INTERVIEW: Rising Damp

A creator of brutal yet captivating soundscapes, Dublin based artist Rising Damp describes her recent EP, Petrol Factory, as “the quaking barrier between the end of the end of time and the end of the world.” Her dystopian visions are fleshed out with hypnotic electronics, dense drum beats and deadpan vocal delivery, and her live performances are a blend of improvised sounds and intriguing visuals.

We caught up with Rising Damp (aka Michelle Doyle) to talk about her recent EP, what she’s been creating during lockdown, and her upcoming contribution to A Litany Of Failures: Vol. III, an eclectic compilation album of music from grassroots Irish artists which is set for release on 2nd October…

 

Hello Michelle! Your EP Petrol Factory was recently featured in The Quietus’ 2020 ‘Albums Of The Year So Far‘ chart. What are you most proud of about this record?

I’m most proud about the journey of the album. Most songs were made in response to live gigs, and were never cast in stone, always improvised. Playing to bigger audiences forced me to have to professionalise my practice. It has made me think more visually about the stage show, creating of the band and a how video links this all.

Do you have a favourite track? If so, why?

My favourite song is ‘The Bank’. It was composed as part of an exhibition exploring subculture in Ireland. In Dublin, all the punks, skins and goths used to hangout at Central Bank, in the city centre. I was a late stage central banker and started hanging out as hoardings and gates went up to stop young people sitting on the steps. The Bank is a landmark of Irish modernism, but also where protests would start or finish and where Occupy was. The place is a site of both financial institution and protest. Everything that is done to Central Bank is to further the hostile architecture around it and create a fortress. The song is about building this space and the tension of holding onto it.

 

During lockdown you were recording shows for Dublin Digital Radio, playing tracks by Throbbing Gristle, Gazelle Twin & Nyx Drone Choir (all GIHE faves). Talk us through how you curated these shows and what you enjoyed most about recording them.

Often I curate a show by taking one theme and building a repository around it. For example, I did a vocal special about people using voice as an instrument without singing. Sometimes I approach the show as research for songwriting. Other times I just want to play some high energy music. I’m using Mixxx as I can’t access the DDR studio at the moment. I miss the cdjs and the tactile way they can make you create tunes on the fly.

How have you been coping during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic generally? Any advice for similar bands or artists who may be struggling right now?

My own feeling has been to reassess what your output should be. I was working on a live band towards playing festivals, and arranging with them and practising twice a week. When lockdown came, we had to stop and only got back in in May. Now we are taking a break during phase 3 again. As we can’t play live gigs, we are going to get back in to the studio and re-record songs from Petrol Factory as a live band and put them out. We’re also aiming to create videos to accompany. My most prized possession as a teenager was music video VHS and DVDs. I especially liked Sonic Youth’s for a DIY video art aesthetic. So trying to use the time now as a time for writing, editing and creating visual art.

Something positive during this time is your contribution to A Litany Of Failures: Vol. III. Your single ‘Cannibal’ features on the record. Talk us through what the track’s about and why you chose it for the compilation.

‘Cannibal’ came from playing in clubs between DJs who were DJing “hard drum” music. Originally it began as a jam and the lyrics came from a time I had just been in the dentist for an emergency tooth pull. A wisdom tooth was tearing flesh in my mouth, and gave me a serious infection. I’d written part of the song and finished it during the first lockdown. It seemed to change and become about feeding off past experiences and thoughts while isolated. Vocals recorded at home during lockdown were always pulled back as I live in a large group house.

Besides your own track, do you have a favourite track or a favourite band that also features on the compilation?

I love the Grave Goods and Extravision songs. It’s a great release, I’m super excited to be on vinyl.

What else is on the horizon for Rising Damp during these “unprecedented” times?

I’m putting together applications for exhibition/gigs in galleries where I can design a set, lighting and objects. Working on videos and new songs always.

Finally, are there any bands or artists you’d like to give a shout out too?

