Best of 2013 w/ Keith from The Dead Heavys

It’s that time of year when every music website, publication and blog (including this one) are busy compiling lists, lists and more lists. Last year I asked bands and artists who’d played ‘BarryGruff Presents’ shows to put their own list making skills to the test in picking their ‘favourite album of 2013′, ‘favourite song of 2013′ & ‘favourite Irish song of the year’. After another successful year of shows, why break with tradition?

Right, that is enough from me, over to Keith from of The Dead Heavys and his picks from the year that was 2013.

Favourite album of 2013: Of Montreal – ‘Lousy With Sylvianbriar’

This album’s only been out since October but has already clocked up more listens than any other new release this year. Its quite a simple record (especially for Of Montreal) with a small band cutting it live to tape  but the songwriting is just fantastic. Great melodies paired with some seriously dark lyrics (a- la ‘Forever Changes’), makes for a great listen.

Favourite song of 2013: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘Faded In The Morning’

Great tune from a great record. It somehow manages to be lo-fi, funky, psychedelic & rocking at the same time. Also has a great hook running through it.

Favourite Remix of 2013: Jagwar Ma – ‘Come Save Me’ (Andrew Weatherall Remix)

Love the original track which has got a Phil Spector meets acid house vibe on it. The Weatherall mix drops the spector type beat and turns up the acid!

Favourite Irish song of 2013: O Emperor – ‘Contact’

Amazing band who really let loose on their new album. Great attitude & vibe to this track with so many different riffs going on throughout but never a not wasted.

Anderson’s Song | An Interview with Anderson

Ahead of tomorrow night’s ‘BarryGruff Unplugged’ show with Anderson in The Liffey Studio, Newbridge (details here), here’s an interview I did with Anderson, from the last issue of Lookleft Magazine.

When The Rags parted company last year, Dublin and indeed Ireland lost a great if somewhat underrated band. Between 2004 and 2010 they played scores of memorable gigs, released a string of brilliant singles and a superb album, ‘A National Light’. Slipping and sliding from one end of the indie spectrum to the other, The Rags music was lively and energetic, wrapped in poetic lyrics and delivered with a distinctive raspy vocal lilt.

All was not lost however. Having called time on The Rags, front man Daniel Anderson didn’t waste time in returning with his solo musical venture under the moniker of Anderson. While it witnessed a marked change in sound with a folksy sound of irresistible classic pop melodies preferred to raspy indie-punk, the intuitive and honest song writing remained a cornerstone of his work.

Yours truly caught up with Anderson for a quick Q&A to find out more about this exciting and intriguing new departure for one of Ireland’s very best songwriters.

LL: The new Anderson sound is quite different to what you did with The Rags and probably caught a few people by surprise – had you any lingering worries about how people would react?

Anderson: I never gave it any real consideration. My impulse when writing has always been to please myself and by that standard I’m always been hopeful that other people will enjoy it too, regardless of the way it is presented.

LL: You released your debut single & EP in the last few months, what has the reception been like?

A: The reaction has been everything and more than I expected. I think regardless of what anyone playing music says, you are writing to be heard and when people react in such an excited way to your stuff, it helps to reinforce your belief in what you do.

LL: What was the inspiration for this new sound? Was it something you had planned or did it just come naturally?

A: It wasn’t really planned but I was conscious of a need to make the lyrics and melody more prevalent than they had been in The Rags. Melody and lyrics have always turned me on and I think the solo thing has given me the opportunity to accentuated elements that were sometimes neglected in the band.

LL: What has this transition from band front man to solo artist been like?

A: It’s strange because in The Rags it always felt like we where a world within a world. In it I got to share a dream with people I grew up with and loved, and in a way that aspect was almost as rewarding as the music we made. It is a different feeling now it is a slightly more refined satisfaction but I think a part of me will always be stranded in the that youthful utopia I made with my friends.

LL: It seems switch has freed you up somewhat, the previous anger has been reined in somewhat with reflection, optimism and hopefulness preferred, is that a fair assumption of where you are right now?

A. Yes! I’ve brought optimism to this work that I didn’t always have with the band. I’ve worked hard to understand my craft and become a better writer, being the sole contributor I’m never pushed to do anything I’m not 100 percent about. The sense of well being that comes with this is priceless.

LL: You’re songs convey an insight to your life and the world, does your song writing tend to take inspiration from what you know and see around you?

A: I think so. I always feel compelled to express myself through the happenings in an around my life it helps me function day to day.

LL: You supported Villagers on their recent tour, how was that? And how did it come about?

