Sound On Sound - Inside Track: Hozier

26 Mar 2015

Sound On Sound – Inside Track: Hozier

March, 2015

“While working on Hozier’s
music, I had absolutely
no idea of the impact
it was going to have. Andrew is a lovely,
honest and insanely intelligent man, and
I really enjoyed working with him. He’s
extremely talented, and I thought he
would have a slow burner of a career, with
a gradual climb to international success,
like a Nick Cave or PJ Harvey kind of
artist. Even when I first heard ‘Take Me
To Church’, I did not think that it would
become a big radio hit. But the radio in
Ireland just went nuts for it, even before
the video was released. I never thought
Andrew would have the instant success he
is currently enjoying.”

Engineer, mixer and producer Rob
Kirwan was approached by Irish label
Rubyworks in May 2013 to work on an
EP by an unknown singer, songwriter
and guitarist they had recently signed.
Andrew Hozier Byrne had studied music
at Trinity College in Dublin, but dropped
out to pursue a music career, and had
been a member of the vocal group Anúna
from 2008 to 2012, appearing as a soloist
on one of the tracks on the group’s
album Illumination. Hozier Byrne had
no track record beyond that. Insofar as
Kirwan was concerned, the request from
Rubyworks concerned a typical low budget
development project.

“Andrew had worked with a few other
producers,” recalled Kirwan, “with quite
poppy results, with which he was not very
comfortable, so he never went forward
with those recordings. So he set about
doing some demos in his attic, on a Logic
system, and the brief from the record
company was for him to redo his vocals on
three songs, and for me to then mix these
tracks. When I heard the demos I felt that
the vocals were the best thing about them,
but that we had to re record everything
else, because many of the instruments
sounded too thin and not powerful
enough. So we did it exactly the other way
round! They gave me a budget for four
days in my studio, but when we started
re recording everything I realised that it
was going to take much longer, so I kind of
gave Andrew a few extra days for free. It
took us eight to nine days to re record and
mix the three songs on the EP.” (The fourth
song that appeared on the EP, ‘Cherry
Wine’, was a live recording in which Kirwan
took no part.)

Slow Burner

‘Take Me To Church’ was the title song
of Hozier’s first EP, and both EP and
single were released in September 2013.
The single reached the top of the Irish
charts a few weeks after its release.
Hozier’s ear catching blend of rock, soul,
gospel, blues and Irish folk music and
the immediately apparent integrity of
his lyrics and music clearly hit a nerve, as
did the controversial and arresting video,
which portrayed homophobic violence
against a young gay couple. According
to an interview in Billboard Biz magazine
with Rubyworks owner Niall Muckian, 15
major label A&R men chased Hozier and
Rubyworks within weeks of the single
being posted on YouTube. Deals were
subsequently signed with two major labels,
Universal and Columbia/Sony (for the US).
Hozier began touring extensively, and
with the chemistry between Kirwan and
Hozier apparent on the first EP, the next
step was a return to Kirwan’s Dublin studio
at the end of 2013 to make EP number
two. “The budget and expectations had
gone up enormously,” recalls Kirwan.
“All of a sudden it was clear to me that
Andrew was no longer an unknown, local
Irish artist, that he was going to become
something far bigger than that. We
recorded four songs for the second EP, but
one of them wasn’t included on it, because
it was supposed to be a single, and they
said, ‘Why is it not all poppy and shiny?’
Instead ‘For Eden’ became the lead track,
and it was mixed by Mike Crossey. I mixed
the other two songs.” (The fourth song
was once again a live track.)

‘Take Me To Church’ was released in the US in the
first half of 2014, and proved a slow grower. With Hozier
appearing on the David Letterman and the Ellen DeGeneres
shows, various radio stations and festivals, the single
gradually climbed up the charts, until it reached number
two on the Billboard charts by the end of the year. The
single reached the number-one spot in more than a dozen
other countries, and ended up close to the top in a dozen
more, including the UK. By the time of writing it had still not
run its course. Kirwan and Hozier went back in the studio
again in the beginning of 2014, to record the singer’s debut
album, which was released last September and became
the fastest selling Irish album of the year. It remained at the
top spot for five weeks, and looks set to become Ireland’s
biggest selling album for a decade. Hozier also reached the
number two spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart and
number five in the UK, and is still roaming around the top of
many charts.

