After the stadium rocking exploits of the Cranberries, Noel Hogan has taken a more experimental tack with his new electro-influenced project, Mono Band.
Do you ever wonder what you’d do if you had nothing to do? If the need/opportunity to go to work suddenly evaporated for the foreseeable future? You might well go mad or, if you were Noel Hogan, make a solo record, although it transpires that the roots of his Mono Band project go back a little further than the Cranberries' recent decision to put their career on hold.
“The first two tracks I’d worked on with a programmer and were planned for the next Cranberries album really, to see what direction we could go with it," he says. "I really liked the sound that I'd got and decided to take that further. We had got to the point where we thought we’d done the same style of music for four or five albums and it was time to move on. I personally had got more interested in stuff like Beck and the way he mixes traditional instruments with electronic sounds.”
So when the band called things to a halt, did he throw himself into his new project straight away?
“More or less. I had other tracks that I’d been working on so I bought a laptop and some software and taught myself how to use it. I built a studio in a room above my garage at home and spent the better part of the next two years in there, learning as I was going along.”
There was, however, no grand plan to get the record released.
“No I was just doing it, I didn’t approach anyone. I had this burst of writing, and last Christmas I got to the point where I had to stop. I had twenty one songs finished and had to decide on putting an album together.”
Was it always the plan to give the project a band name?
“With all the different vocalists I couldn’t call it Noel Hogan. I had to put a band together to play it live anyway. I’d always planned on giving it a name, even if that name didn’t come until the last minute.”
It’s this range of vocalists which gives the project such an unusual edge. Refreshingly, it’s also not a bunch of showbiz pals helping Noel out, but mainly unknowns.
“They were people I just came across”, he explains. “The only one I knew was Fin Chambers (Woodstar) because he’s from Limerick. It was a friends of friends thing and then word got around and people would send me CDs. The fact that they were largely unknown gave it another angle; they came into the studio and were really hungry and excited for the whole thing. That rubbed off on everybody else.”
Indeed, the whole experience must have been very different to what Noel had become used to.
“It was really kind of garage bandy," he nods. "Even the writing process was different. I started with the beats first as opposed to sitting down with a guitar. Then to have a complete stranger to work on the track after that, it was all completely turned upside down. It seemed to glue itself together most of the time.”
With its processed beats and samples, the record is also a world away from his other band.
“That was deliberate. I trashed a lot of songs because of that; I definitely didn’t want it to sound like the Cranberries. It’s not that I dislike that, I just didn’t want it to come out and have people go, 'Oh it’s just like the Cranberries'. I went to great lengths to make it different. If I hadn’t taken the plunge of going into the electronic stuff I wouldn’t have made this kind of album. I’m sure I would have fallen back into the traditional way of things. This has opened up a completely different world that I’d never known anything about. I’d always thought computers had no place in music, that it was something to be frowned upon,”
He breaks into a broad grin.
“Now I’ve turned into a bit of an anorak.”
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