A: Conor contacted me and said he loved the stuff and asked if I would like to do a couple of shows with them. It was a wonderful experience. I was exposed to an audience that wanted to listen and I got an invaluable insight into the life of an established band on the road.

LL: You’re planning to release an album this year? When/What can we expect?

A: I will aim for September but nothing is set in stone. I’ve been writing for a while and I am confident the record will sit comfortable alongside any great records in your collection.

The Derry Sound | An Interview with Our Krypton Son

The brand new issue of Lookleft hit the shelves across Ireland this week. Here is an interview with Our Krypton Son from the previous issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north / south & other selected retailers.

OurKryptonSon_SourceJeffRobinson-thumb-4288x2848-92431

Our Krypton Son is the brainchild of Derry man Chris McConaghy, who released his self-titled debut album of warm alt-rock/folk songs late last year, that solidified a growing reputation as an exceptional songwriter.

Having cut his first musical teeth with psychobilly art-rockers Red Organ Serpent Sound, on their demise, McConaghy emerged from the ashes with something quite different. Our Krypton Son initially began life as a solo-project, before gathering close musician friends together to create the band in early 2010.

The path, from then to today, was far from straightforward as McConaghy explains “I’d been in another Derry band (Red Organ Serpent Sound) that were signed to Mercury Records for 3 odd years. It had been a turbulent time though and I knew things were about to go pear-shaped so I began just writing songs myself again. I hadn’t really done that in a number of years. Initially I started gigging with a laptop (mainly because the idea of another acoustic singer/songwriter bored the hell out of me) but before long I was writing more elaborate songs for different instruments and it became apparent a band was required!”

Our Krypton Son took their time with their debut LP, making sure it was the album they were happy with. The response, which McConaghy is delighted with, would suggest they were right to do it their way “The reception has been terrific! We’ve always been really lucky in terms of radio play anyway but the reviews of the album have been great too. Some reviews in particular have totally blown me away and it’s been picked up by everyone from Hotpress and AU magazine to The Irish Times and The Sunday Times.”

One gets the distinct impression that McConaghy is very happy with how Our Krypton Son is progressing and why not? Their so far fruitful relationship with Derry Indie label Smalltown Records too, rather than a major, appears to be a large factor. He explains further say there is“a huge difference! With Mercury, there was a lot at stake. Plus when we were signed to them – 2005/2006 – the industry was just beginning to change and there was a serious focus to be commercial and sell records etc. Smalltown are more interested in creating art than selling records. They’re a lot savvier than a major label and they’re a good enabler to allow me to achieve my modest goals! It’s nice too that they’re just around the corner.”

There is a lot of attention being paid to Derry at present with it being ‘City of Culture’ this year. Prior to the recent flux of interest, from the outside at least, there seemed to be a very healthy music scene in the City. McConaghy said: “there are a lot of eyes on Derry at the moment so it’s a good time for acts from the town. SOAK, Little Bear, Ryan Vail, Best Boy Grip, Fighting With Wire & Rainy Boy Sleep are all doing brilliant. Some other acts to look out for include Figure Of 8, The Wood Burning Savages, Strength, Invaderband and others.”

On the ‘City of Culture’ he adds “There are a number of big concerts planned throughout the year including certain local Derry bands. No offense to these acts – they’re terrific and totally deserve the acclaim given to them – but it would be nice if some other local acts got the call for these slots occasionally as well. Though I suppose in a town with so much talent, it would be difficult to include everyone”.

Excluding the recent flurry of interest surrounding the ‘City of Culture’, one question comes to mind, do Northern acts get their fair share of coverage by the southern media? He feels they do, saying “even back in 2006, ROSS was nominated for a Meteor Award – which was a massive deal for us. It can be hard for a working band from the North to gets gigs in Dublin, say, unless you have a promoter behind you but in terms of press and radio play and coverage it’s been great.”

2013 will be a busy year for Our Krypton Son with McConaghy planning “album number two, a couple of lo-fi ep’s and as many gigs/festival appearances as we can squeeze in!”

Our Krypton Son’s self-titled debut album is out now through Smalltown America Records. You can listen to it and others below.

[spotify http://open.spotify.com/album/2Qds5AjGvKfnx2WXaXcKOc]

Telling It As It Is | An Interview With Lethal Dialect

The new issue of Lookleft has hit the shelves across Ireland this week. Here is an interview with Lethal Dialect from the previous issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north / south & other selected retailers.

*At the time of writing LD was working on new album ‘Magnum Opus’, this has since changed & he is working on a different record, ‘1988’. Explained better here.