Crazy Gear

The enormous success of ‘Take Me To Church’ and Hozier
has proved a career changer for engineer/producer Rob
Kirwan as well as for the artist. Kirwan played drums early
in his musical career, but never had ambitions to become
a musician. Instead he joined the legendary Windmill Lane
Studios in Dublin in 1992 as a tea boy, and worked his way
up. Three and a half years later, U2 offered him a full time
position at their studio, where he worked with producers
such as Brian Eno, Flood, Alan Moulder
and Mark ‘Spike’ Stent. Kirwan moved
to London in 1998, where he lived for 10
years, continuing to work with Flood and
with acts like Depeche Mode, Erasure,
Gary Numan, New Order and Editors.
After a year of working and living in Berlin,
Kirwan moved back to his native Dublin in
2009. He has since worked with PJ Harvey
on her album Let England Shake, and
recently also had major success in Ireland
with the band Delorentos.

Almost all the recordings and all the
mixing that Kirwan carried out for Hozier
took place at his Exchequer studio in
central Dublin, which he shares with
Nick Seymour, Crowded House’s bassist.
Although Kirwan is proud to have received
his studio training on analogue equipment,
Exchequer is a desk  and tape free zone.
It nonetheless contains a large amount of
unusual gear that Hozier and Kirwan put
to good use. The latter explains: “I have
a lot of stuff that makes bands scratch
their heads and go: ‘What’s this? It doesn’t
sound like any record that we’ve heard!’
Whereas Andrew would always go: ‘That
sounds amazing!’ He liked all the crazy
gear that I have been collecting, and
what’s more, he knew how to integrate 
it into his music. His was one of these records 
on which nine out 10 crazy ideas that came up actually worked.

“This meant that Hozier was a great
record to work on for me. I love things
that have character, and I love good
performances. Energy and excitement
are big things for me. Rock & roll music
should sound exciting. The first record
I ever bought was Motörhead’s ‘Ace Of
Spades’, which is probably one of the
most exciting records you’ll ever hear.
That’s the template for me, as well as my
experiences at Windmill Lane. You had to
line up the tape recorder there every day,
clean the heads, and so on, and you saw
how producers worked. If you come from
that background, you understand sound
better, and you understand that everything
is centred around the musician and the
performances of the musician.

“People today focus way too much
on the computer, which they turn into
the master of everything. But what I am
interested in is the sound of people
in a room, and how that affects you
emotionally. You can do anything in
a computer, apart from turn a boring
performance into an exciting one. And you
can certainly make an exciting performance
sound boring in a computer! Chopping up
drums in a computer so they all sound the
same is not interesting. The computer’s
capabilities are endless, but you don’t
necessarily need them, and worse, they
can be a major distraction. They invite you
to forever postpone committing yourself,
and this does not necessarily help music
at all. I worked on a couple of records with
Brian Eno early in my career, and one of
his greatest attributes was that he always
insisted on making decisions now. ‘Does it
sound good now? If so, then the decision is
made, if not, we’ll erase it and do it again
until it sounds good.’”


The gear at Kirwan’s studio that inspired
Hozier included analogue goodies like
the Inward Connections Vac Rac EQ,
Teletronix LA2A, Anthony Demaria Labs
1000 compressor, Neve 33609/J reissue
compressor, Manley Massive Passive,
Neve and API mic pres, and a ’70s
Klein+Hummel mastering EQ. His main
monitors are ProAc Studio 100s, with
a Quad 405 amp. Kirwan bought much of
his gear in Berlin, and notes, “I always like
buying things that nobody else has, which
makes me think that I am doing something
slightly different.”

