Meet the Legend: Jim Fitzpatrick



We recently had the pleasure of chatting with legendary Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick at his home studio in County Dublin, close to Howth. An incredible story this man has to tell, with an energy & creativity that still burns brightly. We discussed his recent work on the logo for young Belfast band, Dea Matrona, how he met Che Guevara which led to him produce one of the most iconic posters in modern history, his friendship with Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, memories of meeting Belfast guitar legend Gary Moore, working with Downpatrick rock trio Ash, his orange & green heritage and his hopes for his paintings someday being used in Belfast to help build respect & understanding across the city. 

(This is an extract from the full article in YEO4. Go grab it if you fancy.)



Lee: How have you maintained your enduring passion for art?

Jim: It never subsides, it just fuckin’ kills me at this point. I’m at the point in my life where I’m taking stock of everything I’ve done. My son runs my blog and he gets me to write a story of each of the ‘Lizzy’ works for instance, and we’re gonna apply that to everything. And I thought, Jesus Christ, I’d need another lifetime to do that. The Lizzy stuff I can do easily, but the Celtic (art) stuff would be a bit of a fuckin’ nightmare cause there’s so much of it. But I have done hundreds of thousands of other works. So I spent yesterday in the attic digging out all the Lizzy files. They are fairly organised, now all over the floor here. I’ve come across three original albums, ‘Vagabonds of the Western World’, and three ‘Johnny the Fox’ pieces I didn’t even know I had. I have a signed ‘Jailbreak’ with Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy. It’s great stuff, but you have to catalogue it all, cause they want me to archive it. My archiver has catalogued all of Martin McDonagh’s scripts, who directed ‘Three Billboards’, and they want to do the same with all of my stuff for an American University.

I want to archive it anyway because it’s just a mess. So that’s what I’ve been doing instead of working, which is what I want to do. My son lives in LA, my daughter is in Milan and we all work together on all this stuff. But the bastard that has to do the most work is me (laughing). I was very smart. When I was doing my Celtic work especially, I photographed everything in advance, all the line work before I painted it, just big photocopies. My daughter is doing colourised versions. I am working with two of the top colourists in America, Eric Hope and Lovern Kindzierski, who actually invented computer colouring for comics.They are working with me on a series of stuff as well. I’ve so many old drawings. I did a series of drawings of ‘Nuada of the The Silver Arm’ in black & white, very detailed, but I never did anything with them. But now Lovern Kindzierski has worked on a few of them and he has just transformed them.

Lee: You have appeal that stretches across generations. For example, you recently designed the artwork for Belfast rock band Dea Matrona. How did that one come about?

Jim: Ah indeed, tell them to give me a buzz, as I have an idea for them. I did a beautiful logo for them, but I don’t think they realised it would be so easy to turn that into a hippie logo using patterns. When I was doing the logo, I do everything in black & white, but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna stay that way. I love the way they dress, total hippy shit! They could be anything they want.
 

I am an honorary Director of a thing called ‘HERstory’ - rewriting history essentially and honouring all of the women that have been overlooked, including a Northerner - Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars, which led to the discovery of Black Holes, at the age of 29 in 1974, I believe. In their wisdom, the Nobel Science Prize was awarded to that discovery, but they gave it to the men, her supervisors, not her. I have since met her and painted her for an exhibition at DCU. So, I just like the idea of a girl rock band. I’d love to see an Irish female rock band do well. I couldn’t care if they were black, white, Catholic or Protestant. Dea Matrona have the talent to do it. They are fuckin’ great players, better than Thin Lizzy were at that time in their career (laughing).


Lee: You met Che Guevara briefly in County Clare in 1961. Can you recall your memories of that meeting?

Jim: I was working as a barman at the Marine Hotel in Clare with my friend Gilbert Brosnan. We were only 16 at the time, earning money for the summer holidays. We were sent down to Kilkee by the Franciscans, to try and earn some money for a pilgrimage to Rome. They wouldn’t allow the rich kids to pay, everyone had to earn the money themselves. Literally, my mother was spending every penny she had putting me through college. One day on a Sunday after mass, I’m standing there at the bar, talking to a regular called Sam, who everybody down there remembers still, who just lived in the bar, and in walked Che Guevara. Being a political animal, educated by Franciscans, who had a huge mission in Latin America and knew the entire story of the Irish diaspora, they greeted him and he was mightily impressed. A charming man, and he turned to me and said, in the course of the conversation, “Well I’m Irish, you know?” That bit got me, I’ve never forgotten that.

Aleida Guevara’s daughter denies that, but I found an old interview with Maureen O’Hara who was a mutual friend of some of ours, Morgan Llywelyn, the writer. O’Hara was doing a movie for John Houston in Havana, and in the hotel where she had her breakfast, Che Guevara came in every morning for a coffee, and would always join her. In the end she said to him, “How do you know so much about the Irish War of Independence?” And he said, “because I’m Irish, and I study it, and I applied those methods in the Sierra Madre mountains.” That’s on the record.

