March 25

[AUDIO] The Brownbread Mixtape Podcast

I adore the podcast format and I’m an avid fan of all audio longform storytelling. I’ll do a post at another time about some of my favourite podcasts, but this post is about the brief spell where I produced a podcast of my own. It was motivated by two creative impulses. Firstly I wanted to test the waters of hosting and interviewing in this type of creative format – I have facilitated and MCd plenty of live shows in my time, but its such a very different skill and discipline to interview artfully in this longer audio format, so a really great thing to sharpen the skills on. And secondly I wanted to showcase some of the world class musicians and writers that had treaded the stage at the brownbread mixtape.

The format for the first chunk of episodes was always the same. Invite a great musician or poet along to talk about their creative process, a bit of their life story, and then have them select some favourite clips from the brownbread mixtape down the years, as well as perform an in-studio session featuring an original and a cover. And what a series of gems we managed to record. They are all embedded in the YouTube player above and I urge you to give them all a listen, with episodes featuring Pearse McGloughlin, EleventyFour, Colm Keegan, Justin Grounds, Fergus Costello and Lindsey Ryan

Now that time has passed I can see a few things I would do differently. I would certainly be more judicious in editing down the episodes so that they zip along a little bit. Perhaps I was too enamoured with keeping everything in, rather than making it a snappier show each time that might appeal to a wider audience. It would have been something that a slightly objective producer would have been able to spot right away. I’d also nudge myself to be quiet more often and just let the interviewee speak. Far too often in the earliest episodes I felt the need to say “yeah” or “mmm hmm”, when silence would have served the whole experience better. But I did learn from that and the later episodes were better. There is loads to love about them. I really dig the intro music / title sequence that Enda Roche cut together. And we managed to capture some absolutely stunning in-studio songs, especially some of the cover versions (Pearse McGloughlin and Lindsey Ryan are real standouts)

The latter chunk of podcasts veered away from that original format primarily because I simply didnt have time to record and produce the show any more. And then an artist I was acquainted with, Eamonn McLoughlin, had produced a documentary radio series for a local station in Ireland, and he had nowhere to house or archive the episodes. Given that many of the episodes covered artists and writers who had performed at the brownbread mixtape, it felt fitting to put them out under our banner. Some of the interviews are really interesting with top drawer Irish writers, and I even make an appearance on one of them chatting about the brownbread mixtape.

I would love to return to the podcast format and have a few ideas bubbling away, so watch this space. In the meantime, have a listen and let me know what you think.

 

March 12

[WRITING] The Hole There In The Floor – a poem

This is a poem I started writing when I lived in New York and was starting to forge a really keen interest in poetry, and specifically performance poetry. The poem was supposed to be a snapshot of the punters I saw in a bar in Manhattan called Tom & Jerry’s. But the original draft was a bit too angry and so it remained unfinished until I came back to Ireland, and after a night out in The Stag’s Head pub one night (which would later be the home of The Brownbread Mixtape), I dusted off the poem and finished the thing. It’s probably one of my poems that I am most happy with, as it captures a proper bit of the fire and melancholy I saw in those folks in the bars caught between their dreams and the drink. Some time after I had written it I was approached by Tom and Andy from the truly brilliant Storymap website, who asked me to perform it in The Stags Head so they could film it for inclusion on the site. I was only too happy to oblige and the end result is a lovely document of a poem and a place.

March 9

[WRITING] A series of letters to major drinks manufacturers where I unsuccessfully seek sponsorship for poetry



For almost a decade I have curated and hosted The Brownbread Mixtape, a themed variety show that showcases the best in music, spoken word poetry, and sketch comedy. One of the many shows was centred around the the theme of “drinking”. So, in the spirit of mischievousness (and to generate comedy material for the purposes of hosting the show) I fired off a series of letters to the makers of a variety of alcoholic beverages seeking sponsorship for myself and/or The Brownbread Mixtape. Below are the speculative and outlandishly stupid letters that I actually sent to the various companies in question. While the letters were ultimately absurd and silly in tone, at the heart of them lies perhaps a serious point about the lack of funding for many sectors of the arts. Only one of the companies ever came back with a response – Bulmers cider – and they seemed to get it was a joke, thanking me for the opportunity but gracefully declining. I am a Bulmers drinker for life as a result. Guinness sent back a generic response saying they would delete my email immediately as they cannot receive pitches for commercials, as they presumably could get sued for stealing ideas. None of the others ever responded, yet I still hold out hope like a drunken Friday night reveler. I hope that you enjoy reading them and take them in the silly spirit(s) they were written!

