Musical Rooms

July 3, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 77: Patrick Kelleher


“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.”

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

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January 9, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 52: David Grubbs

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series,Uncategorized — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 4:02 pm
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davidgrubbs“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, For more information visit

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