Tin Pot Operation Interview

10 11 2009

Despite having a tendency for being disorganised so and so’s, the Tin Pot Operation are easily one of my favourite NI acts and have been for the last few years. We’ve got them playing the Big Gig 8 on November 27 at the Spring and Airbrake Belfast and here’s a reprint of a recent interview I did with their singer/guitarist Anto O’Kane…

Tin Pot Operation

Loved by the likes of the NME and lauded by mainland Europe, Belfast’s rabble rousers the Tin Pot Operation have kicked against the pricks since their inception. In November they play the Big Gig 8 and we caught up with singer/guitarist Anto O’Kane to hear about their current album ‘Human Resources,’ as well as how Katie Melua robbed their idea and why modern pop stars have no soul.


OK, let’s start at the start-how did it all begin for the TPO?
“Way, way back in the later Triassic period there was a little rehearsal studio/ meeting spot in Marquis Street called the Music Box, run by the Welsh busking legend and songwriter Mike Doyle. We were all in bands that used the room at the time [Nixon, Jasper, Babylon by Bus] and after these efforts split up we just happened across each other and started chatting about the sort of music that needed to be made. We all had a strong conviction that saying something was far more important than a polished sound or commercial potential. We started working and right away a very unique kind of sound started coming together. Choosing to sing in our own accents for example seemed to give the music a special rhythm and voice all of its own. We’ve been working on perfecting it ever since. I still get surprised at how much possibility there is when we get together to work on a new song. I love it.”

 Right from your inception you’ve put noses out of joint both online and (sometimes) at gigs. Do you enjoy winding people up?
“Absolutely. Some people think there are ‘rules’ to making music and what sort of bands should be popular. It’s an utter load of sh*te and I absolutely adore it when these smug, tiresome little bores are taken down a peg or two. Now more than ever we’ve got asinine, safe, vacuous music is piped into every part of our lives and once music is used to sell you something it’s utterly worthless. A lot of people still persist in thinking that commerciality is king but they’re wrong.”

 The Tin Pot Operation has had some great press over the last couple of years-how do you feel about it?
“I have to say I’m a sucker for a good review! Stuff in NME, Hot Press, AU and all over the blogs has been great. People recognise that we are doing something unique and even if it’s not precisely to their taste they appreciate it for being different at least. The other thing is journalists and bloggers must get bored to f*ck with these bands and artists terrified to say anything that might spoil their safe, commercial image, so they have a lot of time for anyone with something to say. I suppose if we were a bit more organised or media savvy we could be milking it a bit more, but we just don’t have those genes.”

We love the video for ‘Sitting There.’ Can you tell us a bit about the filming?
“It was good craic. I love videos with simple ideas and since I’m the bossy, preening, up-himself member of the TPO, we (well THEY) thought it would be funny to pretend to give me a beating in the interests of art. I think there was definitely some catharsis going on when Raymie [Lawlor, guitar/vox] stood on my head! I was utterly gutted when I saw the video for ‘Nine Million Bicycles’ by Katie Melua and she’d ripped off our idea of being dragged along the ground by the feet. She must have a time machine… I’ve been hiding outside her house a fair bit to see, but so far she has been careful not to reveal anything.”

We heard you got nominated for an award in Italy in April. Can you tell us a bit about it?
“It was all thanks to our friends the Rosenkrantz over in Italy. We’ve toured with them over here and they submitted the video for these awards. I think we managed to get through to heat stages or something, but I kept having to translate the emails on Google and stuff, so I was never quite sure! ‘Right and Wrong’ made it to the Semi-Finals of the UK Songwriting Competition too which was a nice bonus.”

‘Human Resources’ is out at the moment-how do you feel about it now?
“‘Human Resources’ to us represents exactly the sound and atmosphere we’ve been aiming for since starting the band. Recording live in a single room made a real difference to the vibe and energy of the record, we’re all really proud of it.”

What’s your favourite track?
“That’s a hard one. I adore Raymie’s vocal performance on ‘Tell the Kids.’ I sometimes choke a wee bit when I get caught up in it. So powerful. It was one of those moments where me and [producer] Pete Pratt at Blueroom Studios just looked at each other and went ‘YESSSS.’”

Any plans to make a follow up?
“Absolutely. We never rest from writing new material and could easily fill another album twice over. The addition of Daithi on mandolin has given us a much broader palette too and at the moment TPO HQ is a hive of energy with lots of new stuff being tested out.”


Tin Pot Operation play the Big Gig 8 at the Spring and Airbrake, Belfast on Friday, Nov 27. Admission is £4. http://www.myspace.com/.tinpotoperation