As this blog title suggests, Sharon Corr (fiddle and keyboard player, songwriter and backing vocalist of Dundalk’s pride and joy, The Corrs) played a one-off Irish date in the O’Reilly theatre Dublin, as part of her co-headline mini tour with singer-songwriter Vonda Shepard.
I’m a Hard-Corr fan since the 90s so there was no way I was going to miss this show despite not knowing anything about Vonda Shepard, apart from the fact that she’s married to one of The Corrs’ producers Mitchell Froom. Froom produced their 1999 live MTV Unplugged album and their 2004 album Home. Home famously signalled the 10 year hiatus of The Corrs but left their audience with the assurance that Irish music was at the centre of their hearts, with its beautiful recordings of Irish songs selected from their late mother’s songbook. Froom went on to produce Sharon’s second solo album The Same Sun, released in 2013.
Vonda Shepard stepped onto the stage in Dublin with Sharon Corr to an uproarius applause. Backed by Vonda’s long-term backing band of notable American musicians (her guitarist James Ralston was also Tina Turner’s axe-man of choice), the duet pumped out an upbeat number, followed by a giddy and almost school-girl like explanation of how their unlikely friendship came to be. It was clear to all that the two were musical besties and Vonda’s extroverted big laugh filled the room and put everyone at ease. Sharon gracefully left the stage and let Vonda warm us up- a tough job considering she was playing to a Corr majority audience on home turf- the guy next me was wearing a rare 1999 In Blue album t-shirt! I thought she did a remarkable job and her talent left the room spellbound. Her soaring voice and dexterous piano skills were a joy to behold.
Sharon rejoined her onstage after a short interval, and soon after, started her own set. Opening with (my personal favourite) from The Same Sun “We Could Be Lovers”, the palm-muted clean electric guitar riff reminding us that Sharon is not a one trick Irish pony and loves to rock out. Her sultry voice rang clear in the quiet verses and soared through the dynamic chorus, perfectly executed by Corrs’ long-term FOH sound engineer Max Bisgrove. When the crowd settled, Sharon gave vivid context of her next song “The Same Sun” and explained how it came to be. It was lovely to hear such anecdotes, it’s something you just don’t get if you buy the album 3 years after its release (guilty as charged!). She continued her opening set with another track from the album “Take A Minute”.
Returning to her roots, “Cooley’s Reel” (recorded for her first solo album Dream of You 2009) snapped us out of our content dreamy reviere. Vonda’s backing band simply kicked butt backing up Sharon, watching her intently for cues. They looked like they were seriously enjoying themselves and her drummer looked particularly enthused, reminding me of the passion and groove of Irish drummer Jason Duffy.
With excitement running high, Sharon brought us back to The Same Sun with the lushious “Upon an Ocean”, followed by Seán Ó Riada’s “Mná na hEireann” (masterfully recorded for her first album with a raptorous guitar solo by Jeff Beck). I have to say the live version was exquisite, Sharon simply wowed us with her grace and emotion expressed through her violin.
Sharon Corr live at the O’Reilly Theatre, own photo used.
Sharon Corr live at the O’Reilly Theatre, own photo used.
Vonda returned to the stage and the two ripped through a bundle of covers “Woodstock” (Joni Mitchell), “Dreams” (Fleetwood Mac, though famously covered by The Corrs), “Weather With You” (Crowded House) and “Son of a Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield). Sharon shared the stage with Vonda for Corrs’ numbers “Radio” (written by Sharon), their version sounding a lot closer to the Unplugged acoustic version rather than the electronic-y poppier In Blue cut. I personally found their version to be particularly special. The acoustic guitar is just so good and I was glad to see James Ralston stay true to it. “Full Circle” and “So Young” closed her set, and the audience politely rose from their seats for a little dance and clap- The Corrs always had a super polite audience and everyone in the O’Reilly theatre was careful not to obscure the view of the person behind them, how nice is that?!
Sharon gave us an insight into her own personality and voice as a songwriter, one that tends to shy away from the Corrs mic. While I always prefer The Corrs united and rate Sharon’s first album higher than her second, I feel I understand her artistry a little better now. She’s clearly a modern woman with opinions, views and feelings and isn’t afraid to share them through her music and you can’t disrespect that. It was lovely to see her enjoying herself and she clearly gravitated towards Vonda’s witty banter and wide smile- the unlikely pair made for a heartwarming friendship and reminded me that friendships made through music are simply the best ones.
Good luck recording your third album Sharon! Hopefully see you with The Corrs soon.
Feeling entirely grateful for the 2nd half of 2018 which was much better than the first!
I’m super grateful for the live sound gigs I got this year (especially with The Piper’s Club who are most kind to me and have invested so much faith in me. With them I’ve really gotten the chance to be a sound engineer and learn about the job.) I’m not the most technically minded person and my nerves still get me, but I am a visionary and an extremely hard worker.
Without these gigs, I’d more than likely have chucked it all in by now- some people are utterly false and have no problem making me feel small in a crowded room. It’s entirely hard for me not to allow myself to feel that way.
