Musical Rooms

January 13, 2010

Who will win the 2009 Choice Music Prize?

A pretty good, all-round list this year. Glad to see Adrian Crowley, Valerie Francis, Julie Feeney and ASIWYFA on there. Disappointed for Patrick Kelleher, Hunter Gatherer, Delorentos, David Kitt and David Turpin. So who’s your Paddy Power cash on?

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:

March 2, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 63: Mick Flannery


“I have a cottage in Co Cork, deep in the hills where the main room has been turned into a studio/rehearsal room. I just got a new (secondhand) acoustic upright piano which I’m really enjoying at the moment! It’s very remote, small and about 100 years old. Built from old granite, there’s a main room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a loft where I sleep, which has a wood burning stove that gives off a wonderful amount of heat!

I use lots of guitars, amps, my piano, a drum kit, ProTools and a shit load of microphones which Christian (my drummer) seems to have fetish for… The most important thing for me to have here is the wood burning stove – damn handy over the winter! I’m lucky enough to live there, so I don’t have to work to a schedule regarding writing.

Sometimes isolation is important, but sometimes it’s important to work alone. For me, the creative process starts with a melody in my head and it either gets forgotten or develops. If I expand on it, I’ll experiment with piano, guitar and vocals but not necessarily in that order!

What I like most about this space is that it’s remote.”

Hailing from Blarney Co. Cork, songwriter Mick Flannery has release two albums to date. The second, White Lies, was released on EMI and is nominated for the 2008 Choice Music Prize, which takes place at Vicar Street on Wednesday March 4th. For more information and details of upcoming live shows, visit or

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February 27, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 62: Fight Like Apes


“There is a small box room in my house which we usually use. It’s right next door to my bedroom. We used to rehearse on Gardiner Street in a place we shared with a few other bands but the lack of a toilet became worrying. Unfortunately at the moment we are never really in Ireland enough to justify having our own space so the box room in my house it is! It’s really quite a small room. Yellow woodchip walls. Very messy. It’s also called the junk room because anything we don’t use anymore is left there stacked (game consoles, broken electronics etc). I also keep my decks and vinyl in there. They get used even less then the broken electronics…

I’ve got a really nice old Yamaha Clavinova. I love the Clavinova! It has the nicest “e. piano” sound going. I hate nearly every keyboard range Yamaha have done but with the clavinova I think they got it right. I’ve got lots of pedals, toys etc, most of them being very old cheap guitar accessories which seem to work wondrously on a keyboard. I’ve a few guitars hung on the wall which are rarely touched.

The most important thing to have in this space is a cup of tea at all times. Otherwise I will be downstairs making a cup of tea rather doing anything remotely creative. I used to spend two or three hours in the room writing every day. Now I don’t really have that much time free that I spend even less of it there! However I do try and fit in at much time as I can – I don’t like to schedule things as generally the songs you write that way end up being terrible.

When being creative, generally a bit of alone time is nice but not completely necessary. Sometimes it’s much nicer to write when there’s someone else there to bounce off. It’s something that works very well in this band. I’d imagine it mightn’t work well in other bands but we are lucky like that. I generally just wait till I have something to say. Any time I’ve forced myself to write I’ve written gibberish. You can sit down in front of a piano twenty times a day and will yourself to write and you won’t be able to. It’s only when you really feel like writing that you get anything done. Toys help! A new toy can help you get exited about playing music again.

Currently I use a Roland Fp-2, Roland SP-404 and few boss pedals. It’s a simple set up really. I’ve nearly made it more complicated on a few occasions, but can’t see the point.

What I like most about the room is that I can make as much of a racket as I want in there and nobody will ever say anything, because I’m supposed to make a racket in there.”

Since the release of their debut album, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion in 2008, Dublin band Fight Like Apes have garnered huge acclaim outside of Ireland. The album has just been released in the UK and Sony plan to release it later this year in Japan and the video for their latest single, ‘Tie Me Up in Jackets’ can been seen here. They are nominated for the 2008 Choice Music Prize, which takes place at Vicar Street on Wednesday March 4th. For more information and details of upcoming live shows, visit

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February 26, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 61: Oppenheimer


“Our favourite space to write and record ideas and develop songs is a space that I’ve named Start Together Studio. It’s in the Oh Yeah Building in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. We discovered the space early last year when we were looking for a place to record our second album. We heard about the Oh Yeah Project and on looking around discovered the shell of an old Country & Western studio, where people like David McWilliams, Hugo Duncan and various other people have recorded over the years. Before that it was a Whisky Bonding Warehouse, mostly destroyed during the Second World War, so obviously, like every recording studio, it is said to be haunted.

