A considerable number of people want to see Donal MacIntyre dead.
Whether it’s being shot at in Burma or finding his car painted with
the insignia of neo-Nazis, repeated death threats have seen the
investigative reporter move house over 40 times. Yet after 15 years,
he still hungers for new challenges. Yesterday it was the ghettos of
Washington DC; tomorrow it will be kidnapping in Mexico City. But
tonight it’s the Ultimate Ice Disco in Guildford. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
A considerable number of people want to see Donal MacIntyre dead.
Grant Lee Buffalo – Stars ‘n’ Stripes
Back in September of last year, someone for some reason saw fit to interview me. To my shame, I became so busy that I never got to finish my answers until now. Fortunately Chalky of Terrible Love Songs is still glad to have them and they are now part of the fantastic Music Lives on the Internet series.
Beach House – Holy Dances
It’s only natural to imagine Victoria Legrand as an ageing chanteuse and intimidating seductress. With that sultry timbre, it’s a pre-conception that’s fully deserved. As she reclines on a sofa dressed all in black, one hand resting on her leather waist belt while the other holds a bottle of beer, the only thing to suggest that she may not be a modern-day Nico is her baby-faced complexion. But then she speaks…and the pre-conception remains just that. (more…)
Dead band members, armed robbery, comas, confused sexuality, ‘poop journals’, self-loathing, child abuse, genetic disorders, nervous breakdowns and walkouts – this is the context that framed Deerhunter’s output in 2007. The music may have been good enough to stand on its own but, whether the listener was interested or not, it came with side stories.
Mogwai have a secret to share – one key to their endurance in perhaps the most limiting genre of modern music. “We’re not cool,” says multi-instrumentalist Barry Burns, shrugging the idea off with a laugh. “This is not a bunch of Nathan Barleys. We’re just boring bastards.” As one self-effacing quip follows another, it quickly becomes clear that the band doesn’t take itself too seriously. But as they’re coaxed into reflecting on their 13 year career, the subject of Mogwai’s staying power manages to keep cropping up. Fitting, then, that with the release of their seventh album, The Hawk is Howling, Mogwai believe they’re ready to face their greatest challenge yet. (more…)
Every interview with the notoriously volatile Anton Newcombe seems to end the same way: with an abrupt fit of profanity and condemnation. Evidently this can happen after just the first question. So an encounter with the man described as a “brilliant monster” and “the single most ill-tempered motherfucker in rock’n’roll history” poses somewhat of a challenge. I’m determined to engage him in a worthwhile discussion, albeit on his own terms, to get a sense of what drives a musician for whom independence is everything. So I’ve done my homework and I know what questions not to ask: there should be no mention of the film Dig!, no inquiries about the 60 or so previous band members and, most difficult of all, no questions about the music. I’m not here to push his buttons: it’s been done…comprehensively. (more…)
In the 25 years since their last album, the prospect of Bauhaus reuniting long enough to record new material always seemed unlikely. Now with Go Away White, the ‘godfathers of goth’ return with a final artistic statement, a swan song born out of necessity, rather than design. After rediscovering the same bitter turmoil that first led to their demise, lead singer Peter Murphy explains that this time, there will be no encore. (more…)
Stars of the Lid – Music For Twin Peaks Episode #30 Part I
As scientists of sound, Stars of the Lid compose their slow motion symphonies with an expansive, ethereal drift in mind. Lasty year, their Kranky-released double album …And Their Refinement of the Decline was met with widespread critical acclaim and has since been heralded as the duo’s masterpiece. However, despite the gushing praise, Adam Wiltzie insists that it’s certainly not ambience for the masses.
Your music has a sort of visual, cinematic quality to it. When you’re composing, do you ever think in terms of images or colours? (more…)
While assuring me that he really is mentally sound, David Shrigley suddenly interrupts himself and catches me off guard. “I’m just looking out the window. There’s a man delivering a parcel and I’m wondering if that’s my parcel. It’s my birthday today. It’s from Amazon.com, a ‘learn to speak French’ tape…it’s my birthday present.” It’s a quintessential Shrigley moment that, albeit unintentionally, perfectly epitomises the tone intrinsic to his art.
Once in a while an album will come along and win us over before we’ve even had time to put something else on. Often they’re the cohesive gems meticulously put together in someone’s dishevelled bedroom, teeming with character and buoyed by a complete lack of expectation. Such is the case with Jonquil, an eclectic sextet whose new album is destined to be a word of mouth sensation. (more…)
Having traded in the ambitious concept albums for uncompromising yet well-crafted rock songs, Liars’ self-titled fourth album produced their most entertaining and critically acclaimed release yet. Returning to Ireland for Dublin’s Analog festival, frontman Angus Andrews and guitarist Aaron Hemphill discuss their drive to be different.
Each Liars album seems to be radically different from the last. Do you think that every release draws a different set of fans that like a particular type of music? Or do you think you a have a steady following that enjoys whatever you do? (more…)
The old Jim Morrison adage of “I don’t know what’s gonna happen…but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames” has never been put into better practice than with the work of Brooklyn-based group Yeasayer. Much has been made of the apocalyptic confirmation that their lyrics surmise, but the songs themselves are buoyed by an optimism that calls for us to revel in whatever few days we may have left. (more…)
Epitomising the notion of being mature beyond one’s years, indie starlet Alela Diane may sound like a greying, motherly figure with a knack for storytelling, but her growling timbre came about with astonishing ease. “I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was 19, so I was a late starter to both,” she says. “It was only because I had moved far beyond my comfort zone to San Francisco that song writing became my way of getting the homesickness out of me.” (more…)
In the course of ten years, the albums of Six Organs of Admittance have chartered explorations across a multitude of genres and styles, all driven on by a quiet yet uncompromising strength.
With the release of “Shelter from the Ash,” Ben Chasny’s distinctive mixture of heavyweight post-rock epics and finger-picking folk returns once more. However, rather than speak in terms of development or maturity, Chasny insists that there’s no reason why the formula should change from one release to the next.
“I think it’s a myth that records have to progress a certain way,” he says. “I don’t think there’s been a step A to step B for me. It’s just about how I feel at the time, which is always changing. The new album is a good example of not sticking to a trajectory of continuation…because I just don’t do records like that.” (more…)
Few bands can make as immediate an impression as So So Modern. With four hooded guys flailing about the stage in a flurry of colour, swaying between guitar-driven dance music and a chorus of fizzing keyboards, this is a show that demands energy and generates enthusiasm. To flawlessly recreate the same dynamic over 200 times a year, however, requires a lot more than just an unwavering will to party. (more…)
As the saviour of dancing concert-goers everywhere, Dan Deacon’s live shows are all about leaving self-awareness at the door. Beginning what initially feels like an awkward drama workshop, Deacon will typically coax the surrounding crowd into joining him for some warm-up exercises. Yet what follows in the next hour is a transformation so pronounced that no one hesitates to grab a lyric sheet for a sing along or to participate in a free-for-all dance contest. (more…)
Gregg Gillis has discovered a simple but extremely successful formula to ensure that just about anyone will enjoy his shows: play every type of popular music at the same time. Gillis is not a DJ or a remix artist; his compositions qualify as neither hip-hop nor dance and are too original to be considered mash-ups. If anything, Gillis is a form of sound magician, bombarding you with one moment of misleading brilliance after another. (more…)
Posted in Interviews, Press Clippings, Takeaway Shows, tagged arcade fire, architecture in helsinki, beirut, chryde, grizzly bear, interview, la blogotheque, marla hansen, take away shows, Takeaway Shows, vincent moon on September 11, 2007 | 1 Comment »
Parisien guerilla video bloggers Vincent Moon and Chryde (aka The Take Away Shows) bring music and film out of the venue, onto the streets, and onto your computer. Cian Traynor tracked them down on the streets of Paris.
