Interview: Duke Special Part II


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Duke Special, Irish songwriter and performer, joined me for a chat on the brown leather sofas of The Phoenix. Taking ten minutes out of his pre-performance preparations, we discussed his new album Look Out Machines!, his current tour and the hard hitting questions of island survival. This interview continues on from the first part.

So how does the title of your new album [Look Out Machines!] tie into to the meaning behind it.

Duke: The artwork in the front, there’s a guy standing; he’s pulled a plug in something. I suppose it’s my frustration with systems, with things that make us feel less like human beings, being forced into conforming in some way. The overarching theme is maybe, that’s what I kind of felt. But ironically on the record, there’s lots of machines [laughs]. So it’s like a warning to the machines, but could you help me.

Nice, your utilising the pesky machines [laughs]. So how would you describe your style musically; do you feel it’s changed from album to album?

Duke: With each record we’d start by thinking ‘what are the parameters’, ‘what is the pallet of songs we are going to use’? It feels, to me, really important cause you can do anything, you can have any instrument on there you wanted and almost go too much. So it’s going, ‘right, this is what this album, what’s the sound of it’. One album is going to be more orchestral sounding, this one [Look Out Machines!] is more, I was dabbling and we were using like synthetic drums and synthetic strings and stuff. And that felt really good, so we were like we’ll keep going with this. We did add some real strings and real drums. But there’s definitely more of an electronic sound on this record than all the previous songs I’d done.

Who are some of your musical influences?

Duke: Ivor Cutler, he’s a Scottish songwriter and poet, and he’s dead now. And Elliot Smith, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Magnetic Fields, Kurt Weill the composer – died 1950.

What do you feel is the best thing about being a musician?

Duke: I think doing something creative gives you an outlet and it’s probably just a very healthy thing to do. I don’t know if drinking beer on the road is very healthy; but you know, it’s brilliant to be able to express your thoughts and your feelings in some way. That’s also a weird thing, because you’re doing that on the stage with people who are watching it. I love the fact that no week is ever the same. I kind of thrive on the adventure of that, the unpredictability of that. Sometimes I kind of long for a routine, so that you can actually keep normal hours, the same as other people.

Yeah, but they’re probably not having as great of a time. So for the last couple of question I’m going to get your brain turning. You are stuck on a deserted island and you have to take either a piano or a gramophone with some vinyl records, which would you choose and why?

Duke: Hmm, I would take a piano and maybe fashion it into a boat over time. Or maybe not, maybe I could just stay there and build a house or something.

Resourceful! So a reader of Razz Magazine is stuck on a deserted island, with a music player that can only play one of the songs on your new album, which one should they choose and why?

Duke: Hmm, that’s a tricky one, it’s like choosing one of your babies. [Ponderous pause] I would say maybe ‘Wingman’, as it’s the first song I completed and was happy with, and it is the leading track on the album. So hopefully when they get back it would be a good introduction to the album.

Sophia Munyengeterwa

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