The Late David Turpin – formerly ‘David Turpin’ – is releasing his new (and superbly unique) third album We Belong Dead this Friday, Sept 13th. Two days later the album launch will be celebrated in the beautiful Smock Alley Theatre, as part of this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, and we at No More Workhorse were lucky enough to catch up with David for a few words before it all happens.
Hi David. You seem to be referring to yourself as ‘Late’ these days. How come? Did something untoward happen…?
When I was making this new album, it felt like quite a fresh start for me, and I decided to release it under a name that gave me a blank slate. So I thought about what, factually, had happened to me since I last put out a record in 2009. One thing was that I enrolled to do a PhD, and the other was that I had an accident in 2011 and my heart-rate was undetectable for 28 seconds. I’m pretty sure nobody wants to listen to a record by Doctor Turpin, so I decided I’d be The Late David Turpin. The name’s factual, but there’s an element of play to it as well – as there should be in pop music, I think.
So tell me more about your new album ‘We Belong Dead.’ The title is very curious…can you explain what it means and who the ‘we’ refers to?
Something I find about working with music is that several themes can co-exist in a way that feels right, even when it’s quite difficult to pin down what makes them work together. So, on one level, the title is referring to the extinction of Homo Sapiens which will, hopefully, make way for the return of the misused animal kingdom; and on the other, I suppose it refers to the end of a love affair. ‘We belong dead’ is actually what Frankenstein’s Monster says to his bride at the end of The Bride of Frankenstein, so I’ve always found those particular words very romantic, in an odd way. I just like the sound, too. In poetry, you have to like the way the words look on the page; in music, I think you have to like the way the words feel in your mouth. Speaking, reading aloud, singing – they’re all physical acts, and you have to enjoy the sensation the words give you.
You’ve also collaborated with a large group of Irish musicians, from Cathy Davey to Conor O’Brien, on the album. Was this a conscious plan or just what happened in the course of recording the album? What is it about the process of collaboration that appeals to you?
I worked on the album for four years, and most of that was spent hunched over my equipment at home. So, naturally cabin fever set in a few times and I asked people over. I’m extremely shy, so the people who are on the record are friends who came over to my cavern for a pootle. Bringing collaborators in can have that Wizard of Oz effect, when Dorothy opens the door and suddenly everything changes from sepia to colour. It refreshes you, and it makes you see the work in a different way. Some people have said they’re surprised that Cathy sings lead on “Like Bird and Beast”, and that my voice isn’t really on that song at all – but making a record isn’t about that for me. I don’t even think of the lead vocal on the album as my voice, really – it might sound silly, but I think of it as the Voice of the Record. And because it’s separate from my physical body, it can do things my physical body can’t do – like changing into somebody else, for instance.
The upcoming album launch is in Smock Alley – and last year’s sold-out Fringe show was in the Project Arts Centre – this seems to suggest that you prefer putting on atypical music events to promote your work? What is it that appeals to you about such theatrical presentations of your music?
I love performing in all kinds of contexts, but I suppose it shifts the expectations of what will happen on stage when you perform music as theatre. Working with Dublin Fringe Festival I feel very invited to be free with what I cook up, and I was delighted to be given Smock Alley Theatre as a venue, because it’s so atmospheric. It’s the oldest theatre in Dublin, of course, but it was also a church for a century or so along the way. I’m performing this show with a choir, as well as some special guests, so the whole thing has a kind of ritualised quality that feels very connected, for me, to the history of the building.
Did you spend much time perfecting your exquisite whisper-vocal technique or does it just come naturally?
I’m afraid that’s always been the sound of my voice, for better or worse. I can’t tell you how often I get told to speak up on any given day – it’s shameful. You know the amp in Spinal Tap? The one that goes to eleven? I’m the opposite of that amp. You’re lucky if you can get me to go to four.
Lastly, what does the future hold for The Late David Turpin…besides the afterlife of course!?
I think there’s a lot of life in this album, title notwithstanding, so I’m interested in seeing where it takes me. I’m looking forward to performing it live, maybe doing some interesting remix collaborations, that kind of thing. I’m doing a little writing and production for other people too, which is quite liberating, in a funny way. I’ve always been very drawn to cinema, as well, so I’d like to maybe work on some film-scores.
Tickets for The Late David Turpin’s performance in Smock Alley Theatre’s main space on Sunday, September 15th can be purchased from Dublin Fringe Festival’s website HERE. And his new album, ‘We Belong Dead,’ can be downloaded from iTunes HERE or purchased in Dublin’s Tower Records from this Friday, September 13th.