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Artmagic - Are a soft spark of magic!
Music Trespass: Richard how did you get involved with Sean McGhee?
Richard: First of all my brother Stephen contacted me saying a friend of his had a friend who was interested in working with me. I sent my manager Charlie's details through and pretty soon I got a copy of Sean's show reel from September 2007, including work with people like Temposhark and Kate Havnevik. I liked what I heard and quickly realised Sean could do all the technical things I couldn't. However I didn't know what he was like as a songwriter until we actually started writing together in July 2008 and after the very first day, when we had written 'Forever in Negative' and 'A Homecoming' we both knew we were onto something good.
Check Out! the Video for 'Forever in Negative' Below...
Music Trespass: How long has this project been going for and what different aspects are in the music compared to previous projects you worked on?
Sean: We met in 2008 and started writing immediately, then we began recording the album in 2010 and finished it in 2011. Not that long, really, considering I made another two albums in that time. Every record you make is different just because of the people you work with, or what's going through your mind or your heart, but this one was more different than most simply because we were keen to do something new that broke away from our past work. People may look at our CVs and think that we've got nothing in common but of course there's tons of crossover. We both love a lot of the same music, obviously I was never going to try and write a Rihanna song with Richard and he was never going to try and write a Fall song with me but the results of the chafing of those differences is very interesting.
Richard: The first and biggest difference was in the songwriting. Sean wanted me to be involved with the melody and harmony, he wanted us to be in the room together while he was writing the top line, which is usually a very personal thing for a vocalist. But Sean has done a lot of writing with a lot of different artists, and he was a lot more used to bearing his musical soul in front of strangers than I was! It's something that takes a long time to learn, even now I still clam up when someone asks me to improvise over a backing track- I'm much more comfortable with carefully working out parts on my own until they're ready to be heard.
Music Trespass: 'Become the one you Loved' is your new album, how does it relate to you as individuals?
Sean: I think it's the most individual piece of work either of us has done to date because the only people we aimed to please were ourselves and that policy will continue. Certainly it's lyrically personal but with that said it's not a turgid trawl through my diary, I'd hate to scare anyone off with the word "confessional". The barrier to entry in music is so low now that there are a raft of two chord songwriters who think that a simplistic genre rehash with "I'm lonely because you left me" lyrics is high art. We work rather harder than that, otherwise what's the point?
Richard: It's unique to me as a piece of work because it's a project we started totally from scratch, with no pretentious or expectations. Every other band I've been in is one I joined after they were already established even the bedroom bands from schooldays. I feel that Artmagic is completely my own, completely Sean's own, and there has never been anyone forcing us to change our style in the name of industry. Obviously this was a relief for me after the last few years of my previous career!
Check Out! the Video for ' Down in the River' Below...
Music Trespass: What is the writing dynamic between the two of you?
Sean: It shifts. Richard is generally the originator of the music then I work on the melody and the lyrics, then we'll finish the music together. But there's always an open invitation for either of us to occupy the other's territory after all, who wants to get stuck into a formula? We started writing some songs towards the end of making the album where we started by getting together in the room with nothing pre-prepared. That was interesting and I suspect we'll do that more on the next album.
Richard: I tend to write music at home and I spent a long time writing alone before I met Sean. The majority of the music on 'Become the one you Love' is a result of me sitting in front of the morning news on TV, strumming away until something is dictaphone worthy. That's the way I've always done it, but I think when we start writing the next album, we'll try to be a bit more spontaneous. There are a million ways to write a song and it's important to wrench yourself out of any comfort zone from time to time.. the results can often be different and great.
Music Trespass: Did you work with anyone interesting on the album?
Sean: Most of it is just us.
Richard: We used a drummer in New York called Mike Sorrentino, we emailed the tracks to him and he drummed on them in his own studio, emailing the results back. He was great but I've still never met him! And we recorded two tracks mostly live with the lineup we use for gigs Gordana Jovkovic on piano, Ben Ellis on bass and Mathis Richet on drums. Sometimes you can't beat the feel of a band playing together and it's worth capturing.
Music Trespass: Who draws the imagery of the band?
Richard: My friend Peter James Field. I've known him since we were twelve, I've been in bands with him and he's helped me through the most difficult parts of my career and life! His work is simply beautiful and for me there was never any doubt that he'd be in charge of the design and presentation of Artmagic's artwork.
Music Trespass: What music has most inspired you?
Sean: We didn't discuss outside influences or decide to make a certain kind of record. There were things we were both listening to at the time but I think it would be hard to pin down specifics. The reason I wanted to work with Richard in the first place was because I love what he does, so I wanted him to do what came naturally so, actually, Richard has been the biggest inspiration.
Richard: I think our basic influences in terms of genre are pretty different but we have always found a middle ground, there are bands we both love and have been inspired by over the last four years. The fact that I'm as mystified by Sean's worship of asymmetric haircuts and fairlights as he is by my teenage excitement over bands like The Clash and Blind Faith hasn't managed to get in the way of us writing songs!
Music Trespass: Do you use any interesting instruments on the record?
Sean: 'Submerged' features samples of my shower and some nice sounding metal bowls from my kitchen, how about that? But then, we all know that there's nothing new under the sun. The album is guitar-led but also with a good deal of synthetic texture which neatly includes both of our specialist subjects. That's already an infinity of interesting possibilities to work with. And to be honest, most pop & rock artists think they're radical if do something mundane like hire a brass section and that's disingenuous to the point of being laughable, so I'm not buying into that concept.
Richard: The actual instruments on the record are fairly usual.. but I think that just comes from the fact that it was recorded at home. If we had the time and money to book into an old fashioned studio for months on end the way bands used to do, I'm sure we'd end up experimenting with anything instrument lying around.. the possibilities when recording are limitless, and that's one of the most exciting things about it.
Music Trespass: Who do you think has been the best person to mix art and magic together?
Sean: All art is magic. Lead into gold, it's alchemy in action. Or it is if it works that's the whole idea. It would be easier to name the failures, but I'm too polite for that. But of course the answer to this question will never ever be David Blaine.
Music Trespass: Are you playing any shows and what are your plans for the future?
Sean: We've done over thirty shows now, all around the country, in various configurations everything from a full band to the two of us performing with no amplification at all. It's good to keep approaching it from new angles, because it keeps the performances fresh and gives you an edge that might otherwise be absent. Failure is forming habits, Most recently we did a show where we rearranged the songs for strings and performed them acoustically in a church and we made sure to use those new colours properly. My nightmare is when you see a third-rate indie band thinking they're the new Nick Drake because they've hired a cellist, and we avoided that particular abyss, which is satisfying. It went down a storm, and I think we'll do another show like that soon.
Richard: We play as often as we can in whatever guise is appropriate.. sometimes a full band rock show, sometimes acoustic with strings, sometimes myself and Sean busking unamplified on a record shop floor. I'm proud of the way that Artmagic works in many different ways, and that the songs can be reinterpreted with all the synthetics removed. I like playing in churches too, there's something strange and different about it, I'd love to play atUnion Chapel with a string section.
Check Out! the band doing 'Heaven is Here' acoustic Below... (This is Beautiful)