Continuity and pure pleasure for Cork composer

Future Life Continuity is just another stage in Cork composer's singular journey. Don O'Mahony catches up with Mark Waldron-Hyden.
Continuity and pure pleasure for Cork composer
Mark Waldron-Hyden

“I’ve been walking around town for months... with all these ideas in my head, and all these little beats, and all these melodies, and I kinda always was like: ‘That’s actually kinda crap,’ you know that type of thing. But when I put those sounds onto paper, theoretically speaking, they sounded really good to me and they sounded like stuff I hadn’t heard before.”

Receiving praise and validation from others can be gratifying but the sternest voice is often the artist’s own. Feeling he has met his own standards for success, Mark Waldron-Hyden is in ebullient form. Having released five EPs since January 2018 and an album last august, Waldron-Hyden believes his recently released second album, Future Life Continuity, has seen him find his voice as an artist. Not only does he assert that Future Life Continuity is his favourite thing he has made, he fervently believes it also marks the first time such a thing has actually caused him to feel genuine delight at his efforts.

“This album showed that I was able to trust my own musical instincts and actually have it culminate in something really good,” he continues. “So I think that’s why it’s important to me. I think that’s why I’m proud of it. Because I trusted my instincts with sounds and it ended up good.”

Before reaching this point, Waldron-Hyden played drums with downbeat indie rockers The Sunshine Factory. However, the last few years has seen him strike out on his own sonic path, exploring repetition and drones inspired by such giants of minimalist composition as Terry Riley and La Monte Young. Those experiments were accomplished and never more so on his debut album Stream Segregation.

All indications were that his next release would provide a further distillation of the sound he had been pursuing but Future Life Continuity is an unexpectedly kaleidoscopic experience, seeing Waldron-Hyden open up new pastures that finds astral jazz and sci-fi sounds from ancient civilisations sitting alongside space rock reveries and wonky hip-hop.

Mark Waldron-Hyden
Mark Waldron-Hyden

“What I loved about drones is obviously just the fact that it’s a repetitive thing and your brain has trouble dealing with a constant sound the whole time,” he explains.

“So your brain can’t listen to the same thing and process the same thing. And that’s what I really found fascinating about it was that all these little rhythmic qualities and all these little nuanced textures and weird little sub melodies, like I’d hear those little rhythmic qualities and sub textures in a drone.

“So that’s what I found fascinating was like, ‘oh, this little drone here has a bit of a beat to it, nearly. It has a bit of a rhythm to it, a bit of a flow, even though it’s just one note being held. So what I wanted to do with this album was translate that and personify those rhythmical possibilities.”

Rather than pare everything down through simple repetition, Waldron-Hyden opened himself up to the exotic rhythms and sounds to which he was being exposed through his music studies, such as Peruvian music and Balinese music.

He says: “From that then the drones ended up taking a back seat because I wanted to mess around with just the possibilities of irregular beats, irregular time signatures, and I wanted to try to create the same affect that a drone has on me with other methods of playing music.

“So for me a drone was excellent because of all these little melodies and all these little things that would pop out after listening to it for a certain amount of time, so I kind of figured, “well, what if I just get a random beat and put it with a random bassline and a random guitar line - obviously not random to the extent that I just made it up on the spot, but they don’t necessarily metrically go together. But then when you’re brain listens to it enough it eventually creates its own little beat, even though it’s not 1-2-3-4 it creates its own little thing.

“So that’s kind of what I wanted to do with it. I guess I’ve always wanted to make a record like this but I never really had the means or the ability to do it.

“You know, these type of tunes were always on my mind but I just couldn’t physically do it. And I think now I’m getting close to the sound that I wanted to achieve all along.”

Waldron-Hyden was also indebted to the compositional theories and strategies of John Cage and Pauline Oliveros and while he’s happy to sing the praises of all the aforementioned composers he possesses a strong desire to look within himself and be guided by his own compass.

“It’s really important that I sound like myself. I don’t really ever want to sound like someone else - I doubt anyone really does - so when I name influences it’s more their ethos I’m heavily inspired by. The idea of knowing the rules to break them. It’s the idea of completely going down your own path and being true to yourself. It’s this idea that if you like the sound of it that’s perfectly fine.”

While finishing a music degree, working remotely part-time, and co-running a record label, Sunshine Cult (which released records by local acts Arthuritis, MANTUA and Trá Pháidín), Waldron-Hyden found being locked down outside Fermoy offered the perfect circumstances for making his album.

“That actually was a bit of a blessing in disguise because I moved home to the countryside and I’ve a studio here. I had all the mics, all the equipment I needed. So when I wasn’t working, when I wasn’t doing college work, I still had a solid eight, nine hours in my day where I could just lose myself in music and make some good stuff. I don’t know how the time made itself available for me but it just kinda happened,” he shrugs.

‘Future Life Continuity’ by Mark Waldron-Hyden is out on Sunshine Cult Records.

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