His brother Juan Martin, who’s in his 80s, is being filmed by an Irish filmographer, and two years ago they published a piece on the Internet of Juan Martin being interviewed. I remember him saying that the Guevara family denied the Irish connection for emotional reasons. I don’t think they liked Guevara Lynch, the Da at all, and I don’t think he liked them much. There’s kind of ‘white-laced’ Cubans and ‘shanty’ Cubans, same as there is ‘white-laced’ Irish and ‘shanty’ Irish in Argentina, and never the twain shall meet. Even a revolution can’t fix that. So Juan Martin has come out and said that Guevara Lynch, the father, was immensely proud of the Irish connection, and the Irish & Basque connection, because he was both. But he always said that he much preferred the Irish, because they were more fun and the Basque were too bloody serious (laughing). Sex, drugs and rock n’roll essentially. I think that’s why (the family) don't like the Irish connection, but that’s just a guess on my part.




Lee: The photo by Korda was taken in 1960, but not published until 1967. What were your thoughts when you first saw this iconic photograph and why did you decide to put your own artistic spin on it?

Jim: Well, I’d met Guevara and when he went to Bolivia, I was mightily impressed. I worked in advertising and we used to subscribe to Stern Magazine and a lot of international magazines because that way we could keep up with good layout & good design. Stern Magazine published on their cover a photograph of Guevara taken by himself as ‘Carlos’ (to enter Bolivia), with the hair slicked back, grey, smoking a cigar. I think he shaved the top of his head to look totally bald, and was in a suit. He was a very good photographer himself remember, so he took a picture and Stern Magazine put it on their cover. On the inside of the magazine there was a picture of him riding a mule, dressed in combats. He had gone there to lead a revolution and I was like, ‘Wow!’. It was big news and at that time I was working for ‘Scene’ Magazine doing a series called ‘A Voice In Our Time.’ For the April 1967 edition, I did a full-page cartoon as part of this series. For example, I had done the Reverend Ian Paisley with a big Union Jack behind him denouncing all kinds of shite; Lyndon Johnson and Howard Wilson as his poodle during the Vietnam War. The third one was Che Guevara with the call to arms with Che’s slogan of ‘the rattle of a machine gun’ and so on. And the editor being a very nice Englishman was having none of it and he wouldn’t publish it. So I turned it into my poster from a black & white drawing when he was murdered (in October 1967). That was the first Che Guevara poster anywhere in the world as far as I could see, and that was verified by the 2006 travelling Korda exhibition. Then I was commissioned for an exhibition in May 1968 in London, entitled ‘Vive Che.’ That’s what I did the red and black one for. But the problem was, I also did a full oil painting & the graphic I did for the magazine, and they were all shipped over to England and I never saw them again.

After that, I bought a Nikon camera and I photographed fuckin’ everything I did. It taught me a lesson. The Che Guevara artwork was easy because I had huge paper negatives that are still at home here and I have in the attic. At the last moment, I changed my mind and simply sent them a copy (of the red and black version) of it by post. That became the red and back poster that you know today. And that was ripped off almost immediately. I went over to London three months later, as suddenly, all the phone calls from the exhibition organiser, Peter Mayer had stopped and I was absolutely distraught as I wanted that work back. When I went to London, it was in every poster shop. I remember going into Felix Dennis in OZ (counter-culture magazine), and trying to say to him, “Look, I own the red & black one, we should do it to stop all this.” But he was already doing the Korda photograph which had a sign on it that said ‘copyright Feltrinelli.’  I thought that Feltrinelli was the photographer, the Italian revolutionary who ripped it off, and according to Korda made millions, but Korda never saw any of it. He got the photograph of it from Korda when he was with Jean-Paul Sarte, the philosopher. The two of them went to Korda’s studio and he gave them a print. Feltrinelli promptly went to Italy and ran it off in the millions, and made money from it. He was super-rich himself anyway. It was only years later that Korda realised that I’d actually made his image quite famous (chuckling). I explained to him, via a contact from RTE, that it was an Irish fella that had done the red & black one. That was the first he had heard of it (laughing).

Interestingly, in 2008, Jim announced that he would be signing over the copyright of his Che image to the William Soler Pediatric Cardiology Hospital in Havana, Cuba. Jim was quoted at the time saying,  "Cuba trains doctors and then sends them around the world. I want their medical system to benefit." Additionally, he publicised his desire to gift the original artwork to the Cuban people via the archive run by Guevara's widow, Aleida March.




Lee: Thin Lizzy's 'Vagabonds' album cover is almost 50 years old. It was the first album cover that you designed for the band. Can you tell me some more about that first meeting with Phil Lynott and how the conversation ended up you working as their main illustrator?

