Dr. Mindflip is one of those artists for which the word creativity seems to have been created. Sometimes melancholic, sometimes agitated, but always intriguing, his musical world will get you to colourful and hypnotic places. One step in, and you're in for an oddly addictive ride! We don't really know what to feel when listening to his music - everything about his voice, lyrics, arrangements, atmospheres etc. just leaves you curious and eager for more. One thing we do know, however, is that it feels good! Well, after all, that's what a doctor is supposed to do to you, right?
- Hi! First things first, can you introduce yourself to our readers? When and how did you become Dr Mindflip, the artist, singer, and songwriter?
Hello Jamendo listeners! I’m thrilled to be featured here amidst such a roaring ocean of incredible music. I’m a pianist/singer and all of my music is available for free download here on Jamendo – grab it, burn it, share it, use it, whatever so long as you enjoy it. Please continue to seek out and share creative commons music proudly! If you’d like to support me and help me pursue my work, please visit my Patreon page – it would mean a lot to me. For news on my next releases, Facebook is the best way to get in touch.
Music has given me so much over the years – great friends, solace, inspiration, joy, challenges and opportunities to connect with my inner and outer worlds – and I found that I had been taking the safe option, trying to keep it simple and under control. I wanted to be able to dip my toe into the musical world without getting wet. How disrespectful and cowardly! So I had to summon a way to bridge the gap – a voodoo artist, sideshow swindler and mad scientist to fuse my creative life with the ‘real world’ me. I feel like Dr. Mindflip had been secretly working on me without my knowledge, but he/she/it finally stepped out of the shadows about a year ago to drag the different parts of me together, kicking, screaming, laughing and dreaming. It’s been a deliciously weird year!
- You're a one-of-a-kind artist, with a true identity and your own universe. Can you describe your musical world, and how it came to life?
Thanks very much! I’m genuinely delighted that listeners have managed to find comfy spaces to hang out in the stranger corners of my music.
I’ve always been curious about sound and music – two of my favourite things a child were a Casio SA-20 that I got for my birthday and an old tape recorder. I’d constantly be making little radio shows, characters and stories (there are boxes of them somewhere at home that I need to destroy someday soon!). I also used to love borrowing my dad’s Walkman radio and listening to music late in bed – I’d imagine little cartoons and stories in my mind to match the lyrics, often with the same characters in them. I started to listen to a lot of dance music, of the cheesy 90’s Euro-trance variety, and had a pretty weird experience one night.
Dr. Mindflip's Casio
I was lying in bed, dozing off to the B-side remix of some dance single, when I started to hallucinate – all of these geometric, symmetrical patterns and shapes were shifting about in the darkness, full of colour. That really had a big effect on me – the idea that music alone could take you to such a different place, have such an influence on your consciousness, still fascinates me to this day.
I’ve certainly had a chameleonic instrumental life – maybe that’s why my musical world is so colourful. I played guitar in a rock band as a teenager (Lead Balloon), then piano (Teffia Ki), was a percussionist in a youth orchestra for four years, studied electroacoustic music and music technology in university, composed music for some wild theatre events, started to play shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute with a very meditative tone), and got into improvised experimental music in a big way. I’ve just completed a PhD focusing on the design of electronic musical instruments at NUI Maynooth (so I’m now officially Dr. Dr. Mindflip!) where I lecture part-time in recording and sound synthesis.
I’ve had some powerful experiences with Tibetan singing bowls and chanting, so recently I’ve been doing a little training as a sound healer – maybe getting back to the ‘colours and shapes’ experience in some form. I’m currently planning the launch of a synthesizer app that I’ve been designing with Bitwise Operator. It’s called Oscar and it’s going to be released later this year and you can follow our journey at Surface Tension. And, of course, I’m polishing up the next Dr. Mindflip release – two of them in fact!
So I guess all of these things contribute in some way to the music that comes out of me. I believe strongly that everyone has their own unique creative landscape to express and explore – through sound, music, movement, art, words… It’s a question of having the right circumstances to delve into it and bring something back out. Sometimes the journey is due to desperation, frustration or loss, other times encouragement, inspiration and healing can be the driving force behind a creative excursion. Whatever happens, it’s a challenge to bring it into being – it can tell you uncomfortable truths about who you are, where you’re going, what you really love and hate! That’s where the real work begins – having the courage to communicate something.
- What are your musical tastes and influences? What is your current favorite tune?
