Musical Rooms

June 27, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 34: You’re Only Massive

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 10:43 am


“We spend a lot of time travelling to and from gigs and this time has become an unofficial practice time and space. Travelling to the gig is a time full of fizzy nervous energy. Once you are actually on your way you already feel like you’ve achieved something. We spend this time making ideas about what we will do for the coming performance and spurring each other on to go through with it. Sometimes one of us will suggest something to the other, like a dance, and the other will nod throughout and say at the end ‘Not a hope in hell I’m doing that’.

Travelling home from a gig is often tinged with exhaustion and is all about relaxing and making sense of the gig/day/weekend before, and harnessing post-gig energy. There’s a bus called Rapid Express, that runs very late between Dublin and Waterford, like a Nitelink. Soon everywhere in Ireland will be a suburb of Dublin. The first verse of a song – ‘Here is Home’ – that I wrote on this bus after a gig, goes:

“Rapid Express, stress excess / ah what a mess now made / Make me new like a baby just / learning learning learning.”

From the get-go, we wanted to emulate the chatty social feeling that you hear in early hip hop or the euphoria of good techno parties, and create a public party space where eye contact happens. So it makes sense that most of our nine songs are written on-the-go, often on public transport. It probably won’t always be like this – I am in the very early stages of writing a piece which will be in a house in September and is more domestic and intimate, and often find myself thinking about it while cooking dinner.

I bought a laptop cheap when I was doing some gigs in New York last year and I take it everywhere with me. Sometimes I like to write with pen and paper, especially on planes, though my fingers find it easier to type now than to handwrite. A journey without snacks is a hideous place. Bananas are full of potassium – it is as if they were designed for human consumption, the way the hard peel protects the food centre, and comes off in convenient panels.

Although I write words alone and work on them over and again before showing them to anyone, I also really need to road test material and get feedback from people I trust. There is a long and gradual process of honing and re-working the original concept that I enjoy a lot. I tend to think of the performances we have coming up and work backwards from there. I am a writer rather than a musician and I write songs in a very formulaic way – at one point our sets were very monotone, all party songs, so I wrote a song called ‘Epidemic (we need you here)’ which is a ballad to wave your hands to.

The best thing about a journey like this is that at the end of it you have arrived somewhere else, and that place is either home or at a gig. If we come up with an idea while walking to the gig we can incorporate that easily, if not always seamlessly. One of my favourite things about live performance is the simplicity and directness of it. If you think about things for too long without taking action then you lose resolve and energy and courage.”


You’re Only Massive are presenting Disco-nnect (Remix) from Monday June 30th to Saturday July 5th as part of We Are Here 3.0 at The Project. Their split 12″ album, Dot-Dash, with Queen Kong and will be available from July. They embark on a 32 county tour in July, and in September will present a new show based around cooking and domesticity. For more information, visit

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June 20, 2008

Win tickets to see Damon and Naomi

Filed under: competitions,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 9:02 am
Tags: , ,

dandnDamon and Naomi play Whelan’s next Thursday, June 25th with support from Northstation.

To win one of two double passes to see the band, just answer the following question:

What was the name of the band the duo are best known for?

Leave your answer in the comments (or by email to musicalroomsATgmailDOTcom) and winners will be chosen by 5pm next Tuesday, June 23rd.

Links: Musical Rooms Part 33: Damon and Naomi

Update: Congrats to Claire Mc and Colin M, enjoy the gig.

Musical Rooms Part 33: Damon and Naomi

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 8:57 am


“Since 1997, we’ve recorded all our albums at home. Our living room is our tracking space, though we have also used hallways, etc., for effect. Our linen closet turns out to be a useful sound trap: when we open the doors, the reverb changes as the blankets and towels absorb more sound!

We live in a brick Victorian townhouse, now divided into apartments. Consequently there’s a fireplace in our studio, and very big windows. We track at night mainly, to avoid street noise. We are blessed with very kind neighbors! No one seems to mind the drums and electric guitars – a testament to their patience, but also to solid 19th century construction. Little noise travels between floors.