It’s very easy to stay put in my music room and live in my bitter circle of loneliness and intermittent creativity. I felt so useless, alone and pointless. I despaired. Often. I literally needed someone to say “We want you to do this!”, and even though I brick it, it always goes well and people shower me with praise.
The gigs mean so much to me.
I’m grateful for the friends who reach out to me and check in on me and make me laugh. I’m grateful for the new friendly faces too. Thank you for being there.
And thank you to the false ones for f*cking off, out of my face.
And most of all thanks to my fiance for understanding me and still loving me. Thanks to my family for financial support this year (my worst year for money since 2008). I’m doing my best to kick anxieties in the arse, I’m starting to think my overthinking is utterly stupid and needless.
I’m grateful for my good health and my friends + families good health, the roof over my head, good food to eat, enough cash flowing to see me comfortable, my kitties and my freedom.
May 2019 be a fantastic year for you all. Thanks.
Thanks Rachel for the affirmation cards, this one is my favourite.
2018 has been a rockin year for new music. In no particular order, here’s a few of my absolute favourites- be warned, it’s an eclectic mix! 😉
Sarasvati- Released To Aion
Sarasvati is the solo project from Canadian bass playing legend, Chela Rhea Harper. Inspired by esoterica, Sarasvati is a fusion of folk metal, melodic doom metal and progressive rock. A highly creative and intelligent individual, Chela has been crafting her own material in tandem with studying creative coaching. Released To Aion, a collaboration with metal vocalist/guitarist Joe Waller, was released at the beginning of the year. The forth-coming album has experienced setbacks despite completion, but undoubtedly, Sarasvati will be back in full force when the timing is right.
The atmospheric introduction is to die for. I love Chela’s ethereal vocals on this. Think of Enya but with dreadlocks to die for. But Canadian. And with a heavy song, heavier than heavy itself. Plus a doom metal band behind her. So not Enya really but you get the idea! Play it louder than loud. It’s a masterpiece. Then go buy it. Support independent music. Here: Released to Aion | Sarasvati
RSO is super songwriting, rock power-couple Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) and Orianthi (Michael Jackson, Alice Cooper). Both are incredible guitarists with highly recognisable styles and both have stellar vocal chords. Recognised as an artist in her own right, Orianthi hails from Australia. Their debut album, Radio Free America was recorded in their L.A home over 2 years and produced by the legendary Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi).
Masterpiece was originally released as a single last year but seeing as the album only came out in May, I’m counting it as so. I love this song on so many levels- it’s the perfect love song. I love the way Richie and Ori’s vocals weave around each other and when they unite, they compliment each other perfectly. His gritty/edgy voice contrasts nicely with her smooth, warm and sweet vocals. The lyrics are incredibly beautiful, makes me wish I wrote them myself! It’s actually so delightful to hear a love song written by two people in love-without any cheddar! Kudos to the production on this, I love the effected drums and looping vocals. Solid songwriting. This rocks so much. Purchase: Radio Free America by RSO on Apple Music.
RSO- Blues Won’t Leave Me Alone
This is the song that brought Orianthi back to my consciousness. I think the production is simply phenomenal and incredibly brave. It’s so different to her back-catalogue. There’s something utterly perfect about this track. Perhaps it’s the way she entwines blues, gospel, soul and rock in the most perfect way. Her lyrics are exceptional, my favourite line has got to be: At least it feels like all that I’ve got is me and my guitar. Such a lyric makes me yearn for my guitar right now and wish I would make more time for it.
For me, this song indicates Orianthi is growing as a songwriter and artist. Her previous albums are great but this knocks right out of the park. Enjoy.
Emigrate- A Million Degrees
My man, Richard Zven Kruspe needs no introduction (especially if you follow my Instagram of this blog!). But hey, if you landed here not knowing who he is, i’ll fill you fast: Kruspe is the lead guitarist of industrial-metal rockers, Rammstein and Emigrate is his solo pursuit. After a 4-year wait since his last, his 3rd album A Million Degrees was released at the end of November.
The title track is stellar. This is probably his finest song to date (though he has some epic numbers!), it’s catchy, anthemic and heavy. It ticks all the boxes for me. His signature German/American accented vocals, great guitar riff, synth riff, vocal layering, solid drumming, combined with the fantastic song and perfect production make for his finest come back. I’ve been crushing on this man since Mutter (2001, Rammstein) and I’m so pleased to see him evolve into an artist in his own right. Now if 2019 brings any Emigrate gigs I’ll be a happy bunny (tickets for Rammstein are gold dust!). Purchase: Emigrate on Apple Music.
If you’re in the humour to dance/rock out then listen to 1234. The more I hear it, the more I like it myself.
Avril Lavigne- Head Above Water
When I first heard Avril in 2002, I couldn’t help but be a tad annoyed at her. She was quite the brat wasn’t she?! And everyone kept calling me Avril too which didn’t help! However she progressed (and occasionally lapsed) and has some fantastic tunes in her catalogue. She often powers my long distance runs. But don’t tell her that ;)Her last album (2013) was mighty good with an eclectic mix of pop, rock, dance and acoustic numbers. I especially loved the track she did with (then) husband (the equally annoying), Chad Kroeger.
