Coming from an alt-rock background but producing electronic, looped beats, Death Milkshake is ploughing what he sees as something of a lonely furrough as he develops his sound in the quiet, rural music scene of North Roscommon. The result is a playful, original sound that, as you’ll see from the below, has been carefully and thoughtfully curated. He also dons a suit in a hot tub to promote his music, and helps run a new festival in the town. What’s not to like?
First of all, it’s an obvious and throwaway question, but I have to ask… tell me about the name!
The name actually came a long time before there was any music written for this project. I lived in Australia for almost ten years, and always planned to start a band when I returned to Ireland. I was never sure exactly how that would come together, but I knew I wanted something with contrasts, mixing of genres, light and darkness, a mix of playful nonsense and more serious lyrical content. Death Milkshake just seemed quite apt as a name for that band. Of course it turns out there’s not many people who want to start a disco-punk band in north Roscommon, so there is no band, just me.
Tell me a bit about your single and the inspiration behind it…
The ‘Shiny Thing’ idea is about having someone in your life who reflects back the best parts of you so that you can see your potential. I have a beautiful wife and we have an amazing five year old little girl, and this whole music project wouldn’t happen without their support. I think it’s pretty apt that my first single is a kind of a thank you to them for putting up with me and always being there when the rollercoaster of creating this project is on the downslope. They are absolutely amazing!
I understand you’ve been in a few acts before. How does this one compare?
This is very different to anything I’ve done before, I’ve mostly been in grunge/heavy rock bands, and to be honest, that’s kind of where this project started. The electronic thing really started happening when I decided to stop looking for band members and go it alone. That was well over a year ago now. I’m loving creating this type of music, and loving having the freedom to make all the creative decisions myself too. On the flip side the workload and financial load is on one set of shoulders instead of 3 or 4 which is hard, and the way I write songs takes a long time. I’m enjoying it though and it definitely feels like I’m in the right place.
How does looping play into the style of music you create?
Everything is live looped when I play live, so I really have to think about that in the writing process. Can I sing and play this bassline at the same time? Do I have time to get from this synth preset to this other one? If I don’t think about these things I end up with a finished song that I can’t play live. It can be a bit of a headmelt when it comes to song structure, but I do enjoy the challenge of working within those constraints when writing. The biggest challenge I find with live looping is not to bore an audience while building your loops (it can take a long time to get into the meat of a song). The goal for me is for people to hear the finished song online or on the radio and have no idea that it’s live looped.
When it comes to longer format releases, do you see your approach changing in terms of style and feel?
‘Shiny Thing’ is pretty much a beat-driven, danceable tune and a fairly good representation of most of what’s to come on the debut EP, though there are a couple of tunes that come from more of an alt-rock place.
How would you describe that style, and how does it fit in with your own taste in music?
I see the music as having an electronic feel with alternative rock sounds. I’ve been calling it disco-punk but that’s not a real genre, it’s just some bullshit I came up with. My tastes are more towards the Alt-rock side than the electronic side, but the equipment and instruments I am using really do lead me into electronic territory. I find it so interesting that that part of the influence for the project is coming from me and half is from the equipment (the synth sounds and the fact that I have to loop the drums). I should really be giving my gear songwriting credits.
The press photo of you fully suited in a hot tub… how’s the suit, and how did that come about?
The suit is grand but we have trust issues now. I can’t stand boring band photos (I’ve been in plenty of them). I see them as a missed opportunity to have a bit of craic or do something interesting. Like the name, I had the hot tub idea for a while. It’s a bit ridiculous, and I like ridiculous.
I gather you were involved in organising a festival this summer. How did that happen and how did it go?
Yes, a nine day arts festival (BallaghDream Arts Festival) in my local town of Ballaghaderreen. It was just a group of creatives, artists and supporters of the arts coming together to do something positive for the town. We had a really good variety of events, Irish trad band Lúnasa, pianist John O Connor, Joe Thomas from the Inbetweeners came over for a comedy show, I played a gig with Elaine Mai and Daithí. It was a very rewarding experience and great fun to do but an insane amount of work and myself and the team were totally exhausted after it. Unfortunately it was a massive success so everyone in the town wants another one.
Who would you like to find yourself on a stage, or collabing with, in the future?
Well I’ve always said my ideal job would be bass player for Rage Against The Machine, but I think maybe that ship has sailed. Something achievable though… there’s an incredible Irish funk/jazz/metal band called durtburd. They’re exactly the type of band that had in mind for the Death Milkshake name all those years ago. I’d love to do a song with them some time, and jump on stage with my little mininova synth on my lap, pure Dave O’Doherty style, while they’re smashing out face-melting riffs. I know the lads in the band so it’s one that might actually happen some day…
You’ve mentioned it can be hard to find band members in Roscommon. What would be your ideal set up, and what is the music scene like there?
Theres not really a scene here for what I’m doing at all. The older generation are into trad, and the younger generation are into country. There may be some bands that I’m unaware of though, I’m still a blow in in these parts. My Ideal setup for this project would probably be a three-piece with a drummer and someone on synth, but having done a good few live looping solo shows at this stage, that’s not something I’m chasing. I’m quite happy to let that fall into place in time, or not.
What are your hopes for the project in the future?
A full length album in the next couple of years, more summer music festival slots, maybe some supports with more established touring acts, but most of all I really just hope it keeps being fun. I don’t really set goals but at the same time I’m extremely driven when it comes to a project like this, and that’s where the enjoyment is for me, seeing how far I can take it.
We can look forward to the Debut Death Milkshake single, which will be out on all digital platforms on Friday 17th November. In the mean time, here is a look at one of his in-studio live looping videos – Drink the Death Milkshake