I am at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, a few minutes before the latest Platform33 event kicks off, and I am trying to find somewhere to have a quiet chat with superstar violinist Thomas Gould. This is proving difficult, as the popularity of the event means that every nook and cranny is rammed with culture vultures waiting to get a good seat when it all kicks off.
Is it bad form to interview someone outside the toilets? I decide it probably is. We eventually settle for a rather damp concrete alleyway through a door that says ‘No Entry’. Thomas is far too polite to ask whether I am a real journalist, or just a very shoddy kidnapper.
The first thing that strikes me about Thomas is his modesty – when I ask him about his work, he describes himself as ‘one of many young violinists’ working across the capital. That’s one way of putting it. This is the man The Sunday Times described as ‘a soloist of rare refinement’, who has performed with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the Albert Hall, and as a soloist with countless orchestras across the UK and abroad. Watching him perform, he does possess a rare quality that’s hard to pinpoint. I suppose the best way I can describe it is to say that he really understands the music – and translates it into a language that every watching can relate to.
‘I suppose what makes me different is that I work across lots of different genres’ he concedes, when I press him to be a little less modest. ‘I ‘m currently with the Aurora Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia , I do a lot of jazz, and I’ve collaborated with a lot of different artists.’ Ah yes, the collaborations. I believe that in many cases, the sign of a good artist is when someone can push their boundaries, straying away from the comfortable and familiar. Thomas Gould certainly fits this mould. Despite his classical training, his collaborations span a number of genres – from Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Nigel Kennedy to Brad Mehldau, Jaga Jazzist, and Rufus and Martha Wainwright.
Dream future collaboration? ‘James Blake would be awesome. I love electronic music and he’s just amazing.’
I’m interested to hear his thoughts on whether this cross-genre approach is a good introduction for young audiences to classical music, so often the preserve of a more niche, older audience. Thomas concedes that while it can sometimes make classical seem more modern and relevant, ‘the trouble is that people might not take it any further, they might like something but not have enough information on where they can see more’.
He recommends that anyone who sees him at Platform33 and is interested in hearing more should come along to one of his recitals; Bach and Beethoven are top of the list for classical newbies looking to step into a brave new world, and you can find details of all concerts on Thomas’ website.
As every good interview should end with a silly question, I ask him if he books a special seat on the plane for his violin, so he can keep an eye on it at all times.
‘No, no extra seats, I just put it in the overhead locker when I fly’ he says, to my disappointment. ‘But my violin is just beautiful, I look after it very well. I do often feel nervous if it’s not in the room with me.’
There is a long pause as we both realise that we’re standing in a damp corridor behind the bar, and his violin is in the next room, under the DJ booth, which has just started playing some very loud music. Probably a good time to end the interview.
At the event – as predicated – he goes down a storm. I quietly vow to add ‘go and listen to some Beethoven’ to my list of New Year’s Resolutions.