Unfortunately in 2015, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, putting a halt on her career. Spending a long time healing and looking after herself, promising her sixth album (due next year) but in September this year, she released the title and debut track, Head Above Water, a song which is frighteningly close to the bone. Avril puts all of her emotions of being ill and the experience of being at death’s door into this wonderfully crafted production. She’s taken a huge leap forward with this song, notching up yet another level. Well done Avril. Looking forward to your album, hope to go running with you soon. Purchase: Head Above Water – Single by Avril Lavigne on Apple Music
Bangin’ dance/house number I couldn’t get out of my head all year.
Beoga feat. Ryan McMullan- We Don’t Have to Run
This video is the RTE Special that aired last year but this song was finally released in May this year. I just love this on so many levels, I wish I produced it myself!
How does one even start discussing how and why, Emigrate’s latest output A Million Degrees is the best thing to hit rock music this year?! Released on iTunes today (yesterday was the official release date) A Million Degrees is the 3rd instalment of alternative rock gold gifted to the world by German rock icon, Richard Zven Kruspe.
Kruspe obtained a cult following for his industrial guitar riffage and growling backing vocals in Rammstein, arguably one of the top arena metal bands of our time. The staggering success of Rammstein is not for this blog though as a fan from my teens, I cannot wait to see their flame-throwing, inflatable-boat crowd surfing and hugely (look it up if you don’t know!) entertaining live show again.
Carrying forward a sense of Beatlemania into my own youth, I had a favourite band member. Richard Kruspe was my Ringo, with his dark spikey hair, black nail polish, eyeliner and tank tops. Generally the ladies favourite (although singer Till Lindemann has an active fanatical following still on Instagram) with his toned arms and square jawline, Kruspe oozed that classic rockstar sex appeal. For me though, it went beyond his good looks and intriguing stage presence. His style of guitar playing updated the prototypical chuggery of James Hetfield (Metallica)- tighter, harder and more militant in execution.
However with all these amazing attributes, it wasn’t obvious to me (and I suspect, other fans) that Kruspe was capable of fronting his very own band. His presence in Rammstein was that of a dark horse- moody, quiet, watching everything happening around him with folded arms yet instrumental to it all. He never took away from the showmanship of Lindemann and he was the perfect sum of all the flamboyant parts of Rammstein.
Which was why the announcement of Emigrate in 2006, his solo project, took me by surprise. A fantastic surprise and one which paid off immediately, “Wake Up” was the song of the century for me. I couldn’t get enough of his singing voice (surprisingly good with a great range, his mixed up German/American accent added to the appeal), the fact he was singing in English was a bomb drop and set him a million miles apart from Rammstein, his signature guitar playing was even more obvious and the songs- the songs! The songs were out of this world. Heavy, hard hitting, catchy with sleek production to match, Emigrate was an artistic force to be reckoned with. It was apparent that Kruspe had a depth of creativity which was previously untapped and unexplored.
In 2014, his second output Silent So Long was released. This hit me in my final academic year of my audio degree and it’s production values floored me. The drums, the drums, the drums!!! That drum sound is worth shedding a tear for. Holding up with its predecessor’s level of rock songwriting, Emigrate’s sound further progressed with FM synthetic sounds (bringing to mind for me, the sound of 80’s chart music and perhaps a throwback to Kruspe’s youth in divided Berlin) and collaborations with vocalists Marilyn Manson, Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead), Peaches, Jonathan Davis (Korn) and Frank Delle. Fans seem to be divided over this album and while a very small handful of songs are skippers (sorry Lemmy, I love you and Motorhead but this collab didn’t work for me), I really liked it. It has a certain coldness and wintery atmosphere that I just really like. It shows a different side to Kruspe than Emigrate showed us, I felt it showed a certain maturity and a creative mind which was very much in tune with its own artistry.
Almost 4 years to the day, we are graced with A Million Degrees. Used as a forerunner to the album release, 1234 feat. Benjamin Kowalewicz, prompted uncertainty in this longtime Kruspe fan. Not enough Kruspe vocally and the song was very, commercial. It seemed rather contrived to me, no matter how many times I repeat-played it and tried to like it. Nonetheless I’m glad I held out! A Million Degrees excels it.
The title track alone is a golden moment in Kruspe’s career. Opening with that cold FM synth sound I liked so much from Silent So Long, Kruspe’s classic Germanic overdriven stiff vocal fits perfectly. This could be from the same album, but perhaps it’s a little bit more Kraftwerky.
Then BANG! “Burn bright!”, Kruspe’s delicious baritione breaks into his soaring upper range. The mood changes from synthy atmospheric darkness to straight up Emigrate rock. Overdriven guitars and live drums, the groove is sexy in it’s rigidness, thanks to an offbeat open high hat. Leading into an anthemic chorus, the word mature springs to mind again. If you don’t get goosebumps listening to this chorus, you must be emotionally vacant! Kruspe’s voice is at it’s best, perhaps the most emotive it’s ever been. Soaring at the top end of his range, he’s vocally strong and more powerful than I’ve ever heard him before. I adore the contrast in his voice- the rigidness in his verse vocal (the Rammstein Kruspe with crossed arms we all know him for) and then the sheer power in his chorus vocal (the artist he has dared to become). The top end, arpeggiated synths entwine the synthy Kraftwerk influences with stadium rock .