I’ve got a delightful case of musical ADHD! I adore anything sincere, quirky, immersive or unashamedly ‘itself’ – music that doesn’t care what you think of it tends to fascinate me. I’ve always loved genre-pushing rock/pop music like Floyd, Radiohead, Supertramp, Pixies, They Might Be Giants. I’ve also got a seriously soft spot for ambient electronic music like Global Communication, Eno, Budd, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Philipp Weigl, Articology. Mostly I adore singers and musicians with a distinctive voice of their own, independent of genre conventions, like Tom Waits, Zappa, Janis Joplin, Billy Corgan, Entertainment for the Braindead, Antony Hegarty, Jonsi, Bobby McFerrin, Nick Cave, Les Claypool…artists who embrace their uniqueness and just about let us come along for the ride.
Free improvisation, experimental electronic music and jazz have had a massive influence on me in recent years – diving in the deep end (the only end) with these styles of expression has ignited a second childhood for me in relation to music, a renewed curiosity with sound, playfulness with my voice and a sense of ‘who cares?’ when it comes to what others might think that grows in ferocity daily! It’s been scary, challenging and tremendously exciting.
My favourite tune right now is definitely Pure Imagination from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’ve been playing it recently with the BAM Group, a jazz quartet featuring Aidan Guilfoyle (from Mindflip), Séan Kenny and my brother James McGlynn. The opening chord just melts me every time. A close second is the wrestler John Cena’s theme tune, for reasons too ridiculous to go into.
- Your first album is called "A Brand New You". The visual, the intriguing texts, the singing style... everything about this album is unusual. Can you tell us more about the story of this project? Who participated in this project?
The songs from A Brand New You fermented over the course of a difficult few months, around Christmas 2012. I’ve always tended to have bursts of writing during the wintertime – I’m not sure if it’s due to the shorter days, resulting tendency to stay up late, the free time that Christmas holidays provide or simply the need to take out some emotional trash at the end of another year.
I had been doing a lot of soul searching about my lack of commitment to music – working upon the mental blocks that I had developed (both through my own fault and with the help of others) about creativity in general. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron really shook me up in that respect – I found some life-changing ideas in that book. My musical life seemed to be populated by half-finished projects that bore more than a little of the stink of academic over-analysis. I had to do something complete and real.
The songs bubbled to the surface of my mind almost by themselves so I set about capturing them pretty furiously in case they vanished – that’s often the way. I played all the instruments myself and let go into an intensity that I had always managed to cloak with humour in my music up until that point. Some of the songs made me see things – in particular, Losing It sent me flying through endless empty redbrick factories while I was working on it late one night. That was like a positive message to me – I was getting back to the music my inner child wanted to hear – and the reason why I was dying to get a nice evocative video together for it.
I wasn’t trying to be unusual with A Brand New You – I guess that might be hard to believe after hearing even the opening two lines of the album but it is true! Barney’s Magic Dog feverishly tore me a path into the bleaker spaces that make up the rest of the songs and I just got lost swimming in the rest.
It was difficult finding an outlet for the music, I must admit, because of the genre-specificity of so many netlabels out there. Mellow and mad are easy to accommodate separately, but I found it tricky to get in touch with anyone comfortable with both styles at once. In the end Michael Gregoire, head of the amazing blocSonic netlabel, had the magic touch – such an incredibly helpful, passionate and talented guy. He has been so generous with his time and support since the very start and having A Brand New You released on blocSonic was the turning point for me.
- Your latest album, "Dr Mindflip Is Itching To Play", is more stripped down. It's only the piano and the voice. So naturally, we tend to focus more on the lyrics, and notice that you have a very particular writing style, spanning different themes and moods. How did you take on writing such peculiar lyrics? Is it something that you put much effort on, or is it more of a stream of consciousness?
I take the term peculiar as a compliment! I’m very happy with the response I’ve been getting to the up-close delivery and style – it’s so encouraging. I don’t make a conscious effort to do weird or unsettling lyrics, it’s just how the songs want to be. I do put a lot of effort into my lyrics but not very much of that effort is spent sitting down, scribbling and crossing out. I’ve been making an effort to write more and be less of a perfectionist with my songs so there definitely is a sense of urgency and stream-of-consciousness in there too. I wrote a complete song every week since January this year, just to see if I could, and that kind of pressure surprisingly worked quite well for me.
Anytime that I approach songs directly or forcefully their growth seems stunted – it’s like they have a life of their own and I have to stalk them, coax them out gently. Dr. Mindflip Is Itching To Play seems to be zooming in much closer to the kind of emotional world that I glimpsed in the first album, so I’m just as interested as everyone else in seeing where the next EP lands us.
