Musical Rooms

August 8, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 80: Land Lovers

Filed under: Interviews,Irish Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 9:17 am
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landlovers
“For years, I’ve always been most comfortable making music in a converted garage in my parents’ house in Templeogue. This is a smallish area with a bookcase and a hi-fi system at one end. The bookcase boasts a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica from 1986 and The Great Books of the Western World. The hi-fi is closely guarded by a choice selection of various family members’ vinyl, including James Last’s Christmas, A Very Mickey (Mouse) Christmas and The Andy Williams Christmas Album. At the opposite end, there’s a TV. There’s a couch and an armchair. It’s a cold room in the winter and a warm room in the summer, due to a total lack of insulation. In the 80s, there was a pool table in there, but the room was too small to allow shots from either side of the table. I think that was the main reason that the pool table was jacked in after a couple of years, but it’s still called the Pool Room even now.

I don’t keep any equipment in the room permanently. I was a resident, a well-treated tenant of the generous proprietors Cooney, until quite recently (despite this, I’m going to talk about the room in the present tense, because I haven’t quite replaced its special charms). I drag my gear in and out of the room as necessary; as I use a lot of the same equipment when rehearsing with the band or playing shows. When working on something, I have my electric guitar, my acoustic guitar, my little synth, a bass, a laptop with audio interface and rubbish speakers, a mic stand with a wire hanger attached and an aul pair of tights stretched over the triangular part, an amp, various pedals and other bits and bobs like shakers and toy xylophones and what not.

When I’m there, what I need with me is a pint of water; a pen; a notepad; a Dictaphone; a kitchen chair (if recording a demo or something); the remote control for the telly (I find the mute TV a useful addition if you don’t have anything definite to work on, and are rather just absentmindedly playing around with riffs or chords). I don’t have a fixed schedule, nor do I wait for inspiration to hit to go there. I tend to write songs in my head through the day, imagining arrangements and devising structures without an instrument to hand. So there is always something to commit to Dictaphone at least, or to Pro Tools if I’m a little further along with it.

I almost always work alone. It is highly unusual for me to bring a basic idea like a riff, a melody or a lyric to someone else to work on together. I like to bring a complete song to practices, to give collaborators demos with well-developed structures, so we can then focus on enhancing whatever is good about the song. I’d guess that about 50% of the songs I write start out as tunes that pop into my head away from a musical environment – in work, walking or driving somewhere, etc. Sometimes I’ll get really excited by the original idea and try to work it out on guitar as quickly as possible, but as often I’ll forget the idea completely before I have the chance to record it. Sometimes they come back.

Another reliable source of inspiration for me is a song title. When I was younger, I used to guess what the songs on a new CD would sound like based on the titles, and write my own songs with those names before listening to the album. This has mutated to the present day in that I often make lists of imaginary song titles and dip into these lists to set off the writing process, or to get me started on a lyric. Sometimes a whole song can spring from a line that means nothing but sounds good and is suggestive of a character or story that you then flesh out around it. Once I have some sort of tangible song on my hands, I’ll decide if it has any potential to be hammered out into something worthwhile, and if I think it does, I’ll start working on it in a Pro Tools session – layering instruments, trying different rhythms, coming up with vocal harmonies, etc.

I like the absolute comfort of the place. It’s home territory. There’s no prospect of having to leave, a cup of tea is only a few seconds’ walk away and the TV is there to alleviate frustration or boredom. I find other rooms suitable enough in my absence from the Pool Room – most new bedrooms in new apartments do the job.”

Musical Rooms was talking to Pádraig Cooney of Land Lovers
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Land Lovers began as the musical project of Pádraig Cooney from Dublin, and has now expanded to include Ciarán Canavan, Brian Lynch, Rob Maguire and Cormac Hughes. In the main, the band aims to craft satisfying pop songs that match memorable melodies with intelligent and sometimes funny lyrics. They take their name and some influence from Luke Haines, and would invite Elvis Costello, Stephin Merritt, Bob Pollard, Robert Forster and Dan Boeckner to their weddings. The debut album Romance Romance was launched in September 2008 and since then the band have supported the likes of the Future Kings of Spain, Uzi & Ari and R.S.A.G. They have recently released the EP ‘Immovable Feet’ and play the Twisted Pepper on Dublin’s Middle Abbey St. on Friday, August 14th. Door 9pm and admission is €8. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/landlovers.

