Mick Flaherty Interview

2013 EP rough cutsIt's rare for an artist to come along and nail it in one. Liverpool's Mick Flaherty certainly gives this a go on the rough cuts from his brand new (yet still untitled) new EP. Synapse-melting to their core, the tracks are accessorised with an inexorable, hazy vocal. Flaherty's previous effort Dream Thief was described by Rock Revolver as being "steeped in hazy tinges" with "a mellow chord progression".

The rough cuts definitely do not mirror each other. In the same vein as Dream Thief, the first track Around a Fire from this untitled EP stands out for all of the right reasons. It's Flaherty at his best, dipping into an experimental, yet glorious route. The second track Restless Night doesn't quite live up to it's predecessor, hanging heavy with vocals that could do with a polish. Bear in mind this is only a rough edit, it would be foolish to doubt that Mick Flaherty will fail to deliver anything less that dreamy, for us to lock into on the final version of this EP.  
Rock Revolver was granted access to an exclusive interview with the man himself, to discuss his writing process and how he's doing things differently.

Rock Revolver (RR) - Firstly, can you tell me why you decided to start making music?

Mick Flaherty (MF) - I think its one of them irrational creative impulses. I liked the idea of creating something from nothing, and I used to spend a lot of my time as a kid drawing, so I think it comes from the same place as that; a kind of drawing with sound. Plus, without getting too mystical about it, I think it also allows you to re-connect with deeper parts of yourself as I often find the act of playing a type of mini meditation. I think its more a case of finding a release for certain energies and emotions in a creative way, and in that case, the release of them ideas comes in sonic form.

RR - You've released an EP of rough cuts, what was the writing process like behind those songs?
MF - I'm currently in the process of recording an EP of possibly four songs, although I know I can get carried away, and I've got an engineer who is on my wavelength. It might turn into a long term project of attempting an album and taking a few songs from that at a time, for EP or single releases. The songs themselves are from the latest set that I've been playing around Liverpool during the last four months or so. I had to slightly alter the way I write, and I incorporated the likes of different guitar loops etc. into the actual writing process from scratch as opposed to putting them in later as details. The weird part has been trying to break them down again into individual layers and work out the logistics of recording. I find that with writing I seem to discover things as opposed to consciously look for the idea... a simple guitar arpeggio suddenly turns into four guitar lines over dubbed with a few beat boxing layers, and then you notice one of your poems from your lyric book can be manipulated to fit it. I'm often detached, or unconscious of the process taking place - I just go with it, then when I have something concrete there, I think 'Okay, where can I take this now?' I think its only at that point that I start to consciously engage with it, up until then it seems to be instinctive really.
 RR - What are your favourite tracks to play live?
MF - I've been enjoying Restless Night the last few times I've played. It's that detachment thing again where you are so immersed in what you're doing that nothing else exists at that minute in time. I've noticed on occasions, where I'm completely in my zone and unaware of what is around me, that suddenly the background noise begins to drop and people are just listening... that's a magical feeling. I'm finding that the tracks I'm gigging now all have there pros and cons in a live set up, so its a case of tweaking what works, and being flexible enough on stage to slightly alter them when needed... which has been something I've been really happy with, especially getting out of a situation where you have looped something wrong and can delete it, and re-record a loop live without anyone noticing the mistake.

RR - If you could cover one song, what would it be and why?
MF - I've never been one for covers... which is bad when someone hands you a guitar and asks 'play something'. I've been learning a few guitar lines for the development of my own technique and might occasionally sit down and have a play around with a Jose Gonzales/Ben Howard or Nick Drake song. However, I usually find that an hour later I've come up with something of my own and what I was playing around with has basically just been a spring board to push me off in another direction. I have one friend over in Greece who is always sending me videos of new music she has found, and often artists doing unexpected covers too... which is a hint for me to do likewise I guess (laughs). If I where to do a cover then I would have to pick something slightly obscure, unexpected and make it in my own style, I think Perfect Circle's version of Imagine by John Lennon is a classic example... other than that it would be nice to be able to play Paco De Lucia compositions, but I think I need another twenty years of playing until I can even try.

 RR - Are there any local musicians you're championing?
MF - I couldn't pick one artist or band to be honest. There are so many people doing their own thing and it would be unfair to pit one off against the other. In a city like Liverpool you find that the music scene can be a close knit thing where regardless of particular genres of music, you find the same faces out and about supporting each other. As such I'm always behind anyone who has a belief in what they're doing off their own back. Some night I'm amazed by the talent on offer, yet sometimes I'm dismayed by how much of it also goes unrecognized too.
 RR - If you could only listen to one band for the rest of your life, who would you pick and why?
MF - Now that is a tough one, If it is one band, but I can choose from their entire back catalogue then I'd have to go with something like The Cinematic Orchestra so I could have some variation of moods in there... and some excellent music too of course.

RR - Which direction would you like to take your music in?
MF - Following on from the last question, something cinematic would be nice. Obviously the first step is trying to establish yourself as an artist, and I'm still open to the idea of a full band set up and going under the name of a band rather than my own name. However, as it stands at this moment in time I'm still finding where my music is taking me as a solo artist and despite my initial fears of people not getting what I'm doing, I've found that I'm being encouraged to actually be more self indulgent in my live shows, rather than just flying straight in with vocals in the worry that people are expecting standard songs with a singable chorus. In an ideal world I'd love to creating more of an atmosphere in live shows with some kind of visuals (animation etc) and have the chance of playing around with soundscapes. Until then though it can only be a series of small achievable goals. The first of which obviously being to have this EP finished and having the essential promotion covered to build up a fan base beyond the local level.

RR - What makes you stand out as an artist?
MF - I'm always worried about being misinterpreted as sounding full of myself when I answer questions like these but here goes... (laughs). I'd have to say from a neutral standpoint that I haven't seen or heard of anyone doing what I'm doing on the local scene. I think the only other person I can think of is a guy from Manchester called Denis Jones (if you don't know of him, check him out!). I got recommended to listen to him by the proprietor of one of our local music venues as he said my set up reminded him of the guy, which after listening to him I took as a huge compliment. I also find that in feedback I get from people at shows, which is usually along the lines of 'that was unexpected' or 'I've never seen anyone doing anything like that before'. So, I think I have a bit of niche there in that sense. Though I'm hoping that is as much a credit to the actual songs as it is to the onstage logistics (laughs).

RR - Do you think the talent of Liverpool is at it's best right now?
MF - It's at a good level, I can't say if it is any better or worse than in previous years, but I can say that it is definitely at a good level. As a musician here, or even just a music fan you can find an open mic every night through the week as there as so many of them about, and there are some amazingly talented people out there. I have a few regular ones I attend as I find them good rehearsals, and a good way of getting your music to people, but they are good to see how people are developing musically and also I tend to find a new artist or band each week that stands out to me; it's a good indicator of the pool of talent on offer.

RR - Finally, what can we expect from you in the future?
MF - Hopefully an EP launch with some kind of mini tour if possible. I hate to use words like 'product' and 'marketing', but that's where my head is at the minute, having a marketable product i.e. the finalized recordings ready for the market and getting out there to get that to people via gigs and promotion. In the longer term, hopefully an album put together and expanding the geographic of my gigs, and establishing myself more to a level of financial independence so I can concentrate on this 100%, but as I said achievable short term goals is what I'm aiming for at this point, so having the EP available for distribution, some live shows and an accompanying press buzz are my first targets over the coming months in the words of Lao Tzu "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step".

I'd like to thank Mick Flaherty for taking the time to do this interview. We will definitely be keeping an eye out for him in the future.