Monthly Archives: March 2011

The End / Goodnight, bb.

I think I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to with this project. I can’t imagine myself blogging about anything else ever again because I feel like I have already blogged about everything and I am just a slave to boring alt memes. It’s probably time to move on and find a real career & some challenges that can actually make the world a better place.

Thanks for the memories. We had a good run. I apologize to every one who I have hurt.

Mixtape Autobiography #1: Walking To School

This is a new recurring feature. To read about the reasoning behind it, go here (summary: trying to make the map the territory [less abstract summary: making mixtapes of my whole memory])

Mixtape #1: Walking To School
((The Unicorns – Jellybones//Wolf Parade – Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts//Modest Mouse – Black Cadillacs//Andrew Byrd – A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left//Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position//Broken Social Scene – Almost Crimes//The Blood Brothers – Crimes//Interpol – Public Pervert//Neutral Milk Hotel – A Baby For Pree//Deerhoof – L’Amour Stories//Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress//of Montreal – Our British Tour Diary//Sufjan Stevens – Cum On Feel The Illinoise//LCD Soundsytem – Losing My Edge))

I think the moment when it clicked with me that I was maybe taking music a little bit more seriously than some others was when a girl in my class in fourth year told me that I’d blanked her twice that week in the car park in the mornings, and that I looked like I had been having a lot of fun walking along by myself with my big headphones on.

For a long time (okay, until I finished secondary school), my ‘favourite songs’ were the ones from walking to school. I spouted pretentiously a lot about how full albums were important (and I still do that), but if I really loved a song, I’d walked to school for an entire week listening to nothing else. Stepping out of the house, still dark at 8am on a rainy suburban December or sweating my way to an exam in June, and listening to nothing else but one song the whole way, skipping back to the start in my pocket as soon as it ended.

Really, as much as you can convince yourself you like this band that are cool or that band a girl likes, that mp3 player era version of wearing a record out is the truest version of fealty to a band and a song. You end up knowing every word, wanting to get into situations where you can shout them for some obscure reason.

A lot of what’s on this tape came from data CDs and USB sticks given to me by my friend Goo who was a couple of years older and connected to the world outside Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand by the Secret Unicorns Forum. A lot of it ended up pretty lame, but it was all the most important shit ever to me at one point.

One of my favourite life memories is playing A Baby For Pree in the school talent show in sixth year and having my friend’s mother ask if I was alright. Broken Social Scene was the only thing apart from The Strokes everyone agreed on at house parties when I was figuring how to have friends and drink beer. The band I was in attempted to cover at least two of these, and we probably subconsciously emulated three or four more. And yeah I was really into Matisyahu for ages. It’s not really clear in retrospect why. I saw him live on a fake ID and bought a t-shirt.

This is the generation of dude I was in school.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME

James Blake transcript

I interviewed James Blake just before his album came out for a ‘DNA test’ for the back page of Totally Dublin. It’s led in the direction of asking him about different types of music that influenced him, which is the purpose of the original interview, which you can read here but partly in case it didn’t work and partly because I was genuinely interested, I asked some other stuff too.

So you started to play music really young. Are there any records that remind you of that formative period?

Yeah, sure. I started to play really young. I started to play piano when I was five or six. And I was singing then as well. I don’t think there’s a particular record I remember from then, but when I got to Uni I started listening to a lot of music. Joni Mitchell’s Blue was a big record for me. Stevie Wonder Talking Book was a big record for me. I love the way he wrote, and he did everything on it. That was a big influence. Same with D’Angelo’s Voodoo. He had a bass player but I think he played almost everything else. And he could actually have played the bass if he wanted to. I thought that was interesting. And I think he played a big part in production too, I’m not quite sure. The Bon Iver album was big as well.. Recently it’s been William Basinski, Grouper, some ambient stuff, that’s been grabbing me. Even more recently than that, Arthur Russell is someone I’ve got massively into.

What attracts you to Arthur Russell?

He’s avant-garde, but accessible. And he plays the cello, which I think is a beautiful instrument. And he’s got a beautiful, which is at once strange sounding and bang on point at the same time. Sometimes it seems like he’s not tuning right, but then he is. He’s got a strange way of tuning his voice that’s unique and great. I think it comes from playing the cello. It’s a loose form of melody. So it’s captivating really.

When did you start making dubstep-influenced stuff?

