DECEM BER 2008
€ free / £ free / $ free / dkr free / ¥ free
tapping a rich vein:
tilly and the wall I RELAN D’S MUSIC PAYLOAD
rsag Going Overground
berlin The Emerald Exile
Halfset Chicks Le Galaxie Snow Patrol
How I learned to stop worrying and love the pomp
Queer & Alternative incoming:
Beastie Boys Fiona Melady Lir Elton John
Max Tundra Hideaway House Jack L
and the best reviews in
albums, downloads, games & dvds 1
DU K E S P E C I A L P H O T O G R A P H E D F OR S TAT E B Y RO G E R WO OL M A N
i s s u e 0 8 m i g h t w e l l co n ta i n . . .
incoming Levi Stubbs, you say goodbye. We say hello to Chairlift, Johnny Foreigner, Fiona Melady and Jazmine O’Sullivan. Dan Hegarty on Lir, Jeff Weiss on the fall of the music industry in LA. The tunes fuelling the State engine right now. Niall Byrne’s unveils his roots and Chris Russell’s nightmare. music is my radar Tattoo you – Paddy O’Donohoe, director of the International Dublin Tattoo Convention.
circuit breakers Q&A: Dublin’s longest running gay club night is approaching its 10th anniversary.
b lo g s ta n da r d Windowclicker.
input Your dose of the good stuff. Albums: Snow Patrol, Keane, Razorlight and The Cure – the big guns return. DVD: Wim Wenders’ most important movie since Wings Of Desire. TV: broadcasters feel the credit crunch .Games: rewarding your mercenary behaviour.
80 a n g e r m a n a g e m e n t Our Art Director gets his tongue twisted in another language, but comes out fighting.
DUKE SPECIAL From playing covers in swanky members’ lounges to duelling with Neil Hannon, via a pitstop in Austria with a bunch of pissed-up football fans, it’s been a long, strange journey into the spotlight for the Duke. RSAG Jeremy Hickey on his long overnight success, making the album he wanted to make and disagreeing with State’s opinion.
20 H I D E A W A Y H O U S E How the DIY counter-culture could be happening right next door. 26 T I L L Y A N D T H E W A L L Inside one of the craziest bands in the world, from tap-dancing to true democracy. 30 B E R L I N The Irish go East: Nina Hynes et al explain why the German capital is a real spiritual home to a host of Irish artists. 34 J A C K L The Kildare bard talks cover versions, political incorrectness and the power of song. 38 H A L F S E T It took Halfset three years to make one of the albums of 2008: they tell us why. 40 C H I C K S John Joe Worrall reunites the three Dublin schoolgirls who had the world at their feet and finds out why it went wrong. 46 M A X T U N D R A The king of electronic waxes confessional about online gaming, karaoke and Beyoncé.
Webulars o n state . ie t h i s m o n t h State reports on the bands you’ll be hearing about in the coming months from CMJ in New York. We talked London in ’08 with Nitin Sawhney, discussed Father Ted with Roots Manuva, life-changing accidents with My Ruin and posted brilliant downloadable mixes from Warp band Pivot and The Expert of Messiah J & The Expert fame. Lovely jubbly.
People love analogies. Well, they love making analogies, not necessarily listening to them or reading them. There seems to be a particular predilection for equating everything to “making love to a beautiful woman”. Well, let us be the first to tell you that producing State every month is absolutely nothing like doing the dirty with either sex, beautiful or otherwise. It is, however, a whole lot of sweat and hard work. But mostly, it’s great fun. As music lovers, and that’s what we are, despite what you might think from the occasional review, there is nothing more satisfying than discovering something new and amazing, and having the forum to share your newfound discovery with like-minded souls is just the icing on this particularly sweet cake. Of course, sometimes it’s frustrating: when you’re waiting for the last album review before you can fire the pages through cyberspace to our Art Director in Copenhagen and it’s late on the
Friday evening of a bank holiday weekend and you want to go the pub, goddammit ‘cos you’re worth it, it can be a pain in the Swiss. Or when you’ve put a whole lot of work into researching an interview that’s cancelled for the umpteenth time at the last minute, you do tend to curse flaky musicians the world over. But for the most part, we wouldn’t swap it for the world, ‘cos with every issue, there are moments that make it worth all the frustration. Maybe it’s getting to chinwag for an hour or two with Duke Special, who we first encountered in a hotel residents’ bar in Galway, banging out requests on a baby grand piano – he does a mean Tom Waits, incidentally. Perhaps it’s debating the merits of a review with its subject, as was the case with RSAG. Or it could be something as simple as hearing the stunning debut album from Armoured Bear for the first time. To have other people not just understand what it is that we’re trying to achieve with State
JOHN WALSHE editor
phil udell editor
Simon Roche art director
Roger Woolman publisher
Niall Byrne assistant editor & web editor
Aoife McDonnell operations manager advertising and marketing enquiries – email@example.com
James Goulden James thinks that Jaffa Cakes will one day make him the world’s best photographer. Until then him and his missus will keep shooting bands for payment in biscuits. Favourite John Wayne film? Never seen a whole one but did you know he sells beef jerky on ebay? Rock, paper or scissors? Paper
~ John Walshe and Phil Udell
contributor vs contributor
but actively encourage it certainly helps, though. And so it proved at the inaugural Irish Web Awards, where our sister site, www.state.ie, was named Irish Music Website of the Year: an incredible night for the entire State team. We were truly delighted to be shortlisted for the awards, so to actually win was a tremendous honour. We’ve also been amazed by the reaction to our decision to go down the route of free distribution. We knew we were doing something exciting, but the feedback has been unbelievable. Basically, we’re thrilled skinny (and if you saw us, you’d know how big a feat that is) with the magazine (both physical and online) reaching more people than we hoped: the online version alone was read over 14,000 times over the last month. We wanted to expand what we do and it would seem that we’ve succeeded. Good times. We’re certainly enjoying the ride.
contributing writers dan hegarty, tanya sweeney, john joe worrall, maia dunphy, saoirse patterson, dave donnelly, jennifer gannon, ciara o’brien, shane galvin, martin mciver, david o mahony, durell connor, ciarán ryan, jenna wolf, david mclaughlin, jeff weiss, warren jones, kara manning, sinéad gleeson, johnnie craig, bobby ahern, cian traynor, louise healy, paul byrne, joe crosby, chris russell, tia clarke, sean feeny, elaine o’neil, shane culloty, pamela halton, miles stewart, kate rothwell, hilary a. white, darragh mccausland, aoife mcdonnell, michael dwyer, patricia danaher, niall crumlish, olivia mai, aiden fortune, alexandra donald, jack higgin, anna forbes, paula shields
photographers richard gilligan, lili forberg, marcelo biglia, scott ‘n’ goulden, zoran orlic, liam sweeney, loreana rushe, feargal ward
brenb, nathalie nysted, christian kirkegaard
BRENB BRENB draws pictures and typography 24hrs a day from his studio at the back of the 25A bus. Favourite John Wayne film? ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’. In a cameo as a Roman Centurion at the crucifixtion he drawls “Truly, this man was the son of God.” Gets me every time! Rock, paper or scissors? Paper
State Magazine Ltd, 4th Floor, Equity House, 16-17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7.
State is published monthly by Tel: (01) 888 0660 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.state.ie issn 2009-0897 All materials © State Magazine 2008. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any part of the magazine without the written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited. Although State Magazine has endeavoured to ensure that all information
result: DRAw. Pah! Artiiists.
is correct, prices and details may be subject to change. The opinions expressed are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of State Magazine Ltd.
Which 100 free tracks will you choose? Buy a Nokia 5220 or 5320 and get 100 tracks of your choice FREE. Choose from over 2.5 million tracks on the Nokia Music Store: www.music.nokia.ie Only available on Meteor
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Ease Yourself In
they might be giants
Chairlift Forget the frankly hideous moniker, State is hugely excited by the imminent Irish debut of this Brooklyn band. You know when a song grabs your whole metaphysical self and refuses to let you acknowledge anything else until it’s over and the only choice is to hit repeat? That’s how we felt when we first heard ‘Planet Health’, a celestial synth, bass and twinkle-heavy song which has echoes of The Knife. Chairlift go beyond that template on their other material, however, and with endorsements from MGMT and Yeasayer in the bag, expect to hear more about this threepiece when their debut Does You Inspire You is released. Listen: ‘Planet Health’ Click: http://www.myspace.com/chairlift See: Whelans, Dublin, November 22; Cypress Avenue, Cork, November 23.
100 albums to avoid before you die
No. 8 L7: Bricks are Heavy
It was with great sadness that State learned of the recent death of Levi Stubbs (far right in picture), the lead vocalist of The Four Tops, arguably the most successful Motown group ever, selling more than 50 million records worldwide. Stubbs had been ill for some time, having being diagnosed with cancer as far back as 1995, and he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 72. Stubbs crammed a hell of a lot into his time on the planet, however, forming The Four Tops (initially The Four Arms) with friends Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir, Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson and Lawrence Payton, in 1954, signing to Motown Records in 1963, enjoying decades of hits, including ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)’, ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, ‘Still Water (Love)’, and ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)’ and being inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990. He also provided the voice of carnivorous plant, Audrey II, in the 1986 film, Little Shop Of Horrors.
As with a lot of things, the blame for the elevation of LA’s L7 to mainstream status can be directly apportioned to the success of Nirvana. Pre-1991, they were another middling grunge band on the Sub Pop label. Once Nevermind turned the music world on its head, the four-piece were perfectly placed to take advantage. Snapped up to a major label, it helped that they had their own superb single in the shape of ‘Pretend We’re Dead’. All
of which made this turgid album that followed more disappointing. With nothing to match that lead track, the band became notable for their ‘controversial’ antics rather than their music. The appeal of both was to swiftly fade and they returned to their indie roots before finally disbanding in 2000. Don’t download: ‘Shitlist’, ‘Wargasm’ If you hate this don’t listen to: Tad, Lunachicks
fueling the state engine from the present…
they might be giants
Florence & The Machine W : You’ve Got The Love Original by The Source, now resurected brilliantly.
Passion Pit: Sleepyhead The sound of Boston today.
Armoured Bear: Imagination Music to make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.
Take That: Greatest Day Proving that their comeback was no flash in the pan.
Messiah J & The Expert: Jean Is Planning an Escape Doing hip-hop better than most of their international counterparts.
…& from the past Kelis: Millionaire (feat. Andre 3000) Still sounds as fresh as new socks five years later.
Live: Selling The Drama Old school REM meets Pearl Jam rock from American supergroup who couldn’t get arrested in Europe.
Hanoi Rocks: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams If the words “protégé of Missy Elliot” fill you with fear, then you may well have given Jazmine O’Sullivan a wide berth. That, however, would be to miss out on a young woman who has far more to offer than the standard clichéd take on modern soul music. As befits someone who was singing onstage at the Harlem Apollo at the age
of 11, O’Sullivan’s music is steeped in the classic as well as the unexpected: how many other R’n’B divas would take a reggae track to number one in the US? Listen: ‘Bust Your Windows’, Fearless Click: www.jazmineosullivan.com
wulffmorgenthaler: by Wulff & Morgenthaler
Should have been huge but weren’t, unbelievably still going.
Blue Oyster Cult: Don’t Fear The Reaper Optimistic, fatalistic, beautifully dark – extended guitar solo and all.
Gene Pitney: Only Love Can Break a Heart The most passioned heartbreak song ever. Bar none.
Incoming My Roots Are Showing: Niall Byrne
Beastie Boys One evening after school, I rifled through a grey plastic container of recorded cassette tapes belonging to my elder sister. As a music-hungry 13-year-old, I was looking for a copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind. My grubby young hands thumbed cassettes from Temple Of The Dog, The Breeders, Babes In Toyland, Rage Against The Machine and a myriad of forgotten grunge acts. One cassette’s contents, written in my sister’s neat handwriting, appealed more than the others, however, primarily because of titles like ‘Heart Attack Man’, ‘Tough Guy’, and ‘B-Boys Making With The Freak Freak’. That album was Ill Communication. The Beasties’ 1994 album was easily the most mind-blowing thing I’d heard up to that point. It starts with a dog whimpering before ‘Sure Shot’ hits in with its crackled flute sample, funky percussion and the distinctive timbres of MCA, Mike D and Adrock. The rest of the album’s 19 songs live up to that initial promise: high grade reference-heavy rap, short thrashy hardcore punk, infinitely quotable interludes, sheep samples, funk-based instrumentals, one of the best songs ever to combine punk riffs and scratching in ‘Sabotage’, Q-Tip and Tibetan monk chants. The remainder of my school years could basically be pinpointed by the Beasties’ back catalogue, as myself and my fellow fanatic Ciaran
walked to school rapping lines at each other, copied the ‘Intergalactic’ dance, and shared issues of the short-lived cult Beastie mag, Grand Royal. We even started a Beastie Boys fansite called Alright Hear This. I always loved the way the Beasties approached things, whether it was their consistently playful interviews, their fondness for alter-egos and wigs, or the care and attention given to their music videos. I love the way they recorded hours of live band material and then sampled
and cut up the fruits of their labour into hip-hop tracks for Hello Nasty. I love the drug-induced polychromatic sample mecca of Paul’s Boutique, the puerile but entertaining Licensed To Ill, the eclectic brilliance of Check Your Head, the instrumental albums, the pisstake country songs and the ephemeral punk tunes. They are three guys from New York who took me on a multi-faceted journey through music and continue to inspire me to listen. To paraphrase ‘Sure Shot’, I strap on those ear goggles and I’m ready to go.
they might be giants
now we know that…
State.ie won Best Music Website in the Irish Web Awards! Huzzah! Axl Rose is finally ready to release his 15-year-in-the-making-Guns album Chinese Democracy on November 21st. TV on the Radio, Mike Patton and Doseone of Subtle may be forming a supergroup! Bjork and Thom Yorke team up for a charity single to benefit the Icelandic environment. One of our editors was pleased to hear Take That are to play Croker in June 2009. The Led Zepp reunion marches on. Robert Plant to be replaced by someone more Robert Plant-like.
