Over the course of December, we’ll be running a series of interviews with Irish acts reflecting on the past 12 months, how it was for them and for music in general. As part of the 2013 round-up there may also be a couple of lists to sink your ears in to as well. Here’s the second act to be featured in the round-up, The Late David Turpin.
The Late David Turpin released his first album We Belong Dead in September. An immediately idiosyncratic work, it’s one of the albums of the year. It’s not a debut release – Turpin released an album entitled Haunted four years ago – but rather references his heart stopping for 28 seconds after he contracted hypothermia after swimming in 2011. (You can read an extraordinary, extensive interview with Turpin at Harmless Noise.) It’s a revelatory collection of slow, electro-pop jams. Below, our eponymous star reflects on the year just gone.
How has 2013 been for you? What have been the highlights of the year?
2013 has been busy. Releasing an album independently is always a challenge, especially if you’re doing it alone, so just getting it out for people to hear has been a highlight for me. Making an album you hope that, if nothing else, it might catch some people’s imaginations, so to see my album doing that has meant a lot to me. Playing live, I got to do things I’ve never done before, too – like performing alone for the first time, for the Dublin Book Festival – so it was nice to surprise myself. I’ve also been able to go out and live a little this year, without having a thousand vocal takes at home waiting to be edited, so that’s been a highlight. Also, my computer gave up the ghost shortly after I got the album out, so I’m grateful for the timing, as I’m notoriously bad about backing stuff up.
Is it a relief finally getting the new album out?
Definitely. This has been a challenging record to make, because on the one hand it’s the most considered, conceptual thing I’ve done, and on the other it’s a personal record in a way that my previous ones weren’t. It also took four years to make, and that’s an eternity for an independent musician. The landscape has changed so radically, even since I last released in 2009. I was genuinely startled to find that anybody remembered who I was, and wanted to know what I’d been up to. At the same time, as much as it’s a relief to have the album out and well-received, I’m also quite a diffident person, and the process of making an album can provide a lot of sand to stick your head in. When it’s finished you’re exposed and it’s sometimes difficult to know what to do with yourself.
Best gig you’ve played? And best festival you’ve played/attended?
I really enjoyed being a part of the Dublin Fringe Festival again in September this year. Playing for the Fringe is an opportunity to do something a bit more exotic than I might normally be permitted to, and I think I got to do that when I performed with a choir at Smock Alley Theatre. I also created the sound environment for Sorcha Kenny’s piece Dolls, which premiered in the festival, so it was nice to have two very different irons in the fire. I played the Button Factory for Hard Working Class Heroes in October, and it was great to be able to see some of the other artists over the weekend.
What are some of your favourite songs/albums of the year?
Finishing an album and arranging it to play live, it can sometimes be hard to engage properly with other people’s work. I feel like I’m only just getting back into the habit of really listening to music. Recently, I’ve enjoyed the new Blood Orange album, Cupid Deluxe.
I thought Goldfrapp’s Tales Of Us, was a beautiful, subtle piece of work. There’s a song on it called ‘Jo’ that’ll stop your heart.
I thought Jessie Ware’s ‘Imagine It Was Us’ and Mariah and Miguel’s ‘Beautiful’ were both really cool, sophisticated pop singles this year.
I’ve been listening back to a lot of John Tavener after he died last month. The Protecting Veil was the first CD we had in our household when I was growing up, so it’s always meant a lot to me. It’s a shame that I didn’t really think to delve into his work until he died, but I suppose that’s the way these things often work.
Which new bands, Irish or abroad, have you been impressed by this year?
I’m lucky because I’ve been able to work with a lot of interesting new artists lately. My friends Harry and Aaron, both of whom recorded with me on my album, have formed a new band called Carriages, and I think they’re brilliant. They’re making a kind of experimental folk music, using found sounds for rhythm programming. Colin from Bouts played a lot of guitar for We Belong Dead, so I was excited to hear their own album last month. It’s such a taut, focused record. Margie Lewis, who sang with me at my Fur Show in The Workman’s Club, is a really intriguing musician too. There’s also a new artist from Galway called Maria Somerville, who I think is incredibly talented, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of her work. In terms of music from abroad, I’ve been listening to a lot of underground electronic music – no two pieces seem to be by the same artist, and they’re all fascinating in different ways.
What plans have you got in the works for 2014?
Besides releasing the album abroad, I’d like to work more with film and theatre music, and I’d like to get involved in fine art again, after spending a lot of 2013 on the music trail. I’m doing a few featured parts for musicians whose work I really like, and I’m doing a bit of writing for other people. I’m excited, but I’m not really able to give any detail because they’re not my projects to rumble. I have the germ of an idea for a new record of my own, too. At least, I think it’s a record. Whatever it is, I’ll be getting to work once I can get my computer working again.
What things other than music have you been enjoying this year?
I saw a lot of great films this year – I really enjoyed Behind the Candelabra, Gravity and Blue is the Warmest Colour. My favourite of the year was probably Shane Carruth’s abstract sci-fi romance Upstream Colour, although I have to give a special mention to Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, which is like a cross between Almodovar and Roger Corman, and was so entertaining I went to see it twice. Some of my favourite books of the year have been reprints: Mary Renault’s The Charioteer (1953) was reissued by Virago, and Hesperus reprinted Edward Payson Evans’s Animal Trials (1906), which is a history of medieval animal trials that’s more bizarre than any fiction. My favourite book of the year, though, is Thames & Hudson’s edition of Derek Jarman’s Sketchbooks. Derek Jarman was an influence on the video I made with Mark Duggan for my song ‘Fur’ [out this Friday], so I’ve been looking at this book a lot. I’ve always been quite ambivalent about the idea of making a commodity of artists’ ephemera (Francis Bacon’s paint pots, John Lennon’s shopping lists, etc), but Jarman was a filmmaker whose notes were works of art in themselves, and having the opportunity to see into his working process is genuinely inspirational.