Ahead of a three-way release launch in a secret location in Belfast this Friday night, Philip Quinn of Gross Net, Autumns’ Christian Donaghey & Fears’ Constance Keane discuss growth, release, community & “timid Irishness disease”. Go here for the show’s event page.
Hi guys. You play a secret location show together in Belfast this weekend. It’s titled ‘A Death To Complacency’. What’s the significance of the title?
Philip Quinn (Gross Net): There’s an element present here in society I dub “timid Irishness disease”, whereby people just don’t knuckle down and get making something. I see the three of us as doing things differently and keeping busy whether we’re playing in different projects like Constance (Fears) and myself or being prolific like Christian with Autumns. Earlier today Christian told me he wasn’t sure how he’d go about playing this weekend. I thought “marvellous”. I see us as pragmatically throwing open the windows a bit and letting some fresher air circulate. I would say that of course.
I’ve a feeling in my bones that this show will be a little special. What can we expect to the norm of, say, a show in Limelight, Voodoo, McHughs etc.?
GN: A cheaper night out? It’s not a line-up you’d be likely to find elsewhere. It also provides a certain artistic licence to do things as we like.
Christian Donaghey (Autumns): It is going to be special. The best happening I’ve seen all year.
Looking at this little web we find ourselves in as creatives, how can we all be less complacent, and more supportive of one another?
GN: Try and do something different/encourage something different/support something different.
Constance Keane (Fears): Treat ‘local music’ as music. It should be as respected as music composed by people you’ve never met. I think it’s good to apply that sentiment to your own work, too. Don’t accept being liked just because you’re local. Make something you’re proud of.
A: Stop wasting time supporting the same boring guitar rock bands and support something pushing the boundaries.
The show marks the release of a record from each of you. Can you tell us a little bit about each release (influence, where it’s coming from, where it’s aimed etc.)?
GN: Mine is drawn from the likes of Throbbing Gristle meets Techno meets amateurism. Its aim was towards self-reveal and self-exorcism (especially self-exorcism) and towards people who hate music probably…
F: ‘Blood’ was written over the space of a few months. I kept leaving it and coming back and leaving it and coming back again. It was recorded in my bedroom with some not-so-great equipment, mainly at night time. It’s one of the vocal melodies that made the transition from an awful whispered voice memo on my phone to a fully-fledged song.
A: I was listening to a lot of Dub music over the summer, and artists such as Eric Random, Cabaret Voltaire and Minny Pops. I’m not sure where this release has come from, but it came from somewhere. The whole release was written whilst in the process of recording, so it’s all improvised. I think it’s very true to me, more so than anything else I’ve done.
Constance, this show doubles up as a launch of the release of your single, ‘Blood’. How does your approach to writing, constructing and performing Fears material vary to your work in M(h)aol?
F: Fears is quite a self-indulgent project in many ways, whereas the whole point of M(h)aol is discussing topics beyond our immediate selves – mainly surrounding feminism and animal welfare.
Fears is almost entirely based around the theme of anxiety and obsessive intrusive thoughts. The tracks can be quite repetitive, like an image stuck in your mind. I try to recreate the feeling of an intrusive thought/anxiety though not only the lyrics, but also the instrumentation. Fears is my way of working out these thoughts; it’s a place for me to put them. The songs are constructed and recorded simultaneously. It’s just me and my laptop, with a guitar appearing every so often.
Philip, the show also marks the release of your debut album, Quantitative Easing. How have you found the whole process of releasing and promoting a full-length album as opposed to shorter releases?
GN: Well. it’s different in that more fucks seem to be given about an album than a Cassette or EP. Perhaps music becomes quantifiably more important in relation to mass. Mark at Touch Sensitive has put a lot of effort in and we’ve called in mates’ favours to get it bandied about a bit. Don’t expect to see the album scraping the upper echelons of the chart world just yet, though. I’m horrified it couldn’t have come out sooner. I’d rather be readying the next thing for release already seeing as I finished recording in January. All’s fair in love and music though…
Christian, your new EP, A Product of 30 Years of Violence, is a release “greater dependence on electronic machines to exhibit a new sonic palate”. Do you think you’re steadily outgrowing guitars in favour of electronics?
A: It’s funny, I actually feel guilty for using less guitar. I don’t do it on purpose, I’m just in that zone for writing music without guitar. I know noise guitar is what I’m known for and what people expect, so it’s given me more reasons to use it less. I’ve always been obsessed with drum machines, so that’s at the heart of everything I do these days. I want to keep moving forward too, and I think machines are helping me do that more than acoustic instruments.
Constance, your project is a self-proclaimed “long for release”. Do you think catharsis/escapism is, above all else, what it’s all about, at its root?
F: It’s catharsis through restraint. I’m a drummer otherwise, and there’s a lot to be said for beating the hell out of a drumkit, but Fears is a completely opposite approach. I build a song, with maybe 15-20 different tracks, and then go through and delete everything I think isn’t completely necessary. There’s a lot of catharsis that can come from that. You don’t always have to shout for release. Sometimes you can quietly sing into a broken microphone in your bed. Fears is ultimately about acceptance, coming to terms with my thoughts.