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#1 Devil’s Bit Cider

Dear Devil’s Bit

How’s things?

I am writing to you first and foremost as a big fan of your cider. It’s gorgeous.

Secondly I am writing to you as curator of a popular Dublin gig called “the brownbread mixtape” and as an award-winning performance poet with a small, dedicated following. In other words, I am a minor celebrity who has been described as quite good looking with a good foothold in “the scene”

Right, lets get down to business. There’s no way of saying this without sounding insensitive, so I’m just going to put it out there unfiltered. Your cider has a bit of a reputation for being drunk by pissheads and wasters. More people have your cider for breakfast than dinner basically.

So, I’ll cut to the chase. I am looking for sponsorship to further my artistic career and in return I am offering you the opportunity to leverage my skills and celebrity status to up your profile in a new segment of the cider consumption market. The arts. I would have no ethical or moral issues with this because your cider is delicious and I am not one of those “I am in it for the art” kind of whingers.

I have loads of ideas on how we could make this sponsorship work but here is one, just off the top of my head. You’ve probably seen Bulmers laughable new ads with celebrity economist David McWilliams. Now, I am a personal friend of the younger, cooler celebrity economist Ronan Lyons and I am sure I could convince him to be a part of a more edgy ad campaign for Devil’s Bit. We could poke fun at those pricks at Bulmers whilst maybe throwing in a few sound financial predictions while we’re at it. I would leave that part up to Ronan.

I would love to work with you to develop an advertising campaign and sign a pact with Devil’s Bit. Failing that, I would love some complimentary bottles of cider.

cheers
Kalle

[Note: The economist Ronan Lyons was even kind enough to share the original link to the letters on his Twitter account, so this still has the potential to happen. Come on Devil’s Bit, do the right thing]

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#2 Buckfast Tonic Wine

Dear Buckfast brothers,

I know that you are an order of Benedictine monks so I will try to keep this email quiet.

My name is Brother K and I come from a secret order of Irish monks called “Ar Meisce”. Every month we have a service and gathering in the ancient, sacred chapel upstairs in the “Head of the Stag temple” in Dublin city.  As we have fallen on hard times and you seem to be thriving, thanks in no small part to an abundance of students, hipsters and rip-roaring alcoholics who chug your wine like the apocalypse is coming, we are approaching you to be our financial benefactors and patrons for the remainder of our days. We are looking for 10 grand per month to maintain our current standard of praying and serving the Lord.

While we cannot force you to do this, we can only say that it would be what Christ would have done. And failure to do so will most likely condemn you to eternal damnation or some such variation on that theme.

God bless you brothers and may your wine always be fortified

Brother K

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# 3 Cristal Champagne

Dear Cristal,

Yes yes y’all. / Sippin Cristal , you can call me Kal. /
In Dublin 4 they call for more / Pints of Heino, then champers / SCORE! //
The bubbles are nice, the bubbles are nice / The Cristal bubbles at a nice nice price.

This is Kalle Ryan the poet and that is a little sample of some sweet new lyrics I am working on for my upcoming crossover into the hip-hop world. I will go by MC Kalle Greenz . At present I am a Z-grade celebrity in Ireland who performs poetry and hosts a savage night called the brownbread mixtape.

Now, I know you had a strong market share amongst rappers, hip-hop artists and other people who derive their consumer information from lyrics formulated by materialistic celebrities in the past. I also know that your CEO made some silly borderline racist remarks in an interview with The Economist in 2006 which led to a big drop off in your hip-hop purchasing demographic. But I am here today to bring that fizz back to your bubbly sales with a new hip-hop audience. In exchange for a 7 figure sponsorship sum from you, I will drink as much Cristal as is humanly possible. I will even do this at public events such as The Brownbread Mixtape, where we will serve Cristal at every table (you will pick up the tab for this as a separate charge).

