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Posted on 21. May, 2002 by admin in Damien News, Interviews.


Rice to the occasion” by Bianca Luykx

Source: I first met Damien Rice many moons ago through a friend of a friend of a friend. At the time I must admit that I was kind of captivated by this artistic, interesting, deep young man. He was an Eco warrior, his beliefs were steadfast, honesty and integrity his primary goals. He only ate organic food and recycled everything he used. He wrote aching lyrics from his forever aching heart (he always had plenty of material because there was always a plentiful supply of girlfriends) and he played guitar at campfires in way-off fields.

He was the type of person I would have liked to have been. He cared for mankind, he cared for the earth and I thought that was, well… lovely. It was the nearest thing I ever got to being a groupie. Rice was in a band called Juniper, a relatively successful young Irish 5-piece who played electrifying gigs which were always packed to the rafters. They signed to Polygram for a potential 6-album deal and managed to release two reasonably-well received singles, the most notable being ‘Weatherman’ (not the B*witched version). But that was four years ago and that was as far as they ever got.

Deep down Juniper were not happy berries and after the second single was released, Rice decided to jump ship. “I certainly don’t regret leaving the band,” Damien tells me. “I would look back on things I did and say ‘I wouldn’t do that again’ but if I hadn’t have done it, I wouldn’t have learned that I didn’t like doing it. I just wanted to be free and when I was signed to the record company I wasn’t free”.

The problem was Rice’s artistic freedom had been compromised. His life decisions were being made by record industry people who felt they knew better than he did. Maybe they did, if commercial success is what you’re after, but that game is not what Damien’s about. “Back then I didn’t have the confidence to believe that I could do it without a big record company behind me. Then I started thinking, you know what, record companies don’t know everything. It’s not that I know everything but they don’t either and all their marketing power and marketing push doesn’t work. When ‘Weatherman’ didn’t go into the top ten, they even went out and started buying copies of it”.

So off he went off on his lonesome, guitar strapped to his back, to busk the streets of Europe. On his return to Ireland he borrowed a bit of dough from those who would lend it, put down some tracks and sent off a demo to David Arnold (renowned James Bond and Bjork producer). Arnold liked what he heard and Damien liked what he got, a mobile studio. Mobile, free and solo, Damien then went about setting up his own record label. This meant that he owned all his work and any profits would be his to keep. “Now if I want to record an album of mellow songs I can do it, I don’t have to worry about singles. You don’t need radio, you don’t need TV, you don’t need anything. All you need is life”.

For the past two years, his life has been ‘O’, an 11-track album recorded entirely in the mobile studio that “allowed for spontaneity”. “I don’t think it’s a sad album, I think it’s an album about sad things”. Call it what you may, heartbreakingly beautiful or over indulgent. What it is undeniable is that it mesmerises with innovative, raw talent, untampered and true.

Despite its brilliance critical reviews will always vary. Damien doesn’t stick to the usual industry protocol – he makes his own rules. As one journalist commented “To Rice’s credit he has created some solid, intense, spine tingling moments… but at two years per album will anyone be willing to wait that long?” The crux of the matter here is that Damien really couldn’t care less if people wait or not. Those who are meant to wait will. As a result of his non-consumerist attitudes a big promo blitz will not be undertaken to push the album. Realistically this could result in poor sales and a bleak financial forecast.

“I’m living perfectly comfortably right now and it’s growing all the time. I don’t think the audience is gonnna shrink after the album comes out because we’ve got a small audience at the moment but it’s enough to make a very comfortable living out of. I know at the turn of a hat I could organise a Music Centre Gig, put it up on the website and within two weeks make 2 grand…. I’m not rich now… this album has cost me 10K and I’m paying for it…”.

Damien’s world is a brave new one. He is evidence that there are other ways to survive, that beating Groundhog Day isn’t always untouchable pie in the sky. “People don’t do what they really want to do because usually they’re afraid but I don’t think that’s a bad thing either cos I’m not happy. It’s not that I’m the lucky bastard who had the courage to leave university and go and create cos’ I’m still not that happy, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, in a way… ”

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