I started when I was 19, I was producing dubstep tunes. I got into that. I started sending it around and trying to get feedback on it, and lot of people in my Uni would listen to dubstep with me, a lot of my friends. We got into that music together, and I had stuff to play them because I was writing it as well.

Is there any track that sums up that period?

I’d say some of the early Mala records. One was Hunter by Mala. One was Lean Forward as well. Haunted by Coki was a big track. Anti-war dub was around then as well. A lot of DMZ records were really influencing me. I was listening to a lot of Skream, and a lot of Benga as well, although Benga was more electro, but I later realised how good he was. I haven’t actually met Skream or Benga yet, but I’ve met Mala and Coki and they’re both lovely guys.

The album is much more vocal-orientated. Was it a conscious decision to keep back your vocal songs for the album?

I didn’t want to put vocals out on dubstep labels. And it wasn’t fair to those labels. Those labels didn’t want vocals, and that’s the reason I didn’t put them out. It wasn’t because I was hoarding all these songs so I could release this album. It was about the fact that they didn’t fit over where I currently was. So yeah, it was nice to keep them back for that reason. The vocal stuff was written all at the same time as the EPs. It was written over the course of a year, staggered over the course of a year, just like the EPs. So at the same time I was writing Air and Lack Thereof, and the Harmonimix Lil Wayne remix, the Bills Bills Bills remix. At the same time I was writing Why Don’t You Call Me, I was writing the Klavierwerke EP. So the sound just moves on and moves on. So in that time I might write a vocal track or I might write a beat. It just happens that they all got collected onto one album. Just because my vocal was the running thread. In my head they’re not really separate to the other tracks.

So you didn’t do the EPs and then decide to do the album in a certain way.

I only did Limit To Your Love. That was the one vocal song I’d done at that time. I kinda kept going, did Lindesfarne. I just gradually got there, you know.

Were you worried about alienating people who were into the first things you released?

Nah, not really. People like music. I’m not really here to serve one collection of people. It’s about exploring your own sounds. Surely that’s whatever producer does, or singer or artist. It’s about exploring what makes you happy, and I do a lot of different things, so.

You tend to use a lot of autotune, even for harmonies and things. Are you worried about the stigma attached to that?

There’s no real stigma to me. There might be a public stigma. It’s just like any other effect to me, like chorus or delay. It’s not as essential as reverb or delay, probably, but it’s something that you can just sprinkle on. In ten years, people won’t care how much pop music has been littered with it. There are quite different uses of autotune. The way T-Pain used it was to enable him to sing. It wasn’t to correct bad singing, it was just a new sound. A lot of pop records have it on there to correct bad singing, but I don’t need pitch correction. Bon Iver doesn’t need pitch correction. Neither do Mary Mary. They used it on Shackles. They weren’t trying to correct their voices, they have great voices. I think the stigma attached to it is because people can’t tell a good voice from a bad voice. If they really complain about it, they’re just hearing it too much and they can’t stand it, in which case they should stop listening to that radio station and go and find some music that’s genuine. Or they can’t tell when it’s being used and it frustrates them. In that case they should go research some good voices. I just wanted to use it because it’s an effect.

Some of the album has a gospel tint to it. Is that a type of music you’re into?

I think it’s absolutely amazing. It’s one of the most heartfelt genres there is. I know every genre’s kind of heartfelt. But I think gospel’s spiritual in a way that I don’t connect to religiously, because I’m not religious, but I definitely feel like it hits something in the… it just does something to me. I don’t want to talk about souls. I don’t think that’s really relevant, but emotionally it brings something out in me.

Is there song or album in particular you’d like to talk about?

There’s a track called Peace Be Still by Reverend James Cleveland. That is just an exercise in suspension of disbelief, actually, but also tension and release. It’s just an amazing record, amazing singing, amazing choir. But it’s the recording of that record that’s special to me. The atmosphere’s just electric, it must be a church. The people are just swooning and screaming. It’s unbelievable.

And is R ‘n’ B something you’re into as well, beyond just playing it as a DJ or remixing it into dance tunes?

Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes listening to a Destiny’s Child is what I’m in the mood for. Or listening to Brown Sugar by D’Angelo. Timbaland’s production was pretty forward thinking for its time. And it sounds great on club systems, so it’s interesting from a production perspective as well. I think some of the 90s R’n’B is incredibly throwaway. It’s today’s pop of its generation. It’s not any less throwaway than some of the stuff you get at the moment. But I think some of those tunes like ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child for example. Incredibly melodic writing. Or Rihanna’s Only Girl In The World. That’s an amazing bit of pop writing. Those songs are classics because they’re good songs and not just because of the genre.

