Getting to Know Clockwork Orchestra

Clockwork Orchestra is the project of Paul Mangan. He chats to us about his music, his new Longplayer and his possible Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Oh, and if you reckon you know loads about obscure indie bands, then, compared to Paul, you don’t:

Clockwork Orchestra is the name of my band, musical project, hopeless venture – call it what you may. I write, record and produce all of the music myself but when it comes to playing live I am joined on stage by Sean Maynard-Smith on bass and Paul O’Byrne on additional synths. The name originates from the film The Abominable Dr. Phibes which features an orchestra of mechanical musicians which were presumably created by the eponymous doctor himself (played by Vincent Price).

Friends Without Names is the name of my debut album which has recently been released by the UK based record label White Label Music. It came out digitally in late September and a limited edition CD release is available as of this Monday (November 5th). It’s difficult music to describe but I suppose it might come under the rather iffy sounding “experimental pop” banner that I’ve heard bandied about a lot lately. Think melody driven, sometimes orchestral synthpop with nursery-rhyme lyrics and oddball vocals. I like to offset cheerful melodies with melancholic or dark lyrical themes and throw in lots of surprises in terms of song structure to keep things interesting.

I’m currently listening to a Serbian band that I discovered on SoundCloud called Kodagain who have an uncanny knack for writing infectious melodies. What’s interesting about Kodagain is that whilst the music is composed and performed by a guy called Saša Zorić, the lyrics, which are almost always in English, are written by a variety of poets and writers based all over the world. I’ve also been listening to several artists from the Proot Records netlabel such as Batfinks, Katapulto and Thiaz Itch. I especially recommend the new Batfinks album And The February Hiss. Otherwise I’ve been playing lots of XTC, Cardiacs and Sparks.

Dublin is difficult to be subjective about when you’ve lived there all your life. The city centre is hectic and chaotic at times whilst the “vibrant” night life can become tiresome after a while. One of my favorite places in Dublin is the natural history museum which is so old and crumbling that it’s almost like a museum of a museum. I love the quirks of Dublin suburbs like Glasnevin and Finglas (where I grew up). Where else could you hear the siren of a suspicious ice cream van driving around at four o’clock in the morning?

I spend too much time over-thinking everything. I think many musical or artistic people have obsessive tendencies but at my worst I feel quite certain that I have full blown OCD. During my bad phases I feel compelled to use round or even numbers depending on the situation and everything has to be labelled correctly to the extent that spelling mistakes or similar errors can result in sleepless nights. Everything from the manner in which I press the power button on my laptop or synthesizer ends up becoming vitally important in my mind and frustratingly time consuming. My song The Book That Won’t Be Read partially deals with some of these issues.

It might surprise people to learn that I’m a fervent football fan. For some reason this seems to surprise people. I even worked briefly as a researcher for the game Football Manager 2009 helping out with the Irish leagues. I also collect Carlton Ware money boxes, is that surprising? Some people might be surprised to learn that I’ve been to Finland on fourteen separate occasions.

In the future I will record more music! I’ve already started working on the second Clockwork Orchestra album and have recently been tinkering around with a nice new waltz called Puddle Fishing. In April I will take part in White Label Music’s Sonic Weekend which is an annual project that invites various disparate musicians (both on the label and external) to spend a weekend recording an impromptu album together under a specific theme. This will be a big departure for me as I am not used to (or usually keen on) working in groups!


Interview by Bobby Townsend. Follow Clockwork Orchestra on Facebook and visit the official website here.