I will then write, direct, edit and produce viral videos for Cristal with my posse  of trained actors and writers, The Brownbread Players, which includes some serious  ballers and hustlers. Their CV reads like a “Best of Irish TV and Film” like Ros na Run, Meteor ads, eMobile, Sky TV, Kilkenny Arts Festival and the voice of directory inquiries. I have a few ideas for the viral video but I won’t pop my creative cork here just yet.

Look, you’re busy people, I’m a busy person. Let’s not yank each others’ chain here. Give me an answer in 24 hours if this is your bag. If not I will pimp my hip-hop credentials to Courvoisier or some other brand that has benefitted from being associated with a thuggish gangster lifestyle

Maximum respek

MC Kalle Greenz

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#4 Smirnoff Ice

Dear Smirnoff Ice,

This may shock you but your drink is manky. I remember one night I spilt some on the ground and I thought, “the poor ground”. But look, I have an idea that might give you some credibility and make you be the drink choice of people other than gobshites.

How would you feel about sponsoring a bunch of layabout actors, comedians, musicians and arty types? Doesn’t sound that appealing, does it? What if I told you that those people are in fact the wildly talented components in the brownbread mixtape, a monthly indie gig sensation in Dublin city. Between the live show and our award winning web presence you would have literally a hundred people who could be duped into drinking your sugary boozy gargle. Give it some thought. Considering you have a ridiculous amount of money for publicity and marketing, why not shower some of it on this idea?

Get in touch if you’re serious about not being the laughing stock of the drinks fridge

cheers
Kalle

P.S. I’ve seen your vociferous denials about the whole “getting iced” phenomenon but you’re not fooling anyone. Everyone knows you’re behind it. You’re some chancers!

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#5 Jose Cuervo Tequila

Dear Jose,

You know and I know that no one has ever come away from a night drinking your Tequila saying: “That was such a mellow uneventful night full of pacifism and I really feel amazing today”

So, here’s a radical idea. Give me money to run a cool arts night in Dublin where your brand would be prominently featured and in return I will cut out the middle man and pour  bottles of your tequila all over the bathroom floor and along the streets of Rathmines and near the Bernard Shaw pub.

Basically, we will also plug the hell out of your tequila and pretend that it isn’t a foul concoction.

I know what you’re thinking. This guy is crazy. But I might just be brilliant.

Try me

Kalle

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#6 Guinness

Dear Guinness,

I am writing to inform you of an amazing opportunity that awaits you… in this very letter.

Can you guess what it is?

Yep, you’re absolutely right, I have an idea for an ad for you.

I am a published poet, so feel free to heighten your expectations at this early stage in our correspondence

Picture it, black & white footage of three barmen, moustaches, white shirts, black slacks, black ties, nice leather shoes. Not slip ons. All of them walking down Exchequer street  in slo-mo. Each of them kicking an empty keg that’s rolling in front of them. In turn each one shouts “Bring out your dead!” As they pass pubs they’re joined by more barmen, similarly dressed, each one joining the parade and kicking an empty keg of their own until it becomes a parade of them up O’Connell street. Their backs suddenly and unexpectedly catch fire. The flames are deep orange and reds but the rest of the scene is in black & white. Cut to a pint of Guinness settling in a graveyard. It suddenly catches fire.

Caption: Guinness. It’s deadly.

All of this is beautifully scored by a song by Elder Roche. He is a deadly Dublin musician with a great hat and excellent songwriting skills. Plus I need to include him in this because we kinda came up with the idea together one night after a few scoops in the Stag’s Head. Although if we decide to shaft him we could maybe get a Massive Attack song instead. I love their stuff and anything in slow-mo looks deadly when you have a Massive Attack tune pumping over it. In fact, screw Elder, lets go with that.