When we’re not recording, we keep only instruments around, for writing – guitars, keyboard, and (a new addition) piano. When we record, everything else comes out of the closets: drums, mixing desk, microphones … If we’re working on an album, we lose the usual bourgeois use of our living room for a half-year or more. The most important thing to have in this space is each other. We live here, so it’s not about grabbing time, but shutting out other responsibilities to focus solely on music can sometimes be a challenge.

Our isolation is important, for writing music. In fact we rented an apartment for a couple weeks in Paris to finish writing the last album – just to be alone with each other, a guitar and a keyboard. But once we have the songs, and start the recording process, we love having other musicians around. On our recent albums, we have worked extensively with Michio Kurihara, the electric guitarist; and Bhob Rainey, soprano saxophonist and arranger of the strings and horns on our newest album, Within These Walls.

We never think about creativity in terms of getting started – it’s just something we do. I suppose we started so long ago, I don’t remember how that happened! I use voice and guitar and it’s voice and keyboard for Naomi.

What we like most about the room is that it’s beautiful!”

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Damon and Naomi were once best known to many as Galaxie 500, but have been making music consistently as a duo, releasing their seventh album, Within These Walls last year. In the mid 90s, they were part of psychedelic rock band Magic Hour. July 2008 will see the reissue of their first post-Galaxie 500 album, More Sad Hits, whìch they’ve remastered, and includes new liner notes and photos. They play Whelan’s on Wednesday June 25th with support from Northstation; The Roisin Dubh, Galway on Thursday June 26th and Black Box, Belfast, on Friday 27th. For more information, visit

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June 13, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 32: Dan Deacon

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 9:49 am


“Right now, my favourite place to make music is this large closet in my basement that I’ve turned into a studio. It’s big enough for three people to fit into, with a large makeshift table made out of a broken door and some milk crates. It gets a nice sound, not much room sound, just as I like it. It’s about 7ft x 10ft. The walls are covered with thick fabric (green and blue) as well as some old childhood blankets. There is also a wall of shelves that hold my records, books, tools and other items you’d find in a nerd’s studio. It smells of cheap incense and dirty man.

I have a lot of equipment in there at the moment because I’m recording. Right in front of me are a bunch of bells and music boxes, several delay pedals, a few Oscillators, a couple of pitch shift pedals, Mbox, microphone, vocoder, talkbox, my computer, and a ghost in the dark ghost. What I need most when I’m in there is water and oranges. I’ve been down here everyday for the past two weeks from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. I only leave to shit or to empty the bottles of piss.

This record has been a mixture of isolation and group work. Most of the tracks are for a percussion ensemble with electronics and voice, so the first month of recording was done with my friend Chester who recorded all the mallet percussion and the kits. The last week was just me, doing vocoders, Oscillators and voice by myself but yesterday and today I recorded the choir. When it comes to recording, the pieces are composed months prior. The recording process starts with me trying to recreate what I do live, but I normally change it and build upon it. It’s fun to try out new things in a controlled enviroment. I also try to record at least one improvisation every few days.

This space is just really cosy. Sadly, I’m moving in two weeks and I’m really going to miss it. It has a charm like few of the rooms I’ve had in my life. I grew up in the basement so maybe thats why I like it so much. The subway rolls by all the time and rumbles up the room, which sounds like it makes recording quite hard, but it adds to its’ charm. It will be fun to pack everything up and try to recreate it somewhere else.”

Hailting from Baltimore, Dan Deacon is a key player in the Wham City underground arts collective. At his legendary shows, Deacon creates riotous party tunes from what looks like a table of taped-up junk in the middle of the dancefloor – never on the stage. He plays the Future Days Festival this Saturday June 14th at Vicar Street, Dublin with Jape, Deerhunter, White Williams and High Places. According to the promoters, expect “plenty of new tunes, favourites from the Spiderman of the Rings LP, and plenty of singalongs, dance-offs and god knows what else.” For more information, visit

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June 9, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 31: Matmos

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 6:31 am


Drew Daniel: My favourite space is somewhere in the future, with no phone, and a calendar with nothing written on it.

