R.S.A.G. – the apt descriptor for Jeremy Hickey’s inventive and textured electronic act Rarely Seen Above Ground – is something of an icon in a certain segment of the Irish music scene. Known for his subtle textures, startlingly impressive drumming and clever production.
His latest, ‘Chroma’, is an unusual concept album, based on ‘Colour’ pieces that chart Hickey’s day-to-day life in musical form. He describes it as being about struggle and emotion, frustrations and regression, but also about concept and creativity.
“I think on this album the songwriting has gone to a different sensitivity, a more thoughtful space. I also decided to mix the album myself which was a very interesting and fulfilling exercise.”
“The process really started when I moved out to the country about 10 years ago and set up my new studio. I decided that whatever I was going to do next it had to be an honest reflection on how my life had changed and was continuing to do so.”
“There was an excitement in the unknown and where this could take me. I was also struck by the wondrous colours and sounds nature had to offer from my studio view. There was an interesting correlation between nature and the recording process. I sat down with my co-writer Jamie Walsh and we talked about the album being a more colourful piece of work and that we could document it through a musical diary. Going back and forth with sketches until the right lyric fitted each musical mood.”
“Each song reflects a different head space for me. For example, on Morning Sun, I had been listening to Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ and DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing’ and something clicked. I ran into the room and started to put down the open keys, clunking on the keyboard trying to convey even just a smidgen of the emotion Beethoven achieved on that beautiful piece. As I was recording I could hear the birds singing, so I stuck the microphone out the window to capture that scene.”
Hickey’s studio, clearly such a key part of his production process, is represented literally on the physical release of the album, released on May 29. Painted by his writing partner Walsh, the covers depict day and night scenes of the spot in Kilkenny in abstract form.
“I do always think about performing the songs live when I’m writing,” Hickey says of what will eventually be a pulsating live show. “In fact it’s a great way of testing new tracks by performing them in front of an audience. During lockdown I’ve been writing some orchestral cinematic pieces and I’m thinking how will this go down live and what way can I play them and still make people dance. Let’s hope I’ll find out sooner rather than later.”
“Everything I work on, whether it’s a collaboration, a live gig, a music lesson or a workshop. These somehow always influence and inspire my own material. For me it’s all about life experience both emotionally and also in the technical side of music making.”
“In this time of uncertainty it’s hard to know what way the album and the future will all go. The only solace we have is that we are all in this together. More generally, of late I’ve been doing good. Dividing my time between teaching and producing which has given me the stability and the confidence to keep on creating music and more importantly, enjoying the process. Also, with teaching I think music can be a healer and helps create a sense of well-being.”
‘Chroma’ is out now on vinyl and digitally.