A new project from the mind of Stephen Roche (of Celtachor and Mael Mordha fame) has just been released entitled Laochra. The first album “Home And Heart” blends a variety of styles, both vocally and musically and will excite fans of his other works. He answered some questions for us regarding the project and the ideas behind it and a few other things…. check it out…..
Congrats on your new solo debut “Home And Heart”…..what has been the response so far regarding it?
“Thanks! The response has been great, it has received a lot more coverage than I expected. Pleased so far with the outcome for a piece of music I wrote when I was a young teen. It’s an echo to my earlier musical endeavors.”
Could you give us some insight into the name and what it represents? Why did you choose Laochra as the name of this project?
“Laochra was a short fantasy story I wrote when I was 14, at that stage I was writing music that would be what home and heart is now. I wanted to create my own mythology inspired by my love of Irish/Norse/Anglo Saxon myth and legend. I wrote The first album in conjunction with the short story, using just a basic Casio keyboard, whistles and some vocals. Future releases will be from what I write from now on. I found some old tapes with the album music recorded on a dusty old black tape recorder I had in a shed at home. I came across the material by accident but it got me thinking to actually release it as something that people may enjoy. But for the most part I wanted to put out the music myself. Laochra in Irish/Gaelic means Warriors/Heroes, it was a word that I always found fascinating and was exactly what I wanted to portray the fantasy mythical epic I had in mind.”
How did this project come about from inception to now?
“I have always been an avid reader of fantasy from the works of Tolkien to Prachett, David Gemmel, Anne McCaffery and so on. I merged this with my love of history and myths to create a world of my own, to which I could mold and form the story to make it as big or as small as I wished. The hope is to at some point release a book with the story in full, parts of which will expand over all the Laochra releases. As I have said above I came home a good few years ago to find the tapes and tape player intact. It was an interesting listen to say the least, and while I was listening I thought I should really put this music out in some form. So that was the main instigator for getting the project re-booted.”
There is a theme/story to the tracks here…. could you offer a brief description of what the basic premise is to the album?
“The story takes place in a Land called Orghlaith, The hero of the tale is a warrior named Faolan who after coming home from a terrible war. He returns to meet his kin only to find his homeland in flames. When he visits his village and searches the wreck, he finds that his wife and children have been taken from him. Faolan has certain suspicions of who it may be who has plotted against him, and the first album outlines the search for his wife Brianna and his kin, only to find the devastating reality of what has happened. His wife has been brutally murdered by the Tyrant King Rythian and this is the basic outline of story for the first album. Faolan and his men fight King Rythian and finish his armies of at Lake Ulianith. The second album (Which I am currently writing) begins with Faolan leaving Orghlaith to find his kin and find out his true purpose.”
What did you want to do stylistically with this project that was different from your other projects (namely Celtachor and Mael Mordha)?
“Well this was my first project to be honest before I started thinking about bands in a more serious construct. I wanted to make musical epics although I was limited to the ways I could do so musically since I am self-taught. A lot of what came to pass was from trial and effort as a teen, creating different soundscapes that would create an emotional and driving response. Something that would convey the story and atmosphere exactly without any misjudgment. The number one focal point was to suit myself entirely. For the most part it has always been this way, create music that I enjoy and put it out into the ether. If people enjoy, great! If not, great! I lose no sleep either way. One of the most important things about being a musician is to suit yourself. Don’t follow the crowd.
Obviously with Celtachor a lot of the harshness is there in the vocals, retelling the Irish mythological sagas with the same grandness in intent. Between the work I have done with Celtachor and for the brief time with Mael Mordha live, I have gained a hell of a lot more confidence in my music and focus. For example Mael Mordha was my first time clean singing live for a very long time and it helped to get me back into that creative buzz. As work continues on Celtachor’s third album, I think a lot of people are in for a surprise; musically it is the strongest material we have written to date.”
Besides whistle in the tracks, you also played some piano…… how are your piano skills do you feel? Was it always the intention to have piano in the tracks or did it make sense during the writing and recording process?
