Archive for September, 2009

Interview with David Turpin

September 30, 2009

Turpin Colour Portrait 1

There couldn’t be a more fitting month in the calendar than October, for the release of David Turpin’s Sophomore album Haunted! Buzzing with spectres and demons, yet also encompassing the warm fuzz that Halloween brings, it is a magical journey down the rabbit hole of the brother Alice never had. While his debut album The Sweet Used-To-Be earned him one of the most critically acclaimed Irish albums of 2008, it denied him the success and recognition he neatly deserved. Back again in full form with Haunted! I caught up with him over tea to discuss magical elks, lynching and The Wizard of Oz.

 

So when did you start recording Haunted!

In 2008.  I started recording soon after the first record was released, but there was a long gap between when I had finished recording the first that, and when it finally came out. I didn’t really consider what it was going to ultimately sound like, it was something to occupy my mind.

 

It has a more upbeat sound than The Sweet Used To Be, was that intentional?

I wanted to make a record with a bit of jollity in it.  There wasn’t very much that was jolly in the first record.  I wanted to make a record about death that was bursting with life.

 

So is death the main theme of the Album?

Well, it’s about ghosts and goblins and transubstantiation, which is why I called it Haunted! The exclamation point is important.  It’s hard to explain verbally how it’s supposed to be said.  It’s not an accusation – it’s more a gasp of surprise.

 

Your first single is The Bone-Dance yes?

Yes, it’s my big R&B song. I think bones are really cool. When I first started the record I was very conscious about doing it on my own and I wanted to write a song about undertaking things alone. The prevailing idea is that if one is alone, one lacks support – but one always has a skeleton to hold one’s body up. What more support can a person ask for?  The second single will be Dorothy Gale.

 

I take it that’s Oz’s Dorothy?

Yes.  I guess it’s supposed to be about Dorothy Gale looking at the yellow brick road stretching in front of her and saying, “okay, off I go”

 

Your lyrics tend to contain a lot of imagery, especially animal imagery. Is that something you deliberately achieve?

I like the idea of becoming an animal. My favourite song on the record is The Red Elk. It’s about a magical elk that comes alive somewhere….in a forest?  And maybe I make a pact with him to become an Elk myself – but then I realise that I’m not actually in a forest after all, I’m in a glass cage.  I don’t know for sure. Him being red as well, he could also be the Devil…

 

Are these images and stories the first things you come up with, when you sit down to write a song?

I think of places, and stories, and characters. If the imagery on the new album is striking, I think it’s because a lot of it is very violent.  It jangles in the brain. Cowards Bend The Knee is about being forced to kneel, Melmoth has the devil cutting out a tongue, and Puddinghead – even though it’s only a minute and a half long – has a lynching and a torture on the rack.

 

Yet it sounds so happy?

Yes, I don’t know what that song is all about really.  I don’t sing on it, Carla Amelia does the vocal.  The first person I actually asked to sing on it refused because of the lyrics.

 

So when you have your stories and imagery, what’s the next step in the writing process?

I trained in piano for a long time, so that’s how I think about music.  I think a lot of musicians of my generation write songs on guitar, and they work through cords.  I tend to see a song in terms of strings of notes.  Maybe that’s not unusual at all, I wouldn’t know.

 

Are you planning on touring with the album?

I’d like to.  I did lots of shows with the previous record, and lots of great supports, but I didn’t do an actual national tour.

 

Haunted! is out October 16th

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Mushrooms, Bats and Badgers, Oh My!

September 10, 2009

Nature

Cast your memories back to those evanescent days of early primary schooling on a Friday afternoon. After two times tables and ‘Ann & Barry’ recitals, occasionally (if it was fine) your glorious teacher would don their bobble hat, assign you to a snotty partner and march you outside of the classroom into the wild and windy field across the way, or perhaps the green cess pit of a pond in the courtyard. Oh the pragmatic wonder such a trip envisaged as we learned that in fact squirrels don’t hibernate, frogs are endangered and one must never, ever, disturb a bird’s nest.

But then…secondary school collided down on our euphoric reality and apart from the odd biology lesson the outside world was no longer part of our curriculum. I want to drag you back to that glorious nature lesson that was once the highlight of our week. We’ve all seen lions and elephants in zoos, but, how many of you have actually seen a badger eh? And it doesn’t count if you saw them pasted on the side of a boulevard. How many of you have seen a bat outside a Christopher Nolan flick? I spoke to three of Dublin’s top nature experts and we present to you a lesson reminiscent of those forgotten days of blustery wonder.

