extracts from interview/article by Joe Jackson in hot press 23/3/94
STANO : In the Place Where You Are.
Think about direction, wonder why... its eleven years since STANO released his debut album Content To Write In I Dine Weathercraft. Despite his
genuine originality and dedication to his art over the intervening years, he remains one of Irelands most enigmatic performers, more appreciated on
the continent than in his homeland.
Stano knows enough about music to realise that rock too has finally caught up on the other arts, entering what soul-diva Shara Nelson recently
described as it's "po'mo' (post-modern) phase." Dance, rap and hip-hop all question notions of fixed space and continuous time in the same way
that Joyce redefined the novel with stream-of-consciousness writing and Schoenberg restructured classical music on a system of twelve tones
instead of the age old harmonic scales.
Likewise, if Irish rock has recently shifted into a po' mo' mode, courtesy of high protile groups like U2 and Fatima Mansions, there can be little
doubt that Stano himself was at the forefront of this movement more than a decade ago, when he released his debut album, the wonderfully titled
'Content to Write I Dine Weathercraft'.
"From the beginning," Stano refects "when someone wrote an article on me and said I was 'obviously influenced by Stockhausen' I didn't even
know who Stockhausen was - though I do now, of course. But with painters, it was different. I've always been interested in people like Picasso
and Dali and Turner - at least since my late teens. Before that, growing up in a working class area of Dublin you'd be seen as a bit "soft" if you
said you'd any interest in art."But my original love was for poetry after a teacher in Coolock praised me for my writing when I was 10 or 11 and
put one of my poems in the school magazine. But it took punk to rekindle my interest in self-expression at that level. The whole ethos of music
then was 'be what you are, do what you want to do and to hell with anyone who tells you otherwise'."
"Dylan is my favourite artist of all time because listening to his best songs is like getting pulled into a painting. If you're open to the whole
experience you really have no control over where he takes you, where you go. And I always loved the way Dylan would layer images upon images
upon images until he'd break you down and bring you round to his way of looking at the world."
Dylan's critics, on the other hand, also describe his mid 60's surrealist soundscapes as inaccessible, with imagery that is open to only the author
himself. How does Stano respond when he sees similarly derisive criticism of album titles such as Content to Write In I Dine Weathercraft.
"It annoys me, at times, because, to me, like Dylan's best songs, nature itself is a random force, pulling things together that don't make 'sense' in
the normal way," he argues. "And I love combinations of fun words like 'I Dine' and 'Weathercraft' which are puns on 'iodine' and 'witchcraft'. But
there also is a unifying force underneath, a logic behind it all. That's why surrealistic art is more real to me than something that looks just like a
photograph. And it's why I love Picasso's work. When he breaks up a human face and shows it from many angles, that's far more interesting, and
truthful, to me than a straight, figurative drawing.
"It's the same with regard to music, and not just in relation to the words ot a song. The 'meaning' often is in the loops, the samples, the guitar
lines, the mix. And I otten think the only people who will find my work 'difficult' are those who think that a song is like a narrative poem and that all
it says is what is said in the words. That's not how I work. And the real thrill of songwriting is knowing what fragments to choose so that you don't
give evenything away, don't ruin the mystery.
Is there a sense in which Stano s is making music just for himself and doesn't give a fuck whether or not people relate to it? "Well, to be totally
honest with you I don't really care if they relate to it, or not!" he says, laughing. "And I don't think any real artists create with an eye to the market,
or create for the public. I, physically, can't do that and find the whole idea repulsive That said, I know my music can be sold and could be quite
successful, on its own terms.
"I think if you go back to people like Joyce and Beckett, the true nature of Irish art is that we are more European than English, or American,
though that's the kind of stuff that obviously sells better here, with regards to music. But, sure, I will happily admit that I don't think of markets
when I'm making music. I do just think of remaining true to myself first and foremost and letting everything else grow from there. That's why
I'm lucky that now, in Hue Records, I'm in partnership wlth two people who do really understand my music and let me do whatever I want to do And
I really think that the interest already shown in my new album has set me up for the next.
STANO TAKES A STROLL THROUGH HIS BACK CATALOGUE
CONTENT TO WRITE IN I DINE WEATHERCRAFT: ~This album was done mostly with Michael O'Shea. He's a guy who made his own
instruments and, sadly, died a few years ago. But this was begun in 1981 and finished in 1983 and songs like ~Seance of Kondalike' and ~ A
Dead Rose~ have instruments like sitar, African tongue basses, and these square boxes Michael used to make up, with springs and glass on
them. On the other hand, 'Out of the Dark, Into the Dawn' I did with Roger Doyle on grand piano. 'Blue Guide' has a lot of loops and although
some of the songs have no versechorus structures, they're pretty accessible. Some are,like, two pages of Iyrics that I spoke over the music, which is
where a lot of those songs come from.
