Irish post rock icons God Is An Astronaut are back with their ninth album Epitaph but do not expect any glorious celebrations. This release was written in memory of their 7-year-old cousin whose life was tragically taken. Here you have a straight answer on a typical question regarding their inspiration. No wonder it is the darkest and most personal record they’ve ever written. On the other hand, during those dark days there was plenty of rely-on music in the life of band’s guitarist and keyboard player Torsten Kinsella. Please accept an invitation into the world of his most favourite albums, gear collection and background of the new album.
Photo credit: Stuart Wood
Whipping Boy – Heartworm (1995)
When this came out in 1995, it really demonstrated that Irish music was alive and well. The album has a very strong emotive quality, the album is timeless.
Rollerskate Skinny – Horsedrawn Wishes (1996)
Another innovate group from Ireland, when I heard their single Speed to my Side my jaw dropped, it was not trying to appeal to the masses but to the educated ear.
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)
What more can be said about this album, it’s considered by many to be a true classic. If you have never heard it, buy it today.
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral (1994)
Trent Reznor is one of the great pioneers of our generation and this album was a great example. A truly inspiring record.
Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)
When we first heard this album, we were very young but this was the kind of music that made you want to be in a band.
The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
Another amazing album by the Cure but this one really stepped things up to a whole new level, great dark melodies.
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (1998)
I really love this album; the dark flavour and breath-taking song writing makes this an all-time classic.
Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
This album got me into Radiohead, the song writing is Superb and the mood is sublime.
AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)
My father always played AC/DC when we were young and I can still remember hearing Hells Bells for the first time. Great song, great energy and a guitar tone that is still my meter stick today.
Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
This album changed the tide and put rock music back on the right path in my opinion. Definitely one of the most important albums to be released.
What was the first album you bought for your own money?
I believe it was Metallica …And Justice for All.
We have to be careful not to take too much equipment
because when we do fly in shows, we are severely limited with what we can bring
Please present to the readers your gear collection, which you rely on during a tour.
My set up live is an Axe FX XL + with 2 Mission Expression pedals. Axe FX is so versatile and does a good job recreating the tones on our records, the tone match block is invaluable to achieve my sounds. My main guitars live are a Gretsch Custom Penguin guitar and a National Glenwood 1962 guitar which originally belonged to John Entwistle from The Who. I picked up both of those guitars from Jimi’s music store here in Dublin, both are superb. I always bring the Earthquaker Rainbow pedal and the Red Panda Particle pedal; those effects cannot be replicated in Axe FX. I have a TC PolyTune pedal tuner.
Depending on the set list, I might also bring the Lightfoot lab Goatkeeper which is a really cool Tremolo / Sequencer pedal. Jimmy Scanlon who owns Jimi’s music store here in Dublin helped me out by supplying lots of vintage amps, rare distortion and Fuzz pedals. We mainly used the 1968 Marshall Superbass plexi with a 1970 cab (original greenbacks) on the distorted lines, Hiwatt Custom DR103 with and Fender Bassman on the cleaner tones.
We used a Shure SM57 and Royer Labs R-121 to mic up the cabs. Fractal Audio Axe FX XL was used a lot too for the more experimental tones and for some of the clean and distorted tones too. All the guitars went through the Neve DPA 1073. We wanted the sound to reflect the subject matter. We have introduced a doom-laden guitar sound in sections (tuned to drop A) but with a twist, I put an Earthquaker Rainbow pedal on my guitar which warbles the tuning in and out of tune. That combination really captures the dread and ugliness that some of music was conveying.
What about other members?
Niels uses a Fender 59 P-Bass Relic Dakota Red, a Noble tube bass preamp, Empress compressor and Source Audio’s AfterShock Bass Distortion pedal which he just got, it sounds great.
Lloyd brings out a custom maple Ludwig drum set with a Ludwig Black Beauty snare and a Craviotto Copper snare as a side snare. He uses Paiste cymbals and Evans Skins. The drums are miked up with a Milab BDM on the kick, Milab VM 44 on the Toms. Telefunken M80 on the snare top and DPA 4099 on the bottom and a pair of Royer 121’s on hats and a pair of Royer 122’s for the overheads.
Rob (Keyboards) uses an Apple MacBook Pro running Mainstage with 2 M-audio keyboards.
Inside Mainstage he uses Keyscape and Native instruments for the Piano but most of the sounds are sampled onto Mainstage and further processed with Soundtoys plugins. He also uses an Axe FX XL and a Rickenbacker 330 for his guitar parts.
Zack Dutton at front of house uses a Midas Pro 2 with Waves plugin powered by the Waves SG extreme Server.
Could you please mention some challenges you faced on the recent tours within gear and what have you learned from those experiences for upcoming tours?
We have to be careful not to take too much equipment because when we do fly in shows, we are severely limited with what we can bring so the Axe FX 2 has been a godsend. I can only bring one guitar on those shows and with so many alternate tunings it can be extremely challenging.
How did the songwriting go this time? I am so glad you created concentrated music package. It fits well as a concentrated listen, as well as fascinating background music. No jumps within songs, rather one big story…
These songs need to be listened together, the album is written in memory of our 7-year-old cousin whose life was tragically taken. The album is dedicated to him and is our way to say goodbye and for us to come to terms with this most tragic incomprehensible loss. The record was mainly written in the immediate aftermath. All of the songs are about the different aspects of the tragedy.
What was the atmosphere you were trying to create? We spoke together few times already and I follow your discography for years and this was the most apocalyptic sound I ever heard from you guys….
This is by far the darkest and most personal record we have ever written. The music brings you to some of the Dark, traumatic and sombre moments that we had experienced. Oisín for example was written the day we received the devastating news. I sat in front of my piano with so much emotion, once the first few notes poured out, it was as if the song had been written before and I had to try and remember how to put it back together again. We wanted the song to capture his innocence and beauty and not any of tragedy’s ugliness, it had to be something that would be a fitting tribute to him. He was very happy boy and brought so much happiness to many people’s lives.
The title track Epitaph contained several different stages of the tragedy that we needed to express. From oppressive darkness, tension, dread and real-life horror of what has actually transpired. The last parts are about the grieving and mourning, and not being able to put the tragedy fully behind you. The smallest thing could remind you of this great loss. This album is a good example of why we write music in the first place. Writing music is a therapeutic process. It’s our way of expressing ourselves and trying to come to terms with all of this. Music can convey an emotion when our words fail.
Please tell us about a background of the latest cover artwork.
We gave Fursy Teyssier a few songs and he came back with something that I knew was straight from his heart. It immediately resonated with us as it captured the sentiment of this album.