Musical Rooms

March 26, 2009

Competition: Win a double pass to see Frightened Rabbit

Filed under: competitions,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 4:39 pm

rabbitScottish band Frightened Rabbit play The Academy in Dublin on Wednesday April 1st. To win a double pass to see them live, just answer the following question and leave your answer in the comments by lunchtime next Tuesday.

What’s the name of the band’s singer (who contributed to Musical Rooms)?

Update: Congrats to Phil!

Link: Musical Rooms Part 68: Frightened Rabbit

Musical Rooms Part 68: Frightened Rabbit

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 2:31 pm
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“I recorded the demos for the last record in a wee studio in Glasgow called The Diving Bell. It’s near the university in the West End of the city. The downstairs part of the studio doesn’t have any windows, which is great because you can get lost in the process and disregard time altogether. It smells a bit damp but it’s cosy if you put the little heater on for an hour or two. One day some kids threw face cream and curry sauce at the door whilst I was inside. I opened the door and got the mixture all over my hands. After that all I could smell was curry and coconut.

For those sessions I had a Yamaha keyboard that my brother got for his 8th birthday or something; my Telecaster, a hotrod deluxe amp, my Taylor acoustic, a Fender precision bass through a bassman head and a pretty beat-up drum kit which I couldn’t really play. I record into a Tascam 2488 digital 24-track. It burns the CD for you right after you record, which is handy. I monitor only in headphones, as I’m more interested in getting the arrangement right than achieving any precise monitor mixes. I also use a wee orange plectrum to strum.

It’s important to have good ambient lighting. It’s nice to feel like I’m locked away from the world and concocting secret things in the den. It’s also important that I have everything pretty much set up all the time so that I can jump from instrument to instrument at any moment. In terms of inspiration, I need to figure out when it’s going to be empty first, as it’s a working studio run by a friend of mine. Last time I used it, Marcus was on holiday in France, so I snuck in for a week to do some work. He’s very accommodating though and usually says “aye” if I ask to use the space.

I tend to work on my own to begin with. I don’t work that well with others, as I have a fairly strong idea of where I want to go with things. It’s nice to get others involved later, to add the smaller details and make suggestions for change. I never write with anyone around. I don’t even like doing it when someone is in the next room! The starting part is the key. Once you get going, the floodgates often open and you have a bunch of material pouring out all at once. I write in blocks, so it’s quite common for me to go a few months without writing. It’s not something I do every day, and I like to be able to look back on events and sum them up, rather than writing in a diary format.

I use Amps, keyboards, guitars, anything with strings on it. I used to record all my piano parts at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, as they have piano rooms which you can hire for an hour or two there. The thing I like about the piano is that I can’t really play it, so it’s all quite instinctive and untutored. It makes the results a bit less rigid.

What I like most about this space is that it has a working toilet and a shop round the corner for Twixes.”

Musical Rooms was talking to Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit are a Scottish indie rock band consisting of Scott Hutchison (vocals, guitar), Grant Hutchison (drums, vocals), Billy Kennedy (guitar, keyboards, bass) and Andy Monaghan (keyboards, guitar, bass). The band has so far released two studio albums, with their second, The Midnight Organ Fight, receiving widespread critical acclaim. They play The Academy in Dublin on Wednesday April 1st. Tickets cost €13.50 from Ticketmaster. For more details, visit or

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March 24, 2009

Competition: Win tickets to A Place To Bury Strangers

Filed under: competitions,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 12:01 pm

A Place To Bury Strangers play Whelan’s in Dublin on Tuesday March 31st. To win one of two double passes to see them live, just answer the following question and leave your answer in the comments by lunchtime this Friday.

What UK label have the band recently signed to?

Update: Congrats to Gavin and Charlie – enjoy the gig.

Link: Musical Rooms Part 67: A Place To Bury Strangers

March 23, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 67: A Place To Bury Strangers

Filed under: Interviews,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 10:48 am
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“My favourite place is really in my head but my house reflects who I am so I will tell you about that. It’s a very big space flooded with piles of tools, paint, musical instruments, effects processors and electronic components. We built the interior ourselves inside an old warehouse building. There is a second floor, a recording studio, art spaces and lots and lots of storage. The lights were all wired up by us and it is just tons of compact floure.

