John Carroll ::: John MOuse

We are buzzing to be bringing together two of our favorite Johns for this interview: John Carroll and John MOuse. John Carroll, who kindly agreed to come up with the following questions, is originally from the Republic of Ireland, but has been based in Hangzhou, China for many years. During this time his achievements include establishing a record label and helping acts perform in China, whilst also producing critically acclaimed music of his own. Carroll has toured this vast country either as part of a band or as a solo artist, one of the first foreigners to ever do so independently following China’s opening up – playing tiny venues through to huge festivals – and everywhere in between. He is also a skilled animator. John MOuse, hailing from Wales, has received rave reviews from numerous respected music publications including The Line of Best Fit, Drowned in Sound, and Louder Than War, blown away audiences at festivals such as Green Man, played alongside notable bands including Future of the Left and Half Man Half Biscuit and is something of a Celtic trailblazer himself, not only when considering the overall brilliance and uniqueness of his output but also, more specifically, his seeing through of brave and standout concepts, in particular The Fen Sessions. He has also collaborated with artists such as Sweet Baboo and Los Campesinos, and has seen his work given airplay by an impressively long list of BBC DJs.

JC: Hello John MOuse. To what extent is nostalgia important to you, not only in terms of writing, but also in your recording process?

JM: Hello. Nostalgia is one of the main drivers in the lyrical content of the songs. I read that pure memory is limited to motor skills and muscle memory and everything else has to have an element of nostalgia, where we apply our present emotions onto occurrences that happened in the past. We frame them how we want to, we reframe them depending on our circumstances, experiences and emotions. There is no nostalgic element to the recording process as I have no real early memories of recording and I have very little input into this process.

JC: What are your earliest memories of music in the home? How do you think that has influenced you?

JM: My very earliest are Eurovision songs and silly pop music like Black Lace or Boney M. It didn’t get much better after that – the bought music in my household was pretty limited to Queen and Chris De Burgh. I really grew into the popular music of the time, I was a big fan of Michael Jackson and I think Bad was one of the first records I owned. My mother though did have one Bryan Ferry greatest hits and I liked his singing style, it wasn’t until later on that I discovered Roxy Music, and the same could be said for The Beatles, Paul McCartney was the man who did the Frog Song and Mull of Kintyre. Pop music though definitely influences my love of melodies and big choruses that you can sing along to.

JC: The Fen Sessions was conceptually a ballsy move as regards the brevity of access to the recordings. It reminds me to an extent of a book called ‘The 17’ by Bill Drummond. Can you briefly explain the genesis of this idea? Did it reveal to you any dark or lighter truths about the way people find new music? With such a time restraint to push against what, if any, difficulties did the task put on your shoulders?

JM: I haven’t heard of The 17 but will check it out. The idea was spawned mainly from frustration. Frustration from the time and hard work that goes into the traditional process of recording and releasing an album and for very little reach for an independent underground artist. I also wanted to see how many people actually engaged with John MOuse on social media. The actual challenge of producing the material didn’t really concern me, it wasn’t a driver, I was comfortable that I would be able to achieve the outcomes. The response during the process statistically was in line with my expectations, just over a hundred people downloaded the album, this is in keeping with previous releases and crowdfunding campaigns. There were however some interesting and unexpected outcomes, for instance I did not expect or indicate that people should pay for the music, but down to Bandcamp’s facility to allow people to pay if they want for the music over half of the supporters did this, and so we ended up making some money on the back of the process. Also Henning Wehn (the German stand-up comedian) tweeted about it, which was really bizarre. There was lots of interaction after each song was posted up and it really helped the process knowing people were out there, listening and downloading the music, especially when we hit some creative and psychical walls. The hardest task was re-motivating ourselves for day two. Day one, we were fresh, keen, excited, we had lots of ideas and creativity. Day two we had been out the previous night for light celebrations, started later in the morning and it didn’t feel new and the element of the unknown had gone. It was interesting hearing people’s feedback on those songs, there were two in particular where the process was really difficult, but I conducted a post sessions questionnaire and the enjoyment for people for those songs hadn’t diminished.

