Info: One of the blog's favourite acts, Monster Monster, have a new video out for their track 'I Am Yours'. Riding high on the huge success of their last release, 'Christmas In Liverpool', which was played at Anfield before matches over the festive season and led to guitarist Mick Stuart being interviewed by the Liverpool Echo. Once again, singer Ríona Sally Hartman and Stuart combine with their talented band to produce another catchy tune for our pleasure, I'm really digging those drum beats as well. Also, the band have a brand spanking new website where you can keep up to date with all of the goings on in MonMon Land, http://www.monstermonstermusic.com/.
Saturday, 31 January 2015
Silverbacks, 'Mermaid Massacre'
Info: Back in November I did a review of Dublin band Silverbacks' single, 'Fad 1995' which I really liked, a lot, and made some comparisons to Pavement and The American Analog Set. The wait for their second album, Hot Bath, has been well worth it and it's been really great over the last week discovering more and more layers and styles on the recording. I've really enjoyed the sometimes grunge and sometimes psychedelic sounds the music brings forth, for the former see the excellent second track on the album, 'I Kneeled Down', with it's early Dandy Warhols (when they were good) guitars and vaudeville vocal exchanges. For the latter, see 'Sacramento', a very chilled out song which nods to Lou Reed at times, and I'm still trying to make sense of the intriguing lyrics!
'Mermaid Massacre' (above) is another particular treat which sees the music and tone take on a slightly darker and sombre hue, a steady and slow beat that pulls you along before a really nice diversion just after the half-way mark. Shortly after you find yourself listening to what sounds like a hammond organ on 'Sloe Jam' and then laughing at the deep voice which tells you; 'Don't question my life choices motherfucker, just walk in a straight line', it's like one of those weird old black and white cartoons. After we've all had our fun, Silverbacks pack our bags and take us off with them into the ether, warming us up with the calming 'Garage', the harmonies on which you want to hear more of, before going full trippy on the closing track '11th Woman'.
Silverbacks, 'Fad 1995'
At ten tracks, and coming in around the 30-minute mark, I think Silverbacks have made a really diverse album in Hot Bath, that works well in part due to it's compactness. When I first heard 'Fad 1995' I thought instantly that it was a great song, and you then hope that the same quality and enjoyment will be found on a full release. This is exactly what's happened on the band's second album, every track is it's own little pleasure and due to the sometimes spoken nature of the vocals you feel that the lyrics are being directed to you personally. Hot Bath is very, very good and Silverbacks have produced a pretty unique and highly enjoyable album.
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Saturday, 24 January 2015
Hillström & Billy - 'The Arising'
Info: 'The Arising' is the second single released by Swedish act Hillström & Billy from their forthcoming (fifth) album The Neverending Paint Job, and it will be officially launched on the 2nd of March. Musically it has a nice psychedelic rock tint along the lines of London band Wolf People, the guitar riff and strings providing the backdrop to the band's more folk leanings. The track itself is a nicely paced ballad which is quite easy on the ear and quite distinct from the first single which was released towards the end of last year, 'Keys In The Lake', a more upbeat and lively song. A mix of these moods on Hillström & Billy's new album will be good to see, and as outlined in their press release, it will appeal to fans of Wilco, Midlake and other folk-rock oriented acts.
Additional Info: 'Originally a one-man band Hillström & Billy gradually gravitated into becoming a musical collective of fellow musicians. The low-key yet bracingly direct new single The Arising is a perfect example of a joint artistic effort for everyone involved. Taken out of the upcoming album called The Neverending Paint Job, the track shows off Hillström & Billy’s proficient skills at always keeping the idea of synergy at the core of their music.
Musically, The Arising boasts a truly dreamy and cinematic soundscape, carried on the back of rolling percussion work. Littered with fuzzed guitars, some larger-than-life piano organs and boasting an array of strings and harmonies.'
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Wednesday, 21 January 2015
The Pluto Moons, '$pooky'
Info: The Pluto Moons are a trio from New York, self-professed to be for fans of Frank Zappa, Passion Pit and Californian ambient artist Baths and E$pooky is their new E.P. I was going to do this review at the weekend but I'm afraid it couldn't wait, this is a solid, no second wasted 5-track recording that instantly gripped me within 30 seconds of the opening track 'Spooky' (above). 'Spooky' is an incredible track, the laid-back intro quickly swallowed up by drums, lead-guitar and keyboards before embarking on a funky electronic space voyage. The next track '#Badgoodbye' is something I've never heard before, punk mixed with dark electronica, this is magic, a track that will lift your insides up to your throat, and in a way it exemplifies what I want to hear after someone has told me about a great album or song by X or Y band, and I'm so often disappointed.
The Pluto Moons, '#Badgoodbye'
Along comes the fourth track 'Eyez' and at this point I'm struggling to handle this much enjoyment in such a short space of time. The beginning of the track is like The Doors on acid (imagine that) before Ray Manzarek discovers a tiny little keyboard and tries desperately to keep some order to proceedings. The breakdown on this track works so well and the rhythm of the drumming and distorted guitar washes over you. Last but definitely not least is 'Improv 11613 Remix', African beats and droning expansive electronics coupled with the man at the controls, Max's, filtered vocals create an alluring atmosphere that provides a soft landing and time to catch your breath. There are a lot of spoofers on the front of music magazines and websites pretending they're at the forefront of their field while releasing albums with only 2 or 3 good songs on them, then there's The Pluto Moons.