One artist who has a huge output and amazing energy is God Knows. I’m so impressed by his ability to keep exploring sound and switch things up. I love that he’s super attentive to his scene, is the opposite to a gatekeeper and is constantly bringing people in from all around Ireland. He’s a total supporter and great musician.

I also urge everyone to checkout Fulacht Fiadh, Salac, Dylan Kerr, Lastminuteman and Maria Somerville. Right now I’m buzzing off listening to the labels Chicago Research and Detriti Records.

Thanks to Michelle for answering our questions.
Follow Rising Damp on bandcampFacebook and Instagram for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

INTERVIEW: CMAT

“I’d rather drink piss than drink Pepsi Max,” Irish pop-star CMAT candidly declared on her Instagram Live broadcast a few weeks ago. The songwriter was half way through eating 80 pieces of popcorn chicken from KFC at the time, a challenge she committed to after over 100 of her fans liked a social media post saying she’d film the endeavor. She was washing down her meal with cans of diet coke, whilst simultaneously being hilarious.

Whether it’s competitive eating, or releasing highly relatable pop tunes, according to her Twitter everything CMAT does is “for the girls and the gays and that’s it.” Her latest single ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’ epitomises this with its blend of witty lyrics and camp, country-tinged melancholy sounds. To date, CMAT has shared three singles, ‘Another Day (kfc)’ – which inspired the popcorn chicken challenge – ‘Rodney’, an ode to Rodney Dangerfield, and this most recent offering, which is currently sitting at no. 11 in the official Irish Homegrown Top 20 Chart.

We caught up with CMAT just before the release of her new single to talk about the popcorn chicken challenge, her love for Linda Nolan and Jedward, TikTok life and Jason Derulo…

Let’s start by talking about your greatest achievement to date: eating 80 pieces of KFC popcorn chicken in one sitting on Instagram Live. Is this a world record?

Every interview I do now is so funny because it starts with this question. I’m absolutely not mad about it at all, because I am ready and willing to talk about eating 80 pieces of popcorn chicken. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

My housemate was at work all day, and when she came in she saw the aftermath. People had been texting her about it saying “do you know what’s happening in your house right now?” and she came home and I was flat out on the bed. I had loads of friends texting me during the broadcast saying “please stop doing this to yourself, please make yourself vomit like in Roman times because this is going to damage you,” but I thought that was cheating. When I say I was in pain for the next two days, I mean it. It was just not right or healthy.

It was so silly, I saw the sign for [80 pieces of chicken] and I was like that’s so gas. I put up a post saying if I got 100 likes I would eat it live on Instagram, thinking that I wouldn’t actually have to do it. But I got the likes, and I was like “you bastards, you absolute bastards,” but I brought it on myself, and it was actually really fun. I’m going to do another one.

I don’t think it’s an actual world record unfortunately. I thought it was, and that I was great and that I was a legend, and then I looked up actual competitive eating and I was like “I’m never getting into that world”. There’s a woman in England who is like “I’m the number one female competitive eater and no-one can beat me.” She does this thing where she grabs fistfuls of stuff, pushes it into her mouth, and pushes it so it just jams down her throat. It’s terrifying. She does it once a week and I’m like…girl…

I’ve decided that the precedent I’ve set for myself is that I’ll only do it when I want to promote something, and that’s it.

I think that’s a good decision. Your songs – particularly ‘Another Day (kfc)’ – describe quite painful events like heartbreak and loneliness, but you filter them through a humourous lens. How do you manage to make music that’s genuinely funny but also on some level, cripplingly painful?

That’s good, that’s what I’m going for! I think this is a thing that I have going on in my own psychological make-up, which is that I like to take the big things and make them small. And I like to take the small things and make them big and dramatic. For me, KFC has Godly importance, but it’s also important to take heartbreak and love and pain, and bring that back to KFC, and that’s my general rule of thumb.