M.C. Schmidt: I am a practicalist, so I would have to speak about several places I have been. The production of our music is burdened with stuff: computers, microphones, mixing boards, synthesizers. I love this stuff, I don’t long for minimizing it, but it does limit the kind of place we can “create music” in. I loved our recent residency in the GRM Studios in Paris. It’s an amazing technical facility, total silence (if desired), weird stimulating architecture/space/community (the entirely round building that contains Radio France, the French National Orchestra, the French National Choir, etc) a charming, super-knowledgeable assistant,
an unparallelled history (it is the creation of the creator of our medium, Pierre Schaeffer) and delicious food served at regular hours and COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE!

M.C. Schmidt: We also go to a place in Whitefish, Montana called Snowghost that is a very different kind of paradise. It is in the mountains of Montana and is the project of young genius Brett Allen, whose obsession is making high quality recordings of all kinds, and he certainly has the gear to fulfill that obsession. It’s in his house, so one can work 24 hours a day, and when you go outside you are in the same kind of landscape as in, say, Brokeback Mountain… but without the sexual angst. If only I could talk him into actually cranking up that espresso machine that glitters at me, seductively, but is never used. There are pictures of Snowghost on the web, and some of the music we have made there, too. We’ve been working there (for years, now) on a collaborative album with the So Percussion Quartet and with Zeena Parkins and Mark Lightcap. so we may finish it this summer!

M.C. Schmidt: Our house in Baltimore is also good. The studio is in a new place for me – a basement. We don’t really have them in California, so it’s new to me: spacious but subterranean, though it has a door that opens to the outside. It has thick, bumpy, clay walls and a serrated wooden ceiling that baffles sound nicely and a shiny old concrete floor. It’s the first studio we’ve had in the house where Drew and I can sit side by side, which is something I’ve always longed for. We have all our keyboards out and immediately useable for the first time, which is probably what made Supreme Balloon what it was, to some extent.

M.C. Schmidt: Another favorite place is my best friend Steve Goodfriend’s home. The studio is in an old shed, a very simple wooden thing with folding tables and old rugs on the floor. What makes it so great is the talent on tap around there. Our friends are great musicians and always seem to have time to do whatever stupid musical experiments we want them to participate in! There is a very judgmental dog there, called Lucy. She knows when what you’re doing is bullshit or not and leaves when she doesn’t approve. I am more frightened of her than of any critic… and she never reads a press release! This place is where we made a lot of The West and the feeling comes somewhat from that place, too. It’s in a distant, sort of rural corner of Los Angeles, a neighborhood called Mount Washington.

Drew: For work, I need Digital Performer on a kick ass computer with lots of hard drive space, and my EMU E6400 sampler, my laptops with Max/MSP and Ableton, and some controllers. I also like to have plenty of outboard pedals and processors that I can play with all ten fingers; curating a signal chain is just as important to me as working onscreen. I think that you need different things at different points in the process. At the beginning of pieces, you need lots of free hard drive space and relative quiet outside. This is so that you can record indoors without sub-bass from passing delivery trucks ruining your recording of contact mic-ed fingernails scraping across a matchbox (a problem we have had). You also an environment that lets you make the most of what you have. Clutter can be inspiring at the beginning of a piece (lots of stuff, lots of options, lots of potential elements) but becomes a problem when you are doing detail-oriented sequencing and editing work – that’s when I crave the kind of hyper-clean minimalist studio that other people have. We are such pack rats that we will never have a studio like that, but that’s okay with me.

Drew: Some parts of sample construction and editing are best done alone; once it is time to try out different patterns and rhythms I think it’s better if Martin and I take turns so that things don’t stall. Sometimes we go into “volley” mode in which I make one sequenced loop, and then he does, then I do and so we can have a conversation going in the way that the form emerges. We use Microphones, mixing boards, samplers, synthesizers, computers, VHS players, portable recording machines and objects and phenomena in the world. I guess that makes us sound simpler AND more pretentious than we are!