If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then I am happy to sit down with you to discuss the possibility of me selling out completely as a poet and accepting sponsorship from you. I have been supporting you for years now, so I would be only delighted to receive your patronage. And cash.

cheers
Kalle Ryan

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#7 Bulmers Cider

Dear Bulmers

How’s it going? My name is Kalle Ryan. Remember that name, it will become increasingly important as this letter goes on.

Ok, first things first. I love cider. Correction, I love your cider. Clonmel chardonnay we call it.

Second thing. I understand the whole Bulmers / Magners distinction. A few folks I know are still confused by it but they’re idiots, I totally get it. It’s historical and political, like everything in this country.

Ok third thing. I am a poet. Look me up on YouTube for cool samples of my undoubted talent. I have been a bit of an anti-establishment type of writer up until now and all about doing things for the love of it and for art’s sake. But I am basically sick of it. There’s no money in it and let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger.

So, this leads me to my proposition. I, Kalle Ryan, am offering you a once in a lifetime opportunity to partner up with me to be the first ever officially sponsored Irish poet. Loads of poets and writers and other layabouts have drank silly amounts of cider during their life. But how many of them were actually sponsored to drink that cider or write their poems? None of them, that’s how many.

Picture it now. Bulmers presents: Kalle Ryan. How cool does that sound? I’ll tell you. Very cool, that’s how cool. Provided you threw in a bit of extra wedge I would even be willing to change my name to ‘Bulmers presents Kalle Ryan’ and happily wear Bulmers t-shirts, caps and that kind of promotional tat all of the time.

Look I know you have McWilliams doing your ads at the moment, but let me give you some financial advice, he is a prat, a waste of money and people aren’t buying more cider because of him. I can do poems about cider and we can have people dancing in outrageous attire. In an orchard if you like. That’s the kind of shit people who drink cider absolutely love.

Give it some thought and let me know.

yours sincerely
Bulmers presents Kalle Ryan

P.S. Is it true that you relaunched the Pear cider because the first version gave people the scutters?

 

March 3

[VISUAL ART] Portrayal of an Artist – Part 3

For the past two days I have been sharing the wacky album cover and music industry satire we created for the defunct website artlick.com (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here). This is the final instalment in that oddball collection. And if you thought some of the other albums were odd, you ain’t seen nothing yet. These go deep into really unusual abstract places, but are among my very favourites of the entire series.


Albums: Futurific;  Neon: The Futurific Remixes
Singles: Once in my past twice in your future; Greener Grass; Eliminate your last thought

 

One afternoon in 2001 we headed out around the financial district to take some suitably esoteric photos of me wearing a beanie hat and some Elvis sunglasses. I remember really loving this photoshoot. The result was the Futurific album which we decided was to appear on a new record label called Electric Son. I imagine this as somewhere between heavy beats driven electronica and jazz. We had been listening a lot to the band Red Snapper during the creation process for these, which I feel are a big influence on them.

As with all popular records, you’re nothing if you don’t have a dance-y remix version of your album. So we went to Times Square one night and captured some remarkable photos in front of the neon lit NYPD outpost there to assemble the makings of this sister album to Futurific.

The singles all followed a similar theme to the Futurific album cover but are lent an added air of poignancy given the events of 9/11 a few weeks later. They now stand as a strange document of that time

The most eerie and unusual one of them all was this single, which we named before the terrorist attacks, but now seem strangely prescient given the subsequent events that unfolded. Another curious element here was the naming of Clune (David Gray’s longtime collaborator and drummer at the time) as a collaborator on the tracks. I was a huge David Gray fan, and we had been to see the band perform many times during this period. We had a huge affection for the charismatic drummer Clune in the band, so we added him in as an unlikely collaborator on these.

The Greener Grass single cover is probably the coolest of them all and might well have deserved an album of its own.

We shot so many great images of the Twin Towers, so we designed a funky foldout CD type inlay to accompany the standard album covers. These are really nicely designed I think and the glorious lines of the towers are so photogenic in these. Masterful work by Dave on the design.


