Monday 16 July 2018

Interview: Gabriel Paschal Blake of For Foresters

Gabriel Paschal Blake Interview - For Foresters - Dublin Quay Festival

Info: Ahead of his performance at The Sound House this Friday for the Dublin Quays Festival, REMY caught up with the inimitable Gabriel Paschal Blake to talk current happenings, musical drifts, and an unquenchable passion for his art.

REMY: You are eating, drinking and sleeping music at the moment and have been for a while, involved in a number of acts, primarily For Foresters, and most recently THUMPER, working in a music shop, and even finding time to act in other artists music videos such as Maria Kelly's 'Torn Into Two' (below). Did you always see yourself being so heavily involved in music?

Gabriel: I suppose I do be at it quite often when you put it like that. From the first note I played, I knew it was something I was very interested in. From the first time I started getting good at it, I knew it was something I wanted to keep doing.

I was always shit at football. However, for the most part of my childhood I genuinely believed my life’s vocation would be to follow in Robbie Keane’s footsteps and play up front for Tottenham Hotspur. That wasn’t to be though. They don’t let you score just because it’s your birthday in the Premier League like my friends used to do for me in our local Community Centre.

So, I guess I didn’t always know I’d be so heavily involved in music. But, once you make the choice to make something that the majority of people can only perceive to be a hobby to be your life, you have to work at it to a sickening level. And I guess I just do. Work hard, send emails.

REMY: Speaking of acting, this seems to be something you have a keen interest in, one example being comedic advertorials you’ve done for MusicMaker, and another, which I observed recently on the main stage in Whelan’s at WOTW, is incorporated into your musical performance. Have you made any plans in your head to explore this form further or are you just sticking to the music for the foreseeable future?

Gabriel: Yes, I definitely want to do work in acting. I want to be in an independent Irish film as much as I want to release one of my albums. Every time I watch something from ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’ to ‘Sing Street’ I’m like “I’d be fucking class in that film.” Even if they had to make a character for me. There’s always room for a wee Donegal soft boy. I hope to go to Bow Lane next year and literally start acting up until I win an IFTA.

Maria Kelly - 'Torn Into Two' music video feat. Gabriel Paschal Blake

REMY: Going back to that Whelan’s show in January, I’d previously seen For Foresters upstairs at the same venue 10 months earlier, it was a performance filled with brevity and light-heartedness. This was in stark contrast to the WOTW gig, there was a dark intensity to your delivery, whilst it wasn’t overt, I could tell that there were many issues relating to your environment (Ireland) that seemed to have gnawed at your soul. The lyrics and stare belied a frustration with apathy and acceptance of things how they are. Are you disillusioned with the country you’ve grown up in?

Gabriel: Thank you for seeing the difference. What you saw in January was the same as what we were when we began. Three young men giving out about how they feel over a bed of rumbling percussion, numbing bass rolls along with my stage catharsis.

Over the first 2 years that I came to Dublin I became somewhat detached from that. I wanted the whole thing to sounds more like a good night, make people dance. I was listening to too much Fleetwood Mac and The War on Drugs. Now, we just want to perform with utter honesty, experience and intensity. The worst possible outcome after a live show now would be for someone to feel nothing. If they hit me a slap after a performance and gave me a black eye, it would mean as much as a hug and a kiss.

I love Ireland to the bottom of my being. We constantly prove ourselves to be a compassionate and progressive state. But there is so much left to be done. People feel like they can’t talk about abuse. There are fella’s still walking down Catholic All Boys Schools being called faggot not wanting to come out as gay. There is probably a girl in the back arse of Mayo not wanting to tell anyone that she was unwillingly touched up last night at the Sunday disco. We’re too good of a country not to get rid of that.

Gabriel Paschal Blake Interview - For Foresters - Remy Connolly - Whelan's Ones To Watch
GPB with For Foresters @ Whelan's Ones To Watch 2018 - Photo: Remy Connolly

REMY: On the Friday night of the Dublin Quays Festival you’ll be performing under your own name at The Sound House, what kind of sound and modus operandi can we expect? And is this your first time performing as Gabriel Paschal Blake?

Gabriel: The first time myself, Conal and Gary actually performed together was as GPB back at Other Voices in Derry, 2014. It interests me when people can play under their own name. It’s like the music and performance is the whole of their being. Whereas with an act name you can write specifically for that idea.