Formed in Birmingham in 2006, three-piece Johnny Foreigner have been making measured progress towards this year’s debut album through limited edition and split singles. The result is a band quite ready to live up to the attention that’s surely due to come their way. Described by one blogging source as “furious guitar botherers”, any band that a) has a tune
called ‘Salt, Peppa and Spinderella’ (recently remixed by Bloc Party) and b) a drummer called Junior Elvis Washington Laidley is most definitely fine by us. Listen: ‘Sometimes, In The Bullring’, Waited Up Til It Was Light Click: www.myspace.com/johnnyforeigner See: Whelans, Dublin, November 12
MIA is pregnant. Damn. Pitchfork are releasing a book of the top 500 songs. Free hipster not included. Sheffield indie-popsters The Long Blondes split up because their guitarist had a stroke.
F o r F u r t h e r I n f o r m a t i o n C o n t a c t N O R E A S T: T ( 0 4 2 ) 9 3 3 9 8 5 8
E I N F O @ N O R E A S T. I E
W W W W. N O R E A S T. I E
Incoming my favourite worst nightmare: Chris Russell
The Lightyears on snow patrol It was in the great spirit of independence that my band embarked on its first ever international tour a couple of years ago, with little more than hunger for success and access to Google Maps. In place of a Nightliner, we had an ageing Vauxhall Omega, a car which we had bought off our guitarist’s dad that didn’t so much say “rock and roll freewheelers” as “Sunday afternoon at Furniture Village”. Into this vehicle we managed to squeeze an entire PA system, all our instruments and four grown men. This, believe me, was a miracle of spatial engineering. After 14 hours driving down through France, we eventually arrived at our chalet at around 2.30am. We were met there by ‘The Booking Agent’, a man who would never look you directly in the eye, probably for a very good reason. It was as if he’d shot your grandmother in her sleep and didn’t want you to find out. We enquired after the unmade beds which, apart from looking distinctly uncomfortable, were entirely devoid of sheets. “Didn’t you get the memo about bedding?” The Agent replied. Memo? Bedding? And it was with that that we found ourselves, on our first night of our inaugural European tour, struggling to achieve slumber under makeshift quilts fashioned from napkins and flannels. Which very much set the tone for the coming week. We were touring the clubs and bars of high-society ski resort Meribel, sometimes playing for up to four hours a day. This was our Hamburg. Our initiation into the daily grind of a touring band. Only instead of the Top Ten Club and the red-light district, we had “Cross-Dresser Night” at Le Pub. After about a week, the hefty gigging schedule began to take its toll on our drummer and he developed a stomach bug of epic proportions. He was up all night, literally sluicing from both ends. And when somebody is projectilevomiting next to your head for six straight hours, it’s really quite tricky to get any decent shut-eye.
The Lightyears doing what bands do on tour – namely waiting around, posing
The next morning he stumbled into the living room looking like the abandoned love-child of Quasimodo and Pete Doherty. Sadly, however, there was no opportunity for respite as we were scheduled to scale the mountains once more in search of Le Rond Point, the next venue on the tour. The weather up until this point had been clement, since April usually brings very little snowfall in the Alps. As a result, we were woefully unprepared for the enormous blizzard that was about to hit. Driving at 3mph along winding mountain roads through a violent snowstorm in a heavily-loaded car with virtually zero visibility is pretty bloody scary. Was this it? Would we be remembered as a modern-day Lynyrd Skynyrd, plucked from life in a cruel motoring accident at the height of our potential? Needless to say, we didn’t meet our demise on the mountain-side that day. But we came pretty close. And so now, if any prospective tour manager asks us to bring our own bedding or drops the phrase “Cross-Dresser Night” into conversation, we know to run a mile.
average white male
elton john There are many people out there only too willing to own up to being Elton John fans, to rush to his defence and proclaim what a great contemporary songwriter he is. Perhaps willing to firebomb State’s offices for not agreeing with them. To those people we simply have four words: ‘Candle In The Wind’. The greatest pile of schmaltz-ridden, sickly, sentimental crap produced in recent years. The 1997 version is the second greatest selling single in history but that’s no indicator of a good song; let’s face it, the people that bought it are the kind of people who probably only own one single and who would vote for Robbie William’s ‘Angels’ as the greatest song of all time. To be fair, there are moments of greatness in his back catalogue. ‘Tiny Dancer’, ‘Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters’ and ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ are all incredible songs. However, it seems that Mr John lost more than his hair as the ’70s progressed. His songwriting became progressively more cheesy and saccharine until
the ’90s when we were served the unmitigated drivel that is ‘Hakuna Matata’ or Lestat: The Musical. It’s been a long time since Elton delivered a song that is a classic of his oeuvre and he seems to be in that category of musicians who should have thrown the towel in a long time ago (ref: Stones, Rolling; Osbourne, Ozzy) leaving us free to remember them only at their best. He must be lauded for his charity work and
for his financial contributions to the cause of AIDS, but really it’s only fair for someone who spent £293,000 on flowers in a single year and whose 50th birthday costume cost more than £80,000. And lest we forget, it appears he is friends with Victoria Beckham and Elizabeth Hurley. One supposes that could be construed as charity work but by all accounts the friendship is genuine. It’s all a bit tabloid and flashy to be truly cool, Elton. He’s far too middle class, too materialistic and too much of a Hello magazine celebrity to really be considered a rock star anymore. And for someone who apparently has excellent taste in all things aesthetic and an unlimited budget, you’d think he would have bought more convincing hair plugs. Let’s leave it to someone who knows him best to deliver the final verdict. He’s a “fat, balding, talentless old queen who can’t sing”. Who said it? Elton himself.
md by livedemo
Incoming from our foreign correspondent: Jeff Weiss In
they might be giants
Last month in Porter Ranch, a preternaturally placid bedroom community in the foothills of northwest Los Angeles, an unemployed financial advisor shot and killed his wife, his three sons and his mother-in-law, before turning the gun on himself. His official excuse: the rapidly imploding economy. Of course, that’s a convenient scapegoat. After all, fiscal ruin usually leads to a tightening of the belt, not devising ways to turn it into a noose. But around here, in the midst of these jangled, ashen times, such sickening twists of fate ring clarion. Maybe you’re wondering what this all has to do with the music world. Superficially, the answer is nothing; yet inevitably, certain folks in the business are likely considering sordid suicide pacts as I scrawl. After all, the industry that once headquartered itself in this sun-soaked cesspool isn’t merely grasping at straws to save its business (ringtones, re-issues, Rihanna… oh my!), it’s well beyond that: the ship wrecked, the passengers flailing at icebergs as frozen as the American credit markets. With CD sales plummeting weekly, and a glut of e-mails commencing with, “Today Will Be My Last Day At [Insert Record Label Here]”, these are dark days indeed. But you already knew that—and really, who gives a flying fuck if the fat cats that foisted $17.95 Chumbawamba records upon you are going the way of the Sabretooth. Unfortunately, the reverberations are seismic, with practically every record shop (both independent and non-indie alike) in this bumbling metropolis of 3 million-plus having shut its doors over the past 24 months, save for San Francisco-based behemoth Amoeba. As for the poor hacks trying to cover the industry, myself included, it’s been a ghastly stretch, with media companies at best bracing themselves for the perpetual ad-dollar decline. At worst, you have the LA Times, once one of the nation’s finest newspapers, forced to lay off roughly half its arts section, with the scalpel particularly incisive on the music department. Even the once thriving Silverlake scene seems moribund of late, with nary a breakout band having emerged in years, with the bars of the rapidly gentrifying enclave fast filling up with poseurs and the fedora clad-Fedayeen priced out of more posh parts of town. If there’s a ray of light to be found at all, the wise money would bet it all on The Smell, the seedy downtown hub that’s spawned buzz acts like No Age (pictured) , Mika Miko, HEALTH, and Abe Vigoda. Indeed, the venue’s emergence strikes with a peculiarly apt logic, because as anyone around here tangentially connected to the world of music could tell you: shit stinks.
Melady may have come first come to our attention playing keyboards with Turn, but her solo guise is a much more intriguing proposition. Produced by Halfset’s Stephen Shannon (always a mark of quality), her debut album is a collection of impressive songs, based around her piano and soulful voice, but with a few left turns thrown in for good measure. Listen: ‘How Far’, The Fear I Fear Click: www.myspace.com/fionamelady See: Backroom Sessions, Navan, November 21
come in your time’s up
Ms Dynamite In 2002, Ms Dynamite seemed to have the world at her feet. Her debut album had just won the Mercury Music Prize and she was being lauded on both sides of the Atlantic as a genuinely original voice. Come 2008 and her second album had bombed, she’d been arrested for landing one on a copper and her highest profile appearance was on a reality tv show crashing a very fast car. However, her UK garage mixtape ‘A Little Darker’ and recent 1XTRA radio slot suggests that she might be back in the game soon.
Incoming dan hegarty
Riffs Of Nostalgia
my headphones what real folk are listening to
Jacob Funch musician
Hi, what’s playing in your headphones? “I’m listening to demos we just did.” Oh. What’s the name of your band? “I Got You On Tape.” Have you ever listened back to some of the music that you were into years ago, and wondered how you didn’t realise that it was shite at the time? Or get slightly mystified as to how it was ever considered good? Retrospect can often put a major dampener on what could have otherwise been a perfectly enjoyable bit of nostalgia. Times change, as do styles and tastes: this leaves some music sounding redundant, even ridiculous. Thankfully, there are always those times when you go back to an album or an artist, and you realise how special they actually were. Lir are one of those bands that slipped out of my mind over the years. It happens all the time, a band stops playing and releasing material, and you move onto something else. I’ve seen Lir play live more times than I’ve been to mass (and I went to mass a lot when I was a kid!). In fact, I think I spent more of my time going see them and their peers than I did in school or college at the time. As they gained notoriety, so did the variety of comparisons that were thrown their way. They were equal parts Led Zeppelin, Nick Drake, and Sly & The Family Stone. Initially I struggled to hear any of these, but as I became more familiar with their music, aspects of these three (and other comparisons) became apparent. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on one of those ‘they should have been huge… why didn’t they make it?’ tangents. The facts are they didn’t achieve the success that they should have, and that’s a real pity.
For a band that aren’t essentially together full-time, Lir have a lot going at the moment. Last month saw the release of their long-overdue live album (simply titled Lir Live), a collection of tunes recorded over two nights in 2006. Some say that they never quite managed to capture what the band were about on their albums (Magico Magico and Nest), but I’m not sure about that. Either way, the live album should keep everyone happy, while in the process introducing them to many of the un-anointed. In addition to this, Shimmy Marcus (the bloke behind Headrush, Aidan Walsh: Master Of The Universe and countless others films and documentaries) is currently completing a documentary on the band. It has a working title of Good Cake, Bad Cake, and is due for completion in early 2009. So what does this mean for the band? Are they getting back together and recording a new album? Unfortunately not, but there is a considerable amount of unreleased material that they’re looking to release at some stage. While it’s not quite as appealing as a triumphant return, you’d have to say that it’s better that being kicked squarely in the balls! It’s very hard to say this without sounding like some sort of lament, but Lir were/are one of those bands whose talent outweighed their luck. If you’re familiar with the band, you might know what I’m talking about. If not, take a listen to them at myspace.com/lirtheband, and you’ll find it hard not to agree.
