Tapes and Japes
Jape, aka dubliner Richie egan, tells Chris Wasser that his latest set of songs is all about emotion
Funny thing about Richie Egan and me: not only did we both receive our first bass guitars at the age of 14 (guess who made the most of that), but we also shared the same watering hole, too. And yet, today marks the first time we've met.
The 34-year-old bushy-haired musician known as Jape has got a new album to discuss. And what a fine piece of work Ocean of Frequency is. It has been eagerly awaited, thanks to the success of his previous album Ritual, winner of the 2008 Choice Music Prize Irish Album of the Year.
According to Egan, the slightly spacey, electronically fuelled album is not as "immediate" a record as its award- winning predecessor. But it is, he insists, a grower. And, after a handful of listens, I couldn't agree more.
"It was a bit of a pain in the ass to finish", he says, "but I'm glad I held out and took a bit longer, because you've got to live with it for the rest of your life, so it's important to do it right."
Indeed, what started out as a side project (Egan is also bassist and resident headbanger with critically acclaimed instrumental noisemakers The Redneck Manifesto) is now the Dublin musician's melodically wrapped day job.
Four albums in and it seems things are only getting better for Egan, who, prior to the release of Ritual, was perhaps best known as the man behind the superb Floating (Jack White's The Raconteurs covered it). But collecting a cheque for €10,000 for a three-song set at Vicar Street in March 2009 must have signalled a sweet turnaround, I bet.
"That was a great time for me," he says of the Choice Music Prize win, "because my mam and dad were there, and they were buzzing, so that was cool. [The award] is still sitting up on my mam's mantelpiece!
"It doesn't really mean anything in the whole scheme of things, but it's still a cool thing to have been involved in."
"I like the way the Choice always gets people talking about the albums that have been released that year -- even the albums that don't get nominated," he continues. "Somebody has to win it, and I was fortunate it was me."
Did it genuinely take him by surprise? "Ah yeah, big time," he replies. "That was a good year for albums. But, you know, that was three years ago, and for me now, it's a distant memory. That money is well spent," he smiles.
The new title came to Richie while watching an interview with the late Michael Talbot, the American author behind The Holographic Universe, and people can say what they want about it.
"If you spend enough time getting the album right and you're happy with it, then, whatever the critics say, you can stand behind it and think to yourself 'they're wrong'."
Richie is off to Sweden next January, he and his Swedish wife having decided to give her home country a try for a change.
"It should be interesting for me, being a true Dub, born and bred," he laughs. It's the first time he's talked about the move. Feeling a little nervous, perhaps?
"I'm happy enough to go," he says. "I'll go with an open mind and an open heart and see what happens, and hopefully I'll dig it."
So far, things have worked out pretty well for Richie and, as his wife often reminds him, he's lucky to have discovered where his talents lie early.
"Music was always my thing, man. I was really good in school until I did my Junior Cert and got a bass guitar off my folks -- and that was the end of that! Some people don't really know what the hell they want to do, but I always knew somehow I wanted to be involved in music.
"It's about creating music that has emotion in it, whether it's black metal or folk music," he says. "If you have good intentions and good emotions, it comes through no matter what genre of music you're in."
Ocean of Frequency is released Friday. Live at the Button Factory, Saturday