|Musician: Adrian Mordaunt
||Adrian Mordaunt, drummer of mrnorth.
Adrian, I'd first like to thank you for joining me and sharing your thoughts with everyone at Connected Musicians. First off, you play the drums, but do you play any other instruments?
Mainly just drums.
Ok, when did you start with the drums and what originally got you into it?
Well, it was kind of a family thing really. All the people in my family are drummers including my parents and my brother and sister, grandparents even. It's the pipeman drums that mainly is what we do, so it's all technical snare drumming and I was playing that from a very, very young age and then the drum kit came into the picture because my father was a kit player back in the 60's and 70's. There was an old drum kit sitting around and I just got hooked on it. I was, I guess, from the age of like four or five onwards.
You're in a band with your next door neighbors and one of their cousins. How is it that you guys originally formed a band to begin with?
Well, I used to practice a lot in my garden. We had a shed in the garden, and I guess one of the guys from the band, Emit O'Malley, he had heard the drums so he said like, "ah who is this drummer guy?" So he came up to me one day and said, "Look, we have a few guitars and a couple of guys who want to jam," and that was it pretty much. The musicians that we had, you know, it was a different band, but Emit and I went on and we just kept playing together and eventually mrnorth came out of it a few years later.
So is that something you would actually recommend for other people? Instead of confining themselves to practice in their basements, to actually go outside and see what happens with the neighbors?
Absolutely! I mean if your neighbors are good enough to put up with you and if you don't break the law by playing after 10 o'clock then you should be ok. There's not much they can really do about it. Not that the sound bothered them. My neighbors were very good. They didn't complain an awful lot and, yah absolutely, there's an awful lot you can achieve by just playing in your basement or in your bedroom practicing ? if it happens to be drums or guitar or piano or anything else ? there's always the stuff that you have to work on yourself to develop your skill, but a lot of it is just playing with other musicians that I find anyway. And the sooner you get out and play with whoever it may be whether it's the kids in your area or a school band or whatever, it's always a good idea to pick up some sort of an instrument and play. That's where you really learn I think.
As you said, it's very important to play with other people. Do you have any other advice to give to new drummers?
Well, always keep an open mind. Look out for what other drummers are doing. Pick your favorite record, your favorite drummer and just listen and stick on a set of headphones and try to play along. That could be any band that you want or any particular type of music. If you do get a chance it's always a good idea to get a couple of lessons, even from different teachers. Go to everything. Go to clinics. Go to your local music store, pick up magazines. Now a days with the internet, of course, there's all sorts of sites available that you can download all these audio and video clips of various drummers. There's a lot of fantastic drummers out there going back years and everyone can learn something from them so it's always a good idea to open your mind and try and learn as much as you can whether it's a guy bangin' a couple of tin cans on the street or Buddy Rich playing a drum solo. You can still learn something.
Absolutely. Where did the name for the band come from?
The name of the band was from the bass player. He saw this movie one day and it was called Mr. North and he thought it would be a good name for the band because he sort of liked the content of the movie...what it was about. And it was about this guy, I've never actually seen the movie myself after 12 years, but this guy comes to a town and he has all sorts of strange electrical powers and he makes a big impression of the people of the town and he just thought it might be a cool name for a band and it stuck!
What about the unique spelling? I know it came from the movie, but why is the way you spell the name of the band combined into all one word and all lower case?
Nothing in particular. It was just that the guy we were using and still use...he did our album cover for us. We were just asking him years ago make the name look good and do what you can with a bit of graphic stuff and it was what he came out with...all one word lower case and we liked it. We've seen it written down in many, many different forms, even spelled different ways like mister, but it was his idea. None of us are very big on graphics so we just left it up to him and if he thought it was good that was fine with us.
And it just stuck.
The music video for "Speak No Evil" is currently being shown on MTVu which is MTV's channel designed for college campuses. How is that the band originally went about getting its video onto the channel?
Well, it was through our record label... an indie label called Uninhibited Records. It was their idea to do a video and I guess the obvious choice was "Speak No Evil". It was mainly put together, the concept was put together by Oisin and we filmed it in, I think, in two days or less than two days and after that it was gone through management and whatever they could figure out to get it on MTV and how it was sort of their bag. Wwe just let them do what they could with it and that's what they came up with and that's their thing. I'm the drummer, they take care of the business.
Has the band noticed any positive results from the video being shown on the network? Like for example, have you found that concert attendance or record sales have improved as a direct result because of this?