Albums: The Rambler Trilogy – The Rambler; The Return of the Real; Committed to Mediocrity
Singles: Slang; The Myth of Everything; Intermission

This is where we went super oddball and arty, and the results are both beautiful and slightly unnerving. It began with a photoshoot in our old office, where we were packing up to move to downtown Manhattan. So there were loads of empty office spaces, brimming cardboard boxes and a wealth of orange packing labels. Naturally enough I decided to stick them to my head to create a makeshift hat of sorts, and off we went. Given the rather unusual atmosphere and ambience of the photos, we took the album art even further out there as we manipulated the images. We also decided to put this out on yet another record label that we called And Recordings, which somehow felt suitably indie. Additionally, I quite liked the idea that the word “and” is a conjunction and it was somehow connecting radically different phases of the artist’s career

We imagined that the recording artist would forgo his usual name (Kalle Ryan- yes, I find it odd talking about myself in the third person too) and simply become a character called The Rambler and this would be a suite of three concept albums that told a trilogy story from his experimental point of view. Ultimately the idea was a series of records based around language. And if you look closely, the table of ideas has resurfaced as one of the tracks on the first album

Again for this one, we decided to a gatefold centre with a slightly unusual look and feel

The singles all followed in the same mad spirit. There’s something almost Kubrickian about them. Empty spaces. Weird characters.

I love the deliberately computer generated blockiness and cut-n-paste vibe of many of them. Seems fitting for something so artificial and contrived.

This one really looks like some kind of otherworldly painting. For some reason it harkens imagery from the Wim Wenders film Until The End of the World, which I was really taken with at the time. I remember going to see Wim Wenders do a Q&A at a legendary 4 hour version of that very movie around this time ( and it was the only print in existence of the movie) so some of that must have filtered into the influences on this one.


Album: Eventuality of Nothing

I think this one was imagined as an instrumental album along the lines of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Dave was also a huge fan of Vangelis and I think some of that was fuel for inspiration too. The record label was again different for this one, Lösch Audio, which seemed to fit with the experiemntal soundtrack vibe. If thie artist was to fully realise his wild ambitions then of course he would release an epic lush instrumental soundtrack


Album: I was just getting into that (b-sides & rarities)
Single: Toasting Paint

Any good artist worth their salt must release a B-sides and unreleased demos record (or his contractual obligation will ensure that the record label releases it). But his artist had to obviously go even bigger and release a double album of demos, and an entire record of cover versions. This is very much a Thin Raft album and the choices of acoustic guitar  cover versions ranged from the possible (Bob Dylan) to impossible (Public Enemy).

Fun fact, this photoshoot was done on the same day as Dr Livingstone I Presume, but we didnt use it till much later. There is also a shoutout my friend Corrie Leane (who created the artwork for the Footsteps in Chalkdust album) who is named as co-songwriter on a few tracks. And all of those particular tracks are references or in jokes between us, although my foggy memory can’t really recall the exact reference points any more.


Album: Midnight at Donington

The metal album.🤘At the time on MTV we were often treated to heavy metal concerts from Castle Donington. So, in my mind that was a connection forged between a place and a genre of music. Which meant that we decided we needed a heavy metal record to capture the artist’s evolving musical development and genre defying proficiency. I think it may have also been inspired in part by Ryan Adams, an artist I adore, who had put out a trash metal record under a different moniker at the time called The Finger.

I think we imagined an epic Stairway to Heaven type track as the closer, and for that we felt we needed to ground it in metal royalty with Kirk Hammett (Metallica) as a guest guitarist on the track. The record label naturally enough had to be suited to the genre, so it came out on Darrk Source, which sounds like something a user on Reddit would call themselves these days.


Album: Zoocoustic

Long before the mighty Ryan Adams made it popular to do a superb cover version of an entire album (have a listen to his Taylor Swift reworking of 1989 – sounds like Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths singing pop songs), I cooked up this acoustic, unplugged tribute to the seminal Zooropa album by U2. A band and an album I adore to this day.The guitar is my Takamine that I still own to this day, and the Zooropa artwork and layour is poached from the original album. I always wondered what this album might actually sound like if it were recorded this way. Over to you Bono…


And that, my friends, is that. Hope you enjoyed this odyssey through my fictional musical back catalogue (Go back and read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). I have a pile of sketches in a notebook of album titles and concepts that we never got around to creating, so I will post those at a later date.

