SHE has, previously, recorded an E.P. with legendary hell-raiser…
Shane MacGown - and is set to release her own album, Garden of Beasts, on 8th September. I talk to Candice Gordon about the album and the kind of stories she touches on. Living in Berlin; I was curious about the scene there and whether there are, local or otherwise, any artists she recommends we follow closely.
Gordon talks about working with label-mate A.S. Fanning (who produces her album) and the insight into new single, Nobody. Having previously lived in Dublin; I wonder whether she misses the city and any plans on going back. I learn more about Brown’s touring scheduled and, having worked with someone like Shabe MacGown, she has a bit of a wild side herself!
Hi, Candice. How are you? How has your week been?
I have just finished editing a video for my next single and I’m going to Frankfurt tomorrow to support Midnight Oil - so I’ve been rehearsing for that.
Tell me about Nobody. What is the origin of that song?
I used to work in shi*ty, shi*ty night clubs for money. From this experience, I had this image of vacuous desperate hedonism - I wanted to examine some driving factors of human behaviour in this album and create a sort of narrative.
Nobody is the point in the album where innocent carefreeness turns harmful. It’s basically about objectification and dispossession.
On 8th September, Garden of Beasts is out. It sounds like an interesting album. What is the inspiration and story behind that title?
When I moved to Berlin, I, frankly, became obsessed with the Nazis and the Holocaust. I wondered how on earth those people could do what they did?! How can people be so evil - the common, Average Joe people, complicit in such atrocity?!
I was immersing myself in a lot of documentaries and literature about it all and then I saw a documentary series (not about Nazis this time) called The Human Animal - and it sparked the idea of this concept album.
I was comparing things like sophistication vs. savagery; caring vs. harming; lightness vs. darkness etc. The beginning of the album is the birth: it grows through adolescence, exploration; trauma, death and, finally, a cleansing and rebirth.
I have a picture in my mind of these characters going through it all but I’m not sure if all that will be apparent to the listener.
I don’t really want to impose it on them - just hint at it - and, maybe, they will take the contemplative journey.
Oh, yeah: the title is directly inspired by Tiergarten in Berlin - but plays well with the Human Animal stuff.
What was it like having label-mate A.S. Fanning producing and Ingo Krauss mixing? What did they bring to the album?
Fanning is a grounding element for me; a solid foundation. He kept things together when they were on the verge of falling apart.
Quite a few times during the process I was ready to pack it all in. He’s also a great multi-instrumentalist and creative musician; ten/ten: would recommend. I would also highly recommend working with Ingo Krauss. He’s sort of a sonic philosopher. REALLY passionate about sound.
He just gets the job done (and to a high standard) - I am endlessly appreciative when people just do what they say they will do.
It was recorded in an Irish country house and Berlin’s Funkhaus. I know you have moved to Berlin. How important is the city and how influential are the people and cultures there when it came to Garden of Beasts?
I reckon I answered this up there but I’ll elaborate with a book recommendation - and one that I read during the writing of the album and really had an impact on me: Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada.
For those that don’t read: they’re releasing a film version soon (or maybe already have).
You grew up in Dublin. Do you miss the city? How do the music scenes differ in Berlin and Dublin?
I do miss Dublin.
I dream I’m there often. I really miss the sea.
But, it’s too capitalistic and Catholic - and I’m too much of a hippy liberal...and I’m a woman - so it’s not a good fit right now.
Maybe I’ll move back when one of us has changed.
Many reviewers note the brooding and visceral nature of the music – a mix between Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, perhaps. Do you take that as a compliment? Are those artists important to you?
Yes, I hear this a LOT.
After I play a gig I get it too, that and Patti Smith. A LOT! I don’t get why. I really don’t get it. I don’t think I sound like any of them. I found out that Shane MacGowan phoned Nick Cave - after we worked together - and told him he should check me out - and I did swoon!
But, yeah, I don’t get it and it’s frustrating because enough people have said it; so I recognise a pattern - but I am not hugely influenced by them; although I do really like the music and highly respect them as artists.
Maybe we come from the same planet. Of course, people intend it as a compliment.
One journalist, rather wonderfully, said Nobody was the best song never to feature on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Your music has a Lynch-ian quality. It is cinematic and dramatic. How, do you feel, cinema, drama and visuals aspects inspire your sound?
That was said about Before the Sunset Ends - which was the lead track of the E.P. (produced by MacGowan).
When I write music I see scenes like in a movie. Maybe everyone does. It is very vivid, yeah, and I love Lynch.
I would absolutely love to compose for film.
I have been working a lot with a filmmaker here in Berlin, Valquire Veljkovic. He used a few songs from Garden of Beasts on his forthcoming trilogy, Harvesting Insects, and it’s very satisfying to hear my songs placed on a beautiful film. I am planning to compose specifically for him this year.
In the past; you have worked with Shane McGowan and performed at Truck Festival. It seems like you embrace and lust after a certain rebelliousness. Would that be fair to say? How do you spend time away from music?
Some friends and I have a running joke about how Larry David I am.
I often find myself in situations that would fit right in to Curb Your Enthusiasm. He’s a rebel isn’t he, so, yeah, I’m a rebel like that?
Away from music: I don’t know.
I like movies and comedy; and vegetarian food. Any of my really rebellious behaviour...I will leave up to the imagination of the reader.
What do the coming months hold in terms of tour dates? Any plans to play the U.K. this year?
Playing London on the 27th September on a line-up with my compadres A.S. Fanning and Louis Brennan. It’s in the Servant’s Jazz Quarters.
I will be touring in Europe in October.
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
I’ve been listening to Alan Vega’s Cubist Blues this summer.
I have a feeling it’s going to influence some future work of minute - but I can’t promise anything.
Likewise; same with The Modern Lovers’ The Modern Lovers.
I’m going to go with Kraftwerk Radio-Activity as a record that I had some pretty wild existential revelations to this.
What is the most important advice you have been offered by anyone – either, in terms of your music or something that has changed you as a person?
One thing that comes to mind: in the history of the Seattle Museum, there’s an exhibit about how the Alaskan gold-rush contributed to the growth of Seattle. They advised their residents not to go to Alaska and they had a catchphrase: “Mine the miners” - and business boomed in Seattle catering for the miners that were passing through to find their fortune in Alaska.
Of course; most of them returned broken-down and empty-handed.
I think about that regarding the music business now.
On that note: what advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
You’ve got to find the sweet-spot where you take your work seriously enough to work on it every day - and not too serious that you get paralysed.
You’ve got to be having fun: lighthearted but, at the same time, completely heavy - like it’s some sort of spiritual divination. Or like a drive; or a hunger for the sublime. When you’ve got good work, then you need to find the good people to work with.
People easy to work with who work hard and get stuff done. You work hard and get stuff done...and then the ship is sailing.
Also, work as fast as you can on something when the fire is lit - before it goes out.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Play me some Fela Kuti!
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