Tag Archives: University Observer

You Can Make Sound

Published on 30th March 2010 by the University Observer

Whether you love them, loathe them or remain wholly indifferent to them, you’ve probably seen them play live. otwo spoke to Delorentos guitarist Kieran McGuinness just before the European release of the band’s second album, You Can Make Sound.

The forthcoming promo tour of Europe is a mammoth cry from the band’s position a year ago. “It wasn’t that we almost broke up,” McGuinness explains, “it was more that we felt we couldn’t go on the way we were going. We pushed ourselves very hard and we were getting a bit careless with looking after each other. The first year we got tons of amazing reviews and played tons of amazing gigs and all, but we kind of expected it, we didn’t sit back and enjoy it, but now we’re able to sit back and go, this is what we want, this is great.”

Their regular association with the UCD Student Bar also holds related recollections. “The first gig after we decided not to break up was there last year, and we announced on the stage that we weren’t going to, and everyone went a bit crazy. It was great! Whenever we play UCD we go down, get a doughnut and have a cup of coffee before we go on. One of our first brushes with A&R came at UCD too – we ended up getting to record our first release through that, so the student bar always holds good memories for us.”

otwo asks whether McGuinness usually enjoys relative anonymity when he goes out or whether he’s besieged by hoards of screaming girls. “Sometimes I get recognised on the street. There was a time I was in a rough part of town and some guy came up behind me and punched me in the back of the head, completely floored me, then walked away. So I was lying there and another guy walked up and asked if I was OK, and then he was like, ‘Oh my God! It’s the guy from Delorentos!’ He was looking at me like he wanted me to sign something and I was there lying on the ground…”

Exceptionally modest about the band’s success so far, Kieran can’t see anything else he could possibly be spending his time on. “I would always be doing music. I mightn’t be in this band, or I might be playing a different instrument but I’d still be doing music. Music is what I was always supposed to be doing.

“The most important thing to do is write and play songs, and if you’re good at that, get gigs,” he concludes. “I don’t think there’s any rocket science to it. If you play well and love it, you’ll get better at it and then people will like what you do and come to your gigs.”

Delorentos played the Academy last week.

Causing a Fiasco

Published on the 30th March 2010 by the University Observer

Northern Irish three-piece General Fiasco prove that appearances are deceptive. Though you would be forgiven for thinking they were barely out of school, this band have been there and bought the t-shirt on the music scene. Brothers Owen and Enda Strathern and Shane Davey have been supporting themselves through music for the last 18 months, and have no plans of ceasing any time soon.

otwo meets Owen in the Odessa Club off George’s Street. The exclusive members-only establishment is a good indication of how far the band has come, and Owen tells me of the change that has happened.

“Back at the start when we first went on tour, we didn’t have any money so we had to sleep in a van; the clubs we were playing were so small that they had no showers so we’d go to a swimming pool before we played the gigs, have a swim and get a shower and stuff. But it’s all part of the experience – going from sleeping in a van to sneaking five people into a hotel room and gradually getting a few more rooms and a bit more comfort.”

Their debut album Buildings was released last week. “The album’s something we’ve been working on for quite a while now. We recorded it gradually, we were touring for about a year and a half and we sort of recorded whenever we were home between tours, so it’s just something that happened naturally. It’s some songs we wrote a few years ago and some songs we wrote a few months ago. We didn’t just get a record deal and then write a whole new album, some of the songs that people first got excited about are still there so hopefully people will still like them.”

Owen also has a novel take on the alcohol and revelry-laden teen years many inhabit. “Sitting in Belfast losing days and partying and stuff, it was just something to write about. Not being content with what we were doing, you sort of feel like you’re treading water, doing nothing and being aware that you yourself are slipping into the same thing as your friends are,” he supposes. “It was just something we experienced, something that everybody does no doubt about it. Getting a routine, going out and partying you sort of lose sight of the things that are important.”

Though Owen admits he finds being recognised awkward, the impression made when playing is essential to achieve. “People only get to make their first impression once so make sure when you get out and start playing to people that you’re the best band that you possibly can be. You’ve gotta be great before you do anything.”

General Fiasco’s album Buildings is out now

Up the Scruff?

Published on the 19th January 2010 by the University Observer

You’ll be forgiven if you don’t instantly recognise the recording name that is Mr Scruff, though the likelihood is that you’ll recognise some of the tunes behind the handle. Scruff (known to his mother as Andy Carthy) is a British DJ, artist and tremendous tea enthusiast. Speaking to him the day before he performs a series of gigs in Canada, we talk about music, hot drinks and horribly drunk students.

