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.

Sertone From Above: An Interview w/ Sertone

With a new issue of Lookleft set to hit shelves across Ireland very soon it is about time I shared an interview I did with Sertone in the current issue. Lookleft is available in every Easons north/south & other selected retailers.

Gareth McAlinden aka Sertone received widespread praise for the release of his excellent debut EP The View From Above EP on Belfast hip-hop label MeltedMusic in February. He is riginally from Portadown but now based in Liverpool (via Bedford), where he moved to attend university four years ago. Barry Healy caught up with the 22 year old instrumental hip-hop and electronica producer who took time out to answer some questions for LookLeft.

LL: Is there much more opportunities for you and your music in Liverpool than Ireland?

Sertone: “It’s funny because one of the main reasons I decided on England was I thought there would be more music opportunities. At that time the UK seemed to have a much bigger and healthier hip hop scene. The first year in Liverpool I kind of just sat back and watched how the city worked, trying to figure out who was who etc. Now I’m playing regularly and running a night in Liverpool trying to promote ‘beat music’. The Irish electronic scene is amazing right now with acts like Solar Bears, Sunken Foal, Moths, Frankie Bingo, and the whole grime/step scene in Dublin being pushed by Colz, Major Grave and Shatterfreak.”

LL: How long have you been making music? How did you get started? 

Sertone: “I started DJing at 11, messing around with pause tapes and video game music making applications until around the age of 15 or so when I got a copy of cubase and it has grown from there. I always tried to make ‘weirder’ more experimental beats for rappers to distinguish myself, only a handful of MCs ever took notice. I kind of gave up on making music to be heard by anyone else and concentrated on making stuff purely for me. Since then things have really started to move forward.”

LL: Your music has a rather unique sound, how did you get into hip-hop and electronic music? 

Sertone: “Thank you, I’m glad to have been able to etch out a unique sound. Hip Hop was my first love, like anything I develop a passion for I’m enthused to know everything I possibly can. I spent ten years listening to every type of hip hop I could find. This led to me to all the music that went into creating hip hop and whatever it’s spawned. Groups like Portishead and Massive Attack pointed me to search for more electronic music.”

LL: Many people mightn’t associate Portadown with this sound, is there a healthy electronic/hip-hop ‘scene’ in the North? 

Sertone: “Yeah moving between Portadown, Liverpool and Bedford the last four years meant it’s been hard to put where I am into the music. On ‘Past, Present, Future’ I used a sample which had vocals about Belfast in it to show people where I’m from. Also, I found the sample just as I started working on the EP for Melted Music who are based in Belfast, so it felt like fate! Probably the most notable electronic act from the North is Boxcutter and there are some great local heads like Defcon. Two notable MCs are Belfast’s Sketch Nine and long time collaborator and peer Jee4ce who’s a rapper, producer, video director and all round creative genius.”

LL: You released your debut EP The View From Above in February, how was the response?

Sertone: “The response was really overwhelming to be honest! I didn’t expect anywhere near the level of exposure or positivity it received. I expected it to be listened to by friends and some of their friends, when it started to get covered by MTV, BBC, AU and Hotpress it picked up pace quickly. There’s been a few surreal moments the past few months; hearing the whole CD being played in a random bar, Boy George tweeting me to say he enjoyed it and my mum phoning to say she had heard ‘Past, Present, Future’ on BBC Radio when she was driving home.”

LL: You have been compared to artists like RJD2, J Dilla & Flying Lotus you must be pretty chuffed? 

Sertone: “To me that’s the greatest compliment. When I saw those kinds of names being mentioned in the same articles as mine I was blown away. Obviously they were all big influences when I started making music. I hope my music doesn’t come across as an imitation of those artists and in some small way that I’ve been able to put my twist on it.”

LL: And the rest of 2011? 

Sertone: “I just released Versions, a collection of 15 remixes which is available for free at sertone.bandcamp.com. I’m touring the UK and Ireland this summer and perhaps starting on a follow up to The View From Above EP. Just more music really!”

