Leading the entourage making their way to Sherkin Island for the inaugural Open Ear Festival is Sunken Foal. Few other artists from these shores possess the depth and range of Dunk Murphy’s back catalogue that spans the past fifteen years.
Incorporating a mesmerising mixture of styles in the past three Friday Syndrome Volumes, Sean Finnan had a chat with Dunk Murphy on why he’s looking forward to Openear and what to expect from his next album.
Hi Dunk, are you looking forward to playing Openear?
Oh totally, yeah that’s so completely like my bag as a way of going to a festival and enjoying the music. Just looking at the lineup it’s kind of crazy too. People like ELLLL who I’m a really big fan of Ed Devane and of course and I’m crazy about Spaces music as well if you know that stuff. I think he’s really amazing. He used to be in a band called Solemn and it was kind of similar sounding stuff it was really really good.
It’s kind of refreshing to have a music festival that seems purely dedicated to the music and kind of out there music at that.
Sure. I’ve been to Electric Picnic for a few years in a row and haven’t played in a while but I found it got very stale and I was getting kind of annoyed with those type of festivals.
The focus on music seems to be very very small. This is the kind of thing I would be really, really into.
So much music festivals at the minute seem to be about providing experiences rather than say a platform to explore music.
Perhaps yeah. I just start to get annoyed at those bigger festivals. I wasn’t finding myself in the place where I was free just to enjoy the music. That didn’t seem to be the focus and I know that sounds a bit nebulous.
Like I was playing at this festival on Ratlin Island up the very north. I played there a few times and without getting too hippy about it, the vibe at that place was so much more my kind of thing. You could sit down where you wanted to. Nobody told you to move.
What kind of set can we expect at Openear?
It changes that’s the thing. I’ve never really settled on a way of playing live. Over the last few years what I was doing was chopping up all my individual tracks and making them into this kind of loop things that I can really improvise with on an empty sea.
It’s lots of fun and a completely live way of playing. But I’ve gotten really sick of using computers so I’m going to be using like proper synthesisers and samplers and stuff. I’ve been making so much more 4/4 danceable music, maybe it’s danceable, I’m not sure about that yet. But that’s kind of the idea. I think I’ve just been listening to a lot of techno and that’s kind of coming through in what I’m making at the moment.
Techno at the moment seems to be kind of on an endless resurgence. It kind of falls away before coming back again with a vengeance.
Well to me techno was the early mid 90’s. That’s when I went out dancing to it. And you know I still do sometimes but that was kind of when it really hit me first when I got into Underground Resistance and people like that and Carl Craig and there’s still music being made nowadays too.
I’ve just been listening to some Surgeon and Blawan stuff and that’s really really amazing so that’s kind of where my head is at I suppose at the moment and it’s coming out in the music.
The past few Sunken Foal releases have all been released for free online but they can also be purchased as an object with a personally designed print by you. With music now no longer needing to be an objectified commodity, do you still have to kind of sell it as such, or sell it in a way that it is more than music you’re selling?
Yeah and that seems to me to be a part of the actual art of it if you know what I mean. How people ingest it. In fact, it always was part of the art of it. It just was that it was the same for ages. That it worked really well but it’s just not working as a model very well at the moment.
I suppose loads of opportunities presented themselves and I just tried to go with them and get these kind of prints and stuff like that. I’ve got a new record that I’m kind of halfway through and it’s kind of a similar idea in that I’ve made prints to go with the record except this time I’ve made the prints first and just kind of designed the graphics and I’m making music that compliments the graphics rather than the other way around. But I’m not sure if that’s such a success yet.
You said earlier in relation to your set on Sherkin that there’ll be a focus on hardware. Is there an conscious avoidance of software on the new record too?
There’s always been a computer in there somewhere. I actually borrowed a modular synth from Trev my old mate who’s playing actually down in Sherkin as Dave Nuremberg and he has the Vostok synthesiser that I borrowed, just for a week, and I ended up with hours of material out of it which means I never ever want to buy one of those things because I’d just lose my life.
So I ended up with loads of material and I started editing that down and turning it into some music. But yeah I have this kind go MOOG synthesiser and a ribbon controller that I’ll be using live and lots of other little gizmos and bits and pieces for fun.
I came across recently a fascinating chat between yourself and Donal Dineen on the last Small Hours show about the lack of radio space now afforded to new and left of field music especially of the home grown sort. Is such a space important for an artist like yourself to develop a relationship with a listenership?
For sure and people do play my stuff sometimes and it’s always amazing. Like but there’s people on Radio Na Life who play my stuff every now and again and it seems so special nowadays because it’s so far and few between that people do play that kind of music and I think that’s great when it does happen… But I wonder is that a genuine reflection on the kind of numbers and the statistics of the numbers of what their tastes are or is it just another power that’s moving it that way.
But that’s the thing with most things. It takes a lot of foresight to place artistic expression as the vital fucking thing that it is. It’s not immediate to see the results of our cultural endeavour so it’s hard for people to translate that into something that involves money but there you go. I’m being a hippy again.
Finally Dunk, can you talk to me a little about Countersunk and what it is. Is it your own label?
It’s just me and I kind of think of it I suppose as a label. I’ve pressed physical records for it and that kind of thing. I have barcodes to prove it but like there is music from other artists that I’ve been really fanning and wanting to put out. I just haven’t got to it just yet but yeah there will be more from Countersunk. It’s been quiet for a little while. Like there’s not something coming out every couple of months. I would kind of consider that quiet. There should be some activity soon enough.
Sunken Foal is joined by some of the most talented names in Ireland’s electronic music community at Openear Festival, June 3-5. Click here for more.