HAL... Organic intelligence
Published on May 9th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
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Rocksucker was quite overcome by the beauty and ambition of HAL’s long-awaited second album The Time The Hour (click here to read our review), so we fired over some questions to the Dubliners’ front man Dave Allen to find out a bit more about it. First, though, check out the record’s sublime lead single “Be With You”…
Congratulations on a stunning second album. How far back to the songs’ origins date, and how much of the last seven years was spent writing and/or recording them? What were you each up to otherwise during the hiatus?
Thanks very much. The songwriting took place over a two-year period that I spent on and off away from the guys although contact was a regular thing. We never lost touch with one other, especially as Paul is my brother. Although looking for a change in direction from the last album, in the songwriting I was constantly thinking of what it was going to be like when finished. The end sound of the record was a major part of the songwriting down to almost every arrangement. I think everyone knows that to actually get it down physically onto record is the next most difficult process.
The time spent in between was filled with many different journeys and adventures, physical and spiritually and mentally. Too many to mention here but Stephen was the guy on the controls and his time in between was spent constructing the studio where the album would be eventually recorded; he also worked on Fionn Regan’s second album and recorded various other projects. Paul was working on musical venture of his own.
It was in 2009 that the three of us began laying down the first notes of what would become The Time The Hour. The three of us knew it would be tough but we had a great vision of what we wanted based on the songs and the way we knew we wanted to present them from the beginning.
Did you stockpile much more material during this time? If so, what will happen to it?
There are many songs written that are for another project. I think a shift in direction is happening for us and what will happen with the next songs is anyone’s guess. We look forward to it. I think it might be a luxury to have so much independence sometimes to try anything and see what it makes you feel. I don’t know but it’s fun to alter things too.
Have you been surprised by how much affection people still have for HAL? How intense was fan pressure for a second album? How long might we have to wait for a third?
We are completely honoured that people have had such feelings and an amazingly warm response towards the record. We always make and will continue to make music from our hearts and from our hearts we are overjoyed that people are loving it. The third one??? There will be I hope but let us share and enjoy this one for a while. We are working on it.
How do you go about arranging your harmonies? Who are your main inspirations in this area?
The harmonies seem to come from inside my head. I don’t really know where they come from. I hear them in nature in the cities and all around. I love anything that sings but I do love American vocal harmony groups from The Byrds to The Beach Boys to The Ink Spots. I also love the Alan Lomax Field Recordings from the Smithsonian Folk Institute. They are inspirational. They for me personally are probably the best recordings ever made. Sometime I listen to those recordings and I get the feeling they really are singing for their lives.
How did you come to release The Time The Hour through Tritone Records?
We came by them through PIAS I think?? Many roads led us to them.
Will you be playing at any festivals this summer? Or going on tour again? I’m annoyed at missing your Bull and Gate show and hope you return to London sooner rather than later!
Answer: We are planning something more comprehensive for the Autumn. Possibly Europe too.
There are some cracking Irish bands around at the moment. Are you fans of Pugwash? Are there any acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to, local or otherwise?
From what I heard Pugwash are a great band and Thomas Walsh is a really cool songwriter. At the moment we played a show in Dublin with the Dirty9s, and we love Gavin aka Twin Terrace. They are really cool bands. I am listening too a lot of Deutsche Elektronik at the moment so am kind of lost in that world. It’s far out.
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Shostakovich, the entire box set of Stax recordings, Joni Mitchell, The Beach Boys, The Kinks. Only five?? That’s hard.
Dave Allen, thank you.
The Time The Hour is out now on Tri-Tone Records. Click here to buy it from iTunes and here to buy it from Amazon. For more information, including a list of live dates, please visit halmusic.com or the HAL Facebook page.