JC: Would you like to continue releasing like this in the future, and do you think you would encourage other artists to seek similar ways of releasing their work?

JM: I don’t know. I am failing to see the point of making recorded music at all.

JC: When I hear your songs you mention names of people/personalities in your stories. Are they real or made up? Does juxtaposing characters allow you more freedom to tackle heavier subject matter rather than being entirely first person/subjective?

JM: I think most of the names come from famous personalities, I like the idea of faction. I like what Tarantino did when he blew up Hitler and Goebbels in a cinema. I like The Dammed United. I don’t see my subject matter as heavy. I mostly recall tales, I don’t intentionally put any weight on them, they just are stories. It’s like this is my fun, if I am honest in the emotion then I can play around with the characters or the settings.

JC: Music or lyrics first? When you decide to start working on a new song does it come from a clean slate, or do you have a specific process in place? Do you keep a treasure chest of ideas in place to pick from before getting stuck in?

JM: Lyrics – I’m really not that good a musician. I don’t have any time to really have a specific process, I just find opportunities to write when I can, so maybe that was what was nice about The Fen Sessions. All the lyrical content develops at different paces, sometimes there is a lot of pre-editing done without writing anything down, I’ll ruminate an idea or a story from the past and think about themes and how they can be twisted or what would make them interesting or sometimes I’ll just try and write as much as I can down about an incident and then carve it up from there.

JC: Ringo, Paul, John, George, or none of the above? And why?

JM: The Beatles. Hive thinking is best yeah? That’s how the Chinese sent 15 people to Mars. What is the point in picking one of them? Without each other they would never have made the songs they did.

JC: Are you in a relationship/do you have your own family? If so, how do you balance touring, gigging, etc with the day to day of family life? Do you have an isolated room you retreat to in order to work?

JM: I’m married, we have two children. I have never been offered or had the opportunity to tour so that’s easy to handle. We gig maybe once every month over a year, most of the members of the band I play with all have their own lives. It’s tough to get gigs when your market is predominantly middle aged men, promoters know this, so why would you get loads of support slots with young up and coming bands. I get to support the retrospective acts, but they don’t come around as often and there are other acts like me in the same position so I wouldn’t get them all. I don’t have an isolated room, I’ll work where I can find some space, though this will change and I am going to get more serious with my songwriting and try and produce better work – after all – Sternberg’s five components of creativity states that you need a safe creative environment to allow creativity to occur.

JC: What’s next for JM?

JM: John MOuse is dying. There was The Death of John MOuse, an album that was supposed to mark the end of this creative endeavour but then there was still something left to explore, so I resurrected the project for one more album and shows to promote it, but that album was out a year ago now. John MOuse started as a bedroom project for me to try and write music again after a three year break, since then I have collaborated with 28 people, worked with a songwriting partner and producer on and off throughout that period and for the last five years, worked consistently with a settled live band. The live shows are totally different to the recorded music and there is now an increasing disconnect between what we do live and the name and the concept of John MOuse.

 

 

Hear more of John MOuse’s music by visiting Bandcamp.

Visit John Carroll’s Bandcamp by clicking here.

Quaker Parents ::: No Travel

There’s  a new album on Bandcamp from Quaker Parents.

We are immediately enamored by the experimental approach that conjures up fond memories of Pavement.

Quaker Parents always seems to tread a somewhat lo-fi and exploratory path but this never comes at the expense of enjoyment and accessibility.

To our tastes it’s a perfect combo. Check out Quaker Parents’ latest song/video and decide for yourselves.

Note the inclusion of Microsoft Solitaire which makes us feel nostalgic for the PCs of our younger years – cool idea. The calming isolation of playing cards solo somehow fits perfectly the soothing intent of a song holding at bay an ominous undercurrent.

Junks ::: Lobotomy

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Delighted to receive in our inbox yet another sumptuous slice of synth driven retro-pop from Junks. Junks’ output has been consistent to say the least. Time and time again they manage to come up with these sparkling 80s leaning audio gems.

This time around, although the beats and electronica, unsurprisingly, take a central role, it’s the guitar power chords that add the extra texture pinning it all together. There’s been more six string creeping into Junks’ compositions of late and it’s a welcome development.