“With Laochra the piano is always the spine and skeleton of the music, it’s the first flicker or flame of music that binds the vision and atmosphere for that particular part of the story, whether damning or uplifting. Piano and vocals are always first in the creative process. Then whistles, cello and guitars, drums so on.”
“I just wanted to create a soundscape that gave the story justice and was convincing in its emotional and dark subtext”
You have also explored some new territory vocals wise with a “clean” vocal on this…. is this something you have wanted to do? Do you think the combination of that with the black metal style vocal helps create more mood?
“I suppose the clean vocals are something that many people have not heard but truth be told I have sung clean for longer than when I started my black metal style screams and rasps. It gives an emotionally sincere mark to something I can’t otherwise express with a scream. But the same can be said for some moments that a scream or rasp works better to convey certain anguish.”
Your bandmate David Quinn perform guitar and drum programming duties here…. how did you integrate him into the project? Did he just do what was asked or add his own touches to the compositions?
“He put his own mark on the music I had and he really helped me a lot with the first release. He will always be part of the Laochra creative process going forward. I had a rough idea of what I wanted guitar wise and he went ahead with that and recorded the guitars and sorted the drum programming. He also was a massive help when I decided to undertake the mixing myself, that whole mantra of “suit yourself” came very much into play but I learned a lot in a very short space of time thanks to his help. A genuine legend and a good friend.”
Emotional and dark
A few words that came together in describing this was “Celtic black metal soundtrack”…. how do you feel about that description? Is there one you are more comfortable with?
“I think it’s not too bad as a description but I definitely don’t care about tagging the music as a particular genre. It is what it is, I definitely did not want to feel confined with making a “Celtic metal album” or otherwise. I just wanted to create a soundscape that gave the story justice and was convincing in its emotional and dark subtext. All in all I am very happy how the album has turned out and cannot wait to give everyone a listen to the next part of the saga.”
Were there some bands/albums out there that inspired you to push this project forward?
“Nope, none at all. As soon as I heard the old tapes with the first Laochra music the idea was fairly cemented there and then to start to put it all together.”
The project has a “homemade” feel to it…..was that the idea to keep it minimalistic and not over produced?
“From day one this is what I wanted to do, I wanted to create music first and foremost. The idea of doing the album in a full studio did not interest me in the slightest. My favorite music has always been the albums that do not need a fancy production to sound good. Skyforger case in point as a band, their earliest releases have such a natural and earthy sound and force to them. The music just sounded honest and with no sense of ego in any way, shape or form.
I felt that if I was to make a really polished album with everything sounding perfect it would lose the human aspect of the music. For this reason I did not spend hours taking perfect vocal takes for the clean vocals or otherwise. I wanted to keep it natural and sincere and listenable with a heavy amount of rawness to keep that earthy ethereal feel I wanted to aim for.
For all Laochra albums to come this will be exactly the way I will record.”
Any possibilities you would want to perform live with this project at some point?
“All depends on how feasible it would be, but I would not rule it out entirely all depends on interest really to see it in a live context.”
What is new with your other projects? How is the new Celtachor album progressing and any new to share with Mael Mordha?
“I am working away solidly on the third Celtachor album with the rest of the clan. We are really pushing our boundaries each time music wise and so far, this is our strongest collection of songs to date. The wait will definitely be worth it. I can’t say too much more about that at the moment really but anyone who is interested keep an eye on the bands Facebook page for updates!
In regards Mael Mordha the band is taking a break thus currently.”
Favorite albums from 2016 and 2017 so far?
“Neither 2016 nor 2017, but I enjoyed Skyforger “Senprūsijafrom” from 2015 and Forefather “Curse of the Cwelled” That is about it!”
“Thanks for the time for the interview Jeff! It has been the first for Laochra. A big shout out to all who picked up/checked out the album or supported any of my projects in any way.
Sláinte agus Táinte!”