It’s an album 20 years in the making, but musician Paul McCann admits he couldn’t have written ‘Here Comes The Rapture’ any sooner.
“Neither musically nor spiritually, or lyrically, whatever way you want to put it, I wouldn’t have been ready,” accepts McCann of the album set to be released later this month.
He has lived a lifetime of experiences in the interim. The now married dad-of-three never dreamt of recording an album when initially entering Martin Quinn’s neatly appointed Jam Studios in Carnaross three-years-ago. He only intended laying down one song, a leftover written for his other band, ‘The Plan’, from a previous studio session with Duncan Maitland, formerly of Picturehouse.
“We ran out of time with Duncan, so I had this song ‘All The Words You Say’ and booked some time in with Martin.”
Before heading for Jam, located on the brink of the N3 near Kells, McCann put the finishing touches to ‘Keep the Devil Within’, and one song soon turned to two. With ‘The Magician’ to apparate in another flurry of musical endeavour, two then became three.
“[The Magician] is one that had been floating around the longest time of any song I’d written. In various states I kept going back to it, but never did anything with it. So I ended up going into Martin with those three songs. It just snowballed from there,” he tells The Anglo-Celt.
The result has seen popular website Joe.ie choose lead track ‘Keep the Devil Within’ as ‘Song of the Day’, while legendary rock reviewer with The Irish Times' Tony Clayton Lea typed glowingly of “quality power-pop cracker” ‘It’s Only a Fantasy’ in a succinct Twitter review. As context, ‘Fantasy’ was written by McCann the morning after performing the song ‘Woodcarver’ with Sandy Kelly, and draws comparisons to Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
The conversation segueways to musical influences. Along with Jellyfish, Fountains of Wayne and others, there’s mention of the last album McCann bought, a remastered CD version of The Beatles ‘Blue Album’ 1967-1970 from Multisound. An argument over the merits of ‘Blue’ over ‘Red’ (1962–1966) ensues, with McCann, who also bought the ‘Blue’ album on cassette from Multisound in his early teens, considers ‘Blue’ vastly superior. “It opens with ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’’ and goes from there. Need I say more?”
Yes, is the answer!
“It’s a three year snapshot into the creativity of probably the greatest band ever, I don’t think many people can argue with that.”
The Beatles influence is clear on Paul’s album. Where ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ ends on a heavy brass note, McCann has unashamedly commandeers a similar abruptness to his own effect, melding melancholic piano to lead the outro of ‘… Devil Within’.
While enjoyable, it hasn’t been an easy process for Bawnboy-native McCann to disentangle himself from the security blanket of playing in other people’s bands to now putting his own personal efforts up for scrutiny.
The local singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has been playing in various bands since around 1996, including Aine Cahill’s band along with The Rags, The Plan, and Johnny Cash tribute act, 'Get Rhythm'. He has credits too preforming with Pugwash, The Strypes, Sandy Kelly, Duncan Maitland and Nelson Bragg (Brian Wilson Band/ Beach Boys), Fabian Gillick, among others.
McCann's seemingly relentless talent is undoubted. He plays most of the instrumentation on the album, including- vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, double bass, slide guitar, piano, mellotron, harmonica, kazoo, and trumpet.
Additional musicans include Andrew Quinn on drums, sxophone by Alan D'Arcy, and backing vocals throughout by McCann's wife Bláthnaid.
“I've done a lot of music with a lot of people over the years, but there's always been these bits and pieces of music hanging over me. The lyrics I find are always the hardest. to put together. I'll generally sit with a guitar or piano and come up with something fairly quickly. But lyrics I have to work a lot harder on. It doesn't come naturally to me” says McCann, drumming his fingers restlessly to hum and bustle of the Chapter 1 Cafe crowd. “I find my own gigs, preforming my own music, ten times scarier than anything I ever have to do playing with or for other people.”
Why do it then?
“It's assumed to be part of the process,” says McCann, appropriating the Andy Warhol quote - 'Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art'.
“Right or wrong, if you have music and want to get it out there, this is want you have to do. If I ask myself what I want, and the why I did this, honest answer is that I want to get my music out there.”
Coffee arrives, offering a brief reprieve, before getting back into the nitty gritty of why artists so willingly and repeatedly put themselves and their work up for such scruitny.
“You have to put yourself in the shop window. I think its how you grow as an artist. If you never try you never make mistakes and you learn anything.
“I've been in the background of every band I've been in, because I was never confident enough singing and playing as well. This was only ever meant to be a little passion project. It wasn't a case I went into Jam three years ago to record 10 songs and put an album out. But these things always have a way of making their way out. The caveat of putting anything out is you're always waiting for the onslaught, but so far so good, its all been very positive so far and I'm really thankful for that.”
Along with securing a distribution deal for 'Here Comes the Rapture' in the US, and plans for a short tour closer at home to back its impending release, McCann has been busy since putting his latest studio offering to bed almost 12-months-ago. Up his sleeve he tells the Celt he now has another album's worth of work penned for the pipeline.
But will it take another 20 years before we hear it?
“I don't think I'll leave it that long again. Getting up and singing my own songs, the songs I wrote and put myself into, it feels very naked. You're putting yourself up to be judged, and especially when you're not use to it, it's hard, it's very hard. Some of the greatest experiences in my life have been playing with other people. But doing this, I know its all on me. It's all me.”
Paul McCann's 'Here Comes the Rapture' hit shelves September 28. Videos for '... Devil Within' and '... Fantasy', both directed and edited by Eamonn Cahill, are available online.