Sweet. What do you think of the demos? “I love ‘em!” What would never play on your headphones? “New Christian Gospel.” Been to any good concerts lately? “I heard this really cool Norwegian band, called 1349. Black metal.” Any great new bands we should know about? “I can really only think of my own band. Though there was this Danish band called Den Fri that supported us half a year ago. I really enjoyed them.” What was your first record? “First ever? I guess that was the ‘The Wall’ by Pink Floyd.” Where are you coming from and where are you going to? “I’m coming from a rehearsal space and going to a venue where we’re having a soundcheck/production rehearsal set up with all the visuals and stuff. We’re playing tomorrow night” Any life advice for State? “Just keep up the courage.” www.myspace.com/igotyouontape
Incoming they might be giants
Messiah J & The Expert Venues nationwide Nov 6 – 28 Not only have MJEX proved that it is possible to make consistently good hip-hop records, they are also a fine live experience. See them nationwide this month and get into the mood at www.muzu.tv/messiahjandtheexpert. Ham Sandwich Venues nationwide Nov 8 – 28 Having kicked off 2008 with an album and Meteor award on the same day, Ham Sandwich haven’t had a bad year all told. This series of dates coincide with new single ‘Broken Glass’ and include both a regular and an all ages show at Whelans on Nov 8. Expect to see the junior State team down the front.
mjax by roger woolman
The Jimmy Cake Vicar St, Dublin – Nov 21 Most ambitious live show to date for the Cake, expanding to a 15 piece band for the night – including brass and string section. The band plan to head back to a stripped down sound so make the most of them in this luscious state while you can.
Ever wondered what dancing on a collapsing supernova in a thunderous starfield sounded like? According to Le Galaxie themselves, they do. Formed after the demise of the much fancied 66E, Le Galaxie inhabit a similar place and time but take it one step further, suggesting a musical vision of the man vs machine future. Not that they’re adverse to showing their human side, the video for recent single ‘You Feel The Fire!’ saw them donning Aran jumpers, tweed caps and pints of Guinness to appear as their trad session alter egos. Genuinely one of a kind. Listen: ‘You Feel The Fire!’ Click: www.myspace.com/lemusicgalaxie, www.muzu.tv/legalaxie See: Andrews Lane Theatre, Dublin, Nov 7; The Village, Dublin Nov 16 & 29
Lykke Li Button Factory, Dublin – Nov 24 We told you that you’d love Lykke Li, didn’t we? Her show at the Sugar Club earlier this year provoked great excitement so expect this first date of her European Tour to do the same. Pendulum Nugent Hall, Belfast – Nov 24, RDS Dublin Nov 25 At an Oxegen festival full of highlights, these guys perhaps stood out above all. The idea of shouty metal mixed with drum n’ bass shouldn’t work but boy does it here.
Music is my Radar
PADDY O’DONOHOE The Director of the Dublin Tattoo Convention on his love for Siouxsie Sioux, why there isn’t a typical tattoo band and his boyhood encounter with REO Speedwagon
As told to P H I L U D E L L ROGER WOOLMAN
The ﬁrst band I really got into was Siouxsie and the Banshees. I shared a room with my big brother and one day he came home with a record player and their LP. He played it non-stop for weeks on end, as it was the only album he had and I just got into it from there. I loved the style of the band. He listened to more alternative music, so I got into it too and then totally into the whole alternative scene and then into tattoos. And here is where I stayed.
REO Speedwagon was my ﬁrst ever gig. I was on my way home for lunch from school one day and I saw a truck being unloaded. I stopped and asked the roadies who was playing and could I see what was happening, so they took me in and I was blown away… the band came out for soundcheck and they let me stay. They told me to go back to school and come back later, so I did. When I went back, they gave me a laminated pass that had “KID” on it and told me to go home and ask my parents if I could I go. The show was great and after, they waited with me until my parents came to collect me and they then introduced themselves to them. It was a great night. I went to see them two months ago and met them again and they remembered me. I was only 12 when it happened.
Music is really important to tattoo conventions because different people like different music and we try to cater for them all... we have punk, rock, psychobilly and rockabilly and a few in between. It keeps people relaxed while getting tattooed, and the artists too. At the Tattoo Convention, the people that aren’t getting tattooed like to hang out at the bar and listen, plus it gives them something to talk about. I’ve seen bands such as Mad Sin, Bad Manners, Rev. Horton Heat, Devil Doll, Spellbound, Vince Ray.
I like too many different types of music to really pinpoint a favourite record, but up there in the top ﬁve would have to be ‘Friends In Time’ by The Golden Horde, ‘The Hurricane’ by Bob Dylan, ‘Chick Habit’ by April March, ‘A Sort Of Homecoming’ by U2, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ by The Waterboys. No particular order though. The Dublin Tattoo Convention 2008 takes place at D4 Hotel, Ballsbridge on November 7 – 9. For more details see www.dublintattooconvention.com
There isn’t really a typical ‘tattoo band’, there are so many bands that have tattoos but I don’t think they would like to called typical. I think if one was to look at bands now, it would be hard to ﬁnd a band that wasn’t tattooed, from hip-hop to pop to rock to country...
…at Oxegen, Friday, July 11
Rarely Seen Above Ground.
SUBTERRANEAN HOMEGROWN BLUES ~ Words by Photography by
PHIL UDELL DAVE BERRY
jeremy hickey is drinking wine and listening to seasick steve. not the most rock n’ roll of behaviour to admit‘ to next 15
“The industry is so clogged with the media, with bands and turmoil that I wanted to just bring it back to one person and my interpretation of where I was and where I am” ~
at the start of an interview, maybe, but then Hickey is not one to do things by the book. His current musical guise, Rarely Seen Above Ground (or RSAG to give it its more usual acronym) is a solo project like no other, based around Hickey as a drummer rather than guitarist. It is, he explains, something that has been a long time coming. “It all started with me being in bands for years, playing since I was 15 or 16,” he recalls. “I learned how to play various different instruments during that time by just watching the other people that I was playing with. The ﬁrst demo I made on my own was in 1997, which I put all around the place. I was over in San Francisco and sent it to Grand Royale and various labels but they weren’t into it so I carried on travelling for a couple of years.” On returning to his native Kilkenny, he started playing in bands again but the idea of RSAG kept coming back to him. The question why he wanted to make music on his own causes him to make reference to his current listening choice, Seasick Steve again. “The reason that he’s one of the most talked about names at the moment is because he’s a solo artist. I believe that there’s something, right now, that can only be expressed by an artist on their own, especially from a writer’s point of view. I’ve been reading a collection of stories by Richard Yates and they’re really beautiful. They’re very down-to-earth stories that plod along like life in general but it was the words that he put down that make them so brilliant. I needed to do this (RSAG) on my own, I didn’t need anyone to tell me what they thought, even though I did have people to go to if I wanted to play stuff to someone. I do believe
that this is an expression of myself. “The industry,” he continues, “is so clogged with the media, with bands and turmoil that I wanted to just bring it back to one person and my interpretation of where I was and where I am. For me, that was the only way I could see of this being the right way for me at this moment. The best reaction I’ve ever had to any music has been in this format.”
As we said at the start, Jeremy Hickey is not one to go down the obvious route. He approaches everything he does with a passion and a sense of purpose that is too often missing in music these days. Having decided that RSAG would always exist as just himself, his drum kit and backing tracks, he had to ﬁnd a way of making it work live. “Initially, of course it was hard,” he admits. “I knew that I had this big, big sound but it was still only one person. That’s when the idea for the visuals came about. The whole Talking Heads thing was a big inﬂuence there, that idea of light and shade that Jonathan Demme brought to Stop Making Sense. Looking at that, I realised that the only way of doing this was to use visuals.” He confesses that a few of his earlier, more experimental ideas didn’t really work. “So I realised that we needed something more precise to represent exactly what I was doing musically, which was me in a studio writing and playing everything, then slightly cutting up things to make them more original.” Working together with cohort Paul Mahon, the pair
decamped to Jeremy’s garage and came up with the current concept, footage of him playing every instrument that ﬁts together to create a stunning virtual band backdrop to his live performance. RSAG was ready to go.
To talk to him in person, you get the impression that this means more to Hickey than just making music. He needs to do this. “I’ve been through a lot of bands and had friends who’ve been in bands who have had to give up because there was no money involved,” he says. “Once they met their girlfriends, had kids, settled down, it was all gone. That was ﬁne, they were happy, but that wasn’t for me. Art in general is important and this is a natural progression for me. That’s not to say what I’m doing is hugely important or that I’m fucking great but art is a spiritual thing.” His mission has led him to record RSAG’s debut album, a double, entitled Organic Sampler. As we might have expected, it is a work of quite unique vision, combining inﬂuences so diverse that it genuinely sounds like nothing else out there. For such a leftﬁeld record, it has received a surprisingly positive response across the board, including the pages of last month’s State. We had one or two points to make, though, and Hickey is relishing the opportunity to reply ﬁrst hand. “You have to understand where I’m coming from like I understand where you’re coming from, from reading your reviews,” he explains. “You have your own opinion and way of life, way of looking at things, and that is the way it is. My way right
now is all about doing something new, not just to keep me happy, but to be part of something. “I’m very, very proud of the album. It’s interesting that the things you said were a negative [mainly that the lo-ﬁ production led to a missed opportunity] were the very things I was going for. I can’t say that you were wrong but it was the sound that I was going for, even if it was done over three years on cheap microphones. The early sessions were done solely in my house, in my spare bedroom. I was getting across the view from my blackened-out little room. There’s deﬁnitely an opinion that those tracks could have been recorded a lot better but I don’t believe that the passion and feeling would have been there if they’d been re-recorded. I could bore you for hours on the feelings that went into every one of those songs. I went into a studio in Dublin to record some songs for the second album and spent a lot of money but I scrapped them all. They weren’t how I wanted them to be, they weren’t raw enough. I’m just not into the idea of becoming a product, even though I probably will do.” Somehow, having your opinions questioned so forcibly makes perfect sense. It is, as Hickey keeps pointing out, quite simply the way he is. This is what RSAG does. Play Organic Sampler to anyone, no matter how well you know them, and we guarantee that you won’t be able to predict their reaction – love, hate or just confusion. It is a simply a gateway into the world of one very interesting young man. “I’m like a sponge or something,” he says, “I don’t know. That’s why it’s turned out to be some kind of crazy, bi-polar album.”
Once every few weeks, an average suburban house turns into the unlikeliest all-ages music venue in the country. Welcome to Hideaway House
AND YE SHALL FIND…
~ CIARA O’BRIEN SCOTT ’N’ GOULDEN
Words by Photography by
having a band play in your living room is probably the stuff of dreams for most music Getting back-stage doesn’t require a fans. But for one promoter and one highly unusual venue, that idle daydream has become a reality. Located on Deansgrange Road, Hideaway House looks like your average semi-d. But every couple of months, it’s transformed into a venue for all ages gigs, where bands can play to a small crowd of music fans, without all the hassle and preparation that comes with booking bigger venues. On those occasions, it’s not hard to ﬁnd. A small group of stragglers are in the front garden, waiting for the gig to kick off, while a sign advertises it as Hideaway House. The owner is 21-year-old Dylan Haskins, a music fan who also operates independent music label Hideaway Records (Heathers, Hooray For Humans, Kidd Blunt) from the house. It’s all very organic. Dylan’s bedroom doubles as his ofﬁce, and the kitchen is transformed into a merch. shop of sorts, selling CDs, vinyl, cassettes and even fanzines. There’s nothing too high-tech about the set-up, even down to the fact that when you pays your money at the door (usually around a ﬁver), you gets a cross marked on your hand. A felt tip marker is as high-tech as it gets.
laminate in this venue: Hideaway House’s smoking audience members get to watch and listen from the back garden. In short, Hideaway House isn’t so much a business venture: it’s a labour of real musical love. There’s no bar, no security men, no posing or preening. There’s not even a dress code. The atmosphere is relaxed and easy going. It’s noisy, it’s jammed: it’s ingenious. OK, so the acoustics wouldn’t match some professional venues, and the lighting rigs aren’t fancy, but the place screams atmosphere, and gig-goers love it, regularly coming back for more.
Preparation before each gig is carefully thought out. “We clear everything out,” says Dylan. “We put cardboard down on the ﬂoors.” The only things that remain are the family photos adorning the walls – Dylan in his schooldays. Almost everything about Hideaway House’s set-up is fascinating – they even recycle: bags and bins are left around the house with notes to encourage music fans and musicians to separate their empties. That’s probably the best thing about Hideaway House, the lack of barriers
As well as organising the Hideaway House gigs, Dylan Haskins is the creator of a brand new documentary, Roll Up Your Sleeves – The DIY Counterculture
What came ﬁrst, the Hideaway House gigs or the ﬁlm? I was deﬁnitely doing this sort of stuff ﬁrst. Even while I was making the ﬁlm, it became almost secondary to what was going on in the house. We’d just leave the camera running in a corner. The initial idea for the documentary changed over time and was inﬂuenced by what we were doing ourselves. The ﬁlm is about the ideas and Hideaway House is just an immediate example. Was it hard to get people like Ian McKaye from Fugazi on board? Everyone was so happy to do it. People have this idea that if someone’s well known, they’re hard to get to, but I just sent someone like Ian an email and he wrote back. His attitude was, ‘if you want to talk to me, I’ll do an interview with you’. Everybody was like that. If you’re part of that scene, they’ll easily oblige you.
