Subbacultcha Interview With Oppenheimer
NAME: Rocky O'Reilly & Shaun Robinson
INSTRUMENT: Rocky: guit/Keys/Vocoder. Shaun: Drums/Vox/Melodica
How did the recording sessions for the new album go?
Rocky: Really well. We've been lucky enough to record in the studio I work in, so we've been able to take our time, and experiment with different things, and record the album over the course of a year. We recorded it song by song. It's been great being able to dive back into a song after it has evolved live, and updating the recordings. We've had some help by friends along the way, coming in for handclaps & shouts. We recorded a song with Tim Wheeler too, which was a strange experience bringing someone new into the process, but I am so happy with how it turned out.
What goals did you set yourself before you started recording?
Rocky: No real goals as such, we just had sounds in our heads, and ideas of what we wanted to write. The most exciting thing for me was taking a synthesizer, a guitar and a drumloop and then just seeing where we could take it. After we recorded three songs we played them to friends, and the response was warm, so we just kept going. We don't really think too much about things when recording, other than What would Eno do?
Shaun: To try something that we had never heard in Belfast before and to experience life on the other side of a drum kit - although i'm now back behind a kit for live shows :)
What do you feel are your own limitations when it comes to creating/writing music?
Rocky: I think the only ones that have been an issue so far is the equipment we don't have. We're lucky enough to have a great studio here, and loads of nice synths and toys, but there have been times when we would have loved maybe a Fender Rhodes, a choir, a mellotron. Luckily i think where one of us lacks musically, the other one is strong.
Shaun: all of the above.
Tell us 3 of your own/bands favourite songs and the inspiration behind them?
Rocky: Allen Died April 5: It was the first Oppenheimer song, Shaun recorded some guitar loops at my house, and around them I made all these other acoustic guitar parts with a £20 microphone. In the end we didn't use the guitar loops. We took it to the studio and played around, and all of a sudden we had our very first song. It was really exciting, and it always goes down well live.
Shaun: Time Loss/Gain: I was in Tokyo with my girlfriend and Rocky sent me an e-mail about a vocoder chorus he had come up with. The lyric 'people change but the faces remain the same on....' comes from the odd experience of spending two weeks in Tokyo and starting to realise that people look similar all over the world - we started seeing Japanese versions of all our friends from home and that was really cool. Breakfast in NYC: This is about a rare and beautiful (drunken) night where myself and my girlfriend had a bit of extra cash and we telephoned all the local airports to see if there was any chance of getting on a flight to NYC asap. We both fancied getting out of Belfast and having some New York style pizza for breakfast. We never did make it though. I blame the beer.
What do you enjoy most about recording, and in contrast what do you enjoy most about playing live? Rocky: We write as we record, I love where ideas start, and where they end up. I love translating each others ideas into sounds, I love playing around with creating sounds and melodies. I love mixing those all together. There is no part of it I don't enjoy, recording as Oppenheimer is the most fun and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Playing live is different, often there are so many things you can't
control, and equipment and circumstances sometimes let you down, but that's not what it's about i guess. I love peoples reaction when they like it, I love to see people smiling, nodding their heads or dancing
along. Creating a good feeling in a room is a wonderful thing to do, hopefully we can continue to do that.
Shaun: Having the freedom to try what ever we want is a fantastic feeling in the studio. That, and not exactly having a strict time limit on us. When we play live I love the feeling that the bass is going to make peoples trousers shake. That, in turn, is going to make them dance.
What are the bands plans for the rest of the year?
We are playing SXSW on Friday! There is a single in the UK with small town america records in april,
which will include a small tour of Scotland and England. We'll be getting into more recording in May and June. The album will be released then, and come July we will be playing as much as we possibly can. We're heading to Japan, and then to America for the summer, and hopefully a lot more places in between.
Who is currently moving you musically at the moment?
Rocky: The Like Young - they are a 2 piece husband and wife duo who play the most amazing 2 minute power pop songs, they have a new album out in May and I cannot wait.
Shaun: A local Belfast band called We Are Knives. They are punishing! Also, lets not forget about the Eno.
What album changed your life and why?