I think, yeah, there was a positive outcome from it. No, we didn't sell a billion records from it or anywhere near it, but certainly there was some exposure, especially on that website and we put up a link to our website and people saw it and enjoyed it, so yes there was a pretty good reaction from it.
What was going through your mind the first time you heard "Speak No Evil" on the radio?
I was like, thank God, there it is! Alright, we were on the radio and listening for how it sounds on the radio as well. It's a great feeling to hear your sound come out and on the radio. Just studying the mixing of it because this guy that we got to mix it... he's quite famous for getting that perfect radio sound. He has done a lot of work, you know, like bands Rage Against the Machine and all these type of bands. And he has this particular sonic style that he goes for. And we wanted that because it suits the radio very well. It just sounds big and fat so just listening to that and going oh yeah, yeah, well I knew the song anyway so it was no surprise. There was nothing else going on. I just wanted to hear what it sounded like over the radio wave and I was happy.
You know you mentioned that you got a guy that was actually involved with Rage Against the Machine. I know that you have had people around you that have also worked with bands like Live and I actually read that you had a guy that worked with the 80's icon The Talking Heads. A lot of really big bands. How was it that you actually went about surrounding yourself with these people? How did you find these people?
The utmost professional people that we had an awful lot of respect for. This is when we were with RCA, another record company. We were putting together the plans for the album, where we were going to record it and so on and so forth. We had a huge long list of producers. We met a good few of them and they're all great. We would have liked to work with any one of them and we were basically, we were given a decision, among advice and everything else and how we could work it out. When Jerry Harrison came into the picture we were like wow, we love Talking Heads and so many albums that he has done live and it's just magnificent work so it was quite an honor to get to actually work with him. When we met him first off he sat down with us and he just started talking about different songs and what we could so with this and what we needed to work with that and everything that he said just made sense and we were very excited and so that's why we chose him and he wanted to do the project as well and so it was all good.
Did the band have any intentions of releasing any acoustic performances of songs from Lifesize?
Acoustic? No, not that I know of. Colin and Emmett do a couple of shows themselves with acoustic guitars and they'll play a couple of songs off it, older songs and newer songs, but anything that would be up for release or the next record would be basically be the band, you know.
This interview is for a website that is dedicated to helping musicians improve their horizons, not just technically, but also culturally. Can you name two or three artists that have really influenced your music that you feel others can benefit from as well?
Although we sort of grew up in the 80's, we looked to an awful lot of stuff that was around from the 70's. All those wonderfully recorded albums that we just don't know how it was done with these little 2 and 4 tracks, but they sound amazing. Bands like Yes, Rush and Crimson, early Genesis stuff. We do really listen to whatever's coming out and whatever's good. Something's always going to catch your ear. Especially because there's four different people in the band, there's four different tastes in music and they vary quite an awful lot, but we all have a lot of respect for each other and if somebody says in the band "you should watch out for such and such band" we go "ok, great let's have a listen" and generally we like each other's taste in music and it's huge and it can really come from anywhere and go wherever.
What would you say would have to be the single most important thing for a band or artist to look for when selecting a manager to represent them?
Ok, well, somebody whose, obviously they have to like the music first and foremost and they have to believe in the band. Somebody to make sense. Unfortunately in this business you meet a lot of great people and people that have great intentions, great ideas and they're all about doing the right thing. It's very hard these days to find a manager that can follow up with "oh, I'll have you a deal within six months, we're going to be on a major label, we're going to make this, we're going to make videos, we're going to do a big tour." You know I've heard that a few times and I'm sure other musicians have. Stuff like that you gotta watch out for. Go for someone who's honest, hardworking. Someone you think might be able to trust and don't dive into necessarily signing a contract immediately. Let it pan out. You don't have to sign your life away especially if you're handed a contract and you don't quite know what you're looking at because you're a musician, not a lawyer like I am, musician, not a lawyer, it's always a good idea to have somebody look over it for you. Even if you can't afford a lawyer, have somebody older that might know a bit about contracts and stuff like that because that can get a little bit scary sometimes. The manager we have right now we got along with very well for a while. And then we brought up the discussion of a contract. Then we signed a contract basically, but not within the first week.
So with the manager you're currently with how did things work out before you had a contract? Was it simply a negotiation or did you guys have a verbal agreement? How did you guys work that out?
It was a verbal agreement pretty much. A handshake. Everyone talking on the same page. "This is what I can do. This is what I can offer and what do you think of this?" When we came to America he basically brought us over to America. Set us up with our show and he said "I'm not promising you the sun, moon and stars, but this is what we can do" and that was good enough for us. We just took it from there you know?
