Hailing from the west of Ireland, John of the Apocalypse (JotA) formed last year and released their debut single 'Take That Technology' in December. Their sound has been described as 'folk inflicted, dark experimentalia', with samples and spoken word woven into atmospheric and primitive alt-folk songs. Touchstones include Grandaddy, Elliott Smith, Wilco and Sparklehorse. Their follow up single - Newborn - was delivered just last week.
NM: We were all glad to see the back of 2020... but in launching JotA you must have been pretty damn determined to make something of the time. Is this, more than any time in recent past, the time to be creative and to create?
PH: Yeah, the songs of JotA were burning a hole in my pocket so to speak. And we were really fortunate to get the drums recorded in a studio just before the lockdown hit. So we had the foundation to build on for myself and Steve to record the rest of the tracks. I was really grateful to have creative work to pursue. Especially as I know it's been really tough for a lot of artists in Ireland this year.
In terms of adapting to the pandemic - I think yes, while it is restrictive, it has also offered the opportunity for more inward, soul work, in any form. I've had some very soulful conversations with people who are getting a breather from the hamster wheel and re-evaluating their purpose and way of being in life. While this can be disorienting and scary, I think there can be great potential in it too. Facing death, illness, fear and loss can be real catalysts for creativity in any form, as an expression of pure aliveness!
NM: And how about 2021... you are set to release the debut EP in a few months. Is there a tour on the cards or is it a case of play it by ear?
PH: Definitely a play it by ear scenario for now. But I'm cautiously optimistic that towards the latter half of 2021 there will be live gig opportunities again. Which will be a great relief from both a fan and musician point of view. I have sorely missed not getting to live shows. But in the broader scheme of the burden of pandemic suffering, it is a small cross to bear. My main focus now is an album's worth of songs I'm whittling away at, so I want to jump into that more fully once The Sacred Animal EP has been birthed on Good Friday April 2nd (*plug!)
NM: Take that technology - would you say this is aimed more at those of have fallen victim to its charms, or at technology itself for backing us into a corner? And what´s your relationship with it - love/hate?
PH: I like this question cos I think you've caught the ambiguity of the whole 'technology' issue. I'm certainly pointing the finger inward at my own relationship with technology. It's such a formative part of who we are now, as individuals and as a collective, we're all part machine. And it brings many blessings obviously. The pandemic has really shown that. I can join a group of people from around the world and connect with brilliant teachers and grow and learn in ways that were impossible before. But on the darker side, I can use technology to numb myself, in an addictive way that leaves me feeling powerless. And it's so freely available and ingeniously designed to create hooks and algorithmic profiles and trackers that harness the compulsive dopamine centres in our brains. The major currency of today is consciousness - clicks and attention. So Take That Technology was a somewhat tongue in cheek, call to my-self to wake up and reconnect more with the simple joys of nature, people, to become more present and alive and break some of the conditioned techno-neural patterns that don't serve me. A work in progress!
NM: I was delighted to have had a sneak preview of the follow up single "Newborn" which is now out.. delighted too that poetry takes centre stage. Is this a one-off or will poetry/spoken word continue to play a part in JotA music?
PH: The words for Newborn kind of stumbled out as I was working on the song, which was originally going to be an instrumental piece. They felt intuitively right and I didn't double guess them too much. Looking at them now, I can see the story that was developing. I heard a great Rilke quote today from a very wise woman - "You must give birth to the images. They are the future waiting to be born".
Recording the vocal as spoken word was also was just a gut intuition, what the track seemed to be calling for. I definitely lean more towards vocal melody in general but there are some amazing spoken word / music pieces out there - like Whipping Boy for example, some of Tindersticks work, Nick Cave has dabbled, Arab Strap, James Yorkston. And when it is done effectively, I really love it. There is one other track written for the next album that is spoken word also, though I fall back on my melody warbling for the other songs.
NM: It´s hard to pin a genre to the music - is that a good thing or a bad thing and do you think the sound will continue to evolve?