(physical or metaphorical) between the acts and the audience. Indeed, it gives new meaning to the term ‘intimacy’. Getting this close to a band is a rarity. Touring bands are a regular feature of Hideaway House. Since it opened its doors, acts such as Kidd Blunt, Crayonsmith and Patrick Kelleher And His Cold Dead Hands have graced the stage in the small back room. One of the most recent musicians to play at Hideaway House, Calvin Johnston, decided to do things differently and held court in the back garden, fans sitting in a semi-circle at his feet. If you listened closely enough, you could hear the trafﬁc passing in the background. Johnson is a regular at house shows. “A lot of venues have restrictions on who is allowed to attend their performances and I like mine to be accessible,” he
Then you ended up driving an American punk band around Europe.... Again, that happened separately. I knew them from beforehand and they asked me to drive them on tour in my VW Golf – 52 days, 12,000 miles. As we’d be leaving a place, I’d ﬁlm a quick interview with someone.
says. “I want to play in places that don’t restrict the audience in any way, by race, age or whatever. This works out well because anyone who wants to can show up.” Although Hideaway House is one of the more unusual venues, Dylan expects the ‘house venue’ scene to take off in Ireland: “It’s not very Irish yet,” he grins. “It will be though.”
Do Europe and the US differ in terms of their DIY scenes? Deﬁnitely. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. It’d be boring if everywhere was the same. In places like Germany and France, they’re so well organised, it’s incredible: they look after you so well. In the UK, the promoter might not give you food and you might have to sleep on a dirty ﬂoor but the show could be incredible. In Europe, the shows can be a bit polite. In the US, it can change from place to place. Where does Ireland ﬁt in? A lot of the bands we have playing in the house say it’s one of the best shows on their tour. People’s attitude is what makes Ireland stand out, how people chat to the bands. That friendliness translates into the experience that bands have here. They always feel very welcome.
Where bands, festivals, venues and fans broadcast their Music TV on the web
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Circuit Breakers Words by
S A O I R S E PAT T E R S O N LOREANA RUSHE
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS Q&A, or Queer & Alternative, is not just Dublin’s longest running gay indie night. It’s the capital’s longest running gay party. So what’s the secret of its longevity?
capital’s only consistent gay indie event and since the demise of legendary night Ham, it’s also achieved the feat of being the city’s current longest running gay party. Eight years is centuries in club terms, but Q&A’s promoters/DJs, Colm Bennett and Vinnie Donnelly, feel the secret to it remaining popular is, bizarrely, the fact that it’s on irregularly. Colm explains: “I think the fact that we’re only on three or four times a year is the key to its success, to be honest. If we were on every month, I’m not sure it would have the same cache. This year we haven’t been on since June, so the November event is going to be mobbed. Every one is an event for us and after we do one, we go back to our day jobs and then we build up our interest again.”
since its explosion from the back streets of new york into discotheques worldwide at the dawn of the ’70s, the musical formula. However, for Dublin soundtrack to gay nightlife has remained high octane dance-pop. Out-and-proud gay culture took its ﬁrst steps to a disco beat, learned to run to the pulsating grooves of hi-NRG and vogued its way into the mainstream. Irish gay clubs, like their international counterparts, have built their success on this tried and tested
revellers more inclined towards The Smiths and CSS than Cher, relief for the last eight years has come in the shape of much-loved party, Q&A (Queer and Alternative). Starting out on in down ’n’ dirty rock venue, Eamonn Doran’s in 2000, Q&A has progressed to become one of the biggest nights on the Irish gay scene. It’s the
The last Q&A over Dublin Pride Weekend was held in hip new venue, Andrew’s Lane Theatre, and the lads are heading back there for this month’s party. However, Q&A has had many a home over the years. Colm recalls: “From Doran’s, we moved to Peig’s [under the Earl of Kildare Hotel], then onto the Temple Bar Music Centre, which is now The Button Factory, where we stayed for three or four years, before that closed for renovations and then we ran a three-room party twice in The Vaults before ending up in ALT. “Doran’s was the funniest place to run a club though. They let drinkers from the bar upstairs into the club at 1.30am, so all the straight lads would come down, and the gay lads would say, ‘Oh! Where’d all these boys come from?’, and the straight lads would be going, ‘Where
Q&A, eh, Q&A of course. Simon, 18, Fashion Design student How important do you think Q&A is to the gay scene? I’d certainly miss Q&A if it wasn’t around, because when you hang out on the indie scene, there’s not a lot of gay men about. This is one of the only nights where I can meet people with similar interests as me who are also gay.
are all the birds tonight?’ It never actually came to a ﬁght but there was a lovely ﬁssion of energy that came into the room at half one!”
They’ve come a long way from their rough and ready beginnings but Colm and Vinnie’s ethos remains the same – quality indie, pop and alternative music. It was their own frustration at having nowhere rock-orientated on the gay scene to go that lead to the club’s formation. Colm remembers: “Myself and Vinnie were in The George one Saturday, giving out again about the music, saying ‘Jesus it’s always dance in here’. So one of our mates said, ‘Well why don’t you do anything about it? Go and start a club or something!’ So we sobered up the next morning and did a business plan and everything, and went in to see Doran’s owner Dermot: he just looked at it and said, ‘You’re on Tuesday two weeks lads, every month’. So in ﬁve seconds that was it, brilliant!” The club is a comfortable mixture of gay, lesbian and straight and has a dedicated following. “Yeah, they’re very dedicated and they’re a loyal crew as well, when you think that it’s been ﬁve venue changes in eight years and when I was DJ’ing the last night I looked down and saw ﬁve people dancing that had been at the ﬁrst ever Q&A eight years ago! Bizarre,” Colm says. “And then we get the kids as well, because I’ve talked to kids in college and it’s like a big thing for them to go to their ﬁrst Q&A, you know. It’s awkward if you’re gay and you’re into that kind of music: where do you go? So they tend to go bananas and get all dressed up for it.”
Colm’s been in the thick of Irish gay clubbing for the last eight years: has he noticed any changes in the scene in that period? “The one major difference is it’s got a lot less shifty because of the internet. It’s really taken the pressure off,” he notes. “Pre-internet and Gaydar, the scene tended to be much more ‘cruisey’, because this might be your only opportunity to see a gay person that week, or if you were living out in the sticks, maybe that month – so it was very important that you score!” he laughs. The guys are looking forward to this month’s Q&A, and beyond. Colm says: “We try and do one new thing every night, like we had violins playing beside the cloakroom at the last Q&A, just a little quirky thing. We’re going to have something really cool for the next one, which is top secret at the moment. Every single thing adds to someone’s experience of it being an unusual place to go to. “But we’re already thinking about the tenth year, to be honest,” he adds. “We’re going to do something really special for one of those nights in the tenth year and have that as the birthday party.” Until then, it’s just about entertaining as many people as possible, although pregig shivers are still a factor. “It’s nerve wrecking, even at 10pm on the night, I’m saying, ‘No one’s going to come!’” Colm admits. “But we wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t popular and full, because that’s a buzz, and it’s great to play music for people and get down and dance with them as well, so you kind of have your own club to go to.” Q&A takes place in Andrew’s Lane Theatre, Dublin on
Niamh, 19, Event Management student How often do you go to Q&A? It’s my second night. I’m not gay: I just come with my gay friend for the good music. Would you come again? Yeah, it’s fun. It’s different to lot of the nightclubs in Dublin, which are very generic.
Rachel, 27, Photographer Do you come to Q&A much? I come pretty regularly. It’s the best gay place to go to because they play decent music and you get a decent variety of people, whereas normally you’re expected to dance to Britney Spears, which doesn’t work for me very well. Do you go to other nights on the gay scene? Yeah, but it’s very limited. You the same heads all the time and same music and it gets tedious really quickly. Here, there’s a different mix of people and all the lesbians crawl out from under their rocks. To meet women on the gay scene, Q&A is the place to go.
Logn McLain, 25, NCAD Graphic Design graduate How long have you been coming to Q&A? I’ve been coming since it started and I come so often because it’s one of the best clubs, there’s really good music and the crowd are great and you’re guaranteed a good night. How important do you think Q&A is to the scene? It’s an alternative outlet – even though it’s just mainstream rock – but it’s a completely different outlet for people who don’t like pop.
Tilly And The Wall.
TA P YO U R F E E T SAY YEAH ~ Words by
An electric JAIMIE W fan, A R R E attached N to a thin wire cable, sweeps across the length of the second level atrium in New Yorkâ€™s Museum of Modern Art in lazy, everaltering arcs. The mesmerising and vaguely Photography by
upon hearing a tilly and the wall song, there are two possible scientiďŹ next cally-proven outcomes. next 25
one: the listener will become shrouded in a red mist and begin snorting heavily, mumbling to his or herself about how the boisterous Americans ﬂaunt exuberance and how unapologetic they are about it. The second outcome (and a lot more probable for the non-cynics amongst us) is to be swayed by their pretty little ditties and to allow yourself to sing and dance along uninhibited. For music is food for the soul and the energy to power your latest pair of Converse on the dance-ﬂoor and who better than Jamie and Derek Presnall, Neely Jenkins, Kianna Alarid and Nick White, who make up the Nebraskan indie-popsters (or “Pop suburban folk punk” as Jamie describes them to State) Tilly And The Wall to soundtrack those times. You may have heard their insanely catchy ‘Beat Control’ on alternative radio stations over the past six months. Those familiar with their earlier albums Wild Like Children (2004) and Bottom Of Barrels (2006) were surprised by the song’s carefree electro-pop leanings, which seem to have an obvious courtship of the mainstream, or at least an acknowledgement of the charts. Jamie explains. “Kianna [vocalist] wrote that song and she said she wanted it to be a fun song to dance to, a song where you don’t really think about anything else; just dancing and letting yourself go.” ‘Beat Control’ is that distinct kind of pop song with a simple pop arrangement and a catchy melody that begs to be let into your cranium. It’s also accompanied by a cosmic day-glo video which reinforces the call to lose your inhibitions and “let that beat control your body”. Dancing is at the core of Tilly And The Wall’s modus operandi, thanks to Jamie whose unique role in the band as tapdancer replaces any need for a drummer or percussionist. A conscious decision from the outset, it is one aspect that has helped them get press attention but has also been brought up as the chief proponent in the accusation that they thrive on that as gimmick. “People don’t like the fact that I tap-dance in the band and completely discount us for that reason alone,” Jamie admits. “I had to get over that very early on. I can’t worry about things like that. I’ve embraced it and acknowledge it’s an unusual thing for a band but if it’s a point of interest for our band and that helps us get press, then it’s all good.” Dismissing the tap aspect of the band as pure shtick becomes more difﬁcult when you watch the videos online which document the recording of their new album O (actually self-titled but the title has been coined by fans thanks to the sleeve’s central oval shape). The videos show the effort that goes into recording group tap-dancing, including stomp teams and multi-layer taps. Jamie claims her inspirations for the tap parts were “musicals, traditional tapping and stomp team videos”. With the help of producer Mike Mogis, who has worked on albums from Bright Eyes, The Faint, Lightspeed Champion and She & Him, the band were able to achieve the tap sounds they wanted. “I would tell him I wanted the song to have traditional tapdancing or I wanted it to have a tribal beat and he would translate that in technical terms, like how he would mic it, whether we recorded in different rooms,“ notes Jamie. “Sometimes, he would mic an amp in a different room or put microphones inside the walls. He’d put mics inside of drums and then put the drums around me for a song. We recorded some of the stomping in an
TILLY AND THE WALL
elementary school gymnasium with 10 people, so it sounded really open. We wanted it to sound like some kind of rally!”
The culmination of this hard work seems to have paid off, with the 32-minute O being the band’s most coherent and best work to date. From the riotous rock ‘n’ roll stomp (literally) of ‘Pot Kettle Black’ to the upbeat pop party of ‘Alligator Skin’ or the dance-led ‘Falling Without Knowing’, this is an album brimming with infectious music, accentuated by shouty group vocals and a rich array of eclectic arrangements. Indeed, it conﬁrms that the band have become better songwriters, which is a task they share between the ﬁve of them, each bringing forward their songs to the group. “If anyone brings a song, we try and complete it and make it as good as it can be,” Jamie explains. “Then we record almost all of them. As we’re recording them, we’re ﬁguring out how they work together. It’s hard. Every time we have to pick out songs for the record, it’s at least a month of ﬁghts in the band.” Despite this all-inclusive nature, Jamie claims no one songwriter dominates the process. “We just have to go back and forth, back and forth. Finally we vote, because there are ﬁve of us so there will always be at least three. We had to use the voting system a couple of years ago because we couldn’t agree. If you’re outvoted, you just have to accept it and be positive about it!” Jamie is extremely proud of the band’s achievements with O, citing experience as a big part of that rationale. “We’ve become better songwriters deﬁnitely and more competent musicians. I think we’ve grown into ourselves more. As a group, we know each other better, we’re more mature. There are ﬁve different voices on the record but it’s also our record.” As a songwriter, she was inspired by Cyndi Lauper, Sinead O’ Connor and Mary Lou Lordis and is particularly proud of the opening number ‘Tall Tall Grass’, one of her songs which she had been working on since their debut in 2004. She says it was “a good moment” when it ﬁnally made the cut for the album.