Photo: Jared Blake
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Adrian Fitz-Simon, 'It's Not What It Was Like (In The 70s)'
Info: Imagine a concoction of Billy Joel's The Stranger, Elton John's self-titled 1970 album, pretty much anything by Queen and a dash of White Album Beatles and you'll have a fair idea what's shaping Dublin multi-instrumentalist, Adrian Fitz-Simons' album, The Band That Wasn't There. Piano rock would probably most accurately describe Fitz-Simons' sound, and the album swings from mellow to upbeat in the blink of an eye, there's light-hearted sincerity and extravagant drama in abundance which make it, ultimately, an album that would bring a level of happiness to even the hardest heart. In many ways it feels like an homage to the classic pop songs of the 1970's and the protagonist certainly pastes his personality all over the album.
Among my favourite tracks are 'The Ballad Of Eva & Emil' which is the strongest Beatles nod, but also has a strange country feel perhaps brought on by the harmonica solos. Unsurprisingly 'Fred's Last Waltz' is an unashamed but upfront Queen tribute, or more specifically, Freddie Mercury, vocally Fitz-Simons accurately imitates one of his heroes and you're almost waiting for the chorus of 'Somebody To Love'. Other highlights are 'To A House Of Tin & Timber' and the edging towards funky 'The Random Nature of Life' (below). While there were one or two tracks that didn't resonate as much with me as others, overall I enjoyed this album and it's refreshing to come across an Irish artist who is immersed in a genre that seems to be forgotten and is much neglected around these parts, and I have to doff my cap to Adrian Fitz-Simons for trying to bring these sounds back to our ears. And how cool is that album cover.
Adrian Fitz-Simons, 'The Random Nature of Life'
Monday, 19 January 2015
Lilla Vargen, 'This is Love'
Info: I know very little about Belfast singer Lilla Vargen, apart from the fact that this is her debut track, 'This is Love'. Earlier this afternoon I was making my way back to work when I decided to stop and pop in the headphones and give the song a listen and it really took me aback. It's a lovelorn track as the title suggests, where the love is not reciprocated maybe the way it once was, but the wronged party accepts this as insufficient reason to reel in their feelings. A common theme maybe, but the striking thing about the song is Vargen's pitch perfect vocals, crisp and clean and whilst calm, laced with pain. 'This is Love' is a powerful first outing from the Belfast songwriter, which will no doubt have many people stopping in their tracks as it weaves it's way to a wider audience over the coming weeks and months. It's early days, but we could have a serious talent on our hands.
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Sunday, 18 January 2015
Fergus Cullen & LRC of ¡NO! with Diarmuid MacDiarmada
Photo: Remy Connolly
Info: In comfortable surroundings and with a very welcoming atmosphere, ¡NO! and improv guitarist Diarmuid MacDiarmada put on a great 40 minute show for revellers at T-Block in Smithfield last night. The set was at times hypnotic and very easy to get fully lost in, with a vast array of instruments and electronics at play, which the musicians seemed to be able to use to make order out of what could be chaos for the audience in attendance. The idea that the house band are playing for the very first time with their guest performer makes it all the more impressive, and I really enjoyed the experience. Another aspect that makes the monthly Concrete Soup sessions attractive is the fact that the band will be taking the stage with a different guess each time, meaning ¡NO! two shows (sorry) are ever going to be the same or even similar. Earlier in the week I did an interview with bass player LRC, and he brought game to the answers, and for that I must salute him, plenty of humour in there.
Jamie Davis of ¡NO!
Photo: Remy Connolly
Remy: Tell us a bit about Concrete Soup and more specifically, how the whole idea was born?
LRC: Fergus has run Concrete Soup as an intermittent promoter for several years, organizing gigs at the Joinery (RIP) and elsewhere, so Concrete Soup per sé has existed for a while. But Concrete Soup Improv Music Afternoons will be one year old in February 2015. It’s a monthly afternoon performance residency for improvisational and/or broadly “experimental” musicians of all types. Our band ¡NO! are the curators. We invite acts from Dublin, from Ireland generally or from abroad to perform each month. ¡NO! opens the event with a short icebreaker set, followed by a guest set, and it closes with a collaborative set between the guests and ¡NO!
Basically we were musing about how great it would be if there were a regular performance hub for local, national and visiting improv or experimental musicians in Dublin. There wasn’t anything 100% regular. Then it occurred to us that we could just create one ourselves. We’re all sort of DIY artists anyway, so it made sense to do it that way. Graham and Fergus had already run the legendary club Lazy Bird back in the day, so they had the experience and connections to get us off to a quick start.
Remy: You've been running the monthly sessions for almost a year now, what were the highlights and have you any new acts you can share with us who will be performing at Concrete Soup over the next few months (or is it top secret for now?!)
