– Photo of Seamus on Clare island by Barbara Polichnowska
Interview with Seamus O’Muineachain – by Killian Laher
We had the chance to talk to Irish composer Seamus O’Muineachain about his new album and musical history. You can see the results below.
Seamus released his new album Cloves, in June of this year.
Thanks for agreeing to this. You’ve been in a number of bands prior to releasing your solo stuff, is that right? Can you tell us more about your musical history?
You’re very welcome. That is right, yes. My first ever band was called ‘Kumari’ when I was in secondary school. There was a guy in my class, Kieron, who I think was probably the first person in Mayo to download music, and he’d give me CDs of random albums by Tool and Kerbdog and stuff like that. We decided to start a band with him on bass and me as frontman, and found a guy called Liam who went to another school in the area to play drums. Liam ended up producing the first Seamus O’Muineachain album years later, and we still collaborate. For the last ten years though I’ve mainly been playing and releasing music as part of a doom folk duo called Music For Dead Birds.
Delving back further, you grew up in Belmullet, didn’t you? What sort of music did you grow up listening to?
Growing up in Ireland in the 90s before laws stopped children from being in pubs at night, meant you could run around packed bars at all hours drinking coke, eating Tayto and acting like a hard man around the big lads by the gambling machines. My family would go to a pub called Trá Buí in Doohoma, and there’d be trad bands playing and people out dancing. They’d play the same songs every weekend and those things become embedded in some strange way. The young sponge brain picks up on the structures, the intonations, the pauses, and it learns them. Those were my formative years I suppose. As a teen I mainly listened to nu-metal.
The album Cloves is really impressive. Tell us about how you came to put it together.
Why thank you. For the last year or so I’ve been living what most would call a ‘boring’ life, alone in a small town. I don’t go out. I rarely socialise preferring to stay in and drink tea. I have a part time job, and I go for walks on the lake almost everyday. I have found a lot of calm in this lifestyle, so I suppose the music is influenced by that. It’s simple. It doesn’t look for complications in order to ‘achieve’ anything, but tries to reduce them in favour of a more minimal approach, attempting to be content with what has already been achieved, i.e peace of mind. So it’s really simple and it kind of asks the listener to accept its simplicity, and by doing so, that approach. I wanted it to be comforting, and also like, small, in a way, so that’s where the title comes from. I did the whole thing in my apartment. I caught myself drifting off at the laptop some nights so knew I was doing what I had set out to do.
Is playing live something that you do much of?
It isn’t. I’ve played the Seamus material live only three times: Whelan’s Dublin, Citog Galway, and Electric Picnic, all in 2012. There are no plans for any more gigs at the moment.
Do you listen to much current music? What sort of stuff are you enjoying?
I tend to listen to a lot of older stuff, or else finding newer stuff and listening to it over and over again for a month or two at a time. Lately I’ve been getting into and listening to a lot of Oneohtrix Point Never which is interesting. I listened to 22, a million by Bon Iver a lot right before making this album, and it found a lot of beauty in that album so it inspired me a lot.
The current climate for musicians has its pros and cons. While the internet allows so much greater access, it seems next to impossible to make any money out of it for all but the biggest artists. What do you think?
I would agree, but I think it has always been that way. Composers living in Mozart’s Vienna were probably complaining about not getting any commissions or something, struggling to feed their families. Musicians who aren’t well known, along with all artists for that matter, have always been depicted as poor, even tragic, in our culture. Meet anyone in a social situation who isn’t a celebrity and who tells you they are an artist, and you immediately feel the need to ask them how they make money. But you can make some money from music, if you put in the work, it just often has to be subsidised with (shock, horror) other work. Except of course for the ‘chosen few’, who fly around on jet skis, sipping martinis into the early hours every night, and who never get depressed, or stressed out, or feel unsure of themselves, and who are glamorised in order to maintain public attention, and while that might sound cynical, I don’t see the big deal or the point of complaining if it’s your choice to chase the privilege of making thousands of euros a year from music and doing nothing else. If you’re not Radiohead, boohoo. Work harder at it if that’s what you need, because anything is achievable. If it doesn’t work out for you, and you end up unemployable, full of regret, shame and self-hatred, banished by society as a loser, and you still have the need to make music, then it is obviously not about the money.
What’s next for Seamus O’Muineachain?
Oh gosh. I’d like to know.
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