This next question actually has to do with your band's homeland. In the U.S. when you walk into an Irish pub it's almost tradition to order one or several pints of Guinness and get a table as close to the bagpiper as possible. My question is this. Would you say you would find more Guinness and bagpipes in the States or actually in Ireland?
Any Irish pub will have Guinness no matter where you are anyway in the world. Any good Irish pub always has Guinness on tap and as far as pipers go...you're talking pipers, right? I guess around St. Patrick's Day you might see a lot of pipers. The difference between here and Ireland is it's a lot more glorified especially around St. Paddy's day. Everyone says I'm Irish and my grandmother's Irish. It becomes cool to become Irish. For the Irish in Ireland it's no big deal. There's an awful lot more of a celebration. The pipers themselves...I'm a piper and a drummer. I've been surrounded by pipers all my life and yes, we have played in pubs especially after competitions and that. Somebody always has a set of pipes and they'll get up and play a few tunes and stuff like that. Over here I hear a lot of the parade bands like the NYPD and the Fire Dept pipe band. There's a string of them and when Paddy's day comes along they're all out in their best gear and the pipers are going crazy playing away with a pint of Guinness.
You know on the topic of Ireland, when I was doing research for this interview everyone, I mean everyone, made a connection between mrnorth and U2. Two part question. First, do you find it flattering or a little tiring to consistently hear about that comparison, and the second part to that question is that obviously the connection is made because of the origin of the two bands, but do you feel more can be compared than just the nationality?
Well it is a flattering thing for people to compare us to U2. I guess a little bit of it comes from the fact that we're from Dublin and people associate Ireland and the Irish and the people from Dublin with of course U2 one of the biggest bands in the world, if not the biggest. When people do compare us it's not a bad thing for me. I don't get tired of it because you're meeting different people all the time and for the first time they say hey you know you guys remind me of U2 a little bit, that's fair enough. In some ways we do. We respect those guys an awful lot. We love their music. Love their band and we're kind of proud of our boys.
No shame in that. You're currently playing shows in New York only while the band is working on its next album. How are things with the album progressing?
Very well. A lot of it is being done by our bass player Oisin. He's the techie one in the band. Always up to date on the latest and greatest on whatever program happens to come out. We've only done a very amount of work in actual real recording studios and the rest of it is done in an editing format at home in Oisin's own time. Some of the tracks are even done over the Internet. Some of the guys are able to record bits and pieces of the guitar. Colin's vocals he can do at home. He has set up his own machine. He can record the parts and literally send them over the web to Oisin so it's all very cyberspace involved, but it's a good way of doing it and instead of spending a thousand dollars a day from some studio you can do it at home in your own time and sometimes the results are just as good if not better.
So with this new kind of way of decentralizing the whole recording experience how long has the band been doing this? Is this fairly new or have you guys been doing this from the beginning?
We were doing this from pretty much the mid 90's. We didn't have the funding or any big record deals to get us into all these studios. A lot of it was done ourselves in our own time like setting up a little control room and literally throwing long cables out of the window into the garage and hooking up a couple of microphones to a drum kit. We did that many, many times. Over a period of time the gear got better, the computer got faster, a couple of extra microphones lying around. You know the technology came up from that, but we did a lot of it on our own. When we got the opportunity to go into studios we were a little bit more in tune with it like we weren't rehearsing all over the place because we were used to it at that stage. And I have to say even listening to the older demos they still sound really, really well. Nice and clean and it's a good quality sound for what we were able to do.
How would you say the new album track compares to the Lifesize?
God, no, that's a difficult question. Some of the songs we've introduced a lot of orchestral stuff. Not with a real orchestra basically, but with keyboards and really high quality string samples and stuff like that. A lot of it changes with the mood of the songs. There's songs coming together that are joined together like a song finishes and it goes into this orchestral piece and then it kind of finds it way into another song. So it's kind of a concept album if you want to call it and it's coming together very well, but we still have any awful lot of work to do and hopefully people might like it as much as they did with Lifesize.
You know it sounds like you're expanding the way that you guys are doing music, new recording processes, all that good stuff, but does the band actually have any intentions of adding bonus contents to the new album like for example some artists include music videos or interviews with the band members. Is that something you would consider for the new album?