LRC: It’s really hard to single out any particular highlight, and also extremely subjective. We’ve had remarkable artists from the outset, some obscure, some less so. Over ten months we’ve hosted Rainfear, Hustledorff, Paul Roe (Concorde Ensemble), Prang Ruin, Black Egg, Djackulate, Wilmacakebread, Katsura Yamauchi, E+S=B, and Diarmuid MacDiarmada. These personalities include internationally recognized contemporary musicians, monkish Japanese minimalists, eclectic Scottish interdisciplinarians, American audio-visual artists and a Dublin Bus driver who specializes in Zen drone music, amongst others. If I were to cite a personal favourite, speaking entirely for myself, it would be the collaboration we did with alt-hop turntablist Djackulate, because it was relatively uncustomary and had astonishing results – genre breaking and funny too. It was quite a unique atmosphere.
We also recently did a special tribute session to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the recording of Albert Ayler’s landmark free jazz album “Spiritual Unity,” featuring E+S=B, Rainfear, Diarmuid MacDiarmada and ourselves. The audience energy in the room for that event was remarkable, and the performances and spirit of the occasion were electrical.
Next February’s event will feature Woven Skull, the first full band we have ever invited. (Usually we have soloists or duos). For the rest of the year we’ll continue collaborating with local and national artists. We also have a few international aces up our sleeve and some eyebrow-raising projects we can’t talk about yet. Let’s just say we’ll be pushing the boundaries a bit beyond what is typical and there’ll be a small number of very special, totally improbable guests. These projects are all in the pipeline and it would be too early to disclose details. But prepare to be surprised!
Graham Montgomery of ¡NO!
Photo: Remy Connolly
Remy: As well as being the organisers of C.S. you're, perhaps more importantly, members of experimental rock / postpunk / neo-psychedelic troupe ¡NO! and perform at each monthly session, care to share how you guys got together and maybe some influences with us?
LRC: The origins are suitably random actually. Jamie and I had previously toured together with New York outfit The Jack Grace Band and had been talking at that time about starting a noise band or even a surf band. In tandem I had been playing with Fergus in a separate thing, a truly vicious, jugular-threatening garage band that of course nobody understood! Jamie came along one day to see us play and immediately decided all three of us should do something enduring together. We met up for a trial jam and quickly realized we had an improvisational understanding already as a trio. One week later we were jamming in a studio when Graham, whom both Jamie and Fergus knew independently of each other, totally unexpectedly walked in to the room, plugged in a guitar, and blew the session through the roof. We still don’t know how he just turned up. I personally think he’s a sorcerer. Anyway, if the three of us were bricks, Graham was incontestably the mortar. That was it. We were ¡NO! from that moment.
We never talked about influences before we started proper. It wasn’t necessary. There was an instant feeling and resultant sound that didn’t need commentary. Immediately it was its own thing. All of us had a breadth and depth of experience as both listeners and players of music that gave us a huge set of references to draw on – that was clear from our sound. Personally, I’m a firm believer in the idea of sedimentation; that your experiences settle over time into layers in your mind, remaining in storage. In the spontaneous moment, in spontaneous composition, things surge out of those layers and colour the musical expression. Of course it’s musical sediment, but it’s also other experience. What often gets overlooked is that an artist is influenced by everything. I’m pretty influenced by a rib kicking I got in a rugby club in 1989 in Kilkenny for example. It taught me a lot about patterns of goon behaviour, and I draw on that often. But seriously folks even if music is the obvious angle for us, other things present themselves too, other facets of experience. Between us we’re librarians, photographers, teachers, writers and chemists, as well as composers and musicians. Individually we’ve travelled extensively or lived abroad for long periods of time. All these things count.
But we must give readers what they want, which is of course a list. Soooo...we are collectively musically influenced by everything from classical music, jazz/free jazz, punk, noise, postpunk, electronica, soul, blues, metal, hip-hop … if you stuck Stravinksy, Albert Ayler, Suicide, Steve Reich, Captain Beefheart, Gong and Sly Stone in a room and let them at it you’d start to approach noises we sometimes make. I should mention too that things that influence what you don’t do are extremely important. For example we might say we’re heavily influenced by Mumford & Sons in so far as if we ever meet them we’ll gladly insert their mawkish instruments into the most inconvenient orifice they possess.
However, I digress. We’re not trying to achieve any particular sound according to these or other influences. We just play and let it go where it goes. That’s the spontaneity part. It’s not really experimentation after all, because that implies a starting premise which is finally proven or disproved through demonstration. It’s more an expressiveness. Spontaneous composition, or what I like to call direct delivery – immediate music, direct from the source in real time.
Remy: I've noticed on your Bandcamp page a few new tracks cropping up such as, 'Gimme all your synchronicity' and the 1970's horror soundtrack sounding 'Let smoking dogs lie', are you in the early stages of compiling an album or are you just letting things take their course naturally over the next while?
LRC: We already recorded a studio album last April, but we haven’t released it yet. None of the Bandcamp tracks have anything to do with that. The album is all unheard material. It’s quite bizarre actually because it’s a live album of spontaneous one-take composition with no overdubs or additions – but we recorded it in a studio. We wanted to only do on the record what we would do at a gig, but with better sound. So we just went in, pressed record and played for HOURS! Which makes the mixing and sequencing process a bit longer than for a written album. It’s at the mastering stage right now but we’re ironing out a few things before we release it in the coming months. You have been warned.