A lot of songwriting today, especially in the money-making beast that is chart pop, where you get a lot of “band aid” type songs where they’re like “we’re gonna sing a song about something really important and dramatic, and we’re gonna make it sounds really big and important and dramatic,” and fit this massive thing into a song without even trying to look at it through a more focused lens. I think that’s where it comes from. I think I also do it in life as well. A lot of people say I’m kind of like a man and I’m very bad at talking about things seriously. I can’t have a serious conversation about my emotions, or how I’m feeling. I’m just like “Yeah I’m absolutely fine, totally grand, no worries,” I do that all the time. I think that’s just carried on into the song writing, but I think that’s pretty transparent.

Something that is transparent is your love for American comedian Rodney Dangerfield on your second single ‘Rodney’. Do people know who he is when you’re referencing him? What inspired you to write a song about him?

I don’t know, and I didn’t really care whether people knew about him or not, because I LOVE him. What I said before about not being able to talk about emotions, he’s the exact same. Everything he does is super self deprecating, he hates himself, and everyone around him hates him. Everything is a one-liner, and he makes the big things really small.

I’ve wanted to write a song about him for ages, The “one-liner” in the song is “I’m the Rodney Dangerfield of your ex girlfriends,” because his catchphrase is “I don’t get no respect!” and I’m like “omg same I don’t get no respect either!” I didn’t just pick him for his catchphrase though, I picked him because he is very representative of me. He’s a one-liner comedian, and I’m a one-liner musician, because I’m all about the song, and the song being in its own kind of universe. That’s just my own personal take on it. I don’t like relying on an album, or a body of work to give context to individual pieces, I like the song to be the beginning and the end of it. I don’t think all art has to be that prescriptive though.

My only focus with my music career at the moment is just to keep writing really good songs that are really fleshed out. Not just for myself, but for other people that I’m working with too. All these little co-writing jobs that have been popping up since I started releasing my own music, I have real tunnel vision for whatever the song I’m working on is, I’m like “this has to be the best song in the world”. I don’t really care too much about an album at the moment. There’s a couple of concept projects that I’d like to work on, where it might be an EP or a collection of songs. I had an idea to work on just pure country music duets, do a “CMAT and friends” type thing, but that’s the only way I’d be able to think about it. I wouldn’t be able to put my own songs into a collection and be like “this is cohesive and they’re all related to each other,” because they don’t at all. It’ll have to be a greatest hits album. I don’t think people will mind.

We certainly wouldn’t mind a CMAT Greatest Hits record. Let’s talk about your recent online interactions with two iconic Irish pop groups – The Nolans & Jedward…

The Jedward thing I don’t think is that special to me as an individual. They seem to know who I am now, because they sent me this really specific DM where they called me a “glowing princess” and told me to keep doing what I was doing, they’re so funny. They do seem to be messaging everyone though, saying “keep on keeping on, love John and Edward.” I’m obsessed with them, I think they’re great.

They must be independent now, I don’t think they have any relations with a label because they’ve been so political and outspoken on really meaty topics, and doing an amazing job of it. It’s almost as if they’ve been waiting to do this for ages, and now they’ve been set free they’re like “fuck you Jim Corr!” and they’re dead right. Fuck Jim Corr, what the fuck is he doing? [Jim Corr is a member of the Irish folk/rock band The Corrs.] We can take the conspiracy theories thing, maybe he has weird opinions about the events of 9/11, but the far-right weird movements that are popping up over here in Ireland – Jim Corr is substantiating their views with his weird fucking twisted conspiracies, and also just not wearing a mask during a global pandemic. So for Jedward to be the ones stepping up to the plate and just telling him to go and fuck himself is so sweet. It’s exactly what you want from a popstar, in my opinion. I want to feel like someone has my back if they’re a popstar, and I feel like Jedward have everyone’s backs at the moment.

