882

Mark O'Leary: Plucking the Flower

Eyal Hareuveni By

Sign in to view read count
Shamanic Voices

I heard one of Norwegian percussionist Terje Isungset's discs and got in touch with him. He came over for a tour of Ireland.

Mark O'LearyBefore we started, we recorded Shamanic Voices (FMR, 2007) at Studio Fiona in Fermoy. We spent the day recording, and Terje added some overdubs. I later added some ambient sounds and worked on producing the disc with engineer Jer Spillane.

I used a 12-string guitar tuned down to B and used various guitars, amps, effects and laptop. It's my Tubular Bells (Virgin, 1973) in a way.

Resources were limited; you have to rely on people skills. Jer, the engineer, is talented at getting the best out of people. I talked with Terje a lot before we even played a note together, and we had agreed that it's very easy for a project like this to slip into the folk idiom. I'm not really a folk player and I didn't want to have too much cheeky-chappy sentimentalism either, so I had to really dig deep to find an approach that could work.

The title was in the back of my mind for a long time. I did quite a bit of research into it. In Ireland, we have a mystical past with Tir na Nog and Cu Chullain, and the Norwegians are rich in mythology as well.

class="f-right">

Zemlya

The sagas of Iceland are etched in my soul. In 2002, I went to play in Iceland, it was the most defining moment in my life. It changed my outlook, and developed my interest in performing electronic music. The great Icelandic drummer-improviser Matthias Hemstock mentioned I should check out viola player Eyvind Kang. Eyvind is half Icelandic—he even has a disc called The Story of Iceland (Tzadik, 2000)—and Iceland was so central to the project that I called a tune on the disc "Story of Iceland, Pt. 2." Zemlya means "land."

When I did the project, I remembered this poem I heard at school years back, that a friend was reciting that totally inspired me, and as soon as I got to Seattle, I knew that was going to be the name of the project. Eyvind and Dylan van der Schyff are incredible people. Dylan is a great friend. You just got to love Canadians. Eyvind is an incredible artist. His knowledge of music is astounding, from Romanian spectral composers to Punk to David Sylvian to Beck.

Mark O'Leary Also, Seattle is an incredible city. I was into, and still am into, the spirit of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Grunge. The song "Kurt's Park" on Chamber Trio is a petit homage pour Cobain. But visually the panorama and atmosphere of Seattle are kind of hard to beat. No wonder so many great artists came from there. I stayed on Vashon Island for a few days with Eyvind, which was unique. We even spent time hanging out at a monastery with Russian Orthodox Monks, drinking coffee and learning about the rites and mysteries of Orthodox Christianity. We played at the now-defunct Polestar—an auspicious start. Things just kept getting better. On the last gig we played, I just remember looking at Dylan, and it was magic. We had not only become a band, but had grown as musicians also.

I still have more to do and learn, but it was a great little band, most definitely a development on Self Luminous, and on the recording some of those Viola-Guitar exchanges kind of evoke a neo Django Reinhardt-Stephane Grappelli nonchalance. Randall Dunn did a great job. He is a great recordist, him and his partner Mel, who run this great studio, Aleph.

class="f-right">

On The Shore

I went to school in Los Angeles in the late-'80s and there was a deep desire to go back. I really admired Alex Cline. He is an incredibly eclectic drummer and a unique percussionist. What he has done for the improvised music scene in LA is very important. To have someone of his caliber domiciled and performing there has benefited the scene enormously. He has, like me, a deep affinity for all things Arvo Pärt, Vesala and Sigur Rós.

I got the opportunity to do a project with Alex, and again it was a defining experience for me. I learned so much from staying at Alex's house, talking about music, approaches, listening to his record collection, and talking about different styles. It was very beneficial, and it came through in the project and has shaped who I have become. I have to thank Alex and his wife for everything in making the project happen. To say that I'm grateful is an understatement. Sometimes we can take things for granted in life and be unappreciative. I have come across a lot of selfless people who continuously give of themselves to make peoples' lives better and I am thankful for their sacrifices, for they are the ones who facilitate the dreams, hopes and desires of creative people; they are the true heroes.

Mark O'LearyI collected stones, sticks and shells from around Cork harbor and brought them to Los Angeles for Alex to use during the recording. You can hear these on "Dancing With the Wind," and the concept lent its name to the album title. I used some canonic ideas, some themes and sketches to direct the session. I was constantly running between the booths directing the session: "Let's try it this way, let's try to move the music in this direction now." You can't push too hard, but I had a vision with this project and you have to go for it. It was a great day. Jeff Kaiser and John Fumo are major doyens of the scene, and we played as two trios before recording, so we got to know each other musically.

The trumpets were incredible. "Voices From the Past" is another reflection of their melodic-harmonic cohesion. I think the spirit of Vesala is on the recording; Part and Giya Kancheli are there as well. There are a lot of great moments. It took time for it to crystallize, but when we got there, it was a special moment. I sent it to Pedro Costa at Clean Feed, and he was not sure. He actually said no, but then came back to me and said he was going to take it on holiday with him and think it over. He sent me a mail a month later and said he wanted to put it out. It took a year till it was released, but it's a great disc and I appreciate him for doing that.

class="f-right">

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Waves

Waves

Mark O'Leary
Waves III

Theme From  Waiting

Theme From Waiting

Mark O'Leary
Live In Istanbul

Obsession

Obsession

Mark O'Leary
Snow

Album Reviews
In the Artist's Own Words
Album Reviews
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
Read more articles
 

Waves III

W.E.R.F.
2011

buy
 

Støj

W.E.R.F.
2011

buy
Stoj

Stoj

Ayler Records
2011

buy
 

Snow

W.E.R.F.
2010

buy

Related Articles

Read Bobby Sanabria: West Side Story Reimagined In the Artist's Own Words
Bobby Sanabria: West Side Story Reimagined
By Bobby Sanabria
July 27, 2018
In the Artist's Own Words
But Beautiful: My Life with Billie Holiday
By Lara Downes
September 24, 2015
In the Artist's Own Words
The Most Beautiful Thing
By Michael Bisio
September 26, 2014
Read Steve Khan: The Making of "Parting Shot" In the Artist's Own Words
Steve Khan: The Making of "Parting Shot"
By Steve Khan
April 24, 2011
Read Wayne Wallace: The Thrill of the Grammys In the Artist's Own Words
Wayne Wallace: The Thrill of the Grammys
By Wayne Wallace
March 15, 2011
In the Artist's Own Words
Bill Dixon: Excerpts from Vade Mecum
By AAJ Staff
January 29, 2010
In the Artist's Own Words
Bassist Jeff Berlin Pays Tribute to Charlie Banacos
By Jeff Berlin
December 24, 2009