’d have to say Kim Gordon. Sonic Youth were such an important band to me, I loved the juxtaposition of the perfect pop songs and the experimental free noise - absolute freedom. Kim is such a multi-faceted talent; music, art, writing, fashion… and such a formidable energy onstage. The first time I saw them play, I was fifteen. She thrust the microphone into my face during Kool Thing and let me sing… That was it for me.

How did you start playing music? What made you pick up an instrument and start playing?

My dad got me my first guitar when I was eight years old.

He’d recently bought himself one from the TradeIt for £50 and we used to sit in his bedroom and record covers of blues songs together, me singing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and playing bad harmonica over his chords.

He gave me a 3/4 size nylon string of my own, presumably to keep my sticky fingers away from his instruments (a rule he still implements today) and I started to take lessons at school and teach myself Beatles songs at home from a simple chord book.

By twelve, I’d started listening to bands like Nirvana… Watching videos of them performing got me so excited, I wanted to do what they were doing and make people feel what I was feeling.

So, thanks to Dad once again, I ended up with my first electric guitar, started writing songs and formed a band at school.

Have there ever been moments that you have wanted to give up but kept going?

Often. It’s normal I think… Especially when you’re working so closely with other people who you’re SO entwined with, it’s impossible not to feel that way sometimes.

Those internet memes about the ‘creative process’ are very true.

I don’t know. There are definitely moments when I doubt everything and wonder what the fuck I’m doing and panic about the fact that I have no actual skills, but then I remember all the amazing experiences I’ve had because I’ve done exactly what I had to and taken the opportunities that have come my way, and I wouldn’t change anything.

 How are you treated by men when they find out you are a musician? Any good or bad stories that others may relate to?

I’ve got plenty of negative tales from over the years, I wouldn’t even know where to start…

The good stories aren’t stories because that’s the way it should be.

How do you feel about music and politics/causes/rebellion as one entity?  Do you feel that both go hand in hand or do you prefer to keep them separate?

I think they definitely can and do go hand in hand… Thought I don’t believe that anything, political or personal, has to be overtly obvious to another person for it to be there.  For me, the music I make is deeply and directly connected to who I am and that encompasses everything. For some people, playing music in itself can be an act of rebellion.

Do you feel that you are/could become a spokesperson for women in the music industry?

I don’t feel like I’m qualified to (or would want to) speak for anyone else, I can only speak from my own experiences.

Do you relate to any specific music trend/movement more than others?

I don’t think so. Certainly I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, all the music I’ve ever loved has stayed with me, so I guess the music I relate to will keep growing…

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time? Anything specific you would like to accomplish before then?

I want to come back to play in America. We want to go to Japan! We just really want to play as much as possible in as many places as possible…

To continue to create and grow together and individually, keep making music and art, meeting beautiful people, seeing new places, eating new food!

Just making the most of life.

Do you have a best and worst memory of being on tour?

I love touring. Getting to travel and see new places with my best friends, playing music every night… Even the things that are frustrating at the time (like being stuck in traffic for 14 hours straight, getting robbed, being lost in France in the middle of the night with nowhere to stay) seem kind of funny with rose-tinted hindsight. 

There was one Thought Forms tour that I think we’d all consider the worst and none of us would care to repeat - don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed playing, but the other bands on the tour made it very clear that they didn’t want us there and were really rude and unfriendly the whole time… They were unprofessional too, turned up late to every show, took forever to set up and soundcheck and to top it off their music wasn’t exactly our cup of tea. There were no redeeming features. But I think we’d just always been really lucky prior to that, mostly playing alongside lovely, talented artists who it’s a joy to listen to each night.

Too many best memories from tours… Watching a full moon rise over ten thousand people as we played in Montreal, swimming in Lake Geneva after Montreux Jazz Festival, performing in a Roman amphitheatre on the 10th anniversary of our first ever gig and less dramatically but just as brilliant, a hilarious car journey to Leicester, just the four of us having a laugh.

We’ve been so lucky to have the experiences we’ve shared.

Can you tell me more about your record label and what you look for in the music that you release?

Since 2009 I’ve been releasing music on my own ‘label’ called Lava Thief.

I started it just as a means of releasing some of our other projects - Solar Flares, Silver Stairs Of Ketchikan, Deej’s solo albums - but ended up expanding beyond the Thought Forms family and putting out some great stuff, the most recent of which is Lava Thief’s first vinyl release, the second album by a band from Bristol called ‘Repo Man’.

I don’t really ever look out for stuff to release, but when something like that comes along… I was so excited by it, they have something really special and I wanted to share it with the world!

You have many artistic projects on the go at any given time. What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a Thought Forms album which is in its final stages…

Aside from that, I’m working on more visual stuff and I have a couple of writing projects on the go.

Thought Forms' next album will be released later this year on Invada Records. You can check out their previous releases and tons of other information about the band on their website here as well as their Facebook page here

The photographer taking a picture of the artist taking a picture of the photographer

An empty Hammerstein Ballroom before the doors opened. It was a sold out show. I can't even imagine the emotions of playing in front of so many people!