LD

Over the past 18 months Dublin rapper Lethal Dialect (LD) has emerged as, not only on of the most exciting acts in Irish hip hop, but Irish music in general. Taking time out from recording his third album, LD caught up with Lookleft.

Growing up surrounded by house and dance music, hip hop became his true musical love. For LD the attraction to Hip Hop was the social commentary, “I know it sounds clichéd to mention but 2Pacs ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ was definitely an influence. It’s not just relative to African American communities but ours as well. It’s the only music form I could ever really relate to. It’s the only form that has a lot of lyricism involved, unlike other music; it’s more about what you’re saying.”

A deep thinker for as long as he can remember, he always found the need to express himself and hip hop was a natural choice. It is the attitude which shapes and informs his own musical style, concerning himself with the everyday things, good and bad, that he sees around him. Although he is keen to stress “It’s not just about talking about how you feel or what you see, it’s easy to do that. It’s about saying things in a creative or slick way with wordplay or a clever twist that’s the challenge.”

It’s an attitude and approach which has in time won over many music fans as he explains, “The first album was an underground album with a lot of dark undertones so I wasn’t expecting much but it put the name in a few heads.” With the second album the reception was much different. “It’s been received very well.  I couldn’t shout out everyone who helped promote because I’d be here all day but it’s gotten radio play, it’s been in nearly every Irish newspaper and a few things on television. “

LD believes hip hop in this country may finally beginning to get the recognition it deserves but also feels some of this attention may be misplaced, as both good and bad acts receive the limelight. “I think they are exploiting many of the jokers or novelty acts by focusing a light on them while the likes of Scary Éire or RíRá never got the media recognition they deserve.”

With a certain level of derision when it comes to the genre, is there an attempt to undermine hip hop as happened in the US and UK? LD believes there is a certain amount of conspiracy, “anytime I have been on anything to do with the mainstream media there has been an undercurrent of taking the piss out of it but what do you do? You can either be on mainstream media and have your name out there or ignore it and your name won’t be out there. I think it’s about finding a balance.”

This is not the only prejudice he’s experienced while trying to get his music heard. “I have noticed a lot of classism for example, especially with things on RTE. There’s definitely a lot of classism there that they need to be look at themselves. I’ve noticed a lot of it lately in Irish society in general, I suppose I never really noticed it before until I started to get out there and do different things. I don’t think it should matter. “

In spite of these obstacles the future looks bright for Lethal Dialect and he’s very upbeat about the new album. “When the third album Magnum Opus drops, that will be the pinnacle of what we’re gonna do at a street level and then hopefully do a proper studio album.” It like previous releases is “100% DIY or homemade” and “100% percent original beats and lyrics” and while still dealing with serious subjects “it’s much more upbeat and lyrical” than previous releases.

You can download both LD50 & LD50 Part II for free from http://lethaldialect.bandcamp.com/. Lethal Dialect plays The Workman’s this Sunday, with both albums ‘played in full’ for the last time (details here).

An Interview With Tu-Ki

The new issue of Lookleft has hit the shelves across Ireland this week. Here is an interview with Tu-Ki from the previous issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north / south & other selected retailers.

Tu-Ki (aka Aidan Taggart) has a pretty formidable reputation as a DJ and his achievements as a turntablist speak for themselves. He’s a four time Irish DMC champion and winner of the 2007 Molvida World Mixing Championships. Taking time out from his busy schedule he spoke with Lookleft.

Although DJing for about 12 years, the Dublin of his youth was a different place to now. DJing, turntables and hip hop were not a major part of Irish teenage life. “I was always jealous of my American counterparts, who seemed to grow up with turntables all around them. Hip hop was something that existed across the water and on my Walkman. “

Tu-Ki began DJing at the age 19 or 20 which is quite old to begin learning a new musical instrument from scratch. In his own words he “sort of fell into it” after stumbling on hip-hop and falling in love with it, he immersed himself in the music. “I got a job when I was in 5th year and started buying records from Abbey Discs. I guess in the back of my mind I wanted to be more involved in this music I loved.”

He had no lofty ambitions and on borrowing a friend’s decks he started messing around before buying his first set of Techniques but “initially there was no reference point for what I was doing until I got a DMC video. When I saw it, I was like, so this was it’s all about. It was much more visual to the house or techno DJs I saw in clubs and it appealed to me from the off.”

Sometime later he entered his first competition in London, “for the fun of it”, he ended up coming second. This was a big moment and he fondly recalls what it meant, “To go along and meet ten other people who were doing the same thing was a big deal, it showed me it did exist outside my bedroom. I started getting booked for shows after this. There was no grand plan; I guess I was lucky in some respects.”

