Mumblin' Deaf Ro is a singer-songwriter of a different ilk to the more serious artistes that have flooded our nation in the last few years. With some of the most original lyrics you'll hear, his songs dip into the hitherto unexplored waters of lovelorn mental patients, failed boxers, and frustrated authors to name but a few. His couple of album's, 2003's Senor, My Friend and 2007's The Herring & The Brine, have garnered impressive reviews yet this has not made him any more prolific and he remains untouched by major labels, something, mind you, that clearly does not phase him.Drop-D spoke to the Dublin man himself (his real name is readily available but I'll laughably attempt to keep the mystery on this page) and tried to scratch beneath the surface of his quirky characters and fingerpickin' blues..
What 's the plan for the moment, following the Adrian Crowley support slot?
I'm playing support at the launch of the new Spook of the Thirteenth Lock album on 18 April; the Cobblestone in Dublin on 10 May; and in Belfast on 15 May. I'm planning more gigs around the country for the summer and autumn, but in general I don't play too often as I prefer to do a small number of one-off gigs rather than a long list of shows where I play the same songs in the same order and make the same wisecracks.
I have also started writing the next album, but it will take the guts of the next two-and-a-half years to finish. It feels good to be writing again after an eighteen month hiatus.
What does your music do for you personally - is it a hobby, a creative release of sorts, or what would you call it?
Music is a way for me to understand my life and to reflect. There are lots of things I think about, but desultorily. Often it's only when I start to articulate a particular viewpoint in a song that all the latent thoughts and feelings washing around in my head begin to surface and come together in a coherent way.
How important is it for you to be more of a storyteller as opposed to delivering more specifically personal stuff?
I don't consciously try to adopt a more fictional style: I just find that a story can make particular personal ideas or feelings more vivid for the listener. What's important in writing is to find something universal in your own personal experience; it's that insight that's worth writing about rather than the personal experience surrounding it.
What are you reading/watching/listening to these days that you are finding interesting, or that you feel really enthusiastic about?
I usually read fiction and have just finished the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was heavy going. I'm a huge fan of Thomas Hardy and generally enjoy nineteenth century writers such as Dumas, Gogol and Chekov. More recently I've started reading South American and Japanese writers, probably because I need a holiday and fancy reading something from a foreign setting.
In terms of music, I really like the new Laura Marling record 'Alas I cannot swim'. It's a remarkable album and I hope the music business treats her well so that she can make a few more like it. I'm also going through a big Elis Regina phase: her voice is very natural and has an almost maternal quality to it.
Where and when do you like writing your songs? Do you have a specific place or time which best suits you or is it just whenever and wherever you get a chance?
I usually vomit up loads of musical ideas quite quickly and then spend about three or four years walking and singing under my breath; writing and rewriting until I'm happy. Each song takes about three or four months. I never rush things as the world has enough half-baked ideas already.
How ambitious are you for your music and your gigging? Would you fancy living out a few chapters of Hammer of the Gods?
I'm ambitious in terms of the quality of albums I'd like to make. I look at my CDs and books at home and am all too aware of the standards that have been set, and how far I will have to develop to get near them.
I'm not at all interested in working in the music industry. (The feeling is mutual by the way.) Fame was the great failed experiment of the 20th century: it ruined the lives of famous people and their families, and created cycles of expectation and disappointment among audiences. For me, music is joyful and makes me feel alive: it would be greedy to demand more from it than that
My father and my uncle are both long-serving civil servants and are both creative people with numerous extracurricular activities that I think are reactions to their specific work environments. You, however, have said that you enjoy your civil service job. Does the 40 hours a week you spend at your 'day job' feed any aspects of your music at all?
In work I am exposed to new ideas, new people and new demands on my abilities all of the time. I think that in order to become, and stay, creative a person needs that sort of stimulation in their lives. If I were a full-time musician driving six hours a day; playing the same songs over and over; and talking about myself all the time, I would become bored very quickly and my interest in music would almost certainly disappear.
Do you feel that music these days is lacking the certain sense of humour that flows through some of your music?
A lot of songwriters want to be taken seriously or to be viewed as deep or sensitive; maybe that stifles their sense of humour. I have always tried to sprinkle songs with a little humour without necessarily making them funny. I find deliberately funny songs - for example Loudon Wainwright III's stuff - quite annoying.
46 minutes ago