Bit Thorn caught up with the Jimmy Cake about their new album ‘Master’ to find what the hell took so long this time round, and received a rather large slice of reflection on the state of the realities facing musicians today in the process. Second helpings? Yes please…
So, the Jimmy Cake, you’ve just released your new album ‘Master’ which has been about 5 years in the making. Firstly, I guess, tell us a little bit about it and secondly, why did it take so long?
We began recording ‘Master’ nearly 6 years ago. Although the initial material had come together relatively quickly, the recording process was drawn out over the space of 3 years or so, real life realities meant the band had to take a back seat for some periods of time. When all the stuff was finally recorded we found ourselves in a situation where we had no money left or anyone to mix it all. We decided to try using FundIt as a means to finish the album and made a video with Sean Zissou to show some of the music from the album. We ended up shooting it in Guerrilla Sound Studios in North Strand with John ‘Spud’ Murphy. After hearing his work on the video and the ‘Hands Up Who Wants To Die’ album we knew we wanted him to produce our record so that all came together quite fortuitously. After the success of the FundIt campaign we started working with Spud on mixing the album. It was great to work with someone like Spud as he really got involved to the point where it became as important for him as it did for us which meant pushing ourselves to deliver something better.
There are only 3 songs on the double LP…. wha?
After the release of our previous album there was some lineup changes and a desire within the band to go in a heavier direction, when we started jamming we organically started playing longer pieces. There’s something exciting in building and sustaining a piece of music over a long period of time, it was something that we were all drawn to as a group. There wasn’t a conscious or deliberate decision to set out writing 3 long songs for the album initially.
Right so, you decided to raise the cash to make this through a FundIt campaign. What are the advantages of this and would you do it again?
The FundIt campaign was fantastic for us, it meant we could finish the album and release it on vinyl which probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. As we started playing less and had released nothing since 2008 the money had kinda run out and we were left with a hard drive full of tracks but no money to finish it. Reaching the target on our FundIt campaign was a real relief as it meant we could focus on the mix and get it sounding right, rather than worrying if we had enough money to release the album. I think crowdsourcing is a really exciting way of funding projects like this as it allows a closer engagement with your audience during the production stage. The expectation that comes with people pre-ordering your album in advance forces you to try and do better work. At the same time it’d be nice to not have to rely on crowdfunding for whatever we release next. Hopefully whatever momentum we have now after the release of Master can carry through onto the next project.
As a band you’ve been around a long time. How do you keep a band with such a big line up going for so long whilst a million others have come and gone since your formation?
I think the group has lasted as long as it has because the democratic nature in which it works means that you end up making music that surprises you constantly, everything gets filtered through the minds of the other members and it’s hard to predict where things will go next musically. That’s what is most exciting about it.
You are about to embark on a tour with The Waterboys…This seems like an unusual combination. How did it come about, and what would you say is the glue that binds your musical union?
Mike Scott had seen us play the album material. We sent him a copy of the record, and he asked us if we wanted to play with them on their Irish tour. It was a no brainer as it was a chance to play some places in Ireland that we haven’t been to in a while, having the tour more or less coincide with the release of our album was a great opportunity.
So much has changed within the music industry since since you started out. What do you make of these changes in the modern musical landscape, is it a case of boon for bands and bust for big industry or what?
As an independent musician or band there’s a lot more tools at your disposal now. The internet is the main one, it is far easier for bands to engage with listeners anywhere in the world, to sell your music directly to them. It is still too hard to discern what the modern musical landscape really looks like at the moment, it’s moving too fast to get a proper handle on it. With services like Spotify or Apple music, more and more people are listening to playlists rather than albums. LPs and CDs had a finite amount of time available on them which in turn guided the musician in deciding what arcs should happen over the album’s duration. With a digital format these rules don’t apply, slowly we may see the decline of the album as we know it. If people are favouring streaming services because of their relatively low cost and flexibility, this will dictate future trends. I think musicians will adapt to that. My main concern is that the amount of music it opens up to a user for a low subscription cost is so vast that it will have a negative impact on the way people perceive the value of music.
From what I’ve witnessed, there is a great sense of community within the Irish music scene which is evident in the great number of DIY labels, record shops and places to gig. Is this a bit of a golden era for punk ethos music making?
It’s definitely a lot easier to operate as a DIY entity now than perhaps it has ever been. The changes in technology have made it easier for bands to be involved in a lot more aspects of the process: from recording, production and artwork, to selling, and distributing music and merchandise directly. I think what’s harder now for bands or artists is to get airplay on radio or TV, which is a shame considering the amount of fantastic music coming out of the country.
Having taken a fairly stoic approach to releasing this record should we start to wait for the next installment? What are your plans for the future?
We’re hoping to get back into the studio within the next month or two to record some new stuff that we’ve written over the last year. Our aim is to get it recorded and mixed in a short space of time in an aim to improve our music to time ratio. In the immediate future we’ll be doing this tour to support ‘Master’ and organising a few gigs abroad over the next year.
Give the new album a good auld listen over on Soundcloud.