PH: It's something I was aware of for this record, as my music has been critiqued for being too diverse or 'eclectic'. But overall I'm moving more towards allowing whatever expression is seeking to come through and trust in that. A song or any creative work doesn't come from the conscious mind. And I'm acknowledging more and more how songwriting is not a personal process - me as Patrick writing a song - it's me as Patrick listening in to the void, to create the right space for a song to come through. This may be completely out of line with the 'style' of the last song I wrote, but that's not for me to question. The more I tinker with preconceptions or self-conscious ego ideas, even subtly, the more energy is depleted from it. In saying that though, I obviously need to consciously shape the record sonically and thematically after the writing and it is something I consider, how to weave sonic threads throughout a piece and create a story. But ultimately I want to let the daimon decide as much as possible what will emerge! That's where the gold is for me..
John of the Apocalypse - music can be found by clicking HERE
on Spotify or on Youtube!
Originally from Massachusetts, USA, Vienna-based Deirdre Brenner is a musician with a passion for chamber music and art song. She has performed in venues including the Wiener Musikverein (Vienna), Wiener Konzerthaus (Vienna), The Kennedy Center (Washington, DC), Teatro Real (Madrid), Philharmonie Essen, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Stadthalle (Bayreuth), the National Concert Hall (Dublin), St. Martin-in-the-Fields (London) and the Hollywell Music Room (Oxford).
In demand as both a teacher and coach, Deirdre is currently on the faculty of the Anton Bruckner Privatuniversität in Linz, and IES Abroad in Vienna. She is co-founder of the brilliant Boyne Music Festival in Drogheda, Ireland, as well as the innovative concert series Mosaïque in Vienna. Her latest project - Hourglass- was launched in 2020.
NM: It's been a crazy year. But you still chose to launch the Hourglass concert series in the middle of it all. Was that a matter of "no time like the present" or just testing the water?
DB: To be honest, I think it was more impulsive than anything else. Last March, in the span of a very short period, all events shut down in Austria and gradually internationally as well. As a pianist, that meant a loss of not only performance work, but also a loss of the beautiful social connection that happens through performances. Live music takes its breath from these connections... connections between performers and audience, as well as connections among the audience. These connections create a powerful energy and a special sense of community.
There was a small window of time during the summer and early autumn where it looked like "socially distanced concerts" would be the way forward. I decided to launch Hourglass as a way to surf that opportunity. The idea was to present hour-long programs in Brick-5, a gorgeous space which offers the possibility to arrange seats at safe distances while also maintaining a sense of intimacy. These concerts would be paired with an optional brunch either before or after the concert. The goal was to create a flexible covid-friendly performance platform while also restoring some of our lost community.
Our first concert in October was received with overwhelming joy, but just a week later the next lockdown went into effect. I'm hoping that once things open up again that we can continue where we left off....
NM: You are a very busy person in general, in my opinion.... If you're not playing a recital, you are organizing a concert or even a festival. This year obviously threw a spanner in the works, but was that at least time to recharge your batteries or work on another project?
DB: More like 2349837 spanners. I have to admit, it's been a challenging year. We've watched our profession dissolve into the unknown and it's been hard to figure out if we need to practice patience, or if it's time to start finding/creating other kinds of work. I can't say I have figured it out.
As you know, I founded the Boyne Music Festival in Ireland in 2013 with two of my cousins, Aisling and Julie-Anne Manning. It's a summer festival which brings together chamber music, poetry and song alongside a host of other events. Like most events last summer, we had to cancel due to the pandemic, but the time created in the void of other cancelled work has given us the opportunity to devote more energy to planning the future of the festival. We're navigating our way through some structural changes at the moment with the hopes of setting ourselves up for growth in the years to come. I can't exactly thank corona for this opportunity, but we are very excited about the future indeed.
NM: What has it been like working with Zoom and other technologies and do you think that in the future artists might integrate them into tours and live performances?
DB: If there's one thing we know about our connection to technology, it's that our engagement tends to increase over time. I can't imagine that these new modes of connection are simply going to go away once we are allowed to sit in the same room with each other again. I would imagine that we'll see hybrid trends going forward. Perhaps concerts and tours with the potential for additional viewers from home in certain instances. However, recording/streaming generally comes at an additional cost and it's hard to know if the money will be there to support such ventures in the future.
There have been a few instances over the last year when I have really appreciated the power of Zoom & friends. A large number of conferences and training programs which I would normally not be able to attend (mostly for geographical reasons) went digital. This opened up the possibility to learn and connect in new ways. I feel my professional circles expanding internationally and have found that growth quite interesting.
