Musical Rooms

October 29, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 92: Midori Hirano

Filed under: Interviews,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 10:20 pm
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“My favourite space to create music is in my apartment which is still in transit since I moved here about a half year ago. I’ve been living in Berlin for a year so far, and I moved from another apartment to the other by sub-renting until I found a current space in the center of the town. Meanwhile, I toured a lot in Europe, so I couldn’t get settled in this new, tiny, cosy space to really feel like I could work on new tracks for a while (even though now I’m just about to leave for the UK and Ireland to play shows there). I’ve recorded my last two albums in Kyoto and Tokyo in Japan in 2006 and 2008. So now I’m excited as to how my future will work out after such big move from Japan to Berlin.

My musical space is a part of my bedroom. So this means really tiny (but it’s bigger than the one I had in Japanese apartment). It’s on the fourth floor on a corner where you can easily see the TV tower of a “symbol” (now regarded as a tourist one though) of former East Berlin. You can then look down at the tram on the streeet. There’s also one nice cafe/bar where a friend of mine sometimes works. The inside of the space is quite white and bright. In the summertime it’s too bright though, but now it’s getting to have appropriate brightness to be able to bear Berlin’s gray days of winter. I love spending time in the quietness of midnight here. It’s so meditative.

Right now I have a Macbook Pro to run Logic on, which have been my main equipment/software for creating music for these years. And there is a MIDI keyboard, and Korg synthesizer MS2000 which I sent from Japan by ship. Also I have a pair of speakers, headphones and the M-Audio’s firewire solo for an audio interface. Other things like BOSS Loopstation RC-50 are only for performance use, as it is very useful for improvisation on the stage.

Recently I bought a Melodica by made Hohner. I really like its sound. And what else? I have a few of ethnic-made shakers I got in Kyoto, which I played on some tracks from my second album. There still is one other piece of equipment which I left in Japan – my AKAI sampler S6000. It’s so heavy and big but I really love it. I’m not sure if I really need it later again though since the technology is always in progress to make all of those things smaller and lighter.

The most important things for me to have in this space is just simplicity and quietness. It was a bit hard to have the atmosphere in the summer because of the noise people made outside till late. But now it’s time to enjoy the “deadness” of this town in winter. I spend most of my time here except when I go to meetings or am having dinner or coffee with my friends, or DJing or touring. And I often get inspiration for some ideas for new music when I’m going out. Then I take time to shape all my ideas into sounds when I get back to home.

I work alone usually, since I’ve been doing this solo project for a long time. That’s why I need quietness to make myself feel like I’m in an isolated place. On the other hand, when I get stuck, I’d rather like to go for a walk or meet some people to change my mood. It also helps my creativity. In terms of the creative process, at first I try to record little phrases on Logic freely using by keyboard using the ideas that came to mind at that time, and then layer them up. But it always messes up at the first step, so I leave them for a couple of hours or days, and then go back to them again to see if I can make an outline more carefully, just to improve them. I keep doing this until I’m satisfied with the story and sounds contained in the track.

What I like most about this space is the fact that I can go to the kitchen immediately any time I want to make some food. There’s a big window where I can look down at the big tree in the courtyard which shows me the changes of the seasons.”

Hailing from Kyoto and now based in Berlin Midori Hirano dances the divide between electronic and acoustic sound, creating lush, layered chamber music out of piano, strings, digital samples and vocals. After graduating from university with a major in classic piano, Midori Hirano started creating music with the help of her computer. Her participation in compilations by overseas labels and EP releases led to the release of her first album LushRush from Nobel Records in September 2006. February 2008 saw Midori Hirano became the only Japanese to be invited in the composer category of the “Berlinale Talent Campus”, a program for aspiring young film makers hosted by the Berlin International Film Festival. Her latest album, klo:yuri, was released on Noble in 2008. Midori Hirano plays Whelan’s Upstairs on Friday October 30th with support from At Last An Atlas and Richie Keenan. Tickets are €12 from Ticketmaster. For more information, visit

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October 13, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 91: Mark Morriss (The Bluetones)

Filed under: Interviews,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 8:47 pm
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“Since moving home two summers ago, it took me a while longer than expected to re-adjust to writing in a completely new environment. I had lived in my last home for nearly 12 years and during that time written four albums worth of material as well as various b-sides and the bulk of the songs for my solo album. I had unconciously become rather attached to the ‘vibes’ there. I didn’t realise quite what a seismic effect moving home would have on my ability to feel comfortable in my writing space.

Add to this the fact that my partner gave birth to our son in the summer of 2008 there really were quite a lot of changes to get used to. I think these factors all played a part in the length of time there has been between the forthcoming Bluetones record and our last release in 2006.

It’s only been in the last few months that I have started to really feel the juices flowing again and this I put down to the fact that I finally realised what was holding me up and addressed it directly. I cleared out the old shed in the garden and turned that into a makeshift writing room, also somewhere I can go for a crafty cigarette. Whilst writing I do like to have a fag on the go and since the arrival of my son smoking is not something I wish to do around the house. It’s a drafty, dusty and slightly damp old shed, but with my wonky little desk and ashtray I feel very much at home out there these days.

