Tuesday 20 February 2018

Q&A: Fionn Regan

On ex-pats, gorse bushes and his second album

Ed Power

Ed Power

It has been four years since your last album. Why the delay?

Originally, I was working with a producer named Ethan Johns. He's done Ryan Adams and the early Kings of Leon records.


It was the first time I made a record in the traditional way ...

What, by taking drugs and blowing your label advance?

What happens is that you sit with your record company and they say what they think it is going to sound like and you say what you think it is going to sound like.

What could possibly go wrong ...

Imagine if someone commissions a painting of a mountain. The painter comes in and shows the sketch. They say, 'Well we'll pay for the paint and the canvas'. And they come back and say, 'Oh, I thought the gorse would be on the other side, the tilt of the mountain might be this way, there'd be more water up the front'.

In other words, they didn't like where you had put your gorse bush?

All of a sudden, you've got yourself a problem. Something has been lost in translation. The record got to the point where it was like, 'If you want to jump through these particular hoops, we can keep doing business; if you don't, maybe we need to part company'.

I think I can guess how this ended ...

I reversed out of there. I was the one left on the deck ...

Sounds like the end of Titanic ...

I grabbed the wheel. I put on the producer's hat and put it out. This is how the album came about. It's quite a story. Within the time scale, I had a really quick turnaround. It was flat out doing it. If I had more of what is deemed a commercial sound, I might have had less problems.

So what's with the title, The Shadow of an Empire? It sound like a Noam Chomsky tract from the mid-70s ...

To me, the shadow ... it's a positive and a negative thing. The positive being that, you know, for people with fair complexions, standing into the shadow is a relief. The negative aspect being that if someone builds a wall in front of your view, it's a negative thing. When you finish a record, you have the titles up on a wall and you think, what is the right lens to view this record through? Which song stands up on its own? I'm not trying to make a statement with it. It's just a title ...

Some Irish artists have complained about the ex-pats they attract abroad, who seem chiefly interested in 'de craic' rather than listening to your music. Is that a problem for you?

I don't think so. I know that sometimes when Irish bands go to America they kind of play to an Irish audience. It has never been like that for me. It has been asked before, so I've had to think about it. People see a storyteller. In Ireland, we have a great tradition of writers and storytellers. Maybe there is some link in that sense.

You were nominated for the 2007 Mercury Music Prize for your first album The End of History. How big an effect did that have on your carer?

It was pretty big. All of a sudden, you're on loads of television stations. It meant the life of the album was extended quite a lot longer.

Which meant you had to go back out on tour, rather than knuckling down and starting on the follow-up album ...

The learning curve for me is that when you feel like it is time to move on to the next thing, you've got to push for it. Everyone else is telling you that you'll get to it in a minute. And you find that you are putting all your time into touring, when what you really want is to move on to your next record.

You're from Bray and live in Dublin. But for years, everybody thought you were based in Brighton ...

I know ... it was one of those things. But there you go ...

The Shadow of an Empire is out now. Fionn Regan plays Roisin Dubh, Galway, March 12; Vicar Street, Dublin, March 13, Riverbank Theatre, Newbridge, March 14

Irish Independent

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