NM: What can we expect from Hourglass next year or are you just winging it for now?
Expectation is a word I tread on lightly these days. The short answer is that I don't know. I'm bursting to make music again though and look forward to the day when I can rehearse with colleagues without accompanying feelings of fear, guilt or futility. If we transition back into a phase where socially distanced concerts are permissible, then I imagine we'll open the floodgates to all kinds of heart opening programs. I'd love to see Hourglass offer a series of concerts in the spring / summer... but only time will tell.
Follow @hourglasskonzerte and @boynemusicfestival on Instagram to keep up with plans for 2021...
Michael McGriff is an author, editor, and translator. He was born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon, and studied creative writing at the University of Oregon, The Michener Center for Writers, and Stanford University. He is the co-author, with J. M. Tyree, of the linked story collection Our Secret Life in the Movies, which was selected as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. His poetry collections include Eternal Sentences, Early Hour, Black Postcards, Home Burial, and Dismantling the Hills. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Poetry, Bookforum, The Believer, Tin House, American Poetry Review, Poetry London, and on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and PBS NewsHour. His latest collection, Eternal Sentences, was selected by Billy Collins as the winner of the 2021 Miller Williams Poetry Prize.
NM: Let’s get straight down to business - new book coming out in a few weeks - can you say a little bit about it or how it came to be?
MM: This is a different kind of book for me: all the poems are short and each line is a single sentence. I'd come to a point of being more than a little tired of my recent work, which tends toward the dense and dreamy and tortuous. Like all the writers, I gaze longingly over the fence and yearn for the poems I can't write. In this case, the desire was to write a stripped-down, short, understated poem that wasn't afraid to retain a spirit of mystery. Yannis Ritsos is one of my heroes. He's been heckling me from the bookshelf for twenty years, challenging me to stop hiding behind pyrotechnics and a certain kind or ornamental poetics. But why the line as a single sentence? The answer is pretty unromantic--I was reading Larry Brown. In his story "Boy and Dog" from Facing the Music, each paragraph comprises a single, short sentence. It looks like a skinny poem on the page, yet it's an utterly devastating and direct work of fiction. Facing the Music is Brown's first book, and it shines with the swagger, experimentation, and "fuck-it" attitude that tends to make early works so alive and unapologetic. It hides behind nothing and says everything. It looks its drama square in the eye and says it like it is. I took it as a challenge to try to translate that formal element--and that spirit of writing--into a poem. I suppose at the back of it all is the social media zeitgeist, where language is corrupted into a system of yes or no, like or dislike, praise or kill. It's a system that rewards grandstanding and violence and the weaponization of the very building blocks of poetry. It's far too romantic and stupid to say that Eternal Sentences is a kind of reclamation project. But it's also true that the age we're in is deeply cynical and dangerous--even the poets and democracy advocates have signed up to abuse one another in the public popularity contests our cultures have become. When I was writing this book, I decidedly took my dearest subjects and tried to give them the clearest language: poverty, violence, class, family, and the post-industrial, rural American landscape of my childhood. I wanted to be honest, direct, and unadorned. What's also true is that this was never "a book I was working on." Rather, this collection represents more of a laboratory experiment. I didn't send this work out to journals. I didn't share the poems with trusted poetry friends. I wrote them for an audience of one, really. I'm also growing dreadfully bored of talking about myself. Like all writers, I bumble along in the dark and hope something sticks. This book is carnival mirror for who I was during the time I wrote it.
NM: I wrote a review of Early Hour on this blog and implied that your physical surroundings are one of your biggest muses. Was I right? Or does the muse evolve with experience/time/kids/financial hardship/ etc.?
MM: The poet Alexandra Teague asked me recently what my current book project is about and I said something like: "Ya know, same-o same-o: family river horse dream landscape simile crow." That pretty much sums it up. I'm entirely moored to place (rural Oregon). As it happens, that place is an American logging town on the other side of its economic heyday. I grew up in the woods. I lived there for the first 20 years of my life. We were poor, though I never felt that way. We lived in a house. We lived on land that has been in my family for generations. I felt like an insider--I was another face with a known last name that belonged to an industry. All my memories--those mythic, important memories from childhood--belong there. All of my mother and father's memories belong there...and so on and so on, back through the family tree. It's likely why I'm drawn to the poems of Ted Hughes and C.D. Wright and Larry Levis and Charles Wright; they write through the personal and into the mythic. My myths include the landscape itself. It's why I'm so drawn to figuration. I'll spend the rest of my days strumming up similes for the gray light that hangs over those waters and logging ridges.