Jim: I was doing a lot of work in Dublin at the time, like doing poetry covers for writers and groups. A guy called Eamon Carr, a writer-journalist, who is still around, had two of the poster poems that I did, one of them with his poem on it, pinned to his wall. Philip came in, saw them and said, “Wow, brilliant stuff, West Coast stuff, I love that kind of psychedelic work.” And Eamon said, “no, that’s a local guy, Jim Fitzpatrick.” We had met briefly in Roy Esmonde’s studio when we had our portraits taken at the same time in 1967. We‘d nodded on the stairs, we knew each other to see. When Thin Lizzy was formed, one of Philip’s best friends was an artist called Tim Booth, who was also a friend of mine. Dublin is a very small place. Tim was to do all the Thin Lizzy album covers, and he had designed the first kind of catalogue style Lizzy logo, the one at the top of the ‘Vagabonds’ album, which I made broader. He was in a band called Dr Strangely Strange. You couldn’t make this up. They were under Chris Blackwell of Island Records, one of the first signings he had ever made. And guess who did their first album cover? - Roger Dean, another friend of mine. So, Tim was under contract with Island, Lizzy was with Decca, so he wasn’t allowed to work for them.


So Frank Murray, who I played football with and was Philip’s best friend when they lived together in London decided he was going to introduce Philip to me. Philip hadn’t made the connection between the posters on Eamon Carr’s wall and my work. It took him around ten minutes to kop on, this was the guy who’s work he was admiring. So from that point on we hit it off like a house on fire. That was about 1971, because in 1972 I was over staying with him in London.









FULL ARTICLE IN YEO 4


INTERVIEW:

Talking to ‘Good Friend’

by Natasha Rainey
︎     ︎      



Listen to Good Friend’s ‘The Erin Rose EP’ HERE


Through a wavering internet connection and crackly acoustics appeared a spritely Adam Carroll. The lead singer of Good Friend, sporting a mustard beanie with a matching ring neck t-shirt for our Zoom interview, was unfashionably early but fashionably enthusiastic. The frontman’s aesthetic is apparent at first glance, accentuated by his crossed legs and guitars accompanying in the background – he is a musician first, and a crocodile wrestler second. We’ll get to the crocodile wrestling later…

Good Friend have been busy over lockdown releasing a three-track EP, The Erin Rose, and a new music video for Erin Rose Drinks on Shift depicting a little tussle between the band and Belfast’s toughest wrestlers – of course Game of Thrones’ Hodor made the line-up.

Divided by the Irish Sea, Good Friend are a trio residing between the North Coast and Newcastle. Originating here, Adam said: “the first Good Friend EP was recorded in a holiday house in Portstewart. We did it DIY with a guy called Paddy Trolan. Then we moved over there [Newcastle] to be closer to England. We seemed to be touring the UK a lot more.”

A self-described punk rock band, the lads have not found their demographic in their native Northern Ireland, but Adam said the fanbase is localised in: “surprisingly England or Germany. Germany we’ve got a good support base there, we’ve toured there a few times and every time we’re there we get a really nice reception. And America we do quite well which is weird for a wee band from the North Coast.”

“I don’t think we really get any reception at home.  Maybe because we moved away. I think the music scene wasn’t working in our favour, let’s say, for our style of music and it still doesn’t really. We had to move away to find our scene. I think a lot of bands don’t really get the credit they deserve because of their genre.”

Be it the place, the politics or the poor transport links, us Northies are not ready. But listen up folks, or rather read on, you might just take a liking to Good Friend.

On the road, the band have found success, but the pandemic made sure to cut that short.

Granted normality returns Adam said: “I’m trying to push the idea of a world tour to  the record label just being like, ‘we haven’t toured in two years now, let’s go and do everywhere. Let’s get all the bands on the label and send them out.’ I think it’s a fantastic idea – everything can go wrong with that tour would go wrong but it would make for an amazing adventure and amazing stories…. But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

The sheer spectacle of the singer’s touring reconnaissance was brilliant to watch online. But ultimately a depressing reminder that we are a long way from live gigs being what they used to be.

“We really want to just get straight back into recording, and we don’t want to do the half-assed gigging. We played one show over lockdown and it was fantastic to play a show but there was something strange about playing to a room of people sitting around tables. We probably won’t be able to go back and just play to people and be so close. How they’re gonna stop droplets of spit going from a singer’s microphone and into the crowds I don’t know.”

“I don’t wanna play a show until all hell can break loose again.”


Very on brand, Adam – that rock ‘n’ roll, eh?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but do you know any other punk frontmen going to battle in Florida? This is where the crocodiles come in. I asked where their favourite place to play was, Adam reminisced: “We love playing in Gainesville in Florida. There’s a festival there every year called The Fest and it’s a punk festival all the biggest bands from all over the world play. It’s actually the first festival we played with Stiff Little Fingers, we never got on the same bill as them here.”