We’re also doing a limited release of live recordings on our new Archive series. Audience members at Concrete Soup Improv Music Afternoons will get a new copy each month as part of the event’s admission price.
Remy: You recently had to relocate from The Twisted Pepper on Middle Abbey Street to T-Block in Smithfield, where the first C.S. of 2015 is taking place this Saturday, did this come as a surprise or was it planned?
LRC: The Twisted Pepper people were brave enough to give us the opportunity to get a quick start last year and we’re very grateful for that. Our mutual needs grew to differ towards the end of 2014 and we decided to call a halt to the collaboration there. Just boring logistics for the main part. We grew a stalwart audience for Concrete Soup there over time, but they were a migrant audience. We were finding it hard to break barriers with the indigenous Twisted Pepper crowd, as mocha-drinking twenty-somethings seemed to be terrified of going down into a dark basement to listen to EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC!!!! Back when we were attempting to run Concrete Soup for free (an untenable situation), I used to approach the bearded brethren and sistren (well, the sisters didn’t have beards) with flyers and a smile inviting them down for some free avant-garde afternoon fun. They appeared as scared as if I’d stuck a pistol in their belly and asked them to drop their pants. So, let’s say we ended up feeling slightly like we were colonizing the place once a month.
BLOCK T is a different proposition in so many respects. It’s not a bar and doesn’t have those prerogatives or distractions, it doesn’t have concurrent events going on while Concrete Soup is happening and, along with its venerable reputation as an arts centre, there’s a more favourable indigenous demographic there for what we do. When we knew we needed a change BLOCK T corresponded exactly to what we were looking for and they were equally enthusiastic about having us, so it was perfect.
LRC & Diarmuid MacDiarmada
Photo: Remy Connolly
Remy: Can you guys share any tips for readers of the blog on up and coming acts or highly recommended ones that you've seen or worked with since C.S. began?
LRC: All of the artists we’ve had over the last year are genuinely outstanding in their own way. But none of them are describable as “up and coming” in the media sense, because most media couldn’t give a monkey’s about “fringe” artists. Paul Roe has enduring international success on the contemporary classical scene. Katsura Yamauchi has international critical acclaim, if scant financial reward. Those guys have been around for decades. But “up and coming” is a totally different coefficient of value or worth. For the artists beyond commercial reaches, these are serious and precious talents who have been plying their idiosyncratic trade for years. It’s an emphatic testimony to the integrity of their vision and tenacity in my opinion. Despite negligible attention, compared to the Hoziers of our time, these crazy zealots have been insistently making space music because they believe that it’s important. They might never be “up and coming.” None of us make money doing the stuff we do. We would all LOVE to have money. But we’ll never get it in even modest quantities for what is vaguely called “experimental” music. So “up and coming” is off the cards really. It’s a media invention. Another way of saying “soon to be hip” – which has to do with whatever is up powerful promoters’ sleeves. I truly hope they are all soon to be hip, which would indicate a quantum leap forward in musical perceptions in my view. That currently seems an improbable revolution, although it does increasingly appear that some listeners are looking for much more than just accessory music. So, in a nutshell, ¡NO! highly recommends the following for their courage, vision, talent and craziness!:
Rainfear, Hustledorff (Gavin Kearns), Paul Roe, Prang Ruin, Black Egg, Djackulate, Wilmacakebread, Katsura Yamauchi, E+S=B, and Diarmuid MacDiarmada.
Remy: If time and money were no object, where would you like to take C.S. & ¡NO! into the future?
LRC: If time, money and logistics were insignificant ¡NO! would become a self-sufficient guerilla music outfit that would randomly turn up at your local supermarket, country fair, cattle mart, dentist, court appearance or marriage proposal, and perform quick fire musical attacks designed to destabilize your sense of the time/space continuum and misled perception of the singularity of the ego. We would fund other like-minded musicians in similar ventures and Concrete Soup would be the promotion vehicle. We would very probably live in a secret mobile unit for maximum effect and rehearse in forests and on mountaintops. We would also have champagne for breakfast and never run out of smokes.
Failing that, well settle for keeping on keeping on.
Remy: Finally, LRC, given you share a name that rhymes with a certain inventor of a certain religion which will remain untyped for my own personal safety and that of my family, I have to ask you, what's your favourite Tom Cruise film?
LRC: The artsy answer might be Vanilla Sky, but that’s bullshit. The real answer is Mission Impossible, the title of which thematically underscores everything we ever undertake. Although Graham has a penchant for Risky Business.
To find out more about Conrete Soup's upcoming shows and ¡NO! give them a Like on Bookface here https://www.facebook.com/notwhatuno Incidentally I've just been listening to Woven Skull who play C.S.'s February session and they're very slick, have a listen http://wovenskull.bandcamp.com/album/fat-baby-blues
Photo: Remy Connolly
Saturday, 17 January 2015
I.AM.L, 'Lonely In Paradise'
Info: Cork artist I.AM.L is currently working on her debut album in Brighton in the U.K. and 'Lonely In Paradise' is the second single from the forthcoming release, following on from 'Lionheart' which came out in August. The first single was much lauded and featured on BBC Radio's Introducing show as well as making GQ Magazine's Weekly Playlist in August. I.AM.L's music has been steadily gaining traction both locally in Brighton and the wider U.K. and it's easy to see why. 'Lonely In Paradise' and 'Lionheart' are both very polished and very well produced. Vocally and musically there are shades of other female artists such as Lykke Li, Florence, but in particular for me, Bat for Lashes, with some underlying layers pointing towards Portishead and Massive Attack (Mezzanine). 'Lonely In Paradise' is anthemic and creates a dark, mystical environment for the listener, I.AM.L reaches out from the mists and beckons you to join her, the question is do you really have a choice?
