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  • Ellie McGuire

Interview - Mark Duggan

Irish singer-songwriter Mark Duggan is known for his clever lyricism and combining of acoustic and electronic elements which can reach out and take people somewhere else for the length of the song. He returns with his latest alternative rock tune ‘Dance Myself to You’.

We sat down with Mark Duggan to discuss his music and much more. Here's what he had to say:

Hey Mark Duggan, welcome to FLEX! How are you?

I'm good thanks. Thank you for having me.

Congratulations on your brand-new single ‘Dance Myself to You’ - what inspired this particular track?

I think the title was the first thing I had and that seemed to be one that could go in lots of directions which was exciting. It fits a certain type of song I'd wanted to try writing and matched the chords and guitar sound I'd been messing around with for a little while pretty well. I think I heard a Nick Cave cover of Cosmic Dancer around that time as well which probably led to the ballad nature of the song.

And do you have to be in a certain mood to write?

I think for me the initial writing can happen at any time but I do need to be a bit more focused to do any editing. I like to write a first draft of a song very quickly and then rewrite it again and again until it's right. That always requires proper attention so I do need to be able to take the time to sit at a desk with a notepad and the song and work at it until it's better than it was when I started. I don't mind what emotional mood I'm in cause that just means I'm not writing about the same feelings again and again.

How was the recording and writing process?

The recording started with a basic rhythm guitar around the same time I had the title for the song. I might have even had the structure done out with that take before finishing the lyrics so that would've given me a frame to write within. Fairly early in the process, I knew the sound I wanted to get and that the song was going to build and build to an over-the-top climax. I thought it would be best to keep the lyrics simple if the music was going to be full of overdubs and layers in the recording so I decided to keep the lyrics to some fairly simple images that sang well. The chorus was the first finished section of lyric which was great because I always struggle to get a good chorus. The outro lyrics came much later in the process when I was deciding how to fill the final section before the solo. The recording was quite a quick process which was great and fairly rare for me. Most of the recording was done on a weekend including the drum machine, various layers of synths, and all the guitar parts. Most things were just on-the-spot attempts during each take and keeping what felt best. What took the most time was getting the actual sound of those parts right before recording them. I wanted a somewhat stereotypical 80s sound to the drums and the end solo was meant to be a throwaway placeholder of an 80s ballad solo in my mind but I liked it enough to keep. That's why there's a moment where it's just me whacking the guitar and not hitting any notes because I was trying to amuse myself. The harmonies at the end wouldn't be something I do a lot so that was a long process of trying and failing until I got what ended up on the song. The bass actually took the longest to record. I had to get a new bass because my old one broke mid-recording so there was a long period of not much progress. The mixing was relatively quick and I had a lot of fun adding all the delays and reverbs that help fill out the sound of the song.

For viewers who don’t know Mark Duggan, how would you describe your sound?

I think my sound tends toward rock and folk with electronic elements in certain songs if they call for it. I tend to go through phases where I'll particularly lean towards either acoustic or electronic and that has a big impact on the type of songs I write. The last 15 or so songs I've written have had quite an acoustic sound so I think the next few will have to be something different to keep me interested and excited.

And what are some of those activities that you engage yourself in when you aren't writing or recording in the studio?

I was recently given an old film camera by my granny so I'm trying to get better at using it but I'm still fairly new to the whole thing. I love putting on a podcast and going on a run near where I live. It can be a good way to either clear the head if writing or recording isn't going well or to get a random bit of inspiration. I play guitar in the live shows of my friend Dunluvly's band which is great fun. It's great to get to play someone else's songs because you didn't have to struggle to write it like I do with my own stuff. You can just enjoy the moment and the energy from the crowd. We've been going a lot of gigs lately and the other musicians in the band are brilliant so it's always great fun to get to play with them.


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