Linked with a clean guitar tone in the upper-mids which hearkens back to Emigrate, verse 2 carries forward the atmospheric synths and rock powerhouse of drums and distorted guitars. This clean guitar tone is the foundation for the breakdown in the middle eight and a swirling atmosphere of effected vocals wash around it- the plunge before the climax of the final chorus sections.
For me, the title track is the absolute stand out. Though on first listen, the entire album shares its brilliance. Rammstein fans may not be too sure, especially with the (sorry to use this word again) Kraftwerky Let’s Go which features Till Lindemann singing in German, but Emigrate fans certainly will.
“One by One” is the new single from my friend, Conor Breen, aka Trist. I’m delighted to have contributed my violin to his wonderful music and I wish him the best of luck with his upcoming album release, The Cutting!
This morning I was reminded of an occasion when I had to face extreme negativity towards the music I made and the people I was making it with. This particular incident happened around 12 years ago and to my shining glory, it was all captured on video and broadcast for the world to see.
I was never a fan of “talent” shows. Pitting talented people up against each other to deem who was more worthy of getting closer to a grand prize was never going to actually work out well, was it? No matter how much faith you and even the people closest to you could have in your art, your skills and worthiness would be deemed by people who might have been having a bad day. I went along for the ride, it seemed like a good idea at the time and sure, what other means did we have of getting ourselves known to the general public and to what we hoped, would be relevant music people? The occasion also served as a common goal for us to work towards. We needed such goals for they came few and far between.
Smokey-eyed, hair teased sky-high and armed with our guitars, we set off with a killer song we were sure to assert our authenticity, credibilty and artistry. Our song was simply kick ass: co-written with top Irish music producers, we had riffs, guitar solos, hard hitting drums and a singalongable melody. We poured so much hard work into crafting the song and we felt it set the benchmark of who we were and who we wanted to become. Personally I had struggled so hard with the sound of the band for years- I always wanted us to rock more.
Of course, when I say “we”, I mean myself and the singer. It was a complicated set up because we were the ones with the vision and the drive to carry the band on, year after year. Drummers and bass players came and went and though we always wanted them to feel a part of the band, they could never be really. The band was a two-piece and even we ourselves, couldn’t handle that. We thought a band should be a 4-piece. Looking from the otherside, those subsequent musicians must have felt like aliens, stepping into our world. We had years of experiences together and had clearly grown together, anyone else joining us must have felt like enablers to our cause. Our cause, not theirs.
It was so very hard to find the other two members of our band, but we did eventually find them, in fact it was only a year or two later when we did. Which seems like a short time frame looking back but back then, it felt like forever. And when they came into our lives, it just clicked and felt right straight away. They got what we were doing and were actually excited about it. But that lineup isn’t the subject of this reflection.
So there we stood, four early-twenty-something year olds, with our guitars and Converse runners, on that stage. Huge cameras pointing at us and 3 people sat behind a table, waiting for us to show them what we had. We were immediately put off, this wasn’t your usual gig. Where was the audience? Where was the vibe?! It felt like a science experiment. Cold, calculated and analytical. And we were expected to show the best version of our art under those circumstances.
Off we went, I started the sha-bang with my signature power chord chuggy riff, followed by the singer with her melodic hypnotic melody. Seconds later, BANG! The rest of the band came in and we were off. We rocked our socks off. Okay the bass was out of tune and the drummer gave us perplexed looks throughout but we held it together. Maybe I shouldn’t have held that high F# during the breakdown, a nice F# power chord feeding back would have been tastier sounding but still! We were pretty damn tight.
To be told your image and your sound was a joke directly afterwards though was humiliating. One of the other panelists did apologise on their behalf but it meant nothing. It seemed shallow. My chest tightened up in disgust and I actually don’t know how the voice of the band was able to say calmly “Thanks for your opinion” because I was ready to cry! How angry I was to be called a joke. What was funny about us? What riled that person up so badly that they needed to hurt us so viciously? It was the single most rudest comment ever made to me in my life to date and ever since, I’ve always thought that person was hollow.
Especially when we came back the following year with our new lineup, they couldn’t get enough of us. What the difference was, we could never understand. I’ll still never understand.
On reflection, I believe that person was sent to us to teach us a lesson about respect and dignity. And I also believe that person was sent as lesson to me, personally. Meeting people like them, the ones who show disrespect and claim your art has no value can be hurtful to your very core but you’ve got to remember why you make art in the first place- for yourself. If you don’t make (in my case) music, that you personally enjoy, how will you ever expect people to find value in it? The music industry is vicious, it’s always looking for the next hottest thing, the catchiest single, the most mouldable people to exploit. It’s very easy to throw your hands up and fall into trends in order to make that hot record that people will deem worthy of radio play or whatever. And if that’s your path, cool. Just be mindful then that it’s not art your making, but a product. And if you’re cool with that, then cool. I’ve only ever created music that I wanted to hear and yeah, maybe that’s why the band never made it.