We have lots of solderless bread boards for creating effects on the fly and lots of pre-built modules and effects that I have built as well as tons of effectors from the 50’s to present time. We have some Jazzmasters and Fender Jaguars and some hollow body guitars and different basses; Fender amps from the 60’s and 70’s and some modded amps and acoustic, Vox, Aims and Roland amps. There’s also a bunch of junky microphones, Tascam cassette multi-trackers, computers and other bits of pieced-together recording equipment. I use mostly home made equipment.

The most important thing to have in here really changes, but I can get by with one guitar or bass. I try to be here as much as I can so it is usually about 14 hours a day. I like to work alone and it is a good place to leisurely develop ideas, but it is also nice to work with like-minded musicians, work on ideas quickly and then develop them further alone again. I guess I also have a pretty hardcore work ethic, so it’s nice to be able to work on things alone, as I know I’ll always be the last one to be available to work on things.

The creative process works in many different ways. Sometimes you come up with ideas when you are just out and about around town; sometimes it happens at practice while improvising and sometimes they are forced from other abstract ideas. I usually just start recording when I have the ideas and then that can dictate song structure and whatnot, when you start experimenting with sounds and arrangements.

What I like most about this space is that it’s designed by me, for me, to work there. I also like the fact that you can just rebuild any part of the space at anytime that you need to be different for any application.”

Musical Rooms was talking to Oliver Ackermann of A Place to Bury Stangers

A Place To Bury Strangers are New York-based trio Oliver Ackermann (guitar/vocals), Jono MOFO (bass) and Jay Space (drums). The Washington Post described their sound as “the most ear-shatteringly loud garage/shoegaze band you’ll ever hear” and this year they signed to Mute. They play Whelan’s on Tuesday, March 31st. Support is from Dead Confederate and Sweet Jane and Tickets cost €15 including Booking fee from WAV Box-Office, City Discs, Road Records, and Ticketmaster. For more details, visit or

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March 16, 2009

Competition: win tickets to see Mogwai

Filed under: competitions,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 10:54 am
Tags: , ,

mogwai1Glasgow band Mogwai play Dublin’s Academy this Friday March 20th, Saturday March 21st and Sunday March 22nd. The Saturday night date is sold out but I have a double pass for the Sunday night date to give away. All you have to do to be in with a chance to win, is answer the following question and leave your answer in the comments by Thursday lunchtime.

What’s the name of the band’s current album?

Update: And the winner is… Daragh! Congrats. Will be in touch.

Link: Musical Rooms Part 66: Mogwai

Musical Rooms Part 66: Mogwai

Filed under: Interviews,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 10:50 am
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“At the moment, we’d all have to admit that the place where we make music together is a very uninspiring dungeon, which is really a famous Glasgow nightclub at weekends. It’s really no wonder our music tends to be so miserable, though perhaps it works for us. We’ve been looking for our own place for a long time but there seems to be nowhere affordable where we can both practise AND store our mountains of gear so we’re stuck there for now. However, as we all write separately I’d have to say I’m slightly inspired by my own living room where I write songs with my trusty laptop.

It’s about 4m x 4m, typical Glasgow tenement living room, nice wee fireplace, non-gargantuan TV and nice big bookshelf with many food recipe books. It has a lovely brass chandelier that my architect father-in-law salvaged from a condemned building. My wife and I have only lived here for four or five months and I’ve been away touring a lot but the little square dining table is where I set up my stuff to record demos for the band. The window looks out onto Charing Cross and the M8 motorway so there’s always traffic noise, especially when the roads are wet but that’s the characteristics of the city centre I suppose. I recently moved here from a much bigger house in the countryside, near Stuart’s house, but I have to say that I was never too taken with the music room I had there. No idea why.

