Jape’s Richie Egan speaks to Zelda Cunningham about the fate of musicians in an era of recession and cheap downloading.
The Irish music scene is notoriously incestuous. Bands divide and reform with line-ups mutated from other dispersed bands, often with the result that many acts veer dangerously close towards sounding.
Richie Egan, despite playing bass for the Redneck Manifesto, touring with David Kitt and simultaneously fronting Jape, has managed to change dramatically with every project he undertakes.
Egan uses the colourful analogy of “like making a cup of tea and then making a sandwich” to compare the Rednecks and Jape, emphasising the huge disparities in the style and sound of the projects.
Jape’s most recent album, Ritual (2008), illustrated Egan’s musical innovation by layering synths over guitars and funk beats, creating a psychedelic-folk soundscape, a sound unique to the band.
“I didn’t want it to sound typical. There’s a little bit of everything thrown in the mix,” Egan comments.
With the clear complexities of a highly technical act, performing live for Jape is a difficult undertaking. Egan explains that although challenging, the intricacies of a live gig create an interesting dynamic for both performer and audience.
“We don’t use any computers on stage, that’s a rule that sets us apart. You get a better sound if you separate [the musical components] up. You can mess with a lot more shit and it just sounds better. It’s more fun twisting the knobs and stuff than playing with a mouse and trying to find a plug on stage!”
Performing live is something that Egan has had ample practice of, recently completing an extensive tour of Europe, Northern Ireland, (including a supporting slot for the Flaming Lips in August) and across Ireland. While supporting London/Parisian act, the Teenagers on tour in Germany, Jape got a leg-up onto the European stage.
“Germany is going really well for Jape at the minute. The Teenagers are really popular in Germany so we were playing to lots of people and they were really getting into it. You need to spread the word by playing a really good live gig and hope there are loads of people at it the next time you are around.”
Yet success is all relative. With recession, dependence on free downloads and a general lull in ticket sales, Egan comments that it is an uphill struggle for bands to earn their living in a fickle music industry.
Keen music fans will have noticed Jape’s music in adverts, something that is generally shunned by the ‘indie’ crew, yet Egan is realistic about yielding to the lure of commercial success.
“It allows us to keep going a little bit longer. If we had loads of money, we could turn down ads, but we are not in that place yet. You have to do stuff like that. Bands aren’t making money anymore, they’re not selling any records.”
While Egan pessimistically comments that “gigs might be the next thing to go” in the budget cuts that punters are self-inflicting, Jape’s recent packed out Dublin gig tells a different story. Perhaps his constant innovation and passion for performing will prevent Jape becoming the next casualty of the almost extinct Celtic Tiger.
Jape will play Tripod on 18th November