Despite being signed to Conor Oberst’s Team Love in the US and the inﬂuential indie label Moshi Moshi in Europe and spending half of any given year on tour, the quintet still have to hold down jobs in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, for the rest of the year. Singer Neely is a substitute teacher for Omaha public schools, guitarist Derek DJs twice a month and has just started to learn ﬁlm-making, with his ﬁrst foray into the craft being a music video for local Omaha band Son Ambulance. Jamie, meanwhile, is a substitute teacher at a centre called the Child Saving Institute, a non-proﬁt organisation which takes care of children during the day that are up for adoption or in foster care and helps to facilitate the adoption process. “It’s important to have things that are yours outside the band,” she explains. “We’ve been a band so long that it’s nice to have something you don’t have to compromise on all the time. Working in a group is a completely different dynamic than having something that’s just your own. You can do whatever you want in that ﬁeld.” Apart from working for a living, touring, song-writing, and
keeping busy indoors from the extreme Nebraskan weather (“It’s really hot in summer and it gets 30 below zero in the winter so you learn to entertain yourself in Omaha”), Jamie and Derek were married recently and are currently trying to conceive. State wonders did the band play at the wedding? “When I tap-dance, I get all sweaty. It’s really physical so I was like ‘Noooooo’. Actually, Of Montreal played at our wedding! We got engaged on tour and we were opening up for them so when it happened they were like ‘We have to play the wedding!’ We thought that would be amazing! It was much better than us playing.”
The success of ‘Beat Control’ as a college radio single in the US and the reaction to O has also led the band to be picked up outside of normal channels. Firstly, they were asked to appear on seminal kids TV show, Sesame Street. “They actually approached us and we thought it was a huge honour and so we were all really excited,” recounts Jamie “They asked us to do ‘The Alphabet Song’ so we made our version of that song. We recorded it and then we green-screened it. They are still animating it but they’re going to animate it around us. We spent a day doing that. I’ve no idea what it’s going to look like but it was great.” State is curious as to whether they met Cookie Monster or any of the famous Jim Henson creations? “No! There was no cast there! That was the only thing I was
TILLY AND THE WALL
disappointed about. I wanted a picture with Big Bird or one of the monsters but there was none!“ The band were also approached by the makers of the new version of Beverly Hills 90210 and asked to play in an episode. Jamie gets quite animated about this appearance. “That was crazy. First of all, when I was growing up, I watched that show all the time. Neely and I were at school together so we would watch it every week with all our friends. We were in a different band at the time called Park Ave. and we would say ‘What if we could play the Peach Pit?’ - the place where all the bands played on the initial show. So when they asked us, I was so excited. They told us originally we were going to play The Peach Pit so I was freaking out. We ended up playing a party scene but we were stoked about it. We love that show.” The band’s growing fanbase of ‘Tilly’ kids and regular touring means they have been able to pass along the wisdom they learned from their already established Omaha peers like Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive to other bands from the local scene who are just starting out touring. “It’s a really supportive music community. A lot of them were touring before we were, so I can call any of them and ask ‘Should we do this?’, just get some advice. We’re really lucky,” she says. “We can draw enough people that we can take some bands out on tour from Omaha. We took out Capgun Coup, who are on Team Love. They’re younger and just released their ﬁrst record and are new to touring. So we were like ‘Alright, we’re gonna show you the ropes: let’s go’.”
Berlin has become a spiritual and creative home for a glut of Irish musicians, artists and DJs. State hears why
AIRBRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WAT E R S ~ Words & Photography by
it’s when you walk into the ﬁrst bar you see and are met with a sensible looking kraut instead of a moustachioed gimp alcoholics, which, when compared to pointing you in the direction of a feely room that you turn around and wonder why all the fuss about Berlin? How come I haven’t seen anyone defecating from a swing top, why’s the bus driver not offered me drugs yet and where was Peaches when my plane landed at Schönefeld? You see, 95% of the time, Berlin functions like any other city. There are trafﬁc-jams and taxi-strikes and Polish plumbers just like Dublin. Some people even say Berlin is just a fat version of our fair capital, and you know that’d nearly be true, if it weren’t for the liberalism, efﬁciency, cheapness and generally conducive atmosphere for creativity that permeates every last avantgarde inch of Berlin City. U2 discovered it in 1990. They got caught up in the industrial dance sounds being created there and wrote an album that nearly killed them. Since then, more Irish musicians have been making it their home. It’s easy to see why. You can make a living recycling glass bottles there. A sit-down meal with starter and a drink costs you less than a ﬁver. And chronic
the Germans, includes most on this tipsy island, get their rent paid for them. “There’s something in the water,” says Nina Hynes of Nina Hynes And The Husbands. She’d know. She got pregnant on her ﬁrst night in town. “It’s like being in a hot bath,” says Roy Carroll of electronic improv band Double Adaptor, and “It’s ridiculous, it’s so good,” says DJ Mano Le Tough, breaking the cycle of aqua analogies. They’ve all been living in Berlin for over a year now, and none of them plan a return home anytime soon. In spite of the fact that the average Berlin gig nets a band about €20, these artists would rather stay here, and duke it out amongst the other million starving creatives, than go back home to Ireland. “It’s that trip from the airport into Dublin City that’s the biggest pain in the ass,” says Keith O’ Brien, the other half of Double Adaptor, reminiscing on the joys of spending time on the N1. When it came to getting away, Double Adaptor were pushed more than pulled. You know
~ “When oil runs out and food supplies dry up and we’re all forced to live off tarmac and rust, the Berliners will be the ones doing it in most style” ~
when bands complain about playing a gig where no one turned up, and what that really means is 20 people, not including their girlfriend, her friend and their six cousins came through the door? Well, Double Adaptor organised a gig at the Boom Boom Room and apart from the bartender, no-one else set foot inside the place all night. “In Berlin,” he says, “you’ll get people to come out and see you play on a new project, but then you need to take it out of Berlin.” So Double Adaptor play abroad. In three years, Keith reckons he’s made about €500 from gigs in Berlin, and half of that he banked in one night playing a show organised by the Irish embassy.
DJs do better. Mano makes minimal techno. Before Berlin, he was living in a house outside of Dundrum that was basically a squat with a rent book. ‘Hang Tough’, as it was called, ran parties that
turned into sessions that went on for days and caused drug droughts throughout the city. Mano came to Berlin a year ago to get out of Dublin. He’s now opening for Santogold, running his own nights and has Laurent Garnier playing his songs. “You’re really looked after if you’re a DJ here,” he says, crossing his legs. He’s wearing a pair of hot bowling shoes. Yesterday, they were in an alley and cost €5 an hour. “Promoters take you out for dinner. You get a fridge full of drinks beside the decks and the pay’s much better compared to Ireland, where a lot of the time you play and don’t even know how much you’re getting paid.” The most famous club in the world is in Berlin. Panorama Bar opens on a Friday evening and closes sometime Sunday night. Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos and Sven Väth are regulars. Their lineup for a weekend is like a wet dream for promoters in any other city. Kids wake up early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, have breakfast, get dressed,
take pills, speed or GHB and go dancing till teatime. It’s wild. DJs play ﬁve-hour sets as a matter of course. In Irish clubs, a DJ is lucky if he gets half that time. They can’t build anything or take the crowd anywhere slowly. It has to be banging immediately: there’s no time for foreplay in an Irish nightclub. Mano’s plan for next year is to play Panorama Bar, and to learn some German. When one in four Berlin residents are non-Germans and the rest speak English better than RTE presenters, learning the language is about as much a priority as buying a baby elephant.
Nina Hynes doesn’t do clubs. As liberal as Berlin is, no three-month-old baby will get past the doorman at Panorama, and Caia, her daughter, never leaves her side. She still tours, but with a babysitter. Unlike Double Adaptor, who once had a policy of only leaving a bar when the barman did, or Mano who we interview
just before a four-day bender that includes a trip to Melt Festival where he’ll empty Franz Ferdinand’s rider, Nina is an image of clean living and sobriety. “My perception of Berlin has been altered, as it’s famous as a party city and I’ve never really gone out,” she says. Nina came to Berlin to meet more people and be a small ﬁsh in a big pond. Unlike Double Adaptor, she actually had some success back in Ireland. She was nominated for a Meteor and toured the States with David Gray. Still, she came to Berlin. “There’s no money here,” she says, “so it’s more creatively orientated. People don’t do things for money here.” If you spend an afternoon ﬂitting around the packed terraces of Kreuzberg or Prenzlauerberg or Friedrichshain, you’ll see it’s true. No one works proper jobs in Berlin. Who could when the local cinema doesn’t put on movies until 12:30 on a school night? Living here is a little like dropping out. “It’s a total cop out,” says Kevin.
“That’s the idea. But I’m busier musically then I’ve ever been in my life.” Nina’s busy too. She’s recording an album of baby songs. She has the titles worked out: ‘Lets Go Sleepies Now’, ‘Mange, Mange, Mange’ and ‘Lave, Lave, Lave’. “Ireland is a great place to create: it’s just hard to live there,” Nina says, hopping onto a tram in old East Berlin. The tram is covered in grafﬁti and creaks along like an old man climbing a staircase, but it’s bang on time. It could be an analogy for Berlin. The city looks like it’s crumbling but for some reason, it works. Sometimes they’re sticklers and other times, they ﬂaunt laws like Neapolitans. Like it’s illegal to jaywalk and it’s illegal to smoke in bars. You can watch a Berliner hovering all afternoon staring at the red-man on an empty street, and then ﬁnd yourself in a nice bar where you can’t see the exit for cigarette smoke. It’s a town planned by teenagers, but with some health and
safety advice from their parents. Mad Max with harnesses and crash pads. “People in Berlin are actively living the life they dream about,” continues Nina, “They’re conﬁdent people because they’re living their dreams rather than dreaming about them.” Berlin is an artist’s playground and a hipster’s fantasy. But that element of cool that might turn people off, say, Brooklyn or Hackney, is non-existent in Berlin. Everyone’s in a band, and everyone’s a designer, and maybe they do mime or interpretative dance at the weekends too, so why act pretentious? Ambition is different here. The only competition is to see who can do it cheaper, more efﬁciently and better. When oil runs out and food supplies dry up and we’re all forced to live off tarmac and rust, the Berliners will be the ones doing it in most style. And if you don’t believe us, just go check out Berlin house swaps on Craig’s List and count the amount of Williamsburg kids trying to catch a piece of the Berlin action.
THE TOWER OF SONG ~
there’s often a certain snobbishness in music circles about singers who don’t write their own material. But said elitism is completely at odds with the world’s greatest singers. The likes of Sinatra, Simone, Fitzgerald rarely, if ever, wrote their own songs and yet these legends interpreted the words of the greats and made them their own. Jack L has no such scruples about singing other people’s songs. First coming to attention with his versions of classic Jacques Brel chansons, followed by three albums of his own material, he has now released Burn On, an 18-track collection of Randy Newman-penned songs, and it’s bloody brilliant. “They’re great tunes,” he says simply. “You can’t really go wrong with them. To me, Randy Newman is an American Brel, in some respects, and that’s how I approached it. Both can be beautifully melancholic or completely bizarre, in their characters and context. They both cover the dark romanticism of things, although Newman is a little less romantic than Brel, a little more cutting. Whereas Brel seems to leave you with a happy ending or a positive afﬁrmation, Randy Newman isn’t afraid of the darkness. These are songs that actually make you think, songs that introduce you to a new way of looking at things, songs that shock you.”
The album came about after Jack learned around 50 Newman songs for gig at a club opening in New York and subsequently decided to record his versions of Newman classics like ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’, ‘Baltimore’ and ‘In Germany Before The War’. According to the singer, cutting the songs down to the ﬁnal 18 that made the album was a case of “killing your little darlings”, such was the quality of Newman’s material. “The songs work on different levels. Songs like ‘I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today’ have beautiful romantic melodies and then there’s the political ones, like ‘Great Nations Of Europe’ or ‘Political Science’: to be able to combine something so dark and so funny together, nobody really does that.” The latter is arguably the ﬁrst time a song has come close to the political satire of Dr Strangelove, with its “sinister, black humour” about pushing the button that wipes whole cities from the map. “He seems to take on very extreme characters, which he maintains aren’t even his points of view: he’s just being that character,” Jack explains. “His line is that he expects the audience to be intelligent enough to understand that he’s just playing a character.” ‘Great Nations Of Europe’ is a particular standout,
highlighting the atrocities carried out by Europe’s superpowers during the Colonial Age. “Neil Young has a couple of songs about the same kind of thing, but in general, the genocide of indigenous tribes all over the world hasn’t been covered in song,” enthuses Jack, who loves this particular ditty because it’s “not just informative, but has all this humour too”. Indeed, political correctness is not one of Newman’s strong points. “It throws sand in the eyes of the whole PC thing,” he agrees. “The world is gone a bit crazy as regards political correctness, with the policing of words and the policing of thoughts. Art is a forum to do whatever the fuck you want to do, be an asshole if you want. There needs to be a forum where you can do that and Newman is one of the guys who doesn’t seem to give a shit what anybody says, which is always very refreshing in a world where it seems more and more that we’re all like fucking battery hens.”
