Prolificacy to the point of near omnipresence has always been the Bobby Aherne hallmark. A leading light in domestic DIY music for nigh on a decade, one is never waiting too long for new material from Blanchardstown’s pre-eminent wonky popster. This past year has seen Aherne somehow pick up the work rate once again. The Encyclopedia project involved Bobby releasing two new recordings on the first day of every month in 2017. Conceived on a whim, few could have expected this Encyclopedia would end up essential reading. Unfettered by conventions of traditional release cycles, the project allowed Aherne to expand his music in scope and test the boundaries of No Monster Club as an enterprise. Sounds ambitious? Well, you should hear what he has planned for the Eurovision…
So, December marks the end of your Encyclopedia project. What was your thinking going in?
I just thought it would be fun. When I first started recording music as Dublin Duck Dispensary, I would have put stuff online as soon as I recorded it. I wanted to do that again, instead of working on an album for a year and then waiting a few months to get the CDs made and all that kind of shite. I thought it would be a good exercise if I just recorded two songs every month without over thinking them. There were also a few old Dublin Duck Dispensary songs that I wanted to revisit. Songs that I thought were good but I had recorded really badly. We did some covers along the way too. You wouldn’t really be able to put covers like that on a normal album and traditional singles are kind of a thing of the past. Albums are as well I guess…
It was like I had homework each month, which was sort of fun. Every month, I’d had this really cathartic experience — I’d put two songs out on the first and think “Thank God that’s done. Then, 10 or 15 days would go by and I’d be like “Oh God, I have to do the next one”. As soon as I’d get worried about it — the songs would just come out. I was surprising myself, that was the best outcome of the whole thing. I genuinely thought that by June or July I’d be releasing crap.
Fingal County Council actually gave me a hand with the whole thing. I’ve applied for dozens of things from Dublin City Council and never gotten anything. This year I realised Fingal also had a music grant and thought there might be less people applying for it. Sure enough, I was right. They don’t have a shitload of cash or anything, but they were great and really helped me out. Thank you, Fingal.
The plan now is to take the best 13 or 14 originals from the Encyclopedia and mix them so that they all sound uniform and put them out as a stand alone LP.
How different was the process of sitting down to write something, knowing that it was coming out in three weeks time as opposed to months down the line?
I don’t think it was too different. Normally I’d be working on 12 things at a time. I’d get the 12 songs pretty much done and then start on the lyrics. I was doing the same thing this time, just with two things at a time instead of 12. With lyrics, I’m very aware that people are going to be listening to them. For me, if I hear a bad lyric it can ruin a song. If No Monster Club was an instrumental project, I could probably get 10 songs done a month.Some of the longest songs I’ve ever written are part of the Encyclopedia. A Long Day at the Beach is ten minutes long! The whole idea was about freeing myself from the done thing. For me, the done thing is three minute pop songs, I think that’s why I felt like I could get carried away a bit more.
Speaking of getting carried away. I hear you are pursuing your dream of getting on the Eurovision?
For years I’ve been joking about…y’know…winning the Eurovision..This is the first year in a while that RTE put out an open call. It used to always be like that, until people voted for Dustin and that was seen such an “embarrassment”, even though it was our best Eurovision song of all time. They have terms and conditions in place stating that they reserve the right to commission something different. They don’t have to pick one of songs submitted. But yes, I have entered a song, It’s called World Peace. The chorus is “We can never let love die.” I’ve made a purposeful attempt to never include the world love in any of my songs up to this point. So, it’s certainly a conscious attempt at writing a “Eurovision song”.
Now, the production mightn’t be what they’re after…I recorded it in my bedroom. If they said to me “Ok, we’re going to take your song but we’re going to get Brian Kennedy or Ronan Keating to to sing it” — I’d be totally happy with that. Assuming they don’t choose it; World Peace will be coming out around the Eurovision anyway. I’m treating it as the actual Eurovision song either way. I’m ready to contest the election if I need to, the “real” Eurovision song is Fake News.
So, they’ve come up already. Tell me a little bit about your relationship to Jedward. You’re probably the most sincere and dedicated fan that I’ve ever encountered..
Totally! The whole thing started with a silly parody twitter account me and Brendan from Cloud Castle Lake used to run where we’d tweet in the style of Jedward. Once I started trying to think about things the way they did — I realised that I really love the way their minds work.
At some point after that, I was walking through town with a few copies of my record Dublin on me. Next thing, I spot Jedward running passed me. They were dressed as superheroes and being chased by all these teenage girls. I think they were launching “Get your Green Cape On” which was the Irish Euro 2012 song. It was just Lipstick with different lyrics, I don’t think it went down particularly well with the fans.
Anyway, I caught up with John and really wanted to get something signed. The only thing I had with me was my own album so I handed him that. He was like “Cool!” and legged it off. I was thinking “Where the fuck is he gone with the record?” when he fought his way through the mob of teenage girls and said “Here you go! I got Edward to sign it as well” and handed the LP back to me. When I did my next Jedward cover, Give It Up, I got a direct message from them on twitter saying “That cover of Give It Up was really different! You are the record guy!” I still have the signed LP up on my wall, I put it up with a print-out of the message for whenever I’m lacking in inspiration. If Jedward approve, I must be doing something right.
They’re managed by their mum now, Louis Walsh got rid of them a few years ago and was really mean about it. Fuck Louis Walsh. For the last Eurovision he sent some reject from that panto boyband Hometown, we didn’t even make the finals.
So, we’re coming up to Christmas. Tell me about your little stocking filler. You wrote a book, D’You Remember Yer Man?
Yeah. It’s about 100 Dublin eccentrics from the last 400 years. People who stood out from the crowd but were mostly embraced by their peers. All they all have in common is that they did their own thing and were comfortable with their quirks — they were all renegades and I love that. Johnny Forty Coats didn’t like the indoors, he’d get claustrophobic, so he slept under the stars of his own volition, y’know? I thought it would be interesting to read a book about some of these people. When I found out there was none on the market, I thought it was like my calling in life to put this thing together. So, I researched it for three years. I was mostly talking to people, going through Pearse Street archives and the National Archives.
There’s a folklore element to the book too. A lot of these stories are passed down person to person, it wasn’t considered history worth recording at the time. But in the stories of these individual people you learn so much about the period in Dublin that each of them was living through. Right now, Mattress Mick is a textbook example of the sort of person you’d find in D’You Remember Yer Man?. Everyone knows him, everyone loves him and his story kind of captures the mood of post celtic-tiger Dublin. The people in the book gave me a sort of affirmation or inspiration in what I’m doing with music. They might all have been a little off-kilter but they were happy.
Words: Danny Wilson