On the surface you have a simple but effective pop tune but dig a little deeper and you will appreciate the craft that has gone into it. Take how long the intro lasts for example. The perfect length to set the scene and add the requisite level of suspense. And consider the meter and delivery of the vocal line. It provides the crucial element which makes this song go from credible arrangement to bona fide earworm.

Throw in the tight harmonies and quirky backing vocals and you have the necessary fairy dust sprinkled atop to take the edge off what is actually quite a dark track, about retaining a sense of identity in an increasingly confused and unnerving world. Inspect for yourself in this here lyric video:

 

This song will be available for purchase via iTunes and Bandcamp on May 10th.

 

A remix by Steo Le Panda will also be available that day.

Interview ::: Skinshape

TSOFDs: It’s interesting you’re the second artist we’ve interviewed recently who isn’t overly interested in self-promotion. We’re hoping this heralds a new wave of artists that would rather spend their time working on their music than paying for Facebook boosts which only bots click on. Anyway, we’re grateful you’ve been kind enough to put aside time to converse with us. Conor McAteer (We Are Aerials) states it makes him feel ‘mucky’ trying to sell himself. Is this something you can relate to – should the work just speak for itself?

WD: I can definitely relate to that. It’s important for a musician to have a good understanding and respect for promotion and how/when to utilise it, but many artists are way too involved in self-promotion and creating their online persona with daily posts of miscellaneous fodder. I prefer to be patient and let things grow naturally. I’m not going to post something on social media if I don’t feel like it and I’m not going to force myself to do a post every day on Instagram… When I have something that carries at least some meaning then I will consider sharing it. Ultimately it’s about the music and not the person(s) behind it.

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TSOFDs: Seems like advice we could all benefit from heeding whether musicians or not. More straightforward question. Where did the title ‘Filoxiny’ come from?

WD: Filoxiny is taken from the Greek word ‘philoxenia,’ which I learnt from my good friend Basilis from Greece, who released the first Skinshape album back in 2014. He mispronounced when he first tried to tell me about this word and it came out as ‘filoxiny’. The cool thing is that there is no word in English for this! It means something like ‘generosity of spirit,’ in other words hospitality to your guest/patron but to a much greater degree, i.e. ‘my home is your home.’

TSOFDs: Great to learn something new and, yes, we couldn’t suss out where the word came from with a quick search online. Makes a nice change to find the Internet doesn’t have all the answers. Speaking of which, the Internet couldn’t provide us with a definite answer regarding whether you’ve turned your back on touring? Do you see making a record a bit like painting a picture – once it’s done it’s done?

WD: I don’t think I can say I’ve definitely turned my back on touring forever but for the time being it feels very right. I’m happy where I am, and I try to keep my life simple. I am busy enough as it is and trying to keep your head straight in this world is not easy so I think if I started touring I would lose it! Also, touring generally puts a lot of stress on personal relationships and I don’t want to do that to my partner. I am choosing a path where I am not all about ‘me and my music.’

TSOFDs: Sounds entirely sensible. Perceptions of musicians can be a bit reductive. People seem to think all an artist should be doing is making a record/promoting a record/touring a record. Can you tell us some of the things you’d rather be doing than trying to get a band together/touring – how do you like to spend your time when you’re not writing and recording – where do your other interests lie?

WD: That is quite reductive, but then isn’t that what musicians generally do? We spend a long time writing an album, and then we spend a long time recording it, and then we spend a long time promoting and releasing it, and then we spend some more time touring it and playing lots of festivals… And then we do it many times over. It’s quite relentless actually. But yes, there can be more things that a musician can do if they think to try… I read a lot of books, especially travel and philosophy books. I sell secondhand vinyl as a hobby (part-time job), I work with my girlfriend and we share the money we earn, that’s quite fun. In the future I’d like to write a book, probably non-fiction. I’m terrible at drawing so I could never paint. I could try photography, I sometimes think I can see good photo opportunities walking around London. Apart from ‘work’ related stuff, family and my partner are very important to me, and I prioritise them above anything else ultimately.