A few items caught Hozier’s attention in
particular, said Kirwan. One was the latter’s
“Eastwood Airline guitar, which I bought
after working on the PJ Harvey album
[Let England Shake], because so many
bands play run of the mill guitars. Andrew
loved it, and it played a very prominent
role on the album. It was sent through
a [Electro Harmonix] Memory Man pedal,
with the gain turned up loudly, a ProCo
Rat guitar pedal for that distorted guitar
sound, and one of these new hand-wired
Vox AC15 amps, and then a Knas Ekdahl
Moisturizer spring reverb. This was the
guitar chain and it gave a really interesting
tone that suited Andrew’s music. I also
used the Ekdahl reverb extensively
on his vocals, as well as my Neumann
CMV563 microphone with an M7
capsule and Martech MSS10 preamp.
This signal chain distorted in a nice way,
and Andrew adored that sound. He can
sing really loud sometimes, which meant
that we got a distortion similar to that
from the 1950s and ’60s.

“And finally, a lot of people, including
artists, have been asking me for the
nature of the reverb on Andrew’s vocals.
It’s a combination of my Knas Moisturizer
that I already mentioned, and the
Altiverb [plug in]. I used a Wendy
Carlos EMT plate [preset], from which
I removed all the top end, and to which
I added a pre delay.”

A Level Playing Field

All these character elements are present
in ‘Take Me To Church’, adding greatly
to its distinctive sound and undoubtedly
playing a significant part in the song’s
enormous and instant impact. Rewinding
all the way to the first moment Kirwan
heard the song, in May 2013, he recalls:
“I had no idea that it was earmarked
to be the first single. In any case,
I always try to treat every song I work
on equally, whether I’m doing an EP or
an album, and then the label and artist
can later decide what song will be the
single. If you tarnish a demo with the
word ‘single’, everybody starts freaking
out and becomes really precious, and
it’s more difficult to allow the song to
develop. So in my mind I am always
working on all songs equally, and then
after I am done, the client can decide on
the business side of things.

“In general, the songs that Andrew
came in with were pretty complete.
With ‘Take Me To Church’ it was purely
a matter of sonically making it work.
The arrangements were already there. Andrew
is one of the most talented arrangers that
I have ever come across. And he was 23
when we did this, as well! He is doing very
well for a reason, which is his talent. If you
look at the very top of the screen grab of
the Pro Tools session, at the time-signature
changes at the meter throughout the song
[going from 4/4 to 6/8 to 8/8 to 6/8 to 4/4
and so on], that was all him. It took me
ages to work out how to do it in Pro Tools,
to be honest!

“‘Take Me To Church’ came pretty fully
formed, apart from drums. We just needed
to make the whole song sound bigger and
wider and fatter and deeper and all those
things. So we decided which elements
of Andrew’s Logic demo we wanted
to rebroadcast [re amp], and which we
wanted to rerecord. The Hammond organ
presets sounded a bit digital, so I would
have broadcast that. But things like guitars,
Andrew is such a great guitarist that I said
to him: ‘Look, that doesn’t sound great,
why don’t you just play it again?’ He’d
go through the chain that I described to
you earlier. Once again, it was very much
a matter of improving the sounds, rather
than the parts.

“I don’t remember suggesting many
structural changes to Andrew’s other songs
as a producer, because he’s such a great songwriter.
Maybe we did a few edits here
and there, but by and large the songs were
well developed. The arrangements for
some songs were written in stone, and with
other songs they were more open ended.
In a few cases it was different. With ‘From
Eden’, he came in with just a guitar hook
and the vocals, and we had to make that
work on a completely different level. With
‘To Be Alone’, which is one of my favourite
songs on the album, there was a lot of
playing around with arrangements and
trying out crazy sounds.