Whether it’s squeezing Arcade Fire into an elevator or getting Grizzly Bear into a bathtub, French music site La Blogotheque has a way of capturing bands in a moment of haphazard beauty. The Take Away Shows are a series of vignettes that lure artists, with instrument in hand, out to wander the streets of Paris under the gaze of a loosely held camera.
The drummer rises from his stool, wailing, bare-chested, whipping chains from the grip of each hand against a kit of rusty old canisters, spurring on the rest of the band like an infuriated slave driver. The tempo is driven by a hardcore-punk ethos, the lyrics are tinted with the macabre, and the songs sound old enough to be yellowed and smoke-stained. This is O’Death: the sound of an Appalachian apocalypse, a band of musical misfits that escape classification and outpace tradition – a set of parameters bound to cause trouble. (more…)
Right now, the sweet folk sounds of Marc Rigelsford’s Magic Arm is a best kept secret, unspoiled by the vultures of TV advertising. But for how long? Cian Traynpr debates.
There’s no shortage of armchair rock stars out there who consider the act of lending your music to advertising the ultimate sell out. But for those underexposed artists scraping together a meagre existence, the issue becomes a much thornier one. (more…)
David Thomas Broughton is a man who takes spontaneity to new extremes. Unlike other artists, he’ll willingly let the tapes roll in the knowledge that he’s leaving everything to chance. Stranger still, he’ll wait until his mind has gone completely blank before getting up on stage to perform. (more…)
There’s no point in covering a song unless you’re going to bring something to it, to make it your own in some way and bring out an element that may not have been there before. Anything else is little more than self-indulgence.
Though it may seem crass to draw comparisons with Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings” series, there’s a refined quality to Christy Moore’s new album, “Burning Times,” that recalls the same kind of presence the Man in Black imbued to songs that were not his own. However, rather than having a producer like Rick Rubin to pick out the songs that might work best for him, Moore has found himself magnetically drawn towards certain songs over the years: “I love to sing a song that has meat and bones in it, that has a personality and a character…’cause it’s what I do. I wouldn’t perform my own or another writer’s songs with any more passion or examination. To me, a song is a song no matter who’s written it. I mean if I sing a song to you now and it lasts four minutes, for those four minutes, that song belongs to me and you – the singer and the listener. As soon as I’m finished singin’ it, then it reverts to Bob Dylan. He gets it back then,” he laughs.
In many cases, Moore has been playing these songs for years, honing and subtly re-shaping them until they’re as familiar as an old set of friends. Yet even for those that have come to make regular appearances in live performances, the songs of this particular collection were fortunate to find a home together at all. Ever the perfectionist, Moore’s meticulous preparation also means long periods of incubation, wearing a tune in like a new guitar until there can be no doubt about its place in the fold. So much so, in fact, that Moore didn’t hesitate to re-record the album until it felt right: “We tried it in two different recording studios, and the third time we did it down in Declan’s house in Cork. Just from the time we kicked off, I knew we had it, which was fabulous. We both knew it was happening. I mean it is a bit of a cliché, but in a way, this is a series of photographs of what Declan and I have been doing for the last couple of years.”
Having such an inclination towards the heart of a well-written song, crossing paths with the penmanship of Bob Dylan may have always seemed inevitable. Covering the likes of Morrissey, on the other hand, may come as a surprise. “I was talking about my ambivalence towards America, the fact that I’ve got wonderful American friends whom I love dearly. I love being in America, I love gigging there, I love a lot of its culture and art. And yet, the behaviour of some Americans appals me…at the moment, it’s a very frightening country.” Having been a major part of the “When Bush Comes to Shove” protest gig last year, and recently organising a benefit concert for New Orleans, it’s clear Moore harbours a bittersweet relationship with the US – one that led him to an acquaintance with the ex-Smiths singer’s song at just the right time. “I think I said to my wife: ‘I’d love to write something about my mixed feelings for America’. So she just played it for me and I said: ‘Jesus, I wonder if I could sing that’. And then it started,” Moore smiles, “…the long, agonising journey of trying to learn a Morrissey song.”
Moore has enjoyed a fruitful association with some of Ireland’s finest songwriters, and so unsurprisingly, when the Kildare-man applies himself to the work of John Spillane and Wally Page, it’s an entirely natural fit. The country-tinged macabre of the world of The Handsome Family, however, is another connection that one might not have foreseen with Moore. “I heard the Handsomes singin’, and I was instantly smitten… I mean they are very dark, but sometimes they manage to be hilariously funny simultaneously, and I love that. It’s great sometimes to be breaking your hole laughing at something so incredibly dark.”
One of the two Handsome Family tracks to feature on “Burning Times,” “Peace in the Valley Once Again” imagines an end to the world’s all-consuming concrete sprawl with an apocalyptic vision where only insects remain. The rather serene contemplation bookends matters nicely by answering the almost despondent call of Natalie Merchant’s “Motherland” at the album’s beginning. Despite not being his own songs, everything that lies between and around those two points is distinctly Christy Moore. Perhaps it’s that there are universal themes at the foundation of many of these songs, or maybe it’s just the feel that Moore’s voice lends to them, but he has found a way to make the work of Merchant, Richard Thompson, and Joni Mitchell sound like they were once traditional Irish folk songs. In fact, finding that means to add eloquence to shards of life-changing memories and heartbreaking imperfection – the fabric of Ireland’s character – is what makes Moore the iconic storyteller that he is. In his own words, though, cohesion and the themes that announce themselves from it only arrive as an afterthought: “I don’t set out to make a concept album…I hope that in the recording, sometimes unbeknownst even to myself, one will actually emerge and there will be a vibe that will go through an album. But it’s just twelve individuals that’ve been brought together, and hopefully, will hang well that way.”
As a whole, there is a duality at play within “Burning Times” – a mixture of nostalgia for the craic and biting statements that can touch a nerve unexpectedly. An expert at knowing how to prick the listener’s consciousness, Moore knows that the right moment to do so is just when you’re at your most comfortable. “…I suppose that would be my approach,” he ponders, as if he had never thought of it that way. “But I think you’ve got to be very careful how you do it…you can’t go straight from the abuse of children into ‘The Craic Was Ninety In The Isle Of Man’, we have to move gently from topics that deserve sensitivity to bit of lunacy.”
Stepping seamlessly from the warmth of “Magic Nights in the Lobby Bar” to tales of injustice within a minute, the proportion of this balance on “Burning Times” acutely represents the essence of Moore’s live experience. “My impression of the atmosphere around the countries I do is that there’s usually a fairly happy aul’ buzz around the hall when it’s over, a lot of smiling faces. So that seems to be the way it works; we seem to be able to present a mixture of songs, some of which reflect on heavy subjects, and we manage to do it in a way that also allows us to have a good night and to enjoy ourselves.” Even still, Moore is always prepared to pick up a lesson or two along the way: “I remember a long time ago in the Point I got stuck in some kind of a rut. I played ‘Farewell to Pripchat’ and then I did ‘The Middle of the Island’, and this guy shouts up: ‘For feck’s sake Christy, would ye ever lighten up!’ Just this voice booming down the Point: ‘Bloody lighten up man’. But he was right…and it was a magic moment.”
Taken from Trinity News, November 2nd 2005
During the opening tracks of Jenny Lewis’ solo album “Rabbit Fur Coat,” there’s a decidedly M. Ward feel to the flow of things. With all the quality of a veteran songwriter nearly twice her age, Lewis embraces touches of gospel, hymnal, traditional folk and blues while recalling the great white soul classics – all coming together across the racing strings of an acoustic. With that in mind, the M. Ward factor was the first thing on my lips when I sat down with the Rilo Kiley singer before her debut Irish performance.