It is very difficult not to envisage a great deal of success for I.AM.L once her debut album has been completed and makes it's way out of the studio, until then we have these two tracks to enjoy and provide us with some clues as to the final product.
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Photo by Mihai Cucu
Introduction: Regulars to the blog will be aware of the fondness that is held in these parts for poet and musician Kevin Nolan who released his debut album, Frederick & The Golden Dawn towards the end of 2014, and also featured in my 20 Best Irish Tracks of 2014 with his wonderful track 'Drowning'. One of the objectives I set out with when I started the blog a few years ago was to introduce music and film that may have gone under the radar or may not have received the publicity I felt they deserved. With that in mind, it's always a bonus when an interview serves this purpose to a degree as well, and the following responses from Kevin Nolan certainly do that, as he shares his inspirations and influences with us. It's a thought-provoking interview and a great insight to his song-writing process and personal struggles also, enjoy.
Kevin Nolan, 'Splinter'
Remy: Your debut album Frederick & The Golden Dawn has received a lot of positive reviews from both online and print media since it's release late last year, were you happy when you finished recording that the album reflected what you had set out to do?
Kevin: I really didn’t set out with any idea of the whole, it was more like a mosaic. I just put all my energy into each and every miniscule element of that album and then hoped that because each part was executed with the whole of my being (sometimes to the point of madness) that somehow that would legitimise the whole. I don’t think anyone is really fully happy with a work when it’s finished. I think it was Auden who said a work is never finished, it’s abandoned. But I guess there was a certain mark I was aiming to hit, a kind of standard and for the most part I feel I hit it.
Remy: As a published poet ('Vibrations Of The Soul') and a musician, which do you derive more pleasure from, and do you feel these separate interests cross-over into each other?
Kevin: For the most part they don’t cross over for all sorts of technical reasons but occasionally I’ve tried. For the lyrics to my song ‘Ballade to St. Dymphna’ I wrote the lyrics using an old poetic form known as the eight line stanza ballade, it’s a thirteenth century French form and was believed to have magical properties associated with the number eight. Jean Cocteau once said that even though he worked with Film, Writing, Design, Art, among others, all his work was really just poetry.
For me, even though the two forms I work with don’t explicitly cross over there’s an underlying quality which I’d like to think you can derive from both. You can tell if a song or a poem is genuine or comes from a genuine place, you can tell if it has Duende, you can tell if it’s an expression of something real, no matter what the medium or genre, and in this way I like to think there is a cross over with my poems and songs. Their cross over or relation is that they are both my expression of Duende, of something genuine, something real, something guttural. Duende is a term I first read in a lecture by the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, in which he outlines the properties of the expression. He says ‘All that has dark sounds has Duende’. It’s a type of life exuding fire and this fire comes from the author of a work of art, from the person, the plight, the place and then this is distilled and poured into the work. In time the author may die in the Barthian sense but the Duende remains. It pours out of the pages of Proust, it leaks from the lips of Lautreamont; Waits has it, Billie Holiday had it. Lorca gives an example of a lady he saw perform. She performs an old Gypsy song. The woman sings the first song and it is less than impressive for Lorca but then she takes a glass of whiskey before she sings the next, and it is then that Lorca says that she has Duende. It’s a fire in the soul. Maybe this woman could have sang that same song twice but only one of the renditions had Duende, so you see it’s an exaltation of the spirit, borne out of a great celebration of sadness and it’s capacity to uncover the deepness of life, it’s an expression of the inexpressible, but it is none the less immediately discernible to any audience.
It’s is something you can’t derive from the lyric or the music explicitly. It’s a quality that accompanies or underlines these elements and if it’s there, you know it, it’s immediately apparent. It serves as a kind of validation, a sense of something true, something real, something genuine behind the song or poem or any work of art for that matter. Leonard Cohen once said that poetry is a verdict, if a poem or song causes a reaction in you, if it moves you in some way then that reaction in the listener or reader is the affirmation of the verdict and this verdict is a validation for work as a work of art. Incidentally, I have a new volume of poetry coming out soon titled ‘Schizo-Poetry – Fragments Of Mind’ and is a collaboration with Artist/Poet Susanne Wawra, which I think is my most successful attempt at expressing Duende.
Kevin with Julie Feeney who appears on 'Aubade'
Kevin: I’ve always loved theatre, some people say I’m an actor trapped in a composers body. When I was making this album I loved the power of music and words as separate from one’s inner feelings (on an explicit level at least) and the theatrical was a way of doing that. I used to think a work of art bereft of the inner feelings of the author (inasmuch as is possible) was a truer expression of creativity. I thought that just to report your inner life and call it art was just some type of objet trouvé or archaeology and I had a strong distaste for it. I thought that to make something from nothing (inasmuch as it is possible) was a truer expression of the idea to ‘create’. Making music to me was more like carpentry or like an inventors task. I loved Tom Waits, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weil, Dagmar Krause, Gilbert and Sullivan, West Side Story, Hanns Eisler and many more. I read the essays of T. S. Eliot and the Russian Formalists and it all seemed to make sense to me. I though this is what I want to do. I thought of the making of music as a kind of conjuring or a casting, an evocation or an incantation. One summons the song into existence, it has a life of it’s own and if you're lucky and you mean it, it will answer that call.
