Record Store Day: O Emperor interview

"I really am going to muso hell"...

I've been trying to catch up with high-flying Waterford fivesome O Emperor for quite some time now. With a second Choice Music Prize nomination in the bag for second full-length release Vitreous, a first headline appearance at the 1,000 capacity Cork Opera House and a visit State-side for SXSW indelibly inked onto a growing DIY CV (not to mention an appearance on the Top 50 list), the year has been kind to the Cork-based group. Despite all of that, singer and guitarist Paul Savage was on hand to chat about the upcoming celebration of local music hubs i.e. Record Store Day 2014.

The G-Man: Record Store Day - Yay or nay?
I must admit I can only answer a few of these questions as I'm one of those scumbags that doesn't have a record player, has given all his CDs to the charity shop and now lazily listens to stuff on Spotify, which I'm still on the cheap skate free trial! I really am going to muso hell, where I'll probably be serenaded for all eternity by East 17.

That said I do enjoy the whole concept of Record Store day and being in a band that puts out music independently. I appreciate the ethos behind it in order to support local record shops and bring some new creativity to releases. What seems to work best for bands these days in order to shift stock is to either play live and sell directly to fans at shows or give people something spontaneous that's not just a standard three or four month build up release.

I did work in HMV many moons ago and enjoyed people coming in asking for different types of music and even getting into a chat about what they like or what you would recommend because no matter what Spotify or most radio with try and generically suggest you listen too, most good tips come from your friends or people you meet with similar interests. So naturally enough the record store is still the place to go if you want to find out what is worth listening to.

What is your favourite record store, where is it located and why does it hold a special place in your heart?
My favourite record shop would have to be Plugd records in Cork. It's a great thing that a shop like that has outlived big chains like HMV purely on the personal touch the guys have with selling music and thus keeping a loyal customer base who will support them. The shop also, with the help of the Triskel Arts Centre (where Plugd is based), has a fantastic array of gigs all year round that I would go to to see. You always end up checking out acts you may not have heard of before but because you get the tip from a mate and know so many people down there you are always willing to check it out. That I guess comes from a strong community with similar interests which grows from a place like Plugd and the arts centre as a whole.

You mention Spotify but as far as I know you're still a vinyl fan. Why?
What I like the most about vinyl and again with the limited ones I have collected, is the album artwork and the size of the canvas a designer can play with. I designed the cover for out last album Vitreous and while I initially designed it first for CD with the four panel gate fold packaging in mind, looking back on it, I should have started with the vinyl size and worked down instead of the other way round. In terms of detail and space you can really do anything you want with it. The only downside was the printing of the gatefold vinyl. In order to do the same packaging we had done for the CD it would have cost a lot so unfortunately, I had to chop the vinyl down to just front and back designs on a standard wallet package. If I had known that before I would have designed it a little different, but that's for next time. The way things are going we may even opt for a vinyl and digital only release as CD is becoming more and more obsolete I think.

I think the packaging is really important for an album and things like liner notes, printed lyrics, even credits I always really like reading because it gives you a little insight into how the record was made, who did it and do you know the engineer or producer from another album etc. It lets you build up a picture and knowledge of stuff without having to thrall through wikipedia at the time.

So what would you favourite be?
Favourite album cover would be OK Computer which was designed by Stanley Donwood who has designed pretty much all the Radiohead albums. The design just hits the nail on the head visually of what the album is about. It's messy, erratic, full of sketches and doodles mixed in with images of safety manuals and strange messages of messed up self help advice, which kind of plays off the paranoid, isolated, unsettled themes of the album The whole collage of the imagery blended in while a sweeping blue and grey colour scheme suggests you are looking at the swirling thoughts of a pretty bewildered pessimistic mind.

Besides the RSD-specific releases, what under-rated records do you recommend folks picking up over the coming weeks?
I am very fond of Charles Bradley since we first saw him in 2011 at SXSW when the band went over there to play. It was an amazing gig, a fantastic show and a man with clearly so much history behind him and delivering it with real belief and passion. The backing band The Menahan Street Band were mind blowing also. So I'm looking forward to checking out his 12' release I Hope You Find The Good Life.

Also, I got a great tip from a friend last year about a band from Portland called Houndstooth who have a debut album released in 2012 called Ride out the Dark which is fantastic, you can check out some tunes on their bandcamp page and hopefully we'll hear more from them soon.

And finally, if you owned a record shop one day, what would you name it?
If I owned a record shop it would have to be called "Slipped Disc Records".

Record Store Day 2014 takes place Saturday, 19th April across all good independent record shops

For more on O Emperor visit:

- O Vitreous by O Emperor is available from Plugd Records on Tobin Street, Cork and all other good independent record shops

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