The Nolans thing is a much longer story…
I don’t think anyone is more important or less important in terms of the Irish musical pop canon, but, for me, I’ve been obsessed with The Nolans since I was about thirteen. My teenage years were spent watching re-runs of Old Grey Whistle Test and Top Of The Pops and BBC4 on the weekend until about 3am. I love music television and I love old music television. So from that era I’m obsessed with Bob Harris [presenter of Old Grey Whistle Test] and he loves country music. So Bob Harris and The Nolans are kind of the same level of importance for me in terms of music discovery. I was always tweeting about them, and then all of a sudden The Nolans just started seeing that happening and Linda Nolan started DMing me, and Maureen would retweet me when i released a single and be like “listen to this, it’s fantastic,” and I was like “what is going on?! This is the most exciting thing in the world! (for me, personally).”

Then, I found out that a lot of people in England really don’t like them, because they were much more famous in England and they have more negative associations over there? I dunno why, I guess people still have that mindset of “it’s manufactured pop music, therefore it’s bad.” I noticed that people were slagging them off, so I would get really defensive and be like “Fuck you! Don’t talk to The Nolans that way, how dare you!” They’re Queens. Linda sends me DMs from time to time just giving me advice about the music industry, and what to watch out for. She was also telling me that The Nolans were one of the first Irish acts to play the USSR, and they were having a party because it was Colleen’s 18th birthday. They party got shut down because guards came into their hotel room and held them up with AK47s and were like “you have to go to bed!” So they waited for an hour before sneaking back into each others rooms, and kept drinking for the rest of the night. It almost sounds made up, but I’ve actually read it in a couple of interviews with them, so it’s real! I’ve also read Linda’s autobiography and she mentions it in there too.

I also did a tweet that said “Who would win in a fight: Jedward or The Nolans?” and then Linda DMd me and was like “obviously we would. Lemmy from Motorhead used to be scared of us and said we were the most aggressive girls that he’d ever met,” and I was like…where am I? She’s a fucking legend and I love her so much. I’m also so receptive to anything she tells me, I’m just like “YES! TELL ME MORE!” I think I might be the number one Nolans fan in the world. Also, on a genuine level, I love their music.

A place where you seem to have a lot of fans is on TikTok…in Poland? Talk us through how that happened?

I don’t really understand how to work TikTok, I had to get my 8 year old cousin to show me how to do it. They showed me how to check which videos are using the same song, and the first time I checked there were 50 videos using ‘Another Day (KFC)’ as a background song, and they were all from Poland. I have no idea why. I get streaming stats on my phone from Spotify so I can see which countries stream me the most, and Poland is not up there. There’s this gardening lady who’s all about houseplants and my song is just playing in the background of all of her TikTok videos. It’s weird, I don’t really know how the internet works, it’s terrifying.

It is a bit, but lots of artists seem to get number one hits nowadays purely from uploading music to TikTok…

I think it’s fantastic in a way. Curtis Waters had a single that was out for about a year, and then people started using it on TikTok and he now has a career out of it. Listen, I know we all work with music labels and music promoters, but the rebel in me is obsessed with user-made, user-directed applications where it doesn’t matter what PR you’re doing, or what label you’re on, it all gets overtaken by people power or people who are just obsessed with things. But then it gets weird, because you get artists who are specifically making things for TikTok, and that’s grim. That’s no good at all. Jason Derulo is making minute and a half long songs, sampling songs that have already gone viral for other reasons, and you’re just like “Jason, stop. Cut it out.”

He does seem to have had a massive “comeback” recently actually, he is everywhere…

I think that’s because he was in Cats as well. I’ve seen the film five times. It’s horrible and gross and disgusting and I love it. His character in particular is one of the most offensive characters in it. He does have some really great songs in his back catalogue though, and he works with a co-writer a lot who I love called Lindy Robbins. I think Jason Derulo is just one of those people who’s like “I can do anything, and there’s no way you can stop me” and I kind of like that about him.

And he does have that unforgettable trademark of introducing himself in the beginning of all of his songs…

I actually like that about him! I like people who keep a thing like that going throughout their whole career. It’s a very country music type thing to do, where you have a tag somewhere in the song so that people know it’s you, but his is just his name.