So, to come full circle, it doesn’t bother Jack L in the slightest that he’s perhaps better known as an interpreter of other people’s songs than a songwriter in his own right. “For me, the big thing is about lifting people out of the fucking budget or whatever the media is trying to bring people down with. I think it’s the job of musicians to put the romanticism and magic back in the world. There’s that phrase that ‘the media spreads darkness at the speed of light’,” he laughs. “I don’t care whether people know me from my own stuff or not. Obviously, it’s nice when they do, and since I was a teenager, writing bad poetry, I knew I was going to write tunes – it was something I wanted to do, and I already have another album nearly together. But if this album draws more people in, gives some people a bit of relief, or people get off on it, that’s the whole idea. If it broadens people’s minds in respect of what music can do and what music should be, great, because everything is so watered down now. The fucking marketing men are winning. “I think music is a lot more powerful and important than the fodder you hear on the radio every day would have you believe: it’s a very special thing and it’s not a simple thing. What the fuck is it doing? It moves people. If you can do songs that work on several different levels and provoke people to think, which is what Randy Newman songs do... These things are more important than ever before. The world is asleep and it’s being brainwashed. It’s comatose. Capitalism? Imperialism? All that stuff is great but there’ll have to be new ideas, better ideas. I think art is one of the things that can expand the consciousness.”
Blog Standard The tracks and artists being noticed online this month by Niall Byrne
BANJO OR FREAKOUT COVERS Alessio Natalizia, a London-based musician, has produced some fantastically lo-ﬁ, eclectic and out-there remixes of Battles’ ‘Atlas’, Radiohead’s ‘All I Need’ and Sonic Youth’s ‘Kissability’. Best of all is the even-more-spooky-than-the-original cover of Burial’s ‘Archangel’. Curiously, no banjo involved. http://banjoorfreakout.blogspot.com/
EMINEM SUFFERS A ‘RELAPSE’ The world’s most messed up rapper returns and it’s business as usual according to this short song called ‘The Relapse’. Mr Mathers’ afﬁnity with troublesome behaviour has not waned: “Slice you up and cook you after you are murdered by strangulation.” .
RADIOHEAD RECKONER REMIXES Those old chancers are at it again. This time they are holding a remix competition for the song ‘Reckoner’ from In Rainbows. It’s open to the public but so far there have been some showcase remixes from Flying Lotus, Diplo, Cadence Weapon, James Holden and Nosaj Thing. Don’t let that stop you though. At time of writing, there are 1268 submitted for you to listen to.
EMPIRE OF THE SUN This Aussie electro-pop outﬁt have created quite a stir, thanks to their calling card ‘Walking On The Dream’, which has recently been remixed by Neon Neon. Sample them right now before the album is out. http://url.ie/tn1
THE VERY BEST MIXTAPE Recent State They Might Be Giant Esau Mwamawaya has renamed himself alongside his producers Radioclit as The Very Best (must be down to the unpronounceable name). The group have a mixtape out, which is burning up the blogs thanks to its usage of Vampire Weekend, Architecture in Helsinki, Hans Zimmer (we shit you not), TTC, MIA, Cannibal Ox and Michael Jackson juxtaposed with Esau’s uplifting African voice over the top.
blog of the month 20 JAZZ FUNK GREATS
The UK’s most revered music blog has been there since the beginning*
on videotape Ponytail: ‘Beg Waves’ Trippy and psychedelic geography-themed video for the Baltimore band’s gibberish anthem. http://url.ie/tmo
Flaming Lips on 90210 Preceding Tilly And The Wall by a good 18 years, The Lips played ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ in a club scene on Beverly Hills 90210. “I’ve never been a big fan of alternative music but these guys rocked the house!” http://url.ie/tmk
Q-Tip: ‘Move’ Q-Tip is back with a solo album, after his record company shelved his previous two attempts, called The Renaissance this month. This taster ﬁnds him embodying the disco spirit of Michael Jackson circa 1980. http://url.ie/tmm
At the forefront of highlighting leftﬁeld, under the radar music of times past and present is this Brighton blog (named after a Throbbing Gristle album). As long as the song is under-appreciated, you’ll ﬁnd it here. Concentrating mainly on old, forgotten music is 20 Jazz Funk Greats’ forte, with some mentions of younger whippersnappers along the way for good measure. They also run specialist club nights in Brighton. You’ll ﬁnd songs drawn from cosmic disco, scuzz-rock, no-wave, experimental electronica, lo-ﬁ folk or whatever, all chosen with absolute care and respect. You couldn’t get more obscure nor vital. Or in their own words, 20 Jazz Funk Greats is “The atmosphere created by H.P. Lovecraft drinking Absinth with Lester Bangs whilst listening to old Can and Cerrone records, with Satan’s claw in the groove rather than a record player needle.” (*2004)
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SEMI AT TAC H E D ~
three years can be a long time in music. for halfset, it’s seen them develop from the nucleus of Jeff Martin and Stephen Shannon, who recorded debut album Dramanalog, into a four-piece band featuring Cillian McDonnell (drums) and Sinéad Nic Gearailt (Harp & Rhodes). Something of a new chapter, then? “It kind of does feel like phase two in a way,” admits Jeff, “but the guys have been in the band for so long that when I look back to what it was, going back wouldn’t even be an option. Halfset is the way it is.” One wonders, then, if the sample-based approach of their debut was more a question of necessity than design. “It’s what we were doing at the time,” he counters. “We never really plan things out. We’re lucky in that we do what we want to do. That ﬁrst album was where our heads were at, at the time, but we wanted to make it more exciting live, it would have been a bit limp as it was.” Not for Halfset the approach of two blokes tapping away at their computers. “Oh it’s totally miserable,” says Jeff. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good laptop show in my life. Instrumental music played that way is just awful. We did do a few shows as just the three of us but we felt it was a bit shy of the mark.”
Thus, Halfset grew into the entity that it is today, the sound of four very distinct musical individuals. “Our tastes do overlap a bit,” explains Cillian, “but it doesn’t necessarily seep into the music that we make. I would identify with Steve on a lot of the electronic stuff, the same way I could identify with Jeff on his stuff. Then there’s the minimalist, electronic music that I like which wouldn’t be anyone else’s bag.” Do they strive to meet in the middle? Apparently not. “I don’t think we’ve found common ground,” Jeff grins. “We’ve pulled and pushed in so many ways that it’s ended up as something completely different. ‘Salmon’ sounds so different to anything else, it has this completely bonkers arrangement, and that came from people standing their ground. It seems to be a stand-out tune on the record. Diplomatic would be the best way to describe the music making, democratic the decision process. There was no rush to make the album so there was no point in putting something out with songs on it that any of us couldn’t listen to. Everybody is very proud of this.” To say there was ‘no rush’ is interesting, with new record Another Way Of Being There taking three years to complete. Was there no deadline at all? “The deadline,” says Jeff, “was as soon as possible but not to the point of rushing anything. We worked bloody hard at this for three years. There was a sense of getting it done but there wasn’t a
label standing over us.” Without that outside inﬂuence, though, how do you know when you’ve ﬁnished? “You just know in your heart when it’s done,” he says. “It’s not a question of having to let go.” Even so, after three years there must have been some sort of comfort zone to break out of, to have to face the real world again. “It can be hard,” agrees Cillian, “but we still knew when it became a record rather than a bunch of songs. A huge amount of work had gone into each track: it was meticulous. You can’t put that amount of work in and not know when it’s ﬁnished.”
Aside from a couple of extra musicians (most notably Cougar’s D.H. Skogen), Another Way Of Being There is notably devoid of guests. Given all their connections, surely that would have been an option? According to Jeff, an option yes but not a viable one. “We like to do as much in-house as we can – own label, own production, all played by ourselves,” he avows. “It can be a bit gimmicky having people in as guests: it’s obvious for an instrumental band to bring in a semi-well-known singer, loads of people do it. We want to be able to reproduce everything live ourselves.” “Everything that’s on the album is there because we want it to be,” agrees Cillian. “When there are vocals, it’s Jeff because he’s the singer. There could have been 10 seconds of vocals or a whole album, they’re treated as another instrument. We could have got 10 different singers from Dublin bands but it was never about that.” What it is about is a stunning album of elegant music (accompanied by original ﬁlms for each track) that avoids the pitfalls that often befalls artists of this type. “Right from the start, we knew that a lot of electronic music was elitist and if you didn’t get it, that was your problem,” says Jeff. “We always thought that was bullshit. Music should be enjoyable to listen to. Our stuff isn’t necessarily written to be accessible but it’s not meant to be obscure either.” “You can still be adventurous and original within those realms,” Cillian continues.” If you take a lot of classic electronic artists, say Autechre, they started off by making really beautiful music and then went down a path where it became more about experimentation. We’re about pushing boundaries but within the realms of melody. It’s never avant garde or awkward, it can be complicated and hard to play but stick it on the radio or in a movie and it will work.” “It’s not an exercise in geekiness,” Jeff sums up. “It’s about making something beautiful.”
A decade ago, they were the most talked about band in the British Isles, with record companies bitch-slapping each other to get their signature. Yet their debut album was never released. This is the story of Chicks
A GIRL THING ~ Words by Illustration by
JOHN JOE WORRALL ISABEL REYES FEENEY
annie tierney claims she doesn’t remember it but on the day she met her husband-to-be, he was at the other end of her because it happens to be bloody true. “self defence mechanism”. Thank god the fella kept up the effort – the two were wed recently – but Tierney’s perceived standofﬁsh-ness does have some reasoning behind it. Anyone above 25 in this country should remember Chicks. For a period, they were everywhere as various media outlets lapped up the story of three Loreto College school girls who picked up the guitar at 15 and had every record company in the British Isles after them a year later. “The press had an angle and they went with it,” says former member Lucy Clarke, sipping tea in the Central Hotel. 10 years ago, Clarke, Tierney and Isabel Reyes-Feeney, became something of a national talking point. Indeed, the story of Chicks is one that has a uniquely Irish resonance about it: in a nation this small, you can be thrust forward to national fame with the kind of shuddering speed not many will be able to deal with. Imagine what that might have been like for three school girls; and imagine the lovely surprise that with each dollop of praise for their brand of spiky punk came 10 times the vitriol. Typical Irish begrudgery, after all, is only a cliché
As a result, walking down the street together between the ages of 16 and 20 was almost always a trial for the three best mates. “We couldn’t walk around town without people getting in your face about it. It was usually people our age or boys who were a little bit older who didn’t like that young girls had got a record contract after they’d been playing the guitar since year dot,” says Reyes-Feeney over the phone from Madrid, her home for the last seven years. “Even Gay Byrne was mean to us!” laughs Tierney, thinking back to their ﬁrst appearance on The Late Late Show singing early anthem ‘Daria’. “After we ﬁnished, he kinda lifted his eyebrows and he made some comment like ‘I won’t say anything about that’. He didn’t come over and make amends after that, put it that way.” The next morning, Tierney, still in sixth year at the time, garnered more abuse on the bus into town: “I think I remember some girl telling me it was more embarrassing than watching Boyzone dancing.” Clarke takes up the story, “You became so used to people being smart arsed and saying ‘oh you’re that girl from Chicks aren’t ya’ in a really snidey way. Even in
Stiff /// Little Fingers
college, people would be in the middle of conversations with you and you’d feel great – ‘whoopee I’m socialising’ – and then they’d say ‘yeah I saw you on TV years ago’ with real venom about it.” Adds Tierney, “Some people got it and thought it was cool. We were doing it because we thought it was fuckin’ cool anyway. Some people just thought ‘they can’t play and they’re annoying’. That’s fair enough but people were very, very unnecessarily mean. We were 18, for god’s sake.”
