Sitting in his dressing room, few hours before getting on stage, Eugene McGuinness is enjoying his late summer afternoon in Paris. Few weeks after the release of his fourth effort, « Chroma », Eugene chats about music and Ireland...
Your new album is a new step for you, what was the idea in the first place ?
Eugene McGuinness : I've recorded with a producer Dan Carey that i worked a little bit with before but i didn't do a full album with him before. He loved my records but he also had his own vision of what he would do. He wanted to really limit the production and expose the songwriting. We didn't intend to be psychedelic or whatever just very straight forward. Very direct. Any ideas, even the lyrics, which are going be on there had to be absolut. Which is difficult for me because i like to ramble on or do some strange stuff. But i do agree with him and i liked the idea. We did the album in two weeks, it didn't take very long. We wanted to be colorful. Use the colors very preciously.
The album is very classic, almost Brill Building songwriting like « I drink your milkshake », but there is also an harder edge on « Black Stang » or « Heart of Chrome » for example...
Eugene : There is a lot of music that goes on that i don't really get. Sometimes i feel like people tries to strecht their songwriting. I like to write different types of things and put them all together. It reflects my character. I have this unpredictable side inside me. I can feel different things very very quickly. I should probably see the doctor about it.
Eugene : Any record i did i wanted to reflect that. The songwriting does that. We limited the production and instrumentation to reflect how i am. And i do write different types of songs. You've got the harder edge because i love some harder music like Queens of the stone edge, Motorhead.
Eugene : Yes. Regarding « I drink your milkshake » i was thinking about Bill Withers but it doesn't sounds like that. Whenever i try to do something it comes across in a completely different way. I like the unpredictability, the surprise of it.
I think that « I drink your milkshake » sounds like the early Beatles, the first album...
Eugene : Yeah, bit of that. If you listen to the Bill Withers album « Still Bill » (1972) he had a song « Use me » which i love. It's so little, there is not a lot, just a strong riff. It's amazing, a real work of art.
Speaking about the harder edge of the record, it made me think of your work with The Lizards...
Eugene : Yes you're right there is a similarity there. That's because i do occasionaly like to remind the people that i can really do it with just a guitar. Whenever i do an album people think : « Ok so this is what you're going to do now for the next ten years ». This album is one thing. This is not a career planned thing. I would get bored. This album is right now. The next one is going to be completely different again.
Your next album is going to be completely different, you're not going to turn out a pop star (laughs) ?
Eugene (laughs) : No, i hate pop stars ! I hope not.
Is Chroma a songwriter album ?
Eugene : Yes I suppose so. It also got a groove to it.
The songs are really shorts, i think the album clocks in 30 minutes or something like that...
Eugene : Yeah. 5 minutes is really epic for me (laughs) !
A little word about the title « Chroma » ?
Eugene : The title came from the song « Heart of Chrome » that i really like. Also, in the studio near the desk there was a massive logo that said « Chroma » and the word was staring at me for two weeks (laughs). Chroma also means purity and clarity of colors and I think that is an important thing about the album. The sonic edge it gave.
The song Fairlight in its album version is probably the strangest thing you ever did...
Eugene : Yeah, it's mad. It wasn't originally going to be on the album. That was recorded earlier. But we dug it up and had a little fun with it. The single version is really cool. I wanted it on the album because it gave some ideas about the subsequent album. Fairlight points towards a direction. I think we should go there. I played it to some people and they wondered what i was doing. Who cares ? Yeah it's mad but i love it.
Were you tripping (laughs) ?
Eugene : Tripping yeah (laughs).
Your brother has a band now (The Bohicas), is there an Oasis thing going on between you two now ? (laughs)
Eugene (laughs) : We're better than that. Not really we get on very well. I love his band, they're fantastic. I know those guys, i grew up with them. I have a very good feeling about his band, i think it's gonna do very well. I love that.
Are you going to get involved in some ways ?
Eugene : Me and him we'll probably do some music together in the future. But Dominic is doing his thing with his band for now. But in the future, if we do it, it's gonna be a 50/50 kind of thing. It's gonna be amazing like Superman and Batman (laughs).
A little word about Ireland, do you feel close to the Country ?
Eugene : Yes i do, absolutely. My whole family is Irish apart me and my brother, we were born in London. We still go to Ireland all the time, lots of friends, all our family. Grewing up as a Londoner i was made to feel as an Irish. I've got this irish thing in my accent which i get from my parents. I feel Irish when i'm London. But whenever i'm in Ireland i feel i'm from London. But now i'm in France and i feel sort of Irish. It's a mix, it's really hard to describe. If Ireland was going to be in the world cup, that didn't happen in a long time, if they were playing against England i would be supporting them. But i am also supporting England, i have several options.
And on a musical standpoint ?
Eugene : « Astral weeks » (Van Morrisson, 1968) is a really great Irish album.
Moondance is good too...
Eugene : Yeah. I like « Veedon Fleece » (1974). He also did one with The Chieftains « Irish heartbeat » that i like as well. Other than that there is not much music from Ireland that i like. It could be a lot better. And a couple of U2 songs. I love « Stuck in a moment you can't get out of » (2000). Everybody is laughing at U2 but some of their songs are really great.
Do you write songs easily these days ?
Eugene : Yeah, i don't force it. In the past i used to force songs and it was so miserable. It happens very easily. I actually wrote a few this week that i'm excited about. I start writing at 15 years old, it feels so natural. I'm not very famous or successful so i don't feel any pressure. If i'm becoming huge and « Chroma » reaches to number one spot, i won't be able to write a proper song. That's why a lot of bands are so rubbish once they get successful. The songs are desappointing. They're mentally f**** because of the pressure or whatever. I'm invisible so i can still enjoy my writing in the same way that when i was fifteen. It's very important to me. I'm always writing. It's always very different, that's why i love it so much. Often i write the music first. Sometimes i have the words first. I write a lot and then i leave it and i have some musical ideas. And then i think « Oh right, those words are perfect for that ». A lot of songs in « Chroma » i just sat down with a guitar, pen and paper and just did it immediately which is kind of magic.
Like you told me earlier, it's really important for you to show the world you can do things on your own with just a guitar ?
Eugene : I don't need to show the world anything you know, but i do enjoy the appreciation i get. I am ambitious but i'm not on a vendetta to prove i'm good. And the world, for the most part, have pretty bad taste. So it doesn't bother me. Wait i have to be honest, it does bother me a bit. The fans i have here in France are wonderful, it means i can sustain what i do. I don't have much fans but i love the ones that i have. They're brilliant. I don't want sounds cheesy but it's really important to me, it means that i can keep on doing the things that i dream of doing. Record an album, play a show, people enjoying the show. This is great. I don't want to be in a stadium, i don't want to duet with Beyonce, i don't want to dress up like some idiot. I just want to be me. I am allowed to be, which i really appreciate. It's really cool, i want to keep up doing that. When i'll get older my music's gonna change. That's the way i wanna do it.