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July 14, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 79: CODES

Filed under: Interviews,Irish Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 4:13 pm

codes

“Our rehearsal studio is locked away on the top floor of a creaky old Victorian house on a hillside in north Dublin. The room itself is quite large (it needs to be to accommodate our mountains of gear!) and is soundproofed, which is important as we usually rehearse for long periods of time and often into the night. We’ve adorned the room with black curtains and some neon lights and strobes. When we rehearse the live show we try to make the space feel as much like a live situation as possible so we often rehearse in near darkness with the lights flashing intensely. There aren’t many other houses directly around so it’s a great place to make a lot of noise. The house that the room is in has a lot of character; it’s a really big premises with a lot of history attached to it, sometimes it has quite a dark mood especially during the winter months and there are a couple of mysterious locked up rooms at the end of our corridor that seem as though they’ve not been explored in years. We love the mystery that lies behind those locked doors.

We like to experiment a lot in Codes and we like to have a lot of gear on hand in the studio to explore loads of different possibilities when we’re writing or throwing around new ideas. You’ll find some old modded synths, which we’re particularly fond of, some newer gadgets ,our laptops and Kaoss pad along with a Korg Ms2000r unit and some Roland keyboards. Each member of the band uses both an electronic instrument along with their more traditional instrument. Paul (our drummer) has his kit, a glockenspiel and a Roland SPD-s drum pad and we like combining those elements of acoustic drumming with live-sampling and electronic drum triggering.

I use a trio of 70’s Telecaster Custom, deluxe and standard models into a black Orange RV50 Combo and sometimes bi-amp into a Marshall TSL150 Stack with a mode4 cabinet. I’m having lots of fun at the minute with the Orange combo though as it’s my newest addition, my mic stand holds a Kaoss3 Pad which I use for sampling and vocal effects in real time and a small glockenspiel which I use on a few songs. Raymond uses a Roland FP-5 Piano and a Macbook Pro running reason with a MIDI keyboard for synth sounds and a Gretsch guitar into a Fender Deville 410. Eoin’s bass rig features Deluxe Jazz bass into a Marshall Silver Jubilee 350w head, a Hartke head and an Ashdown 4×12 Cabinet along with the aforementioned Ms2000r running from another MIDI keyboard. Eoin, Raymond and I have a lot of pedals on our pedalboards, which is really great for experimenting coming up with new sounds when we do switch back to our stringed instruments. The four of us sing too, and harmonies are an integral part of our sound so we obviously each have our mics in place in our respective shadowy corners of the room for that.

We’re particularly focussed when we get into the room and we like to work from lists so the obligatory whiteboard is really important for structuring songs and making sure we’re not retreading old ground. A clock is always important too as it’s easy to get lost in the moment as there are no windows in the room. Sometimes we could rehearse for five or six hours on end and not notice that it’s gotten dark outside! We sometimes like to record on the fly as well when we’re demo-ing a new song so our Mac is on hand to help out whenever we get the need.

We usually rehearse three nights a week though it fluctuates depending on what we have coming up in our schedule or if we’re making particular headway on something new. It’s great that we have no time restrictions as it’s our own space so if we get in the zone with a song we’ll usually try to keep working on it while the creativity is flowing. I usually write the bones of the material on my own with a piano or acoustic guitar to get started and then after some arranging on Reason will bring the piece to the guys, this helps get a broader perspective on the song and where it’s going. Of course then it can completely change when someone else adds a new part or we decide to re-mould it in a different manner, so usually most of the actual rehearsal time is spent doing that. I’m good at starting things off but useless at making a final decision on a track so this seems to work well for everyone.

For us, the most important part of songwriting is restraint. We always try to set ourselves creative boundaries to carry through an overall standard. I think that the boundaries that you set yourself when writing a song define the sound more than anything else. It helps characterise the sound, keeps the music focussed and concise (when it needs to be) and makes the bigger picture come into view more quickly. For example at the minute we’re experimenting with writing a song that combines odd time signatures (11/4 & 17/4) to create polyrhythm. Traditionally writing a song in these metres seems unnatural and sounds strange to the ear. I’d find it impossible to naturally write in such a way, but by imposing myself the restriction of having to make the song work within that paradigm, I find it easier to make a concept become an end product.

Our space is one of the most defining and important aspects of our band, without the freedom we have within the walls of the room, we’d never have the opportunity to be as focussed and work creatively in our own time.”