I’m a big fan of M. Ward…
…what did you think he would bring to the project?
Well I think there’s a magical quality to his records, they’re really timeless. They occupy this weird place in my brain when I listen to them – it’s like nothing else. So I kind of just hoped that he would do whatever he does for his own songs on my songs. I didn’t know how that would turn out because when I went up to Portland, some of the songs weren’t even finished. So we sat down and he played guitar with me, and it was so seamless, so easy working with him. We recorded like five songs a day and I think we work really well together.
A lot of questions are being asked on ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ – is that reflective of the time you wrote them, or are they just things you’ve always wondered about?
I think songs tend to reflect how you feel in any given period; you know, they’re not necessarily life lasting, burning questions. I think these ideas just come up in songs and perhaps they’re just passing thoughts, you know? They’re not quite as important as they become later when you actually record them and people ask you questions about them.
Well I’ve always wondered whether, when you’re playing the songs every night, if it’s kind of like re-living a certain moment, or maybe even exorcising your demons a little bit…
…or is that you just don’t think about them?
No, it’s not like a big therapy session up there on stage every night, and there are a lot of stories in the songs and made-up characters and plots…so not all of the characters necessarily lead back to me. But I think every night is different, some songs feel better on certain nights and I just try to find the honesty as far as how I’m feeling in that moment. Performing the song on the spot relates it back to a more personal thing that’s happening to me rather than the songs which aren’t necessarily always personal.
Yeah, I was going to mention the storytelling on the album; do you think you might have a book in you one day?
I don’t know if I have the patience or the true talent to write a book.
Well what about an autobiography? You seem to have had a pretty interesting life…
Yeah, that would be great…just to tell the story of my family. Because I come from a long line of performers: my father was a harmonica player, my mother was a singer, my father’s mother was a dancer on vaudeville, so I think it’s an interesting lineage of crazy show people.
How have you found the solo experience so far?
It’s great! It’s been really carefree, you know? There’s not that much riding on it, because I haven’t put a lot on the line for this. It’s kind of funny when you work really hard doing something, because it has a different effect. I’ve come into this and the whole process has just been carefree and easy. I recorded the album quickly, mixed it in three days, the touring’s really great, and I feel like good things are coming because I didn’t put too much on it.
So it doesn’t feel like a gamble?
Yeah! I’m doing it exactly as I want to, there’s no compromise, and you know, if it didn’t work out initially, I guess I could have always gone running back to the band.
Given the stripped-down nature of album, I’d imagine a more intimate setting could be a contrast to the bigger venue gigs you would have experienced with Rilo Kiley and Postal Service…
I think with Rilo Kiley we always have a moment that’s small and intimate, and I think a lot of the songs on this record stem from some of the tracks on ‘More Adventurous’, the last Rilo Kiley record. There were some stripped-down, kind of pop-country songs and I think I kind of elaborated on that idea. So I think a lot of the same elements are there…but for the most part we are a rock band and there are no electric guitars on stage for this, which is nice.
But in terms of the atmosphere at the shows, though – is that different?
Yeah, it’s completely different. Completely! Because it’s a very deliberate show, it’s kind of theatrical, and everything is the same every night. We play the same set, and it has dips and bobs, but they’re calculated, almost. Whereas with Rilo Kiley, we’re a little more willing to change up the set and have a more spontaneous thing.
With such a personal record, and arguably more of a specialised audience, it’s probably going to give you a bit more of a hands-on relationship with the feedback from the audience. If you found that – on an individual basis, anyway – you were really touching people and relating to them with Rabbit Fur Coat, would that feel more rewarding than being part of a bigger, commercially successful band?
(Puts chin in her hand, pondering the question carefully.) You know, it kind of feels the same as with Rilo Kiley because I write the songs in that band and I definitely put my heart into it. Plus, you know we’re really not any big rock stars or anything, we haven’t really been played on the radio much, so it’s still the same kind of feeling within the band. But with this there’s a lot more on me, so if someone doesn’t like it, then I tend to take it more personally.
I know Laura Nyro and Loretta Lynn were big influences in making this album, but are there any modern artists within relatively similar brackets that have caught your attention?
Gillian Welsh – she’s great. She actually came to our show in Nashville and sang with us on a song. That was so amazing, just to see her up close and to hear that voice coming out of her. I’m such a huge fan. I really like Will Oldham; I’ve never seen him play live. I love Bonnie Prince Billy; ‘I See a Darkness’ is such a great record.
Finally, and I hope this doesn’t sound too ridiculous, but I have to say there’s definitely something about the album cover that reminds me of ‘The Shining’.
(As I say the sentence, the expression on her face rises up with excitement only to fall disappointedly on those final two words.)
Okay, you’ve heard that before then…
Oh, well at least you weren’t mortified by the comparison…
We didn’t really intend to do that, we took a bunch of pictures for the artwork inside the album and that was one that really was the creepiest, so we opted for that to be the cover. I was like “that’s it! That has to be the cover.” It’s really eerie…
And with that, I get up to leave, thanking her for time. Perhaps a little taken aback that an interviewer has managed not to touch upon her child acting career for once, or maybe that the interaction felt more casual than professional, she seems somewhat disappointed as I excuse myself. As I walk away, all questions answered but now wondering if I was leaving prematurely nonetheless, I turn back to see Jenny Lewis still sitting at the table, pensively poking at her smoothie with a straw as the sunlight streams in to The Village’s now-empty hall. I don’t know why, but it’s an image that will stay with me.
Taken from Connected magazine, April 2006
Latecomers to the “Baggydelic” scene of the early ’90s, The Charlatans seemed doomed to be remembered as Madchester also-rans. However, having endured imprisonment, death, embezzlement, and illness, the band have survived every rock’n'roll cliché in the book to earn a name for themselves as comeback kings. Released on the 17th of April, “Simpatico” is their 10th studio album, and while it’s in keeping with their constantly adapting musical direction, its dub-centric feel has already been raising many an eyebrow. I caught up with frontman Tim Burgess over a pint of Guinness to talk about Curtis Mayfield, white reggae, and David Lynch.
You recorded the new songs live in the studio – what did that bring to the album, and what was it like for the band to be living together again?
Well I think that the songs were written in that sort of way – very organically – and so to do them live just felt like a natural thing to do. In terms of living together and being together as a unit, it felt like a good thing. I wanted to feel like we’re a band.
I know that when you were making “Us and Us Only” you were listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, and during “Wonderland” you were listening to Curtis Mayfield…
Well no, I pretended to be Curtis Mayfield (laughs). I felt like him, I felt like I got in the spirit of him. He’s an amazing man. When I was in England, “Superfly” was the only record I really knew by him. But when I went to America, I got all these Impressions records and then realised that he did quite a few art film soundtracks – he had quite a long career span, you know? So I started to learn a lot more about Curtis, and then I ended up liking every record he did better than “Superfly”!
…but was there anything in particular you were listening to while making “Simpatico”?
I was listening to “Sandinista!” by the Clash a lot, and quite a lot of the Trojan back-catalogue, which Sanctuary bought. You see, part of the deal when we signed with them was that we got every single record that was made under them. So I think there may be a Trojan influence in there, possibly…A lot of Gram Parsons, a lot of Bob Marley.
It seems with every Charlatans album there’s a new shift in sound. Are you consciously trying to keep things fresh? Or does that just happen without you even realising it?