Rocky: Choosing one was so hard! I am going to go with In a Bar Under The Sea... by dEUS. There is everything on there, pop, rock, electronica, jazz, there are three of the best ever pop songs of all time in there, and enough ba ba's to get by. also in the running were: Boo Radleys - Wake Up - It was suddenly ok to like pop. Cornelius - Fantasma - Electronic pop at it's best. To Rococo Rot - Synthesizer never seemed so cool.
Shaun: It has to be Doolittle by Pixies. Being 15 and hearing that record was like an explosion in my head. It took me from bad metal to a different world. That world was/is good. That is the album that changed my life but the album that has had most impact on my life is Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. A short novel would be written if I now started to write about that record. If you don't own it, get it right now.
A moment in your life and a song that seem so perfectly intertwined in your memory?
Rocky: Not too long ago but a pretty important one for me. Last January being in California and reading a 3 line review of the new Mosquitos album on Bar/None. I went to Amoeba, the most amazing record shop in the world to buy the album. I take it back to where I staying and put it on my headphones, it's blue skies and palm trees 30 degrees outside and my head is filled with this lush bossa nove indie pop, my whole trip just clicked into place. Everytime I hear it it takes me right back to that window I was looking out, and I remember thinking to myself, I should send a cd to Bar/None records.
Shaun: There are many but one of the best "music meets moment" experience I ever had was in an old job I had in a theatre. I had a horrible boss who I felt was just a bully. One day he stormed into the auditorium just as a mass choir and orchestra kicked into the full-on part of Carmina Burana by Orff
(music in the closing sequences of 'The Omen'). He seemed to be walking in slow motion along to the punishing music with hatred and vengence in his eyes. It was like a perfect soundtrack to the funniest moment!
Your proudest achievement so far?
Rocky: We received our first copies of the album this week. All the work that's gone in by everyone has paid off, we have a beautiful album that i'm really proud of.
Shaun: Not killing our soundman, Gerry. It's a long story but I'll clean it up and get it to you some day.
If you could erase one single/album from history (your own or someone else's) which would it be and why? Rocky: A Millenium prayer by Cliff Richard, if jesus had have pulled that shit they would have crucified him, what too soon?
Shaun: At the moment it has to be Axel F by the Crazy Frog - he butchered a classic.
How do you see yourself altering the band and your sound in the future? is there anything you wish to attempt in the future that's inspiring you right now?
Rocky: We have been talking about having a mirror image set up on stage, where we each have a drum kit, guitar, keyboard and vocoder... because i'm left handed, and Shaun's right, it would be an exact opposite. I think we're both looking forward to working with a few different people on the
next album too...
Shaun: Do you have Brian Eno's telephone number?
A rumour you'd like to start about yourself, or one you'd like stopped?
Rocky: Rocky in worlds greatest sex machine shocker.
Shaun: Kraftwerk shocker: Schneider out, Robinson in!
What drives you?
Rocky: I really don't know, every day when I wake up I know i want to hear music. I just can't imagine anything else.
Shaun: Finding something new in a record even though you've played it 1000 times. I'd like to make that record not now but right now.
What are your fears?
Rocky: Flying, and another potato famine in Ireland, I would be so dead.
Shaun: That I will die with laughter when witnessing Rocky on take-off. It's nearly happened.
The revolution comes, who would you like to be first against the wall (and if you're feeling particularly bitchy, a second, third, fourth and so on...)?
Rocky: No one special, ignorant hateful people i guess.
Shaun: I'll second that.
Best piece of advice you'd give to aspiring musicians, or the best piece of advice you were given when you started?
Rocky: We were told to just forget about everything while writing music, don't think about what people see you as, what they think you should do, just get on with it and see what happens. At the time I was thinking 'this is all a bit freaky beatnick' but it's something I think about every day. That and what Shaun told me:
Shaun: Don't do anything that you think makes you look stupid. Also, on the drumming angle, there are only two rules: Hit them hard and hit them on time.
If you're in a car going at the speed of light, and someone turns the headlamps on, would they do anything?
Rocky: doubt it.
Shaun: Trick question. At the speed of light any body (like a car) will have infinite mass. The energy needed to make this car move will also be infinite. Therefore, the body (like a car) will stop. If the lights are switched on at this point the light will leave the car lamps travelling at the speed of light.
Oppenheimer release 'Breakfast in NYC' through Smalltown America on 17th April.
Thanks to Rob @ 14th Floor Records
- Jeremy Chick, Subba-Cultcha
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