Articles - Features

Inbound: Bad Bones


Paul O’Connor excavates the impetus and art of Dublin producer and visual artist Sal Stapleton AKA BAD BONES. Photos by Joe Laverty.

Under the moniker of BAD BONES, Dublin based producer and visual artist Sal Stapelton, has spent 2016 eking out a series of stunning singles and videos on a monthly basis. With dark but infectious beats that combine rich textural layers of synths and choral vocals with her own heavily processed vocal melodies each single has taken themes of sexuality and power exploring them in different ways. Next month sees the release of the fifth of these video singles, which she says makes up one complete “visual EP”.

Stapleton is a multifaceted creator. A musician, producer, visual artist as well as running the multimedia events Seasons in Dublin. Cutting her teeth as a punk musician around the Dublin/Wicklow DIY scene, the last year has seen her emerge as a both a producer and a videographer to be reckoned with.

Each video is shot in monochrome colours and features an intimate performance to camera distorted through visual effects and recurring images of the physical and natural world as well as a head immersed in clouds meant to symbolise “living in another world and slowly losing your grip on reality”.

BAD BONES explores and interrogates notions of love, sex, power and weakness. Continuing on from the menacing domination of March’s LANG. her latest single COME shows a more vulnerable side hinging around the line ‘When you come and go, I feel so alone’.

“’COME’ is a song that is an expression of weakness and longing for more commitment. I was listening to a lot of Gregorian chants while producing ‘COME’ and the vocal hook I had written originally for another song but felt the words needed to be expressed better musically.”

“I wanted something sonically to convey sadness, a very heavy sub bass and the pitched down/low male sounding vocal. To me, this sounds like crying or an expression of weakness.”

“The strings and high vocal at the end lift the heaviness of the song, their chopped, reversed repetition, represents time passing.”

“When I write music, it has a sort of unpredictability about it. I chop up and manipulate everything in a song. Something I start writing today, will sound totally different after I’ve spent a while with it. Songs are like Jig-saws to me. They’re made up of many ideas and hooks I’ll have recorded over some time. Some will work together and some won’t but, that’s what makes this sort of thing so fulfilling. When they fit together, it’s like resolving a problem. Almost like therapy.”

“[For each track] I make subtle changes through vocals, dynamics and pace the different tracks, still keeping them within the sonic and visual blueprint they all stem from. There’s definitely a different vibe for all of them.”

“There’s certain sounds I am definitely drawn to when producing a BAD BONES track. Different emotions can be expressed with different sounds. Drums and bass is an expression of my power and confidence, airy vocals show a lustful and sometimes vulnerable side to me. These sort of themes and sounds are carried though out them all.”

“I work as a VFX Artist/Designer by day and I don’t have much spare time to make these videos. It’s always a mad rush to get them finished, but deadlines are good for me. I would be tweaking them for the rest of my life, and they would never see the light of day. It’s so important to let things go and make mistakes, learn from it and see what you can do differently next time round. That’s pretty much the way my whole creative process goes.”

“It’s not glamorous at all. I green screen myself first, usually. I set it up in my room, I put the camera on a tripod and film whatever I think I’ll need. Then everything happens in post.”

“I composite and animate everything around me in After Effects. I don’t storyboard anything for these videos, it’s all free styled and developed organically from a single visual idea I thought of while producing the music. Then comes editing and I make myself look chopped up and skewed like the music. It’s really cool that it happens pretty organically, I try not to over think it, otherwise the meaning in the imagery will be lost for me.”

“I am kind of impatient so if I have an idea, I try to gain the tools and skills I need to make it happen. I don’t want to be waiting around for someone else to do it for me. There’s nothing more satisfying then figuring out a problem or learning a new technique that will help build towards something great.”

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“The D.I.Y punk scene I grew up in was a great source of support and encouragement. Every week we would all get together and play gigs, in some scout den, a hall or an abandoned building somewhere. It really didn’t matter where it was, it was the people that occupied the space that made it so special. It really helped develop the creative and technical/problem solving part of my personality. And it’s one of the reasons I think we humans can do anything we put our minds to.”

“Unfortunately, when we all got older the D.I.Y scene that I was a part of fizzled out. One of the main reasons, lack of spaces. I think there’s still a huge need for more creative spaces, for people to perform and create in. I hear of a few groups around Ireland who are D.I.Y, but it’s getting harder to keep hold of buildings they accommodate, as leases are lost all the time. It’s such a shame because there’s a huge need for them.”

“For me in recent years, D.I.Y has been pretty none existent locally, until I started SEASONS with Karen and Louise. That felt quite like the gigs from years ago. But even finding a space for SEASONS is proving super hard, due to the live music aspect. So, we regrettably had to cancel SPRING and now we eagerly await SUMMER.” Paul O’Connor