Interview: Rival Consoles

For the past two years, Rival Consoles has put out two hefty EPs on Erased Tapes each time autumn has rolled around. This year, he’s returning to the label with his third album, Howl. Like his previous work (some of which we’ve covered on these pages), it’s melliflous, heartfelt and muscular. Ahead of its release, we had a quick email chat with the man, and we share a first listen to album track “Ghosting”.

Erased Tapes is largely famous for its neo-classical style, for want of a better description, and yet you were the label’s first signing. Where do you see your current music direction in the label’s overall framework? “Well, I think there are some crossovers with my work and the neo classical side, firstly it’s instrumental, secondly it’s more leftfield than club music, featuring lots of subtle ambience etc. I guess we’re all interested in capturing an emotion, or atmosphere, no matter what sounds are used. But I don’t go out of my way to fit in at all. I just make music that interests me.”

What was it that led you from guitar-based music towards more “electronic” sounds, if you can pinpoint that? “I struggled to write music that satisfied me on the guitar. I don’t know exactly why, but I think people write better music on certain instruments. For me, I write better with piano and synths, despite me not being great on the keys, I’m constantly finding ideas that inspire me.”

Three years in a row your releases have come out in October. Is there something significant to that, or is it coincidence? “Hmmm not sure, I would assume it’s coincidence. Either that or I’m trapped in a music-releasing cyclone forever.”

The artwork for Howl looks like an abstract fingerprint. You’ve said this is your most personal record to date – is that art a direct link to the music? “We spent a lot of time on the artwork, because we wanted to express the primal emotions on the record, so it had to be bold, simplistic, but also have some subtle details. It was originally a large painting by Supermundane.”

There’s also a vague connection to the Ginsberg poem/collection of the same name, even if it’s just the colour scheme. Am I imagining things? “As far as I’m aware there is no connection, but it’s good to imagine things, even if they aren’t there ;)”

Is “Ghosting” about leaving a party or a relationship? “”Ghosting” isn’t about anything specific. I was interested in capturing beautiful moments as well as darker tones. It’s hard to mix beauty with sorrow in electronic music, but I think this manages to do it well. To me the ending has a kind of bitter sweet quality to it and it often makes me feel a kind of regret when I play those super slow four chords live.”

You’ve played in some far-flung places recently — any unusual anecdotes to tell us? “Something I didn’t expect to see happened in Decibel festival, Seattle. I had set up my equipment, in the venue. I then went to go outside cause I left something in the van. When I step outside I see my manager and owner of Erased Tapes records, running over the merchandise, which goes all across the pavement and he just drives off and parks down the street. I walk over to him and say ‘What the hell are you doing? You just ran over the merch!’ He didn’t know I guess that was borderline Spinal Tap.”

What have you been listening to on your travels to these gigs, can I ask? “I still listen to a lot of old radio stuff like the old Gervais XFM shows, Old Fitzthislewits game reviews on YouTube etc. Sometimes I need a lot of distance from music, cause I think about music too much already, so speech is good for me.”

Nintendo or PlayStation? “Nintendo for GoldenEye, Zelda and all the Marios. But never forget Command & Conquer and Metal Gear Solid for PlayStation! ;)”

Rival Consoles – Howl is out on Erased Tapes on October 16

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...

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