Musical Rooms was talking to Daragh Anderson of CODES
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Codes are an alternative/electronic quartet from Dublin. Comprised of Daragh Anderson (Vocals, Guitars, Samples), Eoin Stephens (Bass, Vocals, Synth), Paul Reilly (Drums, Vocals, Samples) and Raymond Hogge (Guitars, Vocals, Piano, Synth), they have just released a single, They released ‘This Is Goodbye’. Their debut album, Trees Dream In Algebra was recorded in the UK and New Zealand with acclaimed producer Greg Haver (Manics, SFA) and mastered in New York by Greg Calbi (U2, Interpol, Kings of Leon) and will be released in September. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/codesofficial or www.codes.ie

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July 3, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 77: Patrick Kelleher

pkelleher

“My favourite place to make music is usually either my bedroom or the living room of whatever house I’m living in, as I like to be more or less at my leisure when music-making. The only time I was ever in a recording studio was in Edinburgh with a friend of mine who studied music at Napier University, and all the sessions were for three hours at 8 or 9am in the morning at the weekends, and it was quite difficult for me to ‘get into the groove’, as they say. Sometimes I get out of bed in the night and record a bit, so it’s nice to have the computer or 4-track in the room. With the band, Children Under Hoof, it’s a bit different, we create most of the music together while jamming out in my shed and that works well too.

The place where I recorded most of the album was the living room of a house I was living in in Blackrock, which was quite large and bright, with revolting beige patterned curtains. I used the conservatory in that house too which was great, extremely bright during the day, and varying from uncomfortably hot to uncomfortably cold. Yet I would spend days and nights in there. The acoustics were good due to the glass windows and tiled floor. Plus it smelled of fresh basil, which we were growing in pots. Which is nice. I think the main thing is to just feel comfortable in the space.

My bedroom is full of stuff; instruments, recording devices, amps etc. I have to pull everything out on a daily basis in order to use it, and then tidy it all up at night, so that nothing gets lost or damaged and so that I can move around in my room. I’ve got my computer, mixer, digital four-track, tape four-track, mics, two Yamaha keyboards, a Yamaha Digital Synthesiser, two cheap guitars, a Takamine acoustic guitar, Casio Digital Guitar, Accordion, Concertina, Banjo, Mandolin, recorder, tin whistle, jingly bells and countless other items. I usually find myself beginning with one of the keyboards and working from there, though the guitar used to be my starting point.

Once I have some kind of recording device I can use almost anything to make the music, so either my computer or one of the four-tracks is essential for me. After that, any instrument and a microphone. I know now that it’s important to have some professional headphones for monitoring and mixing the tracks, as the sound of your music can vary a lot depending on what you play it on, particularly when it comes to bass. Having said that, I sometimes just use cheap ones for the recording itself. Another important thing for me now is my mixer. It’s just a cheap behringer one, but it’s great for EQ and effects.

I spend too much time there. I don’t get enough sunlight. I just try to play/write/record whenever I can. I prefer to work by myself if it’s my own music. I don’t really know why. But that’s been the way so far. I have ideas for things that sometimes sound a bit ridiculous at first, eg. doing a Gary Numan-esque song or whatever, and if I share that with someone before recording, their surprise or cynicism might put doubt in my mind or affect the initial, somewhat innocent glee I had at the prospect. Better just to record anything, as outrageous as you like and show people what you mean rather than tell them. I am hoping to do some collaborative things with a couple of people though.

I don’t have a specific method for getting started, but more often than not I have a couple of lines/lyrics floating around in my head. Then when I start messing around on instruments I try and squeeze the lines in somehow. When I was working full-time, I used to have pages and pages of lyrics that I came up with while working, usually jotted down in the bathroom or whatever, and a small amount of time to play music and use them. Now it’s different. I spend most of my time with the instruments, recording and developing every good melody I think of. I’m not spending time doing mundane work, so naturally I don’t have the pages of lyrics. I end up writing lyrics on the spot, random streams of words from my head that feel like they go with the music. And that works quite well.

At the moment my Zoom H4/External sound card isn’t working too well with my laptop so I’m putting my instruments and mics into the mixer and then from there straight into the line in on the laptop. I use Steinberg Cubase SX for everything. I still sometimes use my tape 4-track and my tape recorder because they sound so nice. Generally, though, digital recording is great. I put guitars, drum machines, keyboards and vocals through effects pedals, particularly delay (Boss DD) and reverb (Electro Harmonix Holy Grail). My (relatively) new Yamaha CS1X digital synthesizer (second hand) is great for sounds, synth drums and effect’s. It’s an all-round dream for a newcomer to the world of synthesizers. But I don’t want to get too caught up with Fancy sounds and devices either. I like earthy sounds and background noises. Also a pitfall of handy digital equipment that I regularly fall into is recording multi-layer songs all on the same instrument, and then finding myself in a sticky spot when trying to figure out how to play the stuff live.