“It’s the punk community from all of the world coming together and all your friends’ bands from Austria, or France, or Germany, they’re all in America playing. It’s a real big party weekend – there’s wrestling and all sorts of entertainment. It’s the most inclusive thing ever, everyone’s welcome and everyone’s part of it and it’s just punk rock. If I could be anywhere it’d be there.”

But what goes on offstage?

“I poked a crocodile with a stick. I challenged the crocodile and the crocodile stepped down, let’s just say. We played in Orlando and took a day and went to the Orlando wetlands, it’s a conservation area now and they just let things grow and let the wildlife takeover. Nature intended me to challenge this alligator and this alligator to look me in the eye and go, ‘Not today Carroll, not today’.”

The theatrics of Adam go beyond large reptiles as he further declared: “Like, I’ve challenged Nazis and everything. I asked them in the Orlando Weekly to come down to the show so I could beat the shit out of them.”

Presently, there’s much more facing male musicians. Beyond fighting crocodiles and Nazis, the conduct of some men in the industry has gone into increased scrutiny following a shocking number of allegations relating to sexual assault over the past few years.

Toxic masculinity has become a somewhat staple for taglines around ‘sex, drug and rock ‘n’ roll’ that is ultimately used to defend the behaviour of so-called rock stars. However, it is unclear if this toxicity has extended to punk in the same way.

Adam said: “I was attracted to punk because it was always quite feminine, you could be whoever you wanted to be in punk, it didn’t matter if you’re gay or straight or bi, or it didn’t matter where you were born or what colour your skin was, it was always about the music and unity and freedom. That was the kind of punk I fell in love with.”

“I think through the 80s there was quite an aggressive masculine hardcore scene where it was just muscly topless men punching the shit out of each other and I think it gave punk a bad rap.”


“But to me punk was never about that. It was the opposite, bands like Nirvana, standing up for strong women that had positive influences on their life. Like we’re the same guys who were bullied in school for being into music and poetry!”

Outside of his musicianship, Adam is a self-professed feminist, he implored the role of masculinity in general: “I think in certain ways masculinity is in crisis overall. I don’t think there’s any real direction or strong male leads taking a role in a way feminism has. Men need to strive to be the best they can be alongside women, in creating a better world for everybody.”

Going on to jibe me right where it hurt, Adam continued: “It’s interesting because I’m a feminist, I believe in equality, but I hear really dangerous rhetoric at the same time, coming from both sides. A strange one was a cover of your very magazine, with the “Boys are Shite” …. I thought it was a pretty reckless cover in a country where the young male suicide rate is higher than most of Europe, to have on the front of your magazine. I think it reaffirms the negative and it’s not really positive for young males, especially those supporting equality.” 

After a reflective look down to my keyboard while cradling my ego, it was time for the last question. Who is the goodest friend?

“They are both very good boys. They are the boys who will look after you when you’re very drunk in Philadelphia at 3am wandering the streets not knowing how to get home. They’re the two guys you want with you to get you home. They are the goodest friends.”

We were going to introduce an annual Halloween gig in which we became Bad Friends. We just go on stage and are dicks to each other and dicks to the crowd, just insulting everybody; play our songs but metal versions, change the words to be absolutely horrible - rather go on stage and smile we’d go on stage and cry. It would just mix things up you know.”

Failing to address himself, I will presume Adam is the baddest friend.

Watch Good Friend’s new music video for Erin Rose Drinks on Shift here

Stream Good Friend’s new EP The Erin Rose here via Red Scare



Kalla released his second single ‘Feel That Way’ in late November  and we spoke to him about some of the ideas behind the feel-good number, mental health and making it in the music business as an independant.



So what’s the craic man, how’s it going?


I’ve been really busy, to be honest! So the song [‘Feel That Way’] was made a few months ago, and that was all ready to go – but last minute I thought, ‘I’ve gotta change it up’. I was going to literally pull the song and replace it with the song that I was making at the time, so last-second I thought I would just leave it, but do an updated one later on as another release. Besides that, I’ve been doing some behind-the-scenes stuff – video content, live performances sort of like the Colours shows, acoustic stuff.

Well congrats on the new single ‘Feel That Way’ - your second release came out yesterday. Absolutely great tune, a good blast of sunshine in these dark times. So what was the story behind the changing of the mix coming up to the release?