NM: I’ve always thought - and I’m sure many people have thought this - if you’re going to be an actor you need to live in LA, a musician in New York, an artist in Berlin... what about a poet? For one year, where would you base yourself if you could?
MM: Assuming I had a vaccine in my arm and Euros to burn, I'd happily fly to you! Vienna! I could drink that coffee and traipse around there forever (or for a year). No matter where I've been I've only ever written about my childhood landscapes. Like everyone in lockdown, I've filled a good portion of my days wishing I were elsewhere and in a different time.
NM: Ha! You´re not alone there! This lockdown has definitely seen our imaginations wander a bit more. In terms of wandering and the new book - are you normally one to do a reading tour to promote it? Given the current situation - what’s the plan?
MM: Nah. I'm likely a publisher's nightmare. I don't promote my work or give many readings. It may turn out that the pandemic will look like any other year for me, in terms of my getting out there with a new book. I'm fairly private and quiet, these days.
NM: If you could superimpose your name onto the cover of one book as the author - which book would you choose and why?
MM: Well, if you're asking about book design, please slap my name on the cover of ANY Penguin or New Directions book from the 60s or 70s. If you're asking about a book I wished I could have written, that would likely have to be Larry Levis's The Dollmaker's Ghost. Or Malena Mörling's Ocean Avenue or Frank Stanford's The Singing Knives or...
New York based, Cork born songwriter Niall Connolly has released 8 studio albums, a live album and an EP. His latest album ‘Dream Your Way Out of This One’ features collaborations with his long term NYC band as well as guest appearances from Glen Hansard (Once, The Frames, The Swell Season) Javier Más ( Leonard Cohen’s band) and Deni Bonet (REM, Cyndi Lauper, Sarah McLachlan). Connolly has toured all over Europe and the US including festival appearances at Glastonbury, CMJ, Prague Fringe Festival, Acoustic Festival Düsseldorf, Cork Folk Festival and Cuala NYC. He has opened for Glen Hansard, Lisa Hannigan, Lucius, Evan Dando, Eugene Kelly, Lambchop, Mick Flannery, Wallis Bird, MisterWives and many more. He is the founder of Big City Folk Collective. Big City Folk hosts over 100 events annually throughout New York City and State as well as a biennial music festival.
NM: What’s it been like for musicians like yourself over the past 12 months? Any silver linings?
NC: It has been very strange. I've spent much of my adult life travelling the world singing to strangers in small rooms, so obviously, all of that is on hold. It has taken some reimagining. I know I am very privileged and fortunate to be able to say that I have also been afforded many silver linings in this time. It is very hard to justify taking time off, or slow down when you work for yourself, so whilst it has been unnerving to have everything suddenly change, I have also welcomed the chance to slow down. I have had more opportunities to write and I have had more family time. I feel quite a bit healthier for those reasons. I have a two year old who keeps me on my toes and it's been beautiful, exhausting and inspiring to have so much time with her. In fact, I feel like my 2020 reading has largely been divided between the horrors of the news and reading children's books. Dr Seuss pairs well with US news headlines. So, yes, there are silver linings, I truly appreciate them, especially in light of the extreme suffering, loss and hardship that so many are facing right now.
I've been performing live-streams twice a week throughout the pandemic. I never performed a live-stream before mid-March. I played my 77th one today. I have been surprised by how intimate they can feel. You definitely can't beat the real thing, the sensation of singing in a room, sharing an evening with people in the same time and space, it cannot be beaten, but, I have found much more of a sense of community in my live-stream series than I would have expected. I have also been blown away by the support I´ve received through the live streams and my patreon page.
NM: I´m guilty of having not been able to tune into as many as I had wished, but they seem to be going well. Do you think these are just temporary tools or will musicians be able to incorporate them into future gigs and tours?