As a DJ, Scruff is renowned for his extremely lengthy sets, which can often last five or six hours. Scruff humbly downplays his stamina. “I get the energy from the same place all the dancers get the energy. I just stand there putting records on. I’m playing my favourite records on a great sound-system to a load of lovely people, I’m not going to be looking at my watch.”

A former shelf-stacker, Scruff clearly takes great pride in what he does, and expects others to do the same. “The only bad experience I had playing to students was playing a fresher’s ball once in Coventry – a club full of eighteen-year-olds who had probably never drunk before and were licking each other’s faces and getting drunk on alcopops.”

Scruff ensures there is a tea-stall set up at every performance he plays, and I ask him whether this is an anti-booze revolution, but he believes in both in equal measures. “It’s just about giving people an option. Normally if you go into a bar after 7pm they’ll tell you they can’t make you a hot drink, but then they’ll spend ten minutes making you a cocktail. That’s only for mainland Britain though; for overseas gigs I either bring my records or my teabags and I don’t think people would pay to come and watch me drink tea all day.”

Scruff also hails the arrival of the laptop and how accessible it makes music creation for all. “There’s an enormous amount of music being released because it’s so easy to do now. It’s lead to an inordinate amount of bad music but also an incredible amount of good music, there’s just more to wade through.”

Mr Scruff’s music videos and onstage performances are accompanied and characterised by his unique illustrations, usually involving a potato. “I’ve drawn in that exact style for twenty years now. On one level I’m really kind of geeky and trainspottery and nerdy about music so the little potato characters show the other side which is the kind of daft eccentric silly side as well. It’s good to present something which can potentially be very beardstroky.”

These images also help him combat the issue of being commonly recognised. “I think you’re famous when people who have no idea what you do start shouting at you across the street and that definitely doesn’t happen to me, because most people think that I’m a potato, and I’m quite happy with it that way.”

The Bailey’s Tale: Interview with Bill

Published on the 24th November 2009 by the University Observer

otwo meets Bill Bailey just as the comedian is leaving Theatre L (“the tiny woodlouse of dreams”) where he had received the L&H’s James Joyce Award, a LawSoc Honorary Life Membership, done some stand-up and a Q&A session for a “much smaller crowd than usual”.

IMG_8263Let’s cross our fingers that UC-double-D finds fame in one of Bailey’s routines, because one student certainly made an impact. “I’ve never been asked if I wore pyjamas or not,” says Bailey, recalling how his evening had gone. “Occasionally there are people who say, ‘Get in touch with me. Touch the beard, kiss the hair,’ something like that, but the pyjamas one… that’s a first. I was really impressed by that.”

How does it feel to be a James Joyce Award recipient? “It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this. I’ve never received any award or any kind of university bestowing-of-things before, and so the only ones I’ve done have been like award ceremonies for TV things, or the only other award that really made any impact on me was from the Composer’s Association. This here is the best award ceremony there is! […] You don’t have to sit there for hours and hours watching other people go, ‘I’d just like to thank…’ It’s brilliant! I’d like all award ceremonies to be like this.”

The first rule of comedy is ‘thou shalt know thy audience’, and Bailey hit the jackpot with his opening verse to the assembled crowd:

 

“You may have won this time, Henry,

you may have scored,

but you are a fraud,

and now you will never be a recipient

of the James Joyce Award.”

Uniquely, Bailey’s comedy is lacquered with tremendous musical ability. otwoasks which of the two arts Bailey prefers. “If I had to choose between music or comedy I couldn’t possibly do it, I’d sort of shatter, like kryptonite! It’s very difficult, I’ve never been able to choose. No, it will probably always be comedy; only because I love the spoken word, I love the nature of comedy, the way it’s a connection with an audience just through voice and through language. Music’s great because it does that on a visceral level which you’re not quite aware of… language is quicker and has more of an immediacy to it, so probably comedy then.”

His passion for English led to him studying it for a year in college, and in the same way led to his career path. “I love the work that Irish comedians like Dylan [Moran], Tommy Tiernan… people like that who use language, it’s a celebration of language, that’s what I love about it and anyone that does that.” Bailey reserves special praise for Daniel Kitson: “I love seeing him because he sort of takes the stand-up form a bit beyond stand up.”

Coming from a family of doctors and stonemasons, Bailey was forced to look outside the home for childhood inspiration. “When I was a kid I was watching comedians like Les Dawson on the TV; they were these guys who messed around with music and comedy so that was a big inspiration. And then punk bands, that was my era, I went to see the Stranglers and the Undertones, and I graduated to bands like Talking Heads. We had a piano at home so I just naturally wanted to play it too… make noise.”

Though the grey hair might deceive you, Bailey is only 45, and still half-troll half-rebel, composing the song “Asda, I Ain’t Gonna Be Your Bitch” after being asked to do an Asda ad campaign (ironically probably resulting in even greater publicity). Bailey also admits to smoking cannabis during his downtime. “Not as much as I did, because I suffer from asthma; I have to be a bit careful, because wheezing, stoned, is not something you want to do at all. Try to remember where you put your inhaler.”

