I’ve more of a background with classical than folk. There was no folk music played in our house when I grew up, and I certainly never developed much love for Irish folk. English folk had a bit more of an effect on me I think. The chords and melody sank in a little easier. It’s more the sounds that instruments can make, and the kinds of little looping progressions I can make on them that interest me. I’ve been playing a bouzouki a bit of late but I’m not sure if I’ve been tuning it the way folk musicians might. If someone hands an instrument to me at a party and demands that I play, they wont get much back because I’ve never really been able to learn other peoples stuff like that. And I’ve forgotten how to play most of my own ditties too.
This also brings to mind Ireland – home – a place that is a touchstone for imagination, something I don’t think we can ever really get away from. In terms of creating music and performing here – how have you seen things change since times such as those spent at The Funnel, back in a time where anything seemed possible, though perhaps there is a sympathetic movement towards the DIY ethic again, and a sense of community instead.
I don’t know. I’m not too good on this. I think people will always make great music and people will always make terrible music. The scenes and communities will come and go but the resulting records will stay around. I suppose we make and listen to music to communicate with people. I tend to veer towards the recorded element rather than the live one. I remember thinking in the days of The Funnel that England and Germany were coming up with such amazing music, and wishing Ireland could do the same. What I didn’t realise was that we were learning.
You have released some work on Planet-Mu, in some ways the label itself has changed quite a bit even in the past couple of years – what are your thoughts?
I think in the last two years Planet-Mu has done some of its finest work. The likes of Kuedo, The Host, and Machinedrum have really put some fantastic music out there. This new Konx-om-Pax seems really promising too. I’m trying not to think too heavily about labels. I’m trying to get into a mode of thinking that making and doing is the way forward. Whenever the big piracy conversation comes up and the point is made that artists are getting screwed, it makes me think how it’s now the artist’s responsibility to look into how their work is being delivered and maybe try to get more involved.
This has been a huge undertaking of a project for you, and you have created your imprint – what plans do you have for it?
There are two more volumes of Friday Syndrome that I want to get out there in the next few months. But the real biggy weighing heavy on my brain is the Natural History Museum stuff. I’d love to get that stuff out asap. I’ve no idea how we’re going to present it at all, but hopefully it’ll be a nice package and people will get what we’re on about. I’d love to start doing vinyl – it’d be a big leap financially, and a big gamble too – it depends on how the finished tunes go.
In terms of the live experience – it can always be quite a tricky thing to carry off – but that is another thing I love about it, is its temporal nature – each performance is unique – it all depends on the room, the audience, the atmosphere, the musicians mood…how has your relationship to the live experience changed as a performer?
I know this sounds disrespectful, but I learned to realise that the audience aren’t half as bothered about what is happening at the gig as I used to think they were. Playing live used to be a full on panic attack, with me thinking that people would be noticing every single thing I did. And through understanding that they don’t, I think I’ve funnily been able to engage with audiences better over the last few years – and by letting the mistakes go by and accepting that it’s not going to sound like a record has made it a bit more fun.
I suppose I was thinking a lot about your shows with Rod Morris – and all that finger trigger performance – which is frightening, technical, brilliant, and inspiring – all at once – do you think there might be other collaborations with Rod?
Yip. We were supposed to play together a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t get my programming done in time. There are some shows coming up in September and “Magic Fingers” himself should be popping on stage. I’m playing live without any sequencers at the moment. I’ve chopped up all my tunes into tiny little snippet loops and I have to string them all back together. It’s quite frantic and there isn’t a second to take a swig from a beer.
And you are such a fan of music – how do you feel about experiencing live music as an audience member?
Usually not half as well as the person standing beside me! Listening to records at a party is kinda preferable for me – I know that’s a bit sacrilegous in Ireland! Only some music really feels right for me to experience live. The great bands I love to see live always have an improvisational element – Autechre, Polar Bear, Sonic Youth, and the Boredoms are some of the live shows where I’ve really felt like being in the room at that particular time was vital to understanding what was going on. I’m not so into watching a performance as some of my mates are. But then you go and see Chic at the Electric Picnic and you want to live in the crowd forever.
Lastly, because I always love asking people this question, for recommendations, more than anything – who are you listening to, reading, and what are you watching at present?
I’ve been blaring the Traxman album on Mu in my car. It’s right there in front of you. Amazing. When I call to my friends houses and they play music to me – that has always been and I hope, will always be the most inspiring thing. A year or two ago I came across Hamilton Bohannon and he’s been killing me ever since. I haven’t read much more than the back of a shampoo bottle in months, but he last novel I read was called The Sisters Brothers [Patrick deWitt], which wasn’t the best but it was given to me, and I felt I had to finish it because I’ve got brain problems – I’ve been watching terrible vintage sci-fi movies online. There’s a Mexican film from 1960 called Ship of Monsters, which is totally worth watching even without the subtitles.
Sunken Foal‘s Friday Syndrome Vol.1 is out now on Countersunk.