“A bitter story leaps from the archives quagmires / Lamented in lectures like battery acid naked / Now the arm rests turn to axes slamming on hinges / The front row is reserved for the lunatic fringes / Down at the genocide matinee” Genocide Matinee
The Shadow of an Empire
If The End of History was the sound of the countryside with its woodland lanes, this record is the sound of towns with their dimly lit streets; heartfelt and with a ragged edge. Regan has ploughed himself a new furrow.
It was during a period of great global upheaval, whilst touring his debut album for two years worldwide, and in particular across America, as Fionn puts it “seeing the world, the bone structure, the pulp” that he began work on its follow up. It seems natural that his response was to become more outward looking “as a writer you hold up a mirror, its reflections become the work” and in The Shadow of an Empire this manifests itself in a collection of songs that are peopled with characters and conversational dialogue. The often witty vignettes are used to facilitate more complex soul-searching.
On the subject of influence, Fionn describes it as “hard to quantify, I wrote these songs from the page up, on an Olympia portable, the idea being that the words would stand up on their own. I think the percussive nature of typing informed the phrasing. I was reading a lot of Welsh, French and American poets, I started to explore Brecht, Mahagonny in particular, I have always loved Kerouac , then I admire visual artists like Joseph Beuys, Basquiat and Francis Bacon equally. All these people switch the light bulb on, make me connect back to my work”
Fionn produced the album himself (as was the case with the 2007 Mercury Prize nominated The End of History) but the journey to this end wasn’t as straightforward this time around “There was an initial session for the album with Ethan Johns producing I had been hearing for some time that he was a fan of my music, and I was a fan of his work too, so there was thread there. We met up, we had a great conversation and Lost Highway records in the U.S. proposed that they would finance an album but when they heard what we were cooking up in a barn in Somerset, it was suggested that I relocate to Nashville with another producer to record something that was more suited to the market that they operate in. I understand they’re in the business of selling records, but a collection of songs tailor-made and polished for play on certain American radio formats was not what I had in mind. I believe in order to be faithful to your vision you have to roll the dice, so I walked away from it, which meant leaving the recordings I had made with Ethan behind too.”
So Fionn bought himself a trident desk and a tape machine, set up in a small, disused factory space in Co. Wicklow, Ireland and set about making the album without interference. “There were no airs or graces about it, we cut live in the room, live vocals the piano had come off a cruise ship and we wheeled it down the road the guy who sold it to us threw a couple of cheap Silvertone guitars and a circus drum into the bargain. As far a production goes I’m very much into keeping mistakes, a crack in the voice, the natural ebb and flow of live drums, so that there’s a sort of evidence of the process I think it’s that atmosphere which makes me want to revisit my favourite albums again and again”
“The newborn in the hammock rocks / Below a bolted sky that unlocks / For the departing of the flocks / Far from the shadow of an empire”