Not everyone has to like what you’re doing or get you, it’s grand for others to have opinions but to be told that you’re a joke is the wrong way to go about saying “You’re not what we’re looking for”. I’ve met people since who didn’t particularly care for my music production style or my thesis idea but for that humilating experience in 2006, I’m more able to cope with it. I believe art is about making something you want, not what other people want. I’ve been called a “maverick” multiple times by ones closest to me and I’m reminded to keep doing what I’m doing. We all need a reminder like that once in a while and if you’re reading this and that’s all you get from it, cool.
The next time you meet someone who openly mocks you, just stand your ground. Don’t bother arguing with them. They don’t like you already for some reason, they’re not going to change their mind if you argue back.
On reflection, maybe I should have sought different people to rock out with. People that were into the music I was into. But I always had blind faith that this was the right band to be in, even though they wern’t particularly into the hairy heavy rock bands I was into, they were interested in recording music and writing songs and playing on stage. The fact that they were different from me was always going to result in things I couldn’t foresee and even though that bothered me at the time, I see now that was a great, organic thing.
I’m still evolving. I’m still learning, thinking, reflecting and more importantly, I’m still creating. I like what I create and I don’t actually care if you don’t. I’m open to suggestions to improve my art but really, I have to make music for myself. If you like it, yay! It’s all about vibration. If you like my vibe, happy days.
So in conclusion, always stay true to yourself and never twist your art into something you think people want. It just won’t serve your spirit.
Since the beginning of time, (okay LOL!), since I can’t remember when, I’ve been aching to go to a Beach Road Studios workshop. After stalking/befriending JUNO award winning producer Siegfried Meier for many years on Facebook, the timing suddenly became RIGHT earlier this year. He announced he would be running the final ever Beach Road workshop this autumn and I knew, this was it! It was like the stars had alligned for me as it was happening on my week off! Within minutes (yes, I made the decision that fast) I had flights and accomodation booked, Canada, here I come!!!!
But how does a random audio girl from a sleepy, Irish countryside Nowhereness, find out about a mega, award winning, from Germany but living in Canada most of his life, music producer and his private, super-amazing-awesome studio?
When Kittie blasted onto Irish TV screens via the kick-ass medium that was (still is? is it? I don’t know!) MTV2 with the even more bad-ass video for their second single, “Charlotte” in 2000, I was hooked. Four kick-ass girls my age absolutely knocking it out of the park with a savage tune, how could I resist? Back then it was actually pretty hard to find out much about anything, even though we had electricity (LOL, Internet was dial-up and I wasn’t really allowed use it), I did my best to find magazine clippings about the girls. Metal Edge was the only place I could find anything about them and even then, I only ever got my hands on like, 2 copies, cos Nowhereness is in the middle of Nowhere, you know?! I got my hands on their debut Spit (produced by Garth “GGGarth” Richardson, 2000) when I went stateside that summer and it didn’t seem too long after that, their 2nd album Oracle (also produced by GGGarth, 2001) was released. That I did buy here in Ireland. The band developed and progressed over the years and while I kept an eye on them, Facebook brought them back into my world in 2010 and that’s when I discovered Siegfried Meier.
So Siegfried worked on their Oracle album back in the day (credited in the album notes as Siegfried “Private Dancer” Meier!) as an assistant in Emac Studios (London, Ontario) and then became their producer for their 5th In the Black (2009) and their 6th, I’ve Failed You (2011), producing the band in his Beach Road Studios . Cue a new style, sound and sonic force of awesomeness for the band. Kittie has been a highly creative and unique metal band from the get-go but the Sig albums are f**king HUUUUGE.
Their 2018 Origins/Evolutions 20th anniversary release, which documented the band’s career, cemented my personal opinion that Siegfried was one seriously cool guy (I could discern from the Internet that he’s a musician, producer, songwriter, audio engineer, mastering engineer, cat lover, and all-round super dude). But the footage on that documentary simply blew my mind and I ached for the chance to visit. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait too long!!
Fast forward a few months and I find myself driving an automatic VW Golf (black, shiny and sexy as hell!) on a 5-lane highway in Toronto, on the opposite side of the road. Huge trucks zooming by me and the setting sun in my eyes, my heart races with trepidation, I’M HERE CANADA! Immediately charmed by the picture perfect towns I drive through, hours out of busy Toronto, I just knew, this was a slice of Heaven right here and this was exactly where I needed to be (you know, you do kind of doubt yourself- am I mad to go to Canada for a couple of days?! How will I handle driving in another country? Will my Irish awkwardness ruin the vibe?! Am I still rock n roll enough to handle this?!).