Drew: What I love most is how easy it is to reconfigure our set-up. In the new studio we have lots of wide open table space to just re-order things and play with new signal chains and MIDI set-ups, and the luxury of space is something that we never had in our San Francisco studio, which was like one of those hoarder apartments that crazy senior citizens who collect mountains of garbage live in.”

Signed to Matador Records, Californian duo Matmos make music out of the sounds of objects, animals, people and actions. They have collaborated with Rachel’s, Kronos Quartet and Bjork (with whom they have toured extensively), taught seminars on sound art at Harvard University and the San Francisco Art Institute, and DJ’d at proms for homeless teenagers. They have had pieces in the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and have scored the soundtracks for five gay porn films, one pinball machine, and one NASCAR television commercial. They recently released their sixth album, Supreme Balloon, made entirely using synthesizers. They make their Irish debut at the Future Days festival in Dublin this Thursday, June 12th at Andrew’s Lane Theatre. For more information, visit or Matmos.

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June 4, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 30: Fred

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 3:02 pm


“We have a city-based practice room we use a couple of times a week but it’s a pretty soulless room in the attic of an office block. We use it more for pure rehearsal, but our favourite place to actually break out new ideas and mess about in search of inspiration is a tiny little cottage between Schull and Ballydehob in West Cork. It belongs to an American friend of ours, but previously belonged to friends of our singer Joe’s parents, so using this connection we get to take the place over for a couple of weeks at a time.

It’s a small traditional thatched cottage that probably originally had just one room downstairs and one room upstairs, but has since been extended to the rear and side with – among other things – two fairytale like turrets. We set up our gear in the side extension. It’s a great sun-room with windows that run from floor to ceiling along the entire length of one side and French doors at the end that lead out to a stone cobbled area with a pond and massive garden beyond. The floor is tiled stone and one wall is the old exterior wall of the cottage. With so many hard reflective surfaces it can sound a bit harsh, but it’s got a wooden pitched roof and a couple of couches around too, so it kinda levels out.

Beyond the usual (guitars, bass, keys, amps and drums) we don’t use anything too revolutionary, but in the last year or two we’ve invested in our own recording equipment. Now we have a laptop and a few mics handy to record sessions and help separate the wheat from the chaff. None of us are sentimental about objects of inspiration, but I think the most important thing in any creative space is that you can feel really comfortable. Common household things like couches, rugs and lamps help to create this feeling. Also, a kettle, milk and tea-bags are vital ingredients of any session.

Unfortunately we don’t spend enough time here; we only get here about twice a year. But usually we’ll end up throwing around enough ideas to keep us busy for months back in town – actually doing the hard work of putting these ideas into some sort of structure we can call a song. The enforced isolation of being out in the middle of the country does help to focus our minds. City based rehearsals where you just pop in and out for a few hours in the evening can be hard to create in, because there’s often a time pressure, and it can take a while to get the concentration fully up. Because we all live in the cottage for a couple of days at a stretch, it helps to up the work rate because there’s very little distraction and often you end up working, without realising you’re working, simply because you’re chatting over breakfast or dinner or whatever, and showing each other ideas.

‘Nothing can come from nothing’ said King Lear, and so it is with Fred. Not once have we ever just ‘jammed’ and come up with an amazing song. Someone has got to have the kernel of an idea to begin with. Once this idea is put out to the floor, we mess it around, everyone throws in their two and six-pence, we try it faster, slower, half-time, double-time and so on until often we can be miles from the original idea. Some ideas are more fully formed than others and so may require less input from others.

The cottage is so far from town and any worries or stresses you may associate with the city. There’s no internet, and mobiles only work at the top of the hill. You have no choice but to focus on what you’re doing – or go for long walks in the country which we sometimes do as well.”

Cork five-piece Fred recently released their third album, Go God Go. They play Dolans in Limerick tomorrow, June 5th, The Pavilion, Cork on June 6th and Crawdaddy, Dublin on June 7th. For more information, visit

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