“Well it’s good to keep things fresh, but at the same time, I find that I naturally change directions quite a lot (giggles)…only because it’s just a part of learning and going through phases. Fortunately, in between records there’s normally a two-year gap, so you get turned on to stuff and it digests, rather than just thinking “oh I’m goin’ to do that this week, or this next week,” you know? You actually get a chance to digest. Whether it’s cool or not…obviously The Charlatans have gone through cool phases and not-so-cool phases, but I just like to absorb cultures of the world.
Would ripping yourself off ever become an issue?
Em…I’d like to!…and charge ourselves for it (laughs). But no, I’ve always – and I know this sounds really corny – considered myself a searcher.
There is a bit of a stigma attached to white reggae and ska – how do you feel about that?
It’s very important for us to be able to do it in the best “white” way. The few bands that I’ve heard who do reggae and are white were Japan – with a song called “…Rhodesia,” which I think is one of the greatest white reggae records ever – and The Clash.
…well and The Specials, in a ska sense anyway…
But they were more of a multi-cultural melting-pot of a band. Actually I was very fortunate to meet both Joe Strummer and Terry Hall, who are heroes of mine. So maybe I’m just tryin’ to copy them, I don’t know…
Living in the States and having done the solo album, what’s it like to return to the band for the whole process of recording, promoting, and touring?
All good. As long as people get to hear the record, I don’t care! (laughs).
Sitting down to do 50 interviews in a row, I’d say that can be a bit of a surreal experience. Do you even remember any of it?
I do remember certain common threads, questions that are asked. I try not to repeat myself, but I don’t want to tell lies either. So I try to say the same story in a kind of (well, hopefully) new and elaborating way!
Let’s talk a little bit about David Lynch. I know you’re quite a fan, as I am I myself.
Really? He’s got a new one, “INLAND EMPIRE.”
Yeah, I can’t wait to see it.
…I can’t either. It’s amazing, when he was asked what it was about, he said: “It’s about a girl in trouble” – all of his films are about a girl in trouble!
Apparently he didn’t have a script when he was shooting…
Yeah and he says he’s never going back to film, but he’ll change though…in ten years time maybe (laughs).
This may be a bit of a difficult question, but how do you think one could make the album equivalent of a David Lynch film?
I think we have with “Wonderland” and this album also. I gave the perfect David Lynch answer when someone asked: “how is this album different from the rest of your records?” And I said: “well it’s ‘Wonderland’, but in the rain.” It’s fairly Lynch-esque. I mean I don’t know…he definitely does his own thing, and so do I. I love “Twin Peaks”; I’ve even been on lynchnet.com to get the deleted scenes released.
Yeah, there are hours and hours of footage out there somewhere…
I know! But I want to see it – do you know what I mean? It might take me a while to understand it but…
Ah, they have to bring it out. I recently showed my friends the series and they think it’s the best thing that’s ever been on T.V.
Really? Well it was the best thing ever on T.V. Now when you look back it on DVD, it kind of runs a bit cloudy in some episodes. But people were crazy not to put “Mulholland Drive” on as a T.V. series…
Well I’m kind of glad he made it into a movie, at the same time…
Check this out for a Lynchism: we just did some music for a Naomi Watts advert. It’s “You’re So Pretty” from “Wonderland,” and it’s her looking like she did in “Mulholland Drive,” floating about for three minutes. I’d show it to you, only my computer’s broken…
How’s the DJing going?
Well I’m actually playing tonight in Whelans…
What kind of stuff are you playing?
Whatever’s in my bag, really (laughs).
A bit of everything?
“Bank Robber” by The Clash, always. Things like “Disco Infiltrator” by LCD Soundsystem…The Rolling Stones (breaking out in a cheeky grin).
You’re coming back for Oxegen in the summer, anyway…are you looking forward to the festivals?
It’ll be good if we play at night, that’s the only thing I ever worry about. In the daytime, it’s like you have no mood there. One of the big things about the record – and The Charlatans in general – is the feeling…just like a David Lynch film. It’s the mood.
Copyright © 2006 – Connected
I’m completely and unashamedly hooked. In fact, I can’t recall ever being as excited about a new band as I am about Philadelphia’s Dr. Dog. Purveyors of cascading melodies and irresistible harmonies, these guys have been doing their thing for years on beat-up cassette recordings, yet somehow the results still remain immaculate. Meeting the band ahead of their Dublin debut in the Village, I asked them whether the lo-fi element has a strange way of adding something extra to a recording. “I would go along with that, most definitely,” replies lead-guitarist and co-vocalist Scott McMicken. “It displays a person in a certain context that’s more easily relatable than someone producing this shimmering, huge sound. It’s not so much about the hiss; it’s just about ‘here’s a guy who’s comfortable working with very limited means.’ It shows an aspect of a person’s personality more than anything else.” Running a gauntlet of genres from rock and blues to doo-wop and soul, by harking back to a more vintage brand of sound, Dr. Dog have managed to draw more than a few comparisons to the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Rather than dismiss it as lazy labelling, however, the band are surprisingly open to any interpretation of their music: “There’s no doubt that those elements that they liken with us are my own personal taste,” McMicken considers. “I love what vocal harmonies can do to a melody and the way a good, tight rhythm section works. You kind of look at it like the drum and bass will carry the foundation of the song and then we tend to put splashes of guitars and keys in there like embellishments. But on top of that we need a really great vocal performance, so what backing vocals do is they add this feel. I mean when you’re hearing a human being going “ooooooooooh,” it just has a soul to it, so that sits all the way on top. To me, that’s the type of music that I love; that’s what I need to hear.”
“I don’t feel like we’re trying to emulate other bands,” says Toby Leaman, bassist and lead singer. “We just think about the songs. We’re not trying to rely on little tricks or anything like that; the only thing you have to come back to is the song itself – it just has to fit.” “We’ve got shit that totally disregards that pop template and stuff that indulges in it too,” adds McMicken, “so fundamentally we’re a band that tries to keep everything as open as possible.”
While Dr. Dog have been championed by the likes of M. Ward and heralded as “the best fuckin’ band in the world” by Jim James, if it wasn’t for a chance encounter with the My Morning Jacket frontman, the widely adored “Easybeat” might be something we’d have to do without. Leaman seems only too aware of this when asked how many great bands could be out there trawling the depths of anonymity: “Billions! Probably the best bands in the world, nobody knows about. I could think of ten off the top of my head.”
“I think after so much awful music has dominated the globe for a decade now,” says McMicken, “people are starting to get back to what makes really good music. I don’t think that’s a controversial statement, because you just see so many good bands sprouting up every day. Tonight I’ll inevitably end up talking to someone here and I’ll ask ‘are there a lot of good bands around Dublin?’ Every time I do that, people are like: ‘yeah! There are four of five bands you need to check out.’”
Only two dates into their European tour and the feedback from their own audiences has come as a pleasant surprise: “I couldn’t believe how energetic and pumped up the crowd was last night in Belfast,” says McMicken. “It’s the kind of thing we rarely see in the States. But then after the show so many people came up and said: ‘yeah, we’re sorry everyone was so tired and nobody was dancing,’ so I thought: ‘you’re apologising for this?’ I was honestly shocked by it. I didn’t think many of them would have even heard of us, but it was overwhelming. I mean after the show, there’d be three or four people trying to talk to you and buy you a beer at the same time – it was insane!” Informed that plenty Dr. Dog fans in Dublin were denied the chance to see them after they were added to the bill of an already sold-out show, the band simultaneously erupt: “Jesus! Shit! …Bring ‘em round to the backdoor!”
Nevertheless, in the aftermath of a gig still rattling around the bloodstream, you need only overhear a fan citing the band as the cause of his speeding tickets to realise that returning for the summer festivals is something justifiably high on the group’s agenda. With their hands expertly wrapped around a long enduring, golden sensibility of sound, Dr. Dog seem to be on course for a future as bright as the sun-kissed sounds they create.
