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Dan Deacon’s last album Gliss Riffer has been played in my gaff a lot over the last while. Deacon is an American composer, musician and producer based in Baltimore, Maryland, who has been pretty prolific since he released his first album in 2003. Deacon has dabbled in many genres, from contemporary classical to film scoring, and his live shows are apparently amazing. He played last weekend at Body and Soul in Ireland and the reports are great. (And kudos for his brilliant Twitter username.)
Shades of the Beta Band and Boards of Canada are evident in Gliss Riffer. ‘When I Was Done Dying’ is my favourite track so far. In March of this year ‘Off the Air’, a programme broadcast on Adult Swim, asked nine of their favorite animators to each animate one section of ‘When I Was Done Dying’, a premise which sounds like it has the potential for a ‘too many cooks’ type disaster!
The end result is one of the most interesting and perfectly expressive music videos I’ve seen for a long time. The artists obviously worked together closely and each section is sympathetic to the one that went before, building on colour and theme while still retaining individuality. It starts with a black and white hand drawn illustration and ends with a blur of neon and digital trickery and it’s just wonderful.
On Saturday last I went out to Dalkey to see Paul McGuinness, ex-manager of U2, interviewed as part of the Book Festival. The talk was titled ‘The Business of Music’ and obviously McGuinness, having managed one of the biggest bands in the world since its infancy, had a lot to talk about.
The talk mostly centered on U2 and his experiences working at the top level of the international music industry. There were a lot of fun anecdotes and little-known facts. For example, one audience member asked why U2 had never played in China, a question that had been put to McGuinness years before by the Chinese Ambassador to the UK. The answer was that they are banned from China as a result of doing a Free Tibet concert years ago. So there’s a bit of music trivia for your next pub quiz!
McGuinness also gave sharp insights into the future of the music industry and problems facing artists now. He made a great point regarding the proliferation of music festivals in recent years and the impact they are having on stadium tours. He says that most artists don’t get the chance to craft a huge stage show these days, in the way that U2 did with their Zoo TV and PopMart tours. Instead they play a series of festival gigs in Europe and North America which has its drawbacks. The band don’t connect solely with their own audience and they’re expected to play a festival-friendly set, i.e, one that is mostly comprised of their greatest hits to satisfy the masses. In addition they are limited in terms of the creativity they can bring to the production; huge props and intricate lighting displays just aren’t feasible when you’re doing an hour at a festival. McGuinness reckons that when the current rock acts like Springsteen, Rolling Stones, and U2 (whose 360 tour was the highest grossing concert tour of all time) aren’t on the road anymore, stadium tours will be a thing of the past. A great observation.
There were a lot of music talks at the festival including Viv Albertine of The Slits whose memoir was published last year. It’s a great festival set in a gorgeous part of Dublin and well worth checking out next year.
I have a confession to make. Up until yesterday I was a DJ without a decent sound system at home and without a set of decks, and a writer without a printer. But now part of that problem has been solved because a bunch of my amazing friends got together and bought me some bluetooth speakers for my birthday.
Last night I tested the speakers fairly comprehensively and listened to a lot of stuff, including albums I’ve neglected for a long time mostly because my shitty laptop speakers were completely busted and distorted the bass horribly. In the process I came across this tune by Cagedbaby, a favourite of mine for a long time.
I first heard Cagedbaby ten years ago when I was living in London and working on a music conference called Encompass. I caned the album in the office in the months leading up to the event and then saw the band play live in a small venue in Shoreditch during the festival in April 2005. The gig was electric, the band were so powerful live. This tune in particular reminds me of that time in my life, living in London, immersed in music, looking forward to the summer and having a lot of fun.
On 5th June Muse release their seventh studio album Drones and ‘Dead Inside’ is the first single taken from the album. I was very excited to hear it as Muse are one of my favourite rock bands; I adore Matt Bellamy’s operatic vocals and Queen-influenced harmonies.
‘Dead Inside’ sounds more stripped back than previous albums, less orchestral and not so electronic. It sounds more like three guys returning to their rock and roll roots having experimented for a long time. ‘Psycho’ is the B side, which is based on a guitar riff that the band have been working on for years. I actually prefer ‘Psycho’ to the single so I’ve linked to it below. Enjoy!
A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of DJing at the Dundrum Town Centre Spring/Summer 2015 fashion shows. I’ve been working with the team there for five seasons and it’s always a lot of fun. Plus Colm Corrigan’s impeccable styling generally makes me want to spend my fee there and then!
I love researching tunes for shows, trying to find the perfect songs for the brief and the perfect tempo for the models. Dundrum shows happen on the mall and the audience ranges from two to eighty-two, so the music was fun with a summery vibe.
I usually end up with a shortlist of twenty songs and have to narrow it down to six. This tune was one of the ones that didn’t make it as it gets a bit heavy towards the end but I really like this RAC remix. It’s got an 80s electro feel, plus the ‘beautiful girl’ lyric would have really worked with models stomping the runway!
