Dead Journalist Interview & Review Wither Oppenheimer

'Oppenheimer... may be the best synth-pop album of the year'

Three years ago, synth-pop exploded back into the mainstream with the release of The Postal Service's debut album. In the years that have followed, synth-pop fans have had a limited number of quality artists of which to grab hold.

On June 6, 2006, that changed when Belfast, Ireland's Oppenheimer released their self-titled album. "Breakfast in NYC", "Saturday Looks Bad To Me" and "This Is Not a Test" highlight the album - and not coincidently - these songs are featured on the band's page.

Released by Bar None Records (who has an impressive stable of artists), Oppenheimer's album mixes pop sensibility with a heaping helping of blissful synth sounds to create what may be the best synth-pop album of the year.

Oppenheimer's first North American tour begins in Philadelphia on August 3. (It includes two shows in New York on August 4 and August 21 and an August 10 show in Atlanta.) For more information on the band and its upcoming tour, visit the band's Web site: or they band's page: had is proud to bring you this exclusive interview with Oppenheimer's Rocky O'Reilly and Shaun Robinson.

How long have you been recording together as Oppenheimer?

SR: We've been together for just over a year and a half but we met about three or four years ago. Rocky was doing sound for local bands/venues in Belfast and I was the drummer in an indie rock band called Torgas Valley Reds. We liked the noise that he got for us so he became our regular soundman.

In October 2004, at an Album Leaf gig, we decided to really have a stab about getting something started. The next weekend we had the basics of our first song, "Allen Died, April 5" sorted out and we have not stopped writing/recording since.

What is it that inspires you during the song-writing process?

RO: Most of the time it's just the actual recording that inspires me, playing with sounds, fiddling with keyboards and all that. Finding a sound and a melody that makes your heart beat is the most exciting thing.

SR: Lyrically, I find that good books, great films and strange and beautiful nights inspire me. Most of the music ideas that I come up with start on acoustic guitar. I love layers in songs, so then it is a process of "how can we make this sound great?"

Did you set out to make the next great synth-pop album?

RO: No. Before we started I thought it might be more glitchy and long-winded.

SR: When we started we were recording in a room in Rocky's house with me or him holding a mic at an acoustic guitar thinking "do you reckon this is going to sound ok?" We're both real happy with how it's turned out.

When did you get your first Moog?

RO: After years of want, I finally bought a prodigy last year - just in time for our first ever show. Come the first note, the stage lights had bent it right of tune. Our shaky nerves were shattered right then.

As soon as I could, I got enough together to buy a minimoog voyager. I talk to it everyday.

We've got a room at the studio where I work, it's slowly becoming filled with old keyboards, I dream of the day it's like the stories you hear about the basement in Kling Klang studios.

How is the Belfast music scene?

SR: I believe the music scene in Belfast is really good at the moment. There are loads of great bands that have really varied sounds: LaFaro, We Are Knives, Duke Special and Tom McShane to name a few. There are great bands from all over Northern Ireland/Ireland at the moment, not just Belfast.

RO: I think there're loads of great bands, but not really a scene. Everyone seems to be doing their own thing, from instrumental guitar music like Tracer AMC to power pop like Fighting With Wire to the music of In Case Of Fire, I can't remember a time when there was more music happening here.

If you could share the stage with several of your music heroes, who would they be?

SR: To make Oppenheimer a big band experience I would have Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) on guitar, Kim Deal (Pixies) on bass, Brian Eno and Richard James (Aphex Twin) on keyboard/noise duties, Jason Pierce (Spiritualized) on guitar, Phil Rudd (AC/DC) on drums and Tom Waits and Gerry Love (Teenage Fanclub) on backing vocals.

RO: What would we do?

Maybe Cornelius, daft punk, KRS one, Kraftwerk, Mates of State, Mina, Folk Implosion, dEUS, Boo Radleys and Mirwais would be ok.

We're playing with the Like Young soon, I've been listening to them non-stop for a few years and I haven't had the chance to see them yet.

Are you excited about the band's first North American tour?

SR: Yeah! My girlfriend is from the States and we did a 3,000 mile road trip three years ago. I suppose that the tour will be a bit like that but with the excitement of playing live shows to a bunch of new people every night, more air horns, more heckling at our soundman (Gerry) and playing with fantastic bands.

RO: I wonder how many states we will get to air horn?

What should people expect from an Oppenheimer live show?

SR: Songs and sounds that will make you move.

RO: Air horns!

- Chuck Norton, Dead Journalist