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!