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Eugene McGuinness - In Response To Boredom

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Monday, October 27, 2008

A spiffy young chap by the name of Eugene McGuinness took the indie world by storm last year with his debut EP. Having just released his debut self-titled LP, the Brit chats with 3D’s Carlisle Rogers about it.

Eugene McGuinness released his debut EP, Early Learnings of Eugene McGuinness, last year to general praise. The songs were mature, but vivacious – giving this now 22-year-old a reputation for hanging on to youth, with a bit of the wisdom of adolescence thrown in. Now, as his eponymous first full-length album hits the shelves, Eugene reminisces on his later learning.

The album retains much of what made the EP so damned likable. The EP was at once cerebral and visceral, appealing to the child inside us all that wants to clap along to KC and the Sunshine Band just as much as our inner horn-rimmed-glasses-wearing indie geek digs the slippery arrangements that tinkle and trip throughout the record.

It was an anachronism. At the time the feeling was that it was before its time. In retrospect, Eugene is only now catching up with himself, breathlessly, but with a bit more wisdom, a bit more restraint or just one more year of wear and tear.

“With the mini-album,” Eugene says, “because it was my first time in the studio, whenever I hear it now I really like it. But I could tell that it was my first time in the studio, I can hear the lure of the toys and gizmos and how I threw the kitchen sink in it.

“It gives it its own charm, but I wanted this album – especially after this past year I’ve spent time playing with more musicians – I wanted it to have more of a band sort of feel with less production. I wanted to make a natural racquet and record the best take. I wanted it to be like those band recordings where you can almost smell the studio the band is in, a record of its own atmosphere. It’s tempting to throw everything at it whenever you can, but certain songs just don’t need a gong or a choir from Notre Dame. Especially when you are young, you can’t do all those things, you have to go for that stuff when you’re older and bored.”

Eugene says that when he is writing for a project, he simply writes down everything that comes into his head, without utilising any filters, and then sifts through the detritus later.

“I’m not really that precious about any of them,” he says of his songs. “I write a fair bit and when I’ve got a decent number I look at them and then I’m really vicious and try to scrutinize them. I decide which ones are the best and which ones I reckon sound good together. I just do it and when I’m finished I look back and judge whether it’s shit or not. Either it’s embarrassing, or something I’m quite proud of.”

That writing process, for Mr McGuinness, is one founded less on the pillars of musical theory, and more on fun, or at least the abatement of boredom.

“My musicality is quite limited, all I know is chords and me attempting to do anything else is nothing short of hilarious,” he boasts. “I usually write with a guitar, but sometimes I write on the piano. I started one song on the guitar yesterday and I finished it up on the piano. I came up with something on the piano which I would have never done on the guitar. The more you shake it up, the more it maintains my interest. There were lots of cool toys that the producer had in the studio including these ancient keyboards that just made weird noises that were a first for me. We kind of threw everything and the kitchen sink at it. I didn’t want it to be too much of a stereotypical singer/songwriter type of thing; I wanted it to be a bit more unusual, a bit more vibrant.

“I was a lot busier when I was writing these songs than I was during Early Learnings. I was on the dole in Liverpool at that time with nothing to do and those songs came out of that. These songs happened while I was travelling and gigging and were written after sound checks and things like that. They came from a much busier place and I think they sound a bit more frantic than Early Learnings stuff. There was no agenda with the record or specific that I wanted to do. There’s a nice type of being busy where you feel useful, not the busy where you don’t feel human, but busy where you can grab and hour and fill it with something remotely useful and you feel like a legend.”

Recorded in West London at Two Kilohertz Studios, a grim place sidled between a graveyard and a factory, the new album was produced by Ant Whiting, who also produced the EP.

“I felt comfortable working on this album with him, but in a different way. The studio was recommended and it’s quite a small studio, the space is pretty special, it was the opposite of all the other studios I was looking at. They all looked like something from NASA whereas this was very humble and cool, dark and dingy, so it had its own charm. It also had a nice band room where we could go in there and make a racket.”

WHO: Eugene McGuinness
WHAT: Self-titled LP through Domino / EMI
WHEN: Out now