We would definitely consider it if we think there is something around that we think people might be interested in we'll stick it on there. I think it's a great way...I've seen a lot of bands doing it nowadays...like you say actually interviews on the video, and this that and the other, even images or photographs or something. That's a really cool thing. We haven't spoken about doing something like that yet, but maybe we might and see what we can throw on...a few recipes or something like that of our favorite food.
That would be extremely interesting. I'm sure everyone would want to know about that.
Yeah, I'm sure they would. Maybe not. Well we'll see.
I know that you're playing a lot of your new material in the shows that you're playing in New York. Have the reaction of the audiences to the new material affected whether or not the song will be included in the new album?
A lot of these songs we're playing, we've played them a few times and we're getting used to them ourselves. The audience is also getting used to them and there's always a few people that will come up and go Yeah what was that song? What was the second one or the third one that you did? I like this one or whatever. It hasn't really influenced us yet whether we should ok well half the audience liked this one better than the other one. It's a bit hard to tell because at the end of the song all of them clap and some of them cheer so it's hard to judge it that way. We're just trying to figure a way around these songs and the best way to do it is to play them live because each time you play them you play them slightly different. We have yet to come up with a finished sequence for it because there are still more tracks coming together and we want to have maybe 15 or 16 to choose from so we can get a good 11 out of it.
And when can we expect to see the release of the new album?
Well, that I can't tell you because I have no idea. Hopefully somebody will pick up on it and if they don't we'll figure out a way to put it out ourselves whether it's on our website or iTunes. We'll get it out by hook or by crook somehow and maybe before the end of the year. I'm not quite sure at the moment.
Well how about this one? When can we expect to see you touring outside the immediate area of the studio?
Well, there will be more sporadic, shorter tours happening over the next while. We did a small bit of touring last week and without a record we're not doing an awful lot of touring, but I'm hoping we'll be doing gigs in at least the tri-state area over the summer and the autumn as well. There's some talk of other shows. Nothing international yet, but we will be playing and will keep everyone up to date on the website and stuff like that.
You know, along the line of touring, have you ever played a venue and thought to yourself, now what the hell are we doing here?
Yes, many times!
What was the environment like that made you think that?
So many environments I can't think of any one off hand, but some of the places that we've ended up playing you're going "What in God's name is the band doing playing here"? What are we doing here? It's like a bar mitzvah. There's no place for a rock band and we'll just settle as best we can and play as best we can. Sometimes there's extremely low volumes, but sometimes those gigs can actually turn out well. Like there's an odd thing that I think a lot of musicians and bands might agree with where if you have a bad sound check the gig will probably be ok. Then it sometimes works in the opposite, so in a situation like that we don't take things too serious so we'll just go and play music and be serious about the music, but the actual gig or the situation we'll just go "ah, whatever, it's just another gig" and that's all you can expect. You can't be doing Madison Square Garden every night of the week. Whatever gig comes to you, you'll play it and if it's really bad you just won't go back. That's all.
I just have one final question for you. You have the new album in the works, but what else can we expect from mrnorth over the next year?
Well, what else you looking for? [Laughter]. The new album hopefully we'll get a single or two, maybe a video. We'll keep playing touring odd little places and doing our thing. The lads are doing acoustic shows around the area. There's some extra stuff on the website. I have my own website Imthedrummer.com. I decided on that, kind of a strange name, but it's just a bit of fun. And there's bit and pieces to keep us going. Apart from playing the music we're all doing different things in music. I'm doing a little bit of teaching and playing with a pipe band as well and just trying to keep the drums going.
What is it we can expect to find on your website?
Which, the band one or my site?
My site. I have some audio samples like a drum that was playing in the studio. Literally just warming up on sound check and I have a sample of a pipe band that I used to play with in Dublin and it was recorded at the world championships a couple of years ago and I have some of my own music up there. I do a little bit of work on Garage Band. I'm new to Mac computers so I'm using Garage Band and I'm getting some stuff going, just sort of dance things that I do on my own time. Bits and pieces like that. I have a little bit of information about the drums and stuff like that and yah, I have a bunch of photographs that I've taken on the road and home over the last couple of years ? digital photographs that I've sort of played around with. I'm not the world's greatest photographer, but some of the shots ended up pretty nice so I just kind of put a slide show up there so yeah, it's an interesting little website for anyone who wants to see it.
Well, that's great. I didn't actually realize that you had one so I'm definitely looking forward to checking that out. Looking forward to the new album and I'm sure everyone is too. That really is all I have for you, so Adrian, again thank you for sharing your time with everyone at Connected Musicians.
Pleasure, Todd, thank you very much.