One of my favourite recent-ish rock discoveries has been Royal Blood. The band is comprised of two English guys, Mike Kerr (bass, vocals) and Ben Thatcher (drums), both of whom are in their mid-twenties. Though they formed only two years ago, the band already have a fan in none other than Jimmy Page, they’ve had the fastest selling debut rock album in the UK in three years, and they’ve played support for The Pixies and Arctic Monkeys.
I love the album and the lead single ‘Figure It Out’ has been a big hit at gigs. The musical line-up sounds odd I know (what, no guitar?) but they have a huge sound, akin to Zeppelin crossed with The White Stripes. In this interview with MusicRadar, Kerr talks a bit about using a pedalboard and his favourite basses, which goes some way to explaining how a two-piece can have so much power.
Slane is happening on May 30th this year and as I’m sure you know Foo Fighters are headlining. Also on the bill are Hozier (YAAAY) and Kaiser Chiefs (WTF?). Don’t get me wrong, Kaiser Chiefs are a band with some good songs and they have a lot of fans here, but I’d MUCH rather see Royal Blood on this bill. And considering Royal Blood are already supporting Foos in the USA in July and August, I’m at a loss as to why this didn’t happen.
If you haven’t already heard them, get on it!
Jape’s fifth album This Chemical Sea was released on January 23rd and charted at number eight in Ireland. I’ve been listening to it fairly steadily since then and it’s a real grower, more chilled out than previous albums but all the more interesting for it. David Wrench, the producer of the record who’s also responsible for recent hits by Caribou and FKA Twigs, does an excellent job here with crisp production and beautifully layered vocals.
The first single from the album, ‘The Heart’s Desire’, is a stand out track and the video directed by Conor Finnegan is a paint-soaked trippy piece of weirdness.
The video for ‘Seance of Light’ starts with a scene reminiscent of Spud’s speed-fuelled job interview from Trainspotting, set to a trancey electro tune with Hot Chip influenced vocals. Check it out.
Jape play the Academy on February 19th and you can grab tickets here.
Blame Whiplash. Blame my unfulfilled ambition to play drums. Blame whatever you want, but I don’t care, yet again I’m going to rhapsodise about Buddy Rich. If I could be anybody else, ANYBODY who ever lived, it would be Buddy Rich. But even if I had all the drum lessons in the world I could never be in the same ballpark as Buddy; people like him are born not taught. He was the exception, the rare genius, the once in a century talent, the James Joyce of drumming. Buddy Rich just had it. From birth.
Buddy was born to parents who were vaudeville performers and his father noticed that aged just one the infant could keep time. Sensing a business opportunity, he put Buddy onstage at eighteen months old, billed as ‘Traps The Drum Wonder’. In common with many child stars, Buddy always felt that he had been robbed of his childhood and felt a lifelong insecurity about his complete lack of formal education.
Buddy transitioned from child star to jazz drummer, taking the drum chair in the Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey bands and quickly made a name for himself as a musician who could really swing. In Dorsey’s band he met Frank Sinatra, who went on to back Rich’s first band in 1946. Despite the fact that he famously never practised, Buddy became one of the best (if not the best) drummers of his generation; he had unparalleled technique and speed, an innate sense of perfect time, he knew when to take centre stage and when to pull back to allow a soloist room to play, and his energy and originality could turn a lacklustre band into a band that really cooked.
But Buddy had a dark side. He was cantankerous, harsh, a bully even, and it all came to light when the audio tapes of him berating his band were publicised. Buddy had described himself as a ‘short-tempered man’ (a phrase which tends to understate things just a wee bit) and he did not suffer mediocrity or laziness at all, which when you consider his talent is understandable. His name was on the band, he was up there ‘working my balls off’, he was world-class, and if a member of the band didn’t come up to scratch, he was (in my mind) right to call them on it. Yes, he could be mean but he was the best drummer in the world! Play accordingly, assholes!
I rarely read biographies these days but I’m so fascinated by Buddy Rich that when I saw this book on Amazon, it went straight into my basket. The author Mel Tormé was a renowned jazz singer and a lifelong friend of Rich, and so he has a thorough knowledge of his subject, both as a musician and a man. The book is warm in tone but doesn’t shy away from painting an honest portrait of its subject. Tormé has some great anecdotes to share, both from Buddy himself and the many musicians he worked with, and he also analyses Rich’s playing in an erudite way. For any drummers out there who are fascinated by the technicalities of Rich’s playing, there are some great sections in the back of the book dealing with Rich’s preferred equipment and playing techniques.
If you know nothing about Rich then (aside from stocking up on his albums) check out this great Michael Parkinson interview. Buddy is aged sixty-nine and it was his last interview before his death in April 1987. Parkinson is the consummate interviewer, asking insightful questions which he allows the interviewee to answer fully, no ego, no interrupting. He’s a true facilitator and draws out his subject expertly.