“Of course it helped when the budgets
went up, because it allowed us to take
more time. When we did the album, which
took us three months, we did two or three
versions of a couple of songs to keep the
labels happy. In general it was Andrew and
I working together, and then bringing in
musicians as we needed them. The other
difference between working on the first
EP and the other material was that we
recorded the drums for the first EP at my
studio. Everything here is fully set up and
integrated and ready to go, so I do 80
percent of the recordings of most albums
here, but the acoustics are pretty dead and
not great for recording drums.

“Normally I go to an outside studio
a mile away to record drums, but because
of the low budget I decided to do it in
my own studio, which is why they sound
the way they do. It took some smoke and
mirrors to get the energy from them that
I was after. The drums for the second EP
were recorded at Cauldron Studios, and
for the rest of the album at the place
where I normally record them, Westland
Studios. Oh, and the final difference is that
Andrew Scheps mixed all the songs on the
album, apart from ‘Take Me To Church’.
The American label also got Andrew to mix
that song, and I loved his mix, because he
also tries to connect with emotion first, and
sonic second. I don’t really care whether
music is sonically beautiful or not, the most
important thing is whether it touches me.
Andrew [Scheps] is the same. In the end his
mix of ‘Take Me To Church’ was not used
because my mix was doing so well.”

Low Down Drums

Rob Kirwan explains that some of the
drum tracks on the ‘Take Me To Church’
screenshots are almost black with edits
because, “there were some problems
with the timing. This and the issues with
the sound are the reasons why the drums
aren’t very prominent in the mix. I normally
like drums to be right up there, as you can
hear on the rest of the album.

“I used more or less the same recording
setup for recording the drums at my place
as I later used at Cauldron and Westland.
I take all my mics and mic pres and other
required gear with me, because they
create my sound. Generally, particularly if
I don’t know a room, I will ask the drummer
to come in with just a kick, snare and hats,
and will get him to play in different parts
of the room. I’ll be looking for the place
where I hear the most bottom end on
the drums, and I’ll also ask the drummer
to tune the snare drum, so it sounds
interesting and ballsy.

“My signal chains usually consist of an
AKG D112 and a Neumann FET U47 on
the kick, going through my Neve 1073,
and I record the snare with a Shure SM57
on top, going through an API 3124+ mic
pre, and a [Neumann] KM84 underneath
going through whatever is available,
often the desk at the studio I’m working
at. The API can clip on the way into Pro
Tools, so I generally control the level with
a compressor. When you stick a pad on
the mic, it never sounds good to me. My
overhead mics are Gefell M58s, and they
go through my Summit TPA 200B tube
preamp, and then though a [Urei] 1178
with very little compression. The toms
usually are Sennheiser MD421s, but I’ll also
have an additional 421 mic underneath
the floor tom, and I’ll flip the phase. This
gives me the weight I want from the floor
tom, combined with top end attack. Other
than that I could be using any of the
unusual microphones I have or that the
studio has. I have a couple of Placid Audio
Copperphone mics that I may try, and they
can sound great.

“I also put my Neumann CMV563 M7
up as an ambient mic, which goes into
my API mic pre, which is really good for
exciting top end with a lot of energy, and
that into my Empirical Labs Fatso Junior
compressor, and I compress the f… out of
it. This is my ‘go to’ drum sound. I want
the compressed energy of the snare and
kick drum, but I have to be careful not to
have the hi hats and cymbals too loud. The
sound of my Fatso chain was a large part
of the sound of the drums on the Hozier
album. Apart from the Fatso track, I record
clean as a whistle, with very little EQ or
other treatments on the way in. I also
play around with phase correlations a lot,
but I don’t have the patience to move
microphones a quarter of an inch and then
check the phase correlation each time.
I just flip the phase on everything, and try
all the different phase permutations that
are possible, and listen to how that affects
the overall sound. I love recording drums!”