So the first song, ‘It Be How It Be’, was supposed to be like, you’re in a situation, you’re in the shit at the moment, and you’ve just got to accept that and get going. ‘Feel That Way’ is a more intimate look at what it’s really like to be in the moment of depression. It’s got the whole fanfare, and it’s got the positive vibes, it is a blast of sunshine and that was done deliberately – because if you pick apart the lyrics, each line is actually poignant and talks about how I feel, so it’s very personal. The reason why I wanted to change the mix was because it didn’t feel personal, and the way it was handled didn’t really reflect the message and it didn’t feel like me enough. So last minute I was like: ‘right, we’re gonna change the song and we’re gonna put it out’. I love both versions, to be honest, but I’m going to put out an EP in early-to-mid 2021, and I’m going to put out the new mix on the EP and celebrate both versions. The EP is going to be something different, you’re not going to hear music like this – it’s got jazz, it’s got hip-hop, but it’s got guitar as well. There’s a song on there that kind of reminds me of Carlos Santana or something. It’s just different, the music is a breath of fresh air. I’m really excited for all these songs to come out.

Well, we’re excited to hear it as well. And what were these changes that you made to ‘Feel That Way’ that you felt were more personal to you?

There were some decisions that I wanted to make that were kind of passed up, and I felt like it was really rushed. The next mix will be way jazzier, and it will have more feel to it. It will be more of a vibe, I feel like ‘Feel That Way’ really hits, but ‘Feel That Way 2.0’ is just really a VIBE. It’s got piano and strings in it, different harmonies, and it has a big dirty sax solo as well.

Oh yeah, can’t wait to hear that.

You can’t go wrong with it. The thing is, I wanted ‘Feel That Way’ to be the introduction, and with the EP and the next song, I want it all to be a progression. I think that’s important, because the actual lyrics are all poetry. It all starts with my notebook, and I just write poems and then just put music to the poems.

I have loads of these notebooks just full of stuff. Obviously, it won’t always be a song - I might just be on the bus and a couplet will come to my head, then I’ll write it down and later on piece it all together. The in-between bits are how I feel in the moment. I might have the beginnings of a chorus, and then I’ll start to think: ‘OK what is this chorus saying to me?’ That’s actually how ‘Feel That Way’ started, I had the hook in my head – ‘get up, get dressed, feel good no stress’ – I was in bed and just couldn’t get up, and was thinking, ‘why do I feel this way?’ I know that might seem cheesy or very convenient, but I wrote that and that’s what got me out of bed.

So it’s almost like a self-therapeutic process for you?

Yeah – I think music is supposed to be like that, it’s supposed to connect to the soul. Good music connects, you know?

Absolutely. That’s what I was going to ask about the song [‘Feel That Way’]; obviously the music itself is very punchy and uplifting, but then the lyrics touch on mental health and the struggles that it brings. What kind of role does mental health play in your music, in terms of the sound and the creative process?

It’s actually really tricky – even talking about it now, it feels like it’s a taboo to talk about. I think that opening up is one of the hardest things to do. I couldn’t do it in person, so I would have to write it down to internalize what was going on. If you look back at the first single, it’s the exact same thing. See, I love writing in contrasts, so there’s always a layer under what you actually get in person. I love music that’s upbeat, but the problem with upbeat music is sometimes it’s just cheesy, it doesn’t really say anything and I want to make sure that I’m saying something. So mental health has a massive role – it genuinely is the guts of everything I write about. There are a few love songs and stuff, but love songs actually say something as well. It might not be a love for a person, it might be a love for the feeling itself, and that feeling is obviously a mental state as well. So a lot of it speaks that and hopefully breaks the taboo of talking about mental health. I feel like if you’re upfront about it, then someone else is going to be. Someone else is going to think ‘If he can talk about that, then what’s wrong with me writing it down or having a chat about it’, you know? I wish I had that music to listen to and connect to, and I did in a sense, but not in the direct sense of being like, ‘I am struggling’ or ‘I have struggled and it’s okay’ – I think that’s a really important message to spread. If someone thinks that’s a bate out thing to say, I don’t care. It makes me feel good.

Yeah, mental health is obviously very important, especially now, and opening up is probably the most difficult aspect about it, so doing that through music and encouraging other people to do that is class. You said earlier that your lyrics come from you just writing poetry, is that where you would start in terms of crafting a song? Lyrics first and then making the music around them?

Typically yes, usually it comes very quick; it’s done in bursts. I collect the words and stuff, and the music just flows out. Music really is just feelings - you’ve got the major and the minor, happy and sad, and within those you have the different sorts of feelings. What you can do through the process of elimination is ask, ‘what are these words saying?’ what is that music saying? Do they match up?’ And then when you get the groove or the feeling of the song you can start to add layers, so like ‘what’s the saxophone gonna say?’, and the saxophone is essentially another voice, and that’s the same with the other instruments, so they can bring attention to what the words are saying at different parts. The guitar is basically filling the spaces where the words aren’t there, and the beat is like the life of the song. The bass ties in with the drums and the guitar, so there’s actually a lot to it but it’s a very natural process. Within the first ten minutes if you don’t have something going, then that idea’s not working. That’s how it works for me, but that being said – months and months of words…just words go in there until it’s actually a real thing.

