INTERVIEW: OLI HEFFERNAN | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Clare Hargen

Between October 2021 and January 2022 Oli Heffernan will have released five albums; as Ivan The Tolerable, Houseplants and with his work in King Champion Sounds. It’s an eye-watering work ethic by anyone’s standards, but the energy and inspiration is something that seems to flow freely for the Teesside-based artist.

If I’m working on my own, things come together really fast as I don’t dwell on stuff or stop to think – it’s kind of just stream of consciousness music. If I’m working with other people, which I usually do these days – I get a bunch of ideas down, send them to other folks and they add their parts and send them back and then I build them up further – this takes longer as I have to wait around for people, but I usually start another record while I’m waiting – it stops me being impatient – I’m usually working on two to three albums at any one time.”

If this is Oli’s usual work rate, imagine what the enforced downtime due to Covid did to his prolificacy. “I worked on music full time for the first time in my life without any distractions or having to go anywhere. I’ve made 12 albums (and played on a few other people’s albums) between Covid hitting in March 2020 and today, which is pretty good going! There’s basically an LP a month until Spring 2022, and some of it is among my favourite work to date.”

I like to think that everything I do has a thread running through it – I want it to sound like me, but I also like each record to be its own thing

Posing the idea that working on so much material in a very condensed period of time must create some commonality between the projects, Oil agrees that the projects share certain sensibilities.

I like to think that everything I do has a thread running through it – I want it to sound like me, but I also like each record to be its own thing. I think I do that quite well, mainly due to the other brilliant folks that play on my stuff. I’ve whittled down to a core group of about 10 people who I work with a lot on various things – they are all quick, great inventive players and are integral to what I do; they send me in all sorts of directions that perhaps I didn’t know I was going in.”

Albums being released over the next month mostly see Oli take the lead, and he explains his creative process: “The process is always the same for projects where I’m the leader, so for Ivan The Tolerable, Houseplants, Detective Instinct, I’ll spend a few days tracking an album’s worth of drones, basslines, guitar parts, sequencers, synths or whatever and them send them out to someone else and when I get their stuff back I refine further and add more layers and develop a structure and then send it out to some other people and I just keep building it until it becomes its own beast. The moods, tempos and feelings shift depending mainly on my mood – it’s all about the weather in my head at the time that dictates which way the wind will blow.”

With yet more projects on the go with the likes of Neil Turpin from Bilge Pump and Tom House from Sweet Williams/Haress, fans of Oli’s slightly controlled chaos will soon be even more spoiled for choice.

Oli Heffernan’s releases over the coming months include a new King Champion Sounds release on 1st October, several Ivan The Tolerable releases including a tape in October (via Cruel Nature) and two albums in November (via Stolen Body) and January (via LOTO), plus a Houseplants album via Win Big in December

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