Delta Blues

“The bass guitar went through my ’70s
Ampeg SVT bass amp, on which I had
a Neumann FET 47, which went into a 1073
mic pre, and then through my Teletronix
LA2A. Another big thing on the record
is my Sequential Circuits Pro One
synth, which became a big part
of the sound of the bottom end. I tend
to record that DI. Nick [Seymour]
has a beautiful Bösendorfer
baby grand in the studio, and
I used my two beautiful Gefell M58s on
them, which have a lovely, warm sound,
and I’ll usually will stick them through my
Summit mic pre and then the 1178 — as
I do with the overheads. There are also
strings on the album, which were done by
two string players who came to my studio,
and overdubbed using a Gefell M62 on
the cello, and my Neumann KM84 on the
violin. The preamps would have been any
I had spare at that time.

“Guitars I generally record using an
SM57 and a Sontronics Delta. The former
will go through a ‘lunchbox’ Neve 1073
copy, and the latter through an API 3124+.
I’ll compress that with the ADL 100 and
an LA2A. The Delta is a ribbon mic, and
I use it a lot. I like Sontronics’ ribbon
microphones. They give you that ribbon
sound, but the problem with a lot of
traditional ribbon mics is that the gain is
so low that you end up bringing up a lot
of noise to get them to speak. I don’t
think it is worth it, whereas the Sontronics
microphones require phantom power to
start off with, which is pretty wild, and
they are loud. They really complement the
57. The Delta mic gives the guitar lovely
warmth and big bottom end, and the 57
picks up the edgy stuff in the middle. I use
those two microphones on pretty much
every guitar amplifier that I record.

“I recorded Andrew’s vocals with him in
the room, right behind me, so there were
no natural acoustics on them. I already
spoke about my CMV563/M7 vocal chain.
I also always had a Sennheiser M441 on
him as a sort of safeguard, and I combined
these two while mixing. My mic pre on the
441 was the 1071, and I also had the Vac
Rac EQ on his vocals, and the LA2A. So the
vocal chain was as warm as it could be.

The mic he used in his attic is a Neumann U87.
The problem with 87s and 414s for me is
that they are so accurate that everything
sounds pretty sterile on them, hence my
preference for using Gefells and other
unusual microphones with lots of character.
But it worked on his vocals because his
performance was so good.”

Instant Recall

“I don’t have a mixing desk, because as
much as I like my analogue gear, people
now want recalls in milliseconds. And that’s
impossible to do in the analogue domain. If
one knob on an 1176 is a fraction out, the
mix will sound entirely different. You simply
can’t mix on a desk any more. I don’t care
how good your assistant is, a desk recall
never sounds the same. And stems also
don’t quite sound the same to me either.
I use a lot of analogue gear on the way in,
and I have the Chandler summing mixer
to give more of an analogue feel to the
mix, but I’m largely mixing in the box now,
apart from the occasional outboard effect
and things I send out and re record back in
again. The only thing I have is a PreSonus
fader [controller] if I want to write in my
levels using that. Other than that it’s just
mouse and keyboard.

“One of the advantages of working with
a DAW is that it’s easier to mix as I go, so
my roughs sound very similar to the final
mix, and I sometimes prefer them to the
final mix. The great thing in working on
a DAW is that you can always go back to
an earlier mix, if you prefer the feeling of
that. Despite mixing as I go, I still have
a definite mix phase, though when I have
also recorded the song, I find it very
difficult to mix it straight away. I need 10
days or so away from the record to be able
to approach it fresh again, and be more
objective about things and also not be
emotionally attached to things in the mix.
“In the case of ‘Take Me To Church’
I would have started off where we left it
after recording. The rough mix is all about
getting the track to feel good, and I then
get into the sonic details and the panning
and all that kind of stuff. My first step with
this song would have been trying to make
the drums sound good, putting samples
underneath the kick and the snare drums,
and using other treatments.”

• Drums: Empirical Labs Fatso, Focusrite
Red EQ, Drawmer DS201, Bomb Factory
Sansamp PSA1 & Audio Ease Altiverb.

