At my monthly Brownbread Mixtape show I would regularly write radio style comedy sketches to be performed by myself and our resident sketch troupe The Brownbread Players (Gus McDonagh, Eva Bartley and Sean McDonagh). I have been a huge Werner Herzog fan for many moons and something tickled me about trying to do one of his earnest and odd documentary style pieces about inner city Dublin. Gus also did a great Dublin accent and so I wrote it specifically with him in mind for the part. It started to flow pretty quickly as I wrote it, but then something wasn’t fully clicking. Suddenly the Joycean elements popped in my head and it came together really sharpy then. The closing monologue lifted from The Dead by James Joyce really elevated the piece from pure silly parody to something slightly more profound, just like a proper Herzog piece. It was one of the most odd and surprisingly popular sketches we ever did. The original live version can be seen here.
Enda Roche who ran the monthly Brownbread Mixtape show with me was studying audio engineering at the time at Windmill Lane, and decided to do a studio version of it as a project one semester, and so the studio version above was born. The sparse twangy guitar lends a lovely feel to it (and echoes the Herzog film soundtrack to Grizzly Man very nicely), and the sound effects of the chipper give it a nice documentary feel.
The sketch subsequently got incorporated into my award nominated Fringe show The Definitive View with Sneachta Ni Mhurchu, and a slight rewrite made it slightly softer and more empathetic to the skanger character. It had never fully sat right with me that he was an object of pure ridicule of the piece, and in the new version I made him more a victim of the harsh Irish government and society. In that show we had an ethereal piano piece to accompany it, and I felt it lifted the piece even further into a poignant piece about the forgotten faces on our streets.
It is still a piece of writing I am very proud of and it really proved to me that even the most obscure reference points can prove to be hugely popular if framed in a comedic setting, as the audience doesn’t need to know who Herzog is in this case, but if they do, it adds an additional layer. Plus I love doing Werner Herzog impersonations. I think it’s my true artistic calling in life.
Every one of these songs is a masterclass in songwriting and performance. Every one of these songs strike me deep in the heart. Every time. Some you may have heard, some you may not have heard. Every one of these songs deserves to be heard more often. Enjoy! – Kalle
A few years ago my good friend, documentary filmmaker David Bagnall (Getting Out), was visiting from New York, so we met up with another friend and filmmaker, David O’Sullivan (Moore Street Masala), and headed out without a script, and decided to try and make a short film in a single day. There was such a freedom in just deciding to film and see where it landed us. We began with a simple prop (a suitcase) and a basic costume, and off we went. We shot it sequentially, so it revealed itself to us as a story throughout the day too. As we started to piece it together rapidly in the editing room, we found a silent movie of sorts that seemed to tell a tale about the Ireland we found ourselves in. So I dug out a piece of music I had recorded some time beforehand when I lived in New York (that was part of a different radio play / musical about a singer songwriter called Paschal Quigley). The song “Modern Ireland” seemed to fit nicely and the title was apt, so thats what it ended up being called. It’s a quirky short film with moments of real humour, and even slightly dark elements, but I have to say the finished product is something we were all really proud of. Let me know what you think.
I was sifting through an old series of sketchbooks I kept during my time living in New York and found some fun old doodles, ideas and unfinished concepts. This one, The Table of Ideas, was one that I’m no longer sure what I was trying to do with. I know that it was inspired by some very dense philosophical writings I had encountered in college by two gents who went by Horkheimer and Adorno. However none of the actual substance of the book formed part of this idea, but really just the colour scheme of the book it looks like. See for yourself (the actual book is a bot more orange looking).
Then the idea must have evolved somehow to become a working idea for artlick, a website I ran for fun with my good friends Dave and Jenn (more on that some other time). The idea clearly never left the sketchbook stage, possibly because I have no idea what the ultimate goal was – maybe a section of the site was going to be called this, and would be a place to spark conversations and ideas? You have to remember the internet back in 1999 / 2000 was a pretty clunky slow place, so we may have jettisoned this idea purely because messageboards and virtual guestbooks were the main way of interacting with a website, and that was well beyond our primitive web skills.
At some point the idea seems to have been conflated with other ones and reverted back to being The Dialectic of Enlightenment, but now by some new authors Bo Henstergaard and Ulf Hammarsten. I think this was some reference to a Swedish radio documentary I had heard about hemp farmers (strange I know!), and I loved the names of the people being interviewed, so I mucked around with their names to make them sound even more unusual, and then clearly made them the new authors of this seminal philosophical tome. That must have tickled me for some reason
At this point the idea had clearly spiralled in on itself and become some weird set of personal references and touchpoints, that mean almost nothing to me now several years later. Still though, I think the central concept of being able to visit a Table of Ideas, whatever that may be, is a nice one. Worth revisiting maybe.
