TO DESCRIBE Brandon Flowers as “your run-of-the-mill rock star” would not be entirely truthful. Sitting across from The Killers frontman and his wild-haired bandmate Dave Keunig, it’s impossible to suss what Flowers is really thinking. It seems clear that he’s not a fan of interviews; he constantly glances towards the dressing room door (plotting an escape route, perhaps?), answers most questions curtly and seems generally guarded and somewhat reserved. He looks younger than his 31 years, his voice retaining the twang of his Nevada upbringing, his laugh more of a nervous, high-pitched titter. While the leaders of most rock bands naturally ooze charisma, Flowers’ cagey private persona seems at odds with the man who, an hour later, takes to the stage at Electric Picnic to deliver a supremely selfassured headline set.
IT’S NOT THAT David Gedge is tired, but being the sole member of an iconic 1980s guitar band for almost three decades does tend to wear one down. As frontman of The Wedding Present, the band that Gedge formed in 1985, he has been almost exclusively responsible for its input (there have been numerous line-up changes over the years) and output (that’d be the nine albums released since 1987’s George Best, not including his releases under the Cinerama banner).
Yikes, I’ve been a terrible blogger this year. Sorry. Will definitely try harder in 2013. In the meantime, here’s a feature I recently dug out from the bowels of my MacBook, which was commissioned for a magazine but never published. (Grrr). It’s from two years ago, so my selections probably aren’t very up to date – but it was fun to hear their backstories. Merry Christmas!
IT ONLY TAKES five years to become a cultural phenomenon. Nobody is more aware of that than Steve Chen, Jawed Karim and Chad Hurley, the three former PayPal employees who founded YouTube in 2005. These days, YouTube is as much an integral part of the internet as Google, Facebook and Wikipedia; it has made stars out of keyboard-playing cats, lightsaber-wielding teenagers and was even where one of the world’s biggest popstars, Justin Bieber, was first discovered.
But that doesn’t mean that our little kooky corner of the world wide web has been forgotten about; Ireland’s internet stars are just as noteworthy as their international counterparts. Here’s a selection of rising and established YouTube stars; and nary a Riverdancer in sight, either.
Originally published in The Irish Times, September 3rd 2012.
Where do you start after a six-year absence? If you’re Grandaddy, you start with the hits. The Californian indie-rock quintet have made Electric Picnic one of the stops on their month-long reunion lap, but rather than forcing new material on an expectant audience, this was a complete exercise in crowd-pleasing.
Opening with El Camino’s in the West, Jason Lytle and Co may not say a whole lot to the crowd, but with tunes like a Now It’s On, AM 180 and The Crystal Lake in your canon, why waste time with niceties?
Aaron Burtch amusingly puffs away on a cigarette hands-free as he drums, and Lytle swigs from a bottle of wine between songs; they’re having fun and it’s like they’ve never been away. How about you stick around a little longer, guys?
Originally published in The Irish Times, April 20th 2012.
THE FIRST THING you think of is Freud. Then, noticing the relaxed posture, Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra, or perhaps a painting by some Renaissance artist. It’s not quite clear whether Rufus Wainwright is waiting to be psycho-analysed or pampered, but stretched out on a sofa in a room of a trendy London hotel, the singer/songwriter certainly looks comfortable.
“It is with great sadness that we announce that Alternative Ulster was unsuccessful in securing Arts Council funding for 2012/2013. As a result, AU Magazine is being put on hiatus. The website will continue to be run on a voluntary basis, and AU will continue to promote the best of Northern Irish and Irish music, culture and lifestyle in every way it possibly can.”
I was so, so saddened when AU magazine editor Chris Jones broke this news earlier this week. For the past nine years – and especially the five or six that I’ve been reading it – AU has been a beacon of Irish music journalism, setting a bar that no other Irish magazine came close to reaching in terms of the quality of writing, the beauty of its design and the scope of both music and non-music features alike that it covered. And it was free. FREE! It’s the sort of magazine you’d pay good money for in any other country, which makes it seems doubly bloody unfair that such a quality magazine falls by the wayside, when there’s so much inferior crap being published elsewhere.
On a personal note, I feel extra sad, because AU were one of the first magazines to take me under their wing when I was a rookie music journo. Former editor Francis Jones took a chance on me, and gave me feature assignments with big bands when no one else would. Chris has been equally generous and supportive since he took over the reins a few years ago. I had my first-ever cover feature – an huge milestone in any journalist’s career – with AU in 2008. In recent years I haven’t contributed more than the odd feature and a smattering of reviews to every issue, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it cover-to-cover whenever it landed in the stack by Tower Records’ front door every month, and I’ve been proud to have my name associated with it for so long. For a magazine that’s run on what I assume is a comparatively tiny amount of advertising revenue (along with the now rescinded grant) and a hell of a lot of goodwill, it has been an amazing achievement.
So I want to publicly thank publisher and editor-in-chief Jonny Tiernan, Chris, Francis and everyone else involved behind the scenes with AU for their amazing hard work in keeping the magazine going for so long. The website (http://www.iheartau.com) will continue on a voluntary basis, but here’s hoping there’s some way back at some point in the future.