Having said all that, things have changed ‘dramatically’ since I finished my debut album. I’m turning more and more toward the confessional genre which is something I looked down on before. Maybe I feel I’ve done the fictionalising, the theatrical and the biblical enough now. I think when the confessional is done well, in the likes of Dylan or specifically Cohen it is deeply affecting and enriching as an art form. And so I have the sense that for my next album I will add something of the confessional.
Remy: Tell us a bit about the younger Kevin Nolan as a child and teenager, with regard to your earliest memories of literature, poetry and music which set you on your current path, books, poems, albums etc.?
Kevin: I was a precocious kid, I first read ‘Nausea’ by Jean Paul Sartre when I was fifteen years old also around that time I read Rimbaud, Kerouac, Hesse, Mann, Burroughs, Camus, Eco, Mallarme, Huxley, Dostoevsky, Schopenhauer and many many more. I read ferociously and it was the same with music. As a teen I didn’t like Cohen or Dylan, because lyrics didn’t really mean that much to me at that time, I was more interested in music, sound. I always loved Waits, Can, Stereolab, Joy Division, Zappa, Johnny Cash, The Smiths, Radiohead, Prince, Thelonious Monk, Captain Beefheart, Billie Holiday, The Beach Boys, Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Debussy, Chet Baker, Cornelius, Mozart, The Pixies, Monade, Gilbert and Sullivan, West Side Story and I really really loved Jazz and film music, really there’s too many to mention. Then as I grew older my musical tastes got more and more refined, I still love all sorts of music now but really for me now there’s only really, Waits, Dylan, Cohen, Walker, Beefheart, Cave, Stereolab and Brel and to some extent Tindersticks.
Remy: When I reviewed F&TGD back in September I mentioned the sounds of Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Frank Zappa, and Neil Hannon (on 'The Guess'). Of all of the reviews of the album since it's release, is there any influential artists that have been left out, or do you think it's more for other people to find those comparisons rather than you pointing them out?
Kevin Nolan: I must say Neil Hannon is a surprise for me, I’m not familiar with his work at all really, anything I did hear failed to reach me. The reviewers have been pretty much on the money though with my influences i.e Brecht, Waits, Cave, Weil, Reich, except to say that Nick Cave really isn’t that big an influence for me. I think Cave has a few scintillating songs but the majority of his music although I respect it, it’s just not for me. I think his highly respected presence in music is based on just a few songs. But they say if a poet is remembered for one or two poems, then he’s a major poet, I think it will be that way for Cave. When I was making my album in the very beginning my blueprint was to mix Tom Waits and Stereolab with my own vision. This is the way I started but then I guess the album took on it’s own identity over time. But no reviewer has ever seen the influence of Stereolab.
Remy: I was delighted when I found out that your new album was being released on vinyl. Was it important to you that F&TGD was released on this format? By all accounts it's making a very strong comeback and for the first time there's a generation buying albums on record who would have been born at a time when it was all but extinct in terms of new releases.
Kevin: I’m an avid record collector and I knew the market for them was returning. But I guess more than anything it was the fulfilment of a dream of mine, to have my own album on vinyl. I’m glad they're coming back, there’s something soulless about a download and something very special about a vinyl record. Also on the vinyl version of my album on the inner sleeve there is a story of the making of my album written by Author Rob Doyle which was a special joy for me.
'Aubade', Live with Julie Feeney at The Grand Social, 2014
Remy: One of the most enjoyable aspects of F&TGD for me personally is the diversity of mood that is portrayed throughout, unease on 'Peggy Sue', the pomp of 'Oil On Canvas', the dark desperation of my favourite track, 'Drowning' and the escapism of the excellent 'Splinter'. Are these a reflection of how you feel when you're writing your songs or is it a case of setting the backdrop for the story you're trying to convey?
Kevin: The songs on Fredrick & The Golden Dawn are all fictional inventions, dreams, stories, wonder-tales, except for ‘Aubade’. As I spoke of earlier the underlying emotion is genuine but the stories, the characters, the myths and all the references are all fiction, just me having fun with my imagination. I approached the album more like a novelist than a composer. The only way I think I can say they were connected with my feelings is that I was trying with this album to get as far away from my own feelings as possible, and I think I was successful. In the eight years it took me to write the album I was trying to maintain my illness called Schizo-affective disorder. This is a coupling of Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia. So to completely immerse myself in something far far outside of myself was a type of therapy. Sometimes I think I just create atmospheres, so yes the music is really just the place in which my characters find themselves. I don’t think anyone takes on the regime I took on for making this album unless you’re up against the wall in some way and there’s a fundamental need to escape your self. I woke every morning at 5am and worked through the day at a desk, writing lyrics and poem and diary entries, and not to be to clichéd but this album saved me. I would spend months working on one line or one stanza. It was a medicinal approach. So the writing in some way was a reaction to how I was feeling at the time in that the work was a fundamental need to escape from the self. But as I said earlier for the next album I will be looking inward for material.