And what of a possible return to Never Mind the Buzzcocks where Bailey was a much-loved team captain? “You know what, I did a hundred shows of Buzzcocks. A hundred shows! When you get to a hundred of anything – you eat a hundred carrots – you think, ‘That’s enough’. And also I did get a bit fed up… I’m a grown man [but] I’m humming the introduction to ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears to some gormless indie halfwit.”

With a sell-out gig at The O2 under his belt, Bailey is not stuck for other distractions. He loiters drinking wine, though, until his tour manager decides it’s time to depart, and not before answering the question of the evening.

“No, of course I don’t wear pyjamas to bed! Because I’m covered in hair, I’ve always been hairy – even as a child I was hairy… I’d be too hot, so no.”

Processed Beats: Kasabian Frontman Tom Meighan

Published on the 24th November 2009 by the University Observer

Kasabian are the type of band where it’s hard to distinguish the projected image from the reality. The self-proclaimed “guardians of rock and roll”, they look rock. They sound rock. They certainly talk rock. The band are at the top of the world right now, having made the breakthrough from continual supporting everybody act, to headlining Glastonbury this summer.

kasabianSinger Tom Meighan has no doubt about the Somerset festival being the highlight of his summer. “Glastonbury was fantastic. It was wonderful, just wonderful you know. I thought we had a really good show and we played really well.”

Meighan has no uncertainties about the condition of the modern music industry. otwo asks if there’s truth in the rumour that Kasabian consider themselves the last rock group standing. “Well it’s all pop music at the minute, isn’t it, it’s just… everything’s so pop. Muse are a great rock band, and there are bands like the Arctic Monkeys, but as true rock-and-roll values go I think we are the only rock band left. But I hope there’ll be a wave of new bands soon.” And any suggestions for the heirs of this rock-and-roll legacy? “Oh god, don’t give your record away for free.”

Kasabian have been reputed drug-users in the past. otwo asks: does rock and roll really need its lyrical comrades, sex and drugs? This time Meighan’s denial is unequivocal.

“We don’t take drugs, man. Drugs don’t even come into the studio. Drugs is a personal choice, you know. We’ve been quoted saying that years and years ago. Drugs don’t work in the studio; there never has been, and we never will do, drugs in the studio. People say it’s a creation, recreational thing, but we don’t bother with it. Drugs ain’t a massive part of my life, never has been.”

Touring is the name of Kasabian’s current game, as the promotional tour forWest Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum continues. Though Meighan describes the band’s live sound as the musical version of Quentin Tarantino’s films, he also claims that their background antics, in rock-and-roll terms, don’t quite live up to their music anymore, given that the band are seasoned enough to have reached a sensible phase in their careers. “We’ve been really good this tour, there’s nothing really crazy, we’re not like Nicky Sixx and inject heroin into our fucking knees or elbows. Sometimes we have a fight. The only thing this tour that’s crazy is winning the [Q Magazine] Album of the Year, I mean that’s the only moment I can recall which was just fantastic.”

Though let’s not lose face here. The other tours were crazy? “Yeah yeah, include that, yeah.”

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum was released in June of this year, and spent two weeks at number one in the UK charts. “Oh my God, what can I say about the record? Well, I think we made our best record yet, it’s a great piece of art, and it’s a fine rock record as well, and we just decided to go all out on this album and make the best album we could, and make it as diverse as we could compared to the other two records we did.”

Onto questions about the wider world. otwo asks Meighan what he makes of the break-up of Oasis, who have acted as short-term friends and long-term inspiration. “I think it’s horrible, but things happen in life and that’s the way it is. No one’s died or anything, and I think Liam will carry on doing music and so will Noel, and [Liam’s] got his clothes company going and he’s got a whole fashion thing going on, so I’ll support both of them, whatever they do, but it is really sad.”

And how about his views on The X Factor? “X Factor? No sorry, I don’t participate in that. I thought you were going to ask me about them idiot twins. Glad you didn’t. There’s no point, is there? My opinion doesn’t matter does it, my opinion doesn’t really matter about X Factor or the twins, it’s just not worth it.”

Bono? “I think he’s a saint. He’s rock and roll. I think he’s great. U2 are real rock and roll. You’ve got to remember what their roots are and I think, you know, Bono’s the institution, no matter what.”

Posers or not, longevity or not, today Kasabian are living the dream, and long may it last for them. “We try and take each day as it comes, and each week as it comes. We’re always doing something silly, or playing somewhere across the world or doing some promo. We feel good man, we feel like kings at the minute, it’s great, we’ve hit a peak in our lives. We just wanna keep making records.”

