Formerly the lead singer of mid-noughties rockers Humanzi (who once featured on the cover of NME Ireland), these days the Berlin-based Irish musician Shaun Mulrooney heads up an experimental collective called TAU.
Pulling influences from a wide range of sources including his Irish homeland, psychedelia, tribal rhythms, as well as drone/prog/krautrock, among others. To describe the music he’s been creating with TAU as eclectic almost doesn’t do it justice.
His 2016 debut ‘TAU TAU TAU’ received praise from BBC 6 Music hosts Cerys Matthews and Tom Ravenscroft, with his collective going on to play at experimentally-minded festivals across Europe including Le Guess Who? in the Netherlands, and the UK’s very own Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia.
After the release of his second album ‘TAU and the Drones of Praise’ at the beginning of February, GIGsoup spoke to Shaun Mulrooney about his latest release and the influences behind his music.
Congratulations on your new album, can you tell us a little bit about the process of making it and what you’ve done differently on this record compared to your debut?
Thank you very much. Yes, it has been one immense and fulfilling expedition. I started a label called Drones of Praise Records to facilitate the release of this album, which has been DIY all the way and a great learning process because the last one went out on Fuzz Club. The first record was like the beginning of the ceremony, the lighting of the fire. This one has light reflecting, shadows moving and everything in between!
Who are some of the artists you’ve collaborated with you on ‘TAU and the Drones of Praise’ and what was it that made you want to work with them?
We got quite a few sonic alchemists on here, all of which I am honored to call friends. Such as Earl Harvin (Tinderticks), Nina Hynes, Idris Ackamoor, Knox Chandler and Miss Kenichi, and David Molina, to name a few. Most of them live in Berlin which makes it handy when we go to record.
Some might say the album was recorded in “flow state”, meaning the recording came together pretty easy (not always that way). Robbie Moore, the producer and engineer, is monumental on both TAU records. He is a quintessential, eccentric English dandy and a brilliant engineer and producer. Like me, he likes to work fast in the studio and can keep me from flying away when I start shape-shifting into a hummingbird, going off in all directions!
There are a lot of different sounds heard across the album, who have been some of your major influences during your lifetime, both musically and otherwise?
I’ve been listening to a lot of call and response music, as well as devotional music, or music that builds over one or two chords on repetition. Tuareg blues and traditional music from the Greek Island of Karpathos are good examples of this. I love the unifying power of music. That drives me more than any one influence.
I broke my elbow three years ago. Thankfully at the time my smart phone was broken too! I only had a small iPod with a few records on it, one of which was Alicia Coltrane’s ‘Journey to Satchidananda’. During this intense time, when my body was in shock, I could listen to nothing but this record. I’m convinced that it sped up my healing. It’s as if my bones responded to its frequency. Music activates part of the brain that is not just connected with the hearing cortex. It’s where the emotions are, so it helps to heal traumas too.
Contemporary artists that I like are Anna von Hauswolf, Y La Bamba , Marie Sioux, Freedom Candlemaker, and Kenichi and the Sun.
If someone wanted to understand your personal philosophy, what books would you recommend to them?
Anam Cara by John O’Donohue (this book is a friend of the soul, I always go back to it)
The Secrets of The Talking Jaguar by Martin Prechtal
True Hallucinations by Terence McKeena
The Hero with 1000 Faces by Jospeh Campbell
The Book of Symbols by Taschen Books
Valis by Phillip K Dick
A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby
Ogam: The Celtic Oracle Of Trees by Paul Rhys Mountfort
Any poem by Sufi mystics Hafiz and Rumi
What’s the story behind your latest single ‘Craw’ and its accompanying video? Is that your mother and father who feature in it?
It is my mother and father, yep… It’s random really. They were not supposed to be featured in the video. The film maker Kyle Ferguson is from Johannesburg, South Africa. When he arrived in Dublin for the shoot he loved our little boxed houses and just started shooting straight away. I don’t live with my parents so I was just doing normal things that anyone would do with elderly parents. Cleaning, cooking, making tea etc.
The crow is about transforming, about trying to understand both worlds and finding belonging and meaning in that. It struck a chord with people so we must have got something right in this mytho-symbolic existence we call modern society.
What was it about Berlin that attracted you and do you see yourself moving on anywhere else in near the future?
Space… Yes, I’ll move to the country somewhere soon and try to grow my own vegetables and dig a well.
Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with in the near future who you haven’t already worked with?