It has a sizable control room and live room as well as a beautiful sounding wood room. Outside of that there are at least six other rooms in the building that we used to record instruments in. Stone rooms that were 60 feet long with high ceilings, tiled bathrooms, elevators, three story stairwells… there are so many parts of that building that really feel like instruments on the album. The atmosphere is one of freedom and encouragement, unusual in a central location in the city and we can make noise at any volume any time of night or day without fear of angry neighbours. You can feel secluded and tucked away or in the middle of the city depending on how many doors you open or close and there’s a stunning view of Belfast from the rooftop. It was such a positive experience I’ve opened a full time recording studio in the space, for other artists to experience what we have.

We kitted it out with Pro Tools HD3, some nice pre amps like Universal Audio, Chandler and API, loads of nice microphones from Neumann to Sennheiser to Electro Voice and everything in between. We also have found things like the Roland Space Echo, Maestro Echoplex, EMT plate reverb, WEM Copycat and as many guitar pedals as we can manage to buy. Moogerfoogers and a stack of synthesizers like Moogs, Rolands, Jens, Solinas, Arps, Casios, Yamahas have all been in there. Lots of amps like Marshalls, Fender Twins, Selmers, Rolands, Ampegs and I love my Dipinto guitars, they sound great! There’s also loads of drums and percussion along with things like vocoders, autoharps and melodicas to fill out the room. Basically it’s all the things we’ve been collecting so that we can reach for something different almost every time we have a new idea.

The most important thing in this space is – for writing new ideas – an acoustic guitar, Roland Juno 6, Pro Tools and a good Microphone. We spent almost three months straight writing and recording Take The Whole Midrange And Boost It last summer. Since then it’s been days when we can. When we’re not on tour I spend over 40 hours a week here working with other artists on albums, it is my favourite place to be. We both usually create initial ideas alone and then come to each other with those to loop and tweak and explore. On the last record we have people play bass, guitar, strings, brass and sing on different sections of the album, I think that’s been very important to the sounds and the feeling of the record and is something that we overlooked in the past. Oppenheimer will always be the two of us bouncing ideas back and forth and seeing where that takes us. Usually with my ideas I layer a lot and really quickly, it usually starts with a drum loop or synth part and I’ll fill out the arrangement to see if I like it. Then I’ll bring it to Shaun and we’ll go from there. Shaun usually brings riffs or chord structures on acoustic guitar. Sometimes we start ideas completely together, or one of us has three quarters of a riff and needs help. Sometimes Shaun brings complete ideas that only need arranged and produced, sometimes I’ll write vocoder parts and build songs around them. It’s pretty varied, which keeps it exciting.

We use everything we can get our hands on! It’s based around Pro Tools, with all the equipment I’ve mentioned above, and we’ve also borrowed and used things like pianos, old Yamaha organs, spring reverbs, bass guitars, and other peoples voices. What I like most about our space is that I love the freedom to do what we like, to push our ideas to the limit and to not be held back by anyone or anything. Mostly I really love all the amazing sounding rooms we have to stand and play in and to capture the characters of. I think that is the most important thing about a good recording.”

Oppenheimer are indie pop electronic duo Shaun Robinson and Rocky O’Reilly from Belfast. They released Take the Whole Mid Range and Boost It in 2008, which is nominated for this year’s Choice Music Prize. The band are about to start a US tour so won’t be playing at the Choice Music Prize ceremony on March 4th. For more information visit or

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February 23, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 60: Lisa Hannigan


“I’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing in a big old barn in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny with the guys in my band – Tomo, Shane, Donagh and Gavin. Tomo, who plays drums with me very kindly pushed aside storage crates and old rugs and broken furniture and we fill up the rest with rehearsing.

It’s pretty cold in the winter and I have very sneakily edged myself into prime position next to the storage heater. The walls used to be bare concrete but since a recent party they now are covered with giant pictures of foliage (these got a good wash down as they used to cover fences at the Electric Picnic). There are strings of huge flowers (made from hangers and coloured tights) suspended from the ceiling and lots of fairy lights and the like. Because it’s so cold we don’t leave any instruments in there except the drums, Harmonium and Glockenspiel. We’ve got a simple vocal PA set up but in general I find it easier to rehearse unamplified. We all face each other so we can balance ourselves better.

Apart from the instruments I would have to say that one of the most important things about it is the proximity to Tomo’s house. There’s a constant flow of tea, coffee, snacks and occasionally children and animals. Tomo’s cats like to sleep in the furry guitar cases and try to ignore the racket. We spent a few months over the winter there and I’m looking forward to getting back there when we’re not gigging.