For Foresters is my baby. I can express myself in a certain way with a certain mentality through that medium. I don’t think I could do that if FF was called GPB. At The Sound House I will be just performing as myself. I’ll be playing some tracks that I have written that don’t really fit into the mood of what I usually do. There’s a dance track I’ll be playing with backing track called 'Young Cub', a track that I play on a beginner Yamaha keyboard called 'How to Become A Good Stripper.'

I'm gonna do a few definite don'ts with regards to stage performance. It's not often I get to be this careless with a show.

For Foresters - 'Bath' (Live From The Barn)

REMY: Whilst acknowledging that we change our own parameters of what we want in the future constantly, at the present time, where do you see yourself predominantly in the long-term, down the road so to speak, as a performer? Do you envision a solo career, sticking to the band format, or a mix of both?

Gabriel: I hope very much that I remain to be the frontman of For Foresters for a long time. It is in those moments of performance is when I truly feel alive. You know like how there’s just certain people that you feel like you’re in a story book with? That’s For Foresters for me. I feel I access the world that literature and film attempt to create.

I’m enjoying playing the bass guitar for people at the minute too. There is something very exciting happening with that side of me as we speak but I cannot speak of it here.

REMY: We touched on them earlier, but how has your time with THUMPER been so far and how did joining them come about?

Gabriel: Ahahaha aye THUMPER has been class. The boys are unreal and I can be pretty loose with my performance. People be asking me why I have my tongue out for half the show and I literally never realise that I do.

My friend Kern McKelvey went to a wedding in Australia and never came back like 3 years ago. So, I asked him could I fix up his battered teal Squier Precision Bass and use it for demos until he got back.

The day I got a text to say the bass was fixed was the same day I got an email to say that THUMPER were looking for a new bass player. 10 months later the only songs I can play on it are 'I'll Take You There' by The Staple Sisters along with THUMPER’s back catalogue haha!


REMY: I’m interested to pick your brain on what your view of the state of the Irish music scene is at present. Has it been rewarding being a part of what many describe as the most fruitful and abundant period in memory? And what are your greatest frustrations if any?

Gabriel: It is an honour to be a part of the Irish music scene at the minute. I would have no hesitation in saying that I’m inspired by the artists around me as much, if not more, than other international acts or bands that I find on the internet.

For the first time in Dublin since I’ve moved here I really feel like somethings actually going to happen. I really feel like somethings going to kick off. It’s that emotion of distress that motivated me to be a part of it as much as the music. Acts like The Murder Capital and Fontaines D.C. seem like they have that feeling too.

It’s so diverse as well. The sophistication of the Irish hip-hop scene completely breaks the stereotypes it used to be held under. The political consciousness of Kojaque to Jafaris' pop production. It’s unreal like. As well, I'm just a complete fanboy of AE Mak.

The only frustration I suppose is that a lot of great acts have to give up because it means that they can’t live. I know artists who work harder than people in full time jobs but still see no return from their art. There are a lot of wonderful people in the Irish music industry and there are opportunities there. At the same time, it seems like we all have to get attention from the U.K. music industry before anything really happens here. That’s a huge shame.

Gabriel Paschal Blake

REMY: Finally, can we expect any solo releases soon and what’s the next step on the GPB musical path?

Gabriel: For Foresters will have their first release since our debut single before the end of the year. It will be sent as a postcard to the uninformed about the State of Ireland's Youth. I'm very excited about that. It's fucking unreal.

On a GPB level, I’ve been flirting with the notion of an E.P. called GoalkeeperEach St. Stephen's Day, I stand in nets for my secondary school's annual Charity Football Match. Between my gallant saves, woeful fumbles and inability to kick the ball that far, I recall the year that has gone by and where I am in life since the last time I played football with the young men I grew up with.

The songs on Goalkeeper are those thoughts recited over a bed of lo-fi, reverby, dream pop ballads. They’re small stories of times I should have went home, not love songs and trips to the local swimming pool with my father the month after I shaved my head. Ill be playing those tracks this Friday at The Sound House. If I don't release Goalkeeper, they'll never be heard again.

Gabriel Paschal Blake plays at The Sound House on Friday, 20th July as part of Dublin Quays Festival. ALL events are free. Check for full lineup.

Dublin Quay's Festival 2018 Line Up
(click to enlarge)