NC: I hope they are never a visible component of future gigs. I don't want to see someone performing at my favourite venue also interacting with people online, but, simultaneously broadcasting, why not, maybe, I don't know? I suppose, I don't know, is the only true answer there. They have been extremely helpful for me in terms of staying in touch with fans and in terms of staying on top of my game, performance wise, in terms of staying sane. From a personal point of view, it has been hard not to travel and see my family in Ireland, so I have again, really appreciated the technology that allows me to see and speak with them regularly. Though I think my daughter now believes that, 'Can you hear me now? What about now? Can you hear me? I can't see you? I can see you but I can't hear you? Can you hear me?", I think she believes this is just the way calls are supposed to begin.
My father remembers electricity coming to their childhood home, amazing to think that many of his generation have lived from that time to the age of zoom calls and live streams.
NM: Tis indeed. I have no idea how we are going to explain this past year to our kids in the future. But anyhow - you released a single - Maybe Next Year - during the pandemic… Does that mean there’s a new album on the way?
Yes. It will be out in the future. Definitely not before then, hopefully for quite sometime after. Watch this spacer, I mean space for more news. www.niallconnolly.com
NM: No Cause For Alarm has been my anthem for the pandemic - Are there any other songs or albums that you’ve been listening to during these times because they’re uplifting or resilient?
NC: Thank you. I've been listening to the 2016 album Case/Lang/ Veirs a lot while in the car recently. It's an excellent collaborative record between Neko Case, K.D. Land and the wonderful Laura Veirs. Very uplifting melodies and well crafted songs. It's a great driving album. Ger Wolfe is never far from my playlist and I'm looking forward to hearing his new album. My friends Mick Flannery and Warren Malone put out great music this year too. Now that the Christmas lights are up in our house I revisited Low's 1999 'Christmas' album the other night too. It's a beauty. I've listened to a lot of Podcasts this year too. Readers, please share what you've been listening to too?
Do post your answers to that questions and, in the meantime, click on the image below to be carried off to Niall`s Bandcamp page where you can listen to tracks and, hopefully, buy some albums.
Sylvia Petter is an Australian based in Vienna. She writes short, long, serious, sexy and fun. Her work has been widely published and much is available on Kindle at her Amazon author page. Her debut novel is available on Kindle but will only be widely available as a paperback in April 2021. In the meantime, advance copies can be purchased at Shakespeare & Company in Vienna, or directly from Sylvia via the contact form where she blogs. For every copy she sells directly, 5 Euros go to PCs für Alle.
NM: You’ve certainly had a strange start to the year - fires raging around you this time last year and then (I’m guessing) flights cancelled due to Covid... has 2020 interrupted you as a writer or fueled creativity?
SP: Indeed. We went to Sydney to be with our daughter and her husband for Christmas and were due back mid-March when Vienna closed its airport. So, there was a fair bit of frustration with flights getting cancelled until we eventually could fly back to Vienna early July. We had to have a COVID test and in Vienna the army guys checked the paper proof that the test wasn´t older than 4 days. So, we had fires, floods and pestilence, but no locusts. Interestingly, in Sydney lockdown, I got a fair bit done – a story published in Stories of Hope to aid bushfire relief, an intro to using zoom run by the Australian Society of Authors, submission of three chapters of a work in progress to a multimedia compilation called Outer Space / Inner Thoughts edited by David Reiter of IP (Interactive Publications), Australia.
NM: Your latest book "All the Beautiful Liars" - was recently published. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
SP: I´ve been working on the substance of All the Beautiful Liars for more than twenty years and ideas on it have come out and been published as short stories. An early draft got me my agent in Australia to whom I dedicate the novel as thanks for her nurturing and support over the years before moving on to other pursuits. But it was a mentorship with the late Timothy Findley through Humber College in Toronto that helped me pull things together. Tiff said it might take twenty years to find the way to tell this story. And he was right. Working with him was a key experience on my journey as a writer.
NM: Wow - that´s a helluva journey for one book! There are elements of fantasy, history, biography, love, travel, loss ... all fluidly combined by the narrator. Now, I’m not going to ask how much was based on personal experience, but, on an emotional level, was this a difficult book to write?
