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Tom Waits, The Simpsons and deliberate weirdness: an offbeat chat with The Blurst

the blurst psychic crosstalk interview liam patrick o'shea

Like more than a few members of the Happy team, Liam Patrick O’Shea has a soft spot for oddball solo performers. Unlike most of us plodding away at the keyboards here, he actually decided to become one himself.

The Blurst is the result of that decision, a whacked-out project that’s funky, inspiring and wildly unpredictable in nature. To better understand the mind-bending artist and his debut LP Psychic Crosstalk, we sat down with Liam for a chat.

the blurst psychic crosstalk interview liam patrick o'shea

With Psychic Crosstalk The Blurst elaborates on the philosophy our favourite artists live by – that when you throw caution to the wind, magic starts to happen.

HAPPY: Hey man, congrats on releasing the new album… how does it feel seeing a full length record you’ve created out there in the universe?

LIAM: I thought I’d never finish it! Like I was doomed or cursed… or something. Last year, it dawned on me that I was the same age Patti Smith was when she finished Horses. Racing the hourglass, I made it my aim to finish it by my birthday back in January, which I did. Now all of my friends can listen to this bad baby sing.

HAPPY: How does releasing a full-length album measure up to releasing an EP? Are there any extra apprehensions?

LIAM: I was excited to release the Dogdog EP which was just a few cool songs, but releasing this album was like releasing three EPs at once. It’s a little daunting though as it’s a permanent document of what I’m about, at least in this point in time.

HAPPY: You’ve got an incredibly unique sound… how important is keeping original to you?

LIAM: First of all, thank you! I’m not even sure if it’s possible to be truly original. I try to be myself, even if I hide a little behind deliberate ‘weirdness’. Something interesting is bound to happen if you put all your favourite songs into a blender and try to drink the result.

HAPPY: How long did it take you to settle on what you’re doing now?

LIAM: My first instrument was trumpet and I’ve performed and recorded with various bands in Sydney. I still play it to this day but I don’t think I’ll become a jazz master anytime soon.

I got into electric guitar around high school and started experimenting with effects pedals, my first was a Boss DD-6 Delay. That was the best, hours of noodling with echoes and feedback. After several failed attempts to start a band of my own, I decided to go it alone and become The Blurst. I’ve always been drawn to eccentric solo artists, so this felt right.

HAPPY: You’ve previously mentioned that Tom Waits is a big influence of yours – could you talk us through the impact he’s had on your current music?

LIAM: If you ever hear Waits talk about his recording process, you’ll quickly learn that there are no rules. For him, there’s nothing wrong with recording outside on a farm with a rooster crowing in the background, or singing strange lyrics through a megaphone, or using furniture for percussion.

I apply this ‘no rules’ philosophy to my music. Recording to cassette tape for the texture alone, like I did for this new album, or using feedback as an instrument as on Paradoxia. Waits’ productions are often rich in instrumentation too. I try to add as much as I can without drowning the whole song… whether its trumpet, Mellotron, a guiro, or whatever.

Now if only he’d tour Australia again. It’s only been 39 years!

HAPPY: You played every single instrument on your album – including some pretty whacked ones – how long did it take you to piece Psychic Crosstalk together?

LIAM: I started recording at home in late 2016 just before my EP came out, so a little over a year all up. I made it a point to not start on a new song until I finished with the one I was currently working on. Some were quick but most were gruelling two or three month affairs. The songs typically started as guitar parts and I built up from there.

The two cover songs (Janitor and Raindrops) were nice breaks from having to write new material but working out how to reinterpret them was no basic task.

HAPPY: At the launch show for your debut EP, you smashed open a piñata onto the audience, which is incredible. How important is the live element to you?

LIAM: Fugazi used to perform in plain clothes and that was their way of keeping it real, but there’s no escaping the fact that whatever you do on stage makes some kind of statement, so why not make it engaging?

Being a solo performer, I think I need to do a little more than stand perfectly still. The piñata was a one-off but I’ve been caught trying out sick dance moves. I enjoy strobe and liquid light projections too.

HAPPY: What does the future hold for The Blurst? Any new music on the way?

LIAM: I need a break! Time to play nothing but video games for a while… Thimbleweed Park is awesome. I already have some new riffs but I’m considering throwing the guitar out the window for album number two. We’ll see.

HAPPY: Finally, I love the name, so I’ve gotta ask… what’s your favourite Simpsons episode and why?

LIAM: Pick only one?! I can’t do that.

It has to be Last Exit To Springfield, the origin of “the BLURST of times”. It’s a dense episode full of many memorable moments… Don Homer!

Or perhaps the Monorail episode for Leonard Nimoy who may or may not have done anything, Mr. Snrub, and the bizarre ending with the escalator to nowhere. Kinda makes me miss Sydney’s monorail.

My all-time favourite moment would have to be when Homer adopts Hans Moleman as his new son – “It’s like kissing a peanut!”

 

Grab all the details to the Psychic Crosstalk album launch below:

May 24th – The Factory Floor, Marrickville – with Dweeb City +more

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May 9, 2018

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