Interview Music News

Paddy Mulcahy – “My love for Limerick, my father, family and entire circle of friends is why I made this album.”

Limerick-born composer and producer Paddy Mulcahy will be showcasing new album How to Disappear as part of the Modellbahn experimental music concert series at Mastul in Wedding tonight (February 1st 2020) at 21:00. Ahead of the show, Paddy was kind enough to shed some light on the creative process, the music scene back home in Limerick, and how travelling has shaped his sound.

Paddy Mulcahy‘s musical credentials are formidable. Classically trained as a pianist, he developed a love for electronic music in his teens and has played alongside luminaries such as Nils Frahms and Lubomyr Melnyk. His work has featured in film festivals and in international ad campaigns for multinational brands.  Latest album How to Disappear is a mesmerising blend of piano, jungle beats, pulses and digital choirs that takes the listener on a sweeping journey. “Thank you kindly for the nice words! It was also a journey to make the album! I spend about a year writing different ideas, and about 8-9 months finalising the tracks. We spent a year developing a release plan for the album and I couldn’t be happier with the response it’s received so far.”

We ask him about the significance of the album’s title How to Disappear. Does it refer to getting away from a certain place, or delving into new sonic territories? “The title for the new album came about long after I’d finished writing all of the music. I tried to encapsulate all of the emotions I was feeling during the writing and recording process in the title. I’d started writing the album while I was living in Montreal and I completed it in my hometown Limerick City. I’d received some bad personal news the day before I left for Montreal, which honestly left me feeling like I’d betrayed my family after I’d left – to a point where I was disappearing from them, my friends and my beautifully comfortable home city. The title moreso reflects me disappearing from that whole situation (and place) than it does disappearing into new sonic territory, although we are hearing some different music that people wouldn’t usually hear from me.“

© Shane Vaughan

This emotional undercurrent pervades the album, although it is also cut through with a sense of adventure and lightness which makes for a rich and varied aural experience. Indeed, the array of conflicting emotions are reflected in the variety of genres. Sunset Connoisseur starts with a restless piano motif before being interrupted by syncopated drum beats, and Sunday’s Child mixes atonal sirens and chirps with organic sounding percussion to evoke a compelling blend of urban and rural landscapes. Is the sound mix partly representative of having written and recorded the album in different locations? “The variety in genres heard across the album is certainly representative of the different emotions and situations I found myself in while living in Montreal and reacting to the aforementioned personal situation. My father had just told me he was fairly sick and I left him to move to a different continent. That shook me, as you can imagine. So, I always wanted the album to tell a story and be viewed and listened to as such. The dynamic throughout is very intentional and reflective of what I was going through, which absolutely makes it so much more personal and close to home – my love for Limerick, my father, family and entire circle of friends is why (and more importantly, how) I made this album.“

This moving personal journey makes for compelling listening on the album, and will surely make for an absorbing live experience at Mastul this evening. Paddy will share a stage with Berlin-based pianist Kelly Wyse for the Modellbahn concert series, which focuses on experimental, improvised, contemporary classical and electronic music – surely a perfect match for his sound. How did the event come about? “I first met Kelly Wyse, the founder of Modellbahn Music, at the Q3Ambient Festival organised by the CEEYS brothers in Potsdam. Kelly & I shared the same piano at Fabrik on the 2nd day of the festival. He contacted me back in September to play at Mastul!”

© Shane Vaughan

Electronic? Ambient? Experimental? In some ways it may be reductive to assign Paddy’s music a particular label, as it will certainly evoke different images and moods for each listener. I tell him that I first encountered his music at the dead of night and wonder when he gets his own inspiration: “I have ideas for my music compositions probably every hour of the day, from when I wake until I eventually get to sleep. It’s falling asleep that’s the hardest, because I’m usually already looking ahead to what I’m going to do in the studio the next day. It’s weird because different ideas can come at different times of the day, and that is most annoying; for example, if I’m preoccupied with something like shopping groceries or working on another project, where I cannot capitalise on that idea as much as I would if I was working on that song or piece of music at the time.“

This restlessless and probing is embedded in the album. How did he pin down this particular array of sounds on How to Disappear? With all these ideas popping into his head, are most compositions started at the piano or on synths? “The writing process was interesting in that it took place between two countries with a number of different setups with different instruments. For example, I’d started the early demos in Montreal where I’d bought a little spinet piano with none of my usual microphones. I bought some small contact microphones and stuck them all on the soundboard. I bought and assembled a custom modular synth system and a $50 Tascam Portastudio. The instruments that I’m most comfortable were left back in Ireland. I took most of these demos and stripped them back, or added to them and completed the album in my home studio in Limerick City when I returned home. As for where the compositions start: the best instrument is somewhere inside my brain. It’s never a piano or synth. It’s an imaginary vision, or different take on what I already know – I just try and recreate that as best I can with my different instruments.“

On the subjects of visions, I tell him about my love of the video for Sunset Connoiseur and ask further about whether visual elements inspire his music: “Thanks, I’m so happy with that music video, and it’s really all thanks to Dave Fox in Dublin; with whom I’d been working on short film in Limerick City. He was directing the short film, had heard some of my older music and offered to make a music video for any forthcoming tracks. Little did he know I had this big album on the way! It’s funny really that you ask if my music is inspired by visuals; I would say it’s moreso inspired by my everyday surroundings, particularly nature and a different selection of random sounds I hear throughout the day. What’s even funnier is that I know all of this is subconscious. More often than not, I’ll hear something and not think anything of it at the time, but in hindsight that sound was a massive inspiration. My whole surrounding is always a huge inspiration and I’m always taking everything around me onboard.”

Video for “Sunset Connoisseur”, directed by Dave Fox

I wonder at what point in the process he comes up with such striking track titles.  “Honestly, I think the track titles are really really special to me and their contribution to the storytelling of the album. Each of these titles are reflective of something that happened along the way that stood out. Iron Shamrocks represents the resilience and „fighting“ nature of the Irish people in the face of adversity.  Through the Wall tells the story of a house party where a friend pushed another through a plasterboard wall. Sunset Connoisseur is simply a commentary on how reflective and thankful I was to return to Ireland and her beautiful sunsets after a year abroad during a very rough time. The titles usually come along after the music is written, or at least 70-80% finished, because I’m focusing so hard on reflecting the emotion through the music, I cannot be distracted by trying to lay out some pretty looking words too. I usually let my own music inspire me upon listening back on the finished product“

Turning back home to Ireland, I ask how the electronic scene is developing, particularly in Limerick. We see a lot of Irish DJs and producers moving here, for various reasons – how’s that affecting the growth? “There are still only a handful of primarily-electronic acts in Limerick. It is growing a lot, and I think the various 3rd level courses in Music Production are definitely helping encourage people to share their creations and take to the stage. I know that my studies at Limerick Institute of Technology inspired me to go forward.”

Whatever the future holds for the electronica scene back home, Paddy‘s own musical and personal voyage is fascinating, and promises to make for an unmissable live experience. How soon can we expect to see him in Berlin again after tonight’s show?  “I have no plans to return to Berlin; but I know that next time I do, I’ll be bringing more instruments”. If his musical evolution in the last few years is anything to go by, the promise of further sonic explorations is tantalising. And tonight promises to be a very immersive glimpse into this ongoing story of musical discovery and growth.

Show starts at 9pm tonight, Saturday the 1st of February, 2020. Doors at 8pm.

Mastul
Liebenwalderstraße 33
13347 Berlin


Cover Picture by
© Shane Vaughan

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