Buddy gives his opinion on many things from rock music, (he doesn’t really rate it, which to me is unsurprising given that he’s technically and creatively far beyond the ability of most rock drummers), the US government’s attitude to jazz and the ‘high arts’, the dedication that jazz takes from both the player and the listener, and his often contentious relationship with Frank Sinatra. He recounts it all with unflinching honesty (listen to his anecdote about Dusty Springfield!), and his great sense of humour. Enjoy!
‘I can’t think of one musician who ever really paid any attention to anybody standing in front of the band with a baton.’
I saw a trailer for Whiplash with my dad when I was in New York last October and was enthralled. We tried to see it while we were there but it only had a small release and we couldn’t find it anywhere. So when it came out last weekend, we were at the lunchtime showing in the Lighthouse, coffees in hand, very excited.
It’s so rare and wonderful when a film exceeds your expectations and Whiplash is one of those films. Set in New York, it stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, a nineteen-year-old drummer in his first year at Schaffer Music School, one of America’s most prestigious music conservatories. Andrew idolises Buddy Rich and dreams of eventually being in the pantheon of great jazz drummers.
His aspirations are realised when he is accepted into the Studio Band conducted by Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons). Fletcher encourages Neiman, faking a sense of camaraderie, before ripping him apart and reducing him to tears in front of the band, the beginning of a destructive pattern intended to break Neiman’s spirit and motivate him to become the best he can be.
Dad was the perfect cinema partner for this particular film. He started playing jazz professionally in his teens in 1960s Belfast. Through his gigs and music around the house, I came to love jazz, and that helped me to appreciate certain aspects of the film. When Fletcher fires a player for being out of tune, I knew the player wasn’t, but Fletcher’s point was that if the player didn’t know whether he was out of tune then he had no business being in a jazz orchestra. Fair point, harshly made. And every time Fletcher calls out Neiman, saying he’s dragging or rushing, in each case he’s right. Fletcher may be a bully, a completely unsympathetic character, but he’s an excellent judge of musical ability and technique.
That said, you don’t need an obsessive interest in the drums or any knowledge of jazz to appreciate this film. The relationship between Fletcher and Neiman is complex and takes many turns from outright abuse to grudging acceptance yet remains mostly believable, and is compelling enough to draw in any cinema fan. If you’ve ever been passionate about something, if you’ve ever been competitive, you’ll relate in some way to Neiman’s ambition and Fletcher’s insistence on excellence.
Each member of the film brings their own element of musical expertise. JK Simmons has a music degree and studied conducting. Miles Teller has been a self-taught rock drummer since he was sixteen. Director Damien Chazelle drew on his own experiences in a jazz orchestra to conceive, write and direct the film. And most of members of the two orchestras in the film are professional musicians. (And a special shout-out to the editor, Tom Cross, who cut the last drum solo so expertly that even if you were hunting for flaws they’re hard to find.)
This perfect storm of creativity and experience is evident throughout. It’s a fully realised story, well-written, authentic, inspirational, challenging. Although Whiplash is nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture, I reckon it’s unlikely that a niche film like this will win. (I’d love to be proved wrong.) However not only will this movie make it onto my must-see list for 2015, I think it will stand the test of time and have a place in my favourite films list from now on.
The Multiverse wishes you all a very merry Christmas! It’s the time for chilling out, sleeping, reading, watching, partying, and debaucherous fun. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a well-deserved rest. Here’s some of what I’ll be doing…
I’ll be tackling some of the current pile by my bed. John Niven’s The Second Coming is first on my list. Niven is one of my favourite literary discoveries of 2014; I read Straight White Male in its entirety on the flight home from New York and it made me laugh more than any novel in years.
Also in the pile is Rory O’Neill’s autobiography Panti: Woman in the Making. Panti was one of 2014’s Irish stars. Her speech, ‘Panti’s Noble Call’, in The Abbey Theatre was one of the most powerful things I’ve heard this year, and was described by Fintan O’Toole as ‘the most eloquent Irish speech since Daniel O’Connell was in his prime.’ I couldn’t agree more.
I’m very much looking forward to delving into the best Longform pieces of 2014. For those of you who don’t know the site, Longform provides links to classic and current essays, articles and interviews that are over 2,000 words. It’s one of my weekly reads and well worth checking out.
These inspiring graduation speeches by famous women will provide some food for thought.
I’m going to take the time to watch some of 2014’s lauded documentaries and feature films that I haven’t yet seen. Despite all my best intentions I never got to see Interstellar so that’s got to be sorted out. I’m really intrigued by this documentary about one of my favourite songwriters:
And I can’t wait to see American Sniper. I know it’s a movie that panders to America’s hero complex but it still looks like a great piece of cinema.
My grandmother was a big fan of Nat King Cole and she always played his albums at Christmas. ‘Stardust’ is one of my favourite songs of his.
While we’re at it, this Christmas song always puts me in a good mood.
And if this carol doesn’t bring on the Christmas magic, I’ve lost all hope for you.
My Christmas tree has become rather crispy and droopy so I won’t disturb you with a photograph of it. Instead I’ll disturb you with a photo from last year which I entitled ‘Mad Santa’! Merry Christmas!