I think the thing I like best is the fact that it’s my house, my bed is right beside me, kitchen is downstairs, I live with my friends and they are around, we have a laugh and drink a lot of tea, play records/watch videos and such.”

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Dublin-based Patrick Kelleher is a 24-year-old musician hailing from Glendalough in Co. Wicklow. He spent much of his childhood in the English town of Rugby, hometown of Spacemen 3. His music varies from brooding, tense electronica to jaunty acoustica with a twist of something ethereal or idiosyncratic. The songs are often a mixture of live instrumentation, drum machines, voice-sampling yamaha keyboards and heavily-distorted vocal. His debut album You Look Cold (Irish Times review here) was recently released in Ireland on Osaka Records and gets a UK release on July 19th. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/patrickkelleher

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June 17, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 76: Túcan

Filed under: Interviews,Irish Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 12:35 pm
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Tucan

Pearse: My favourite place to make music is my bedroom I suppose, which is surprisingly, is in my house.

Donal: It varies quite a bit actually. Obviously as the acoustic guitar is the instrument, it’s quite versatile in terms of where you can go to play it… Bedrooms are usually good, as are kitchens, living rooms, beaches, gardens etc. Often I get an urge to take my instrument outside, as long as its relatively quiet. I guess the main place where I create is in my bedroom but a lot of our music has come into existence in various parts of Pearse’s house as well.

Pearse: My room is in a perpetual state of cluttered order. Blue walls and a once-white ceiling. It probably smells like me but I don’t notice. I’m the most recent in a long line of occupants and it creaks and groans with their many voices.

Donal: Well my current room is relatively small, but it’s full of guitars, speakers, leads, amps and random instruments. Generally if I am about to spend a few hours practicing/playing then I’ll give the room a wee clean first as having my room uncluttered helps me focus musically.

Pearse: There is a stereo, a bed, an amp, and a few guitars (mostly nylon stringed) and that’s about it.

Donal: Well I’m trying to build a small studio in my room so I am slowly but surely gathering the required equipment. At the moment I have two nylon string guitars (gigging guitars), one steel string acoustic, one electric guitar, a completely useless ukulele and a bass guitar. I have an electric guitar amp and an acoustic amp, plus a bass amp. I have a laptop with some decent digital audio programs and small audio interface, a stereo with a bunch of speakers, a keyboard (borrowed, as is the bass and bass amp), some really cheap bongos and congas, a darabuka and a snare drum, claves, bones, a few crap shakers, and a box of leads with a few microphones and stands… Next on the list are some decent monitors.

Pearse: The most important thing to have here is a guitar and a bed.

Donal: As my compadre said, a guitar and a bed, plus something to listen to music on.

Pearse: I don’t have a schedule – they don’t work for me. I am a bad sleeper so I usually get most done in the wee hours.

Donal: I spend a lot of time there as it’s also my office of sorts. No schedule as such, just whenever I get time. Inspiration is an odd thing, you just have to hope that you’re in a place where you can capture your ideas and express them when it hits….

Pearse: The initial creative spark may come from solitary moments, so it is important sometimes to work on your own, but it’s what follows that shapes our music. I am lucky enough to be involved in a stimulating creative process where ideas bloom (albeit a slow bloom) into fully formed pieces of music.

Donal: As Pearse alluded to, the initial spark for an idea/tune/melody is a very solitary thing; it’s what happens afterwards that involves more than one person. Most of my ideas start when playing on my own or on my own.

Pearse: The creative process? It hits you when it hits

Donal: It’s funny, you never know when inspiration is going to hit, but I generally get a feeling beforehand and an urge to play guitar, then when something hits I just keep playing it for as long as I can, exploring it and looking at it from a few different perspectives. Once I am happy with the idea I will take it to Pearse and we will start to jam on it. Although, the time from when the first idea comes to when a tune is ready for the live show can take up to six months… even longer sometime.

Pearse: What I like most about working here is that it’s the place you’re least likely to meet someone else.

Donal: I like that my instruments are there and that I can turn it up to the requisite volume when needed!!