 

 

 

 

 

 badger1

 

Interview with Andrew Kelly, Member of Badger Watch Ireland

 

 

Can you tell me a little of your history with Badgers?

 Well I met my wife through the Irish Seal Sanctuary. We do a lot of voluntary work together which is how I got involved in Badger Watch Ireland. During Ireland’s boom, we would often keep tabs on sets- Badgers were the lowest in the pecking order and builders were known to dig up sets. Legally they are not allowed but of course if nobody knows the badgers are there then naturally it is easy to get away with.

 

 

 I know they are found in every county, but many people will never have actually seen a (live) one. How common are they?badger3

 

It depends on where you are. They are primarily found in earthy areas where they can dig for their main diet of earthworms. They are relatively common in Dublin actually, which is surprising to a lot of people. Just last week a man reported to us that he saw two in Killiney mating.

  

 

Mating? At this time of year?

 

When badgers reproduce, the fertilised egg lies dormant inside their mothers womb until the New Year when giving birth is far more suitable.

 

 

 Where are the best places in Dublin to go badger watching?

 

We tend not to give out specific sites, as badger bating is still a major problem unfortunately.

 

 

 Badger baiting still goes on? I thought it was an outdated practicebadger2

No, unfortunately there are still dregs of society that enjoy blood sports. Pitting badgers against dogs is a popular underground hobby to certain neanderthals.  For that reason we don’t advertise specific badger sets where people can go.  I can tell you however that Phoenix Park is a prime location for badgers where bating is unlikely.  If you are on the lookout for a set, then search for pockmarks in the ground. The best way to describe them would be to look for areas in the ground that look like they were scooped out with an ice-cream cone. Badgers leave these when searching for insects and earthworms.

 

 

 What about culling, does that still occur in Ireland?

 

Yes, in fact there are areas in Ireland that are almost redundant of badgers due to culling.

 

 

 Because of TB? I didn’t think that was still an issue.

 

It is still a problem yes, but a agricultural one, not a badger one. Levels of TB were brought under control once in Ireland under Charlie Haughey, who restricted the movement of cattle. To do that now would cause ructions, It’s far easier to cull the badgers. If we had better tests and restrictions on cattle it wouldn’t be a problem but unfortunately that doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

 

 

 

 mushroom1

 Interview with Bill O’Dea- of Mushroom Stuff and all-round fungi connoisseur

 

 

 

So what is mushroom stuff?

 

Well, we’re a small organisation that organises mushroom hunts around Ireland and abroad.

 

 

And how did you get involved in organising the mushroom hunts?mushroom2

 

We’ve been doing it for the last 11 years, I was brought up in Galway where we used to pick field mushrooms. I went to the states for a few years and friends would bring me these strange mushrooms to cook that I’d been brought up to believe were poisonous. I came back to Ireland then and did a course in Mushrooms in UCD.

 

 

 Is it dangerous to pick them without an expert?

 

Yes very dangerous, most types of mushrooms are poisonous. You should never eat one unless an expert has identified it.

 

 

 Would a guidebook suffice?

 

No, you’d need an expert because a guidebook can only tell you so much. One mushroom could be perfectly tasty with no side effects, while another one that is extremely similar could actually kill you. In fact more people die each year from mushroom poisoning than from skydiving or parachuting.

 

 

 mushroom3When is the best time of year to go mushroom picking?

 

From late August into November. We usually do a few hunting trips throughout these months and one trip abroad to Spain or France.

 

 

 Is there a big interest? How many people have you had on your abroad hunts?

 

Up to 50 or 60, though we’ve had bigger on occasions.

 

 

 And where are your Irish hunts based?

 

Usually around Wicklow, we do one in Avondale house each year in October.

 

 

 What makes those areas so suitable for mushrooms?mushroom4

 

Avondale house is brilliant because it’s got great mixed woodland, which leads to a great range of mushrooms. Ireland is actually a perfect country to go mushroom picking because our damp climate is a perfect breeding ground for mould and fungus.

 

 

 Any bad experiences on any of you hunts?

 

No, there have been a few deaths over the years in Ireland (though never with us) but they nearly always transpire to people looking for magic mushrooms rather then edible ones. Magic mushroom picking is highly dangerous for obvious reasons.