“Right at the top of the session is
something called ‘Asian Kit’, which are
samples from a preset in Logic that
Andrew really liked. It features on quite
a few of the songs on the record, mainly
for handclaps and woodblocks and things
like that. Further down is the Fatso track,
with the M7/Fatso signal chain I mentioned
above. I nowadays have a Mackie summing
mixer on which I also have my Fatso and
I will send a drum balance through that as
parallel compression. In the past I would
record the Fatso compressed drums back
in, but I got so bored of the latency issue
and having to move stuff around that
I prefer to have the Fatso running live most
of the time.
“Below the Fatso track are the kick
and snare tracks and samples, on which
I used the Focusrite Red EQ, which I like
a lot. The ‘D’ on one of the snare tracks
is a Drawmer gate. Further down are the
tom tracks, overheads, and an M7 and an
M58 track, all, again, heavily edited. The
M58 track also has the Drawmer, and the
Sansamp for some distortion. Then there’s
a ride, an OH duplicate, and finally the
‘Kit Plate’ aux track, which has an Altiverb
with the EMT Wendy Carlos plate reverb.
That’s the entire kit. There are not many
sonic treatments on the drums. The Fatso
sound is the main thing. If I was starting
out today, it’d be the first thing I’d buy.
I only use it on drums, but drums are such
a crucial part of the recording process!”

• Guitars & keyboards: TL Labs TL
Aggro, Avid Trim, Waves Puigtech
EQP1A, Eventide H3000, Focusrite Red
EQ & Audio Ease Altiverb.

“Below the ‘Kit Plate’ aux track are four
organ tracks. The top two were recorded
through an amplifier via my 57 and
Delta mics, and below that is a distorted
organ track, with the Trillium Lane Labs
TL Aggro compression plug in on it and
a Pultec EQ. The ‘Organ 3000’ track is
probably me putting one of Andrew’s
Logic organs through my Eventide H3000.
Further down are six guitar tracks without
any treatments — the ‘T’ on one of them
is a Trim — and below that are the piano
tracks, some of which are again heavily
edited. Andrew wasn’t as good yet at
playing the piano. He’s very good now,
though! I got him to do the left hand
separately, which are the ‘New Piano’
tracks. I once again had the Focusrite
Red EQ plug in on the piano, and there’s
a ‘Piano Verb’ aux track, which also
has the Wendy Carlos EMT plate from
Altiverb, just with a different pre delay.
In general I like to create a sense of
everything coming from the same space,
so the Wendy Carlos plate is on many
things in this song. There’s more piano
below that, again with just Focusrite
EQ. In all there’s a lot of piano, it was
one of the most important elements of
the song.”

• Vocals: Bomb Factory 1176, Focusrite
Red EQ, SoundToys Echo Boy, Line 6
Echo Farm, Knas Ekdahl Moisturizer,
Waves Renaissance Compressor, Avid
Trim & Audio Ease Altiverb.

“The two ‘tele’ voices at the top are
backing vocals. I think they were ‘oohs’
and ‘aahs’ that came from the demo. They
don’t sound like telephone voices at all,
so I’m not sure why they’re called that.
Instead they almost sound like church
voices. Below are two aux tracks for those
vocals, with Bomb Factory compression,
Focusrite EQ and an Echo Boy delay. The
backing vocals below that — ‘BV1 4’ — are
the ones with the signature Leslie effect on
them, and they again have some Focusrite
EQ and Bomb Factory compression, and
I gave them some Echo Farm slap delay to
add depth to the reverb.
“The next tracks are the verse lead
vocals from his Logic session, called ‘Male
Creamy Lead Vocals’, on which I put some
Renaissance compression and a Trim, and
‘Vox Verb’ is the Moisturizer track, plus
two Trim plug ins, one being +1dB and
the other  0.5dB. I hate automating in Pro
Tools, so I will often use the Trim to bypass
it. Writing automation is a tedious task.
Below this are the chorus vocals, called
‘New Vocal’, so we obviously recorded
these again at my studio. In order to make
them sound like the demo vocal I stuck
them through the same chain and EQ’d
them heavily. ‘Vox Plate’ is the Altiverb,
and there’s a delay track below it which
again has the Echo Farm, on a delay
setting. Finally there are several more
double tracked chorus vocals, and they
also have the Renaissance and Focusrite,
and the Moisturizer and Echo Farm aux
tracks below them.”