What about hip hop?

Hip hop was a bit like a phase for me, where I went through listening to a lot of Dilla and Flying Lotus and Madlib and Quasimoto.

Is it influential on your sound?

There’s definitely an influence of that, especially in the sounds of the drums. But I don’t think hip hop was a big influence for me, definitely not as much as Kai from Mount Kimbie. But I love it.

You’re pretty open about yourself compared to some other people making similar music. You use your own name and you’re in your own video [for Limit To Your Love]. Is there a reason for that?

I just wanted to be honest. Not to say that not to have a video and not to use your own name isn’t honest, but sometimes going under loads of different pseudonyms might not be the best reflection of what you do. I feel like everything I do comes from the same place. Some producers go under different pseudonyms because they are in different mindsets when they make music. Someone like Ramadanman who has Pearson Sound, he feels like the sound is sufficiently different that he needs a different name, which is great. But with my music I didn’t want to do that because I felt like it made it more identifiably me. But then what works for other people doesn’t necessarily work for you. Coming out and having that video. Because of the vocals in it, people kind of need to see your face, and it was good to be honest about that.

Two things.

As a self-facilitating media node, I’ve got some stuff to show you. Step one, screen debut, for TRTÉ. I am pretty awkward on camera. This is owing to the fact that I am pretty awkward. Watch it anyway.

Step two, Ball Guide for the Trinity Ball, which I made with Aoife Crowley (and contributions from the whole Trinity News/TN2 staff obviously). It’s a sixty-four page thing and, as someone with less visual sense than a deep-water fish, I’m kinda proud of the fact that I didn’t ruin it even though I laid out a bunch of it. Wrote like ten pages of it too. If you want me to keep you an actual copy, I can do that probably.

I walked upstream and I sat in the mud. Life sucks again.

The fact that this is still essentially a live review blog is getting lost in all the bullshit I do instead of life reviews. Back to the grind, picking up about a billion years ago where I left off.

Went to see Dean Wareham play Galaxie 500 songs in the Workman’s Club when he played there, at which point he was probably still the most credible mouldy-curtain mope-pop icon to pass through its doors. This is obviously no longer the case since Squarehead dropped by to hang out with fans, but still, it was pretty exciting to see this guy close up.

Galaxie 500 have always seemed frozen in the past to me, a band who, by the time you’ve discovered them, have no chance of reforming and even if they did they’ve been dead too long to be anything but a reanimated artefact. I first heard of them via Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu, though I don’t fully remember if it’s because he mentioned On Fire on a song or because he was just talking about them on his blog, years ago. I wasn’t initially filled with enthusiasm, because unlike happy bop music, I don’t really jump from sad band to sad band. You have to approach cagily, make sure they’re on your level, not too trite, not too angsty.

So when you’re finished approaching cagily and your suspicions are allayed, you tend to develop a pretty strong attachment to these dudes. But as Galaxie 500 aren’t really much part of the discourse I fell into inhabiting on the internet, I didn’t even know what Dean Wareham looked like. Kind of like a well-preserved (or even ‘mummified’) version of a TV movie lead man as it turns out. And he’s weird.

It’s always a dangerous step to put a face and a personality to music. Wareham’s little, almost-to-himself song introductions actually provided a lot more insight into his music than he or anyone might have expected them to. You know Strange, where you relate to the guy who goes down the street to the store and thinks everyone’s looking and acting ‘funny’? Classic moment in misfit music right? Or, wait, he was on acid.

Decomposing Trees’ outsider freak out, delirious and hallucinatory? Also acid. We are all of the New Critical school at least when we want to be here, though, so that obviously doesn’t detract from the music. It just gave me a new view of a guy I had probably rather speciously presumed spent his time staring at peeled wallpaper (not peeling), lightly strumming simple chords for 200 years.

There is power in the repeated chord progression as well as the blood, and that’s where all Wareham’s intensity comes from live. His wife Britta plays a tiny bass and the drummer doesn’t play that hard, so it’s down to Wareham, both singing and playing, to provide substance. He does. He’s a substancey guy (in both senses, as I discovered). He plays lightly when he needs to play lightly and heavily when he needs to play heavily and the dynamics rest on him.

And, mostly importantly, he played the hits. There was no support. This is a different world’s Bruce Springsteen.

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