TSOFDS: It certainly seems to have proven beneficial to find a pace of life that works for you – so many artists seem to just burn out. Your recording process sounds really cool and there’s a beautiful overall tone to the final result. Can you tell us about some of the gear you use – is it simply a matter of plugging into a computer and mixing in the box or is the recording chain more complicated than that?

WD: Ah this is the question I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me for a long time, hahaha. What studio nerd doesn’t love to talk about gear? My recording process is quite weird really, because the music gives the impression of a band jamming out. But really there is no band and everything is built up layer by layer, usually starting with the drums. I always try to push myself with new techniques and ideas to make the recordings more unique. There’s lots of little studio tricks I’ve used that you may notice if you listen carefully, especially in the third album ‘Life & Love.’ But back to the gear! The important thing for a sound like Skinshape is to use as much vintage gear as possible. We don’t want any of that sharp digital high end! I always record the drums to tape, that is the first thing. Sometimes I mix the drums down to one channel, which is more limited to mix later on but it’s more exciting to do, and it challenges you to nail the sound at the start. Other times I record the individual drum microphones and mix them later, it’s nice if I want a stereo drum sound, like on the track ‘I Didn’t Know.’ The rest of the music is not generally recorded to tape, but I use vintage valve preamplifiers to record nearly everything through before it reaches the computer. I generally use cheap microphones as well, the only time I’ve used expensive microphones was to record the strings and horns, I hired a couple of Neumanns for those sessions to make sure I had the best possible sound.

TSOFDs: That’s an awesome insight to gain. Here’s hoping it inspires any aspiring recording enthusiasts out there to nail the sound at source. Putting recording to one side, what tends to come first – words or music – how do your songs generally start life?

WD: Music nearly always comes first. I need to create a vibe to feel inspired and write some lyrics. I usually start with drums and then add some guitar or bass to build the vibe. On Filoxiny I sometimes started with synthetic orchestral sounds or piano to build my idea, and replaced those later with the real thing. Due to the cost of hiring the musicians to play some of the parts it’s essential to make sure you have their parts correct so that you don’t have to get them back in a second time.


TSOFDs: Good advice. African music seems to be something you’re passionate about as a listener. Which countries in Africa in particular – which African artists would you recommend to our readers that they may not have heard?

WD: African music has been my great passion for a few years now. I love Congolese music the most at the moment, there is something so profound and deep about it. I have about 100 7″ vinyl from Congo and it’s growing every day. I also regularly listen to music from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast. Generally these are all on original old vinyl, which I have spent many many hours searching listening and collecting over years. The fact is that much of the music can only be heard on vinyl so if you want to discover it you don’t really have any choice! But it’s not a bad thing, as the quality is usually much higher than on any format or YouTube video.

TSOFDs: It’s time to get off the computer people! But after finishing reading this, obviously. You’re described as a Londoner. Where in London are you from? How have the music scenes you’ve been involved with changed over the years? Has London changed for better or worse for musicians would you say?

WD: I am actually not a Londoner it is just where I have lived for nearly 10 years. I’ve actually from a town called Swanage in the county of Dorset. It’s a beautiful place and I’m proud to be from there. London is sadly a necessity for many people, musicians or otherwise. It’s where I come to meet musicians, work at my studio. And it can’t be denied that it is one of the best places on Earth to find myriad amazing musicians. I can testify to that because not only have I found some of the best ‘Western’ musicians to record some of my previous work, but I am currently finding amazing musicians from Africa and Latin America for my new material without even having to leave my city… it’s amazing, really! London is amazing, the only drawback is that due to the number of outstanding musicians in this city, it can be quite difficult for many to find a voice and stand out from the rest.

TSOFDs: In terms of ensuring your voice, as it were, is heard precisely how you want people to hear it, what do you find hardest about making a record? A lot of musicians I talk to find coming up with the core parts not so difficult but then deciding on a final mix can be absolute torture. Any tips that might help someone who’s hit a brick wall push through to the end?