There’s a lot going on in the tracks – you talk about the sax and the guitar – in this latest single there’s a prominent brass section, how are you collecting all these sounds together in terms of the production? You were speaking in a video you made about learning more about production, is that a skill you’ve been trying to hone?

Yeah well, in March I made a decision to be more like Tom Misch as an artist – he’s a massive massive influence. He put out his B tapes when he was younger, and then recorded his first record himself, ‘Geography’. So I made a decision to basically cut out the middleman, because what I was finding as an independent artist…there were a lot of variables that you’re paying for if you go to a record label. I decided I can’t make my music at the moment, therefore, I’m not as proficient of a musician as I am right now, so I need to put myself in an uncomfortable position and go through all that. It’s taken months and months for me to get just pretty good at it. I’m by no means an expert, and I find it hard to mix my own songs simply because I often think that there’s something I don’t know here and there. Sometimes you do need a helping hand; luckily I found those people to help, but in terms of the producing aspect I use a lot of samples of different stuff. These previous songs I’ve just been using the computer, using Splice for the production and Logic for the drums. For the next songs, I’ve been working in the background to find a real live band – I got a keys player to play those parts, a real jazz-head guitarist. Like…this guy can play. He picks up the slack; I play the guitar parts on all my records, but for that live stuff there are parts where I need to do the spoken-word bits, or rap or sing, and I can’t do all of this stuff at the same time. The saxophone player, the trumpeter, the bassist and the drummer…I’m literally the worst musician in the room, by a good bit, and when I record them that comes out. I have some songs ready for this upcoming project, and they are shit-hot. They make me sound good! The saxophone player has played in Europe, and the sax isn’t even his main thing – he’s a cellist and he plays in orchestras and stuff, and I’m sitting here like an eejit! But it’s good fun, and that’s what matters. In terms of the production side, we’re now moving towards the live aspect, so less samples, but we’re trying to get a nice mix of both.

And how did this coming together of musicians come about?

Funny story actually - you know the way Ed Sheeran does that one-man-band thing? I tried to do that for a long time and it was kind of working, but what it ended up being was just me playing guitar, so I was almost hidden a bit within the song; I wasn’t stepping out and being the front man and developing that aspect. After trying to play by myself I found that I didn’t really have this rhythm to make it a one-person thing. I was doing an open mic in The American Bar, and I went upstairs and seen the jazz night on a Sunday and I just thought ‘this is wild’, and then I went downstairs and played my pre-recorded drum loops and was like ‘this is not the same, I need to be with them people!’ So I just made some connections; the guitarist was a friend of a friend, and I met the bassist by accident on a night out last year; I told him I was looking for a bass player and he just said ‘I play the bass!’ The saxophone player I already knew, and I’ve recently been talking to a keys player, so it was all very natural. There have been a few variations of different lineups, so I’ve just been trying to find the right fit. The band changes faces a lot and it just keeps getting better, but I think we’re at a place now where I feel it is what I had in mind, and they can do their thing – from there it’s like structured improvisation.

You were saying you have been doing video content - like what you would see on ‘Colors’ – where this live aspect comes out, tell me a bit more about that.

Yea well, I was in the Blackstaff for like six hours the other day recording with a filmmaker. I’ve got a lyric breakdown, a ‘story so far’ video, a musician tag where I answer questions, ‘ten songs that influence me’, and another Q&A video. As well as that, I’ve got an acoustic performance of ‘Feel That Way’, which is a completely different vibe – it’s kind of a mashup with a Lana Del Rey song. It changes it where the song is now talking about someone, as in ‘don’t feel that way for you’. I really enjoyed doing that, and I’ll definitely be doing more of them.

Happy days. You’ve obviously taken on multiple creative roles in making your music – the production as well as singing and the guitar. Now that you’re doing all this at the same time, are there any particular aspects of the process that you’re finding yourself enjoying more than you would’ve thought?

I feel like the role of the businessman, like actually running it as a business, has become more and more alluring. So, if you’re putting out a magazine, you can charge for that product yourself any price depending on your audience; but the problem that we have as musicians, is that our price has been set. We have to do so much selling for something that’s not our product, to then sell our product. I think we get paid something like 0.0003p per stream, so it’s just not viable to be a musician financially, unless you’re selling out arenas. I’ve been trying to find a way to become financially stable through music – and I haven’t done it yet – but I’ve been enjoying trying to find ideas to do it. I wanted to stay away from that before. I wanted to be, ‘The Artist’, and just be all about my art and that’s it, but at the same time I don’t want to go and work a job that I hate just to fund my art. Everyone’s in that position at some stage in their life: ‘I don’t wanna do this, but…’ So, I’m trying to get rid of the ‘I don’t want to do this’ and just do the ‘but’.