Remy: Your album was written over a long period of time, I saw in a recent interview you started to write 'Splinter' at the age of 15, surprisingly the record doesn't sound in any way disjointed, as someone might expect with the writer being in completely different spaces at different times, why do you think that is?
Kevin: I had a blueprint for the album and I never faltered from it for all the eight years it took to write it. I had a palette with just a few colours on it and I used this palette for every song on the album, my own sensibility was the only shifting colour. When I was making the album I had tunnel vision. I had a spirit level which I consulted regularly, so every song is fitted with the same tools. It’s a little like an actor keeping in character for the whole movie. I also had an abundance of belief in what I was doing, to the point of insanity, which is always helpful I find.
Remy: When I was going through your YouTube channel a few months back, I luckily stumbled upon author Rob Doyle's 'A Meeting with Kevin Nolan' where he describes in great detail your interactions and your creative surroundings in a bedsit in Rathmines. Over the course of the writing of the album, was it essential to you that you were in isolation and completely immersed in the task at hand?
Kevin: Yes being alone is preferable. The composing process can be a pretty ugly enterprise at times and I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to it. My song 'The Guess' took four years to write and during that time I went through moments of glee, ecstasy to burning elation while making it, but there were also times of deep despair when I wasn’t getting anywhere with it, doubting myself and questioning my sanity. I guess you can’t command the muse, all you can do is be it’s best friend and spend as much time with it as possible. The saying ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ comes to mind. Some elements of song come easy but then the endless intense work to make the small bit of inspiration into a fully finished and realised song is a testing matter to say the least. On one level it is tremendously enjoyable but on another it’s an excruciating test of the self as to how much you can push yourself to achieve exactly what you want, least of all because I was doing everything myself.
Remy: With so many outlets for finding old and new music these days, how do you come across music that you enjoy that you've not heard before, be it a long lost rarity from decades ago, or something more contemporary?
Kevin: Biographies, interviews, studies, commentaries, eavesdropping in coffee shops. If you read a biography on someone you like or admire you’ll find out about all the people they like or admire. And because you dig the way that particular artist’s mind works in the first place, it’s usually the case that you’ll dig the stuff they dig. In my experience I know this to be true, I’ve come across some great finds in Jazz Biogs, Cave Biogs, Waits, Biogs, Beefheart Biogs and many more. That’s chiefly the way I become aware of music, art, literature, film, theater etc. Also, the other musicians and artists I know, they’re undergoing the same investigation that I am, so we compare notes regularly. I know a few people who are real walking encyclopedias when it comes to literature and music, they are an endless source for me. My advise to you is if you find people like that, keep them. But really if you wanna find artistic gems, research the artists you already love, for their journeys are always eye and ear opening.
Remy: I know you recently played at St. Patrick's Hospital hosting Kevin Nolan's Hootenanny, have you any more live shows coming up in 2015?
Kevin: My next show is on the 5th Feb in The Odessa Club. I was asked to play there by Peter Murphy of The Revelator Orchestra, someone I really respect. After that I’ll be appearing on RTE Arena to promote my new book, ‘Schizo-Poetry – Fragments Of Mind’. After that I want to do as many concerts as possible.
Remy: You've mentioned previously that you have a lot of unreleased songs written, can we expect to see some of these on a forthcoming release or do you think your next venture will be entirely from scratch?
Kevin: I think both, I’ll try my best to rework the material which was left over from the eight years working on my debut album (and there’s a lot of it), but I’ve also a lot of new material now. I was chattign to Vyvienne Long and I hope to work with her on my new album and also novelist Rob Doyle and author/musician Peter Murphy of The Revelator Orchestra. I got about forty little ideas and I am quite excited to see where I’m going next, it’s quite open at the moment. All I know know is I can’t repeat myself, that would be death for me. I’ll be starting my new album in earnest now that I’ve finished my book. I have a sneaking feeling it will be a little more accessible than the first and will incorporate something of a confessional strand but still with the same old banging and clanging you would of heard on my debut.
As I write this interview for you I’m residing in the confines of a secure psychiatric hospital in inner Dublin City and I’ve been going down to the hospital piano every day working on a new song, which I’m very happy with. It’s kind of a cross beween something from The Boat Man’s Call by Cave and Straight No Chaser by Thelonious Monk. I’ve also started writing an aphoristic novel.
Remy: Finally, is there any chance you could provide us with a selfie?!
Remy: Thank you for obliging Kevin! and for such an in-depth interview.
To keep up with news on gigs, music and writings visit http://www.kevinnolan.info/
Tuesday, 13 January 2015
Info: Here's a sneak peak at quite the enjoyable track from Dublin brothers, Jamie and Richie Martin, 'Postcards' is from the as yet untitled forthcoming album by Cry Monster Cry, and is a follow up to their The Fallen E.P.. The indie-folk track starts with a Fleet Foxes intro which sets off on an uplifting tempo that crosses into My Lastest Novel before a British Sea Power type brass finale. To get you in the mood have a listen to their full E.P. below, it's good stuff.