WD: The hardest part of making a record is definitely the period after you’ve created your initial idea that you are happy with. It’s a laborious process building up the songs and making them interesting. Finishing a song seems to be the part that many musicians struggle with. Sometimes people create something great and then they just give up before they get to finish it, and that can be dangerous because you may lose interest in that song and never finish it. I find it’s imperative to force yourself to finish a song, even if you don’t really have that much motivation to finish it. Sometimes it’s the encouragement of others that gives me the drive to struggle through. Finalising the mix is also a looooong process. I usually do 20-50 mixes of a song before it’s done, listening to every mix on my iPod (yes I still have an iPod) and making little notes to change in the next mix. It’s usually very minor tweaks just bringing everything into balance better. My advice to anyone who has hit a brick wall, is to push through! And bounce the mix off someone whose ears you trust to get a second opinion, someone who is going to be honest whether they think it’s good or bad. If someone asks you, ‘Hey what is this song?’ that is usually a sign that you are on the right track!

TSOFDs: Top tips. What’s next for Skinshape? Any new records in the pipeline or new projects?

WD: Up next is my next LP which is something like 50% complete. I am not going to say too much but I will say that it is totally different to Filoxiny, much more upbeat, funky and very world music orientated, drawing on music from places such as Mali, Congo, Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia, La Reunion, Cuba, the US and many more. It is an exploration of rhythm, poly-rhythm and grooves. I am very excited about it and it has been a big challenge for me so far but I am starting to see progress with it so that’s great.

TSOFDs: We can’t wait to hear it – really appreciate you giving us your precious time.

WD: Many thanks for the brilliant questions, it’s nice to see someone who does not just ask the standard stuff!

 

Filoxiny is out now on Lewis Recordings.

Interview ::: Gemma Ray

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TSOFDs: Listening to the title track Psychogeology right now in my headphones I’m immediately transported out of my cold apartment in a crowded metropolis and whisked away to an altogether more expansive landscape be it, sadly in my case, only a musical one. I’m grateful nevertheless. Please tell us what inspired this song.

GR: Psychogeology is about the relationship between landscape and the mind, how your emotions and environment can feed off and mirror each other – this song in particular is largely inspired by a long tour around the USA and also New Zealand. I wrote a lot of this record either on the road or in the short bursts of being back in the solitude of my studio in Berlin between tours – taking stock of remembered images and processing everything. It’s about overcoming and how ultimately we are all overcome.

TSOFDs: Perfect description – completely aligns with what I’m listening to right now. You’re described as Essex-raised but you’ve obviously seen a fair bit of the world. There’s a restlessness to your music but I’m curious to know if there’s a place you call home that you feel very much anchored to – somewhere you see yourself always living or returning to?

GR: I feel more anchored to the process of making music and to loved ones more than to a particular place, but Berlin has felt very much like home to me for a long time. It’s been a steady source of inspiration, a comfortingly solid yet transient place to rest and refuel my creativity, to dream up and refine new ideas before heading off again. It gives me a sense of personal space and security that I can’t imagine not returning to it at various stages in my life.

TSOFDs: Following on from the last question I wonder whether there’s music you grew up listening to that influenced you that you always return to or whether you’re on a constant quest to find something new? It’s so easy these days, where so much music is pretty much freely available, to hop from one artist to the next and never settle for that long.

GR: I find the way you described finding new music very overwhelming actually, and don’t really consume music that way. I prefer to spend my time making music more than listening to it – I rarely have the head space to listen to music at home, but I do tend to go back to certain film soundtracks and jazz records plus a handful of pop albums like Pet Sounds, or Astral Weeks. When new music does pop up in my life I think I am even more enamoured by the unexpectedness of it, and I love being blown away out of the blue.


TSOFDs: That sounds like the best way to be honest. The way the music is layered on your imminent album release is both exquisite and precise. When it comes to playing the material live, have you put together a band that will play the songs just as they are on record, including all the harmonies and instrumentation, or do you set about presenting the songs in a different way, perhaps stripping them down?

GR: I often really enjoy subverting my records live, taking away the bigger production and getting to the sinew and bone. Though often born of necessity (reinterpreting big productions live can be tricky, financially). I have always loved embracing a more raw and minimal version of the songs and get to understand them even more that way.  Buutttt, for this record I decided to go for reproducing all the backing harmonies and full-band sound as it’s such a key part of the emotion in these songs.  Andrew Zammit is playing drums and Acetone Organ simultaneously, Gris-De-Lin is playing keys and singing, Judith Rummel plays bass and acoustic guitar and backing vocals and Claudio Jolowicz has been joining us for some shows on saxophones and flute. It’s been a real treat to do this, and the three part harmonies are really cool to sing live.

