Richie Egan's Jape are top of the world after claiming an unprecedented second Choice Music Prize, making waves at Eurosonic (the European equivalent of America's SXSW) not to mention the discovery of the greatest falafel the world has to offer. I interrupt the Jape mastermind during the mixing of a track for a buddy to ask a couple of questions ahead of their Indiependence date at the beginning of next month.
"I was delighted to win [the Choice Music Prize] and now I want to win it again. Two is a bad number: you have to go for the the hat-trick."
The G-Man: Hows life in the world of Jape these days?
Richie Egan: It's all good, I'm living in Malmo [,Sweden] now, so I've just been doing a lot of writing, today I am working on a Goodtime remix and we've been doing some festival gigs over the Summer. We've been back and forward between Ireland and here so it's ticking over.
It's a big move, how has your day to day life been changed?
I have a studio that I rent over here now. I used to have a studio in the house when I lived in Ireland so now I have to leave the house and go into the studio and work all day and come home at night time. It hasn't really changed that much to be honest I'm still just working away at making music in the day time and then at night time drinkin’ beers, hangin out. It's much the same!
Livin the dream so?
Well, sometimes it’s more like living the nightmare (laughs). Nah it's good though - I'm just very lucky to be able to make music but in order to sustain that you have to keep working very hard so I try hard to get the eight hours in every day if I can, it's my job.
Do you find it hard to stick to a rigorous schedule?
I used to but I think as you get older you appreciate time more and I want to get as much done as I can. There's a certain amount of hours in the daytime where I feel a lot of creative energy so I tend to try and exploit that because if I leave it til the afternoon it can die. Also over here, I don't have as many friends to hang around with which is kind of, in one way, a good thing because there's less distraction so it just means the focus is in.
Is there any Swedish music influencing your sound now?
There are Swedish bands that I used to listen to and still do now. They tend to have a great sense of melody so I hope some of that will rub off on me. Even the pop bands over here are really well produced and have very good melodies. The Cardigans are pretty much from the same place I'm living and and I'm actually using a studio that they used to use as rehearsal space upstairs so hopefully some of their magic will rub off too.
An engineer pal of mine is known for getting musicians up at crazy hours to get the right recording mood, do you ever do that?
A lot of the people I know, like Kittser - he works from ten at night til seven in the morning, so he's a night owl but I much prefer getting up in the morning and working in the daytime and chilling out at night time. And if you have an engineer in and a band, you want to get them out of their comfort zone so it's good to get them up at 6am!
What’s your song-writing processs?
The first stage for me is writing the song and in that sense I'm not a perfectionist at all I just lash stuff down and try and get as many ideas down as possible. When you first start writing a song there is a window of opportunity where it's fresh to you so in that window I need to get as much done as I possibly can and not sweat the small details at all. Once that stage is over the second stage is taking it and tweaking the various elements that you have while keeping the original vibe.
And so would you find that you can easily lose the original momentum between the time you write and record the song and have to scrap pieces?
Yeah, I've scrapped about 70% of what I do. Sometimes it gels and works and some parts you must work on and sometimes it just dies and for me that's when I have to abandon it because it will end up wrecking my head. If you overthink things too much, most times that's not good! The good songs come quite easily. Usually a good song will bring you to the end of the ladder rather than you trying to fly it somewhere. If it's not working, just go have a cuppa tea and come back to it and try something else.
You're playing Indiependence which you've played before..
We did it a couple of years ago and it was pretty cool so I'm really excited about going down
and playing again; It's gonna be deadly. I remember a big barn where we were drinkin' beers and I remember seeing Adesibi Shank play and thought they were great.
The line up for Indiependence includes headliners like Feeder and British Sea Power but has a decent focus on local Irish bands too. Do you think that's important?
British Sea Power are a pretty interesting band they really rock it out. We actually played a gig with Dott [who are playing] a couple of weeks ago; They are a very interesting there's a real jingly jangly Rough Trade sort of vibe off them. We played sessions last week too and all the best bands I saw were Irish. We saw Tieranniesaur, We Cut Corners, Toby Kaar who was fantastic and I went to Body & Soul Festival last week and the best band I saw was New Jackson with David Kitt and Damo from Sarsparilla/Diamond Dagger. There’s a lot of good stuff out there.
Irish bands seem to be in general developing a bigger sound which is a lot more festival friendly..
I've been part of the Irish music world for a very long time and this is one of the healthiest patches I've ever seen. I hate the word 'scene' but if there are bands who are aware of each other it helps. It's like a bit of friendly competition. I get really inspired by artists pushing themselves and it makes me want to push myself a bit harder. Especially because there are so many good things happening under so many different genres they all sort of seep into each other. After the Sea Sessions we were having beers with The Coronas, Bitches With Wolves, Toby Kaar and Fred from Cork who are friends of ours; All these people with totally different types of music doing so well for themselves. There's so much good stuff. Good vibes.
And not such good vibes, have you heard the rattling news about the Swedish House Mafia gig in the Phoenix Park where nine people were stabbed?
Yeah, Jesus that's pretty hardcore. It's very sad. But if you think of it from your point of view, even if you were a hard drinker you wouldn't go and stab somebody and neither would I so is there something going on with young people where they're just getting wasted and fighting each other -there must be a lot of underlying rage there.