Today the ‘DJ scene’, so to speak, appears to be a healthy one. While also teaching a one year DJ course in Bray he sees plenty of interest from people wishing to learn. When he started out “two turntables and a mixer was a standard”, even though things are a little different now, if “the young kids hear a guy plays vinyl they are definitely more interested”.

As with other areas of our lives digital technology and laptops are common place. The debate around whether it devalues the art form of DJing isn’t one he usually gets involved in. “I use some digital stuff like Serato but I guess it does. It’s a tricky one to draw a conclusion on. You are either a selector or a DJ. DJing relates to the art form, it’s about devolving a set, learning how to mix tracks, read the crowd. There is a technical aspect too, knowing how to mix beats, blend bass-lines and scratching.” Adding, “It is kind of two different worlds but you can go and see a great selector and have the best night of your life.”

The big difference for him is feeling the music, being in the mix rather than looking at it on a screen, “It’s much more pleasurable to be using tools, like playing a piano on a computer than actually playing with your hands. Vinyl just feels better to me.”

Recently Tu-Ki took the opportunity to release his own mixes, something he always wanted to do but had eluded him while doing clubs and DJ battles. Two years ago he released Pre: Seed, a labour of love, “I needed to put a stamp on the last 10 years of DJing and an ode to the mixtapes I grew up with”

His latest mix ‘Just A Ride’ is equally impressive. It is “what I’ve been doing since then, what I’ve been playing in clubs and spent ages in my gaf mixing. I think it’s a slightly unique mix because I kind of have my own style I guess.” It is a joy for him to be able to share music with people like this, adding “it’s not about ego; it’s a great thing to do, putting music together for people, giving them deadly music they might not have heard. It’s great to hear feedback from people saying they enjoyed it or they never heard this song or that song before. It gives complete license to play whatever you want, which you might not normally get to do at a festival or a club.”

You can download both Pre: Seed and Just A Ride below.

At The Captain’s Table | Interview With Captain Moonlight

The new issue of Lookleft has hit the shelves across Ireland this week. Here is an interview with Captain Moonlight from the previous issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north / south & other selected retailers.

Obsessive about politics, philosophy, literature, music and hurling, Kilkenny rapper Captain Moonlight tackles serious political issues, creating intelligent, hard-hitting, often humorous hip-hop in the process. Barry Healy met the man behind the new album ‘Offenses Against The State’.

Coming from a county famed more for hurling only one first question for Captiain Moonlight: “It began with the break dancing scene back in ’84”. It was through this he discovered “the musical side with the likes of Mantronix, Public Enemy and Rakeem. ’86 to ’91 was the golden era of hip hop for me; this is what got me into it. I started writing raps in ’88 but it was a while before I found my own style. Hearing Scary Éire blew it open for me, it showed how it could be done. I was always into more political hip hop like Public Enemy or British hardcore like Gunshot, Black Radical and London Posse. They had a very aggressive rat-tat-tat-tat sound which had a really big influence on me.”

Captain Moonlight’s new album ‘Offenses Against The State’ is record number four and the first since his ‘Agroculture’ trilogy. “How different is it to the ‘Agroculture’ albums? I’m not sure. It’s still me. its closer to the sound I’ve always wanted. It’s more to do with the hip hop I grew up listening to. This one’s far rawer than before, more sample based and influenced by early ‘90s, hardcore and British hip hop.” Lyrically he feels it is “a belligerent response to the way things are right now. It is as much to do with people and their response as much as it is to do with the government, but, with plenty of humour too.”

For example ‘Financial Rape Crisis At High Noon’ is “a song about people who give out about how bad things are, yet vote the same candidates in. Locally we have John McGuiness (of Fianna Fail)  who criticised his party’s leadership and government when he was stripped of his Junior Minister’s job. The electorate voted him back in comfortably, seeing him as some sort of pseudo Irish rebel. Its bullshit, a nod and a hoodwink. People are voting the very same, they are not changing the system, just the heads of it”. Other songs like ‘Uniform State’ “deal with ideas of the alpha male Garda mentality” while ‘Fuck You Captain Moonlight’ is a “self-dissing take on the ‘Don’t Flop Ireland’ battle raps which I don’t do myself but there’s really sharp stuff happening there”. 

