Cam Gilmour has performed around Australia for almost a decade, playing with Melbourne rock band Behind Crimson Eyes, and hip-hop artist Illy. Following the release of his 2013 debut solo EP A Bellyful of Classics, Cam set about working on his forthcoming five-track EP, Anhedonia. Tomatrax caught up with Cam to talk about his music, past and present.
What made you want to become a musician?
It was all a tax dodge. Working as a musician is a great way to avoid paying tax. Not in the sense that I fudge show payments or deal largely in cash, but that my earnings have managed to stay below the minimum tax bracket for nearly a decade.
No, I don’t know what made me want to become a musician. Maybe the sense of adventure or the idea of fame – naïve things like that. Whatever it was, I’ve long since abandoned it. Musicians, writers, and artists remain the people who inspire me the most. Nature runs a close second and if I ever cease the creative pursuits, I’ll probably wind up in a mud hut staking out lady beetles.
Where did the name Anhedonia come from?
Naming the EP ‘Anhedonia’ was an idea that came up fairly early on in the writing process. It’s a bit of an obscure that defines a condition of depression that essentially makes it impossible to enjoy things that used to give you a lot of joy. I’ve lived with the blues for a long time and have fought (and still am, to be honest) to get back that intrinsic sense of pleasure when it comes to music. It seemed fitting to name the EP ‘Anhedonia’, as it was the present throughout the entire process.
What made you pick ‘The Old Man and His Tea’ as the single?
It was a track that took a long time to write and it was a bit novel. It does not follow the typical verse-chorus formula or an 8-bar loop. It is two and a half minutes of slow moving ascension. I’ve come to love everything about that song and the fact that it was a very difficult beast to wrestle to the ground says a lot about struggle in the creative process.
Given the songs are instrumental, how did you pick the titles for the tracks?
I usually pluck a phrase from something I’ve written. It may hold some symbolism with the track or it might be a phrase that resonates with me at a particular time. There is always an intention behind the titles. Nothing is ever arbitrary. Though I must say, I enjoy a kind of privacy around the song titles. People can draw their own interpretations. I’ll be happy to correct them.
Have you thought of having vocals in your music?
Yes. I’d like to incorporate spoken word with my music. There are a couple of local poets I’ve got my eye on and when I feel ready to couple up my music with some poetry, rest assured I will fairly beg them to work with me. I’m happy to continue exploring with instrumental music.
You’re giving a bonus zine of “unhinged essays” with your EP. What inspired you to put this together?
The Zine is titled ‘As Dire as its Title’. I wanted to write about my experiences as a struggling artist. That was it. My music is full of emotion and writing gives me a chance to get my thoughts on the page.
I enjoy writing. It was borne out of a love of reading and a passion for literature and poetry. I started writing with some sincerity when I finished uni in 2013. I did some journo work – just fell into it really – and then realised pretty quickly that journalism was a hard slog that paid little and demanded a lot. Music already held that position, so I decided to get back to writing for the love of it. Maybe one day, if I keep it up, someone will pay me to write articles on my own terms. We’ll have to wait and see.
What topics have you covered in the essays?
The essays are all about the daily scrapes and struggles inherent to the creative artist. I cover a lot of things that I’ve experienced over the past decade: depression, anxiety, creation vs. commerce, social pitfalls, psychological landmines, pain, humour, failure, success, failure again, delusions, perfectionism, spite, self-pity, and failure.
You were previously with the band Behind Crimson Eyes, how does performing solo compare to being in a band?
I prefer the freedom of going it alone. It can be tougher as you get saddled with all the responsibilities that would otherwise be shared, but there is a clearer, more honest way about it.
What was it like working with Illy?
We worked very closely for over three years. I learnt a lot, laughed a lot and had a lot of great experiences on the road with Al. Let’s see, what dirt can I dish on him… Well, he loves a fresh juice the morning after a show – he’ll drink it and be so happy and say things like ‘aw man, this juice is dope!’ He also has a tendency to sleep 18 hours a day and then lick himself clean like a cat.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Of course I do. Anyone who tells you differently is lying. I listen to it until I can’t stand it. It’s part of the process. Do I listen to it for pleasure? That’s a different thing altogether and the answer is: yes, sometimes. I listen to it in the vain attempt to be objective and hear my work with ears that aren’t plagued by the thousands of hours of tedium that went into creating it. It rarely works, but some days I do listen to it with deep satisfaction.
What other music do you listen to?
I have pretty eclectic tastes and try to be open minded about music. It’s easy to write things off – certain genres or artists – but that’s because we (musicians) are frail ego-driven little shits, trying not to be impressed while desperately trying to impress others.
I listen to a lot of jazz and classical music. It probably makes up about 75% of my listening habits: Louie Armstrong and the Hot Five, Sidney Bechet, Glen Miller, Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday, Wagner, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Berlioz, Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz… I could go on. The rest is divided between anything from pop and hip-hop to punk and hardcore. There’s so much great music both past and present. It’s an endless treasure trove.
Now that the EP is out what do you plan on doing next?
Perform live. That is going to take some serious work. After playing one solo gig, I’ve horribly discovered that I seriously need to reassess myself as a performing artist. To go up on stage and play until the point of exhaustion just won’t cut it as a solo artist. It’s time to refine. It feels good to have this kind of impossible goal ahead of me – in a petrifying way.
Check out Cam Gilmour’s Facebook page to find out more!