Damien Rice 2014

Sometimes it feels utterly arbitrary to talk about love. In the wake of a disintegrating continent, daily-fed violence and ruthless hypcorites lying their way to the top, ruminating about love seems simultaneously false and escapist. On the other hand: What else is there to cling to, especially these days? Moreover, maybe all the shit bombarding our synapses is simply overrated and what we need to do is just step back and think about what’s really important again.

The power of music is to transcend and elevate our day-to-day problems. That way, you regain perspective. Back in 2002 when DAMIEN RICE released his first solo record O, the Irish songwriter took what was left of the old-fashioned songwriting and turned it into a truly heart-wrenching thing again. To much of it for some, actually: His feelings laid bare in his songs, without any kind of vanity. It felt innocent. And in a way, it still does. But listening to his latest output, the DAMIEN RICE-feeling also seems a little outdated. And RICE himself? Does he still own the magic, the ruthless emotionality that set him apart in the first place? His shows will tell. And so will his music. For the latter we shouldn’t wait too impatiently though.

His second record 9 already took RICE four years, his latest, My Favourite Faded Fantasy another eight years. DAMIEN RICE has always been a man hardly to expect anything of. So when we talked to him prior to his upcoming concerts in Germany (dates are listed below), we surely didn’t expect him to give us the one answer that somehow could solve the massive confusion of the past weeks. Instead, we rediscovered the power of perspective. Which already starts with the perspective he has on his own songs, when asked if there is some new material to expect during his upcoming shows:

Damien Rice: I love when I sing an old song and it feels new to me, as if it’s my first time singing it. It’s like kissing your long-term lover and it feeling like the first time you have ever kissed. There’s a thrill and depth all at once which is very connective. Some new songs may surface at the shows, I don’t know. I do not make set lists, I prefer to walk on stage and just let each song come to me as it does, so I guess I’ll have to see what happens.

How do you write anyway? Are you a perfectionist or more spontaneous?

I am sometimes spontaneous, sometimes perfectionist, sometimes raw and sometimes overly-laboured. I think we are all little bits of everything. My favourite method of writing is when it’s not so much a method but more of an accident or rain shower that pours on me by surprise and there’s nothing I can do about it. I often find that the most rewarding in the end because the writing throws itself on me and it takes me over and I find that the result is often better when I am less mentally involved.

Saying something like that, it’s pretty obvious why DAMIEN RICE never felt the urge to put something out he didn’t feel to be ready yet. But still, he’s very aware of what pressure means and, being the brutally honest guy he is, he’s perfectly able to describe it:

Pressure is something I am very familiar with, but it mostly comes from the inside, not from outside. There is often so much stuff in me that wants get out and when I have a guitar in my hand I feel very comfortable just letting things flow however they flow. Music is a great gift, much like a toilet, it is very useful for letting go of things I no longer need to carry around inside of myself.

At this point, it just felt right to ask about the current situation in Europe. I mean, there is much to carry around inside oneself these days, right? What we got as an answer was enough to think about for a few days though. So we won’t hide a single line from his answer from you.

My Favourite Faded Fantasy – it feels as if the title of your latest album also applies to the bigger frame these days (I’m referring to Europe as the favourite faded fantasy of a whole young generation here). How do you feel about the threatening disintegration of the idea (the fantasy?) of a united Europe these days?

It’s all very exciting. Sometimes it’s hard to maintain a sense of excitement if you read the news, and believe it, but I remind myself to read the news with a very light heart, otherwise it can be terrifying. For example, I have just arrived in Istanbul, Turkey which has been in the news a lot recently. The news made this place feel like a dangerous or potentially terrifying place to be and there were numerous discussions about cancelling my concert in Turkey. However, since my arrival here, I have seen nothing but peaceful life and lovely people. Not to sound naive, I understand that there were moments recently when the certain parts of the city did not feel peaceful. However, I like to keep a perspective on things and remember that real life is often quite different from what we see on the news. Also, everything changing all the time. Most of the time over here it is peaceful. Most places here are safe. Most people are kind-hearted.

‘There is far more peace out there among people than there is terror’

This is a good reminder that for as many terrorising stories that get printed in the news, there are 1000’s and 1000’s more stories of peace, stories of people being respectful to each other, stories of the goodwill and kindness of humanity. These stories don’t often get told in the news and so many people live in what they perceive to be a terrorised world, when in truth there is far more peace out there among people than there is terror. More people get killed by cars every day than terror scenarios yet we walk comfortably with cars surrounding us every day. Cars can strike at any time, any place, we just don’t know where or when, yet we are not terrified of cars. Most of us have cars and sit inside them and bring them to our homes and put our children in them and yet any day any one of our cars may strike and kill us or others, we just don’t know.

Perspective is huge and a very good exercise for the mind. It reminds me of people’s fear of sharks, because of the perception that they are terrorising. Yet, coconuts kill more people than sharks. And perspective allows the sense of humour to live again and that allows compassion and love to live again and I get excited by that because that is creative and not destructive.

I am a musician and love creativity and support it. I am far more interested in being inspired than being in fear and so I choose the things that inspire me and I work on changing my perspective on anything that I fear

I really feel for anyone who is suffering in the world. Suffering is very uncomfortable and sometimes the only way we know how to deal with the pain is to hit outward. I have seen it in myself in the past that when I was most in pain, I tended to inflict pain on others.