First things first, I am not a painter. I am just a fan of painting and in this post I wanted to offer up seven remarkable paintings that have made a huge impression on me and have inspired huge amounts of my own creative output. Hopefully they will spark similar reactions for you. My father was a painter, so he undoubtedly influenced me a great deal in the choices below (as I was growing up he took me along to so many galleries to see these paintings in person) and I am indebted to him for seeing many of them. Today would have been his birthday, so it seems fitting to share this.
There are a dozen other extraordinary works that could have easily made this list but these were the ones that came to mind first. These reproductions, of course, only offer a glimpse of the brilliance of the original works themselves. If you can, I urge you to find them on your travels and soak up their mystery and genius. On with the art…
1. Gas – Edward Hopper (1939)
I could pick any Edward Hopper painting and marvel at it for hours. I love them in the same way I love Raymond Carver stories. Each one of them a lonely, cinematic, beautiful slice of America. They are so sparse & profound with a wonderful underlying drama in each painting. Perhaps more than any other painter, it is his ability to capture the way light falls that is so compelling. In this painting I love the falling evening light above the treeline compared to the banks of light from the white building that run out across the courtyard. And the man at the pump is one of those classic Hopper figures that I love, who seems to throw up as many questions as he answers. Ultimately, Edward Hopper will probably never be the most popular painter of all time, but to me he is undoubtedly one of the greatest.
Can be seen at : Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
2.Böhmen liegt am Meer – Anselm Kiefer (1996)
No reproduction can truly do justice to the stark emotional pull of Anselm Kiefer’s painting. It hangs alone on a wall in the mezzanine of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and dares you to look at it. It is a big, stark, imposing painting with the title “Böhmen liegt am Meer” (Bohemia lies by the sea) written plainly across the dirty horizon on the canvas. The writer in me loves that mixing of the two artforms and the simple poetry of it.
No matter how often I see it, I can’t get over how roughly and coarsely it is painted in big dollops of thick oil paint, with sections of the raw canvas peeking through in other parts. And those splashes of poppies across the burnt out landscape are so subtle and brilliant. Pure emotion. It is a painting that I will never see enough times. My dad adored it so much that we sprinkled a few of his ashes in front of it after he passed away.
Can be seen at : Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA
3. An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump – Joseph Wright of Derby (1768)
I still remember seeing this bizarre candlelit scene for the first time and almost being hypnotised by it. I still wonder what made Wright-of-Derby choose this particular scene to paint above all others? Apart from the way he conjures light so beautifully in such a modern cinematic way, it is the chilling main character staring directly at me (as if he is willing a reaction) who remains the most compelling part of the painting for me. There is also something particularly ominous about that moon being revealed from behind the clouds in the window on the right. A masterpiece of painting.
Can be seen at : National Gallery, London, England
4.Bed – Robert Rauschenberg (1955)
I absolutely love the fact that Robert Rauschenberg brazenly sticks objects to his canvas, paints on household artifacts and simply creates these mish-mash constructions of art and everyday objects. It makes sense to me.
This installation/painting “Bed” is so striking. I still can’t get over how simultaneously colourful and grimy it is, while at the same time coming across as really funny and perhaps not really taking itself too seriously. Maybe none of that is true, but it always resonates with me as a really great piece of work that inspires me every time I see it.
Can be seen at : Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
5. Untitled – Jackson Pollock (1948)
I have to admit I didn’t really get Jackson Pollock until I saw his paintings on a wall in front of me. Part of it is the sheer scale of some of the works which doesn’t translate well in reproductions. It’s such a different experience standing in front of these enormous canvases with thick swirling drips of paint that dance across the canvas so beautifully. The other thing is how surprisingly emotional the paintings are. Pollock went through loads of phases but this “Jack the Dripper” phase, which is his most well-known style, will always be my absolute favourite. This untitled painting from the Met manages to be not overly cluttered like some of his other pieces and I am really fond of the simplicity of the red and black on a big raw open canvas. Overload of Pollocks. Yes please.
Can be seen at : Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA
6. The Taking of Christ – Caravaggio (ca.1602)
Caravaggio’s breathtaking painting hangs in the National Gallery in Dublin and it is a painting that never fails to astonish me (It also has a curious history). It is impossible to not be bowled over by the incredible painterly skill and ability on display. The composition of the scene and its balance of light & darkness, as well as the little details in Jesus Christ’s body language as he accepts his fate with such resignation are more impressive with each viewing. Apparently there are only about 80 of Caravaggio’s paintings in the world which makes this one an even rarer treat every time I see it. Stunning.
