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Jim Griffin

Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Jim Griffin from 2018

MSJ:

I know I interviewed you somewhat recently at Music Street Journal, but you've been a busy guy. You recently released a new solo album. What can you tell us about that?

Yes it’s been a busy year alright! I completed my second solo album for UK label Reverb Worship towards the end of 2017. In truth, most of the work had been completed in 2016, but I felt it needed one more track which, of course, became the lead track in the end. The album is called “To A Far City” and, like my first solo album is acoustic-guitar driven (although there are plenty of electrics on there, of course!). This album takes direct influence from the work of HP Lovecraft and the Haiku master Bash?. That may seem like an odd combination, but I bet a lot of your readers, like me, are also fans of both. In particular both writers deal with themes of lost childhood and the wonder of nature in very interesting ways, and I try to capture some of that on this album. Some drone elements, field recordings and sound clips of my kids when they were younger are set against the music. Clips from Lovecraft’s  “The Quest of Iranon” and various Basho haiku are sprinkled throughout the five tracks on the album also, connecting the songs in odd ways. The music is quite progressive I think, and I used some new instruments on this album (mellotron, shruti box and found percussion, to name a few) to try and stretch the sound into new places. If anyone is interested they can have a listen to the whole thing over at bandcamp: https://therangerandthecleric.bandcamp.com/ It’s not as crazy as it sounds!
MSJ: There is also a new Zombie Picnic album on the way. What's the story with that release?
Ah this is the main release I have been working on over the last six months. With my band-mates in Zombie Picnic (Dave Tobin, Brendan Miller and Brian Fitzgerald) we have produced our second album entitled “Rise of a New Ideology." This, I think, is some of our best work to date. The music is instrumental in the post rock/psychedelic rock sphere with some ambiguous and fragmented voice recordings throughout (some are found recordings and some were done for us by two very talented voice artists here in Ireland – “Rambling” Rob O’Dwyer and the actress Evelyn Cosgrave). The voice recordings suggest a theme but are quite open to interpretation, which is the way we like it. All four of us in the band have slightly different feelings on what the album is actually about. For me, the album highlights some of the major problems facing humanity in the coming hundred years or so (overpopulation, over-reliance on technology, reactionary social behaviour), and then thinks past those issues into what the world might look like after their resolution. Will there be a new ideology? Is there a better world at the end of it? Or will anger and fear outweigh enlightenment and progress? Heavy themes for sure, but we try not to be didactic in our approach and so the music is the main thing. The listener can go down that philosophical road if they like or they can just groove – we’re okay with that too! The artwork, by French artist Tohad, was handpicked for this project as it’s beautifully evocative whilst remaining wonderfully unexplainable. It has become a major talking point in interviews!

I’m very excited to say that this album is released on 12” vinyl which, as a child of the 70s and 80s, is a big deal for me. It’s how I listened to all my favourite music and remains my preferred way to listen to music. This album has received a lot of positive feedback, and reviewers have been very kind with both their time and their words so far, and we’re really keen for people to hear it. It is officially released in Ireland on March 9th this year and in the rest of the world from March 16th. Come and listen here:  https://zombiepicnic1.bandcamp.com/ or order the vinyl here: https://burningshed.com/zombie-picnic_rise-of-a-new-ideology_vinyl

MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?
Recently a lot of reviews have compared us to Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree, and that’s pretty nice as we idolize those guys. But I think the best thing I ever heard about our music were the comments in foreign languages that I don’t even understand! We’re just simple lads from Ireland and to have write-ups recently in Norwegian and German and God knows what other languages is a big thrill for us. It makes us feel very lucky to be reaching so many new fans across the world.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?

A bout of touring and gigging to support this new album is the immediate plan. A tour of Ireland is under way, and then we’re planning to do some European and UK gigs this Summer/Autumn. As I mentioned above, Zombie Picnic has moved up a gear in terms of international recognition (thanks to publications like the MSJ!), so we’re planning gigs with some of our contemporaries in the prog world across Europe. After that it’s back to the rehearsal space to work on album number three. The rehearsal space is a unit in a storage vault. It’s a bit like working in an episode of Dexter, so it provides an interesting vibe to our songwriting.

MSJ:
What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Just this morning I bought Tope’s Sphere 2 by Orange Clocks (a UK prog band) on Bandcamp. It’s a wonderful example of a new “narrative” style of prog coming out of England exemplified by bands like Gandalf’s Fist. For the last year or so I’d actually been listening to a lot of drone-based and electronic music for a change (and to relax during a busy time), but I’m slowly returning to my love of prog, and especially new prog bands, as promotional work for the new record pulls me back into that world. I have no complaints about this!
MSJ:
Have you read any good books lately?
I have been re-reading the work of John LeCarré since last Summer, trying to read all his George Smiley novels in order. I can’t get enough of his writing these days. The complexity of his plots and the depth of his characters just enthrall me. They create a wonderfully rich world to escape into in the evenings. As a kid I watched the BBC’s version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Smileys People, and although I didn’t really understand them at that age, they left an indelible mark on me. I think I’m trying to recapture some of that childhood wonder of the adult world that I felt back then, maybe as some kind of antidote to the adult world that exists today…
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
The last concert I was at was Opeth in Dublin. I had never seen them live before, and it was a small venue. It was a great education to be ten feet away from Michael Akerfeldt and that band of amazing musicians as they played incredible tracks like “Windowpane” and “Häxprocess” so perfectly. I learned a lot at that gig, including when to get the hell out of way when the moshing starts during “Deliverance!” I’m going to a Steven Wilson gig next week, which will be my first time seeing him live so you can imagine how much I’m looking forward to that!
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?

The German DJ Larne Peters asked me this very question just last week, and I’ve been trying to remember ever since! I still can’t remember the exact gig because growing up in Limerick in Ireland during the 70s and 80s meant growing up surrounded by live music of all types. It was just normal that every pub or club had live music playing in those days, whether it was rock music or traditional Irish music. U2’s first gig as U2 was famously in a Limerick bingo hall (no I wasn’t there, unfortunately). I do have very early memories of a couple of guys playing acoustic guitar versions of "Freebird" and "Stairway to Heaven" in the back room of my local pub and just thinking “Man that’s cool. I wanna do that!” I guess it just got stuck in my DNA from there.

MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
Oh man, I buy gear all the time! Guitar pedals and recording software plug-ins are my particular weaknesses. After making Rise of a New Ideology in the studio I did have to buy some gear to help me recreate some of the guitar sounds in a live setting. The first track to be released from the album is called “Anger in Storage (Denial Will Follow)” and it has a great, gritty, dirty guitar sound at the start and end so I needed a really nice octave fuzz effect to achieve that sound in a live setting. I had had my eye on the Earthquaker Devices “Tentacle” pedal for a while (which does exactly what I needed). It looks so cool and has no knobs (perfection for me – just on or off – nice and simple!). As luck would have it I found a chap selling one second-hand and bought it for a great price. It sounds amazing (as all EQD pedals do) and has become a standard piece of kit for me now when I want some real nasty guitar tones!
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
If anyone out there finds us and likes our sound please do drop us a line and talk to us! We love to hear from music fans (not just our fans) and talk about our music, prog in general, guitarists, music gear and the weather – whatever you like! The Internet is great for connecting people with a shared interest, so let’s use it for that and get something good out of it. I’ve met so many great people through internet radio, Facebook groups and bandcamp over the last couple of years and many of those friendships have led to musical collaborations, tours, new music discoveries or just great conversations - so my closing thoughts are “let’s talk!"
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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