MOUTHY ISSUE TWO
interview by Ian C Stewart
Irish homepop megastar Daniel Prendiville got into the music biz early, which he attributes to "being a ten year old when glam rock started, and not being particularly sporty. I think there's a certain air of sexual ambiguity going on in kids' heads at that age, and seeing David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust gear probably started a few balls rolling, oo, er. My brother was into rock music at that stage, like Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash, Cream, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, so there was a good bit of music in the house. Earliest pop experience I can recall was hearing Cat Stevens singing "I'm Gonna Get Me a Gun" sometime in 1967. For some reason, I've always associated that song with the color of ketchup, hence engendering a running theory I have that sound has color: bass is brown, treble is silver. A piccolo is a light magnolia color, while an organ is orange. And oboes are pink, obviously."
"In the 1970s I liked Bowie, Queen and Deep Purple. I always wanted to get into Roxy Music, but I ended up buying singles by the Sweet instead. UK-era Sparks is an influence that still lives with me. Martin Gordon's Rickenbacker on "Kimono My House" led me to want to be a bass player, while Ron Mael's lyrics are superb. Slade probably influenced me a lot too. Pop singles that rocked - what a novel concept. Got into punk in the late 1970s. I loved the Stranglers and the Jam, both principally for the bass playing, though I never listen to them these days. Got into XTC through Barry Andrews' organ, ooer missus, and stayed through the arrival and departure of Dave Gregory. I love XTC for their attitude as much as for their music. Husker Du taught me that brillinat tunes can be arranged simply and still be brilliant, while Soft Cell taught me that simple tunes can be arranged brilliantly and still remain charming and simple tunes. I loved the Pistols and PiL (for the Second Edition album). Jah Wobble was a huge influence with his reggae style bass playing, and then Jah led me to Holger Czukay and Can. I love classic dub reggae too and much of it still passes scrutiny. And I'm quite a fan of Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, because they were such brilliant musicians in a genre in which I do not operate, so they're no competition.The fact that they're dead is a bonus. Plus Barrington Pheloung's orchestral soundtrack work for the Inspector Morse series is astounding.The Smiths are in there somewhere as well. Where singers are concerned, it's hard to beat 1960s era Scott Walker. Well, he's an old guy now, and I'd only be arrested if I tried to beat him. I'm starting to get into Dusty Springfield these days too, so I reckon that makes me a necrophiliac. Still, I haven't heard her complain."
Prendiville applies these early inspirations to his own pop concoctions. "I'm not a natural musician, so I don't strap on a guitar and fool around with riffs. However, I'm always walking around with a fragment of a tune, or a rhythm pattern in my head. Occasionally, snatches of lyrics come together, suggesting either verses or choruses or even a middle eight, I'm not fussy. These all get stored away in my head for a period of time, and if I can still remember them after, say, six months, then they're worth pursuing. The number of brilliant tunes I've forgotten, because I didn't have access to an instrument or a tape recorder, would depress you, to be honest."
"Having said all that, I do tend to think in terms of complete projects, like an album or an EP. If I come up with a great title for a project, that usually sets me off thinking of the type of tracks that would tie in with that project. By and large, I start from the outside in, as it were. If I have the album title, say, I find that song titles start coming to mind which would tend to suggest the mood of the album and of the constituent songs. Then off I go and try to write the songs to that brief. It doesn't always work out like that. I always leave room for an impromptu track - for me it can take anything up to a couple of months to write and record a song, so impromptu in my case might be weeks rather than months - which could appear out of left field, but by and large, most of my projects are planned."
"Lyrically, my inspirations come from the world around me, from the world as I'd like to see it or from a surreal, off-center view. I try not to inject too much of my own life an experience into my lyrics, because the last thing I want is for people I know to hassle me about whether I wrote a song about them. Who needs the hassle?"
