Musical Rooms

March 25, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 19: Le Loup

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 10:11 am
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“My favorite space USED to be my own apartment bedroom. It was three separate apartment bedrooms, in three separate apartments because they comprise the spaces where I recorded The Throne…. Those spaces have since been replaced by the basement of our drummer’s family home (in Bethesda, Maryland), where we get together to practice and form new material. It’s a pretty squalid get-up. There are cords lying everywhere, broken percussion instruments stuffed in every corner, and a good half of the room (which all in all must be about 800 square feet) is taken up by two enormous leather couches and an ancient wide screen TV, both of which are largely ignored, if not buried, under musical instruments.

Natural light comes in via two large sliding glass doors leading to a small back yard. When we first got together, it used to be a chore to get there and slog through each song for the first or even thirtieth time. As everybody in the band grew together and started understanding each others’ musical approaches, both the music itself and the group dynamic shifted, and the room became an escape from everyday activity. Now, just being there helps get the creative juices flowing.

In terms of things that are important to us to have, we’re not too choosy. Our ratty 12 channel PA is vital, as well as (obviously) all our instruments. Beer and/or wine is a creature comfort, but we’ve been known to function alright without it. I guess more important than that would have to be all the random auxiliary percussion instruments we have lying around. A lot of good ideas get started by somebody banging on something idly, and then everybody joining in.

On average, we spend about eight to 12 hours a week there, divided into two to three practices of four hours. For now it’s a very regimented schedule, but once we start the recording process for forthcoming tracks on a new album, I suspect we’ll be spending a lot more spontaneous time there, as it’s where we’ll set up all the recording equipment.

Isolation was once central to my creative process. I’m slowly transitioning into more of a herd creature, though. Lately I’ve tried recording things by myself, and it’s just not as nice sounding as when all seven of us in the band are working off of each other. Every once in a while, though, I still need my alone time to gather my thoughts and piece together ideas for new songs.

The space would mean nothing without the people occupying it. I’ve showed up early to practices a few times when nobody’s there, and it just feels like a room with a bunch of instruments. It’s all of us working together, and filling it up with sound, that makes it a living, breathing area. So that’s important.”

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Washington seven-piece Le Loup released their debut, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly last year on Sub Pop offshoot, Hardly Art. Heavily influenced by Dante’s Inferno, it was critically acclaimed. They have been compared to Animal Collective and Arcade Fire, using multiple instruments to create a post-rock spools of experimental sound. They are about to start work on their second album. For more information, gig dates and tracks, visit www.myspace.com/leloupmusic.

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March 18, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 18: Julie Feeney

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 8:36 am
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“My favourite space to create music in is hard to define. It can be one of many spaces, but the most important space is the space that is my own head. If that space is furnished properly then I’d be happy to work on the roof of Clery’s. I get a lot of my ideas in mid conversation, or while walking, or travelling, so my copy books and mobile phone are always close at hand so that I can jot words and musical ideas down in tonic solfa.

So the space could be on the road, or on a train or plane or while having a coffee with someone or watching a film. I’m quite a shifty geezer when it comes to the next stage of composition and I need to move spaces a lot during the different parts of the process. I probably exude the composure of someone who’s carrying a bomb or who’s about to initiate a catastrophe.

Firstly I always work everything out on paper and manuscript. I then work with studio gear in my bedroom but sometimes I get cabin fever and move out to the sofa. I work in the kitchen when I’m doing work on the piano. I do my orchestration work on my laptop on the sofa or on my bed and then sometimes transfer the files to the desktop in the bedroom so I can work there for a change of scene. Once I went away to Annamakerrig and I found it really brilliant because I was taken out of my environment in a focused way and I got a massive amount of work done.

My bedroom is very clean but very cluttered until I get a fit of tidying every six months or so. I have often shared my bed with a keyboard and hard disk recorder or bundles of cables for months, and you are as likely to find yourself poked by some kind of charger or memory stick as you are to find the pillow. I am also a hoarder. When I was seven they found the end of a burger in my wardrobe 6 months after we’d been on a day trip to Dublin as I was feeling nostalgic about the first burger I’d ever eaten. So I never throw out anything of sentimental value, even a cable. Curiously enough I keep the living room and kitchen extremely tidy. It’s some kind of weird contradictory cleansing complex I have.

The most important things for me to have in my creative space are plenty of scope for silence and ideally an opportunity to have a glance at the nice view or the world outside from time to time. During the day, inspecting the shenanigans of the odd-ball neighbour can work very well, or some poor dog who’s tormenting himself trying to do something impossible.

I love the sound of the squeaky gate the goes every time someone drives into the car park across the road. I really love the sound of the night at about 3am and the way things echo in such an unusual way. I love the smell of the rainy night when you stick your head out the window for a glance, and the old drips of rain from a more glorious earlier rainfall that stagger from a drain and sound like they’re drunk. I really love the time when the birds start to sing at about 4am in those last few hours before the traffic starts again. Those last few lingering pregnant hours have a sense of peaceful magic and seem like they’re longer. It feels like nobody else in the world is awake. All the music always comes together then.