 What do you think has led you to making that type of music, and has growing up in Belfast influenced how you make your music at all?

Well, a lot of people don’t know this but I actually come from a mixed-race heritage – I do look like a white guy, but my dad isn’t white. Living in Belfast shaped that, because of my dad and his musical influences. I didn’t really listen to U2 or whatever, or 90s rock – I listened to 70s soul and funk. I feel like if I hadn’t, under those circumstances, I don’t think I’d be able to spread the message that I try to spread; coming from that background I’ve had to go through a lot of shit. That just comes with the territory. Growing up in Belfast has had both positive and negative experiences, and that’s not just a race thing – that has basically defused into the religion or sectarianism thing as well, that’s inherent. That negative experience has basically shaped us, but more personally, the music from my dad’s side has shaped my musical preferences and style; I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the likes of George Benson, Jimi Hendrix, and all those African-American and UK artists that came out of that struggle. I’m Indian - I don’t have African descent but I feel like I connect with those artists and I wouldn’t be here without them. In terms of Belfast and my music – you were saying my music is more on the funky side and stuff, but I have a hard time putting a button on it and what it actually is, because I don’t even know. I get that it’s maybe cutting-edge in terms of the Northern Irish music scene, but to be honest, I think that music just isn’t celebrated enough here. If it had more eyes on it there would be more like the Belfast Busking Band, more like Honest Numbers. There are jazz-cats in Belfast, but there’s only one jazz club. There are lots of buskers and people in the streets doing it, and we need to look towards those people to grow the scene.

Yeah definitely, there’s plenty of it here, have you any recommendations for us?

There’s a lot: Space Entertainment – a hip-hop group, Lacuna Raps – he put out a banging song out recently, Superfly Soul & Funk – a record label, The Organauts…there is more than just singer-songwriters and rock bands. The heritage here is obviously rich for those genres and its inherent – we bring the folk side and the punk, which has obviously been a massive part of growing up here – but as we as a people begin to diversify, culture diversifies too. I can’t wait to see in ten years time, in twenty years time…what’s it gonna be like!? It will be sick.

Absolutely man. You were saying that you find it difficult to put a label on your music – that’s something that I found as well. Your first two singles are similar in some ways, but they’re also not at the same time. I thought that ‘Feel That Way’ really had almost a dance music sound to it. With such an eclectic style of music, what genres would you say influence you most?

That’s really hard for me to say. One of the things that I left off the list of ‘big genres’ is house music, dance music. That’s a massive part of the scene here as well – but I used to think ‘that’s for smicks’, or whatever. I recently did a production course and some of it was to produce house music, which is something I really wasn’t into at all. On the third day I just thought ‘house is shit’, and then on the fourth I was like ‘house is class!’ But my music is a mix of everything – my problem is how do you market that? I take jazz, funk, soul, and the songs are actually produced like house songs. There’s the ‘four on the floor’ at the end of ‘Feel That Way’, and that’s done just because people like that – it’s like a hearbeat. In turns of genre, there isn’t one; I love blues and jazz and all of those cultures, and I love mixing them. Hopefully I’m doing them all justice by making them all one thing.

Yeah, I would say that’s definitely one of the strongest points of your music that you’re able to blend these different genres into your own sound. So about your new EP – have you got a date set for it, and what can we expect to hear?

There’s no date as of yet, but I’m looking to put out another song in January. I want to play at festivals next year – I was supposed to book for festivals coming, but obviously they were all cancelled. But now I want to get eyes-on for gigs being booked in February, so that’s the main goal. I’m looking towards the summer because I want to get festivals on my résumé. EP will hopefully be released around May time, so kind of summertime – because the songs will all be summer vibes!


CHECK OUT ‘FEEL THAT WAY’ HERE:

︎ SPOTIFY






Heart Shaped - ‘Second Hand’





Heart Shaped releases a charming punk E.P. this Friday named ‘Second Hand’.

The alias of Belfast based, Houston native Kendall Bousqeut, provides the perfect soundtrack to an American high school drama, in the best way possible. Combining a punk ethos with power-pop lyrics and melodies, she explores the fear of the unknown that spawned from her young relationship with guitar.

“I was thinking about why it took me so long to play guitar, not because I wasn’t interested in it, it was always something I wanted to do but it was something I wanted to do so badly it was almost embarrassing? I think sometimes when you want something so badly it can feel a bit shameful or vulnerable? That’s what a lot of the song writing on Second Hand is exploring, this premise of things going well can almost be scarier than if you tell yourself you’re going to fail. Whether it’s learning a new skill or being vulnerable in a relationship or whatever, it just felt like a theme throughout the project.”

