From The Bogs Of Aughiska | Interview
It wouldn’t be too much of an overstatement to say that From the Bogs of Aughiska have recently taken the Irish underground by storm… well maybe just a little bit.
Co. Clare native Conchur O’Drona’s pastoral dark-ambient project has just released its debut album to pretty damn positive critical acclaim and have landed the support slot with post-black metal experimentalists Ulver. And it will only be their second gig ever!
I gave Conchur a shout to find out about the passion that pumps at the heart of this beguiling musical oddity.
So Conchur, how did it all begin?
The first FTBOA track ‘Leabhar Gabhála Éireann‘ was created in December 2009. I started the project as I wanted to express musically what its like to grow up in the West of Ireland.
You describe your music as dark/black ambient. While I can hear the dark ambient side of things the black (metal?) influence is less apparent. In your thanks list you mention mostly BM bands so you clearly feel an affinity with that scene. How do you view BM personally, what does it mean to you and how do you view From the Bogs of Aughiska fitting in to that category?
Personally I think Black Metal is the most exciting music genre there is at the moment especially when it comes to experimentation in extreme music. I’m not interested in the ‘popular’ Norwegian Black Metal bands, but I love stuff like Anaal Nathrakh, Hate Forest, Drudkh, An Autumn For Crippled Children, Wodensthrone, Wolves In The Throne Room, Winterfylleth, Nokturnal Mortum & Altar of Plagues.
On the debut album I try to portray a similar bleak vibe in my music to the before mentioned Black Metal bands but without the use of Guitars and vocals. Maybe in the grand scheme of things the first album could be looked at as a 42 minute intro to a Black Metal album…
The songs on the album have a strong visual element about them. I find the best way to experience them is to listen in darkness and allow the sound to drift over me and fill my head with images and colours.
It is very evocative of the rugged West coast of Ireland with the samples of waves crashing and wind howling, the whole lot washed in static fuzz. How did the pieces come together and what of The Burren, in particular, is it that you want to convey in music?
The pieces came together very organically. It’s my take of creating the musical equivalent of standing on top of the Cliffs of Moher with a gale force wind in your face or trekking through the middle of the barren landscape that is The Burren.
One of the highlights is the second track, Aos Sí, which includes samples of conversations with real people about the mythical banshee.
It works as a document of Irish myth/legend, an attempt to catalogue a piece of local lore that might be in danger of getting lost as the country continues to modernize and lose its sense of heritage. Where did you come across this footage and how important is your heritage to you personally? What does being from the West of Ireland mean to you?
Where you are from and the environment you grow up in sculpts you into the person you are. My Heritage is very important to me and should be to every self respecting person.
The sample for Aos Si is taken from the documentary Glenafooka: Glen Of The Ghost. This song is a reminder that despite the changes the country has gone through since the Celtic Tiger and all the rubbish that followed we shouldn’t lose our legends and stories. It’s a very important part of what makes us Irish.
You have the sounds of the rolling waves that are the core of the opening piece which become replaced by howling wind as the album progresses conjuring up some vast, desolate bog-land; gorse bushes, rocks and all the life that that environment conceals.
It culminates in the icy cold stabs of keyboard on the concluding track, Crosswinds, evoking images of a dark and sinister castle/fortress rising out of the gloom. Was it your intention for the album to play out like a musical journey?
The album wasn’t intentionally written to sound like a journey but subconsciously I think I added certain elements to the music to make it sound like it was the sound of North Clare.
Does the notion of civilisation encroaching on wilderness interest or influence you? Is there a philosophy behind the band at all?
Personally I despise the human race and can’t stand crowed areas. I try to put this feeling into the FTBOA sound. The philosophy of FTBOA is the epicness of being from Ireland and of being proud of our Hertiage, History, Culture and Environment.
You have a split release coming out with Dark Ages. What can you tell us about that?
It is an absolute honour to be sharing a picture disc vinyl with Dark Ages, which is the Dark Ambient project of Roman Saenko who is the mastermind of two of my favourite bands Hate Forest & Drudkh. The subject matter for the split is Famine (UKRAINE Holodomor – 1932–1933) (IRELAND -an Gorta Mór – 1845 – 1852 ). Expect some of the darkest music ever put to tape.
How do you see the project developing in future? There is a lot of scope for introducing either ethnic or more traditional metal instrumentation/vocals. Is this something that interests you or are you more interested in a further exploration of abstract sounds?
Intentionally I did not use any percussion instruments yet and the music I have done on the split with Dark Ages is in a similar vein to the album but evener darker and bleaker. The next album will incorporate more instruments and possibly vocals. I also want to explore the story telling element more like on Aos Si and have contacted a famous Co. Clare Shanachie to see if he is interested in a collaboration.
You have recently launched a record label, Human Jigsaw. Tell us about it, its plans and ethos.
I originally launched the label nearly 10 years ago but I didn’t have the experience at the time and it didn’t take off. The talented Paul McCarroll of Unhinged Art designed the logo.
This year I felt it was time to give it a go again as I wanted to release some of my own music and have full control over it, as well as some other incredible underground bands such as Lake of Blood, Cloak of Alerting, Arrakis & Tueur. My long term plan is to release music that interests me and pushes boundaries.
There appears to be quite an active underground scene in Ireland for ambient / drone / noise / experimental music. Do you feel an affinity with any other artists in the country and do you feel connected to that scene at all?
I don’t feel connected to any music scene in Ireland and I still find it weird to meet Irish people into extreme music. When I was growing up I had to discover extreme music myself without any outside influences and its probably the reason the music I make sounds the way it does.
Do you plan on presenting this music in the live environment, could it work? How would you ideally visualize the live presentation of From the Bogs of Aughiska if money wasn’t a consideration?
I will perform the first live FTBOA dates in The Netherlands at the end of March. The first date will be as part of Footsteps in the Void alongside Aderlating which features Mories from Gnaw Their Tongues – who designed the album artwork, the second gig will be in front off a sold out crowd supporting avantgarde Gods Ulver.
The live show is going to be a full on audio visual experience. I recently shot some footage around Co. Clare in bleak weather with Simon Lucas who is camera man on Most Haunted as well as drummer in Winterfylleth & Atavist. Expect an earth shattering live performance that pleases all the senses.
Cheers for your time. Any final words?
Thank you for the interview and to everyone for the over whelming response the album has gotten so far. For more info and updates please check out www.humanjigsaw.com
- Andy Cunningham ::: 31/03/11