What’s missing from the music industry in Ireland at the minute, in terms of infrastructure, opportunity and community?
GN: I’m not going to make any friends with this, but awards which, to the naked eye, act as back slapping for the progenitors while garnishing an artist with a metallic breeze block is as much use as providing a top hat spilling over with panther’s piss. There’s fuck all music industry here, and what little there is is made up of chancers. I can hardly blame them, as I may be up to similar cynical tricks in ten or fifteen years. In the north as well there’s fuck all opportunity. By and large Christian (correct me if I’m wrong) and I could hardly get arrested. In two and a half years I’ve done 6 shows in Belfast, and two of those have been for free. There’s an element of community I’ve experienced in Belfast that revolves mostly around the loan of gear/expertise/gig opportunities. Those opportunities are often to play at shows such as this. Arts Council funding is pretty fucked, if I want any support the fastest way is to take up the flute and learn marching tunes. Oh, and I’m from a working-class background and the vast majority of my equipment etc. was funded by myself. To summarise: little to no infrastructure stifled by nepotism, no opportunity, self contained communities limited by little/no access to infrastructure/opportunity.
F: We’re missing adequate discussion about sound engineers and band bros not knowing how to appropriately treat a musician who is female.
A: Personally, I’m sick of hearing everyone complain about the current situation creatives are facing, and have faced for decades. Do you think Berlin in the 80’s was getting endless grants for the arts? Yet they had amazing talents like Malaria!, Neubauten and Liaisons Dangereuses, without that kind of support. People need to get off their asses and do it themselves and to not give a shite if they’re not getting 50 plus likes on Facebook. I’ll support anyone who does that. Also, as Constance mentioned, equal treatment for everyone involved in the arts.
Conversely, what do you think we have to offer/can avail of that no other country can, artistically speaking?
GN: Honestly? Forgive me again denizens of Ireland, but nothing. At least from a northern perspective. Maybe the south is different, Constance?
F: You can live up the road from Enya. I think both the strength and the weakness for the music industry in Ireland is how small it is. It’s quite easy to tap into a community here. But you might only be playing shows to that one community.
A: I’m with Phil on this one, absolutely nothing. I’m not patriotic in the slightest, so I’m not looking to represent Ireland or put Ireland on the map for music. But I would like Ireland’s cultural representatives to stop promoting shite music to other countries.
Looking back over 2016, how do you view your musical growth?
GN: Meteoric, relatively speaking.
F: I’m now at a stage where someone other than my mam is listening my music.
A: It’s been the best year for Autumns, consistently making music and getting opportunities. If you could only hear the album I made in January and compare it to the album I’m making now.
Phil and Christian, will there be an original Gross Net reunion of sorts on the night at all?
GN: I thought about this myself, but the answer is probably no. I wouldn’t rule it out in future though..I think we’re still pretty complimentary.
A: Honestly, I think I only know the guitar parts to ‘Violence’ and ‘Spiralling Down’. So it would be a disaster if I did. Maybe someday. I don’t think there’s anyone in Ireland who get what me and Phil are about, so it’s only natural that we gravitate every so often to each other.
Thematically, I’m getting a real sense of disassociation, striving for personal becoming, and the pursuit of psychic recovery across all three releases. What, if anything, do you feel link you as artists, either conceptually or sonically?
GN: I was instantly drawn to both Christian and Constance having known their music, and I find them both very easy to get along with. Maybe there’s something unspoken at work there, like we’re thinking similar things at the same times. I’m sure we share a lot in common politically amongst other things…
F: I think there’s a certain similarity in the moods that are evoked through each of our respective music. The sounds are different, but the tones are similar.
A: Sick of music, sick of literature, sick of people, sick of the weather, sick of politics, sick of money, sick of media, sick of romance. The list goes on.
Christmas is upon us, which – let’s face it – tends to be a month-long haze of (probably) too much drinking and thinly-veiled doubt about money, relationships, expectations, self-worth, etc. But how do you intend to mark it this year?
GN: Ideally as reclusively and cheaply as possible. Quite frankly I’m too busy right now to worry about some Christian/Winter Solstice/Capitalistic cross bred festival. Counting my Gross vs Net earnings.
F: I don’t really drink, so that avoids a certain amount of the mess that can surround the holiday season. I have a bit of a tradition with my mam where we write down something we’re scared of or worried about, and burn it at sunrise at a local dolmen on the 21st of December. Hopefully we can do that again this year.
A: I’m not a big drinker either. I just plan to work so I can support myself for upcoming tours etc. But, I turn 23 on January 3, so maybe I’ll do something for that.
Lastly, what do you hope 2017 holds for you as Gross Net/Autumns/Fears? Are we monumentally screwed? Where does salvation reside? And are you likely to be living here come December, 2017?
GN: More music as quickly as possible. Perhaps another member/members? More touring. More romance. We’ve always been screwed darling, and shall continue to be so. Love is the answer, our salvation.
F: I’m currently working on my debut album. We might be screwed, but I want to soundtrack the mess.
A: More releases (including my album). More tours, hopefully reaching Australian and American shores. Maybe some new collaborations etc. I hopefully will be somewhere new come this time next year. I hope we can do this interview again to find out what has changed for us all. Ignorance is strength.