I don't think you can blame a music concert for it because people are getting stabbed in the city with more and more frequency all the time. I don't go into town at night time in Dublin city because there's a dodgy atmosphere around parts, especially around two or three in the morning. The last time I was home in Dublin a guy just got punched in the head outside of a pub and got killed for pretty much no reason and another girl got her nose bit off. People are getting so violent when they are drunk these days, it's really scary.
Sometimes I think I'm just gettin’ old but it just seems that some people don't have a lot of value or respect for other peoples lives anymore. It's a very big thing to fucking stab somebody, to not even have the empathy to realise what's going to happen if you do that, that's weird. But that’s a whole other interview...
I know it's old news now but what was it like to take the choice music prize for the second time?
I was surprised and delighted because I was leaving for Sweden four days later and I didn't expect to win so I was very happy. I put a lot of work into Ocean Frequency but I didn't think it was going to win because it is a more introverted record and the fact that I'd already won it. I was convinced Lisa Hannigan was going to win personally, but Jesus, it was cool. I wouldn't have minded not winning, honestly but I was delighted to win and now I want to win it again (laughs). See, two is a bad number you have to go for the the hat-trick.
Besides the prize funds have you noticed a change in album sales or audience attendances since the wins?
Well, I don't know about album sales because I don't pay attention to that but we've been doing great with gig attendances, even at the festivals we've played, the tents have been packed so that's been deadly. And the prize money was good I bought a mixing desk with it and I owed the VAT man quite a lot of money so I had to pay him off. It's a good amount of money but it's not like you're going to be retirin' on it!
What's happening with the Rednecks at the moment?
We're all trotting across the globe at the minute: me and Matty are in Sweden, Neil is in New York, Mervyn and Niall are in Dublin. The thing about the Rednecks is we will never split up. As long as we're in the same room, we'll make music together. It's just the band’s metabolism is just fifty times slower than any other bands metabolisms! We'll do something else eventually it could be next year or we could be fuckin' fifty five years old by then. It happens when it happens with the Rednecks . We tried doing the email writing thing but it didn't really work out too well, it’s all about jamming off each other in a room - we're like birds that way!
How'd you get on at Eurosonic?
I didn't really enjoy it. We had three gigs on that tour. We had one in Amsterdam in Paradiso which was amazing, one in Berlin which was great too, but I don't think we played as well at Eurosonic . There’s a kind of thing that needs to happen at a gig to make it a gig good, like a little x-factor thing. Most times if you practice really hard it works but the odd time it just has some weird fuckin' vibe, it doedn't feel good or right. and that was one of those ones. We got a good reception at it, we got offered a lot of festivals in Europe out of it, we were probably being a bit over-analytical about it but i know we could have done a gig where we blew people away and I don't think we did that.
What's changed in the years since Ritual?
I have a very good studio set up now which I never had before. I never could have envisioned myself with a proper mixing desk and loads of proper outboards and stuff so that's really deadly. I've always been in this for the long term. In the future, whatever happens with Jape I'd like to record bands and to be involved somehow in producing music that's what this is all about for me and I'm going to keep going with Jape for as long as I can. I definitely have at least one more Jape record. I've got some songs written for it so I'll just keep it going day after day and just see what happens.
It's sad about the demise of The Richter Collective, isn't it?
Yeah it is sad but the positive thing is I know Mick & Barry aren't going to fall off the face of the earth, whatever they throw their hands to will work out for them. It is a pity but they've put out a lot of good records and it's very difficult for an independant record label to survive. Ireland is such a small place for that unless you have something going on outside of the country as well. If your focus is just on Irish bands it's very tough. They gave it a good shot and did as good as they could possibly do.
It's true Ireland is small for that and on top of that you find there are have a lot of small labels competing with each other don’t you?
That's exactly it and I know it might sound bad to say but I think a lot of people are into the idea of The Richter Collective and smaller labels like that but when it comes to actually putting their hands into their pockets and buying the releases they are not as willing. For example when And So I Watch You From Afar were putting out their record they were so excited about it and it leaked two days before they were supposed to put it out. For a big label that's pretty bad but for a small label like Richter collective that's horrible.
Outside of the electonics, are you still up for an old fashioned sing-song?
I always tend to do Bruce Springsteen songs when I get a bit drunk at parties. I do a good version of 'Up the Junction' by Squeeze; That's my party piece.
Ok: three reasons to move to Sweden.
The first thing is they have amazing falafels! They sell them everywhere and they work out about 2.50 each. They are amazingly good, the best falafels you've ever had in your life. You could live on falafels. You'd be stuffed for a fiver a day.
The second thing is it’s very easy to live healthy here. In Ireland I find it easier to be unhealthy. In Sweden, they've got loads of of healthy food and it's not so expensive.
Lastly, it's a very social country in the sense that for example, when there's a football match on they always put screens on in the park. The park is called Folkets Park which means 'for the folk'. It has a lot of community spirit knocking around. Although it is a bit hard to get to know Swedish people, takes a bit longer to get to know Swedish than Irish people I suppose because they're a bit more reserved. But in terms of the civic community it's really cool.
- Jape play Indiependence Friday, 3rd August
- For more on Jape visit www.japemusic.com
- Indiependence takes place in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork 3rd-5th August
- Visit www.indiependencefestival.com for more details