March 2

[VISUAL ART] Portrayal of an Artist – Part 2

Yesterday I shared the first part of a project I created with friends for the now defunct website artlick.com (see part 1 here), where we satirised the music industry through a series of fake album covers entitled Portrayal of an Artist. The back catalogue is absolutely huge, so here is the second part of that look back through the album designs (alongside some thoughts on the accompanying creative process). Hope you find it interesting. Join me now to explore the slightly more esoteric output of my musical back catalogue from an alternate universe…


Albums: French Aphrodisiaque; French Aphrodisiaque (Live in New York)

Conceived as a pair of fusion jazz albums released on the same day (ala the Guns n Roses stunt of releasing Use Your Illusion I & II simultaneously) with the added twist that one was a studio record, and the other a track-for-track live performance of the same record. We had created the artwork for the first album and were pleased with it (it now has echoes of The White Stripes, but I didnt personally discover them till many years later) Then one day we were inspired by a large red cube shaped sculpture down in the NY financial district near our office. Dave took a photo and added the white stripe to it in Photoshop, and a second sleeve was born. We were then torn between the two and stumbled upon the idea of the dual release. I wonder why more bands don’t do exactly this.


Album: Office Politics
Single: 95% of what you do here is utterly useless

 

The punk album. I get the sense I may have been less than enamoured with my job at the time, or certainly was channeling some frustration about it anyway, when we came up with this album (and the exaggerated lyrics printed on the back cover). It began with a photo of my head in a photocopier.

The general concept for this one, as I recall, was to put out a raw, more rough looking punk record, but due to cluelessness and contrivance on the part of the artist, it failed to be in any way punk at all. In fact, a punk rock album centred around working in a generic office, couldn’t be less punk rock really. There was a lot of that kind of commercial “punk” music actually floating around at the time, like Green Day, so I’m sure that inspired it.

The record label was Bourgeoisie Beat, which I still reckon is a cool name, and I still dig the logo. I may be misremembering it now, but I wonder if we also imagined a backstory where this record label was a sub-division of some mega label, and this was their effort to have some kudos and be cool.


Album: Pure Yang

This one came from a photoshoot we did one night in my apartment, where we ordered a ridiculous amount of food from the delicious local Chinese restaurant. If memory serves I was also going through some spiritual quest where I was trying out meditation, and I think my roommate Mike had recommended the ‘I Ching’ to me. So all of those influences are part of this one. The record label, Bass Envy, is possibly my favourite label name, but I have zero recollection of what genre of music the label was supposed to put out. At the time it was undoubtedly crystal clear, but I no longer remember. Isn’t it funny how something matters so intensely in a creative process at the time, but with distance, not only does it matter less, you probably don’t even know why it really mattered in the first place. Having said that, I think all of this meticulous attention to detail that myself and Dave put into every one of these pays off in the final product.


Album: Replenish
Single: Lost your nerve yet?

For some of these records, the album title came first, and then the artwork. And on other occasions a cool or funny photo would provide a spark of an idea and the album would blaze on from there. This was definitely one where the photo came first. Dave and Jenn had been defrosting their fridge and this huge chunk of ice had fallen out. We knew instantly that we had to take a photo of some kind with it. When we discovered that the camera had a multiple photo burst feature on it , the idea clicked into place to photograph me breaking it over my head (anything for art, of course!). Now, a reminder that the camera was a super early digital device with a 3.5″ floppy disk recording the images, so it was sloooooooooow. Hence, only the first two photos really captured the moment, and we certainly couldnt go for a second take. But on reflection, the negative space of the subsequent frames was actually kinda cool.

