Cork based artist Jack Ahern, described as “Radiohead meets David Lynch”, completely self-funded and self-produced, he had great success with debut single “Surfacing”, notable for it’s music video which garnered over 25k views and was included in Indiecork Film Festival to a great crowd reaction.
Apt considering Mechner’s debut launch show, it was held in an old converted Art-house cinema.
Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?
My earliest memories of music appreciation are of my mother singing and playing guitar to me, of me and my sister learning the violin, though I hated the violin, and still kind of do.
I do remember singing to myself constantly and making up songs about my toy cars and other such things, there was a lot of watching and listening to “Disney renaissance” and other animated musicals, being introduced to The Beatles in my dad’s car, and watching Marty Mcfly rip a hole in my mind with his rendition of Johnny B. Goode… I appreciated it all, but I was too young to really get anything from it.
For many years I actually found music boring, I just wanted to play with video games and toys… when all my friends started talking about their favourite bands and artists… I actually found their interest in music annoying, which is incredibly ironic to anyone who knows me.
I didn’t truly appreciate music and production until I started to learn the guitar at 10 or 11, I have a tremendous obsessive streak with music that I like and I tend to live and breathe that artist or song for months on end, much to the dismay of those around me. The positive is that my ear for picking apart arrangements and individual parts of a song is well tuned.
My first real appreciation for music and production was when I first heard a song called “Bad Penny” by Rory Gallagher, it changed the course of my life.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?
My process is always evolving and forever changing, I can go through months and in the past years without writing a single thing, though not due to writers block (I don’t believe in writer’s block), then I can sit down and say to myself, “everyday this week 9am to 2pm I will write and complete one song”, and I do. Other times it is very fruitful and creativity flows well as songs fall out of me regularly.
Sometimes it exclusively starts with the melody, sometimes just a riff or a chord progression, or even a dream.
Sometimes it’s a development of an idea that has sat with me for years.
One step that seems to happen nearly every time is I will strive to complete a first draft of a song from start to finish, even if I have dummy lyrics or don’t quite like the structure or something. Then I will pick away at the lyrics and melody in particular, trying to find more eloquent ways of saying a line or to give to my melody a more interesting harmonic structure behind it.
It’s similar to an artist doing a sketch or rough outlines, then filling in the detail after. It’s helpful in actually getting songs done, for me.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Late night driving, the monotony of the road markings spinning under the car, the numbers on the dashboard mechanically ticking over, the headlights struggling to reveal the black river of tar in front of the car and the relative quiet and empty roads open my mind to many thoughts and lets my brain gestate ideas. There is something so appealing to me about driving at night time… something mysterious, forbidden and sexy. It feels like being in another world.
Also creativity itself gets me going, watching others around me falling for their passion of ideas and concepts.
Finally “work” itself gets me flowing. Once I can get over the hump of actually sitting down to do the “work”, the “work” itself ends up feeding the “work”, and then I feel unstoppable as I tick the boxes and move on to the next project to complete.
The problem is mustering up the courage to actually sit down and do it all.
As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?
I am not sure I fully agree with that statement… as there is an “art” to certain aspects of business.
For example, I used to be all doom and gloom about things like social media, everyone told me “you have to be on this platform”, “you have to post 7 times a day” and “you have to have that platform to be successful”. I just really felt it did not represent me in any truthful way. Then luckily after much internal searching, I found a way to approach things like marketing, updates and posts artistically, to make it all part of the “art”, if you will, to add layers to what I am trying to say to the world.
As for something “about the music scene I would personally change”… I would love to see more variety of music pushed to the masses, I do feel that the majority of music these days that is pushed hard on media platforms and favoured by the algorithm is all based around 3 or 4 different sounds, it’s all too homogeneous. It would be wonderful to have more variety pushed on the radio and other platforms. Open others to new sounds and different ways of thinking. Music is powerful and never meant to just fade into the background and blend all together into a forgettable mush
Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Whilst nothing “quite” beats a live show where the audience knows your music and is fully engaged with your performance.
I have to say I think I prefer the “quiet” contemplation of studio work and creation, it feels like a calm before the storm.
What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?
Still to this day the most memorable response to my music is when I had the opportunity to play live in front of none other than Morrissey in The Workman’s Club in Dublin.
It was a showcase gig and absolutely no one was there, until after our first song 3 people walked in and sat down at a table right in the middle of the venue, the lights on the stage blocked my vision from seeing who these individuals were, but we continued unfazed. Afterwards as we sat down in the green room, when the gig organiser entered and said there was someone upstairs who wanted to talk to us, and that we shouldn’t miss the opportunity.
I felt tired and didn’t really want to go upstairs, though after some cryptic coaxing from the organiser, I came upstairs and was introduced to Morrissey, his manager and his friend.
I would be lying if I said I was “impressed” or “blown away”, as at the time I had little to no interest in “The Smiths” or Morrissey’s music. I remember we sat down with him and his entourage and I was seated next to him off to the side, he was wearing a simple tweed suit and he looked me dead in the eye and said my song was “Simply Brilliant”.
What’s on your current playlist?
I don’t tend to listen to playlists or much music on my phone per se, I generally listen to a lot of vinyl, I have a reasonably sized collection of maybe around 70 or 80.
This makes me really sit down and give the album my full attention, this morning I was listening to the 1979 Joy Division classic “Unknown Pleasures”. Shadow Play is powerful. I have a real taste for older music in production and songwriting, in fact the majority of music I listen to regularly is pre-1970’s.
Other vinyls that currently are getting revolutions on my deck are:
“Grace” – Jeff Buckley
“Odeysse and Oracle” – The Zombies (Yes, that is the way Odeysse is spelt on the album)
“The Doors” – The Doors
“Pet Sounds” – The Beach Boys
“This Old Dog” – Mac Demarco
“0” – Low Roar
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?
This year is big for me, it’s kind of do or die, I am aiming to release 4 more singles all with music videos, following “Do you wanna go?” over the summer months, before releasing my conceptual mini-LP “Club Idem” sometime near autumn, the music videos are integral to the body of work as a whole. This is extremely exciting for me to finally see all this work go out to the world after working on it in (ironically) complete isolation and near complete secrecy till now!
Famous last words?
OK, That’s it, Turn off your computer and do something constructive.