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Posted on 20. Nov, 2003 by admin in Damien News, Interviews.


In the late 90’s Damien Rice fronted a mildly successful Irish pop band called Juniper. The trouble was Rice was never a pop star. They had a few hits but Rice wanted out and left the band. That is when the real Damien Rice story starts.

Cut to now and Damien Rice is the singer songwriter who recently won the Shortlist Award in Los Angeles. While pop hits aren’t his bag, being handed awards is equally a non event for the serious songwriter. The album that did it for Rice is titled ‘O’.

He talks to Undercover’s Paul Cashmere

Paul Cashmere: You were in a band called Juniper and I’m going to start off by linking that back to something Australian so first off tell us whatever happened to them.

Damien Rice: They became Bellx1.

PC: And were then produced by Nick Seymour from Crowded House.

DR: That’s right, yeah.

PC: Nick used to live in Melbourne, Australia and now lives in Dublin, Ireland and there is our Damian Rice link with Australia.

DR: (laughs) Yeah, it is funny when you do that you can bring any person to any other person in a number of steps.

PC: The old ’six degrees of separation’ thing but this means you have a one degree link with Crowded House.

DR: Yeah (laughs). I have met Nick. I’ve been over to his apartment in Dublin quite a few times.

PC: So tell me how did it feel to win the Shortlist Award?

DR: According to other people I am a bit of a weirdo when it comes to award things. For me, I don’t hold any weight or attachment to any awards. For me music is not competitive. There is no winner or loser or somebody who is better than someone else really. For me art is so expressive that it is wrong to say any one thing is better than any one else. I was actually a little bit uncomfortable winning it actually but a lot of people don’t understand that. That is fine. It was very nice of people to think of me and it was very thrilling for people to think about the record in the way that they did and to have warmed to it but I don’t hold any attachment to it. I think if you are going to be artistic about something you can’t think about what it is otherwise it can become too contrived. A lot of people seem to think I don’t appreciate things or that I don’t get excited about things. I do. I just don’t get excited by what other people get excited about. That’s all.

PC: Didn’t you perform at the awards show?

DR We were in Los Angeles and the last night of our tour was the night before so we went along and played a few songs. It was a good night actually. I hadn’t heard of a lot of the bands and some of them were really good.

PC: You appeared on the Letterman show in the States. That is pretty big.

DR: It’s on one of those satellite channels that go everywhere. We had played a show in New York, a small show, and someone from Letterman came down to the show. They really liked it and rang our publicist the next day and asked if we would come on the show. There were two or three shows that came in at the same time after the first show in New York and it was just really funny. It was exciting at the time but, again, it is just a TV show. The most important thing for me is just playing well. It doesn’t matter where it is or what it is. It doesn’t matter of 100 people of it you are playing the Letterman show an audience of whatever. It doesn’t matter. Again it is the kind of thing that other people get excited about. It gave me a smirk on my face for a couple of minutes. I mean that in a nice way. A lot of people put a lot of weight on it but for me it is not about size, it is about expression.

PC: You sound like you have a very down to earth approach to your music and just back on Juniper, I read you left Juniper because the record company was pushing you to a pop sound.

DR: They wanted to ‘radiofy’ what I was doing. I was also in a position where I was compromised. I was much younger and maybe it is because I am Irish but there was a guilt factor when the record company pays you a lot of money, you feel obliged. You go into the studio and they say “we need this to sound like that” and you go “what” and you end up bending things to please other people. I got uncomfortable with it. They promised me if the first single was a hit then we could have more freedom with it. The first single was a hit so they wanted it again for the second single and then we were told what we were doing. I thought “fuck off” and I got really pissed off and left the band. I hated the industry for a while but I don’t anymore. I have no problem with the industry right now because I am free of it.

PC: Let’s talk about the album and the song ‘Amie’. That is one which dates back to your Juniper days.

DR: ‘Amie’ we never really did live. We did a recording of it in the studio just to make a go of it. I wrote ‘Amie’ a good couple of years ago and I wrote ‘Eskimo’ even before that,’Volcano’ as well. They are songs I wrote when I was in Juniper.

PC: ‘Eskimo’ has that amazing operatic vocal. Tell me who that is and how you came to work with her?

DR: Her name is Doreen Curran. She is a friend of our cellist. I met her one day when I was doing this TV show. That’s how I met Vivian the cello player as well. I was just recording the song. The strings were all down and I had this melody in my head. I was trying to work out what it was when I worked out it wasn’t a string melody; it wanted to be a vocal melody. It just came into my head. That’s why I don’t like accepting awards because I don’t feel I have done anything. Things just pop in my head. I don’t sit down and create them. They just come from nowhere. It was one of those moments of musical madness. That is what I love the most, when things surprise me even.

PC: The track ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ goes back to September 2001. Does this album feel like years of work to you?

DR If you look at my life, my songwriting life changed when I was in Juniper. I got to a point. There was a time when I had three days to write songs and I was frustrated in the fact that I was thinking I was a songwriter and that is my job and I should really be working at this as a songwriter writing songs. I realized it was a completely wrong approach having this idea that you are supposed to work at it. After three days I picked up the guitar and ‘Eskimo’ literally flew into my head in ten minutes. For me I was sitting there feeling sad about not being able to write so I started to write about my feelings about not being able to write. Once that happened I have never tried to write again. I now don’t write songs. I just go to wherever I go to. It is like going to the toilet. You don’t decide you are going to go to the toilet today or go to the toilet three times today. You just eat and the food you put into your system will decide when it wants to come out.

PC: Let’s talk about David Arnold. How did you get involved with him?

DR: When I was in Juniper I was right on the verge of signing this record deal. My grandmother said “you know you have a relation who signed a record deal recently”. I didn’t even know him at the time. He was my dad’s cousin. I rang him up to introduce myself for a bit of advice. We became friends and clicked with each other and when I left the band and the record label I was with he took an interest because he was curious about why I left the band. I recorded some demos and he really liked them. One was ‘The Blower’s Daughter’. He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I wanted to record an album at home.

PC: Were you familiar with his work with the James Bond movies?

DR: When I met him he hadn’t started working with those. The only thing he had done at the time was ‘Play Dead’ with Bjork that I absolutely loved. He wrote the music. I loved strings and he loved strings so that was why we got together and he did the string arrangement to ‘Amie’.

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