 SertOne – Past, Present, Future

 SertOne – Astro-Bazaar

 

A Further Shore: An Interview w/ The Vagabonds

Photo: Karl McCaughey

With Lookleft selling well across Ireland (its in every Easons north/south) it is about time I shared an interview I did with The Vagabonds for the last issue.

The Vagabonds have been making waves on both sides of the Irish Sea lately; Dave and Pa took time out to chat with LookLeft.

The Vagabonds began life as a two-piece after Pa and Dave met while studying in Cork, later adding Niall Burns and Niall Clancy after moving to Dublin. There is no bravado here; both are open about the bands humble origins two years ago.

As Pa explains “we practised for ages and we were still shit after a year, playing shit gigs. We thought we were great but we weren’t.” They never let this get them down however, enjoying playing and improving all the while. Dave took some heart from hearing Blur’s Damon Albarn interviewed saying for the first two years they were absolutely abysmal adding [as a band] “we’ve got better now.”

They must be doing something right to attract the attention of legendary producer Stephen Street (Blur, The Smiths and Babyshambles). Dave explains the coming together “We would love to have a more exciting story but we just sent him an email with a demo. His manager got back saying he was interested in working with us but it would be expensive as an unsigned band. We didn’t care”. Although jumping at the chance there was some trepidation said Pa “We never recorded with an established producer, just some demos so it was quite an experience, very daunting, not in a bad way.”

The resulting debut EP Another Victory for Hysteria is superb. The response according to Dave has been “positive, good amongst our peers. It’s not as though I don’t respect the opinion of other bands and people we know working in music but it’s a bit like your mother saying your good at football, I would rather hear it from Alex Ferguson.” It was largely ignored by the mainstream media except “Paul McLoone and Dan Hegarty who played it quite a bit and we’re thankful for that but I want to hear our songs at half two in the evening when people are listening.”

A wider issue emerges, whereby home-grown acts get a raw deal at the expense of more established acts. Both are adamant “things should be better here. Take Radio 1 in the UK, you are likely to hear a new band or one you haven’t heard before. Ireland is big enough to have an indigenous ‘scene’ like Scotland, but too many bands have to leave Ireland to make it.”

From their experience the odds are against the artist as Dave outlines “In Ireland anyway the promoter, venue and vintner are all making money off the bands who aren’t” adding, “we want to be able to work as musicians and make a living. Anyone who says otherwise is a fucking liar. Unfortunately we can’t do that here. You get gigs in Dublin but they are reluctant to pay ya”. Pa agrees saying “We’re not looking for €300,000 deals. Just enough to put into the band and make a living”

The band would love to make it from Dublin but have their sights set on cracking the UK with Dave explaining “We are looking towards England, not to belittle Ireland or that, we are gonna take a risk because we believe this band can work.”

The band has already been noticed and received support from Strummerville (The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music), a UK based not for profit organisation aimed at helping up and coming artists.  Dave speaks fondly about them.

“They do very good work and they’re giving us some backing. Our music kind of fits in with Strummerville. We have a song John Mellor, often referred to as our homage to Joe Strummer which it isn’t but it fits in with their agenda. It’s nice to have a link to the UK”. Pa has similar sentiments adding “It’s nice to be recognised by this kind of organisation.  It’s like we’re something unusual in the UK we can’t get a decent gig is Cork, Galway or Derry but we can get them in Brighton, London and Manchester. “

Their aforementioned brash punk rock sound makes them standout from other bands, explaining it Dave chuckles, it was “a complete and utter accident. We just decided to turn up the amps and distortion, we ended up loud. There is more sophistication to our approach now. Many bands try to be avant-garde for avant-garde’s sake; we know certain types of songs that will work for this band.”

It will be interesting to see what comes next from these guys who hope to hit the studio with Stephen Street once again in the summer. Unfortunately The Vagabonds may not be on their own looking abroad for their future; in this case Ireland’s loss will be Britain’s gain.

Their debut EP is available for FREE from Bandcamp.

 The Vagabonds – 46A

 Download: The Vagabonds – John Mellor via Strummerville