The legendary Stano has just released a new album, Dream Like Silence - he writes for Culture about the renewed interest in his unique oeuvre, and how the recording methods his developed three decades ago still inform his (utterly essential) work today.
I first released Content to write in I dine Weathercraft in 1983. When Olan from All City Records, prompted by music aficionado John Byrne, contacted me about re-releasing it I was wondered who’d be interested in the album, but over the years it has gained a sort of cult status.
The reviews of the re-release have been amazing, particularly from the UK press. It’s really satisfying when reviews are purely about the music, these guys don’t know me, or my history, they’re just responding to what they hear. It didn’t really sound like anything that was around 35 years ago, and they’re saying it’s still out there on its own. A big part of that is how I create the tracks, it’s been said over the years that I use the studio as an instrument and I’ve been called a sonic architect, I didn’t realize at the time, that that was what I was doing, I just responded to sounds and musical phrases that appealed to me.
The first recordings for Content… started in 1981. Room, my first single, began one day when I was in Vinnie Murphy’s sitting room in Marino, I knew Vinnie from the punk scene in Dublin. He was just playing the piano, I asked him what he was playing and he said "Nothing really, just messing about". That evening I was thinking about what he had played and realized that if I didn’t capture these ideas they would just disappear into the ether and wouldn’t exist. So I went back to Vinnie’s house a week or so later with a tape recorder and just recorded him playing for a couple of hours. I listened back to what he had played and there were a few little musical ideas in there that I liked, so I played them back to Vinnie and they became the foundation of the track Room. This was the process that I used to create the album Content.
Listen to Content to write in I dine Weathercraft, via Spotify
Room was released by Dave Clifford who ran VOX Magazine. He had mentioned to me that my method of working was a system called musique concrete, putting together random sounds whether musical or found sounds, I had never heard of it, I was just doing what came naturally to me. To this day, even though the technology has moved on I still use the same process.
My new album Dream Like Silence is a continuation of this working method. I laid down the foundations of the tracks using Ableton, to create a mood and pace, which I then stripped away in the final recordings. I recorded the album with Joe McGrath in his Hellfire Studio in the Dublin mountains. The pianist Conor Linehan was my collaborator on some of the tracks. I had noticed when we were setting up to record the piano that the reverb in the room carried some of the notes for up to 20 seconds before finally disappearing, so I gave Conor a direction I wanted to go in, which was minimal and ambient and not to play the next chord until the last one had completely decayed. I think the process is more important than the recording equipment, the mood, the ideas, the atmosphere you create in the studio is more important than anything else. My first album was recorded on 4 and 8 track tape machines, whereas today you can have hundreds of tracks.
I purposely don’t play an instrument, I sing a foundation melody or a counter melody to a musician and we start from there. I think subconsciously you can drag musical ideas out of the ether once you create the right environment. I like working one to one with a musician, and waiting for something to happen that triggers a response in me. When I find that musical note, or phrase or sound, that becomes the key to open the door to endless possibilities.
Dream Like Silence and the reissue of Content to write in I dine Weathercraft are both available now - find out more about Stano and his work here.