‘Anyone who inflicts pain on others is in some kind of fear or pain. It is my job to take care of my pain so that I do not unnecessarily inflict it onto others.’

Everything changes all the time and I like to flow naturally with that and see what creativity can be found in the transitions. Europe is in transition, who am I to say it should be different? Who are any of us to say it should be different. The tide comes in, it goes out, and then it comes in again and so on. The leaves on the trees fall to the ground to be replaced the next year by new leaves. Everything in this universe is in a cycle, life is movement, Europe is in her cycle and so I flow with that, excited about the potential for new, more evolved growth.


Photo by Lilja Birgisdo

That’s it then? Everything’s a cycle and we need to give in to its constant movement? Are we not actually experiencing historic moments right now and are we not obliged to actively take part in that?

It depends what historic moments mean to you. I remember losing interest in history when I was in school because it became boring to me. So much of history class was about learning the dates of the start of this war and the end of that war and so on. Recently, on the internet, I looked up the “summary of the history of Spain” and was quite amazing at how much war there has been over the centuries. I did the same with other countries and found that most of the historic landmarks are about war, war, war and more war.

I’m far more interested in learning about why people hurt themselves and others, and learning how to change that in me, so that I can be the historic moment of peace that I would like to see in the world. I cannot change others but I can change myself, so I start there.

‘I’m fluent at being a guilty Irish Catholic’

In these moments, it’s the typical DAMIEN RICE again: Focussing on the inside, rather than on the outside, starting to make change on a basic, human level instead of instantly trying to change the bigger picture. And he has, in fact, a good point in why he’s doing it that way:

I have found that there are two very excellent ways to lose a good friend:
– argue about religion
– argue about politics

I find that if I believe I know something then, as a direct consequence, I will think that I am right and if someone disagrees then they must be wrong. And, although I find myself falling into this trap over and over again, I continuously pull myself out of it and remind myself that I simply don’t REALLY know anything, ever. That may sound like a bold statement but when I sit and watch my senses for hours and hours, I can finally see that I cannot trust my mind and senses, they are only meters that guide me, and other people’s meters may work differently to mine and I respect that and realise that my view of the world is not correct, it’s just one perspective. When I get trapped in the idea that ‘I know’ then I end up in conflict with others.

This is the seed of all personal conflicts that I’ve ever had and when I look I also see that it’s possibly at the root of all war in the world. So, I continuously remind myself that my mind has been programmed with the ‘Boy grows up in Irish Catholic society in the 70’s and 80’s Version 2.3 Operating System’. This has affected so many of my perceived opinions and ideas of the world and I catch myself, over and over, being judgemental or analytical of the world based on these childhood beliefs that were passed on to me like the English language was passed on to me.

I’m fluent at being a guilty Irish Catholic who has lots of thoughts about what’s right and wrong in the world. But I do not wish to communicate in that language any longer. It is what I was given, but it is not me. Much like the coat and shoes I once wore, they were a part of my life but they were not and are not me. I think it’s possible that we have all been programmed in our upbringing and we either don’t realise or are in denial. And by ‘programmed’ I don’t mean literally brainwashed by evil chemists using drugs and dark laboritories, I’m speaking about simple day to day learning as a child. The ‘this is right, this is wrong, that person is good, that person is bad’ programming. The teaching that, in one way helps us decipher what is what in the world, but in the other way creates the greatest divide between ourselves and others.

I love to catch myself out and clean all of this judgemental stuff from my mind when I can and stay in the position of someone with an open mind and the realisation that I simply do not know. I do my best to make my moves with the intention of love and I do my best to allow life it’s space to be as it is, whether I might like it or not. I feel like a baby learning to walk and I fall and get back up and fall again and get back up.

A sense of humour is a great friend to have along the way and so, rather than discuss politics I much prefer to discuss openness, vulnerability and honesty with others. I like to dive into topics of conversation that help me to really think about what I’m saying and help me understand my own behaviour and share these experiences with others. I find that this way I feel much more connected to those around me.

And there we were: struck by obvious truths we nearly forgot about and learning being remembered about what is still one of the most important things: Doubt. Questioning yourself, try and change perspectives, put yourself in another’s shoes – name it like you will but especially in times like these, simple truths like that are important. And even more important is an artist that is able to translate these truths into beautiful, touching music. So, finally, in a world like his, there is hope, right?

Instead of being hopeful I prefer to be present now with this moment and stop hoping things will be better. I prefer to challenge myself to realise that life is now, not tomorrow.

Regarding passion: I think there is no greater thing to be passionate about than love, unconditional love. And I’m not talking about the fairytale or cheesy-love-story kind of love, I’m speaking about the massive challenge of learning how to love others for who they are without judgement. Learning how to really actually love and understand your perceived enemies. Learning to understand their pain and the reasons they do what they do. Learning that in fact there is no enemy, it is just people behaving from a position of pain and in this process learning to heal your own pain so that you no longer need to have an enemy on which to put it.

Hands down, we can’t argue with that. Probably, it’s best to join in for a DAMIEN RICE show nearby or put on his records once again from time to time. If only to embrace the confusion that is love and to regain perspective on things that otherwise would oppress us.

DAMIEN RICE – live in Germany

06.08.2016 Leipzig – Parkbühne

08.08.2016 Hamburg – Stadtpark

09.08.2016 Köln – Tanzbrunnen