• Final mix: Neve 33609J, Manley
Massive Passive & Klein+Hummel
mastering EQ.

“The six master tracks are there to bring
the levels down for certain things. Some
things probably were too hot and the
D A converter couldn’t handle it. At the
bottom of the session are two mixdown
tracks. My stereo mix goes through my
Neve 33609J compressor, and then my
Manley Massive Passive tube EQ, and
finally my Klein+Hummel EQs. The K+Hs
are the first solid state versions, and they
are incredible. I love them. I record my
stereo mix back into the Pro Tools session
via my Burl B2 Bomber. I normally work
at 24 bit/88.2kHz, but this session was in
24/48 because that’s what Andrew had
worked with in Logic. One of the two
stereo mix tracks has the Massey L2007
mastering limiter on it to give the artist and
the record companies a better idea of what
it will sound like after mastering. I send the
mastering engineer both versions, so he
knows what the artist has been listening
to, but also has the freedom to do what he wants.”

Signature Sounds

A key part of Rob Kirwan’s role as producer with Hozier lay in
identifying the elements that made his sound individual, and
enhancing them. “To be blunt about it, Andrew is a white guy
who sounds a bit like a black guy, and his music has a lot of
black music influences. But there are many white soul singers
out there today who produce really bland music. That was
the danger. We could not go down that road. Andrew’s voice
and songs are exceptional, and we wanted signature sounds to
match and enhance them. The guitar sound I just described
[see main text ] was a signature sound, as was a really tough
drum sound, which is really important to me. The record had
to sound dirty and tough, otherwise we would have strayed
into that white soul singer territory. There was one song on
the record that was quite poppy, and we spent a good deal of
time trying to make it less sweet-sounding.
“Andrew’s backing vocals, and the reverb on his lead
and backing vocals, were two other signature sounds. The
gospel and Irish church and folk music influences you can
hear in Andrew’s voice come from him. He was a member
of the Trinity Orchestra, as a vocalist, and he also had his
experiences with Anúna, of course. He is amazing at vocal
harmonising. Most people will harmonise with a third or
a fifth below and above, and that can sound really good, but
Andrew would come up with these really strange but beautiful
harmonies, that I thought sounded Irish, and he’d then sing
them in a gospel way. I think this is a big part of the sound of
the record that people are enjoying. It’s a new sound, built on
traditional elements.
“Another characteristic sonic element is the Leslie
simulator plug in on his Logic rig that Andrew had stuck on
his backing vocals. The first time I heard it, I immediately
knew that it would be an important signature sound. It was
a real hook that we could hang the songs on.”

Natural Noises

I’m a great believer in the artist’s performance
being the most important element of the
song,” insists Rob Kirwan. “It’s one reason why
I normally prefer for the vocalist to do his vocal
performance once the entire track is recorded,
so they can sing to that. It’s also the reason why
my studio is a lovely place to be in, with high
ceilings and huge windows, and for a lot of the
recordings we had the windows wide open. We’re
in the middle of the city centre, and there’ll be
loads of noises in the background, even seagulls,
and I don’t care. Of course, if there’s the sound
of a drill in the background during a vocal
take, we’ll do it again, but if there’s the sound
of a seagull flying by, so be it. All these natural
noises, also of people moving and breathing
while performing, are a part of somebody making
music, and I like that, unless it really gets in the
way. Conveying the sound of music being made
by humans is what I’m here to do!”

#article, #hozier, #inside track, #interview, #march 2015, #rob kirwan, #sound on sound, #take me to church

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