I need not have worried. I may have been shaking in my runners driving down the magical road to the studio, parking the car after confirming I had indeed found the location and not some random persons house (imagine if I did that though LOL!), spotting drums through a window but the very second I opened the door and let myself inside (let’s face it, I still don’t even let myself into my fiances house 14 years on! I have to ring the doorbell and text prior to my arrival- that’s my own awkwardness, not their house rules!), I felt this absolute WAVE of love. Everyone smiled at me (walking into a room of 10 guys is a little bit scary!) and I was enveloped in Siegfried’s welcoming arms instantly. I actually didn’t feel shy!!! From the get-go I felt like I knew Sig forever and that it wasn’t my first time meeting him. It struck me it was a special connection and all my suspicions about him were confirmed- this guy IS the coolest person EVER! Larger than life itself, his warmth, genuineness, humourous wit, easy-going, relaxed, bubbly, passionate and humble personality shone like a white light. Just being around him made me feel an excitement and joy I haven’t felt in years. I probably looked goofy and starry-eyed as I openly gazed at him but that wasn’t for his incredible awe-inspiring career, it was for him as a human being. He’s the kind of person that you only find once or twice in your life and you recognise instantly he’s making the world a better place by just being in it.
Walking into his control room, my breath left me. What a beautiful room! Surrounded with a mix of vintage and modern equipment, yet with a vibe of home, I can see why musicians come to make music here. His welcoming personality is mirrored by his creative space. If I was a musician in a band, I would be extremely excited about making records there!
After a short introduction where everyone (Sig, the students and the rock band, Breaching Vista) got up and said a little something about who they were and confirmed they were indeed cat-lovers also, Sig dived into audio theory and concepts to ensure everyone was on a similar level. Notes were passed around and we were invited to jot down as much as we like. Standing on a footstool behind his amazing rare Amek/TAC Magnum console, Siegfried explained higher level educational audio concepts in a logical and exciting format. Hanging onto every word he said, my mind raced to keep up.
After coffee breaks and lunch, the fun really kicked off. The importance of preproduction was explained and a guide track was loaded into Pro Tools. Track tempo was discussed and experimented with and yes, I even learned a new thing. Sig gave us a golden nugget concerning click track headphone bleed (I admit I actually made that f**k up on my own most recent recording and even kicked myself afterwards for not paying enough attention). Drummer Micheal Sferrazza (also a talented pilot, no less) was invited to take up his sticks and we all ushered into Sig’s, huge live room. I momentarily got starstruck as I recognised the wall of guitars and the placement of the drums, for I had seen this room on Kittie documentaries and photographs before (imagine being starstruck by a room! NERD!). My jaw dropped at the sheer size of the converted barn (Sig built and designed the entire studio in 2006, with the help of his colleague Lee While, acoustics professor from Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology), again, huge but welcoming! The room was chock-full of equipment, instruments, consoles, computers, microphones, amps, cables and more. I do believe in that moment that I died and went to Heaven.
There we experimented with a dedicated Pro Tools 6 rig and Sig explained the importance of gain structure, what exact signal flow he was implementing and set up the Glyn Johns drum recording method. A method I’ve read about and listened to all about since the beginning of my audio schooling, but one I’ve never actually witnessed for myself. Well wasn’t my mind blown?! A great kit in a great room played by a great drummer with only 3 (also great) mikes equalled MAGIC. Hell, that was a drum sound I would killed to have gotten in my production projects in college.
After that the room was set up for the actual recording of the single for Breaching Vista. 20+ mikes were set up- close mikes, room mikes and even bulls***t mikes. Each mike was explained in fine detail and I got to meet many of which I had only read about in my studies and some of course, I had never even heard of before. Jet-lagged like never before, I think I was probably swaying standing up, I wondered was anyone noticing I was ready to start sleep walking! But that wasn’t going to last for long because before I knew it, we were back in the control room, listening to the sounds of the drums and setting up appropriate levels. Snapped awake by the exciting sounds, my heart raced as Sig explained what he was going to do next: track the drums in the digital domain AND on analogue 2 inch tape! WOW! Tape!! I remember I was asked in an interview in Derry in 2014 which I preferred, analogue or digital? and I fobbed off a bulls**t answer. How could I answer such a question when I had basically zero experience of analogue? I think I said I liked the idea of analogue but really all I knew was digital and therefore I liked the good things it had to offer. Maybe that wasn’t a bulls**t answer afterall, but I always thought about it afterwards, feeling like a twat that I couldn’t actually REALLY give an opinion about that subject. Sig gave us a highly detailed history and informative block of information which detailed tape anomalies, machine care, and so much more. Brand new stuff for me. Please let my brain absorb all of this!!!
A very small (surprisingly small- there have been sessions where I pushed 12 takes out of my drummer, the poor unfortunate soul) number of takes later, along with the band for guides, the drums were recorded. It was already getting close to midnight and Sig bounced the analogue drums back into Pro Tools, using the Studer tape machine as an audio processor to get a very different sonic character. There we ajorned for the night, for tomorrow there would be more- drum editing, bass recording, guitar recording, vocal recording, editing, mixing and mastering. I left Sigs close to 1am and drove back to his local town, my mind racing and my heart bursting. I fell into my bed thinking I’d probably never sleep but boom, I was out like a light.