Copyright © 2006 – Connected
Taken from Connected magazine, March 2006
Such is the anticipation surrounding the release of “Show Your Bones” – the first Yeah Yeah Yeahs album since their 2003 debut “Fever to Tell” – that a slew of hype, rumour, and speculation has left fans genuinely concerned about the band’s new direction. Chiefly responsible for this, one could argue, are the group’s own accounts of in-fighting, creative droughts, and fresh starts. Has “second album syndrome” really set in? Is this to be their sophomore slump? I caught up with guitarist Nick Zinner and asked about the creative difficulties they faced this time out. “There was crazy, crazy self-applied pressure,” he explains. “I think that because we were starting from scratch we all just wanted to make something really great but didn’t know how or what the end result would sound like. Before it was like ‘we have these songs, they’re all done – we need to record them,’ and then this time it was just trying to arrive at that same process. We’re all self-critical people, you know? So it was pretty challenging at times.”
Having rung in the changes with the introduction of acoustic guitar, piano, and even a different vocal style, the overall transformation was distinct enough to have to enlist a new band member. “We didn’t really want to do any of the same things we had done on the last record, we just wanted to experiment and try out different ideas,” says Zinner. “A lot of the new songs have so many layers and crucial elements to them that there’s no way we could reproduce it playing live, so it was just like getting another arm or a foot, having someone else help us out. And it works, it sounds really good.”
It’s clear that a lot has changed since Yeah Yeah Yeahs were first starting out. Back when they had two EPs under their belt, they found themselves in the unusual position of being able to choose what record label they would sign with. It was a process that taught Zinner a lot about how the industry operates: “I guess I kinda learned how everything works and how it’s possible to still have control over it for the large part. You have to be aware about everything that happens, and that there are certain areas where you can have a lot more say in.”
Having had their debut album already recorded, choosing between indie and major labels was always going to be an important decision, but one that split their already burgeoning fan base and prompted accusations of “selling out.” I asked Zinner whether he was surprised to see that opinions were being influenced by what kind of label the album would end up on, rather than allowing the music to simply speak for itself: “Yeah! Definitely. It’s weird now ’cause I know so many people in bands who have been on both; some have had awful experiences on indie labels and great on the majors, and vice versa. Ultimately I feel it shouldn’t affect the music at all, unless you let it.”
Given the extent that the media are purported to have played in shaping the reception of fellow New Yorkers The Strokes’ second album, Zinner has become so weary of the press’ influence that he blocks it out altogether. “I try not to think about it while we’re in the process of recording, and I guess now I’ve made a conscious decision not to read any of our press or anything that’s written about us at all – I just try and avoid all that.”
Asked whether the over-emphasis on fashion is something he’d like to see stamped out, and the guitarist admits it has helped blur the focus of things somewhat. “Yeah maybe a little, but I know it’s also – in a performance sense anyway – something that’s really important for Karen. Ultimately, though, it has nothing to do with the music.”
Farcical hoaxes, on the other hand, are something he would welcome. When producer Squeak E. Clean told MTV (with tongue emphatically in cheek) that “Show Your Bones” was a concept album about a pet cat from Chile, coverage of the story ballooned until things got out of hand. “Yeah, I love that,” laughs Zinner. “I have to say I do really like it when there are weird rumours and stuff about us.” Though Yeah Yeah Yeahs may not be known for their fondness of extensive touring, Zinner is confident that the group have been giving it all they possibly can. “Given what we do put into the shows, I feel like if we toured any more than we’re planning on touring that we’d probably…die! We put in, like, absolutely everything and we’ve kind of learned what our limits are.”
With much-documented accounts of exhaustion, homesickness, and Karen O’s on-stage accident in Australia, the group’s effort levels are certainly difficult to question. “I really try and take everything day by day,” concludes Zinner, somewhat sombrely. “Playing music, being in a band, it’s so unpredictable that I can never really expect things one way or the other, you just do it.” Perhaps it’s the fatigue setting in already, but with Zinner clearly on auto-pilot, his final words can’t help but smack of rock ‘n’ roll cliché. With a long road of promotion surfing still ahead of them, if Yeah Yeah Yeahs are to rise above the growing expectations for them to fail, then the band’s die-hard contingent can only hope that these hints of stale disinterest won’t lead to their ultimate undoing.
Copyright © 2006 – Connected
One might argue that if giveamanakick – a no-nonsense guitar and drums duo from Limerick – were based in any other country, we all would have long since heard of them. In between cranking out their infamously energetic and ear-splitting live show, Steve and Keith have managed to release two warmly received albums, 2003′s “Is It OK to be Loud, Jesus?” and their most recent, “We Are the Way Forward.” It all began when Steve split from his former band and “started off playing a couple of shows solo, just bashin’ away on an electric guitar and pedals,” he remembers. “Keith was at a couple of them and I was saying I’d love to get someone else in for the louder songs. I knew he played guitar in his older band, but he just said ‘I’d love to give drums a try,’ and that was it. Since then, it’s just been the two of us.” As their biog reads, the results were instantly head-turning: “People didn’t know what to do or where to look. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some people were seen nodding and tapping their feet furiously, while others shook their heads and wept…”
Since then, the pair have been “touring constantly for about four years,” and despite there only being two of them, they’ve managed not only to keep things fresh, but to sound nothing like certain other guitar/drums combos. “I wouldn’t say it’s easier or anything,” Steve considers. “It’s difficult at times because there’s only two of ye, so we work within those parameters to push ourselves and keep it as interesting as possible for the both of us…but when it works, it works well.”
Since recording their debut album in a “death trap” of an abandoned building teetering on collapse, GAMAK have had no intention of messing around. “The first album took about a week, the second one about the same. It was recorded in six days and then mixed for a further three days,” says Steve. “For the first one, we had been together for about eight or nine months, and we had all these songs (a couple of which I had written while still solo) that we said ‘God it’d be great it if they sounded like this’. So we’re happy with them and all, but we don’t sound like that live. The second album, on the other hand, is a far better reflection of what we do, because we’ve been gigging some of those songs for three years.”
As for being the first act to sign for Irish independent label Out On a Limb, giveamanakick couldn’t be more grateful: “We wouldn’t be where we are today without them,” Steve assures me. “It’s great to be a part of that unit because, given the other great bands there as well, that gets attention in itself. You feel like you’re a part of something big.” Among the personal highlights they’ve tallied up so far include a set at Oxegen (“Incredible…A thousand people in a tent. I’d never experienced anything like it, nothing on that level”), and an album launch that involved free drink and a pig on a spit (“The general reaction was ‘A pig on a spit!?’ but it was gone within half an hour!”).
Nevertheless, the lads are mindful of their chances of progressing anywhere at home: “While we’ve gathered some good attention and some major support slots, there’s only so far you can go in Ireland before becoming Paddy Casey or The Frames…and with the style of music we play, I don’t think we’re going to get to where they are. I can never see us playing at lunch time in a student bar, you know? The ultimate aim for us is to get some European distribution and tour the shit out of the album – that’s our goal for this year.”
Copyright © 2006 – Connected
Taken from Connected magazine, February 2006
Take a quick glance around the audience of a Rodrigo y Gabriela gig, and you’re bound to see jazz enthusiasts rub elbows with metal heads, often unaware that they’ve genre-hopped into each other’s tastes. Fluently blending everything into a musical jigsaw, it comes as little surprise that the Mexican duo’s latest album has entered the charts at number 1 – the first instrumental album ever to do so. From streaming fretwork to hypnotic flows of percussion, Rodrigo agrees that fusion finds a perfect vehicle within their dynamic: “Yeah, that’s important, and it’s natural, y’know? I mean we never planned it to go that way, it’s just something we’ve been doing for years, even before the music we’re playing now. Though I’d say at this moment in time, with so many different kinds of music around the world, it’s a progression that suits really well, and that’s refreshing.”