A lot of our gear is tucked away in the rehearsal dungeon but I make sure I have my apple laptop with all the portable recording gear that I can get my hands on which is usually my little Edirol FA-66 soundcard, a Rode condenser microphone (that I’ve lost the shockmount and stand for), a tiny Edirol MIDI keyboard, a Philicorda organ from a car boot sale and a beautiful Martin acoustic guitar. A not so beautiful Seagull acoustic guitar is there for weird and dangerous tunings that might damage the Martin. I also have a Roland drum machine but programming it is like trying to three-point-turn a jumbo jet in a pub, so I avoid it mostly.

The most important things for you me to have in the space are probably my little MIDI keyboard and Ableton Live and/or Cubase 5 software on my laptop, all my Native Instruments and Arturia and Ohmforce plugins too. I can’t wait for touring to end so that I can start writing with my Muse Receptor because my little laptop is having a hard time keeping up with the things that I want to do. My receptor (which I use live) is always being freighted somewhere or other during touring so I can’t get it home, which is very frustrating. That will surely be my most important piece of equipment when we get round to writing properly again. It’s amazing.

This year I’ve not had too much time here, and with an impending move to Berlin soon I’m a little upside down. Whenever I feel like sitting down and making something I’ll do it. I’ve promised myself to really get stuck in this year as I want to make this album something that will transcend anything we’ve done before. There’s nothing like putting pressure on yourself to get results. Maybe….

Initially I work alone. I don’t particularly like the first stages of going into the rehearsals with the rest of the band. I always feel that I haven’t formed enough of an idea to jump start it so I get quite frustrated with myself. It’s always nice to just sit on your own and give it time to develop. One thing I should mention is the fact that we’re not a band who can write on the road. I think the last thing we want to do while wallowing through the lethally boring days of badly-lit dressing rooms and soundchecks is to try and be creative. It just doesn’t work for us.

In terms of the creative process, I will either have a little tune I’ve played already on the guitar and just record it into the laptop and work from there with other instruments or more commonly I’ll just load up Cubase or Live and set up some limiting parameters like BPM, time signature and just load up a random plug-in and play some melodies or chords until something happens or not. A lot gets deleted, especially when I start with drum rhythms for some reason. Honestly, it’s extremely difficult to make up very good music and I don’t think we’ve done anything truly excellent yet. Anyway, I’ll take it in to the others and just trust them to make up good parts. When someone else in the band has made up the song I always try my best to make my parts really good, it’s like I owe it to them not to fuck their work up. That, probably misguidedly, is more important to me than the parts I make up for my own songs. And it’s quite contrary to my typically selfish mentality. I think I might be a weirdo.

What I like most about this space is the fact that it’s three strides away from the fridge, which is quite important. Hungry Barry equals Grumpy Barry and nobody likes to be creative when they are grumpy, do they? Actually I bet they do but I don’t. I’m looking forward to getting to Berlin, it’s nice to have a change of scenery, I’m sure it can affect the way you create things.”

Musical Rooms was talking to Barry Burns of Mogwai


Founded in Glasgow, influental post-rockers Mogwai have been making albums since the mid-1990s. Their latest album The Hawk is Howling saw them reunited with producer Andy Miller for the first time in a decade. They play three nights at Dublin’s Academy this weekend, March 20th, 21st and 22nd (the Saturday night is sold out). For more details, visit or

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March 12, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 65: The Very Most


“My favorite place to make music is my studio. It’s conveniently located in a converted shed in my back yard. I’ve spent years accumulating recording equipment, musical instruments, and software and I finally think I’ve gotten my studio exactly the way I like it. Because of this, I can work at a much faster pace than in the past, which is perfect for our current project, A Year With The Very Most (Indiecater Records), where we write and record an EP every three months for each season.

It’s a 13’ X 13’ room with a vaulted ceiling and parquet wood floors. There was some water damage the first year we had the studio, and so some of the flooring is warped and lifted up off the ground. The walls are painted different shades (blue, green, tan and white) and they have acoustic treatment panels on them. The lighting is pretty low. Other than the windows, I just have a single lamp that lights it. I have a framed poster of Brian Wilson looking down at me, and I also have a poster of Jason Anderson’s The Wreath (K records), an album I co-produced in 2004. I have so little time to keep things tidy that it’s usually a pigsty out there. I debated whether to clean up the space for the photos, but decided I wanted them to be an authentic representation of how it usually is.