Feeling surprisingly refreshed, the next morning there was a beautiful spread in my B&B. The sun was shining and with a spring in my step, I drove to Beach Road, feeling confident about driving on the correct side of the road and feeling like a local because I knew the roads already. I practically skipped in the studio door, proclaiming I was not jet-lagged and took my seat behind Sig’s racks. He kicked off swiftly, explaining he was up since crazy AM, editing last nights drums and showed us swiftly exactly what he did and how he did it. We A/B-ed the Pro Tools, digital drums with the tape, analogue drums, understanding the sonic differences between the two and the benefits/downfalls of both.
With the drums edited, it was time to get really serious. Bass guitar (Mike Chhangur) was up and there, Sig explained that he was not going to use just one mike on his bass amp (hang on, you can use more than one?) but four AND run more sources (okay this bit went a little bit over my head, studio routing is not an easy thing to get initially) but there, the audio concepts discussed yesterday came back into play and yes, it made sense. The importance of using the same tuner for the entire band (the very same tuner, not the same brand, but the same actualdevice) was explained and boom, we were away! Again, a few takes later, we had a phenomenal bass track recorded and edited.
Next up were guitars, rhythm (John Maksym) and lead (Al Malnar), I’m not going to go into any sort of detail but it was more mind blowing stuffs! Definitely the kind of stuffs this guitar girl loved. Again, epic players using using gear in an epic room, produced by epic ears. More editing tricks, beautiful recording methods and tactics, next up it was vocals. Vox were a sheer delight to watch. Using a mike I actually own myself but never ever use, I was enthralled. Sig’s vocal chain was delicious. I’ve never been so gear hungry in my life! After editing and comping and a host of processing, I was delighted to be affirmed that what I do myself is actually correct and I learned a few little extra things too.
Shortly after that, dinner was up and can I say right here, that Sig’s wife Rachel is the most talented cook I’ve ever met, as well as a fantastic studio momma and all round lovely, lovely person?! Her food was out of this world and she looked after all of us like her own. Her presence added more love, light and sparkle to an already sparkly, beautiful, heavenly place. I didn’t realise so much joy was possible in one space and I was sent to pick up my fiance who was invited for the party. Brotherly “I know you!”s were exchanged as I watched the love of my life meet the inspiration of my life, and Sig swept him up into his world, a world he knows just enough about to be floored by what he saw. That’s when I saw Sig has a huge salt lamp upstairs near his mastering suite, of course! Good energy huh!!! After all of that, the class resumed and the final touches of the workshop were completed, mixing and mastering to quarter inch analogue tape- SHREDDER!
We partied until an absolutely crazy hour, how Sig wasn’t totally crashing out (for he was up at the crack of dawn to edit drums, remember?) I’ll never know. Maybe it was the amazing maple syrup we ate raw from a dessert spoon?! Or the giant bag of those peanut butter M&Ms John brought and we all devoured?! The sheer joy of 14 like-minded people in the same room, simply enjoying each others company, exchanging thoughts, ideas, stories and culture, I suspect is what kept us all on Cloud 9.
My experience at Beach Road studios was simply second to none. I left Ireland thinking I might learn a little thing or two but instead I learned a brick tonne, felt joy and love like never before, got swept off my feet and felt a whole-ness I never felt before. I’ve definitely left a piece of my heart in Canada for I can never bear to say goodbye. Poor Sig had to get Rachel to pull me off his leg as I wept “Don’t make me go home!” I’m kidding of course but inside I was dying.
What an honour it was that I was allowed into Sig’s very special creative space, into the amazing building he built on a foundation of pure love and light. No wonder Beach Road has housed amazing musicians from so many genres, it’s the kind of place you gravitate towards and it wraps you up in a big cuddly blanket of passion for music. How lucky I am to have walked around those famous rooms and to have studied under the most passionate, intelligent, talented, skilled, witty, loveable and humble human I’ve ever met in my life. I’m so very grateful. Siegfried Meier is the producer I aspire to become one day. I can see why he makes brilliant records. Brilliant artists, brilliant gear, brilliant rooms, brilliant ears, brilliant skills, brilliant home. I haven’t even remotely touched on his history as a music producer- I urge you to visit his website Siegfried Meier and to pop his name into a Google search, you’ll be blown away by what you read and understand why I literally jumped onto a plane to visit a country I’ve never been to before, a journey of 5366kms each way. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I hope I see my friends Sig and Rach and the rest of the class group again in the near future.
I believe if everyone met Siegfried Meier, even for just 5 minutes, the world would be a much better place.
It’s not often (never before actually) that I blog about my old band, Black Daisy, though I have mentioned in my bio that I was lead guitarist and backing vocalist for the all female rock band. If you’re a first-time reader on this blog, I parted ways from the band in early 2009. The band was formed by myself and LA Halvey from the ashes of a band we found ourselves in which formed in autumn 2002. That band was named Ali, yes we all hated the name, but we couldn’t think of anything better so we ran with it (it was hoped we would get Bono’s attention! pfffff, as if!). We had high hopes and we actually did a few very cool gigs (Mountjoy Prison Christmas party 2003, MTV’s Breaking Point, a couple of appearances on RTE’s You’re a Star). The band eventually burned out but myself and the singer still had faith and we continued writing, recording, auditioning musicians and gigging. We eventually found the other half of the band circa mid-2007 (Nicki Billings from Wicklow on rhythm guitar and Asta Mileriene from Lithuania on drums) and became the last incarnation of Black Daisy. Well, until I was out of the picture but that’s a different story.