Speaking of country music, your next single ‘I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!’ is due out in a few days. Talk to us about what inspired it…

The visuals for the chorus are based around this VINE that was really popular from a couple of years ago of a load of guys drinking cans outside in a playground saying “I wanna be a cowboy baby!” I always loved it, but I had a bit of a deep thought about it which was like “that’s so indicative of male freedom in the world, that they can just do things like that”. The song is basically about a time when I was extremely, extremely isolated. It was the end of my time living in Manchester, I was living alone after going through a breakup, and the breakdown of the band that I had been in for years. Because I was in Manchester, I didn’t really have any friends there, so the old fashioned way of curing loneliness in the cowboy/western films is that you just go to a bar, hang around the bar, and wait for someone to be friends with you. I was like, “why can’t I just do that?” I feel like it’s this weird, unwritten thing where women are just afforded a significantly less amount of freedom than men in the world. I guess we’re addressing it now, but I legitimately want to be a cowboy. I want to walk around by myself, and have no fear and just have the freedom to go wherever I want and meet whoever I want without fear of literally getting murdered for doing it.

That’s kind of what the song is about, but it’s also about general urban isolation. It doesn’t have to just be about gender, I think there a lot of people out there who have really bad social anxiety, and it seems to be really quite relevant now because when you spend a significant period of time alone in your bedroom, or on your phone or your computer, it gets harder and harder to leave. I feel like that’s another thing I was trying to address, that the fear is put into you the more that you stay alone. It gets harder to leave, and it gets harder to become the cowboy. I don’t know what’s going to happen after this lifting of the lockdown, but I have friends who have got anxiety about things so badly that they still haven’t left the full lockdown mode. There are people who’ve been staying inside the whole time. It’s about a lot of things, but it’s mainly about the loneliness that comes with living in a capitalist, heteronormative, misogynist society.

We certainly resonate with that. Something a little more positive though, are there any bands or artists who you’d recommend we listen to right now?

Pillow Queens! There’s loads actually. Limoncello are a great folk act from Dublin, Maija Sofia released an amazing album last year. There’s an artist called Rachael Lavelle who’s released one single, but she’s incredible. There’s a rapper in Ireland at the moment called Denise Chaila who I’m obsessed with, there’s so many! Ailbhe Reddy is about to release an album and it’s fucking class.

There’s bountiful women in Ireland who are releasing really good music right now. I think women in Ireland have definitely had a bit of a rough time in the music industry, because I think there’s a notion of if you’re not a man with an acoustic guitar writing songs then nobody cares – but I am literally just a woman with an acoustic guitar, there’s basically no fucking difference. The perception is that the music is not authentic if it’s coming from a woman and she has even a lick of make-up on her face. So we’ve all been let loose and we’re doing what we should’ve been doing a few years ago. I love them all.

And we love you CMAT!
Follow her onbandcamp, Instagram, Spotify and Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Sarah Doyle

Guest Blog: Nuala Honan

Having just released her latest album Doubt & Reckoning last month, Australian Bristol-based Nuala Honan has been evolving her songwriting over the years from acoustic folk artist to a grittier, more eclectic, sound, whilst losing none of her reflective lyrical storytelling.

A collection of lilting, heartfelt offerings, the new album showcases a soaring, emotion-strewn splendour and the subtle, stirring power of Honan’s rich vocals.

Following the album’s release, Nuala has reflected on the influence of water on her music, and the strong feelings it evokes in her. Read her guest blog below:

FOR A SOUL-SAVING NEW SOUND, JUST ADD WATER

When I was a kid growing up in Australia, I spent a lot of time at the beach. I had so much to love and cherish in life then, but I was also often unhappy. On walks down the beach by myself, once out of earshot, I would shout at the sea. Long, musical wailing, improvising words and melodies about my woes and teenage crushes, writing my first songs. I still shout at the sea when I get the chance.

The landscape where I grew up is big, and flat, and the sky and sea goes on forever. Something about bigness soothes my soul, keeps me grounded, and speaks to me in a way that I speak back and write songs. I honestly can’t think of anything more spiritual to me than water and music, hand in hand. Since moving to England’s South West sixteen years ago, I’ve transferred that love of the ocean to England’s cold, stretching network of rivers and lakes.