- Is there one song, from an artist out there, that you wish was yours? A song that you wish you'd have written, composed, created...
That’s a great question! One of my favourite songs ever is Time by Pink Floyd – it never fails to floor me completely, either with the psychedelic clock sounds, the hypnotic intro, uncompromising lyrics, blazing solo or solemn drop back into Breathe. It’s a stunningly beautiful piece. My other strong contender is the entire Discovery album by Daft Punk, an unlikely combo I know, but for me both Dark Side and Discovery are both so packed with colour and charm from the decades they bookend. If I had a hand in making either of those albums, I’d like to imagine that I’d be happy, content and self-actualised musically! But probably not... I think some of the Floyd guys have expressed their impossible wish to hear Dark Side for the ‘first time’ because they never had the chance. I guess that would be a bit sad really!
- You took part to the EuroMusic Contest 2014 and were the #1 Irish contestant, which made you pre-qualified for the finale, congratulations! What were you expecting from this contest?
The EuroMusic Contest was an exciting ride while it lasted! I didn’t make it to the final 10 but representing Ireland was a great honour and the whole contest really helped light a fire under me and my friends to get our stuff together online. I genuinely wasn’t disappointed at not making the final as the pre-qualifying stage brought out such amazing support from friends, family, fans and the powers behind terrific sites like blocSonic, The Cerebral Rift and Emeraz. It was such an encouraging and motivating experience!
While I think the EMC organisers are lovely folks with a sincere desire to spread good music, there is a darker side to contests like this…a sense of ruthless competitively and negative vibes spread by some participants that seems at odds with the very act of sharing music online! Folks like that need to chill out and take a long, hard look at why they’re even playing music in the first place. There are far less time consuming ways of getting your ego stroked after all.
- Have you already taken this material on the road, performed it live? How would you describe the live experience you've had so far?
I’ve played a few of the songs solo at the odd open mic or the like, but I’m lucky enough to have the musical force of three seriously talented friends at my disposal. Darryl, Mark and Aidan are a powerhouse of weird musical energy and humour that really breathe new life into my songs. We’ve mostly spent our time jamming and experimenting late into the night in the studio, using the songs from A Brand New You and Is Itching To Play as a launchpad for some pretty out-there jams (most of which we’ve recorded and might very well surface soon…)
We’ve done a few small performances locally and enjoyed the experience. We’re tentatively looking at places to bring it next – I guess the musics tendency to rocket from very loud insanity to very quiet insanity makes it a little tricky to judge the best shows to play. We’re looking forward to throwing it at a variety of venues over the coming months and seeing what sticks.
- What are the future musical plans for Dr. Mindflip?
Is Itching To Play is the first of three EPs planned for release this year through blocSonic. I’m working on the second one now and trying something a little different to say the least – it’s a bit of an experiment with the recording process but the songs will build upon the style of IITP, a little more jazzy and dark perhaps. All of the songs for the third and final EP are also written and ready to roll – again, a more experimental approach to the recording is on the cards…
My good friend Bitwise Operator did two terrifically twisted remixes of an unreleased song called Sink – that was a thrilling experience, almost like hearing my own song for the first time from inside another musician’s head. I’d love to do some more collaborative work like that – especially with electronic artists like Bitwise Operator, ekayi, and Puppet Show/Yan. We also did a stripped-down acoustic-ish performance for a local web series that’ll be surfacing soon.
The most curious beast on the horizon is a full-length album comprising the wilder and weirder side of the group jams. We’ll probably devise some perverse way of mixing and matching the songs together, hit the lights, hit record and do something pretty nuts. That will feel like a great milestone – 4 EPs all leading up to the full LP release.
- For the last question, let's get creative: you know how some songs are perfect for specific places, like an uptempo song for a dancefloor, a tropical song for a beach, a romantic song for a wedding etc. If you had to imagine the perfect scenery to match your music, what would it be?
I cheated and asked two of my friends – both drummers incidentally – what they imagined. Both of them mentioned wide open spaces, a desert and snow-capped mountains, populated by weird-looking houses or half-cartoon characters shambling around. I love both of those images!
Darryl described an amazing musical dream to me once – a kind of bawdy vaudevillian party on the edge of collapse with a very sinister soundtrack. Throw some creepy circus performers, a wild, dark forest setting and plenty of outrageous creatures and clothes and I think you’ll find Dr. Mindflip arriving and ready to party...