25 Nov 2020
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Naircol - Interview with Naircol

30 Oct 2020 // An interview by Mike Alexander

As a sonic explorer and sci fi fan, it’s apt to suggest that Matt Hennessey is "boldly going where no man has gone before". His 'starship' goes by the name Naircol and his debut album Isolate is a starburst of energy and mystery that probes themes of isolation and hallucination. He caught up with Mike Alexander from Muzic.net.nz to chat about his voyage of discovery so far.

Are you an avid reader, TV watcher, gamer or all of the above?

I've actually been getting into reading a lot more recently but it was never really a huge hobby of mine. I'm a massive sci-fi fan, so I've been reading Frank Herbert's Dune series and it's been really amazing so far. I can't wait for Denis Villeneuve's big screen interpretation!

As for TV, I don't currently watch a huge amount but I grew up watching series like Stargate SG-1, Farscape and Doctor Who etc. These days, I'll watch the odd Netflix series like Stranger Things or The Mandolorian on Disney Plus but it needs to be really good to keep me hooked.

And yes, I have always been a huge gamer since an early age. The PlayStation 1 was probably my main console growing up and the games from that era are still a huge influence on my music. If you haven't heard Nobuo Uematsu's OST for Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX (and X for that matter), do yourself a favour and either look them up on YouTube or play through the games yourself!

These days I'm mainly playing on PC (and a little PS4) on games like Destiny 2 when I can find the time (Shout out to the Hadley's Hope clan), Doom Eternal, Gran Turismo and a bunch of other stuff too depending on my mood. I also still play a lot of the older retro stuff I grew up with.

Did your parents’ record collection or their taste in music influence your own tastes?

Definitely, more so my Mum's cassette collection. It kind of just pushed me in a certain direction rather than getting me hooked on specific things. I remember the first 'favourite song' I ever had was Lenny Kravitz' Are You Gonna Go My Way. I still think it's a great song.

One of the huge influences I got from her collection though was Metallica's Black album. I must have listened to that album more than a thousand times by now and I still love it. That album was kind of the birthplace of my love for music. It pushed me on to other things like System of a Down, Rammstein, 8 Foot Sativa etc which would last me up until my early 20's, at which point I started to broaden my horizons with more jazz, funk and electronic sorta stuff.

What specifically got you interested in electronic music?

I think I slowly just got hooked on it. I don't think there was any single moment when I decided 'this is a thing I'm going to do'. I am a bit of an introvert and although I've been in bands in the past, I think being able to create literally anything I want, whenever I want is a huge thing for me. So, naturally, that's the direction I went. I do still enjoy producing the odd metal track here and there but there's just something about electronic music that fits with my musical ideas. Having full control of every single element of my sound is hugely appealing and also just convenient.

Do you have any formal training or are you largely self-taught?

A mix of both. I studied music for two years after I left school and earned a Diploma in Music Composition and Production and that definitely gave me a solid base knowledge. But I have learnt so much after studying and a huge amount of what I do also comes from being self-taught. The internet is an amazing place for learning pretty much whatever you want.

Your alias Naircol in an anagram of the word “clarion”. I’m guessing though that’s not the origin of the name?

No, that is just a happy accident! Actually, the origin of the name comes from back in my mid teen years. When my household first got proper internet (probably Dial-Up) I would've needed to think up a username for some website or game. I was just beginning to get in to music theory at the time, and the only thing I could think of was one of the musical modes, 'Locrian'. I typed it in and the name was taken so I typed it again in reverse it and the name has stuck since then.

I gather Isolate was several years in the making? Was that because you are a perfectionist?

I am a perfectionist for sure and that definitely didn't help, but the other main factor was also just the time I had to work on it every week. The time I had to work on songs day to day was very minimal, so I basically just had to chip away at it. I also have quite a slow and methodical way of writing and producing where after I come up with an idea or mix a track I'll need to let it sit for a few days without hearing it to 'cleanse' my ears. That way, I can hear what I've written or produced in a more genuine state, free of any bias my ears or brain might have gained over the process. Especially in regards to mixing, my ears tend to get fatigued pretty quickly.