In the ’90s, the Eyre Peninsula – my dusty corner of South Australia – had no accessible live music, no DIY or riot grrrl culture, and no internet to seek it out. Gifted an acoustic guitar for my fifteenth birthday, I fell into folk and eventually country. It was satisfying and leant itself to my autobiographical musings. I ended up making a living that way, often playing alone, but after a decade I ended up in a rut. Not just creatively but physically and mentally in my work and self, so I took the step into counselling.

Very quickly my therapy revealed a desire to take a break from my music and the unsustainable DIY artist grind that I’d wound up living, and I applied to be a lifeguard at an outdoor swimming lake, an old flooded quarry in North Bristol.

The most interesting thing I’ve learned working at the lake is the power of being bored (not so bored I get distracted from the task, you are in safe hands!). But I spend hours on end without a phone or the internet, surrounded by trees and wildlife and water, listening. I process ideas for songs, and have the time to repeat and reinforce them. I feel safe to ask myself why I make music, and what I want to communicate. I sing when I think no one’s listening, and I quite literally stared across the lake at the big willow tree for months, planning the photoshoot for my album artwork.

The space and balance the lake brought to my life made room for me to consider themes from my counselling and re-examine my creativity. The track ‘How to Shame You’ from my new album is an ode to my childhood bully. I wrote it consciously, to cast off and free myself from pain I was holding onto. It marked a transition, where I cast aside my old way of writing and weaved myself outside my comfort zone. You can hear the country sound in the verses sweeping into the new belting psychedelic sound in the chorus.

People are often surprised to hear I suffer with self-doubt and anxiety; they only see the confident gig or final version of a song (the studio stage might be the only place in the world I love more than the water!). It took a lot of practice in courage to pull myself, this band, and this album together, and I learned a lot about courage from winter swimming at the lake. Lowering your body into water is totally mad. It takes a mindset of courage and acceptance to get in. The sensation of catching my breath, feeling the blood move to my core, the needles and fizzing on the surface of my skin makes me feel totally alive. Then getting out of the water is a whole other feeling. Because my body is essentially in stress response, all my senses are heightened, I feel a bit like a superhero for two minutes as I stand beside the lake!

I think it’s the same experience making music. It’s terrifying, but it’s courageous and magical and human and even though you’re afraid, you have to do it anyway, and then you feel alive, and you make something beautiful.

Massive thanks to Nuala Honan for sharing her thoughts with us!

Doubt & Reckoning is out now. Listen on Spotify.

Photo Credit: Paul Blakemore

Video Premiere: NUUXS – ‘Laundry’

Following acclaim from the likes of Annie Mac, Clash and BBC Introducing for 2019’s Redtape Mixtape, London-based artist NUUXS has now shared a vibrant new video.

Propelled by a soulful, sparkling energy, ‘Laundry’ offers a poignant reflection on the domestic pressures that many in society face. Flowing with a shimmering heartfelt groove, danceable glitchy beats and luscious sultry vocals, it’s an uplifting sun-strewn slice of alt-pop. Of the track, NUUXS explains:

Having observed my mum, the once vivacious ballerina, turn into a very tired woman with severe back pains from all the heavy duty washing she was doing, I could see why some might turn to alcohol as a form of solace. So I guess this song is me being pissed off with how society can be, and how the government can be. This is the time more than ever that we should see community being at the forefront of leadership.

‘Laundry’ is accompanied by an artfully created kaleidoscopic new video, hand-painted by animator Charlie Cross. Speaking more about the video, NUUXS expands:

“… it’s inspired by the metaphorical concept for ‘Laundry’, including the idea of “stress is a killer” being shown in the bloodstream and the countdown on the actual washing machine itself representing “the pressure is on”, referring to the pressures of life as we know it.”

Watch the new video for ‘Laundry’ now:

‘Laundry’ is the 3rd single from NUUXS’ forthcoming debut album Heirloom.

 

Mari Lane
@marimindles