I’ve never really been a big believer in utilising too much technology at the early stages of songwriting and prefer to simply hum my ideas into my mobile phone. If I can ‘hear’ the song taking shape within these limited means then I tend to think I’m onto something. I use an old nylon strung acoustic guitar to bash out my ideas and again, feel that the limitations of this are an aid to identifying a good idea from an average/unusable one.

It’s only when the song is fully formed, do I attempt to demo it properly. The band share an old Akai 12 track recorder to record demos and this is shared between the four of us depending on who is feeling inspired at any one time. When writing lyrics to music written by the other members of the band, I tend to pop these onto my iPod and disappear for a bit of a long drive, listening to their ideas on repeat until some kind of structure starts to take shape in my mind. Then, as before, get home and finish them off in the shed. With a bottle of vino and a packet of Silk Cut.

I’ve always shunned the idea of trying to make the demos sound too polished, believing that this can be quite restrictive when playing ideas back to the other band members and perhaps hinder their own creative instincts. It’s preferable to me to just create a beginning/middle/end to each song and then colour them properly within the band’s rehearsal studio.

Right, there you go. I have divulged all my secrets to you. Basically my philosophy is that if you have a good idea for a song you should be able to identify it no matter how poor the quality of the recording. Well… that’s my EXCUSE anyway.”

Mark Morriss is probably best known as the singer in UK band The Bluetones, whose song ‘Slight Return’ is one of the biggest indie hits of the 1990s. He released his debut solo album, Memory Muscle was released in 2008. He plays two shows (7pm and 9.30pm) at Whelan’s Upstairs on Friday 16th October. Tickets are €16.45 from Ticketmaster. For more information, visit

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October 6, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 90: King Khan & The Shrines

Filed under: Interviews,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 7:41 pm


“My favourite place to make music is at home in Berlin at my fabulous Moon Studios. It’s spacious and the instruments are all tiny and the sound is huge. I make music in the tradition of Sun Studios, which is keep it simple. I never use more than four microphones for anything. I have two rooms; one on Sonnen Allee, which is closer to the East and this is where I make loud noises. The other room is in my Living room where I do vocals, organ and all the other less noisy stuff.

I have lots of cheapo 60’s guitars, a nice tape machine and the smallest amps I can find. There are revolving walls, a few custom made mics and one condenser mic made out of an altoids box, which sounds awesome (it was a gift from Greg from the Gris Gris); a beautiful Philacorda organ exactly like the ones that old monks used to have!

The most important things for me to have around me is probably my wife and my two daughters. Everything else is replaceable. In terms of a schedule, chaos is my creative breeding ground. I love spontinaeity and I only record people I love. The same applies to my tarot readings…. only the chosen ones… like James Brown said on his Christmas album “Non-Believers shall suffer”.

Sometimes isolation when working is important, but then isolation is like masturbation – too much will make you sore and grumpy. I need the input of my friends and family to find the way, especially because I love REVERB and tend to overdo the reverb. People need to make an intervention in order for me to keep it down. Check out the movie ALTERED STATES from 1980 and then you will understand the importance and dangers of isolation…

The creative process is very simple – you cook, eat, and shit… you listen, hear and write… you injest, vomit and get high…

I use everything from from frying pans to Hofners to make music. I love my tascam and have some supro stuff. I love cigarette amps and Vox

What I like most about my space is that it’s mine.”

King Khan and the Shrines are a Berlin-based garage rock and psychedelic soul band. Spawned from the ashes of Canadian garage act, The Spaceshits, their stage performances have become the stuff of legends. Singer Khan’s other project is called The King Khan & BBQ Show, featureing ex-fellow Spaceshit member Mark Sultan. Khan and the Shrines play Whelan’s Upstairs on Wednesday 7th October, with a line-up that will include Ron Streeter (who has played percussion for Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder), Simon Wojan (of Kranky Records), German jazz musician Ben Ra and rockabilly saxophonist Big Fred Rollercoaster. Tickets are €14 plus booking fee from WAV. For more information, visit

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Competition: win tickets to see Roses Kings Castles (Adam Ficek of Babyshambles)

Filed under: competitions,Music — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 4:12 pm
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roseskingscastleMusical Rooms has five pairs of tickets to give away to see Roses Kings Castles, the “quixotic pop project” of Adam Ficek, whose day job is as drummer in Pete Doherty’s band Babyshambles. The gig takes place at Whelan’s, this Thursday, October 8th. To be in with a chance to win, just answer the following question and leave your answer in the comments below.

What instrument does Adam Ficek play in Babyshambles?

Tickets for the gig are €12.00 plus booking fee from WAV Box-Office (Lo-Call 1890 200 078), City Discs, and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. Doors are 7.30pm and there will be a support act.

Link: Roses Kings Castles on Myspace

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