SP: Yes and no. My day job in Geneva at the time allowed me “home leave” every couple of years, so Mum would see chapters of the work in progress. Before she died in 2009, she gave me the greatest gift she could give me as a writer: “We’re all dead now. Do what you like with the family history.”
NM. Amazing - and the backstory makes the book all the richer. So, let’s imagine Covid has been eradicated- are you going to travel and do a series of launches, or are you embracing the new medium of digital launches?
SP: I don´t really feel like travelling anymore, but I would like to see certain people again. I have so much to keep me in Vienna. I´m supporting PCs für Alle and their Facebook page is serializing a novella-in-flash that I´m rendering in German, inspired by their work and called Romeo und Julia in Corona. I´m also heavily involved as fiction editor for WordCity Monthly so if you or your readers have any pre-published work that might fit that you´d like to share, please consider our submission guidelines. I recently kicked off a series of conversations with writers at Arab World Books, and I´ll be reading recorded excerpts from my novel for a course conducted by the Canadian Darcie Friesen Hossack at the IHRAF workshop (International Human Rights Arts Festival) early spring. And I hope to do a proper launch at Shakespeare and Company in Vienna.
NM: What are your plans for 2021 ?
SP: In January there´ll be a piece in Women Writers, Women´s Books, my anti-fascism novelette in flash called Winds of Change will be published by a small US publisher, and there´ll also be a piece on the flash genre coming in the Spring issue of World Literature Today. And I´ll be revising another novel (on smell this time), as well as working on another novelette in flash on telepathy as the next frontier beyond telecommunications, inspired by my Geneva career in international telecommunications. So, yes. Lots to do in 2021, with some things maybe keeping me out of mischief ;).
I highly recommend All the Beautiful Liars - as mentioned, if you are in Vienna call Shakespeare and Company (Sterngasse 2) and reserve a copy and support your local business, or click on the book cover below to get to the online shop.
Anyone who knows me will know that I couldn´t possibly host a series of interviews on my blog and not include Stephen Murray. His influence on me as a poet and me as a person have been massive. His two books of poetry, House of Bees (2011) and On Corkscrew Hill (2013) were published by Salmon Poetry, and he is also the brains, charm, charisma behind Inspireland - a series of creative writing workshops for secondary schools in Ireland.
NM: What are you working on at the moment?
SM: Firstly, being a parent to two very young agents of chaos, who refuse to cooperate with anything else that I am suppose to be working on. Then, there's my digital learning platform: an online creative writing project aimed at encouraging young people to engage with language, by teaching them to write about the things they love. I have recently finished my third collection of poetry - 'The Sleep Thief'. It's about becoming a parent. Due for publication in 3D holographic imaging for download direct in the cerebral microchips, which is where we will be at once all this shite is over and my publishers backlog is cleared.
NM: Emmm. Yeah. How has it been for you in terms of integrating technology into work/creativity?
SM: See above answer. I think it is very exciting. So many people are telling each other you cannot teach online. In-person is much better. Are you serious? Have you smelled me? I think the problem is not a failure of technology, but a failure of the imagination. We can do anything with technology. Up your game. Make shit happen. Creatively produce each lesson like a pro. Entertain and teach at the same time. I am producing my live online lessons using open broadcast software. I can seamlessly mix in media, text, memes, music, video clips. What is more, I can do it to as many classrooms as I want. It is magic. Sensational. Everybody gets to fart. Nobody minds. I can teach in my underpants. Hell, I can teach in my wife's if I want, and I do.
NM: There’s been a lot said about how the post-COVID world might be different in how we do business and how we travel - how do you think the landscape of the arts will differ?
SM: Well, much depends on how the entertainment bounces back. It's at a real crossroads. People need the arts more than ever. We are going to be socialising less and suffering because of it. Art validates our suffering. It is the existential looking glass that normalises and indeed glorifies the madness. The truth is, I do not know. Poets will still be broke, but so will everyone else. Covid has been a real leveller.
NM: Yep. Thanks for reminding me. So, what would you like to see happen in 2021?
SM: I would like to see the wearing of face-masks when sick becomes the expected norm for all of us. Love not having a cold this winter. I would like to my business take off. My underpants taken off. Brexiteers pissed off. Space rockets lift off and people to start forgiving each other and stop fearing each other and start believing that almost every single person in the whole world is innately kind. People need to stop believing that people who are different to them are evil. We need a new human narrative. Nuanced and balanced. Less fire and brimstone. More cake with fresh cream and juicy strawberries. Amnesty for kiss chase. Oh and can someone please bring the word freedom back into the light. Freedom to hate is like weaponising a butterfly.