“To be honest,” adds Gabriela, “I think the way we express what we do is genuine enough for the elements just to come in naturally. Because we’re from Mexico, people assume automatically that we play traditional music, so it’s funny just to start jammin’ Metallica. It makes the point that music doesn’t really have any borders, you can play whatever – music is music.”
From busking in Dublin restaurants, penniless and with little English, to playing sold-out stadiums with David Gray, the journey in-between has progressed at a whirlwind speed. “Well if we think back to the metal years when we were in Mexico,” recollects Rodrigo, “then of course that seems a long way away now. Although in general terms, to have started officially playing gigs with this kind of music 4 years ago here and actually having people pay to see you, that part of it has felt quite fast…but personally, it’s been a long road.”
Having chosen Ireland as their home away from home, the people here have taken to the duo with such enthusiasm that the country has proven to be a fertile ground for their music and a pivotal step in their success. When asked why the Irish people have responded so well to them, Rodrigo can only shake his head with a look that suggests he’s wondered the same thing countless times. “…That’s a question that I think I’ll never be able to answer,” he shrugs, nonplussed.
“But the Irish are a musical people,” chirps Gabriela. “They really, really love music here, and you can see that it’s one of the few countries that still has its traditional music alive. In other parts of the world, it’s not like that at all. So I think that love for music that the Irish have really helped for us to come here and start busking in the street.” Remembering it now, Gabriela lights up with a laugh: “People would be like ‘Where are you from? Ah! What the fuck are you doing here?!’”
Although an American record deal and a collaboration with Radiohead producer John Leckie both pay testament to their achievements, progressing on their own terms and protecting their live sound were issues Rod and Gab considered imperative. “Well (“Tamacun”) was a change in that it was the first time we became like a trio because John was so involved,” says Gabriela. “We were basically living with him 24 hours a day while we were recording the album. He would load so many different microphones around us, and we could just sit and play and play ’til we got it so it felt like a live gig.” “Yeah, we tried to get it as live as possible,” agrees Rodrigo. “I mean most musicians probably want that to happen in their albums, because it’s when you feel you can deliver the most.”
Returning to Dublin’s Olympia theatre in early April after a string of sold-out European dates, here’s hoping that delivering is something Rodrigo y Gabriela will continue to do…
Copyright © 2006 – Connected
There’s a little cleft somewhere between all things known and unknown on the collective musical radar, a transitory space where neither the anonymous nor the well-known are welcome. Sitting there comfortably is Dublin’s best-kept secret, Kevin McNamara. His sound is like a music box that, once heard, is one we’d all like to pry open and keep our hands in. However, only too aware that “singer-songwriter” has become a dirty word, he’s understandably keen to distance himself from the stereotype. Fortunately for us, his music does that for him.
“Well I’ve always hated the term singer-songwriter,” McNamara admits, “but I don’t mind as much nowadays because I’ve realised that people like Tim Buckley and Tom Waits had huge variation in what they did. It wasn’t about writing moody ballads, it was about being experimental, taking influences from jazz, folk, the avant-garde and mixing it all together with interesting stories and surreal lyrics. So even though in theory, I am one, I don’t want to be lumped in with those who’ve mucked up the name over the past few years – all that middle-of-the-road, boring, acoustic sludge.”
From tales of fantastical cornfields to rousing sea chanteys, McNamara’s upbeat shuffles are instantly beguiling by their very nature. “I’m never goin’ to sit down and write a horrible, dull love song,” he maintains. “I just think it’s far more interesting to write about the things you fantasise about in far-off lands. A lot of my songs deal with characters that sort of stand out from the norm, yearning for something they can’t quite grasp: the pirate, the stalker, the ventriloquist, the 14th century jewel thief.”
Beginning with his childhood visits to the piano, this playground of ideas was triggered by a certain sequence of events. “When I was younger, I used to sit down and write a little waltz or a marching tune, just because they’re so simple to get a nice melody with. Then when my parents went to Russia and brought back a few CDs, I just started getting into all this gypsy music. It really got me – the minor key and the strange melodies have such a rhythmical pulse to them. Musicals and operas always seemed to be around me as well…so I just absorbed them. I love the idea of writing elaborate stuff that has a strong basis for a story behind it.”
Occasionally joined by his band of cohorts, The Fillets, McNamara is eager to call upon jazz and funk musicians alike in order to get the most out of his eclectic songmanship. “When I’ve been writing these tunes, I’ve always pictured them as symphonic to a certain extent, adding in lots of things to fill out the sound completely. So working with a classically trained pianist with dynamic arrangements pushes my own stuff forward into a territory that most singer-songwriters don’t delve into.”
Naturally, then, McNamara’s style is difficult to pigeon-hole – a result due in no small part to his time spent harvesting used record collections. “With the advent of the Internet, and just from working near music shops, I used to pick up things at random, because music is all about taking chances. If you don’t take chances with what you’re purchasing, you’re not going to be able to take chances with what you’re writing.”
With a commanding range and an endless songbook of colourful escapades, McNamara’s gift for combining enchanting melodies, tango rhythms, and Tetris beats certainly makes for a mouth-watering prospect. A candidate for our new maestro of all things bohemian, don’t count on him inhabiting that clandestine cleft for long.For live dates and a tantalising three song taster, log onto:
Taken from Connected magazine, October 2005
Copyright © 2005 – Connected
Taken from The Event Guide, October 2005
Few musicians can boast the same kind of experience that violinist Eric Gorfain has amassed across his career thus far — his seemingly endless list of collaborations reads like a who’s who of the music industry (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Dr. Dre, and Ray Charles amongst them). As leader of The Section – a string quartet which features another violin, a viola, and a cello – Gorfain’s gift for arrangement and passion for rock has seen the group record a series of tribute albums (including track-for-track takes of Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”) that have been almost as plentiful and varied as Gorfain’s long line of musical appearances. In 2004, the group released “No Electricity Required,” a collection of instrumental renditions of modern rock classics by such artists as Jeff Buckley, Cream, and Iron Maiden, and have since been gaining further widespread acclaim for their magnetic live perfomances. I caught up with Eric ahead of The Section Quartet’s forthcoming tour of Ireland:
You’ve played in Ireland before, and most recently were here in 2004 with
the Section Quartet, but how did this Irish tour come about?
I first played in Ireland with Grant-Lee Phillips in 2002 and became
enamoured with your country. This tour will be my fifth trip to Ireland
since 2002, so I guess I’m hooked. The Section Quartet performed in Dublin
and Belfast in 2004 and based on that success, at the request of our
promoters Frank Donnelly and Peter Kinsella, we decided to come back and
play a few more towns this time around.
In what’s been a successful series, you’ve recorded a plethora of tribute
albums now with Vitamin Records; obviously they come to you with ideas to
pitch, and you to them, but is there are a part of you now that
automatically starts to wonder “what could I do with this, where can I
take it?” when listening to any music that passes through your ears?
When we were making records for Vitamin, they would come to me with ideas
for artists to cover and I would choose the songs. The craziest I thought they were, was when they came to me with Tool and Nine Inch Nails. However,
I was proved wrong as that material is some of my favourite by The Section
Quartet. Doing Radiohead, especially OK Computer in its entirety, was an
idea I pitched to the label. Now that we are autonomous and pick individual
songs that we want to translate to string quartet, I definitely hear things
that catch my ear and move me to attempt an arrangement.
