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An interview with Marcus O'neill

Marcus O'neill begins his independent work. This uniquely inspired musician, who has made a name for himself through a handful of tasty songs.

His music is unclassifiable, but it has no rival. Close your eyes and let the sensations flow.

Hey Marcus, thank you for answering our questions. I'd like to start by asking you about your technical approach to creating music. What gear do you normally wear?

My favourite gear is an old Harmony Meteor guitar, played through a 70s WEM Dominator amplifier. The best bass sound comes from an old bass guitar called “The People’s Bass”, which has been passed around various friends until nobody really knows who owns it anymore. Someone once tried to buy it, and we all laughed - nobody can BUY The People’s Bass, it belongs to the people! Haha. The main live recording, with drums and a full band, we did at Wardour Studios in Soho, London. David Smith, who runs it, is a very skilled engineer and massively patient in making the right conditions for recording. He puts everyone at ease and gets really good sounds. At home, I’ve got all this strange old gear like a 1960s Sony valve preamp with green eyes, 1950s ribbon microphones and antique American transformers. And the album was mixed by Larry Crane at “Jackpot!” in Portland, Oregon - he has a proper classic studio, including a real full-size room-filling plate reverb, and most importantly a great ear for arrangements.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from / how did you get into music?

I’m from London and I started a band called Big Strides which was a kind of jazz/punk trio with a double bass. I always liked the kind of “lo-fi” sounds, whether it’s 50s blues or 90s DIY indie-rock. The last album I did, I was playing every instrument myself, but for the new one I got some very talented friends to put a little band together.

I feel that the underground scene will continue to persist. Do you think we can go back to ‘normal’ events and festivals?

I think live music will always find a way to keep going. It might take a while for the whole business side of things to get back to normal, but people will definitely want to hear real noise and see it being made right in front of them again. The next hurdle for British musicians, once things open up again, will be how to tour around Europe now that we as a country have locked ourselves out. “Remember us? We used to be neighbours - can we come back in for a little visit please? No? Oh”

How is your sound evolving? What artists and genres are you enjoying mixing right now?

What I’m most into at the moment is the folk band Jenny Wren And Her Borrowed Wings. A great singer and double-bass and guitar trio who mix up all kinds of bluegrass and soul and more. Also the amazing violin playing of Bobby Valentino. He has this very delicate folky feel but can also explode into a crazed fit of punk energy. I’ve been listening to old Creedence Clearwater Revival songs a lot recently, which are kind of addictive - just following the mood.

How do you feel your music influences or impacts your listeners?

Aside from just hoping people like the sounds as much as I do, I suppose I’m always trying to convey simplicity and ‘realness’ in music. A lot of what we hear is massively over-polished, to the point where a real voice, or an un-tampered performance ends up sounding strange to our conditioned ears. By preserving all the anomalies, the little accidents and improvisations, I’m trying to let the listener in on the music, like it’s a live, hand-made thing being shared, rather than a shiny package of generic ’content’.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

A few weeks ago, I bought an old acoustic 12 string guitar, and I’ve been recording some songs on that and a greek bouzouki. So I might be heading down an extreme folk/country path for a while… we’ll see.

¿Cómo nace tu trabajo ‘Come On Dont Give It Up' ? ¿Qué querías transmitir?

The song “Come On Don’t Give It Up” came from visiting a friend who nearly died, and thinking about that overwhelming urge to ‘keep going’ against the odds. We recorded it completely live in one go without ever rehearsing or arranging it - it just came out like that first time. My finger got cut open during the guitar solo and bled all over the guitar, and we didn’t use headphones, so there was drum noise all over the singing. I wanted it to be as hectic and chaotic as possible. And the drummer hadn’t played for months before going straight into it. The video also has that sense of urgency, travelling furiously around the world with boats and balloons and camels, but without any particular destination…

What aspects does the equipment you use that you like bring to your production?

The tiny drum kit makes for a kind of cosy ‘in the room’ feel. The piano hadn’t been tuned for about 50 years, which really adds some Rolling Stones atmosphere to stuff. All the electronic equipment is just aimed at making things sound as warm and fuzzy and real as possible.

What pisses you off?

The decline of general creativity. Stepping out in front of traffic while putting a picture of your shoes on Instagram doesn’t count.

What makes you happy?

Nothing. I’m not a very happy person.

Do you have any final words of wisdom?

No. I’m not very wise either.

Muchas gracias mis amigos!

Pre-order Blue Moon In The Room here.

Follow Marcus O’Neill through his website here.

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