For the single we took a burst shot of my poor forehead that had taken the brunt of the impact of the ice block and had left a little cut. So that had to be documented too of course. And I think we imagined this music to be quite hardcore and abrasive Electronic Dance Music, so it ultimately belonged on the Purification Records label. Our reference point for it musically was a band I never listened to more than one song of called Speedy J (which was more than enough)


Album: Flip you for real
Single: Early Sunday morning

The only album that Dave appears on, and is co-credited as writer and performer. The title came from a line by Benicio Del Toro in The Usual Suspects ( a film we both deeply admired), and it was one we used to jokingly quote at one another often. So it then somehow morphed into us flipping off the camera and turning that into a collaborative album.

And this was our “censored” version of the album cover. We really should have stuck one of those old school Parental Advisory stickers on it.

The record label is Purification Records again, as I’m pretty sure we saw this as an ambient soundscape-y sort of record, maybe even drum-n-bass. In fact, around this time, there was a regular gang of us going to a monthly live drum-n-bass show called Prohibited Beatz hosted by Swiss drummer Jojo Mayer in Manhattan (how pretetnious does that sound!) and that was definitely part of the creative osmosis on this one. I was, and still am, a huge fan of LTJ Bukem, so that may also have been an influence. Either way, the song title “My porch is a ballroom dance floor” ranks up there as possibly the greatest one we came up with.


[Warning – Slightly NSFW]

Album: Se tirer d’affaire, s’en sortir tant bien que mal
Singles: Ne pas, ne jamais, ne rien ; Cannelle

This one was a truly hilarious creation to work on. We figured an artist this enamoured with himself would go full hipster and create an album so pretentious it would be written entirely in French (I am not even sure what it means entirely – Any French speakers out there, please let me know!). To capture that spirit we went for a Jim Morrison-in-a-bathtub-in-Paris photoshoot that showed of my Adonis-like physique (I have to work out to look this bad). In the end I really love the way Dave stitched together the images to make something even more quirky than the originals we shot.

The singles were simply variations on the decadent bathtub theme. The old New York bathroom added a fun flavour to the look and feel of the photos (especially the old school taps in the wall)

Fun fact. This is the same bathroom we took the photos for Replenish in


Album: Continuity in a Box: The Sovereignty Sessions

We envisioned this one as an early years demo tape style release on a renegade label. Or perhaps a session so deliberately bad it would never see the light of day (much like the infamous bang sessions by Van Morrison). To capture that vibe, we made the record look almost like a homemade piece of cover art. At the time there were a lot of live CDs of bands floating around the East Village record shops, and this design was heavily influenced by those DIY creations. Musically I imagined poorly recorded demos with audio quality akin to the first few Mountain Goats records recorded direct to cassette tape on a boombox.


That’s all for now on this phase of the Kalle Ryan album back catalogue. Catch up on Part 1 here. Continue reading in Part 3 here

 

March 1

[VISUAL ART] Portrayal of an Artist – Part 1

I’ve mentioned before that I ran a website called artlick.com with my friends Dave and Jenn. We were fascinated with this burgeoning place called the internet and the opportunities it presented to be creative. We had a keen interest in all artforms, especially writing and graphic design, but with very little experience of how to code, so we just jumped in and started building a site full of our own artistic creations, quirky installations and mad ideas (and we learned along the way). There were bucketloads of interesting projects and creations from the site that I’m hugely proud of, and I will post about them further in the coming year, but I’ll kick off with one of the most fun projects we ever embarked upon – Portrayal of an Artist.

Through my friend Ravi, we had acquired an early digital camera (it had a 3.5 inch floppy disk that you inserted into the side to capture the photos!) – and, for us, it was a great way to creatively play with such a futuristic gadget. One day on our lunch break we took a snap of me goofing around the server room in our workplace, and following a little bit of digital doodling later we had a suitably silly looking album cover.And so, our shared love for music and album cover art spawned an entire section of the site dedicated to this parody and satire of the music industry. The idea was ultimately to make fun of the many different styles of album cover art, and a broader sideswipe at self-important, stupid rockstars who put out an eclectic set of genres of music to reinvent themselves — with all the whims of moving labels; lack of quality control; wildly misjudged titles and lyrics.

