I worked on the Ball Guide for the Trinity Ball this year. I did see Jape in the end as well, and it was probably good. Here’s an interview I did anyway, seeing as Jape has never graced the pixels of this blog before, for a publication that’s supposed to be pretty accessible. Judge for yourself.
International superstars are all well and good, but there is nothing quite like a hometown hero. Richie Egan, aka Jape, is as close as Dublin may ever come to a living totem and, having been around here for the past few years rather than swanning around Brooklyn or Dalston, he knows exactly what to expect from this year’s Ball.
“A few years ago I actually played three gigs at the Trinity Ball, with Jape and the Redneck Manifesto, and with David Kitt as well. It was a bit mad and we ended up staying up all night drinking, as you do. One thing led to another and we ended up in Slattery’s the next afternoon.” A familiar story.
“So the guy from Humanzi is there, he comes over and introduces himself to me, and says he’s a big fan. He thought I was Damien Rice.” Egan is decidedly not Damien Rice. With the energy and meticulousness of dance music, but the good old singalong choruses of the rock tradition, Jape’s music touches on nostalgia, young love and drug use, channelling all those hazy emotions without a weepily strummed chord in sight.
His most recent album, 2008’s Ritual, earned the Irish equivalent of universal critical acclaim, winning both the Choice Music Prize and the Nialler9 Readers’ Poll. “It’s always great to release an album and have it be received like that, but it’s weird. By the time you release an album, you feel like you’ve already let go of the songs. So by the time all that was happening, a while after Ritual came out, I was already thinking about the next thing.”
Still though, being the critics’ darling well-nigh guarantees an audience for whatever comes next, and the next Jape album is already highly anticipated. “To be honest, I prefer not to have that. Don’t get me wrong or anything, I’m glad that people like the album and want to hear what I’m going to do next. But I’d prefer just working for myself. Because that’s who you write music for at the end of the day.”
“I’m a nerd when it comes to equipment and experimenting with different sounds. That’s my passion in life really, just plugging one thing into another thing and seeing what happens.”
Studio precision, and even experimentation with gaudy tropes of modern music such as chipmunk vocoder, is a big part of what makes up Jape’s sound, but his live presence is undeniable and almost legendary. Trinity News has seen him perform with equal levels of energy and aplomb in front of one hundred people at a venue with a ten o’clock curfew, and in front of 1,500 headlining the Foggy Notions festival at Vicar Street, but the definitive Jape performance came at Electric Picnic.
“Electric Picnic was the last live show for Ritual really, and we had it nailed. It was actually one more show than I wanted to do really, but I said I’d do it because it was Electric Picnic, you know.” The Ritual anthems – “I Was A Man”, “Christopher and Anthony” and “Strike Me Down” among them – received their Viking funeral in that tent in Stradbally. Not that they’re not still in the set, but Egan is excited about moving forward. “We’ll have some new songs ready. I think you have to change or it becomes a nostalgic thing. We’ll definitely be ready for the Ball.”
“The Trinity Ball is always mad. My wife actually graduated from there a few years ago, so I’ve been a few times. I’ve played a couple of times as well, and it’s good when you’re taking it easy on yourself, just watching the carnage unfold around you. One time I played, there were people in tuxedos stage-diving, which was pretty deadly.”
If the carnage takes a turn for the worse, Richie Egan is no stranger to being pelted with rotten fruit. The video to “Floating”, directed by design duo M&E and DADDY, largely consisted of Egan being pelted with technicolour fruit for the duration of the song. Painful, surely? “Actually, Superquinn gave us like a van-load of rotten fruit, which was good for two reasons. Firstly, it was already rotten, so we weren’t using anything someone could have eaten. Secondly it was quite soft. The only thing that hurt was the director throwing an apple full-force at my Adam’s apple. That winded me a bit, but I’m tough.”
Rotten apples won’t be necessary if Jape is anywhere near as good as usual. Tuxedoed-stage-divers, on the other hand, could make for a memorable night.