A remix version of Stephen Shannon’s Strandsalbum featuring interpretations from Vision Air, Sarsparilla, Meljoann, Hulk & Colin J Morris was due out today but has been postponed. Nay McArdle spoke with Stephen about Strands, creativity and going back to first principles.
As a music producer with ten years’ experience and a recording studio in Dublin, Stephen Shannon’s wizardry can be heard on some of the most successful albums of the year. Cap Pas Cap, The Dinah Brand, Groom and Spook of the Thirteenth Lock have all been visitors to his comfortable little Experimental Audio Studio in Crumlin. However, he’s only just got around to making his own solo album, ‘Strands’, which was released in October.
“I always intended to make my own records. In the end I decided to take three months off and just immerse myself in it,” he says. “I realised very quickly that I had conditioned myself into a way of recording and arranging music which got in the way of being creative”.
“For ‘Strands’ I tried to create themes in my mind for each of the songs. Many of them are inspired by early childhood memories, some half-remembered. My own children are at an age when their first memories will occur so it was an interesting focus for me.”
Though it’s essentially of electronic persuasion, instrumental flair and flourish bring the real warmth and scope to the songs. “I think the breakthrough came when I decided stay away from my computer and try to write and arrange the album using a only few basic instruments,” he explains. “I used my old nylon acoustic, a glockenspiel and a set of desk bells to write most of the songs before expanding the arrangements.”
Rather than feel lonely at suddenly being under pressure to produce music of his own, Steve seemed to relish it. “The most enjoyable thing was bringing something to a conclusion without anyone else’s input. I needed to find my own identity again. Writing, recording and mixing the album was the only way to do that.”
The reception to the album has been entirely positive, especially the launch show in October. “It was so great playing those songs live!” enthuses Steve. “It took a lot of effort to get an eight-piece band in shape and I wasn’t sure if it would be possible but it was a real pleasure. I’d love to do it again but there was something really special about it being a one-off.
Knowing that his solo work has been a success, Steve’s already hard at work with new music for 2011, including a new album with his instrumental band Halfset. A Strands remix album featuring Vision Air, Sarsparilla, Meljoann, Hulk & Colin J Morris will be released soon, and also features a new song co-written with Chequerboard.
As for Strands? “Another album? Absolutely. I’ve already started working on it.”