There’s something about a well arranged performance of a rock piece
through strings that feels like it’s officially “canonising” the song; I
also think that when it’s channelled into such a graceful, eloquent sound,
it can make the listener re-think the song in a certain way, and it
often tends to bring out certain qualities that weren’t there before – so
in those ways, it’s much more of a tribute than a standard cover version
could be. Would you agree? And what objective or ambition do you have in
mind when you sit down to re-record a piece that you’re already a great
I agree that our translations of rock songs bring out different nuances in
the songwriting of the original versions. I never want to re-invent someone
else’s original composition. I just want to play music that I love myself,
and it’s always a challenge to bring that to string quartet.
How difficult is it to replace the drums – the rhythmic backbone of a song–
and the vocal melody in your arrangements?
Removing the drums, vocal melody and lyrics is definitely the hardest thing to do and when it works, it just shows the strength of the songwriting.
I’d also imagine that the above mentioned process works in reverse –
someone who might have never even considered giving Tool or Incubus a
listen may find themselves going through their back catalogue after being
introduced to them via a string quartet – do fans ever relate to you their
accounts of this happening?
My parents went out and bought OK Computer and after hearing our version.
And they liked it! They even listened to some Tool records, though it’s not
quite their cup of tea. We would love for listeners to go back and check
out the original music we’re translating.
The Section Quartet: (l to r) Leah Katz (viola), Eric Gorfain (violin), Richard Dodd (cello), Daphne Chen (violin). Photo: http://www.thesectionquartet.com
Obviously, there must be a lot of satisfaction to be had from delighting and winning
over die-hard fans who know their favourite artists’ works inside-out, but
as an accomplished musician with such an incredible résumé, is there a point
where you set your sights on recording original material with The Section
Quartet or branching into more producing, especially now that the group’s
reputation seems to be spreading all the time?
We have recorded a handful of original songs for some of the Vitamin tribute
albums, but we’ve decided to leave that for something down the road. We
enjoy bringing rock music to the string quartet and are incorporating new
songs into our set all the time. We’re also considering several full albums
to re-create, as we did with OK Computer and Dark Side of the Moon. I do
produce albums for rock bands and pop artists, both here in LA and also in
Japan, where I lived for four years.
You were very much an integral part of the sound behind Grant Lee
Phillips’ “Virginia Creeper” album, and as a consequence, when Grant and
the “Virginia Creepers” performed a session for KCRW at the beginning of
their tour in 2004 (from which you were absent), the sound seem emptied of
something, particularly with “Mona Lisa” (Grant even commented on this
himself). I must add that Grant and the band had their own way of coming
together and working around that by the time they finished the tour in
Dublin (and I know that The Section appeared with them at the London
date), but what is it like being involved from the very outset in the
song-writing process, and then in the studio, but not being able to
continue out on the road?
I love working with Grant-Lee. In fact, I just played with Grant-Lee and the
band last weekend in Santa Barbara, California. I wish I could accompany
Grant-Lee wherever he goes, but my own schedule with The Section Quartet
doesn’t make it completely feasible. Making Virginia Creeper was an amazing
experience; Grant would play the songs for us and we would add our parts on
The paths of rock or guitar-based music and classical instrumentation seem
to be increasingly converging. Outside of certain types of modern music
written in a classical way (I’m think of Frank Zappa here), in your
experience, has there been a substantial shift between a violinist or a
string section being used in a more complimentary or supporting role (as
with groups in the 60’s and 70’s) to becoming engaged at the very core of
the sound of an increasing number of contemporary artists (such as Beck or
The guitar in rock music has been taken to every extreme, both minimalist
and over-the-top, so perhaps violins or strings are the next extension of
that guitar-based culture. It’s always great to hear a well-written string
arrangement on a rock song, but perhaps I’m biased!
The Section Quartet. Photo: Debby Wang.
L.A.’s Largo, where you have performed quite a bit, seems to be a bit of a
hotspot at the moment for overlapping circles of different musicians (Jon
Brion, Fiona Apple, Grant Lee Phillips amongst them); as a frequent
collaborator with big-name artists, how often do you find your career path
being shaped by all the connections and opportunities you make along the
way? And are there any dream collaborations at the top of your list that
you’d still like to do one day?
Being part of the Largo family is an honour and a thrill every time I walk
through the door. With the encouragement from Grant-Lee and Jon Brion, I’ve
been able to further my musical development as a violinist, arranger and
a band leader, because working with such talented people raises my own game
to new levels. In the future I’d love to work with Peter Gabriel. But
there are so many dream collaborations out there that I hesitate to mention
Finally, it seems to have been a whirlwind time for you and the group
lately, how have you found it, and what lies on the horizon in the near
In the last year alone we have toured Ireland and the UK, performed at the
Coachella Music Festival on an 80 foot stage in front of thousands of
people, rocked out with Tenacious D and Dave Grohl, recorded with a variety
of artists and generally had a great time! We never know what the future
brings, which is part of the thrill of what we do for a living. We will be
recording new songs after our Irish tour and perhaps explore the Internet
more as a method of getting our music to listeners.
It’s just after three a.m. when I sit down for an interview with Wayne Fontaine, former frontman of New Zealand’s Dogs on Prozac. These small hours of a stormy October night literally mark the end of the Kiwi’s visit to Ireland — a stay that eventually grew to take up over a half of a year-long, round-the-world journey. Fontaine found himself undertaking such a trip after Dogs on Prozac bassist Baz Turner and his girlfriend were both tragically killed in a car crash the day after a gig. At that moment in time, things had only begun to take off for the group, and, as it happened, the band had just been picked up for a major overseas tour by production company Pogomotion on the Monday following the accident.
Left – Right: Wayne Fontain, Morse, Baz Turner. Photo from dogsonprozac.com
Up until that point, the music career of Wayne Fontaine had long been used to taking unexpected turns. At the debut performance of his first band, Jermimah Mud Duck, Fontaine had been suspended indefinitely from school after announcing “fuck the system!” to an audience made up of four hundred friends and family members. After getting himself readmitted on a technicality, it was not long before he was permanently expelled on abduction charges. Fontaine then went on to form bands “Asylum and Hypnocide” and “Green Gum Boots,” gigging with the likes of Tahu Jacomb, a classically trained “mad Maori genius.” Dogs on Prozac’s beginnings, however, took much longer to get off the ground. After initially using the insurance money from a stolen surf board to buy a guitar in order to form the band, Fontaine ended up moving away from Rotorua to the likes of Hamilton and Auckland, where he worked on film soundtracks until succumbing to a drug-induced nervous breakdown: “I was just tripping with the wrong people, man.” Deciding to move home to start anew with the band, Dogs on Prozac finally got in gear with a “good burst” of creative energy.
In their first gig back together, they won recording time in the Waikato Battle of the Bands competition, won the previous year by The Datsuns. With a live show that involved multi-media projections and numerous costumes, the group gradually built up “a reputation for being a pack of freaks,” landing them supporting gigs with The D4 (Hollywood Records), live radio sessions, and even the number one slot on a viewer’s choice chart for their music video “The Insect Politician.” After opening for The Datsuns in a gig that saw Dogs on Prozac inadvertently steal the show, the band were left with a taste for more and decided to pursue a career as a group on a full-time basis. “Six months later, [The Datsuns] blew up. It was then that we knew we’d have to go to Europe to make things happen, to chase something down.”