NM: I just saw an advertisement where David Beckham had been digitally aged to make it look like he was speaking from the future about malaria… If you could speak to the young artists of this generation from the future, what advice would you give them?
SM: Be honest. Be yourself and believe in magic. Everything is just as you imagine. You are conjurors skilled in evocation. You have the ability to summon and possess. You make the darkness beautiful. Make art for the sheer love of it. Harmonise with everything inside and around you. Listen your conflict, there be dark angels in there, full of blazing light. Everything is gonna be okay. Walk the blessed path you were born to. It ain't easy, but it is beautiful.
You can learn more about Inspireland and the courses and summer camps that Stephen and his team offer by clicking the image below:
David Rynhart wandered up to me in a wine bar in Galway 16 years ago and politely asked whether he could play a song at an open mic that I was hosting. The rest is history. We collaborated. We toured. We had fun. Then he moved back to Colorado and released two full solo albums - A Passing Comet and By the Hollow Tree. For the past decade, he has been part of the hugely popular Denver-based band Chimney Choir. Now, he is back doing his own stuff and has just released two EPs - Long Shadows and Lucid Dream.
NM: What’s it been like for musicians in Colorado for the last year?
DR: I played a pretty spectacular NYE show at the Mercury Café in Denver. There was wild choreography and huge shadow puppets and acrobats. Shortly before midnight, we began a blissfully ignorant countdown to 2020. (If only we knew what we were counting down to, we would have counted backwards) And I haven’t performed since! I lost a ton of gigs, but was able to continue work in a limited capacity by making scores for some immersive shows that didn’t require performance and a few commercials. Most musicians here recognize that performing gathers crowds… and even though they want to (and have to) perform, it feels irresponsible to gather people right now. So, life is recording projects, practice for the unforeseeable future, and releasing songs to various streaming platforms.
NM: We have seen how Zoom and Facebook live have come in handy... so do you this these are just stopgaps or will musicians integrate these tools into future tours, gigs etc.?
DR: Zoom for music has mainly been for teaching or feeling awkward. FB live though, I think that is a great way to share an event or performance, and it is exciting to see how creative people can be with it.
NM: For the past decade, since your last solo albums, you’ve been part of the band Chimney Choir - are you on a break or ....?
DR: Well, one of us moved to Tucson, Arizona. No doors have been closed, no bridges burned! But, we’ll just need a bigger paycheck in order to make anything happen with Chimney Choir.
NM: Your newest solo EP is out now. How did that come about?
DR: The idea to do this came about when my band was not active anymore and I noticed there was a void. I have to write music. If I don’t write music, the world gets really small and grey and intolerable. So I have resigned to it. Writing music without sharing or releasing it is numbing. The cycle needs to be complete. So this was my solution- to attempt to write and release an EP once a month. Look out- the next one is uploading as we speak! (are we speaking?) Also, it’s pretty marvelous to get reacquainted with my own voice after so many years in the band. I’m looking forward to collaborating and experimenting with people on a project basis.
NM: That’s great. And is that how you plan on spending 2021, or is there anything else you would like see happen?
DR: Right... 2021... I'm doing another soundtrack for an immersive circus arts show with a collective called Rainbow Militia, and it will be a very collaborative effort. I like that, and would welcome more soundtrack work. I'm also interested in learning about creating animation, and in working with Ableton and Arduino to make light and sound installations. I like songwriting, but I am also exploring making more ambient music and would like to release that. Outside of music, I'm in school- and will eventually practice cognitive behavioral therapy (though probably not in 2021!). I have thought about learning cranial sacral therapy as well. There has been a desire to learn about mental health and healing. So for 2021 I see a swirling vision of all of that!
David Rynhart´s music is available on iTunes and Amazon, and his latest singles can be listened to here.