Loose about the Hoose: Interview with Mick Pyro

Published on the 24th November 2009 by the University Observer

Rapper. UCD alumnus. Libertarian philosopher. Alcoholic. Mik Pyro of Republic of Loose is a complex arrangement of all of these things and more. The Loose are three albums and hundreds of gigs down, and yet haven’t expanded beyond the home scene. Pyro is gloomily cynical about their chances in the US and beyond.

Loose“I don’t know if anything’s going to happen to be honest because [of] the way I look… If I had had my teeth fixed a few years ago I might have been alright, but I’m too old. To really try and do that properly you’re going to need half a million quid, and we’ve had some good interest, but we don’t know if anyone’s going to put up that kind of cash.”

With hopes of international stardom apparently buried, I ask about Pyro’s college days. UCD Pyro-style, I would have thought, was electrifying to say the least. However, spending six years traipsing the concrete jungle and earning a MA, the outspoken singer says he missed out socially. “I didn’t really join any societies or anything. I joined the Rock Soc but that was a load of me arse, so I stopped. I went to the Literary Society [sic] a few times but that was full of idiots. But I loved it there, I loved being in college, I loved having access to the library, we go back there and play gigs loads and have a great time.”

Continuing his trend of severe humility, Pyro declares The Irish Times’ branding of him as a cross between James Joyce and James Brown something that involved a “hint of irony”: “I wanted to be a writer but then I realised you had to be intelligent to do that so. I been obsessed with music since I was seven – I mean I tried to do other things; I tried to do the Higher Diploma and I lasted four days, I’m not built for that type of thing. Doing music is really the only thing that makes me happy.”

Pyro is tragically candid about his fight with alcoholism, a drug that has powered his performances and sucked his intellect. “I haven’t drank since October 11th of last year and I don’t intend to ever drink again. Alcohol has ruined my life, it caused me a lot of problems, so I had to stop. Quitting was tough but it’s easier than being drunk.”

otwo asks what advice Pyro might offer music-makers thinking about popularity. “X Factor? That show’s about humiliation. The problem with Irish bands is everyone’s so worried about what will fly in a foreign country. In a place like Jamaica they don’t give a bollocks really, they just make music for themselves.”

Pyro, in conversation, is the exact alter-ego of his on-stage persona. Whether he’s too old and too unintelligent for worldwide success remains to be seen, but one suspects this man has a lot more to give.

Interview with Jerm from Hockey

 

Published on the 29th September 2009 by the University Observer

 

With infectious music and a unique charisma, Hockey undoubtedly bring something new to the music scene. Sporting a name that they relish because it is so “un-google-able”, and drawing from influences that extend to the Wu-tang Clan, Phil Collins and Allen Ginsberg, this four/ five piece are, as regularly punned in the US, “really pucking good”.

When I arrived Jerm had just finished sound checking and was eating noodles before their much-hyped gig in the Academy. As a segment of a band who have played heaving shows at Glastonbury, T in the Park and Oxegen this year, all without having released an album, I ask him how’s he finding the ride so far.

“I don’t think we’re really there yet. People say we are though, and I think that’s how it begins. Most of the time I feel pretty anonymous. People know one song or they might be sort of into it. I don’t think I’ve ever been recognised.

“Our music is sort of electronic dance pop with dirty sounds and crazy lyrics. It has some very straightforward, classic type song-writing arrangements and then it has some really cool extra things. Pretty chaotic. I think the next record will be even weirder and stranger. The next one will be just so completely weird and then after we’ll come out with one that is somewhat acceptable.”

Hockey’s song Too Fake was featured in a JC Penney add, and yet the band appear to be gloriously detached from modern-day technology, not watching TV but appearing on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, one member without an email address yet acquiring over a million hits on Myspace. I ask them are they eco-warriors.

“We used to drive a vegetable powered van, and it worked for a while, but then the van broke down, that’s just in the ton of things that we got to do when we’re anonymous and it doesn’t matter if it breaks down and we don’t make it to shows. If one became more reliable then we’d do it again.”

In typical money-scrimping student style, Hockey recorded their whole album in their basement, with singer Ben doubling as producer. As a man who majored in music, philosophy, meditation and tai-chi for his degree, Jerm reflects; “Ben and I started playing music together in college. University is the most magical time in the world because you’re not really an adult but you’re not really a child either. It’s amazing because it’s like the world gives you that option, to just BE. People say oh what do you do and you say, oh I’m a student at university. That is your ticket to life, but not really having to deal with the responsibilities of being in the world. It’s great, really great, so start a band, go barefoot, whatever.

 

Hockey’s album Mind Chaos is in stores 28th September.