I often go for extremely long periods of time without even moving when I’m working. I could stay seated and working for 10 to 12 hours without even getting up. It’s probably very unhealthy to do that but it really works for me. After trying for years I just can’t get into this regular day of working that many artists talk about where they do a proper moderate day’s work. I’d love to get there eventually but I’m still someone who needs some kind of deadline, even if it’s something motivated by anxiety of an external deadline, and I do love going with momentum. I probably live my life that way. I love variety in life and while working on a specific project I do very intensive stints. Then I like being able to have the freedom of working somewhere else for a while.

My schedule is nondefinable and includes grabbing time when inspiration hits and sometimes I have to wait until I’m up to date on all of the admin stuff which really drains my will to live sometimes! In creative terms, isolation is hugely important to me. I spend all of the creative process working alone, and then only when that stage is over and I have my soundworld together do I feel comfortable having others listen.

What I like most about my space is the fact that it is always so present and always plentiful in wonderful surprises. It is a huge personal resource in that I know that amazing comfort can come from there.”

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Julie Feeney’s self-produced debut album 13 Songs amassed rave reviews on its release in 2005 and won the inaugural Choice Music Prize. In recent months she has been the subject of an RTE MyTunes programme. Feeney, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, performed a self-orchestrated version of 13 songs with the Ulster Orchestra, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio Ulster. Julie also conducted the strings of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in concert with Moya Brennan and orchestrated nine songs especially for the performance. Her composition ‘Sleeping’ was performed by the Crash Ensemble at SHINDIG in Dublin. She is currently working on her second album. For more information, gig dates and tracks, visit www.myspace.com/juliefeeney.

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March 11, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 17: Felix Kubin

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 8:20 am
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“I mostly get the best ideas while walking, traveling by train, or in an elevator. Therefore I always have something to write with with me and I whistle or sing sketches on my mobile phone. I even had situations in a supermarket kneeling in the floor and making very fast sketches of a score for a melody. The production and realization always happens in my studio.

Apart from that, I have an ongoing series of accidental recordings which I call “One Shot Recordings”. I tape special sounds or moments with a flash card recorder – for example, my neighbour tearing down a wall or the high pitched squawking of a defunct shower head. The only influence I have on these recordings is my position to the sound origin and movements with the microphone. It’s my audio dogma. No effects, no additions.

When collecting ideas, the most important thing is my voice. When producing music, it’s my EMU e-64 sampler (it has very good converters and also sounds amazing in extreme transpositions) and my Korg MS 20 synthesizer.

I spend about 70% of my time here as my studio is also my living and wrestling room. So, my production time schedule is rather impulsive and chaotic. When I have to care for my daughter, I work from 11am til 5pm. Then usually as soon as she sleeps, from 11pm til 3am. In the morning I am a mess. She puts adhesive tape on my instruments and eyes and asks for hot chocolate. I walk like a zombie through my studio. When I have strict deadlines I mostly work from dusk til dawn. I never make a difference between work and private life.

I mostly work alone or invite musicians to work on certain recordings. But some projects happen in duets. That creates a totally different working atmosphere. For example, I cannot sit and stare at a spot for 10 minutes or listen to some samples for 30 minutes because that’s kind of idiotic, even if it might be necessary at the moment – necessary but not social. On the other hand, when working with others in the studio it’s easier not to get lost in microstructures which can make you feel out of your head.

When I look out of my window I can see employees working in a glass insurance building. I see them, they see me.”

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Electronic musician Felix Kubin has been making music since he was a child and is a co-founder of experimental group Klangkrieg. As a producer, he has recorded music for Cologne label A-Musik Records and has his own label Gagarin Records. He is also an occasional radio playwright. Felix Kubin plays Crawdaddy this Friday March 14th at 11.30pm. For more information, gig dates and tracks, visit www.myspace.com/httpwwwmyspacecomkubin.

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March 5, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 16: John Vanderslice

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 12:03 am
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“My favorite musical space is my recording studio, Tiny Telephone. I started it about 10 years ago and it’s been the focus of all my creative output since my first band. It’s about 600 square meters, and it’s filled with tons of old tube gear and tape decks (there are four) and – best of all – an old Neve console from 1976.

It’s located in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. It’s also the last all-analog recording studio in the Bay Area of the city and bands like Okkervil River, Death Cab For Cutie and Spoon have recorded here. All the guitar amps and keyboards are very special to me. I have a Hammond B3, a Yamaha grand piano and an old pump organ.

Timewise, I’m probably only a couple of days a month, because I don’t own it. As a result, it’s very expensive for me to book it out as it’s usually sold out. Everything I do in there, I have to schedule months in advance! That is the only drag of working in such a great space.

To write, isolation is very important. I am a loner and need to have a lot of quiet, dead time to write and record songs. If I had to sum up what I most love about being here, it’s that it feels like my heart and my blood are in the walls, the microphones, the wires…”

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John Vanderslice is an ex-member of experimental pop band MK Ultra. His solo releases have also combined pop aesthetics with offbeat multi-instrumentalism. Vanderslice runs the all analog Tiny Telephone studio in San Francisco and is signed to Barsuk, home to Menomena, Rilo Kiley, They Might Be Giants and Nada Surf. He plays Crawdaddy tonight at 8pm. For more information, gig dates and tracks, visit www.myspace.com/johnvanderslice.

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