It had all begun so humbly as well, Annie’s brother Mick (aka Mick Pyro, Republic of Loose frontman) convincing his 15-year-old sister that she should start an all-girl band. The three girls spent the next day deciding who would play what and the day after, arrived into school no longer as three mates but as a wholly different animal entitled simply, Chicks. “There used to be day-time gigs in Eamonn Doran’s on Saturdays,” says Clarke, “and we started going to gigs in Slatterys when we were 15 as well. We’d drop in demos to venues around the city
and they just kept on booking us.” An early demo got them a manager and by the time it came to the summer between ﬁfth and sixth year, they were being courted by every record company going, with Reyes-Feeney remembering that “once one A&R guy comes to a gig, you ﬁnd that they all do”. Soon they had several well received EPs, support slots with the Manics and Sonic Youth, a tour with Ash, BBC Radio 1 attention, as well as a slot at the Reading Festival. Coming back to sixth year, they often found numerous column inches devoted to them in the weekend papers, including one picture of the three of them hanging around outside the school in their uniforms. Says Tierney: “I remember one of the senior people at the school bringing out that picture of us and she had circled everything that was wrong with the uniforms. One didn’t have the white socks up to her knees et cetera: you had to laugh.”
Writing more and more songs towards the end of their ﬁnal year in school, with Mick often helping out re-jigging some of
(L-R) Lenny Waronker, co-head of DreamWorks, Isabel, Lucy, Annie and Tim Carr A&R for DreamWorks, pictured in 2001
their efforts, along with contributing some tunes as well, the clamour to get them signed was huge. Promises were made about tonnes of cash and all three were encouraged to quit school, but they waited until they’d thrown away the uniforms for good before signing with DreamWorks. The label offered creative freedom and also any producers they wanted. In the end, they settled on making their ﬁrst record in Philadelphia with alt-darlings Royal Trux (Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema). In the process, they learned Texas Hold ‘Em; how 14% proof beer leads to ﬁghts and that their producers weren’t overly enamoured with their original songs. “They wanted to make everything and then cut it up: sometimes it worked and others it completely didn’t. They didn’t know what to make of us, maybe,” says Annie. “Sometimes you’d play them something we’d written and then they’d immediately say they didn’t want it to
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~ “We were in a band, doing what we wanted to do and having fun. We were three mates who didn’t care that everyone who was our age in Dublin hated us” ~
sound that way,” adds Lucy. What was left was an album their record company said at ﬁrst was perfect. Then nothing. DreamWorks soon shedded a number of jobs and dark clouds began to gather. They were told they had to re-record “this and that”, only to be told every effort wasn’t quite right. This continued as the album stayed un-released and slowly but surely, the girls, now returned to Dublin, became frustrated. “I just remember a lot of hanging around. It was more unsettling for us as we didn’t know what we were supposed to do,” says Reyes-Feeney. “It was about a year of us waiting around and a year
is forever at that age. You could tell DreamWorks weren’t really interested. I suppose that did lead to the end.” With the record in limbo and unable to sign a different deal due to their contract, the three went their own ways, going into various college courses. Says Isabel, “I hung around Dublin for a couple of months after that, but it was like a marriage that had broken down, I didn’t want to be reminded of everything every day. It was like I needed the divorce from Dublin and I headed for Madrid.”
All three have been in various bands since and made guest appearances with
Republic of Loose to boot. Then, at the tail end of 2007, that original debut came back into their possession, after which they pressed up a few thousand copies, to some acclaim. In fact, years on from the bitching and the hype, it’s actually a ﬁne record. Despite a few reunion gigs last year, though, a full comeback is laughed out of the building by the three of them – day jobs, kids and marriages are what concern them these days. “It was great,” says Reyes-Feeney, “we just tried not to take it too seriously, we were in a band, doing what we wanted to do and having fun. We were three mates who didn’t care that everyone who was our age in Dublin hated us!”
NIGHTFLIGHT AT BUTTON FACTORY NOVEMBER 2008
saturday 1st november
saturday 22nd november
RADIOCLIT. TEENAGE BAD GIRL. HOT CLUB DE PARIS. KITSUNE MAISON GHISLAIN TOUR. POIRIER. + transmission djs
saturday 8th november
+ john lord fonda. (citizen records party)
saturday 29th november (8pm)
transmission indie/dance/noise every saturday at button factory advance tickets: www.tickets.ie
+ transmission djs
saturday 15th november
ninja tune, france
autokratz, hearts revolution, punks jump up, beni (riot in belgium)
BUTTON FACTORY FORMERLY MUSIC CENTRE CURVED STREET TEMPLE BAR DOORS 11PM ADVANCE TICKETS WWW.TICKETS.IE
Friday 7 November Benway, Louche Doug Cooney Friday 14 November Pablo Vs Jimmy B John Mahon Vs Jaycee Rubio Vs Funboi Dan Mac Vs Bren Black Friday 21 November Big Dish Go Birthday Marc Houle Live Big Dish Go DJs Friday 28 November Tobi Neumann Ian Bright
ELECTRONIC ARTS ~ Words by
state’s ﬁrst encounter with a max tundra live gig was a bewildering and edifying experience. It had been four years since his brilliantly skewed electronic pop masterpiece, Mastered By Guy At The Exchange was released. Max (real name Ben Jacobs) was playing a few gigs to keep himself in pocket and his Dublin date towards the end of 2006 took place in Kennedys, Westland Row. With the performance, he managed to thoroughly recreate the oddity and creativity of his music while playing keyboards, wearing cute bear hats, singing in a high-pitched falsetto and playing covers of The Sound of Music’s ‘So Long, Farewell’ and The KLF’s ‘What Time Is Love?’ As we said, an odd but singularly electrifying set. Fast forward nearly two years and six months since that second album and Ben has ﬁnally released the new songs he debuted on that tour in the form of Parallax Error Beheads You and State has to ask, what took him so long? As he explains on the phone from his Hackney home, the truth is a simple combination of a slow work ethic and a minor addiction to frivolous online gaming. “Basically, with this album, I’ve had my very productive weeks and my very non productive weeks. When I sit down and work on music, the initial setting up of everything, I ﬁnd quite a chore but then once I get into the swing of things, I stick the old headphones on and have a few late nights. I’ve got quite good at Scrabble because of Scrabulous on Facebook which thankfully has just been taken off. In the last few months of working on the record, it was deﬁnitely a good distraction for me. I was playing that and so I’ve become very good at wasting time on the internet.”
His time is clearly not all wasted as Parallax... once again showcases his ear for making pop music without all the usual tools and cornerstones. Much has been made of his recording techniques, for while Jacobs’ music is forward thinking and wilfully eclectic, his methodology, which utilises an antiquated Commodore Amiga 500 computer as the main sequencer, is less so. “The reason I never got round to using a laptop or even a PC or a Mac to make music is because I reckon there are loads and loads more people out there who are already using those software titles much more conﬁdently than I am,” he explains. “The Amiga forces you to think in a certain way: you’ve got this quite complicated music in your head and you’re forced to channel it through this fairly redundant hardware and software and then try to get it to sound exactly as it does in your head.” If Parallax Error Beheads You is the soundtrack inside Ben Jacobs’ brain, then State would like to move in right away and
start using the bouncy castle please. The songs are kaleidoscopic and off-kilter, with constantly changing rhythms, and the whole record is so meticulously-layered, it’s not surprising it took him so long to ﬁnish it. “The thing about this record is, musically, it’s probably the most complex thing I’ve done of the three albums,” says Ben. “But similarly, the actual melodies, the singable parts, are pretty damn catchy. So if it was just on in Top Shop, you know someone will just come in and they’ll sing along with it and if they stop and stick the old headphones on, they’ll realise there’s all this sort of ridiculous stuff buried in the mix.” Much of what makes Max Tundra stand out are the brisklysung lyrics, extolling the virtues of everyday activities and things such as internet bidding, charity shop jumpers and essential amino acids, all shot through with a humility that has become a trademark. “I wanted them to be accessible, because it’s another way for people to sing along with, you know, these quite complex tunes,” he explains. “I think if my lyrics were really complex and weird, it would just scare everyone off!”.
Jacobs has an almost R&B standard falsetto auto-tuned croon, which can also be explained by a hobby he developed in the interim between albums two and three. “I’ve been going to karaoke every week! I have these friends that put on a karaoke night every Tuesday. That’s how I’ve been practising my performance and my pitch.” So there must have been some inspirational and vocally challenging singers to live up to? “Yeah, Mariah Carey or Destiny’s Child, just to sort of test the old range,” he laughs. “There’s that high note in ‘Vision Of Love’ by Mariah Carey which is always a bit tricky: the money notes. But yeah, most of Destiny’s Child is pretty straightforward. I mean, the thing with Destiny’s Child is that it’s quite sort of quick, so it’s more about the speed of the thing.” Imagining the diminutive Jacobs on-stage giving it socks to ‘Bills Bills Bills’ would be a sight, so it seems logical to ask him, if he could join any band who would it be? “Destiny’s Child, deﬁnitely,” he chuckles. “Probably in a sort of programming capacity, rather than a sort of sleek up front singing and dancing capacity. I could increase their market share to people who only listen to quirky alternative music. Actually, that’s a horrible answer. Hopefully, I could just teach Beyoncé some dance moves!”
~ Words by Photography by
JOHN WALSHE ROGER WOOLMAN
Playing piano in paramilitary pubs. Duelling with Neil Hannon. Stage diving with pissed-up football fans. Finding his voice. Realising he wasnâ€™t weird. Embracing failure. Enjoying success.
for a man with multi-platinum sales and awards under his belt, duke special is perhaps irelandâ€™s unlikeliest pop star. sure, he stands out next 47
in a crowd: the dreadlocks, eyeliner and ‘hobo chic’ dress sense see to that. True, the boy sure can sing, and is arguably the ﬁnest piano player on this island. So what is it that makes him seem anathema to chart shows and Top of the Pops? Maybe it’s the quiet, unassuming nature. Perhaps it’s his softspoken Northern brogue. Or is it the fact that he looks more like the frontman in a Scandinavian death metal/crusty combo than a sensitive balladeer? The truth is, it’s probably all of the above, and more. Duke Special is good at confounding expectations. “I don’t like being pigeonholed,” he tells State midway though our interview. The chances of that are extremely unlikely, we feel. Duke (Peter Wilson to his mammy) has just released his third album, I Never Thought This Day Would Come, preceded by lead single and current radio hit, ‘Sweet Sweet Kisses’. While unmistakably Duke Special, it’s a bold step forward from his previous outing, Songs From The Deep Forest, and his debut, Adventures In Gramophone. “I didn’t want to do Songs From The Deep Forest Part 2. I wanted to grow and develop as an artist,” he explains. To that end, he collaborated on the songwriting with a number of people, including his producer and longtime friend, Paul Pilot, a German punk drummer called Daniel Benjamin, Aqualung’s Ben Hales and a certain Bernard Butler. The singer really enjoyed the collaborative process of writing with other people, and it’s something he’d be keen to explore again. “I’ve always enjoyed singing, and I want to keep growing as a writer,” he admits. “Songs on a record are almost like sentences or phrases out of context, and when you can lift someone else’s sentence and make it your own in the context of your own conversation… As long as I can mean what I’m singing, I’m not precious about having to write everything. As long as it makes sense to me and it’s true for me to sing, I can cover it, which is why in the context of my live show, I often do one or two covers within the set. It adds to my vocabulary, almost.” He was particularly excited about working with Bernard Butler: “From hearing the McAlmont and Butler stuff a number of years ago, Bernard Butler was always someone I wanted to work with. I realised that he wrote with other people. Duffy had done some gigs with me in Ireland and she had written some of her album with him. She thought he’d really like what I do, so my manager contacted him and I think Duffy put in a word for me as well, and we ended up writing a song together. “He has a real strong vision of where he’s going. It was a real rush to work with someone like that. I wrote the lyrics to the song and we worked on the melody together. It was a real conﬁdence booster to hold my own in that context, and hopefully, I’m going to do some more work with him.” Some of co-conspirators weren’t so deliberate, however. “In Chicago, there were a lot of interesting collaborators who we worked with... just local people. The guy who ran the studio was like an eccentric magnet for the most unlikely people you could ever meet,” grins Duke. Chicago was just one of three locations where the album was recorded (the others being London and Culleybacky in Northern Ireland, the latter “just ’cos it’s near where I live”). That wasn’t merely down to circumstances, however, but was a deﬁnite plan:
“I just wanted to have an adventure with the record, to throw ourselves a few curve-balls, deliberately. It’s so easy to just go through the motions recording, and I wanted to be stimulated and inspired.” Many of the tracks, however, had their genesis in that “really great studio called Pogo, in Chicago, where there’s loads of really odd keyboard-based instruments. There’s a thing called an Optigan, which is an organ that you feed plastic records into: one of them, which we used in ‘Digging An Early Grave’, is a sample of a circus from Berlin in the 1930s; there’s the sounds of a Polynesian village, so we put that in. It’s like an old sampling machine, almost, from the ’70s. So we used that as the basis, and an old Rhythm King drum machine, so a number of the tracks were started deliberately with more synthetic sounds and old weird sounds.” Despite the fact the songs were created in three very different environments, however, I Never Thought… is a very cohesive piece of work. “I think this record has a more immediate, punchy sound,” he muses. “I think some of that is down to the fact that there’s more guitar on it. We deliberately kept the arrangements a bit sparser. Nick Terry, who mixed the record, worked on a lot of Bernard Butler stuff, which I didn’t know until after we’d booked him, as well as the ﬁrst Libertines record and the Klaxons, so he was coming at it with much more energy, which I think really comes across.”