So the reason I’m blogging is because on this day 10 years ago, Black Daisy independently released our debut EP “Disturbing New Fashion”. It was available through downloadmusic.ie and a small number of Irish HMV and record shops.
We recorded it in Donabate (Fastlane Studio) with producer Stephen Brett (now CEO of InMusik), who said our drummer Asta, was a “machine” (she actually was though! you’ll never find a drummer who was on the beat like her). We had a lot of fun recording it and it happened very quickly. His studio was really cool, at the time I was interested in production but it was all a massive mystery to me. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what DAW he used (probably Pro Tools) or anything like that but I remember how I felt and that’s always the important thing. We had such great giggles, I remember we all got on really well, Stephen was a lot of fun to work with, we felt at ease, he “got” us, he let us do what we wanted to do and he pushed us to try out new ideas. It was a cosy space to work in, not small but not massive. Perfect for us.
So before we went to studio and before we even started rehearsals, the songs were all demo-ed by myself. I had just discovered Apple’s Garageband and I put together all the tracks using drum loops, my recordings of guitars, basses and LAs vocals. We had lots of fun recording in my bedroom and at the time, we suddenly felt empowered with cheap recording gear. In fact I wrote “Disturbing New Fashion” by putting together a bunch of Apple drum loops, recording them onto my Boss Loop Station and overdubbing guitars and vox over and over. I wrote most of the lyrics too, inspired by a documentary about festivals- I remember they were talking in particular about Lollapalooza, and the phenomenon of people losing their **** in the pit at the gigs. How disturbed the audience seemed to the onlookers. I thought that was seriously cool, so that’s actually what the song’s about! I still have some of those demos knocking around, not the session files (I suffered a massive hard drive crash in 2010 and lost all my digital memories from Black Daisy- photos, music, videos- all gone to digital heaven), but I still have some of the stereo bounces on mini discs.
So anyways, our preproduction was really important, we spent a lot of time as a band in our rehearsal space (Monster Music in Blanchardstown was the BEST place ever), going over each and every detail of the songs. We were very mindful of our limited recording time and wanted to maximise whatever time we had by sorting out the nitty gritty in rehearsals. It wasn’t always fun but we learned how to play as a band and we actually gelled really well during that time.
I was always happy with the finished product and I’m still proud of it. However my role with the band at this stage was on borrowed time, as I didn’t forsee the Eurovision fiasco at this point and I had every faith that the band was moving forward in a healthy way. We were playing great gigs on the back of RTE’s You’re a Star series 6, writing new songs and getting on like a house on fire. 6 short months later, it all would change.
I suppose it’s only fitting that 10 years on, I’m in the middle of my music masters. It all seems like a lifetime ago, I suppose it was. I’m ever the sentimentalist. Being in Black Daisy was a huge part of my life infact, it was my way of life. Everything revolved around the band- my jobs, work hours, my clothes, what I spent my money on, getting up and down to Dublin, countless hours on Myspace plugging the band. I even put college on hold in 2002, and never thought I would get there until I had my BCFE interview in 2009.
Part of me still thinks: I shouldn’t have bothered, I should have went straight to college in 2002, I should have spent more time focusing on an actual proper job, what’s to show for all the politics and drama anyway?
But then, I’d have never experienced so many cool things: the epic recording studios, the knowledgeable music producers, the experienced session musicians, gigging all over the country, the road trips, the late night sleepover giggles, the tense photo shoots, the fun video shoots, the nerve-wrecking radio interviews, the exciting TV shows, doing each other’s hair and makeup, swopping outfits, the car breakdowns halfways down the country, the parties, the clubbing in Cork city, going to Galway for the craic because the show was postponed 24 hours and we didn’t want to go home, the saucy jokes, the dodgey rehearsal rooms in Temple Bar, the serious songwriting sessions, the hunt for band members, the excited fans kissing my biker boots at gigs, the people dancing to our music, blowing away skeptical men with crossed arms at gigs, making our home demos and of course, the girls. I’ve probably forgotten half of the shenanigans. Feck, I’ve actually played the Ambassador in Dublin! So yeah, it was a good thing. It was a life experience and I wouldn’t understand band politics and musician’s emotions as well as I do now, only for it. Maybe it’ll stand to me when I produce a new band in the future or when I engineer my next gig or when I become a teacher.
There’s still one or two CDs knocking around on Discogs and eBay if you’re at all interested. I still think it sounds effing awesome and believe we were something unique. I also think we were a band at the wrong time of the industry, when everything was up in chaos and no-one dared (or cared) to invest in talent. The EP is no longer available on iTunes but the “Disturbing New Fashion” video (directed by Zoe Kavanagh) is still on YouTube if you want a quick peak.