"I really remember we had so much fun making this. I remember being in a room with Bintii and they were playing the piano and I'd finished
reciting my poem and had nothing else to do so l picked up a Christmas tree that was in the studio and fucked it around the room! Bintii was
saying 'go on, go on' and at the end you hear Vinnie Murphy saying 'Jesus, me hand is bolloxed, will we stop?' And I start laughing and walk out
the door and close it and that's how the song ends. Another time, after I'd read a book on singing which said that your forehead, nose and face
resonates as you sing, I glued a mic onto my face and got an amazing vocal sound! How's that for abstract art? (laughs) Maybe it'll catch on at the
SEDUCING DECADENCE IN MORNING TREECRASH: This was made in 1984 and released in 1986. There was always that kind ot gap
between the completion, and the release of my albums. Even Onfy was made three years before it was released. But Seducing Decadence had
songs like my tribute to Charlie Chaplin, who is another one of my idols.
"Musically on this one I pushed the guitar end of it more, and the loops. It's also got a dance track, as has the first album though people are now
saying I've suddenly become interested in dance music! Even on the first album I used the same drum machine that is used in hip-hop now But
when I listen to albums like Seducing Decadence now~ particularly tracks like 'Hayley' and 'Cry Across the Sea' I can hear the evolution of my
whole sound and how it leads directly to Wreckage."
DAPHNE WILL BE BOBN AGAIN & ONLY "I actually started Only a month or so after finishing Daphne~ so I definitely see the two albums as
interlinked Daphne is totally instrumental. It was done on the Fairlight, with dub bass~ drum machine~ Gregorian chants~ samples of spoons hitting
glasses and screams on it. And a lot of it is influenced by the classical music I was listening to at the time~ from Beethoven to Rachmaninov and
Tchaikovsky. I think part of the reason my music confuses some people is that I will work with classical musicians when I'm doing stuff like this~
or jazz musicians if I'm doing jazz.
"I used to hate the saxophone because I had this image of it as just a rock instrument playing basic licks. But then I met Richie Buckley and
realised he could take it into another realm. As with those painters we spoke about earlier~ and other great jazz musicians like Miles Davis, it's
the person's spirit that defines the quality of the music. And Richie is a classic example of this. And I'd hope that something of my own spirit
comes across in all this music "Only~ was more rock-oriented, working with your basic guitar, bass and drums.
WRECKAGE - TRACK BY TRACK (ALMOST) 'Pearls': "This started out with a bass line by Mark Young and I basically wrote around that,
shaping it into a heavy-duty pop song. The Iyric is a love song but I don't include the Iyrics on albums anymore because people isolate the words
and reduce the song to what the Iyric says, which is not the way I work at all In 'Pearls' what the drum machine and loops and guitars slowed
down and played backwards are saying is just as important as the words. That's what music means to me.
'Bleeding Horse': "I did this with Colm O'Cosaigh, from My Bloody Valentine. And, already people have said they never heard a song like this
before. Every.thing you hear is guitar guitar sampled, slowed-down and played back If you play that track in clubs it will tear the walls down and
that's the effect we wanted.
'Red Blue Green': "This is a punk song, which, again, came from Mark's bass line to begin with, yet ends up with guitar layers that are straight
out of Hendrix.
'Land Slips The Mind': "This came from a song on L's album, called 'Night-time' I brought in a cello player who played eight tracks of cello and I
put those tracks on a DAT, took them home, and found that within the four minutes of that song there was actually one and a half seconds of
the eight cellos working together. I sampled those eight cellos and put that through eight tracks of distortion and that's the intro to the songs
That, then is followed by a hip-hop beat, provided by one of Mark's bass lines played backwards. On top of that I took a scream from an old
Hollywood movie and I screamed back at that. '1000 To Now': "I wrote this for a film that was shown on RTE and UTV a few years ago.
'Steps Into': "This has a techno drumbeat which was 120 beats per minute and I slowed it down to 8 beats per minute, the slowest a drum machine
can go In the background we also had an effect unit which the guitar player was playing and every time he took the plug out it would make an
electronic noise so all the guitar work on it is us making that nolse and pressing different numbers on the effect unit. 'Distance': "This is another
song I did wlth Colm. Mark my bass player can't physically listen to It. He said it does his head in, and someone else told me the same thing last night.
'Whatever Way You Are': "This started off with loops and then we got Richie Buckley in to play sax and the whole feeling, I hope, is like 1955 in
some jazz club, with Miles Davis. I even sampled the sound saxophone players make just as they are about to blow, and I put that on the