The process of the E.P. has journeyed across the Atlantic, “The title track ‘Second Hand’, I wrote just before going home to Houston for Christmas last year and was jamming with my friend Alex, and he kind of came up the bassline for the verse” and while finding the isolation of lockdown a change of pace from her previous musical endeavours, Kendall still cherished working with other people in spite of being relatively new to the city.

“I totally welcome the collaborative and DIY effort I made with friends. I had always played in bands, I love the collaborative aspect of bands and the comradery, I just feel like I’m someone who always wants to be in a band and when I moved over and had just started to get my footing in Belfast but I kind of didn’t really know enough people to start a band? So I just decided to do a bit more of a personal project because I want to put something out there and waiting around for the band of my dreams it’s definitely not going to happen! I feel I went backwards a little bit but hopefully one day there will be a full Heart Shaped band!”

The E.P. is being released on Poison Moon Records, a Houston based label of which she says; “On the one hand I think that everything they put out is so good and I listen it all the time but they’re also really close friends of mine, s it’s kind of a win-win because I love being able to have friends involved. They’re so supportive and invested in wanting the project to be reflective of my intentions!”

‘Second Hand’ is a perfectly timed E.P. and captures a real sense of urgency from inertia.With the lack of live shows to promote the project, Kendall is smartly using her eclectic radio show on The 343 Radio to host a listening party where she’ll be playing some of her influences along with the tape.


Make sure you buy a copy of ‘Second Hand’ on Bandcamp which will also be available on casette!


︎Listen to single ‘Sometimes’ here





 A Conversation with

Carl From The Office

 




Carl From The Office released his home produced track ‘What’s Going On’ in the early days of lockdown, we had a chat with him about what it was like learning to record and produce during a pandemic and how full fat Coke could be the silver lining we all need.



How’s the creative drive been coping during this global pandemic we have found ourselves in?

All good mate!! It was actually really good for me because what was holding me back from making music was going out and drinking all the time. When I’m hungover it just saps me of all creative output. I mean, it is like it's one of those old, fucking clichés but it’s really not true. It's a complete fallacy that all you have to be doing drugs and drinking all the time. It just ruins you mate, you just go obsolete. You're not gonna make anything like that. You’re just gonna sit there shaking and drinking Lucozade.I mean like you maybe could write music, but record music? Setting up mics and all that sorta gear is just not happening when I’m hungover.

So did you record your latest release all by yourself then?

Yeah ‘What’s Going On’ was the first song I put up that I recorded but I have a few more here waiting to be released but yeah all recorded by myself while I was teaching myself to produce at the same time, while also teaching myself to play the drums. I got this drumkit like 15 years ago off my mates’ big brother and it’s just some sort of starter kit from Dawsons so were talking like £100 back then. They sound pretty dire.

Fair play mate, I find drumming’s a tough thing to learn...

Aye it’s all muscle memory like, if you start overthinking it you’ll just slip out of it straight away, definitely have to be a different breed for it.

Listening to the lyrics in ‘What’s Going On’ it seems like your sense of humour is fully on show, has your homemade sitcom and radio personality informed your song writing or is that just natural?

 Ah you know, I’ve always been that way from school, the funny person, it’s been my defence mechanism. I like making people laugh and in terms of music, I like artists who don’t take themselves too seriously and can have a bit of a laugh with it. I don’t see the point in taking life too seriously all the time. But yeah, everything I do I like making comedy and stupid shit that people might think is weird and a wee bit out there. I just think it adds something extra to the entertainment before we all die.

So where did the name Carl from the Office come from?

 Well I mainly listen to hip hop and I wanted something to reflect me, but I can’t really write anything about the themes they do because I don’t live that life. So I just kept it real because my life is just doing a boring office job.

I feel you could make the jump into gangster rap, you could do it well.

 I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one, I couldn’t do it any justice. 

Fair enough, so what’s on the horizon for non-rapper Carl From The Office?

I’ve got a few things I’m sitting on, a few things that will get released sooner than others.I was saying about learning to produce while I was doing it so some things have came out and it’s been ok but not really something I want to post because it’s not really my vibe, or I feel I haven’t done it justice with the end result. I have got a few things that me and my mate Doyler have been producing in the backburner to be released on the C.F.T.O page. I think he’s literally about to release another song next week.

I look forward to it. Hard question time: What’s the best thing in the world right now?

The best thing in the world?

The best thing in the world right now.

The best thing in the world right now is probably full fat Coke. The only reason I get up in the morning is for that full fat fizz. Is there anything better? I’m not talking that diet nonsense either. If I was in a desert island right now and someone came up and gave me an ice-cold glass of Diet Coke, you know what I would do? I’d throw it as far as could and tell them to fuck off. I’d rather die then drink my own piss afterwards somehow.

Check out Carl from the Office’s facebook :
https://www.facebook.com/Carl-from-the-Office-113980530312074


Listen to Carl From The Office’s new single ‘What’s Going on’ here:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrobc6PxfNo