Q&A with Niall Jackson (Swimmers Jackson)
Swimmers Jackson’s latest album ‘Now Is All‘ is released tomorrow. Ahead of the release, we caught up with Niall Jackson to discuss classic albums, streaming services and life in general. You can see the results below.
Album Launch – Sunday 28th May in The Workman’s Cellar
What were the albums during your teenage years that really made you fall in love with music?
OK, so pretty much on the cusp of being a teenager, Windows 95 launched and you could, wait for it, WATCH A MUSIC VIDEO ON YOUR COMPUTER. Not plural, just Weezer’s Buddy Holly / Happy Days video directed by Spike Jonze. It was such a game-changer. I was obsessed with late-night MTV and No Disco, and then these 4 nerds came out with the Blue Album right after Kurt Cobain died and I was hooked. I’m pretty sure I bought the CD with my confirmation money.
It was one of my first CDs along with R.E.M’s Document, which makes me sound much cooler than I was, I literally had £8.50 (Irish punts) and I couldn’t afford any of the newer albums. I already had Monster by REM on cassette, and my brother was into grunge (in real time) so I was absorbing all of that Seattle scene too.
Then, Ash happened. Trailer followed by 1977. It felt like MY Nirvana, and they were Irish, I’ve still never been to Downpatrick, but in my head, it’s basically L.A. I taped every interview and stayed up for every performance, they were my first love show in the Point Depot (3Arena) in…I think 1997.
I’ve never gone off any of those 3 bands. Obviously, Pavement, Pixies, and all the other alternative nation bands soon had me turned into a right little weirdo with my canvas satchel and all the band names written on it. Still have that bag too.
Can you tell us a little about your background in Music? When did you start playing and writing your own songs?
I have zero background in music. If it wasn’t for my older brother, I’d still be listening to Bryan Adams. He bought a bass so I naturally stole it and learned a few Green Day songs on it. I’ve played in bands since my Junior Cert. Still friends with all of them too. We were called Brown (terrible name) then Septic Armpits (worse) then landed on Modern Skins (our singer was a Mod). But yeah, I ended up playing bass in all the bands I was ever in, I had no teeth for a long time so I don’t think I had the most confidence (accident not nutritional). Anyway, I only really started playing and writing my own compositions when I was about to turn 30. I’m 40 now so not long in the scheme of things, then again there are probably 10-year-olds with more natural talent than me already.
Is this a lockdown album? Do you think it is reflected in the songs or the lyrics?
It’s an album written during lockdown (all songs written or finished between March 2020 and March 2022). I released my debut solo album right as the pandemic hit. I wallowed a little in that when all my gigs got cancelled but I decided to just get back to writing almost straight away. Of course, the album touches on themes we all felt during those few years, but it’s not an album about the lockdown, just a product of it. Themes of fear, existentialism, concern for society, and ageing, to be honest, I didn’t need a lockdown to write this album, but it helped in a funny way.
Where did you record the album?
I recorded the album in Limerick with one of my favourite Irish musicians, Mícheál Keating of Bleeding Heart Pigeons. We recorded the drums in a studio in Limerick City (played expertly by Brendan McInerney of BHP, Mary Wallopers, The Low Field). I basically heard some of Mícheál’s production work with a Limerick artist called Hey Rusty, and it was exactly what I needed. When Brendan came on board it was just a dream as up until then these were just demos recorded onto my phone. All of a sudden other people heard them, contributed and they were technicolour. Most of it was recorded in a farmhouse studio in Castle Troy, but some additional vocals were recorded in Peckham, London (Rob Cotter) and PRAH studios, Margate (Mike Lindsay).
What do you think of the music streaming services like Spotify? Are they a necessary evil?
I fucking hate Streaming sites, particularly Spotify. They are an unnecessary evil. It didn’t have to be this way. I’ve done dissertations and a thesis on Napster and Music and Art and I can tell you something for nothing, anybody that thanks Spotify for anything is a fucking idiot.
As a user, I can see its perks, the convenience, the playlists, the ease of sharing, and testing new stuff out before you buy, but it is quite frankly one of the worst things to happen to music in the 21st Century. I am putting my album out on my own record label – Wonky Karousel Records, on a limited run of both vinyl and CD and a single sale of either of those will give me more than I’m likely to get from all the streaming services combined. I heard about a certain musician doing a Spotify only release recently in an effort to get more playlists, it honestly made me want to quit.
If musicians are paid so little to have their music on streaming services, why don’t they take their music off them?
So here’s where I become a big old walking contradiction. I actually recorded a bonus song called ‘Unwrapped’ and my plan was to put only that track up on streaming services under the album name ‘Now Is All’, but I completely gave in to the pressure of being on those sites. The first single got decent radio play on BBC6MUSIC and RTÉ/Nova/Today even, so people were just asking me when it would be on streaming and I just caved. I’m ashamed to say that and I would love to have enough clout to pull them all off à la Neil Young (for a while)… but I just don’t have the means to not be on them right now.
Do you enjoy playing live? When can people see you next?
I love playing live, although lately, with everything being written by me, I’ve started to suffer a bit from the nerves. I never thought twice about it when I was playing bass or doing backing vocals in Autumn Owls or Bouts but my own songs are quite heart on sleeve and I’d suffer from imposter syndrome a fair bit. I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone though and not letting it stop me, and there’s a certain enjoyment in that too. Irish album launch with a full new band is on Sunday 28th May in The Workman’s Cellar but I’ve a stack of solo support slots with David Kitt, Nina Nastasia, Jinx Lennon, Kila and Caoilian Sherlock, and Cork/London/Birmingham band shows too.
Best to follow me on Instagram or Twitter if you want all the boring details. @swimmersjackson on both.
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