The final days of O Emperor were some of the oddest, perhaps, in Irish indie memory. Having announced their departure, the Waterford band won the national music prize, Choice, having already departed the scene. It was, in fairness, an excellent departing record.
At the time, Paul Savage was already working on his new project, ‘Whozyerman?‘, who are all set to emerge fully formed, and very different in style to Savage’s last oufit. The solo project – which will launch a self-titled EP in May – is low-fi , drum-based and enchanting. I caught up with Paul ahead of its launch…
The end of O Emperor must have been quite a moment for you. How did it feel to finish that journey and move on after all those years?
It was strangely satisfying to be finishing up as we knew that we were putting out a really strong final album.
It also gave it a bit more weight and significance as a record, which I was happy about. I think we managed to capture a very special moment in the band’s life which was amazing to have as the final parting piece.
It would have been nice to have played more shows around the release as we were really only getting into it by the time the last one rolled around, but again it felt right to end with a finite amount of gigs to keep it contained as a special moment for us.
What did you take from the experience, in terms of understanding music and the industry?
People should really not take ‘the industry’ too seriously was the main takeaway from that side of things.
In terms of music it was mostly learning about the creation of music as a vehicle for creating experiences, mostly with your friends, but also as a great way to go out and explore the world.
The Choice Music Prize win for ‘Jason’ came at a weird time, in some ways. Did it have much impact on you?
It was a very funny time to win it alright and without downplaying it or sounding ungrateful it didn’t really have much of an impact outside of the lovely well wishes we received, which in itself was just a nice way to close this chapter.
Is it daunting heading back in as a solo artist? Were you always going to return in some form?
No, it wasn’t daunting, I had been working on some stuff during the time we were recording Jason so it was a very natural progression which I was ready to move more into once we finished up. Again it made it easier to enjoy the finishing of one chapter, knowing there was another interesting thing developing.
I understand the new EP is built from drums up. Does that affect the feel of the music do you think?
It does give it a little bit more of a rigid feel, starting with a drum machine. It can be hard to get that dynamic or spontaneity with a drum machine like you would with a drummer, but ultimately I liked the kind of robot jauntiness you get from building something up layer by layer and not worrying too much about dynamic or progression, it was nice to focus more on the layering of sounds and slotting individual parts into the pocket of the main drum machine groove to come up with these rotating patterns of sound. It made for a nice new way of listening and writing music.
Can you tell me a little bit about the story behind your first track, Ooze?
Ooze is about a feeling of malaise that comes from dealing with the banal repetition of the day job. This feeling slowly seeps into you and can consume your outlook or energy and cause other anxieties. Songwriting and recording is ultimately my counterbalance to this so it was nice to take feelings like that and turn it into something more positive. The lyrics, however, came after the main instrumental track was done but the hazy mushiness of the synths reminded me of that brain melt feeling of dealing with some days, so it suited nicely I thought for such a lyrical theme.
The EP is ready to go, too. What’s fed into that, and did it feel very different to your previous work?
It does feel different from O Emperor stuff as I’m working entirely by myself but it’s an interesting new way of working which I’m enjoying and finding out its advantages and disadvantages as I go along.
I’m enjoying getting into drum machines and synths etc and the new vibes they can bring to creating something but I’m also enjoying trying to develop lyrics a bit more, so hopefully I can merge the atmospheric and rhythmic side of things with songs delving more into themes.
It’s going to be a little strange, I’d imagine, releasing the EP into the current environment. How do you feel about it?
I have a lot of stuff built up now at this stage so I’m excited to start putting it out and hopefully on a regular basis. It is a very confusing and uncertain time for sure but ultimately I think it’s important more so than ever to put out creative work, for your own personal satisfaction but also to connect in whatever way you can to others. And hopefully very soon we can all get to enjoy some gigs again.
What are your plans for the future?
Hopefully more releases and some gigs (with many delicious creamy pints of stout)