For instruments I have Fender Telestrat guitar (that is, a Stratocaster body with a Telecaster neck), a Fender DeVille 410 amp, 88 key Fender Rhodes piano, G and L bass guitar with Ampeg BA115 amp, Yamaha analog synth, Alesis Micron analog modeling synth, all sorts of percussion doodads (tambourines, shakers, vibraslap, woodpecker, guero, cabasa, wood blocks), a melodica, and a Jaymar toy piano. I make heavy use of these little percussion doo-dahs, and a lot of them have already found their way into our Spring EP that just came out on Indiecater.

For recording gear I’ve got a Peluso 22 251 tube condenser mic that I use on almost everything. I have a few other mics as well, including my secret weapon on guitar amp: the AEA R92 ribbon mic. I run my mics into Seventh Circle Audio preamps and then into my computer via an EMU audio interface. I use Sonar Producer 7 software for all my mixing and editing. In addition to being what I record and mix in, Sonar also has a lot of really cool software synthesizers that I make a lot of use of. Most of the organs and synth sounds on my recordings are from Sonar. I’ve found perfect equilibrium with the gear I have. I think I’d miss most of the things I own if I were to lose them, but I also don’t really desire much of anything more. I love it!

The most important things to have here are my gear and a beverage. I’m addicted to Diet Mountain Dew. I don’t know how widely available Diet Mountain Dew is outside of the US, but I’m hooked on it. It’s kind of a lame thing to be hooked on, but I swear it is so refreshing and crisp. I sound like a commercial. I also need a capo at all times because I use capos a lot in my songs.

Sometimes, when I have a deadline, I really put a lot of time in here, but there are times when I can go over a week or more without setting foot in there. I don’t have a set schedule at all. I just use it as needed. Isolation can be important when I’m writing. Because of how long it takes me to come up with parts (most of the time) I definitely wouldn’t want anyone hanging around in the studio at those times. I’d just be embarrassed because of how long I take.

The creative process usually goes like this: there will be a time where I play on my guitar or my Rhodes, and the very beginnings of a song will emerge. Usually it’s a pattern on my guitar with a rudimentary melody. I quickly record that little “songlet” as I call them, and usually file them away for quite some time. In fact, sometimes “songlets” don’t become songs until several years after their “birth.” Then, when it comes time to record some serious songs, I sift through the songlets, pick the ones that have the most potential and start developing them. For the real recordings, we usually start with guitar, drums, bass and lead vocals and start building from there. I listen to the early versions of the songs in my car on my way to work and start coming up with ideas for additional layers (e.g., horn, synth, lead guitar, or string parts). Then eventually, I just begin layering these ideas, weed out the ones that aren’t that great or that aren’t working with other parts of the song, and then finally I’m done. At least until it comes time to mix, which is a grueling process when you’ve got over 50 layers sometimes to work with.

I like that this space is close enough to my house so that I’m not completely divorced from what’s going on at home (I’ve got a wife and three little girls), but far enough from my house that I can get stuff done. I also like that I can keep everything set up the way I like it, for the most part. I also really like my Brian Wilson poster.”


The Very Most are an indie-pop band from Boise, Idaho founded by Jeremy Jensen in 2002. A Year With The Very Most is a series of EPs released every three months, one for each season of the year. Spring, the first EP is out now, and Summer is due out on May 1st. For more details, visit, or

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March 6, 2009

Competition: Win tickets to see Skeleton$ at Whelan’s

Filed under: competitions,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 5:33 pm
Tags: ,

skeleton1US band Skeleton$ play Whelan’s next Thursday March 12th (supported by The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock) and we have two double passes to give away. Just answer the following question and leave your answer in the comments by next Wednesday morning.

Their current album Money was released on which label?

Update: Congrats to Pooka and Blue Rinse (Mr D)!

Link: Musical Rooms Part 64: Skeleton$

Musical Rooms Part 64: Skeleton$

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 5:24 pm
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“We really only have imaginary spaces – the ones you dream about your favorite albums being recorded in. Our practice space is a tiny windowless room that’s too hot and there’s always other music bleeding into it.We’ve been lucky to fall into opportunities to make records in special places. Edison, the studio we recorded Money in, is as close to the dream as we’ve gotten and now it’s gone… another casualty of “proper” music biz failings. So between the making of records we imagine what it would be like to be able to actually record and make music in a place that’s designed properly for making music.