 

 

 bat

Interview with Phil O’Malley, Wildlife Expert ala St. Enda’s Park and Bat Watching Extraordinaire…

 

 

So how long have you been organising groups to go Bat watching?

 

Well I’ve been working in St Enda’s nature museum for 12 years and we’ve been organising  bat watching evenings every summer for about ten years now. It’s great because many people don’t see a lot of bats in Dublin, or at least they don’t notice them. There are roughly 1000 species in the world though we only have about 10 species in Ireland. Of the ten species we have 3 inhabiting St. Enda’s park. The Pipistrelle- which along with the vole is the smallest mammal in Ireland, and the Leisler, whose wingspan measures about three inches. The Leisler is our largest species but is far smaller then the fruit eating bat of Australia, whose wing span measures up to 1.5 metres.

 

 

bat2 I take it our native bats are harmless to humans?

 

Absolutely, in fact they are extremely beneficial to man. They eat roughly 3000 insects a night and their droppings are extremely fertile for soil. If you are lucky enough to have them in you attic then you will never have to worry about woodworm or Mosquitoes. At the moment we have 4 species of Mosquitoes that have unnaturally entered Ireland, and in the next coming years we will have more species that will be even more of a nuisance. Our bats however will make dinner out of them.

 

 

They are found in every continent in the world (bar Antarctica) and thrive in nearly all conditions, yet they are declining in numbers, why is this?

 

Habitat loss. There has been a decline of up to 15% of bat populations in Ireland in the last decade and it is primarily due to loss of habitat.

 

 

 And are they a protected species? 

Leisler's Bat

Leisler's Bat

Oh yes, but even still they are wrongly accused of being a pest. They also fall victim to owls, and other birds of prey. They are extremely hardy little animals though and can live up to 20 years, producing one offspring a year.

 

 

 I read somewhere that bats actually aren’t blind, and that’s simply an old wives tale. What other myths about bats are untrue?

 

Well not only are bats not blind, they can actually see quite well in the dark. Old wives tales say that bats might reside in a belfry as well, but this is another myth, belfries are far too drafty to home bats. The vampire bat has also given bats a bad name, which is unfortunate. vampire bats do exist in South America but they are tiny and really only target livestock.

 

 bat3

 So would you consider yourself batty about bats?

 

Absolutely, we at St. Enda’s try to educate people about these beautiful animals to rid them of their wrongful reputation. There have been over 100 medical discoveries that bats have lead to including a blood clotting method discovered from our Aussie fruit bat.

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on the above check out

www.badgerwatch.ie

www.mushroomstuff.com

www.batconservationireland.org

badger cubs

 

and if you want to expand on it check out

http://www.irishsealsanctuary.ie/

http://www.noticenature.ie/

http://www.iwt.ie/

Theatre Review-Epilogue

September 9, 2009

hospital%20bed%20small

With so many plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and even Sophocles still hitting stages around the world, it can be difficult for a new writer without hundreds of years worth of audiences to find a stage. In a industry where “getting your foot in the door” is the most important step on the ladder of success, kudos to The New Theatre for giving new writers the opportunity in this (hopefully annual) new writers festival-Lots of “news”.

 

It was at this festival that I had the pleasure of screening Epilogue on its debut run.

Suitably titled, in Epilogue we meet Henry as he wakes up in a purgatory like room with a ubiquitous unnamed lawyer. We learn that Henry has died and he has a choice; to confront demons to further analyse his history, or to move on to the unknown, never looking back. Fortunately for us he presses on and meets, among others, a rival from his childhood that succeeded him financially, his first love whom he abandoned with ambition and his former younger self. In meeting these characters, Henry realises perhaps he didn’t live such a perfect life after all, and perhaps his ambition for success swallowed up his ambition for happiness. These familiar themes are played skilfully when balanced against the humour and eeriness of his malignant situation, yet they end up asking more questions then answering. Is the hard working businesswoman who never had children but enjoyed success the superlative? Or is it the mother who raised five kids but never had time for herself or her career? Is it possible to enjoy both success and family in life, and if not, which one should reign supreme?

Such weighty issues resemble Willy Russell’s penmanship and the word echoing after curtain down was profound. Backed by marvellous character submergence in the cast, and the correct dose of humour to balance out the bleak theme, Epilogue is certainly not the epilogue of Ms McCarthy’s playwright career.