With “mastermind” managerTim Fulton at the helm, the band made new recordings, shot a video for “Fonzie Gets the Girls,” furthered their own promotion with “guerrilla tactics,” and set their sights on heading to England in mid-2003. The drummer, Olly Eason, however, didn’t feel ready for such a move and subsequently left the band, later to be replaced by “Morse” (pictured above). However, taking such a change in tandem with the sudden death of Turner, things looked to be all but over for the group. Yet, undeterred, Fontaine took to the studio to complete the production on the band’s recordings, still reeling from the loss. Enlisting Trent “TNT” Towers (a previous band mate from earlier musical incarnations)
and the original drummer, Eason, Dogs on Prozac performed a final sell-out gig for the launch of their EP, “Songs for the Soon to Be Dead.”
Photo from dogsonprozac.com
Wasting no time in immersing himself in the music scene, including a brief, experimental stint with producer Ivan Jackman and Skuzzi Port drummer Chris Connaughton in forming “Death Metal Distortion Bastards,” Fontaine was impressed with what he found: “The musicians I’ve seen have been really talented, even day-to-day jamming in people’s lounges and all that kind of carry on – they’ve all been amazing. Yeah, there are some good things happening.”
However, the lack of a regular outlet for performing live has come as a great source of frustration for the singer, leaving him with a feeling he describes as being “just impotent… Music is like my manhood, and playing live is like having sex.” A certain sense of respite came in the form of a one-off gig in Dublin’s Temple Bar Music Centre in July, where Fontaine performed some of his new material in an approach that involved combining spoken-word with the electric guitar: “It was exciting, it was cool, because I’ve never done anything like that before at all, and it was really interesting to see what the reaction was going to be… especially the spoken word stuff, because you have to rely on that imagery to carry the whole thing.”
Performing in Temple Bar Music Centre, July 2004.
Along with planning to record the new album with a band, and potentially looking to tour overseas some time next year, Fontaine will
also be resuming his film-making once he returns to New Zealand in November. Although he feels that the marriage between sound and image is a problematic one (and something he’d ideally like to keep separate), Fontaine can’t help developing a clear idea for the execution of a video for “Wayne Fontaine’s Black Holes”: “It starts with an antenna system around the world, shooting up. I’m not sure if it’s going to be done with people, animation… or sock puppets (laughs) — just to debase the whole seriousness of the idea. But it’s basically sending waves through the television in lightning bolts, keeping people controlled by television — there’s a little bit of a back story to it. Then there’s a group of underground scientists who send off a mission into space towards a black hole because there’s been a beacon discovered. On the way there, just on the horizon of the black hole, the captain is possessed by aliens and ends up venturing into it by himself in a space suit, and as he falls deeper and deeper into it, he goes through a different, alternative reality in different states of being, evolving into a static electro-being that shoots across the universe and ends up shorting out all the telecommunications and setting people free.”
The ease with which we relinquish our time to the lure of television is clearly something that troubles Fontaine. As a songwriter, he has often felt disgusted at the amount of references to T.V. that he has found in his own work, as if they had slipped in there subconsciously, only to be recognised once he had stepped back to take in the bigger picture: “The thing about T.V. is that it’s completely telling you what to see, hear, and almost teaching you not to think. It’s putting you in a trance-like state, seducing you…”
Although he feels that he is still at an early stage in his career, after losing his friend and band mate to an untimely death, Wayne Fontaine has learned not to take anything for granted, even if it means accepting that your peak may already be in the rear-view mirror: “You’ve always got to think it’s your peak, simple as that… I imagine it haunts all people who have moved on in life, even just with simple things like being able to keep your balance when you’re older, watching some young person run down the stairs, and then having to hobble down them yourself,” he says, breaking
into laughter. “I remember when Tim Fulton, the manager of Dogs on Prozac, and I, were up working on a press-kit for the band. We were talking about bands that don’t realise when they’ve peaked, and they get pissed off because people aren’t flocking to their concerts like they used to be, or their faces aren’t on all the magazines. I was saying to him that you have to realise what your peak is, and I said ‘this could be our peak right now, working on this press-kit. This could be the peak of our careers.’”
For someone with so many detailed plans to look forward to, it’s certainly a sobering thought for the New Zealander. His laugh fades as he puts a hand to his jaw, looking down at the table contemplatively: “It’s a hard thing to ponder, until you’ve been through the process, I imagine… I try to say I don’t believe in anything, because the sun may not rise tomorrow, it might blow up, or whatever… you might die.” And with that, Wayne Fontaine steps out into the blustering dark to leave for the airport; the final destination of his trip, New York, laying in wait. Slightly dazed at such prospects of uncertainty, Wayne Fontaine is taking things in with one eye on what he’s been through, and one eye on what’s still to come.
Formed at a party a little over three years ago when a guitar was passed across a smoky room, Tiarnan, Will, and Steff (also known as simply TWS) have been turning heads on the Irish music sceneever since with their brand of synchronised acoustic ramblings. Tiarnan Jones, a former member of the band Picksell, recalls the original idea behind the group: “We were just bored with what was going on and wanted to do something different – we never really had a set idea or style we wanted to play, but I think when we heard the Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela and the whole instrumental rock scene that was blossoming around Dublin, it kind of encouraged us to write more music that didn’t necessarily have a set verse/chorus/verse structure.”
Tiarnan, Will, & Steff
In order to reflect their admittedly diverse tastes (being influenced by everything from 70′s hard rock to electronica), TWS are quite conscious about fusing together as many elements as possible while still maintaining a completely live, instrumental, and unplugged sound: “We all listen to every type of music and try to make that stand out in our own work – the three of us all have a very different style of playing guitar, due to our varied musical up-bringings. Stef used to run a record shop, so he in particular has an absolutely massive collection.” With a spatter of breakdowns in their songs often driven on by heavy, grinding riffs, an appreciation of Metal seemed like a natural thing to inquire about: “There is definitely a Metal influence or appreciation in the stuff we write…the lads (Will and Steff) were in a hardcore Metal band years ago and obviously listened to a lot of it. Although I wasn’t too big into Metal when we formed…I do listen to a lot of it now.”
As for the obvious streak of crazed, freakish folk to their songwriting, I asked whether the group were encouraged by the success of artists such as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, and the spate of what’s been lazily dubbed a “new folk revolution” in America at the moment. “I know I am,” Jones replies enthusiastically. “I listen to a lot of that stuff and I know the lads like it when ever they hear it — especially Devandra Banhart’s guitar playing!”
Armed with just three acoustic guitars, combining all these different components in their music is no easy task, but audiences frequently get the impression that there’s a connection between these three lunaticsthat seems to assist the way they read each other as they’re building a bricolage of overlapping solos: “It would be a lot easier if we did have psychic powers, believe me! With a lot of our newer stuff, there are plenty of offbeat timings and that can be very confusing… it can get a bit confusing even listening to it. But if you ever see us jammin’, you’ll see us nodding to each other and we all go off on our own tangents.”
Will & Steff
Although their live performances seem to have an impromptu or spontaneous feel, TWS are surprisingly wary of their own output levels: “The first song we ever wrote is called ’25% of a decade’…because it took us two and a half years for us to be happy to call it a song. Some songs take along time to write, and then when we think we have it the way we want it…Will changes it again!” Yet with seven songs already in the can, the band are hoping to add to that tally by recording a further six tracks of new material, and possibly combining them all into one album. “For the last two months we’ve been taking a break because we’re all really busy with other projects, but we have about six songs we haven’t recorded yet. We wrote these new songs after Will came back from his trip to New Zealand. They’re much shorter but a lot more up tempo. We’re not still really sure if we want to leave the songs that short so we might go back to a few of them and add a little more – until we are happy with them, they won’t be recorded!” And so with one eye on a prolific summer, Tiarnan, Will, and Steff look to keep their instrumental madness rolling out toward as many as possible.