To create, one must always first destroy. To break through to a new plateaux for Irish traditional music, Clare musician, Pádraig Rynne first had to shed the cloths of his former self. He had to rid himself of the young concertina player who took the trad-world by storm in the 1990s, winning five All Ireland titles as a teenager. He had to push his music into places that made it sound almost unrecognisable. He had to learn to burn ice. Andrew Hamilton finds out more.
There isn’t much Pádraig Rynne hasn’t done in the world of traditional music. Over the past two decades the concertina player has been all over the world, touring the great venues and playing with everyone worth playing with.
So, when he returned to college to study Music Media Performance Technology in 2013, he knew that a new direction was what was needed. And that’s exactly what he found.
“It was all do with electronic music and that influences hugely where I was going with music at that time. I took an awful lot of that on board. The projects that I was doing at college were coming from an electronics background so for me, coming from a trad background, it only made sense for me to combine the two together and see what I could spit out. That is where the idea of Notify came from originally,” remembers Pádraig.
“When you are writing something or coming up with idea, I think every artists hopes that they are coming up with something new but a lot of the time it is only sounding new to the person who is writing or arranging it. But I guess I knew that it [electro/trad cross over] hadn’t been done with the concertina. I’m not so sure it hasn’t been done with traditional music more generally, there are a lot of different levels of creativity when it comes to Irish music, like the Afro-Celt Sound System had done their thing, Moving Hearts, back in the day had brought in the rock element – I knew that electronics hadn’t been done a lot in Irish music. I had the feeling that it was going somewhere but I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. The feedback from the media, both national and international, seems to suggest that it was something quite new and I suppose it’s always good when you get that sort of feedback.”
In this way ‘Pádraig Rynne’s Notify’ was born – a diverse music collective featuring Meelick guitarist Cillian King, Cork bassist Eoin Walsh and New York based drummer Shane O’Sullivan. While the feedback from critics was positive, the real test was to go before a live and expectant audience.
“The first tour that we did was just a year ago. The album just came out at the end of last year so when people were coming to those gigs they were coming to see the Pádraig Rynne that played with Donal Lunny and with Guidewires – they were expecting to hear Irish music. So, it was that sort of audience that came out to that first Irish tour,” he remembers.
“To be very honest, after the first maybe two or three sets you could hear that people were stunned, they didn’t know how to react. But at the end of every show it was different, there were encores and people got well into it. The first couple of shows people didn’t expect to hear or to see what they saw at the show. It was a strange one to begin with – it took a bit of burning ice to get into it.
“I knew there would be a lot of critics out there – that goes with every style of music. For me though, I felt like I had been there and done that. I needed to do something that would satisfy my musical needs. I had all of these ideas that I had to bring to the instrument and to the music.
“I knew that bringing something like this would definitely turn a few heads but it didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to me what people think at this stage. Maybe when I was a teenager I might have been concerned and wanting to impress but at this stage of my life I just want to bring something out that people might talk about when I’m gone. People might say ‘remember him, he’s the guy who recorded that, he started that type of music’. That’s the way I’m thinking of it now rather than being afraid of the criticism.
“This is the first time that I’d have this level of control in the music. I get to write and arrange everything, and then I bring it to the band who put their own ideas to it. There is no safety net anymore. I am outside my comfort zone as are the musicians I’m playing with. Some of them don’t even come from the traditional music background. So we are all shooting in the dark – there is a dangerous element to it.”
In Pauline Scanlon, Padráig has found a kindred musical spirit, someone ready to experiment and push the boundaries that needed pushing.
“She wants to create new music through the Irish language. So she approached me and Notify and asked to work with us to rework some old traditional Irish songs and to wrote new songs,” says Pádraig.
“It’s obvious when you meet Pauline and when you start talking to her that she has a very diverse vision of where music can do. She is very true to the traditional but shill very open to see where the music can go. That is how we were able to find each other creatively.
“That’s what it is for the moment – I don’t look too long term about anything, but I’d certainly hope that we can continue this is some form. We’d like to record something together – whether that be with Notify or just ourselves. I’d love to have her at every Notify gig if she was available.”
Pádraig Rynne’s Notify with Pauline Scanlon will play Glór this Thursday, March 5. For more visit glór.ie.