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January 29, 2009
January 28, 2009
“At the moment my favourite place to create music is in my ‘B.Codes studio workshop’, a large white room inside a big wooden bungalow built into a hill, deep in Rockingham forest in a quiet village, just outside Corby, Northamptonshire. It is a large white room which used to be an engineers’ workshop with large, thick wooden work benches along the bottom and along part of one side wall of the room. It’s approximately 25 ft long by 15ft wide and about 14ft to 15ft high on the hall side of the house with the roof sweeping down to a 6ft at the far wall.
The house has a long history (since the 1940’s) and has been moved a few times plank by plank to various locations around the immediate area. The workshop was a traditional engineer’s workshop with workbenches, clamps, vices, fixings etc. and originally had a concrete floor, unlike the front of the house which rests on footings built into the hill. It’s a beautiful open, white, airy, peaceful, inspiring space and my recording equipment is set up right next to the window looking straight out into the forest.
Here I have all my instruments past and present, I have my Fender Telecaster guitars, two acoustics (one lovely old Vega, on loan from a friend and another hand painted old Hondo which sounds great), Bodhrans, a Didgeridoo and some percussion stuff, plus Fender amps, cabs, ProTools, interface, an SM58 mic (which all the live tracks for the whole Burning Codes debut album were recorded on), a PA for rehearsal, a Macbook and KRK V4’s, plus various effects.
The most important thing for me to have here is probably empathy, space, peace, hope, moments, the ProTools set up and the Macbook, oh, and of course my trusty 75 Fender Tele. I spend a huge amount of time in this space – it’s also where I relax and listen to music on the stereo or watch some TV, read, take time out to be alone etc… I tend to be in the moment as much as possible and I will respond to the moments as they grab or take me right there and then. In a sense this is part of the privilege and wonder of having the ProTools here and this has been one of the main reasons for abandoning my previous songwriting conventions, which for me, felt could become more prescriptive. Now I’ve found that just letting go and letting myself be in the moment – and innate expression – leads to music that has some interesting hidden inner messages coming forth, hence the name, Burning Codes .
Since the genesis of this project the live recorded Codes work has largely been a lone journey and I find this somewhat liberating, as my background has previously involved bands and studios, engineers and producers/co-producers. So I have enjoyed working alone with the actual live recording and at this point in the evolving of these codes I think it could be problematic – for both parties – to have other folks involved in this aspect.
Often the creative process begins with a stirring inside, a feeling, a sound, a need, an emotion, a silence, a moment, a thought, and then flows desire and will. A will to ‘jump off’; to let go and let be, to touch an instrument and feel the sound, to open my mouth and see what feeling and expression erupts. It could just be a chord drone or a sequence of cycling notes or some strange sound/s and then a process of trying to be in and with this sound and see what comes from deep down inside, inside the moment and inside the feelings of vulnerability and expression?
For the first Burning Codes long player I used what tools I had immediately to hand, so my voice and my guitars, some minimal percussion and lots of fun with the joy of reverbs, delays and various effects. I used my love of drones extensively but used
my own voice and diaphramatic control experiments for the long held dronal layers of feeling and response.
What I like most about this space is that it has an openness, breadth, space and serenity. I love that it is a large, white space, I feel at home bathed in its whiteness and peace, I think.”
Burning Codes is the solo project of Irish, Belfast born singer and songwriter Paul Archer, (who also contributed vocals to five tracks on Snow Patrol’s Eyes Open and the project also includes various sonic collaborators including Iain Archer (Solo Artist, Snow Patrol, Reindeer Section, and Ivor Novello winner) and Stuart Sweeney (Sonic composer and loop guru). He has previously released The Worthy Cause EP on Belfast’s Only Gone Records and eponymously titled album in late 2008. Burning Codes will be supporting Snow Patrol at The Odyssey Arena Belfast on March 20th 2009, and at Stereo in Glasgow on April 11th. For more information visit www.myspace.com/burningcodes or www.burningcodes.com.