TSOFDs: I’m jealous of the people who’ve witnessed these album tracks live. Where has been your favorite country to gig and why?

GR: One of my favourite trips so far is perhaps one which took me to Australia, New Zealand and Bali – I love soaking up all the wildlife and epic landscapes and it’s always really amazing to play your own music in a place like Bali where the culture is so different, and to see how those local influences sneak back into the tapestry of my future work further down the line. Writing in strange hotel rooms with lizards and huge spiders is always going to evoke a new weird chord structure or something at least!

TSOFDs: The album, despite evoking a sense of journey, somehow comes across to me as you knowing exactly what you wanted to do when it came to laying down the tracks. Did you have it all mapped out before recording or did the same sense of exploration conveyed by the songs go into the overall process itself? It feels to me like the expedition happened before and recording was a means of accurately conveying or pinpointing where you have already been either physically, emotionally, or both.

GR: I spent a year or more in my studio working on numerous versions of the songs, breaking them up and re-assembling them, bullying myself about the lyrics and arrangements, before committing them to tape. At every stage of production I was staying true to the key message, mood, emotion and sense of place that I wanted the songs to portray right up until the final stage of mastering. I was zooming in on every tiny tweak that was either enhancing or diluting the emotion of the songs, however fine the tipping point. There was still a lot of experimentation in the overdubs phase, time to reflect and space for other musicians but I felt very clear about the record I wanted to make and feel like it says what I needed it to say.

TSOFDs: The effort more than paid off – there’s so much depth and substance to this album. Given the shrinking sales brought about by the Internet age do you think the album is an endangered species? Personally I think it’s safe because true artists will always be motivated by something other than money or popularity – they do it because they love it and there’s something inside them that needs to come out.

GR: I’m not sure – I considered the idea of making a series of singles, as many of my songs seem to want to sit in pairs, but when it comes to the crunch I can’t resist encapsulating a period of time within the confines of a full length LP. I wouldn’t be scared to veer away from that traditional format if it made sense to me but it hasn’t so far – I think singles are great but for me I still want an LP to take to the grave!

TSOFDs: Yes I hope music fans will always want the more immersive experience an LP offers. You’ve worked with Sparks, Alan Vega and on the Can Project. Please tell us where readers can find this music to check out and more about the projects themselves.

GR: I made a collaborative 7″ with Sparks which was released as part of my record ‘Island Fire’. Sparks were amazing to work with, I essentially covered Sparks, and then they covered me covering Sparks – and then I sang over the top! I’d love to work with them again…I’m such a huge fan of their recent record and live show too. Regarding Alan Vega, I asked him to be a guest vocalist on a girl-group style track on my record ‘Milk For Your Motors’, which was produced as a kind of homage to Suicide. I was very honoured that he agreed and have some incredible outtakes of his impassioned voice filling the streets of Manhattan – he recorded on the sidewalk, because the stairs of my friends’ basement studio (NY HED) were too tricky for him… somebody commented that it was the last true punk rock performance in New York! The Can Project was a special evening where Irmin Schmidt conducted new and old works with the Filmorchester Babelsberg, and I was involved in reworking and performing Can songs with the Berlin band Automat and my longtime collaborator and partner Andrew Zammit. I sang and played guitar alongside other guest vocalists – that was a special evening and heard some cool stories from Irmin Schmidt about the recording of one of my chosen tracks ‘Deadlock’.

TSOFDs: What amazing experiences. We have to get the China question in as we’re based here – any plans to tour the album in this part of the world?

GR: Yes! I would love to play in China!!

TSOFDs: Excellent. Fingers firmly crossed it happens sooner rather than later. Making an album and touring can be an exhausting process but have your thoughts turned to what you will do next? Are there more albums to look forward to – any more projects you can tell us about?