Moonlight is fully aware of differing opinons on Irish hip hop, saying “nostrils tend to get raised when people hear an Irish lad rapping in his own accent especially in this country. It’s a strange thing, it has a divisive effect, a lot of people are really into it while others just can’t get it”. He’s unperturbed, “personally I write music for myself and through a love of hip hop and not for anyone else. I see a lot of artists like this too who deserve to be heard by a far wider audience. I don’t take what people think too much to heart but yes people see a difference between ‘hip hop’ and ‘Irish hip hop. Hip Hop as a mainstream it is probably the biggest selling genre in Ireland but most is imported from America. UK grime is making some headway which isn’t a bad thing but it’s taken so long for British hip hop to gain respect in its own right.”

“There’s a lot of really great Irish rap artists now. In the last five years a whole generation of lads coming through like Collie, Redzer and Nugget who have their own identity. They are the predominant sound now. It’s very hard to know how or when but some of these artists will breakthrough at some stage and if one gets through three or four will follow. I’m not sure how it will turn out at all but I’m happy with the level I’m at.”

Captain Moonlight will be gigging in December and January to promote his new album before starting work on his next release, ‘Scenes From A Land War’.

Captain Moonlight – The Nod And The Hoodwink

 Download: Captain Moonlight – Banana Republican

Download: Captain Moonlight – OCD

Grow up to be Losers? An Interview with We Are Losers

 

The new issue of Lookleft has hit the shelves across Ireland this week so it is about time I posted this interview with We Are Losers from the last issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north / south & other selected retailers.

It has been a remarkable twelve months for Kildare/Dublin band We Are Losers. What began as a solo-side project of Super Extra Bonus Party guitarist Gavin Elsted writing and recording a few songs in his bedroom has flourished into something much bigger. Barry Healy caught up with front man Gavin Elsted to find out more.

As we began chatting in his kitchen over freshly made coffee, it is abundantly clear he is remarkably humble about the whole affair. There were no grandiose expectations starting out, it was just seen as “a chance to write simple straightforward over the top fuzzy noise pop and this was the music inspiring me at the time and so wanted to try my hand at it”.

Gavin never expected it to get this far explaining “the most I could have hoped for was that someone might have come back to me saying ‘hey, I really like your tunes’. It was a bit scary to be honest because it happened so fast. We put a few tunes online and emailed them around. All of a sudden we landed our first gig at Hard Working Class Heroes which was mental.”

It was around this time We Are Losers blossomed into a four-piece, adding fellow Bonus Partiers Gary Clarke and Stephen Conlan and Bronwyn Murphy-White of Grand Pocket Orchestra. It seems to have been a perfect fit. “After jamming a few times it all fit so quickly” says Gavin, adding “The more involved the three have got the less stressed I am about everything. I find it easy to sit back and let them do their thing. I know what Gary and Steve are going to do from playing in a band with them for years and Bronwyn is such an accomplished musician anyway that I am completely confident in what she brings”.

The band’s sudden rise has really taken Gavin by surprise “there is now way we thought we would get this far so quickly. Within three or four months we had labels interested and had management involved, which has huge benefits. Up and up is the best way to describe how it has been as well as a lot of fun too. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be doing it”.

One of the many high points so far came in July with the release of their debut double a-side single ‘Sunset Song / Cheerleader’ on Leeds Indie label ‘Dance to the Radio’.

It is a partnership which goes back sometime as Gavin explains. “We’d been friends with ‘Dance to the Radio’ since they put out Super Extra Bonus Party’s ‘Who Are You And What Do You Want’ on a vinyl compilation. I just kept in contact with them and let them know I was doing new stuff. They asked me to send it on to them so I did and they were into it. We were then asked to play ‘Live at Leeds’, they came to see our show and met us afterwards and offered to do something with us. We decided on a single to see how things would go. It has been great so far. They’ve been good to us and they’re looking after us really well.”

Gavin seems equally happy with the response to the band’s debut single adding “it has been pretty good so far. We’ve been getting some good radio play and people seem to be into it. We weren’t expecting anything like that to be honest”.

While on the surface Losers would appear to differ somewhat from his previous work but he is insistent that “even though other members of SEBP will probably kill me for saying this, there was definite pop elements to the Bonus Party tunes. Stuff like ‘Comets’ or ‘Eamonn’ are pop songs. Just because there is electronics or distortion on them doesn’t stop them being pop songs. They are all pop songs with strong melodies and it’s the same with Losers”.

So what of the future for We Are Losers? Well it’s pretty straightforward according to Gavin who is aiming “to gig as much as humanly possible. Try to get down to other places in Ireland apart from Dublin and Galway and write more tunes of course. We’ll see where we’re at after a few months and hopefully we can keep going up and up”.

 We Are Losers – We Vampires

 We Are Losers – Sunset Song

Download: We Are Losers – Cheerleader