A Year in Music – 2021 – Niall McCann (Filmmaker)
by Killian Laher
How are you? How have you been?
I am good. Keeping on, like us all right now. What else can we do?
Do you think we’re over the worst at this stage?
I’d hesitate to give an answer here, it seems like every time we think we are on the way out of this thing it pulls us back in. Like Al Pacino’s character in Righteous Kill.
What music/albums did you particularly enjoy in 2021?
Not a best of list just a list of some of the music I’ve enjoyed this year. I am not lucky enough to hear all the great music the year gave us:
John Francis Flynn – I would not live always
Loraine James – Reflection
Low – Hey What
Sunken Foal – Two Moon Junction
The Altered Hours – Convertible
Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis – These Feral Lands
Floating Points w/ Pharoah Sanders – Promises
Manic Street Preachers – The Ultra Vivid Lament
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!
Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
The Pop Group – Y in Dub
Grouper – Shade
Tindersticks – Distractions
Gazelle Twin & NYX – Deep England
Adrian Crowley – The Watchful Eye of the Stars
The Weather Station – Ignorance
The Bug – Fire
Jinx Lennon – Liferafts For Latchicos
Arab Strap – As Days Get Dark
Lambchop – Showtunes
Mogwai – As the Love Continues
Fire Draw Near – An Anthology of Traditional Irish Song and Music
Luke Haines – Set the Dogs on the Post Punk Postman/ Beat Poetry for Survivalists (with Peter Buck)
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – Carnage
Cathal Coughlan – Song of Co – Aklan
You did some work with Adrian Crowley this year, isn’t that right?
Yes, we made a music video for the first single, “Northbound Stowaway” off his new album, The Watchful Eye of the Stars and collaborated again for Leagues O’Tooles Musictown Festival, Matthew Boyd and I (who I run our production company Redemption Films with) produced a 35 min film with Adrian built around a new piece of music he wrote especially for the festival “Ascension of Larks”. Adrian is a great friend and artist and it’s always a pleasure to work together. Long may it continue.
Greg Dunn the photographer, Matthew Boyd and I also produced a music video for the wonderful Telifis, a collaboration between Cathal Coughlan and Jackknife Lee. The album is coming early next year and it is really something else.
How do you feel about going to gigs?
I’ve been to two this year (I think) Loraine James in Lost Lane and Black Midi in Vicar Street. The music industry has had a torrid time of it and they need our support but I guess people need to judge these things on their own terms and how comfortable they feel amongst a crowd. I’ve got lots of tickets for gigs next year so I’m hoping it’s a better year all round.
The arts have had a particularly tough time right through the pandemic, in comparison to other sectors. Is it difficult to keep going?
We are making a film Lost Futures about the writer Mark Fisher (Capitalist Realism), a really wonderful and important writer, who died tragically in 2017. His work is growing in its relevance all the time, it speaks to young people who see that their right to a better future has been taken away from them. The film is exciting to me because the subject matter is quite prescient, taking in the housing crisis, the climate crisis, the migrant crisis, the mental health crisis (all the crises!) etc, the things which have been exacerbated by the failure of neo-liberalism to provide people with what they need to live decent lives. Our aim is to project Fisher’s ideas onto the world today, not simply tell a biographical story. Ideas like the Slow Cancellation of the Future, which refers to our collective inability to imagine a future radically different from the present, seem to me to be increasingly important. If we cannot imagine a better future we are lost. This is the challenge we have before us. What capitalism and neoliberalism are great at is making things that would have been previously unacceptable into seemingly matter of fact, it normalises that which is not normal, lowers our expectations and what we are willing to accept.
We are collaborating on the film with Tadhg O’Sullivan (To the Moon) and Feargal Ward (The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid), two of the best filmmakers about, so it is something we are very excited about. Fisher’s work had a huge positive effect on my own life and I am hoping more people will connect with his work through the film we are making.
I don’t make a lot of films and I do not work fast so it’s starting to feel like a long time now since the Science of Ghosts, my last feature. Making a living from the arts right now is very difficult. It always is of course but the pandemic has made it even worse, obviously. In regards to music, the current situation where the CEOs of streaming sites become rich off the backs of musicians and their work is obscene, people need to be paid no matter what they work at and they need to be paid enough to live. A living wage is the least we should expect. To make good work you need time and enough money to live, both these things have been taken away from people, not just artists. No one has any time to reflect. As Fisher once wrote: “Only prisoners have time to read.”
Production wise it has been interrupted. Hopefully, we can pull in the funding we need in early 2022 and finish the film next year too. We want to show how relevant his ideas still are and show the desire for real change that exists out there, especially amongst the young who have more invested in the future and more to lose if we abandon hope. As Fisher would have it: we need to reinvent the future.
What are you looking forward to next year, musically?
Going to gigs again. Foggy Notions and Enthusiastic Eunuch has some very exciting gigs lined up. Both promoters put on some of the best gigs you can see in this country and we are lucky to have them. We need to support artists and independent promoters.
EE has this gig coming up next May 3rd, Jake Xerxes Fussell at the Bello Bar, which I am very much looking forward to:
Foggy Notions have some very exciting gigs coming up in 2022. Einsturendze Neubaten, Tindersticks and Grouper in NCH to name just a few.
Have you any plans yourself next year?
Make the Mark Fisher film, try to be a kind person and stay alive.
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