GR: I prefer to finish projects before I talk about them, but I do have a very niche covers record in the works and also am currently preparing for an audio installation which will be premiered in Berlin’s Volksbuhne as part of a special show I am doing there with my band in May. I would like to take this to other countries too… but in general, I will be just keeping on making more noise….

TSOFDs: That’s great to hear. Thanks so much Gemma for giving us your time and being so generous with your answers.

Psychogeology

Psychogeology is out now on Bronze Rat Records.

Interview ::: We Are Aerials

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TSOFDs: It’s been a good, long while since we reviewed your solo record ‘I Was An Astronaut’. What have you been up to?

WAA: Since Astronaut I moved from Ireland to Scotland, wrote in other mediums, stopped playing guitar, then started again, messed about with some software, moved back to Ireland and now I’ve made two new albums – this one under We Are Aerials and a messy electronic concept album that I’m in the process of mixing. I don’t like all the self-promo stuff musicians ‘have to do’ so I’ve decided not to bother with most of it. That said, I think I need to write.

TSOFDs: We’re glad you’re feeling that need as we’re enjoying the results. Tell us about ‘We Are Aerials’ – how does this differ from Conor McAteer?

WAA: I had an album out under We Are Aerials before and had the idea that it would be more of an indie-rock project and the stuff under my name would be more folky but there was a fair amount of overlap. I decided recently that I just preferred the way We Are Aerials looked written down.

TSOFDs: Gotcha. How does the We Are Aerials songwriting and production process happen? Is it you taking a lead in all of the songwriting, arrangement and production decisions?

WAA: It’s a solo project so I do all the writing. On this one, I wrote the songs quickly and recorded them on the same day or within a few days. I took care of the arrangements. The only exception was with Titanic. I asked Eoin O’Callaghan to play piano so I recorded that with him. I had a good idea what I wanted in terms of the arrangement but Eoin’s a talented guy so I was also open to his ideas. It turned out even more understated than I imagined it would. Paul Casey mixed and mastered the album. The people I got involved in this did a beautiful job.

TSOFDs: Speaking of which, tell us about the music scene where you live/are from – do you ever want to try and make a go of a career in music by living in the more established cities in terms of the music business, e.g. London/LA/New York or are you content with where you find yourself?

WAA: There are a lot of independent musicians here in the northwest of Ireland, working across a range of genres and putting out high quality stuff. The live scene isn’t so great. There’s a real DIY ethos among the artists. A lot of us know each other but it definitely feels like everyone’s in their own bubble. It’s not really a coherent scene, just lots of independent people doing their thing. As far as moving to one of those cities goes, I’ve no interest in making a career out of this. I like that I can just make the music I want to make and not compromise. I’m not interested in trying to sell myself. I haven’t worked out how to do it without feeling mucky.

TSOFDs: Always feel free to allow us to feel mucky on your behalf. If it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it then we’ll have a bash, put it that way. Tell us about this word ‘haar’ that makes an appearance on two of the track titles on your new record – it’s a word we haven’t come across before – what’s its significance to you and the record?

WAA: The haar is the sea mist that hangs over some places in northern England and Scotland. In 2018 I spent seven months living in the north of Scotland and five in the north of Ireland. I’d never heard the word myself until someone said it when we were driving in Scotland. The Haar at the Edge of the World is about the idealized vision many people have of living in fairly remote settings. It contrasts this idea with the reality which is always more complex. The lyrics mention the mist itself over the landscape and then use it as a metaphor for narrow-minded views. You get these everywhere, of course, but again, it’s just the romanticized narrative set against everyday life. I should point out that I have a lot of affection for the north of Scotland. It feels like home to me in a lot of ways.

TSOFDs: Thanks for the explanation. Quincy Jones said something along the lines of, on a record, you have to leave enough space for the Lord to walk in or for the magic to happen. We’re not churchgoing folk ourselves but we get his meaning. Did you find you had a lot of clarity in terms of how you were going to approach this record or were you stripping away lots of instrumentation before it made sense?