While the credits on the album take up considerable space on the sleeve, such was the amount of contributors, it’s clear from the off that Duke Special is the ringmaster of this particular circus. The songs, in true Duke style, have beautiful, soaring melodies, hiding a darker heart beating underneath in the shape of the lyrics, ﬁlled with “broken and beautiful” characters, “lonesome skeletons” and strangers, “howling through the night”. “I couldn’t stick at doing heartbreak,” he explains. “I’d have to lighten the mood. Similarly, I couldn’t stick at doing throwaway: I’d have to bring something more substantial in. I love the variety. On a real shallow level, I love mixing it up: I don’t like being pigeonholed. Also, I think it does reﬂect who I am, in my writing: it’s never so sunny, it has a dark underbelly, but it’s not without hope.” Does he write from the perspective of invented characters, then, or is he exorcising his own demons? “Both,” he avows. “A lot of the songs on the album are inspired by books that I read but I ﬁnd that I end up communicating my own self through the characters that wake up in a ﬁeld of snow or are breaking down on Union Street, or whatever it is. I use the characters as a vehicle for what I want to say: whether I intend to or not, it seems to be what comes out.” So does it end up as almost a form of therapy or musical exorcism? “Yeah, but knowing that other people are going to be listening to it as well, I always try to be entertaining with it. The last thing I’d want would be to be singing morose songs about my feelings all the time: I want it to be a circus as well.” State wondered if it ever strikes him as ironic when audiences smile and gleefully sing his heartbreaking lyrics back at him during gigs.
~ “I remember going to Nashville, before I was Duke Special, and every other person I met was in the music industry. The penny suddenly dropped with me: this isn’t weird, loads of people are doing this. Whereas, coming from Belfast, it just seemed like you were being a fool, and being self-indulgent by continuing to pursue this crazy dream” ~ 49
~ “I ﬁnd failure very interesting. Often, we think that you progress, you grow and you stop being fucked up and you start being sorted. I’m realising that everybody’s in the same boat: that’s the growth, realising everybody has the same battles going on, the same insecurities. It’s about facing up to those, as opposed to pretending or thinking you’ve got it all sorted out” ~ “It is weird when people jauntily sing along with ‘Digging An Early Grave’, for example, but I like it,” he grins. “One that always makes me laugh is in ‘Brixton Leaves’, when I sing ‘Belfast’ and all the people from Northern Ireland go ‘Yo’ and the line is ‘Belfast, leave me alone’. The band always snigger during that one,” he smiles. “One memorable time, we were doing a headline show in Zurich or Geneva, and Northern Ireland were playing Liechtenstein the next night, so there were about 50 Northern Ireland supporters, all in full regalia, singing football chants before I came on. It was terrifying, in a way. They were all pretty hammered. They were shouting for Chip [Duke Special’s incredible, unique percussionist], so he stage-dived into the middle of them. But during ‘Brixton Leaves’, when I sang that line, there was a massive cheer.”
It’s a long way from piano bars in Belfast to headline shows across Europe, and it’s a sign of just how far Duke Special has come. Music was always part of his make-up, and was encouraged at home when he was growing up. “My grandmother taught piano. She died when I was two, but she taught my three sisters and my mum and her ﬁve siblings,” he recalls. “All of them learned the old school method, where she had a knitting needle and a wrong note brought a rap on the knuckles. But it was always there in the house. “Even now, my mum’s sister, who is in her 70s, was over visiting from America and I had to do my party piece at the gettogether. That’s where I overcame my stage nerves, being forced to play at family events: ‘go up and do your exam piece’. Me and my cousins had to go up and play: it was so embarrassing. It still happens: ‘do that song that’s on the radio at the minute’.” He remembers the moment when the 11-year-old Peter Wilson realised that he had a talent for performing, “before my voice broke”. “I saw a reaction and I suddenly realised, ‘I seem to be able to do this’. Then, I think it becomes your safety blanket going through school, when you can do something, whether it be sport or whatever, something you’re known for. It’s your way to cope going through school. But I never thought I could make a career of it because it didn’t seem that likely an option. I went for careers advice and they told me I could become a music teacher or a
classical pianist, so there weren’t a lot of options then. “Now, I think it’s perceived that there are a whole range of things within the music industry that you can do, but then it was glaringly omitted, certainly in Northern Ireland. There always seemed to be more happening in the South. We had this very archaic view as to what you could do with music?” Does he think it’s easier now for budding Northern Irish musicians? “I think it is,” he opines. “It’s maybe not so much a pipe dream that people can do it. Maybe that means there’s a lot more people trying to do it, so it’s difﬁcult for different reasons now. But I think it’s not as outlandish a notion. “I remember going to Nashville, before I was Duke Special, and every other person I met was in the music industry,” he continues. “The penny suddenly dropped with me: this isn’t weird, loads of people are doing this. Whereas, coming from Belfast, it just seemed like you were being a fool, and being self-indulgent by continuing to pursue this crazy dream.” It must have been difﬁcult, in that environment, to have the wherewithal, the belief and the persistence to keep going, particularly when, like Duke Special, you’re married with three young children. “I remember a lot of family members asking me, ‘When are you getting a real job?’ or ‘How long are you going to keep doing this for?’” he admits “It’s hard on the family, because you are away so much. And everything in popular myths about being a musician is completely at odds with having a family and being safe and secure: everything from morally to ﬁnancially. That is the myth anyway, that neither belongs in each other’s camp.” He cites a fellow Northern singer, Brian Houston, who he used to play piano with, as his real inspiration: “That’s where I learned my apprenticeship as a performer. He was doing it, long before I completely believed that I could do it.” Is it true he used to play in working men’s clubs? “I played everywhere. I probably played paramilitary bars, student bars, members’ lounges, wherever would have me.” Playing covers? “Yeah, but I would make them my own,” he stresses. “I would only do songs that I liked. It was such a great thing to do – some nights I was doing six hours a night, solid playing, and my voice doesn’t seem to tire when I’m on the road now, which is great.”
At times, it must have been a bit soul-destroying, though, when he wanted to play his own songs and all people want to hear is ‘Candle In The Wind’? “I would make it my goal to win people over or to turn my angst into energy in the way I performed,” he says. “So I learned a lot of really useful things, how to play to someone else’s audience or an apathetic audience. It also gave me a huge vocabulary of songs and song-writing, learning everything from Sam Cooke to The Lemonheads, great songs. I wasn’t doing ‘American Pie’ or anything like that: I was just picking songs that I could sing and relate to. In some ways, it really helped a lot for me to do that.” State is sure it at least gave him a thicker neck. He laughs. “Totally. Heckling doesn’t concern me: I enjoy it now, ‘cos it feels like you’re alive. But there were times when I was playing in swanky members’ lounges where people couldn’t have cared less. At that stage, I would have driven to Wexford to do an hour’s show of my own stuff to 10 people for no money, and I got more satisfaction from doing that than earning a packet over the weekend. I always saw it as a means to an end. “There are people who just love to get out and play: they have a nine-to-ﬁve job and it’s an adventure and that’s totally legitimate. But there are people who are caught in that trap of doing covers all the time and then it’s soul-destroying: I feel for anybody who is trapped in that world.”
When Peter Wilson found his own voice, and decided not to be a piano player in someone else’s band, he essentially found Duke Special. The name came from his study of old music hall and vaudeville stage names, where ‘Duke’ was extremely popular. But did he always sing in his own, native Northern accent? “When I started, when I was about 18, I was in England, playing in a band and I was told, one of the ﬁrst times we recorded, not to use my own accent and to soften the vowels, and it sounded terrible. When I came home, I listened to people Van Morrison singing ‘Be There My Vision’ on Hymns To The Silence and it was just brilliant. He’s singing about Ardglass and Downpatrick, where I grew up. It’s not something to be hidden or embarrassed about. It is what it is. This is where I’m from. So it was almost like I had to unlearn the covering of my accent.” It seems that Duke is extremely proud of his heritage, and why not. His good friend and fellow singer, Neil Hannon, famously penned a song, ‘Sunrise’ about living in Northern Ireland and The Troubles in particular. Is it ever something he’d write about? “I have in the past written a couple of songs tackling that,” he muses. “I ﬁnd any kind of identity debates or thoughts, for me, always boil down to inner battles, to universal things, which are connections with love, with grace, with facing up to your own shit. I ﬁnd any of those big political things boil down to some things which are much more universal than North/South, Protestant/Catholic or anything like that. For me, there are more basic things and that’s what interests me, those inner battles. “I ﬁnd failure very interesting,” he continues. “Often, we think that you progress, you grow and you stop being fucked up and you start being sorted. I’m realising that everybody’s in the same boat: that’s the growth, realising everybody has the same battles going on, the same insecurities. It’s about facing up to those, as opposed to pretending or thinking you’ve got it all
Duke Special on the events that have marked his rise.
Winning a Meteor Award this year for Best Irish Male: “I never expected that, which accounts for my completely crap speech. I’ll not make that mistake again: even if I don’t think I have a chance, I’ll have something prepared. You enjoy those things while they’re there, but you hold them really lightly because there’s always the next big thing. It’s more important being satisﬁed with what you’re doing and having a body of work that you’re happy with than the awards, which are just ﬂeeting.” (Duke pictured with his manager Phil Nelson) Being nominated for the Choice Prize twice and blowing people away at the live event: “I’d played a lot in Ireland but that was the ﬁrst time that journalists and radio people sat up and took notice. That and playing at Other Voices were probably the two things in Ireland that brought things up a level. Up until then, it was deﬁnitely a gig-goer’s experience.” Touring with BellX1: “That taught me how a support band should be treated”. Playing ﬁve themed nights at The Empire in Belfast: “Each night was like the ﬁrst night of a tour, so it was tough but I’m glad I did it.” Appearing on Later with Jools Holland: “Amy Winehouse was in one corner, The Raconteurs in another, Muse, John Legend, The Gypsy Kings: it was so humbling to be involved in it. As soon as we started playing, I think that was the moment where I felt, ‘something’s happening here. I’m actually making some progress’. But I would love to do it again to enjoy the moment a bit more, because the last time, I was crapping my pants.”
Singing with The Muppets in the ﬁnal episode of Sesame Tree, the Northern Ireland edition of Sesame Street: “I met Bert and Ernie so I can die happy now.” Meeting Neil Hannon: “Fighting Neil Hannon was bigger,” he grins, referring to the faceoff between Special and “the cad Hannon”, which took place on October 14 in Vicar Street.
~ Everything in popular myths about being a musician is completely at odds with having a family and being safe and secure: everything from morally to ﬁnancially. That is the myth anyway, that neither belongs in each other’s camp”
sorted out. I think a huge strength is in accepting failure as part of life, and embracing it, as opposed to running a mile from failure. I think there’s a lot to learn from that.”
It would seem, however, that failure, in a professional sense, is not on the radar for Duke Special. His live show, always a unique event, is becoming even more theatrical as he embraces the worlds of vaudeville and music hall even more: to this end, he’s worked with Pigeon & Plum’s Vaudeville Circus in Northern Ireland and would love to do a tour directed by Tim Burton, “where it’s still a concert but using elements of theatre”. “To me, music hall was common man’s opera,” he explains. “It was throwaway in some respects, because you’re playing to a drinking audience: there’s a kind of coarseness about it, but there’s this great artistry as well, and out of that grew silent movie stars like Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy.” The theatrics of the stage show also make it easier for him as a performer. “There are people who thrive on the banter and the stories,” he notes. “Glen Hansard is a great example of someone who has a great gift of speaking and story-telling. That would never be my strength, so I had to ﬁnd a way to do this without dying on stage. So for me, it was as much of as crutch as anything. But I like the idea of using your weaknesses to your strength. “And I ﬁnd it a really useful gauge, because it helps me not take myself too seriously. There’s that side of art that it should be for everyone. Music, only recently, started being recorded: before that, it was a live experience and I love that element where it’s just for the moment, for these people who are listening right now. But I love the way it’s more profound than that as well. Music is a fasttrack to the soul, for me. It’s a way of getting under the skin that nothing else can do.”
Instrumental Break: Chip
Anybody who has been to a Duke Special gig will be familiar with Chip, his multi-talented percussionist, whose range of instruments includes something called a Stumpf Fiddle (a collection of bells, horns etc) and a cheese grater and whisk. Indeed, their last Irish tour saw the Duke Special merchandise stall with its own, branded whisks and cheese graters, which proved extremely popular with fans, but not so much with promoters. At one gig, someone hurled a whisk through the air, resulting in the promoter removing them from sale. “I don’t know how a whisk could be seen as a lethal weapon,” Duke laughs. “Unless you were scrambled to death, which would take quite a while.” For his next tour, however, he promises “many more items from the kitchen”. George Foreman eat your heart out.
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