"Muscially, I'm still a strong believer in the power of 1960s and 1970s pop. If I was a brilliant musician, I'd probably end up doing pastiches of pop music from that era. Thank goodness I can't play worth a fuck, because what you then end up with is 60s and 70s pop filtered through my own musical ineptitude. That type of music can only come from me. I love some disco - God be with the days of teenage innocence - and late 70s early 80s electronic music. I think my musical muse moved to the wilderness somewhere around 1984."
Prendiville's musical motto could be Think Globally, Act Globally. ie - he's not big into his local music scene. "No. I'm not interested in doing my own stuff live. I've been through the mill a number of times, starting bands, and I'm too old and cantankerous to want to start another. I occasionally toy with the idea of playing live with other musicians, but I'm not that pushed about it. I'd love to do some local recording of bands, but that's just a pipe dream at the moment. I wouldn't mind doing a bit of radio either, yer eclectic DJ type of thing. I tried to pitch a show to the local radio station a number of years ago, but they wouldn't bite. In fairness, they don't suck either. I may try it again, who knows?"
When it comes to collaborating with other musicians, he is sadly confined to the realm of the living. "Most of the good ones are dead, and I don't have a ouija board, so that limits things a bit. Being an XTC fan, I'd love to collaborate with XTC, either as a group or as individuals. As it happens, I'm collaborating with John Neil - a remix project, where we destroy each other's music and see what results. Hopefully the end of the year will show some significant progress. I collaborated on an EP with an Italian singer/songwriter, Franco Turra, a few years ago. I put English lyrics to some of his tunes. I thought the project gelled very well, but unfortunately it didn't generate much interest. I've also been collaborating over the years with Peter Fitzpatrick on a number of tunes. Pressure of work for both of us has been an inhibiting factor here. I'd dearly love to work with Mike Bowman aka MJB, he's such a creative genius in many respects, not just musically. For me, I'm happier collaborating where I don't have a huge personal stake in the project. I have my own shit, and that's what keeps me going. A collaboration is a way for me to take some time out from my own projects and to have a bit of fun on someone else's stuff. If it doesn't work out, hey, that's not my problem."
How about that top forty chart? Ya like a bit of Mariah Carey, don't you? "It's pretty fucking awful really. The charts are a no-go area these days, being populated either by designer boy/girl bands and that awful R&B urban shite or by designer nu-metal/punk groups. However, when something deviating from that norm makes it to the mainstream, it does tend to lodge itself in one's brain. At the moment, I'm seriously debating with myself as to whether I should buy the latest Coldplay album. The group come across like a bunch of twats - sorry, lads - but some of the music is breathtakingly refreshing. It's interesting - sad - to see that punk is back again with groups like the Strokes and the Hives. Really, at this stage in the proceedings, we should have moved on to another musical plane altogether. Instead, we're stuck in a musical loop. Every couple of years we run out of fresh musical ideas and we end up plundering indiscriminately from the past."
Which is not to say that there isn't the occasional shot of good music. "I thought Jeff Buckley's Grace album was superb. What a voice and what a shame the poor guy died. I've been a fan of Cahtal Coughlan from the Microdisney days, through Fatima Mansions - he did a fantastic version of the Walker Brothers' "Nite Flites" - and on to his solo work. I think the Hives are nutters, but good fun. Radiohead are pretty awesome when they're not trying to be Radiohead-by-numbers. Doves are very impressive too. Having said that, the last album I bought was the Once Upon A Time compilation by Siouxsie and the Banshees. The very early stuff was absolutely brilliant. And that, my friends, was almost 25 years ago."
Prendiville continues to be busy, as befits his status as a homepop megastar. "I'm pre-producing an album entitled Tree Ring Circus. In many ways, I see this as being the culmination of the last four or five years of my musical work. I've become more comfortable and adept at using recording software and I reckon I now have the chops to produce the best album of my career. Of course the problem with making each release better than the one before it, is that every earlier release is worse than the one following it - which causes a dilemma: do I seek to constantly improve, or do I continue to be shite in order to maintain the integrity of my back catalogue?"
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