Cry Monster Cry, 'The Fallen EP'
‘Postcards’ has rich fraternal harmonies that soar over vigorous tribal drums. The rhythmic acoustic guitar that acts as the skeleton of the song is backed up by a driving mandolin, while electric guitar chords bloom and decay. The track builds to an explosive punch of energetic drums, joined by a thick bright brass section.
Produced by established collaborator Keith Lawless, the dynamic charge of the song writing and instrumentals are accented by the mixing efforts of Grammy Award winning Abbey Road veteran engineer Guy Massey (Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran, Manic Street Preachers).
The single features beautiful artwork from Colombian born designer Diana Beltran Herrera, who made the painstakingly crafted paper bird from scratch.
Look / Like / Listen & Follow:
Monday, 12 January 2015
Info: I'll be heading along to Concrete Soup this Saturday in Smithfield to check out a raft of acts including the organiser's band ¡NO! who will be performing with Dublin-based improviser Diarmaid MacDiarmada, so what's it all about?
About Concrete Soup
Concrete Soup has been bringing together international, national and local avant-garde musicians of all colours and stripes for nigh on a year now. On the 3rd Saturday afternoon of every month, hosted by avant-garde improvisers ¡NO!, Concrete Soup features a monthly guest and fuels itself on wailing walls of guitar, space jazz bass, brain bending keys, stair collapse drums, nuclear winter clarinet, high wire sax and generally mutant noise. Oh, and it’s often washed down with found image visuals. If you have a penchant for the styles of Can, Pere Ubu, Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, 70s Miles, or early Sonic Youth, this will fix you nicely.
¡NO! is Fergus Cullen (guitar, sax, clarinet, woodwinds), LRC (bass), Jamie Davis (drums), and Graham Montgomery (guitar, Roland Handsonic, effects, keys, percussion, noises). Specializing in free-form improvisational music, various members have collaborated with personalities from underground and not-so-underground acts such as Can, Theoretical Girls/Sonic Youth, and the Tom Tom Club. The band currently curates a monthly free-form music residency in Dublin City Centre (now at Block T) where they host and collaborate with local, national and international acts.
For further details check out the Bookface page: https://www.facebook.com/notwhatuno
Sunday, 11 January 2015
Fiachna Ó Braonáin, Episode 1, Morocco
Info: Smaoineamh iontach atá anseo ó Magamedia agus TG4, ina dtéann cheoltóir ar thuras ceoil chuig tíortha i bhfad ó bhaile, chun bualadh le gcomhghleacaithe agus talamh coitianta a aimsiú eatarthu trí mheán an cheoil. I'll have to do the rest of this piece as Béarla because my Gaeilge is rusty as the scaffolding on the Poolbeg Incinerator these days, no doubt my wife who is not here to supervise, will be horrified at my casual urrú and séimhiú bombing when she reads this. Moving on, this show has a really interesting concept, where an Irish musician heads in search of their musical Mecca, and we see how narrow the gap between different musical traditions can be, and how this medium can connect people on the most basic human levels.
Episode One features Hothouse Flower guitarist and legend Fiachna Ó Braonáin as he explores the roots of the blues in Morocco, although short, the above trailer has impact and I really enjoyed how the harmonies and music between Ó Braonáin and the local traditional musicians melded almost seamlessly. This episode airs on Tuesday night, the 13th of January, at 9:30pm, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it. Other musicians who will be taking part in the series are Belfast troubadour Gearóid Mac Lochlainn who heads to Jamaica in Episode Two to see if the 'one love' message of yore which helped transcend sectarian boundaries during his teenage years is still alive and kicking. Further episodes will include award-winning sean-nós singer Roisín ElSafty with a full choir in Portugal and one of Ireland's most exciting fiddle players of the last 15 years, Daire Bracken as he learns throat-singing in Mongolia.
I have to say over the years TG4 have excelled at making documentaries across many topics that both Irish and English-speakers can enjoy and kudos to them for supporting innovative independent production companies along the way as well.
Gearóid Mac Lochlainn, Episode 2, Jamaica
Ceolchuairt is a 6 part series of 40 minute documentaries on TG4 starting on Tuesday, 13th of January.
In the opening documentary, Hothouse Flower Fiachna Ó Braonáin embarks on a musical journey to Morocco in search of the roots of the blues. Among the hillside villages of the Rif mountain range, he explores the ancient links with traditional Irish music culminating in a magical moonlit encounter with the famous Master Musicians of Joujouka. Speaking of his experience Fiachna said: "To be given the opportunity to jump in at the deep end of Moroccan life and swim through it was incredible….My Ceolchuairt was filled with colours and flavours I had never experienced before as well as rhythms and melodies I never dreamt I could be a part of. Those rhythms and melodies are now a part of me. It was quite simply a trip of a lifetime."
Director Paddy Hayes said of the series: "This is musical fusion like you've never heard or seen before - often we just throw disparate musical instruments/artists together, turn on the cameras and film their first musical conversations - the results are really magical." Producer Laura Ní Cheallaigh said: "What's different about this series is that each documentary is a standalone story, where the Irish artist journeys inwards as well as outwards, and discovers as much about themselves as about the rich musical heritage they are exploring."