January 23, 2009
Prior to 1997, Dublin had its fair share of independent record shops, but Road’s open-door friendliness marked it out. My teenage record-buying experiences in DTK, Comet or Freebird were mostly non-verbal transactions, with the odd derisory snort about your choices. So it was a big gulp of fresh air when Road arrived – it had no hint of High Fidelity snobbishness. Dave Kennedy and Julie Collins, who ran Road, are to Irish independent music what Richard and Judy are to new authors. They have been that influential in supporting, distributing and encouraging new music in Ireland. No matter how small the pressing of your obscure post-rock seven inch, Collins and Kennedy were always happy to sell it. Their unfailing friendliness meant that every customer’s name was remembered and enquiries after kids, jobs and life in general were always genuine. People made lasting friendships with other customers and Glen Hansard, post-Oscar, still drops by when he’s in Ireland.
“Obliging” is a word often used about Road. If a new album arrived and you couldn’t pop in to retrieve it immediately, they were happy to hold it behind the counter. Not a policy you’d get from a large retail chain, and it resulted in the shop’s toilet/ante room being clogged up with a sea of bags. Customers were encouraged to listen to albums before indulging in record-buying sprees. Like many, for years my weekly ritual involved a Saturday visit, but it was always more fun dropping in midweek when it was quiet. There would be the offer of tea, much shooting the breeze and, obviously, music – with never any pressure to buy. Thanks to those random listening sessions, I discovered all kinds of music, from my first Low album to Limerick’s Out On A Limb label; from obscure reggae and Sigur Rós’s debut album to Señor Coconut’s Latino covers of Kraftwerk. The latter holds my most personal memory of Road, when a good friend and I were in the shop chatting with Julie, laughing at the cha-cha reworking of ‘Autobahn’. I bought the album; my friend asked to have one put on hold. A week later, he died in an accident and in the days before his funeral I found myself in the shop, reminiscing with Julie about him. Without a word, she produced the Señor Coconut album from behind the counter, scribbled a note on the sleeve and told me to pass it on to him (it was one of many things put into his coffin by friends and family). It was an incredibly touching thing to do, and I’ve never forgotten it.
The weekly mail-out involved a review or blurb, usually written by Dave, for every release. It served as a guide for fans, and validation for many local bands, who often used Road’s verdict alongside quotes by music journalists on their promo bumf. Collins and Kennedy were unflinching in their support for Irish bands trying to get their music heard, from pushing it word of mouth in the shop to stocking EPs – even if there were only a handful pressed. For five years, they ran the Road Relish label, which released split seven-inch singles featuring Irish acts they liked, including The Redneck Manifesto, Decal and The Jimmy Cake. Road, like any music shop, sold gig tickets, but Collins and Kennedy always refused guestlist offers from local bands, preferring to pay in and show their support.
Road’s closure will leave a gaping hole and it will be harder for small bands to find a guaranteed retail outlet for their music. Collins and Kennedy’s huge appreciation of music and their passion for introducing people to new bands is unparalleled. The debt of gratitude owed them by countless bands is huge. Just read the sleeve notes of most independent Irish albums released in the last decade and you’ll find a thank you to “Dave and Julie at Road”. Such is the regard the shop is held in, many Dublin bands are not collecting money from Road for albums currently held in stock. An upcoming all-day tribute event will feature a mini record fair and performances by several acts with proceeds going to the couple.
As the Fade Street doors prepare to close, there is tentative talk of an online venture. It’s unclear what the future holds, but it will involve spending time with their six-week old son, Paddy, who has no idea what an amazing record collection awaits him when he’s older, or the impact his folks had on Irish music.
Road Records, Fade Street, Dublin 2, http://www.roadrecs.com. The Road Records fundraiser will take place in March at Vicar Street, Dublin
January 22, 2009
Psych noise merchants Crystal Antlers roll into Ireland for a series of gigs and play Whelan’s on Monday, February 2nd. To win one of three double passes to see them, answer this question:
What label are Crystal Antler’s signed to? (Hint here:)
Just leave your answer in the comment section below by lunchtime on Thursday January 29th. Winners will be posted on the blog and notified by email.
Update: Congrats to Ian, Flynnduism and Archie!
