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The Impossible Girl reaches for the stars: Kim Boekbinder on space, Bowie, crowdfunding and Mission Control

Kim Boekbinder's alias is 'The Impossible Girl,' appropriate perhaps, given how high she's set her sights. 'The Sky is Calling' is an album inspired by space- Boekbinder visited NASA and spoke to astronuats in order to inform her work, on top of what I'm sure must have been a strict regime of sci-fi boxset watching. But the artists being inspired by space today are less fussed about fiction- they're not imagining spiders from Mars, they're imagining the genuine potential of space for humankind. 

We spoke to Kim about the universal influence of Bowie, the impossibility of making music for nothing and her fiercely loyal fanbase, Mission Control.

Katie Antoniou: Your new album 'The Sky is Calling' in inspired by space- how do you think space will feature in our futures?

Kim Boekbinder: Carl Sagan said "If we do not destroy ourselves we will one day venture to the stars." And I think that's true. We are a very curious species, who also happen to be running out of room and resources on our planet. Space is big, very big. But if or when we can master the distances we'll be able to explore new planets, possibly meet other forms of life. I can't even tell you how inevitable it seems to me. But only if we do not destroy ourselves first- which is also quite likely. I'm hoping for the space travel version of the story.

KB: Were you influenced by other musicians who've been inspired by the subject- David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust springs to mind, and Sarah Brightman's 'I Lost my heart to a Starship Trooper'..?

KB: David Bowie is a super nova, shining so bright and so strong that we are all influenced by his work. But when I first decided to write a space album it wasn't so much with anyone else in mind - though I knew the 70s were chock full of space rock. I mostly just love space, and wanted a focal point for my album, a concept that my songs could orbit - as it were - to create a more coherent collection than just a random assembly of songs written over a time period.

KA: Were you a bit miffed that Chris Hadfield made a music video in space before you got there?

KB: Well, maybe just a bit. But mostly I just thought he was great - he got so many people excited about space and learning. What I am sad about is that he didn't get to hear my album while he was up there. It is REALLY hard to get a message through to an astronaut.

Photo by Navja Sol

KA: Favourite space show- Star Trek, Firefly or Battlestar Galactica? (I'm being unfair here cos they're all awesome)

KB: Totally not fair at all. I love them all for different reasons. And they all have their faults. Firefly's biggest fault of course being that it ended. *shakes fist at TV gods*

KA: You wrote a great guest post about launching pre-sold shows for Warren Ellis around this time last year- can you tell us a bit about why you did so, and what you've learnt in the last year? Is this what led you to set up Mission Control?

KB: Well I had just done this dismal little tour that had almost zero audience and I thought - this is crazy. I clearly have fans. I just am not able to promote shows well on my own (a huge drawback to being 100% DIY at the time) so I decided to pre-sell shows using Kickstarter. If I sold enough tickets I would do the show, if I didn't sell enough tickets I didn't have to trave, or play to an empty room, or lose money. And when the shows did happen - because people love the pre-sold show idea - those shows were the best ever. Perfect audiences that really wanted the shows to happen. MISSION CONTROL is my private website for fans who want to support me on a monthly basis and it changed my life. People sign up to donate $10, $25, $50 a month and get access to my creative process; songs as they are being written and notes and pictures I don't want to share with the whole world. And having that monthly income made it possible for me to take the time I really needed to write "The Sky is Calling" and make it the best it could possibly be. I think monthly subscriptions for creators is the way of the future. Big windfalls like Kickstarters are great for doing short term projects but also hard to manage, and don't answer the most pressing question in an artist's life, "How will I eat?" Once that question is answered you can really make some amazing work. And having both MISSION CONTROL and my Kickstarter is what allowed me to make this amazing album.

KA: The internet can be a wonderful tool, especially for creatives looking to share their work. But do you sometimes worry about wasting time online?

KB: Humans have been wasting time since the beginning of time - it's why we have so little of it! But really, the internet is wonderful, a treasure trove of information and people to contact.

KA: You've collaborated with brilliant artists like Molly Crabapple and Jim Batt- who else is on your wishlist of people to work with?

KB: Brian Eno, David Byrne, Clayton Cubbitt, Yao Xiao, Pretty Lights, Just a Band, and well, David Bowie (obviously.)

KA: Your debut album was called The Impossible Girl- which is also your alias. What about you, or your experience is impossible?

KB: One night in Berlin in 2009 I wrote a song in my sleep, just woke up and there it was. That's how The Impossible Girl was born, from a song to a persona. I'm not literally impossible - or even particularly difficult - but I have chosen an insanely difficult career. And I write songs in my sleep, through time, and universes.

Photo by Navja Sol

KA: Now you've reached for the stars, what's next? Are you worried about finding inspiration elsewhere?

KB: Sometimes I get stuck because I don't like what I'm producing, I get picky and judge too harshly and get in the way of my own artistic process. But I am infinitely inspired by the world. I could write songs forever. And maybe I will. The seeds of my next album have already started germinating in my mind. But I'm keeping them under cover of darkness because right now I am so in love with "The Sky is Calling" that I just want to tour it and play it live for the whole world. 

See The Impossible Girl on Friday 30th August at The Sebright Arms, Tickets here. Sign up to Mission Control here.