Can be seen at : National Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
7. Pie Counter – Wayne Thiebaud (1963)
Wayne Thiebaud was one of those painters I had never heard of until a few years ago when myself and my dad went to see a retrospective of his work in the Whitney in New York. I was absolutely knocked out by his paintings. To see a painter’s extended body of work like that was wildly inspiring, as I really got to see the different phases and creative processes that happened along the way. I was drawn instantly to “Pie Counter” because it appealed to my jokey sensibility but at the same time I loved the bigger statement it was making about consumption and mass production in America. Thiebaud later went on to paint remarkable, colourful, brainbending landscape style canvases that would equally belong in a list like this but for now I will enjoy these slices of pie thank you very much.
Can be seen at : Whitney Museum, New York City, USA
Back in 2014, the poet Dave Lordan, was serving as guest editor for Penduline Press – a publication from Oregon in the United States. He commissioned a special audio broadcast from me to showcase some of the very best contemporary performance poets in Ireland. I had never really tried something like it before but I was really excited about trying to piece something that was representative of the many great voices in Ireland at the time, as well as making it an audio piece that was enjoyable to listen to, maybe even informative, and maintain a good energy and rhythm to it, so it actually flowed like a proper album. There was also something nice about taking the time to go back through the archives of the endless hours of audio from all of the many poets at the brownbread mixtape shows, and handpicking some of the standout moments. (I was even cheeky enough to put one of my own poems in there from the Fringe show “Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About”. More on that show and the unique creative process of writing a show collaboratively in this post.) The curation process was really hard and ended up being super subjective of course (but isn’t all curated content?) and I decided to not script my interludes, but instead to speak from the heart about how these poets and their work had connected with me. That conversational tone felt right for the piece and it flowed relatively well. Then once I found the haunting simple piano piece by Irish musician Elder Roche, it all seemed to click into place. The end result was something I am really proud of and I totally stand over today. I actually think it serves as a nice snapshot of the variety of spoken word in the country at that time. And it is a proper document now. Many of the poets have deservedly gone on to greater success as performers and published writers, which is so brilliant to see. They are listed below. Seek them out, they are all legends.
Here’s what Dave Lordan said about the documentary at the time:
“[the brownbread mixtape] is a very professionally run cabaret and it has featured many of the most engaging and entertaining live arts practitioners in the country. Kalle is an excellent host and curator, a fact proven by the popularity of the monthly event. Everybody wants a gig at The Brownbread Mixtape. [ … ] Kalle probably has the closest to an overview of performance poetry in Ireland and he was the obvious choice to make a showcase selection for Penduline.” – Dave Lordan, Guest Editor, Penduline
Here is a list of the poets in order of appearance:
1. Stephen James Smith – “The Gardener”
2. John Cummins – “Brink”
3. Abby Oliveira – “the television”
4. Karl Parkinson – “The Positivity Manifesto”
5. Raven – “High John”
6. Erin Fornoff – “Hymn to the Reckless”
7. Brian Conaghan – “Waiting for the penny to drop”
8. Colm Keegan – “Ireland Is”
9. Fergus Costello – “Extract from a letter to the fella that used to be married to my sister”
10. Kalle Ryan – Excerpt from “Three Men Talking About Things They Kinda Know About”
Here is the original link to the publication in Penduline Press:
On June 24th 2007 I was waiting for my wife outside a shop at the corner of Ann Street and Nassau Street in downtown Manhattan in New York City. I bent down to tie my shoelaces and suddenly saw the bustling New York street from an unusual perspective. So, I decided to take a few photos of the New Yorkers as they walked by. What resulted was a selection of weird and wonderful portraits of the different personalities that stroll along in that part of the city. The photos below are completely unedited and exactly as I took them on the day. I don’t wish to infringe upon anyone’s privacy, so if you know someone in these photos, or , if indeed you are in the photo yourself, please let me know and I can take the photo down. To me they are fascinating document of the people and the city of New York and I hope you enjoy them in the same spirit.
One of my favourite Irish musicians is Pearse McGloughlin. His ear for melody is remarkable, and his ability to wind lyrical tapestries around them is a thing to marvel. A few years ago in advance of his second album “In Movement” being released, he commissioned a series of short 60-90 second films to accompany excerpts of songs from the forthcoming record. I was lucky enough to be asked to make one. Having never made a film, but with a deep love for the artform, I gave it a shot. I chose his song “The Lonely Track”, which was deeply atmospheric and really appealed to the storyteller in me. It is a dark and compelling tale which has, to my mind, more than a hint of Bob Dylan’s Isis from the Desire album. I shot a series of sequences on a visit to New York City and I felt that the sensation of motion & advancement was critical to the feel of the music. It was a journey that had darkness and foreboding within it, but at the end of it was the dreamlike hope that a better day was ahead. And so the film above is what turned out. It’s a bit abstract I suppose, but I really like how it turned out. And it was such a great creative task to lean on some other great art as a scaffolding to build upon, especially when I had no real sense of how to make a film. And if you haven’t listened to Pearse McGloughlin and Nocturnes music, I cannot recommend them more highly.