Friday, 10 April 2009

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Thursday, 9 April 2009

"I think I got into photography on a bit of a fluke."

Everyone seems to see themselves as a bit of a wannabe photographer these days. Whether it be the “emo” kids on MySpace who take a million photos of themselves and their friends in mirrors, or people who have Facebook albums full of photos of beautiful landscapes. But it takes a lot more than that to take a good photo, and Colette McHugh is one of few gifted people who can take good photos. “I think I got into photography on a bit of a fluke but am very grateful that I did. I started taking pictures when I was about 15 as a hobby but never really thought I could take it anywhere professional. As much as I wanted to be I was never any good at fine art so by the time I got to university I found myself in a course with nothing to do with art, that I had no interest in. I had it set in my mind that I was going to leave when I found the University of Ulster was starting a photography course. Unlike others who went up for the course I didn’t come from a foundation art background so was extremely happy when I was given the chance and got accepted into the course. From there I really developed my love of art photography.”

It was the work of photographer Annie Leibowitz that really stood out the Colette when she was 15 and helped her realise her passion for taking photos: “I was amazed by the beautiful constructed images she created of glamorous people but also how she could use photography to document her own life. It seemed like the perfect vocation for me as it could include all my interests in one career that I could be passionate about.” And photography is just that; no matter what you’re interested in it’s always possible to include it. From fashion to art, there’s always some way to put it in a photo, and Colette’s inspirations are proof of this: “Every project I take on has different inspirations, from music and other art forms to everyday experiences, but I’m most influenced by the past. I’ve always loved the look of old movies from the styles of film noir to the musical production of the 1940s. This plays a big role in my current project which is mostly influenced by director George Melies and musical choreographer Busby Berkeley.”

Colette is currently working on fashion photography for Belfast hair and artist designer ‘Vintage Rocks’ and is hoping to start a website and create a book of work this summer, so make sure to watch this space and look out for her photos.

You can check out more of Colette's work at
All photos used with permission.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Kuhn formed after drummer, Sandra Kuhn, moved to Northern Ireland from Hamburg after a move to Birmingham not working out and only planned to stay for a year, but has now been here for seven. Kuhn didn’t form till spring 2008 and have been a cover band until now, as they have decided to work on their own material. They have a large list of influences including The Beatles, AC/DC, The Fratellis and Black Sabbath and have quite a rock ‘n’ roll feel. And the band name? Sandra tells me, “We cannot agree on a proper band name, we’re constantly juggling names!” as I’m sure you can see the connection. Kuhn are currently not gigging but focusing on writing their own material and have just started recording some of their songs.

You can check out Kuhn at

Monday, 6 April 2009

"There is only so much a band can do."

The Randals formed in October 2007 “after realising each others unhealthy interest in music” and were originally called ‘The Deadbeats’ and just played covers of songs by bands ranging from The Arctic Monkeys to The Pixies, but after gigging in Omagh for a while they decided it would be best to take a break and write their own material. This led to a change in the bands name and they became The Randals.

“With so many bands in the Northern Irish music scene it is hard to find a place to fit in and get noticed,” Stephen (guitar) tells me, “People say that to get something done right you have to do it yourself, but there is only so much a band can do, they need that extra help from promoters, and I’m glad to say that we’ve been promoted well in our town, and from it have been told that we have great live talent.” With confidence like that it won’t be hard for these boys to go far with their music. In any music scene it’s hard to get heard, and bands give up too quickly, but due to success in their home town (and there’s no place like home) The Randals have a belief in themselves that doesn’t show arrogance.

While these boys continue to work their way to the top, they aren’t just focusing on themselves, as they have a true belief that the Northern Irish scene has got something important to say: “We just think something more should be done about the talent in the North, because god knows good things don't last forever.” Amen to that.

You can check out The Randals at
Photo by Kirk Gilmore -

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

"It was a woman who bore me"

You might think that acoustic music can sometimes get a bit dull, but if you give Kitty and the Can Openers a listen your opinion could very easily change. It’s not often that you hear full acoustic bands but these guys pull it off really well. “We don’t try to sound like anyone else; we make songs that reflect who we are. We have a DIY ethos so we like to keep it acoustic as possible and prefer glockenspiels, melodicas and any other weird and wacky instrument that give unusual flavours. We do our own thing.” Ronan tells me. If you listen to Kitty and the Can Openers it won’t be easy to think of another band in the Northern Irish music scene who sounds like them right now. They’re one of few who aren’t afraid to break away from the indie cliché and make the music that they want to make. And what about that name? “Well we initially found it in an arts catalogue (like a cat out of a garbage can) and we thought it was quite playful and unpretentious. I had this surreal image of a very happy cat surrounded by giant tin openers holding musical instruments, which made me laugh. It is also a reflection of the old-fashioned tastes that we were enamoured to at the time. I think those fifties style names are underused, like Buddy Holly and the Crickets- ‘somebody and the somethings’, you know?”

Kitty and the Can Openers have been going for about two years and have only recently experienced a bit of attention from the Northern Irish press: “We're very grateful for that. It's important to be patient and persistent and to hone your craft and allow your sound to develop because sooner or later, if you're good and you work hard and you're honest in your writing, someone will take notice.” In Northern Ireland bands are either noticed very soon after forming or after a long run of gigging and getting publicity, and it seems even harder for acoustic acts who can’t instantly play the well known venues, so Kitty and the Can Openers definitely deserve the attention they’re finally getting. “There’s a long road ahead with ups and downs aplenty, I'm sure, but we're loving it and are so excited about all these songs we've got that are just dying to be heard.”

If you’ve paid attention to Kitty and the Can Opener’s lyrics you might have noticed that they’ve been written from a male perspective (I assume Ciara’s hairline isn’t receding, but you know what they say about those who assume...), so who is writing them and why isn’t he singing? “The song writing [is] Ronan's job,” Ciara tells me, “He has a way with words and all the songs have little characters and stories attached to them. He also has a great knack for one-liners. Some are written from a male perspective, some aren't, but we’re telling a story so it's immaterial whether a particular lyric is sung by a female.” I can’t really imagine a man singing for Kitty and the Can Openers. Even though artists like Dallas Green and Damien Rice make amazing music, there’s something about acoustic music that sometimes needs a softer voice.

“There’s always going to be a style that’s more popular than others at any given time but we’re still seeing musicians taking risks and displaying that independent streak, which is a local characteristic I think.” Ronan tells me his opinion on the current Northern Irish music scene, “One thing that the local DJs, [journalists] and promoters and bloggers have in common is that they are all genuinely passionate about the music, and there's still a sense of camaraderie there too, ego isn't really an issue here, thank God.” From listening to Kitty and the Can Openers it’s clear that Belfast life has a big affect on their music. They all have stories to them and feature people who songwriter Ronan has clearly encountered in his day to day life, if not known for years. “The other day a dishevelled looking fellow stopped us on the street and said “I have seven words that will change your life” he counted them out on his fingers-‘it was a woman who bore me’ then he walked away looking dead pleased with himself. He'll probably find his way into one of our songs someday.”

While Kitty and the Can Openers have some new songs planned for the website, what else will be happening with them over the next few months? “[We’ll be making] our first attempt at a DIY music video which hopefully won’t be an embarrassment. Actually scratch that- it'll be awesome. Over and out.”

You can check out Kitty and the Can Openers at
Photo by Phil O'kane.