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Túcan, are instrumental guitar duo Donal Gunne and Pearse Feeney who cite influences as diverse as Django Reinhardt and Frank Zappa to Tool and Megadeth. Hailing form Sligo, they have just scored a Top 30 Irish hit with their debut album Aliquot Strings. Aliquot, meaning “several” in Latin, is an apt choice of word, given the trawl through genres like classical and 60’s rock to heavy metal, trad, flamenco and jazz. They have supported José Feliciano, Rodrigo y Gabriela and were invited to open for Regina Spektor, after she spotted them busking. They launch their album this Saturday in Crawdaddy and tour extensively over the summer (including the Sea Sessions Festival in Bundoran, Donegal on June 26th and The Electric Picnic in September). For full tour details, visit www.tucanmusic.com or www.myspace.com/tucanmusic.com

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April 8, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 70: Dark Room Notes

drn

“After spending the past few years moving our musical room from bedroom to van to rehearsal studio and back again on a thrice-weekly basis, we have finally settled into a (so far) permanent home, inside some sort of pod in a disused steel factory with possible asbestos issues. However we are willing to ignore these for the convenience of not having to take apart all our gear after a mere three hours rehearsing. We’ve already befriended the Beetle restorer next door, and he’s offered the use of his cars for our next video, which is now provisionally titled ‘Herbie Goes Electro’.

It’s a small room, and we’ve just got our hands on a large PA system. We’ve had our hands on a very loud and very enthusiastic drummer for a number of years now, so tinnitus will surely soon be joining asbestos poisoning on our list of health concerns. But aside from those, we’ve settled in nicely to our new surroundings. It means we can now afford to write as a group rather than come up with ideas in our respective bedrooms, and can come and go as we please. We’ve tried to personalise it a bit with lamps and wall hangings and the like, but an accident involving a (borrowed) acoustic guitar and a brand new lamp that Arran bought has left us a little worried about fire safety. We’ve also outlawed smoking in the room, though this has led to a nasty accumulation of butts just outside the door.

Enough about health issues.

We’ve managed to gather around us quite a lot of equipment through various channels. Some pieces have been consciously lent to us. Others have been saved from the attics of disinterested former musicians. Still others we’re hoping the owners will have forgotten about by now. My personal favourite is the glockenspiel that the band gave Arran for her birthday, and which we bust out for acoustic performances. There has yet to be a song written which can’t be improved by the addition of a glockenspiel. Though we were assured of the soundproofedness of the studio when we moved in, we’ve discovered that a layer of rockwool is no protection against the curious sounds emanating from the other pod across the corridor. We never realised that the tin whistle had a role to play in the world of death metal, but it’s a strangely successful marriage. We’ll resist the temptation to add one to our own sound. For now.

The studio has already appeared in the video for ‘Let’s Light Fires’, the first single from our album, and was almost burnt the ground as a result. Considering we’ve named it the Dark Ark in homage to Lee Scratch Perry’s ill-fated Black Ark, that might have been a fitting, though a little premature, end.”

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Dublin-based electronic pop act Dark Room Notes first appeared in 2007 with a single, ‘Love Like Nicotine’, and the EP Dead Start Program. Their debut album, We Love You Dark Matter, was recorded in London last summer, and is released this Friday April 10th on Gonzo Records. The band play The Academy 2, Dublin on Thursday April 9th, Auntie Annie’s in Belfast on May 22nd, Galway’s Roisin Dubh on May 23rd and Cyprus Avenue, Cork on May 24th. For more information – and to hear the lead single ‘Let’s Light Fires’ – go to www.myspace.com/darkroomnotesirelands.

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April 3, 2009

50 Best Irish music acts right now (who contributed to Musical Rooms)

davidholmesMyself and three Ticket colleagues (Jim Carroll, Tony Clayton Lea and Lauren Murphy) were each recently asked to compile a list of the ’50 Best Irish music acts right now’. As expected there’s lots of debate about it over on Jim Carroll’s blog. There were lots of bands I voted for that aren’t on the list, and some I didn’t vote for that made the final 50. Either way, it’s great to see a light shined on so many bands and the list proves that Irish music is in a fairly robust health. Well done to David Holmes for bagging the No. 1 slot.

Here’s a list of those included in the Top 50 who have contributed to Musical Rooms so far. Watch out for upcoming contributions from Spook of the Thirteenth Lock, Ann Scott and Dark Room Notes.

(49) David Turpin
(46) Mick Flannery
(38) The Jimmy Cake
(29) Julie Feeney
(23) Messiah J &The Expert
(20) Oppenheimer
(19) Chequerboard
(13) RSAG
(8) Adrian Crowley
(6) Villagers
(5) Lisa Hannigan
(4) Fight Like Apes
(2) Jape

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