An ethereal soundscape fills the space, framing the meditative installation of colour and light, created by Emma Macleod, for our first venture with the Mash House. It was, we admit, accidental (and maybe slightly panicked!) happenstance that led us to discover Joe Harney, aka Deaf Joe, and his experimental dreamlike work. Yet the work of Deaf Joe and Emma Macleod could not have complemented each other more – almost as if planned….
With the release of his second album earlier this year accompanied by a publication in collaboration with artist Paul Hallahan, Deaf Joe is no stranger to exploring new mediums of art, expression and space. We chat about his work and the unexpected collaboration at The Mash House as part of Vault 23 – now PARADIGM, August 30 2014.
Your music has a reflective quality about it, the layers of sounds seemingly create narratives and uncover memories. Would you agree? How do present space (/environment) and past events influence your work?
Yes I’d agree. I’m interested in incorporating found sounds, field recordings into studio recordings of songs in such a way that they sit right up at the front of the mix and feature alongside acoustic intruments. The last batch of songs I finished was me playing with that idea of past and present happening at the same time.. the way you can be on a train staring out the window and be completely reliving something from your past in your head. And they’re both happening at the same time. or you open an old book and the feel of the pages can trigger an odd, random childhood memory. You’re never really in control of your memory, of what it might throw up at you. Environmental triggers are everywhere.
It is fair to say then your music has a prominent visual element to it. How do you feel a different environment- such as a nightclub – affects or changes the tone of your work?
A nightclub would be an odd place for some of my music! I think of a lot of the stuff I do being, as you said, reflective. which means it’s a bit drifty and spaced out and probably works best for people listening on their own, in their own head space. I’ve always thought of it like that anyway. I find it doubly weird cos a lot of the music I’d listen to would be fairly full-on (I’m a huge lightning bolt fan for instance). I’ve just never been able to make music for a fucking dance floor. Have plenty of ambient odds and ends knocking about that would serve an old school chill out room well though..
True! I’m thinking a slightly run down, smokey, wine bar possibly in France!? So how did you feel when Project Space asked to pair your piece ‘Angles of Light’ with a visual installation in a club night setting? What were your impressions of the space on the night?
I was delighted.. as you said about ‘prominent visual element’, I’ve always got fairly strong narrative or visual elements in my head when I’m putting music together. Some people play off groove, I need an image or a place to be making it for. I’m always thinking stories or pictures. So to put the music with Emma Macleod’s really strong installation was great, it’s as if I’d tailored it for the room! That particular piece of music was an ambient homage to a piece of music by Finnish composer Rautavaara, his 7th symphony third movement. It’s dubbed The Angel of Light so I flipped the title to ‘Angles’. Check Rautavaara out by the way, that’s not me being a pretentious obscure-o muso-twat, its harmony twists and turns in very beautiful unpredictable ways, there’s something of the natural world about it. Sounds like it has inspired the composers of many a soundtrack for BBC and David Attenborough documentaries.
Wow that’s incredible! – thank you for the recommendation. After this experience, would you be tempted to make more work in collaboration with visual artists or for unexpected spaces?
Yes, indeed I would. As it is I’ve collaborated with some wonderful contemporary artists in Ireland in recent years. I like it when there’s a concept in place for a piece of music, where you’re contributing to the realisation of an idea. In that forum you really get to step into a place where the line between music and sound blurs. The nature of what’s required of the music/sound depends on what the artist’s intentions are for their work, so you’re most often bounced into having to approach composition or sound design from a new angle. I’ve recently finished a half-hour work with an Irish actor, I’ve scored music for his narration of a gruesome short story. We’re currently looking forward to realising it as an installation in a suitable found space in the future!
That sounds great! We will watch out for that project in the near future – keep us updated! You also released your second album – From the Heights of a Dream – this year, Congratulations! What does the future hold for you?
I’m currently finishing two album for different musical projects. I’m nearly done on both, but then again it could be another six months… Also I’ve just finished the mastering of an album by a friend of mine, Irish musician Katie Kim. It’s sounding beautiful, keep an eye out for her music on your internet radar. I also hope to find more contemporary artists to collaborate with in the near future, as it’s an amazing forum in which to work.