IT was a brave decision, quite a risk. “It could have been a disaster,” agrees Noel Hogan, guitarist and songwriter with The Cranberries, and producer of Sound Out, a new curated body of work that encapsulates the thriving music scene in Limerick.
An album of original music 100% created by, performed, recorded, mixed and mastered by Limerick artists, engineers and producers, some 40 of which were chosen from a broad spectrum of the musical tapestry in the region, has been created that will raise funds for the Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol and The Learning Hub.
The 18 tracks, created by mixing some of the cream of Limerick’s music talent together through workshops and in studio, will be performed at an event in the Crescent Hall, The Pigtown Fling.
Hogan’s reputation as a producer was on the line, while sonic artist John Greenwood, who put the City of Culture backed legacy project together, had as much at stake.
Greenwood had approached Hogan about assembling a “world-class product, music wise, using Limerick people and the resources we have.
“It is capturing a sound - we have to be careful, this is snapshot of what is going on in a sense, but we tried to make that snapshot as big as we could, and get as much colour as we could into it.
“I said, if we took a figure of 40 to 50 artists from all genres, genders, instrumentation and everything else and took a top down approach - who could I get to produce this? Noel was first in my mind. So if Noel Hogan was to produce, his team engineer it and mix it, and you have Richard Dowling here in Limerick to master it, then you have got a skeleton structure straight away, and it took legs from there.”
The real risk was putting all of these people in rooms together and seek some return of original music, encouraging that magic to happen in studio.
Doubtless the talent was there, Hogan notes, but he knows as well as any that the songwriting process can’t be forced, it must be nurtured.
“I knew a lot of the bands and I knew we had a lot of strong people involved, and my expectations were high that we would get good quality back,” he says.
“I was surprised by how well things worked together with people who didn’t know each other, because it could have been a complete disaster, you could have put 18 different groups together and it could have been 18 mismatches. But we were lucky.”
To get a sense of this project, you need to consider some of the names involved - Eamon Hehir, Boris Hunka, Ray Murphy, Tony Roche, Bart Kiely, Peter Hanagan, Conor Ryan, Ronan Mitchell, Brendan Markham, Steve Ryan, Dan Murphy and Dermot Sheedy, Siobhan O’Brien, Damien Drea, Jo Slade, Kathleen Turner, Ben Wanders, God Knows Jonas and many more, too many to mention here.
It is a truly eclectic, a melting pot of a project, that has produced exciting results.
Dr Eoin Devereux, sociology lecturer in UL, believes that the project “captures the eclectic musical sounds of Limerick in 2014.
“What does a city sound like? In the past some of Limerick’s soundscape included the clatter of workers’ clogs or the click of hobnail boots heading to the factories or the docks.
“The city’s sonic palette certainly included musical sounds ranging from brass and reed bands; amateur operatics; plain chant and pantomime. Nowadays, the city’s soundscape includes the sounds of garage bands, frenetic DJs, rap artists and lone composers.
“Technology, and more crucially our imaginations enable us to take bold and creative steps. The Pigtown Fling is the start of how we can re-imagine Limerick,” he adds.
The project is a truly collaborative one, primarily working in association with Music Generation, and is based on a theme of diversity and fusion.
Recorded in UL and LIT, it utilises existing facilities, talents and skills that are perhaps not recognised or undervalued in Limerick and further afield.
“We have essentially done two albums in four months in studios that weren’t being used, over the summer,” says John.
“Bar one or two days, we went in and out and no one even knew we were there. It has the potential for something like to happen every year, and that will become the legacy side of it.
“We will have a finished product with 18 tracks that are of a world class standard, mixed, produced and mastered to that standard, and it can go anywhere after that,” he adds.
Hogan says he had a “very clear picture of what this project should do” after speaking to John and hearing his vision.
“And, after being in a band that started here 20 years ago, at that time there was a place, an old studio up on Edward Street and all the bands would hang around there and we all knew each other,” he says.
“But I found from coming and going over the years that that was gone, and a lot of the bands - ok you would know someone was in a band, but you would never speak to them, you would never make kind of contact, it was just a wave on the street.
“The thought was of bringing it back to that whole thing of, not only everybody getting to know each other, but also to work together, because that is never going to happen on a normal day.
“So that idea to me seemed very attractive, and also to write new material in the middle of all of this, it wasn’t a case of putting these people together and doing an album of cover versions, which would be the easy thing to do.
“It was like, let’s do workshops where you take two strangers and put them together, that come from different genres, and see what they come up with.
“As the producer, that is really exciting, because you know, every day you are going to be working on something completely different, and that is exciting. That is exactly what happened, everything just fell into place, we were very, very lucky.”
The Cranberries’ star admits to have been “out of his depth” at times, but believes the finished product will stand on its merits.
“The more rock and pop stuff, I would have known who they were. I would have been out of my depth a bit with the trad and even the rap stuff, but I was surprised when you take strangers and put them together, what comes out,” he says.
“I think the album will speak for itself. It is of a standard that could be released anywhere in the world. There are at least five or six songs on this album that radio would pick up on, straight away, daytime radio. And that shows that there is the quality of musicians and writers in this town, they just need something like this - a platform.”
The presentation of Sound Out will take place at a special showcase, limited to 500 people, in the Crescent Hall in September, a venue steeped in history, that played host to a fledgling U2 many moons ago.
Comperes for the event will be Today FM’s Paul McLoone, of The Undertones, and Pat Shortt. People must buy a CD to get a ticket, but the proceeds will go to the charities.
It will be a finite product, just 1000 CDs will be made, and a finite event; miss it and it will be gone.
“It doesn’t stop there, Brian Cross is doing a full length documentary, which Shane Serrano and Steve Hall are filming, and they have been involved with the process right from the start,” says John.
“So that won’t come out until the end of the year, but between the gig and that coming out, there will be serious discussions with the heads of UL, LIT and City Council. We don’t want it stop there, this is a starting point, Limerick is as big in music as it is in rugby and people really need to recognise that. I think this CD will get that out there.”
The Pigtown Fling will take place on Saturday, September 20. See Lime Tree Theatre for full details.