Cutting the Slacke

Story by Seamus Enright

Friday, 23rd November, 2018 9:26am

Cutting the Slacke

Darragh Slacke and members of The Palpitations playing at the launch of ‘Pook the Destroyer’ at Dublin’s Whelans’ Bar earlier this month

“Hundreds... hundreds and hundreds of drafts maybe,” Darragh Slacke quietly confides of his initial efforts to compile the body of work that now fits neatly in his newly launched 'Pook the Destroyer' album. Each version of a song that failed to meet the Ballyjamesduff-native's exacting standards was subsequently and systematically destroyed in what he terms his “delete folder”.
An upgrade on the traditional bin sat in the corner, it's a habit Slacke commenced as a prepubescent youth, when he would methodically cleanse with fire daily diaries he kept as they were completed.
“I use it as a working concept, to become free of the notion I'm writing for somebody other than me,” says Slacke, who will treat his latest album, under the moniker of 'Dr Slacke and The Palpitations', to a local unveiling at The Imperial Bar in Cavan Town on Friday, November 23, from 10pm– 2am.
He admits the conversation, sitting in the surrounds of The Anglo-Celt's anaemic-coloured canteen with a cup of tea and a bag of Tayto cheese and onion, has “gone a little deep”.
Regardless, Slacke rakes thoughtfully his ragged beard with his fingers, before continuing: “When you're writing, one is constantly influenced by the opinion of other people, even if they're not in the room with them. I'm writing a song, what's my mother going to think? I'm writing a poem what's this other person going to think? I can't possibly write that. So the delete folder has a role to play. By writing something and destroying it, it frees you from the notion of having to impress anybody. It frees you from having to show it to anyone, and being afraid of letting anyone down. Eventually to get to a place where you become confident of putting anything into a song.”

Digging deeper still, he dissects: “I've been burning art since I was a child. I burned everything, and diaries. I remember when I was in fourth or fifth class, my mother used to bring me home diaries, I use to fill them in, and then destroy them. I'd burn them categorically.”
Perhaps worse, Slacke regrets such childhood impulsiveness now. “I wish I had the diaries now, but it's a habit I've always been in. Writing and burning.” This is Slacke's second full album as a solo performer, following the release of 2011's first, 'Songs in the key of Slacke', which documented his African travels. Are there any drafts of songs carved out that he now regrets lighting up or right-click deleting? “Naw, I don't think so,” Slacke states readily.
Instead, he believes “you're letting yourself down as an artist” if you can't live with your decisions. 
“That's why I write, to stand up against that as an artist, free from having to prove to yourself or anyone else. I don't want to say living in the f**king moment because each and every one of us lives our lives trying to capture something genuine, but I mean to be the man that I am free from being boxed in, being labelled.”
Most of the songs on Pook the Destroyer have been in Slacke's repertoire for the past three-years or more. For their studio treatment he employed the backing expertise of Heroes In Hiding's Liam McCabe (sax), former Strypes' guitarist Josh McClorey (bass), and Barry Fitzgerald (drums).
For the upcoming launch however, things are set to “get bigger, much bigger” as they did earlier this month when Whelans hosted a Dublin launch of the album.

The larger ensemble will include The Villagers' brass section, but as Slacke shrewdly puts “they've always been mine” before the multi-award winning Conor O'Brien “borrowed them”.
“I've got a piano player from the band Meltybrains? and Liam McCabe from Heroes In Hiding. So it's going to be a massive night of music. Maybe a nine-piece with myself, it was a nine-piece at one stage so we'll see how many we can get together for the launch. It's big band arrangements of the music that's on the album.”

The grand ambition, according to Slacke, is to record live album off the back of the performances, both from the launches themselves and various upcoming gigs on tour.
“It's all about output,” says Slacke, who does voice concern about the more traditional musical formats. He ruefully recalls playing down in Dingle, at Dick Mack's, where he failed to sell one single CD from his efforts. “Now I got a great reception and there was no shortage of people buying me drinks. But nobody wanted to buy a CD. There are houses now with no CD players, they don't even make cars with them any more.”
It's not as if Slacke, previously of 'Ian I Brow' and balladeer group 'Whiskey You're The Divil', is a relic of a by-gone era, ignorant of need to self-promote through online media. But he does mourn that artists of a certain vintage have quickly fallen into the category of a “dying breed”.
“Well, maybe not dying, but we are in a sense moving through. Media is changing so quickly that you can get left behind so easily. It will all be delivered through a pair of glasses next, so people won't have to look at each other along with not talking to each other as well.”
While Slacke is the happiest he has been with his work for a long time, he's determined not to rest of any laurels which 'Pook the Destroyer's might conjure. 
“I'm happy with the work I've done on this. I can stand over it, and isn't that what anyone who produces anything really strives for? I think every step of the way there are moments of happiness and moments of frustration. It comes and goes, nothing ever appears perfect, but you work for those moments and you keep trying. I'm glad I'm getting on the path more. I think I'm getting closer.”

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