Some of the photos are still really funny to me, and some are really beautiful and otherworldly. There are some particularly poignant photos in here of the old World Trade Centre too that proved to be a glorious backdrop to some of the albums. Dave did such a class job with some of these covers – some real gems that would look good on a shelf, and others that still make me laugh out loud. And as I look at them I often daydream about what the songs might actually sound like. I really should record them some day. There are also loads of fake album reviews to go with them, which I will also dig out and share at another time. But for now let me take you through some of the creative process that brought them to the world wide web. The back catalogue is absolutely vast, so I will post a chunk of them here today and share even more tomorrow!


Album: DATABANK
Singles: <ANTON> ; <PUNCHCARD>

The first album came about, as I said above, when we pottered around the servers at our office. The word DATABANK was emblazoned on the original databank itself, so we kept it and figured it would make a good album title. That then sparked the idea to create a couple of singles, which Dave used to hone his burgeoning Photoshop design skills.

I remember us spending huge amounts of time on coming up with the right titles for the songs, so they would fit well with the genre of the album (which we assumed was some kind of electronica). Also, there are little details on there that we added for our own amusement; we thought it would be funny that the album version of Anton was 34 minutes long, but the single was drastically edited in length. We extended the joke but reduced the running time even more preposterously for the Punchcard single.

 

Finally, the name of the record label was incredibly important (for this and subsequent albums) and I seem to recall Dave coming up with this one, saying that it felt right for an electronica record. Can’t argue with him. Even now.


Album: Footsteps in Chalkdust
Single: Walking home in the rain

The next album was a great marrying of old ideas with new ones. I had been playing with the idea of pretentious singer-songwriters and had written a sort of poem with ludicrously earnest titles a few years earlier (and pretentious sample lyrics) . My good friend Corrie Leane, a brilliant artist from Waterford, had designed some cover art for them during a poetry/painting collaboration we undertook a few years previously.

The record label (Thin Raft) was also a shared reference I had with Corrie, which came from a Jim Morrison lyric in The Doors song Texas Radio and The Big Beat– “I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft”. It was our shorthand for our friendship and artistic kinship. So it felt fitting given this new arty collaboration with a few close friends.


Album: Was?
Singles: Was! ; Memory III

The chronology of these albums (both real and imagined) is pretty fuzzy after all these years. We created these back in 1999 / 2000 I reckon, and this particular album was an attempt to create a singer songwriter album (hence the Thin Raft record label), where the singer had decided to go ultra pretentious and perform only on a piano. And all the titles had to have slightly avant garde sounding Steve Reich / Philip Glass sorta titles. This would be the type of album where critics would nod and agree that he began his more “experimental” phase, perhaps bridging into his next phase of electronica.

 

As a student and fan of the German language, I suspect I was playing with the word “was” which means “what” in German, and the past tense of the verb ‘to be’ in English. Which probably explains why the album title has a question mark and the single title has an exclamation mark. Or perhaps I wasn’t thinking of any of those things.


Album: Dr. Livingstone I Presume
Singles: Cane Toad Nightmares

This album was one that was sparked by an impromptu photoshoot on our lunch break (I know this because my fake watch from Chinatown says it was almost 1pm). I spotted a large potted plant outside a store on Broadway and thought it would be funny to appear from it as if I were an intrepid explorer. The phrase just jumped out at me from something I was reading at the time. I still love the way Dave layed out the title on the cover, with the old school “A-Team” style lettering.

 

We then thought there would be something inherently funny about having LOADS of singles of the Cane Toad Nightmares, given the propensity of cane toads to reproduce so much.

We also felt that the artwork had to have something of a psychedelic “Apocalypse Now” kind of feel to them. The harsh neon colours were a very deliberate choice as I recall.

Again, this was deemed to be a Purification Records release, so some kind of dancey, electronic vibe to it. I’m pretty sure the inspiration for that record label was Warp Records, as we were listening to a lot of Boards of Canada at the time.

I’m still not sure what on earth a Cane Toad Nightmare is. Maybe Dr. Livingstone will know when I see him.


So, that’s phase one of the Kalle Ryan albums. Oddball treasures for sure. For more dizzy album cover delights, read Part 2 of the musical odyssey here