January 21, 2009
Thanks to everyone who tipped their hats towards Musical Rooms in the 2009 Irish Blog Award nominations. Having retired from Sigla last year, I’m happy to keep on truckin’ with this wee blog, but wouldn’t expect to see it on the shortlists – there are so many fantastic blogs out there, but thank you. It’s nice to know people are reading, as this is not really the kind of blog it’s easy to leave a comment on.
I’ll be putting up another gig competition tomorrow, so watch this space.
January 19, 2009
“Our favorite space to create music used to be a studio in Santa Ana, California called Orbitz, but tragically it was burned down by its creator in 2006. Orbitz was a fantastic art experiment, a drug den of sorts, and a studio all rolled into one. It was created by a mysterious artist-guru named Johnny Orbitz in the late 90’s as an escape from the typical work life. He rented out rooms for any creative purposes for around $5 an hour (but no one was ever keeping track). Each of the six rooms he created were completly unique in shape, structure, color, decor and even inhabitants. One room had a giant colored plaster figure reaching out of the wall, another had a 10-foot Boa Constrictor that lived in it, and another had a bulbous oval ceiling covered with thousands of pornagraphic clippings and scattered broken computer parts all over on the floor. I know this may sound a little cheesy or cliched, but it wasn’t. Orbitz was the first place we practiced and our second home.
Johnny Orbitz was a close friend and a true inspiration of artistic freedom. Sadly, Johnny seemed to be suffering from some kind of addiction/dependency towards the end and he rarely left the space except for an occasional trip to the grocery store. One night, for some unknown reason, a small accidental fire was started and in some frantic daze, Johnny began pouring kerosene all over the studio and it burned to the
ground. Johnny escaped the blaze and was later arrested. Firefighters found his Boa Constrictor still alive in the wreckage.
Soooo, now I mostly create at home and when the group gets together we get creative in Damian’s – our percussionist – living room. It’s very sparse, has hardwood floors and one light fixture on the wall. We have numerous organs, guitars, amps, drums and percussion equipment – mostly very old stuff. There’s a Tascam 388 eight-track reel to reel which we’re using right now to record songs for a 7”. The most important things for you to have in that space are several tape recorders, plenty of tapes, note pads and plenty of pens.
We practice whenever and wherever we can. Usually when we all get together, it’s at Damian’s house. There is no specific schedule because of everyone’s conflicting job schedules, but since we’ve been touring so much and everyone is losing their jobs, planning practice times is becoming a bit easier. Isolation is not crucial during the initial creative process, but it does help. It’s better though, to work with the whole band when it comes to some parts and arrangements. When it comes time to record though, we prefer to be as isolated as possible from the outside world. That’s why we’ve chosen to record at a studio called Closer in San Francisco numerous times. We usually eat and sleep in the studio, and rarely leave for more than a few minutes at a time.
I create songs most of the time at home with a boom-box tape recorder, a bass and an organ. I tape all of my stream of conciousness-type playing and melodies, and then play it back and try to replicate, arrange and add other instruments so that they’re overlapping. Sometimes this is also done with the whole band during rehersals. I use a Panasonic “Ambience” Boom-Box Tape recorder (early 80’s), a cheap Tascam four-track (with track bouncing capabilities), RCA cables, a 60’s Hagstrom bass and a very old Wurlitzer student transistor Organ.
What I like most about this is that it’s Damian’s house and that it’s in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood where the people are relaxed and generally enjoy music. It’s the first practice space we’ve had in a house where the neighbors haven’t called the Police on us because of the noise. It’s also nice that there’s a guy walking around the neighborhood selling corn out of a shopping cart when we take a break from rehersal.”
Formed in January 2006, Crystal Antlers’ Jonny Bell (bass, vocals, woodwinds), Andrew King (guitar, organ), Victor Rodriguez (organ), Kevin Stuart (drums), and Damian Edwards (percussion) have developed a reputation for eccentric live shows which has earned them comparisons to Comets on Fire and Les Savy Fav.