I tend to write alone but I really enjoy bashing the songs into shape with the band. They’re much better at playing than I am so that helps. I like to wander off by myself if I have an idea for a song. I don’t have a regular starting point really. I might hear a word that I really like or get a melody in my head that I hum away until words come. Other times there’s a story already there to be set to music. Sometimes I’ll mess about on the guitar or an autoharp. I’m not very technically minded so I’ll ask Gavin Glass for help if I want to crack open Garageband.

This space has a lovely relaxed atmosphere. It’s great having it all set up and to be able to mess about on all the different instruments. Also being within 20 feet of Tomo’s kitchen always improves a situation.”

Lisa Hannigan was once best known for her collaborations with Damien Rice, but with the release of her debut solo album Sea Sew in 2008, she has garnered critical acclaim internationally. The album is one of this year’s Choice Music Prize nominees but Hannigan will be touring the US when the awards ceremony takes place on Wednesday March 4th in Dublin. For more information visit or

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February 17, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 59: Messiah J & the Expert


“My favourite space to create music has to be in my home studio, also known as Labbey Road. It’s my own personal haven and basically has everything I care most about in this world in it apart from the ones I love. It’s a big enough room which holds all my gear and loads of my records but still feels fairly spacious. It’s at the back of the house and looks out on the garden which is a great advantage. It’s not sound-proofed or anything as if I’m generally recording I’ll do that in my bedroom, dismantle the bed and use the mattress & bed itself to deaden the sound. It’s kind of a mess stylistically. Changing Rooms would probably have a field day as it’s got different coloured wallpaper on each wall but that’s one of the most important things about this room for me. Before my father died he took loads of music magazines, classical scores and important newspaper articles over the years and used them as wallpaper and painted a dodgy green over them all to make it blend. That wall reminds me of him every time I look at it and is a huge reason I love to spend so much time in the room.

Gear wise I own a Mac G5 computer which runs Pro Tools, an M-Audio Projectmix desk, Beringer Truth monitors, Akai MPC 2500 & 2800 samplers, two Technics 1210 decks and a Vestex mixer. Synth wise I own a Korg MS2000B, Alesis micron, Yamaha Vss-200, Yamaha DX100, Roland JX-3P, Casio MT-240 and a really old Farfisa Organ. I have a few other bits and bobs, a couple of microphones and lots and lots of records.

Probably the most important thing for me to have here is the G5 Mac running Pro Tools. It brings all my dreams/ideas to reality. There are other things I care for more in the studio but this is the most important. The dartboard is also of huge importance. I spend hours and hours throwing darts at it while listening back to drums, ideas, mixes or whatever. I find this is a better process for me than pacing around the room like a mad scientist which is what I used to do.

I spend an ungodly amount of time in the studio. I’m basically in there any chance I get. I seem to spend my life waiting there for those special little moments. Those little bursts of creativity/magic that help start/finish a song but when they arrive it’s one of the best feelings in the world. It’s an indescribable feeling like a first kiss, scoring a goal or eating a massive piece of Pavlova. It makes you feel like that Belinda Carlisle song ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’, except with much better drums.

I think I work best in isolation. I love the feeling of having no contact with the outside world and just being left to my own devices to experiment in my own private laboratory. When you work alone there are no rules and you can try weird things and mess up as much as you want, but with other people in the room I don’t find this as easy. I spend a lot of time programming on the sampler/computer so it’s a very solitary thing. When I bring in other musicians to record I normally have a blueprint for what I want so it’s more of a recording session than a creative one but can easily turn into one which is definitely the best thing about collaborating, finding the unknown.

The creative process is a difficult one to describe. It usually starts off with a small idea whether that is a bassline, drums or a chord sequence. I then lay that down into the ‘Tools and start playing ideas over it. It’s basically a building block effect for me. I’ll work off that idea and see where it takes me. It can be a brilliant process but more often than not it’s an extremely frustrating and tedious one. It’s easy to write lots of little ideas but getting that special one is the difficult part. I find I know it’s going well if I’ve lost all track of time and have forgotten to eat at a normal hour.

I suppose what I like most about my studio is that it’s my own space at home. It’s my passion crammed into a room. I know where everything is and this allows me to work without any distractions in my own time. I also love that MJ has to travel to my house rather than the other way around which gives me an extra hour’s kip.”

Messiah J and the Expert are a rapper/producer duo based in Dublin. Their third album, From the Word Go was released in 2008 and is nominated for the 2008 Choice Music Prize. They play Electric Avenue, Waterford on February 27th, Cypress Avenue, Cork on February 28th, the Choice Music Prize ceremony at Vicar St., Dublin on Wednesday March 4th, The Roisin Dubh, Galway on March 6th, Queens Speakeasy, Belfast on March 12th, Dolan’s Warehouse, Limerick on March 14th, Anu Bar, Wexford on March 15th and Spirit Store, Dundalk on March 16th. For more information visit or .

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