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

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When interviewing Oli Heffernan, it’s obligatory to discuss how prolific he is, so we did. In the last few months, there have been releases from Ivan The Tolerable (Heffernan solo), King Champion Sounds (a large and multi-national outfit) and Houseplants (alongside Leighton from Country Teasers) and there’s new Year Of Birds and Detective Instinct material forthcoming.

Heffernan records “pretty much constantly” for what he wryly terms his ‘Miss Factory’. “It’s partly out of habit, partly out of desire and partly out of self-preservation. I have zero interest in ‘making it’, have never wanted to be a full-time musician. People find this odd, but I honestly fail to see the fun in doing it as a job – I love proper work – but making music stops me from going mad. I’ve never had a dry spell that lasted longer than say a couple of weeks, but that was bad enough – it’s like the end of the world to me at the time, but when I look back its ridiculous really… I still aim to get a lot done, I have this weird attitude when it comes to releasing stuff (again, people don’t seem to understand it) but I’m of the opinion that everything is valid – I don’t see any difference between a band that has spent two months and thousands of pounds recording a song and getting it perfect, to someone who’s stuck a microphone in their kitchen and bashed out a song in five minutes – whether you like it, or hate it, they are both, in essence, the exact same thing: a recording of a song and so are therefore as valid as each other – I stick to this rule and therefore I pretty much release everything I record (at least 90%) and if people like it – nice one, and if people hate it, nice one – it doesn’t bother me. I do take exception to people saying things about the recording quality – these people are generally the sort of folks who write one song a year and spend two days in a studio making it sound so polished and ‘correct’ that it doesn’t sound like it was made by people.”

“I ain’t hiding anything, it’s warts and all. Sometimes I come up trumps and it works out nice, sometimes it sounds like a bin falling down a hill – but they are just as valid as each other.”

Heffernan admits that he has ‘an immense distrust of people in bands’ (“most of the ones I encounter are irritating arseholes, showoffs, egomaniacs, people who think drugs make them cool and dangerous, instead of just an irritating shitehawk – its mortifying seeing these people in action”) but thinks he’s less of a nightmare than in the past, and part of that might come from his involvement in the mighty King Champion Sounds, who released their excellent third album To Awake In That Heaven Of Freedom last month. The band are based out of Ajay Saggar’s studio in Wormerveer and the songs are built up in stages, Saggar spending a year pulling it all together. Heffernan is clearly thrilled with how the album has come out (and about being on his first double album). “It’s nuts! It sounds like 10 different bands. I always like that, it surprises people when you have a 10 minute free jazz piece, followed by a three minute pop song, followed by some Krautrock monster, followed by a spoken word thing – keeps people on their toes. But yeah, it’s a year and a half’s worth of work and we are really happy with how it’s come out.”

The KCS album couldn’t be further removed in the manner of its creation than the last Ivan The Tolerable album, which was recorded in the middle of moving house over two nights and veers between moody, brooding piano and lurching garage punk and includes a barbed slight at his former landlord.
Once KCS’ tour wraps up, there are plans for a new Detective Instinct album (“it’s a tricky one – I only really do Detective Instinct stuff when my life unravels, it’s my ‘everything’s gone to shit and ï just want to disappear’ distraction project”) but mostly, Heffernan is going to be focused on Year Of Birds, after Detective Instinct his longest-running venture, who he explains work fairly sporadically. “YOB was very full on for about three years – we released a LOT of records, tapes, CDs, downloads, comp tracks and then we kind of got tired – but we never stopped, we just take our foot off the gas from time to time.” The album, White Death To Power Alan, is out on Oddbox in early 2017 and is the band’s first as a three-piece. It’s been mixed by Anthony Chapman, the former Collapsed Lung member who did such a grand job on the last Future Of The Left album.

“I recorded it all with my shitty £30 microphone and then sent all the files to Anthony, with a list of dos and don’ts, and then he mixed it all and mastered it all on his own – he got it right first time and we are eternally grateful for that – he’s made it sound ace.” As well as letting Chapman mix it, Heffernan also let somebody else design the sleeve (Herr Seele, the Cowboy Henk artist) which is a big step for somebody so DIY. “I LET SOMEONE ELSE MIX IT AND LET SOMEONE ELSE DO THE SLEEVE! I’m going soft in my old age…”


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