Eva Mühlbacher was born in February 1990, started writing at the age of ten and hasn´t stopped since. She studied German philology in Vienna in which she completed an MA in 2016. In her year abroad at the University of Cambridge she also starred in a play and won a college prize for excellence in creative writing. Eva lived in Rome and Verona, marvelling at red wine, orange sunsets sparkling in the river Adige and the stars above the piazza Navona. In 2019 her second novel "Der Momentesammler" was published, followed by "Zeitreisende" in 2020. Eva wrote for the blog of the Sprachenzentrum der Universität Wien, in which she combined both her love for language teaching and her love for travelling in two different blog series. At the moment she is working on her PhD thesis in history of the Middle Ages.
NM: Your book “Zeitreisende” has just been published - can you say a little bit about it without telling us who the killer is? :)
EM: “Zeitreisende” is a journey through German literature from the romantics to the end of the First World War. It is the first volume of a series of three that will go back in time, covering the Baroque and Goethe era before heading on to the Middle Ages.
Most people seem to refer to literature as “boring” or “dry”, but in fact it is full of lively, erotic, stunning stories that are worth reading. I’ve written the book to prove this! The focus lies on the emotional aspect of different times, following author Hugo von Hofmannsthal into a small hut close to the sea where he enjoys an erotic encounter with a hidden lover, for example.
And for everyone who loves Netflix shows: chapter 9 links the motifs, stories and characters to the present day: What do Guzman in Elité and “der Graf” in Arthur Schnitzler´s play Reigen have in common?
It is a playful, yet historically correct approach to German literature.
NM: You launched during the lockdown - what was your experience with a digital launch?
EM: It needed a different approach in presenting the book. I’m used to reading out loud for people and they usually love it because they like my voice. When I had readings of my novels people kept telling me they had my voice in their heads even when reading the book later on. This was not easy to adapt (and we are still working on it). Doing the online reading and the interview was great fun though. (the interview can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBM8vrcMEWI&t=10s )
NM: Are there any silver linings in this pandemic? For example, did you have more time to work on creative projects?
EM: I think there is always something good to be found in negative times. That’s part of a positive approach to life in general. So yes, sure they are. To me it was definitely the time for writing everything down I’ve experienced in the past year without ever having found time to put it down in words. My journey to Jerusalem, for example. And of course there was time to get fully immersed in the literary world of the romantics and fin de siècle artists.
NM: History seems to be one of your main muses... is that a fair observation?
EM: Yes, it is. History can be inspiring in so many ways. It can enrich our lives in discovering thoughts and feelings of past times. From an academic perspective it means we can always learn something new about the ways people were organized or about how our own emotions link us to those of our ancestors. From a creative perspective it opens up an endless playfield of settings and inspiring characters.
NM: What’s the next plan? After the lockdown will you do some more readings or launches, or are you already working on the next book?
After the lockdown I’m definitely going to do readings. I would have also read at the book fair in Vienna this year so hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to be at the next in 2021. And the second volume needs to be written. In other words: Goethe is waiting for me at the piazza del popolo in Rome…
NM. Finally, what´s your favorite chapter?
EM: Hard to say, I love them all. But I’d say I particularly love the 4th chapter since it deals with different shades of the feeling of love and lust. I believe we experience a lot of those feelings in the span of a lifetime and sometimes we are insecure about how to deal with them because they don’t fit into schemes. I’m sure they are what make us human beings so they should not be dealt with as being “wrong”. This chapter also contains Schnitzler´s Reigen. I starred in this play when I studied in Cambridge so it means something to me on a personal level too. It was quite an effort to resist the temptation to again dress up and recite my lines.
Zeitreisende is available to buy here
I had the absolute pleasure of taking part in The Boyne Music Festival - now in its 7th year - weaving a few poems between the tunes and genius of Zoe Conway and John McIntyre.
The setting was also brilliant - Boyne Brewhouse and Distillery on the outskirts of Drogheda. What a night.
Zoe and John played a majestic set that was both uplifting and inspiring: two amazing musicians complementing each other with ease.
The remainder of the festival took place in Townley Hall, where, since the festival´s inception, guests have gotten that tingly feeling from a variety of chamber music and a stunning setting. If you haven´t thought about it yet - I´d mark your calendar for next year.
On the above link you’ll find a review I wrote for The Dublin Review of Books of Moya Roddy’s fantastic poetry collection “Out of the Ordinary” which was shortlisted for the Shine Strong Award.