Is there an overall theme behind the album?

Yep, I find it hugely helpful, especially when working on a project as big as a full album to have a theme or concept. I wrote the album as a whole, basically the same way I would write an individual song with one main idea that evolved into many little sub-ideas (i.e., the individual songs).

I was inspired by the idea of sensory deprivation. In particular the fact that if the human brain is deprived of any input, it will create its own input rather than just shutting down. So, I thought about the idea of an astronaut in deep space jettisoned away from his craft but with full life support. How would the human brain cope with that and what would that astronaut experience? I think the line between what's real and what isn't would blur pretty quickly. Each song is an exploration of what that might be like, starting with Null, and Lucky Star being the end of the journey. If people have different ideas about what the album is about or means to them, I am also totally open to that!

Are the titles of tracks such as Qualia, Delineate, Starbeast, How To Say Goodbye and Lucid random or specific?

Since the album has a theme, they are all relating specific ideas within that theme that helped me to write each of the corresponding songs. A lot of them also double as being references to some of my influences, for example Starbeast and Lucky Star are references to one of my favourite movies of all time Alien'. I'll let others figure the rest of the names out for themselves but they are also referencing either movies or games.

The cover artwork looks like octopus tentacles? What did you want to convey?

It goes back to the albums theme of isolation and hallucination. I think a lot of those super deep-sea creatures might be in a very similar situation to that astronaut I was talking about in that previous question. My cover artist Jordan Frost did an amazing job and the glowing tentacles were just kind of a culmination of all the ideas we both had. The rest of the cover is very reminiscent of old VHS and retro video game covers, giving an ode to my influences and general sound.

What makes the hard work and long hours worth it?

Just having a piece of work like this completed and out in the world for everyone to hear is worth it in itself. I have been a musician for half my life and to finally have something substantial to show for it is all I could really ask for. I would say to anyone in a similar position to me, if you want to do something, just do it and don't make excuses. If you don't have time to get something done, find any tiny amount of time you can and just work at it slowly even if it ends up taking you years, you will eventually get it done.

How do you see your music developing? Do you want to remain open-ended style-wise? Are you interested in collaborations and is there a master-plan for live shows?

I basically just make what I think sounds cool to me personally so I guess that's why my style can be a bit hard to pin down sometimes. I have no plans of changing my outlook on that but if what I think sounds cool ends up being a little bit more genre specific in the future, that's totally cool.

I think with Isolate I experimented a lot with the compositional aspect of songwriting so for album number two I would love to experiment more with the sound design aspect of things and make some more interesting sounds production-wise.

I am totally up for collaborations for sure! Although whoever I work with would have to be OK with me taking a few weeks to get anything done as I am still pretty busy being a new dad!

As for live shows, that is something I would absolutely love to do in the future. Most likely it won't be in the near future due to my pretty packed schedule but it is definitely on my radar if life permits it!

Live-stream shows on Twitch or YouTube may end up being a more suitable route for me to take in the meantime though so keep an eye out.

I would also love to get more into composing music for people, whether it be small YouTube channels or for bigger projects like video game OSTs, I have dabbled in it in the past and I think that's something I would really enjoy doing more of.

 

About Naircol

Naircol began his musical journey with guitar during late childhood, and idolized various Heavy Metal artists while also being exposed to more mainstream Pop, Funk, Rock, Jazz and Dance artists like Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquai, Micheal Jackson, Eagles, Chet Baker and Prince.

After leaving school he studied music composition and production full-time for two years and in doing so, discovered a hidden passion for producing electronic music.

Also massively influenced by video-game music and soundtracks from the late 80's, 90's and 2000's, Naircol prides himself on not being limited to the norms that electronic music has accumulated while still sounding catchy and grounded.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Naircol

Releases

Isolate
Year: 2020
Type: Album

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