A Year in Music – Interview with Paul Page by Killian Laher
We had the chance to talk to Paul Page (ex-Whipping Boy/betweenthebars blog) about the music of 2016. You can see the results below.
What music grabbed you in the last year, can be new or old?
There were a number of albums from musicians and bands I knew very little about that blew me away. M. Craft’s ‘Blood Moon’, King Creosote’s ‘Astronaut Meets Appleman’ and the Warhaus record ‘We Fucked a Flame into Being’ were three that fall into that category. I thought ex Delgados Emma Pollock‘s solo record ‘In Search of Harperfield’ was wonderful.
In terms of the Irish music scene, Barry McCormack‘s ‘The Tilt of the Earth’ is one of the best Irish albums I have heard in years. Just incredible. A mix of Dylan, Cave, McGowan, Van Morrison and James Joyce. I always liked Lisa Hannigan but her latest album really impressed me. Two other Irish records that really stood out was the Drombeg album ‘Earthworks’ and ‘Luneworks’ by MMOTHS. Both doing something very different, a little experimental dabbling in the ambient/classical genre.
Anything that fell short of expectations?
Not really – I don’t tend to dwell for too long on music that doesn’t have any impact on me. I was very disappointed with the Elliott Smith soundtrack to ‘Heaven Adores You’. I love his music and really enjoyed the film but I felt the soundtrack was a real hodge podge of material that didn’t really serve his legacy in any way. There’s a wealth of unreleased material by Smith that has been available online for some years now – very little of that has been officially released. I thought maybe some of those tracks might have found their way onto the soundtrack.
2016 was a year punctuated by the deaths of significant musical figures (Bowie, Cohen, Lemmy, Prince). Any personal thoughts about this?
Bowie’s death was such a shock and seemed to set the tone for 2016 – it’s a year we will all be glad to see the back of. And he left us with something of a creative tour de force – ‘Blackstar’ was one of the best records he had made in years. I suppose what made the deaths of Bowie, Prince, Cohen and Lemmy so affecting is that these were all iconic figures that for a certain generation, had always been there, a permanent soundtrack from youth right through until adulthood. And even if you were not a fan of their music, you were always aware of their presence, their influence on the music you listened to. So it comes as a huge shock and jolts us into confronting our own mortality in a very real way.
Have you come across any books or movies or other art forms that excited you in the last 12 months?
I didn’t get through as much reading in 2016 as I would have liked. Loved Patti Smith’s memoir ‘M Train’ – so different to the usual rock autobiography. Beautifully written, insightful and gorgeously presented. I read it straight after reading Bernard Sumner of New Order’s memoir. The contrast could not have been greater. I love John Banville’s novels. Finally got to read ‘Ancient Light’ – it had been sitting on the bookshelf for a while. He is an incredible writer, one of our finest.
Do musical formats (records/CDs/mp3s/streams etc) play a part in your world?
I mostly listen to music on the go, so usually it is mp3s. The whole renewed interest in vinyl is kind of amusing. People couldn’t offload their vinyl collections quickly enough when compact discs first came out! Now they are buying the same records back at obscene prices, very often to listen to them on turntables with awful sound quality. I know people claim that vinyl sounds better, but there is no question that CDs is closer to how the source recordings sounded in the studio – vinyl adds something that wasn’t already there -usually crackles, hiss and ‘character’, whatever that is. The whole streaming thing is linked to a complete shift in how people consume music. And in a wider context, it says something about the place music holds in our lives now. I am really uncomfortable with the whole streaming services thing, even though I admit to using it at times. Musicians are paid derisory amounts for something they have poured their hearts into; only those at the very top of the tree are making money from this model and that has got to change. But I think it is here to stay – it seems the average music consumer is no longer willing to pay much for music because they are just that: consumers, not fans. And that’s a critical distinction.
How is betweenthebars going?
To be honest, I am not sure how long I am going to continue doing it. I have been thinking about it a lot recently, and wondering if it is worthwhile continuing. I started it as a music fan, writing about music that affects me, or interests me in some way. There are no ads on the website, I never set it up as a vehicle for anything but sharing my views on music with like-minded music fans. But I think the music fan, or my idea of it, is a thing of the past. The passion for music, particularly amongst younger people doesn’t seem to be there – it is just another distraction, competing for time with social media. Like I already mentioned, the way we consume music is changing – I am not sure if people are bothered reading the reviews or opinions of others, when they can stream the music instantly, and make their own judgement, usually within seconds. So I am going to look at it and maybe change the format completely, do something different or just stop completely. We will see.