Edison was on the mezzanine of the Edison Hotel in Times Square. The entrance and lobby of the hotel is a time warp. They play old recordings of radio broadcasts from the ’40s and ’50s jazz and World War II news bulletins. We were only ever there in the late night/early morning hours so the only people there were the night watchmen, drunk tourists and the guy who vacuums the carpet. The space itself was completely separated from the rest of the city, dim and quiet and wonderful.

The instruments and equipment are what a “recorded version” of a song becomes – so in our case the more instruments, the better. We want as many keyboards and drums and percussion as you can fit. A piano is nice, an organ with a Leslie – I want to go somewhere that has timpani. We’ll always bring our own instruments too. When we were making Money I went out and bought an Indian banjo because there was one track that needed something special. I just got bunch of game calls from Cabela’s in December. At Edison we used a board previously used by Heart and mic pre-amps ripped out the board from Abbey Road that The Beatles used.

The most important things for us to have here is quiet, space, maybe a good board, microphones and ideas.

We often work alone but it’s also nice to have people to have to explain ideas to… once you have to explain an idea (whether with words or musically) it often gets better. On my way to work and walking around the city I think of words and how they would fit together in a song. When I sit at home and play the guitar or keyboard or sax or mess around on the computer I try to remember the good parts that happen. When we rehearse we play these ideas for each other and place the best parts in the right places and they usually turn into songs. The “creative process” in general is always changing… I’m trying to write more things down these days because I worry either that I won’t remember the idea or I’ll never have time to do anything with the idea. So at least by writing it down you have a nice little piece of idea that anyone could look at and imagine.

“Recording” equipment is not all that important really. I used to try to accumulate recording equipment for recording at home, but unless you have buckets of money, all the things you can buy at Guitar Center don’t add up to what the music should sound like. Most of the new samplers and synths and drum machines and computer programs and so on are all trying to emulate some form of popular music that’s been popular and people desire it – so despite all the connotations guitars
and pianos and saxophones have – I often feel better about what comes out the other end because there’s no presets or pre-designed format or structure or whatever…

I think we’ve been spoiled by being given the opportunity to record in places that are made for recording music; places that were designed back when the idea was just to get the sound of people playing music in a room recorded as realistic as possible. Don’t get me wrong though, I love special FX and I love computers and gadgets and new tech everything! I just got a drum machine on my ipod, which in theory, is dope, but the presets are terrible! But those things have come in and out – I still play the same guitar I’ve had since I was 12. I have a mixer and a mic I got in high school. I have a Rhodes Piano and a Saxophone that were given to me by families who just wanted to know they would be played. We’ll use whatever recording thing is in a room, but I can usually wait to go somewhere where there’s no radiator screaming and clanking and the room is designed so that the music you play will go into the microphone in the best way possible.

And there’s no studio in the world as good as this imaginary one!”

US four-piece Skeleton$ hail from Ohio and are based in New York. Their fourth album, Money, was released in 2008 on Tomlab and its predecessor Lucas was described by Pitchfork as “an outsize global-a-go-go mélange of unceasing polyrhythms, Afrobeat guitars, free jazz, and Timbaland’s approach to kitchen-sink percussion”. They play Whelan’s next Thursday, March 12th, supported by Spook of the Thirteenth Lock. Tickets cost €12 plus booking fee and are available from WAV, City Discs, Ticketmaster and For more information and details of upcoming live shows, visit

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March 4, 2009

Musical Rooms Jape redux

Second to last (will put up Halfset later this week) of the Choice Music Prize Musical Rooms is from Jape, who was one of the first interviewees we had (back in November 2007). Richie has provided an updated image of his room filled with requisite geekery and equipment. He is nominated for the Choice Prize for his third album, Ritual and plays at the Vicar Street ceremony tonight.

Thanks to all the nominees who participated and best of luck to them all tonight. Who do you think will win? You can vote in the Musical Rooms poll here:

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