Their summer of 2008 was filled with the punk rock mischief of touring cross-country on a vegetable oil-powered school bus as part of the F Yeah Fest, taking massive orders for their self-released EP through their myspace page, and on downtime, drinking beers in percussionist Damian’s empty pool. The L.A outfit signed with Touch and Go Records, in August that year who reissued their EP in October, with its first ever pressing on vinyl in November. A new full-length album is due for release in early 2009. Crystal Antlers play The Pavillion in Belfast on Saturday, January 31st; the Roisin Dubh, Galway on Sunday February 1st; Whelan’s, Dublin on Monday February 2nd and The Quad, Cork on Tuesday February 3rd. Tickets for the Dublin gig are €12 from WAV, City Discs, Road, Ticketmaster, Tickets.ie. For more information visit www.myspace.com/crystalantlers.
January 9, 2009
Louisville’s finest multi-collaborator, David Grubbs plays Whelan’s on Saturday, January 24th. To win one of three double passes to see this talented chap, just answer answer the following question:
What is the name of the record label set up by David Grubbs? (Hint here:)
Just leave your answer in the comment section below by lunchtime on Wednesday January 21st. Simple as that!
“I used to have a tiny office that doubled as a recording studio, but since becoming a father four years ago, there have been three main spaces where I work:
(1) At home, very quietly
(2) At the studio at Brooklyn College
(3) The Seaside Lounge recording studio
(1) At home, usually after my son has gone to sleep, I pull out a metal folding chair, which is more quiet than the other rickety old wooden chairs in our apartment. I play an unamplified electric guitar. We live on the 12th floor, and my view out the window is that of Brooklyn stretching south from Clinton Hill towards Prospect Heights and Prospect Park. The furthest thing that I can see is the tree line of the park. The room is full of LPs, CDs, books. There are no other instruments in this room. (Elsewhere in the apartment are hidden guitars, a tenor banjo, banjo-mandolin, analog synths, etc., etc.)
(2) I do a lot of mixing at the studio at Brooklyn College, where I teach. I feel like I’m in total airlock isolation, and I love it. I turn off the air conditioning and feel the heat of the gear. When I get completely flummoxed I go into the next room and play the Steinway grand piano.
(3) This is The Seaside Lounge recording studio (photo above). It’s a very comfortable basement studio nestled amidst artists’ spaces in Park Slope, Brooklyn. An Optimist Notes the Dusk was recorded here with Patrick McCarthy.
The most important thing for me in any of these spaces is to keep it absolutely simple and to focus on one task at a time. When I’m hitting my stride and working on new material, I do best when I do it every day. Inspiration hits when I’m working regularly. In terms of creativivty, for me, isolation is paramount. I love working with other folks, but the gestation period is long and solitary.
How do I get started? A notebook of lyrics. A notebook with jottings for chords and melodies. An ever-present list of song titles and album titles. I tend to write music and lyrics independently of one another, in long swatches that are eventually cut into songs. Apart from what I’ve mentioned above, I use an electric guitar, a piano, a VCS3 synth, a Moog source synth, a Little Boy Blue synth and ProTools.
What I like most about my (home) space is that I own it. And it’s 10 steps away from my bed.”
Louisville, Kentucky-born David Grubbs has been making records since 1982. Since then he has made ten solo records, was a founding member of Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Gastr del Sol, and has worked with Stephen Prina, Cosima von Bonin, Angela Bulloch, Anthony McCall, Susan Howe and Kenneth Goldsmith. He has also played in The Red Krayola and The Wingdale Community Singers. He operates his own label, Blue Chopsticks, which has released both new and archival recordings by Luc Ferrari, Derek Bailey and Noël Akchoté, Workshop, Circle X, Van Oehlen and Mats Gustafsson. With Jim O’Rourke, Grubbs co-directed Dexter’s Cigar, an acclaimed label that reissued out-of-print recordings by, among others, Arnold Dreyblatt, Henry Kaiser, and Merzbow.
David Grubbs plays Whelan’s, Dublin on Saturday January 24th, 2009. Tickets €16 from WAV, City Discs, Road, Ticketmaster, Tickets.ie. For more information visit www.myspace.com/davidgrubbsbluechopsticks.