WAA: I usually have a pretty good feel for the arrangement as I’m writing. A lot of people I talk to mention playing loads of parts, finding their track is too busy, and then having to strip it back. I like my songs to be more sparse. If the instrument isn’t adding something meaningful, why’s it there? Paul Casey got a really good feel for this when he was mixing. He just understood that the songs needed lots of space to give them the right atmosphere.

TSOFDs: Whilst we’re on the subject of talented folk, who are the artists that most inspire you currently?

WAA: I’ve been listening to Puscifer’s Money Shot album quite a bit. It’s brilliant – great lyrics, great melodies and very atmospheric. I’ve also been listening to Mogwai. Then there’s some of the old jazz artists like Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus. I also love Winter’s Gate by Insomnium. This one’s a 40-minute single-song melodic death metal album. Then there are a couple of songs called Didn’t It Rain and Blue Factory Flame by Songs: Ohia. Jason Molina had this way of taking a single chord progression and creating these incredibly hypnotic songs with them.

TSOFDs: Cool. There’s a lot for us to check out there. Tell us about the people that play on your new record and what they brought to the table.

WAA: OK, first, there’s Paul Casey. Paul mixed and mastered the album and played bass on The Haar at the Edge of the World. He has a good solo career and loads of albums that are worth checking out (paulcaseymusic.com). He’s also branched out into production and worked with all kinds of artists from local people making their first recordings to more established people like Chris Rea and Christy Moore.

John McCullough: played piano and Wurlitzer on Gaslight. Paul recommended him. I’ve never met him but strangely, my friends and I used to go and drink whiskey and see his band every Sunday night in The Belfast Empire when we were at university. He was playing with a singer called Ken Haddock and they did amazing covers of songs by Van Morrison, Prince, Hendrix. He’s an amazing player. I think that band still has a residency in The Empire. John has also worked with Sharon Corr and The Waterboys (johnmcculloughmusic.com).

Eoin O’Callaghan: played on and produced Titanic. Eoin is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. He’s got loads of projects but his minimalist electronica project, Elma Orkestra, is taking priority at the moment. He’s currently collaborating with electronic artist, Ryan Vail on an album/multi-media live show called Borders. Find him at ameliarecords.com.

Conor Mason: drums and bass on Death Squeeze. Conor’s an incredible musician/songwriter/producer. He’s in a band called Ports who are currently working on their second album but you MUST check out his beautiful new solo album, On The Surface (conormason.armellodie.com).

TSOFDs: Brilliant – even more music for us to follow up. Back to the album. There’s some interesting background noise on ‘Numbers’ – was this recorded somewhere local to you?

WAA: The noise at the start was recorded when my friend and I took a trip to Moville in County Donegal – half an hour or 40 minutes from where I live. I just used a portable recorder and edited when I got home. I did something similar for Harbour Lights. Some other background stuff was licensed from the BBC archives.

TSOFDs: You’ve been doing this for enough time to be able to pass on some valuable experience – what tips would you give to any aspiring songwriters out there just getting started, that are suffering from writer’s block?

WAA: For me, sometimes it’s just a matter of pushing through – nothing glamorous, just putting in the work. Other than that, listen to music – different genres. Read. Learn something new, expand your skill set, take yourself out of your comfort zone. Get out and see people. Live life. It’s the ordinary, everyday things people relate to. There’s always something to write about, you just need to find the right angle. Have conversations. There’s poetry in the way people speak if you’re open to it.

TSOFDs: Great advice. Thanks Conor.


Drugdealer ::: Honey feat. Weyes Blood

Drugdealer have returned with one heck of a sweet slice of retro pop featuring Weyes Blood who we’ve covered before here.

If you’re sick of modern pop production then Drugdealer have just the right brand of medicine. If you weren’t paying attention for a few seconds you might be forgiven for thinking this was Joni Mitchell backed by CSNY.

We’ve already heard with the track ‘Fools‘ that Drugdealer have something of a penchant for that 70s LA feel. But if you’re going to mine the past to provide something worthwhile in the present then there’s far worse music to be inspired by if you ask me.

With deportation, indefinite detention or even execution on the cards should I try and find any other kind, you can rest assured this is the only Drugdealer I’ll be seeking out whilst residing in the Middle Kingdom.

Find more Drugdealer on Bandcamp.