Graham Lambkin is a multidisciplinary artist and publisher whose work embraces audio, visual, and text-based concerns. Lambkin first came to prominence in the early ’90s through the formation of his amateur music group The Shadow Ring, who fused a D.I.Y. post-punk aesthetic with folk music, cracked electronics, and surreal wordplay, to create a unique hybrid sound that set it apart from its peers, and continues to exert an influence today. After the dissolution of The Shadow Ring, Lambkin embarked on a series of striking and highly original solo releases, including the critically acclaimed Salmon Run, Amateur Doubles, and Community, as well as undertaking a string of collaborative projects with the likes of Joe McPhee, Keith Rowe, Moniek Darge, Jason Lescalleet, Michael Pisaro, and most recently Áine O’Dwyer. Joshua Minsoo Kim talked with Lambkin November 18th, 2020 via WhatsApp to discuss his childhood, The Shadow Ring, his visual art, his solo work, and more.
A note about this interview: After this interview you will find a mix that Graham Lambkin has made featuring songs (including unreleased ones) which relate to things he discussed. Please listen while reading.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello, hello! How are you Graham?
Graham Lambkin: Hey! Good, man. How are you doing?
I’m good. Just finished up work and now I’m just here.
And your dog has been sated? [Editor’s note: I told Lambkin that I needed to push the interview back a few minutes because one of my dogs needed to pee].
Yes! My dog is perfect now.
What do you have?
I actually have two dogs. I have a lhasa apso, her name is Charlie. And I have a maltese and his name is Rocketship. It’s Rocky for short—my cousin got Rocky’s brother, and that dog’s name is Rambo. Two Sylvester Stallone characters.
When’s Demolition Man joining the family? (laughter).
Sometime soon, hopefully. Have you been having a good day?
Yeah, I’ve been good.
What have you been up to?
I just got finished putting that Call Back the Giants Bandcamp page together for Tim [Goss], so I just went back after a couple days and checked all the links and made sure they were all working for him.
Was really happy to see that. You know what’s on my mind right now? Earlier this year you said that I was “tireless” because I do so many interviews (Lambkin laughs hysterically). And I’ve done a ton this year.
And you’re probably gonna be one of the last ones I do for 2020. Anyways, something I kept thinking about today was that I hadn’t kept up with films this year. I like to keep up with that, especially avant-garde shorts, but I was so busy with music and interviewing people that I didn’t have time for it. A part of me was just like, man, you can only do so much in life.
When I think about your career, you’ve done a lot of different things. So I was wondering: Do you ever have this sadness, or just this understanding and acceptance, that you can’t do everything you want to do? Do you ever have those feelings? And if so, how do you go about managing them?
I think there’s a distinction to be made between feeling like you can’t do everything—that realization that may or may not come over you—and a need to hone in on one specific area. That’s more how I’d have it. I would hate to imagine that there was a point in my career, as you put it, where doors were closing. I try not to think that way, and I don’t think that way; I never havethought that way. I think that’s one of the fundamentals of my way of thinking about taking life and processing it into art; I always enjoy that equation of ambition over ability. I think if that’s present and true in the project, then it validates it no matter what the focus is on.
Can you speak on that more? With ambition over ability, how do you see that playing out in your own life?
I suppose the first example was Darren [Harris] and I deciding way back in ’91 that, yes, there’s no reason we can’t launch ourselves into a music career (laughter), ignoring the fact that we had no instruments or musical training. We were only fans of music but somehow that seemed a strong enough reason to jump in and see what happens. This was based on enthusiasm, based on the types of things that were in the air that we could identify, at least in part. A lot of different factors influence it but it was the realization of that—that it’s not necessary to be fully aware of the laws of something in order for you to have a go.