Interview: Sky Histoire

Sky Histoire - Photo courtesy of Sky Histoire

Sky Histoire - Photo courtesy of Sky Histoire

Tom O’Doherty used to have a real job. Back in his homeland of the Emerald Isle, the Ireland native worked Monday through Friday, nine-to-five, and as a result, had a dependable income.

But that came at a price, which, for O’Doherty, was the sacrifice of time spent on creative outlets.

“The time that I had for playing music was quite limited,” he said of the conflict between having a career and playing music.

So at a certain point, he threw in the towel on normalcy, and six years ago, moved to Berlin.

Right off the bat, O’Doherty set to work trying to put together a noise rock-esque band. Yet when that didn’t pan out, he didn’t get discouraged, instead starting another band, Gestammelorchester.

It was at this time that O’Doherty took the opportunity to begin a solo project focused more on what he referred to as “drone-y kind weird loops and stuff like that.” His first show with this project, Sky Histoire, was four years ago, but then his interest began to taper off.

“For a year and a half, it was something that I just had hanging around,” he said, explaining how it took the backseat to other creative endeavors, including freelance design work and playing in aforementioned Gestammelorchester, as well as PARO.

It wasn’t until a year ago, at the start of 2011, that O’Doherty decided he wanted to put more into the band. As a resolution of sorts, he set a goal for himself of both doing a tour and releasing a record with Sky Histoire. The former took place in the Spring, whereas the latter was realized toward the end of the year, with the December release of the seven-inch, “Sunlight,” on Haywain Recordings and Onyudo.

For the recording, O’Doherty rounded up two friends from his other bands. They ran through the songs a handful of times and then recorded them, a process which O’Doherty said was neither casual nor over-thought in its approach.

“When we were recording it, I deliberately refused to let myself think about how we would play it live,” he explained. “I just [wanted] to make the best representation of an idea that I [could].”

The resulting products were then hand-printed and numbered, and made available in three different colours. While this took more time and cost more money, it’s something that he felt was the inherently proper thing to do.

“It was very much a labor of love,” O’Doherty said. “If you’re going to put the effort into making a physical artifact of something in the world, you kind of owe it to yourself to push your own preconceptions of what’s possible.”

Continuing with that line of thinking, O’Doherty also offered a digital release, which varies from the tangible one.

The main differences between the two are that the track listings are dissimilar, and the digital version includes remixes. This is something O’Doherty did as his own personal way of acknowledging the shifting context of music.

“The record has…something unique about it, in how it’s presented and in the contextualization of the music that’s on it. And I think that the same kind of thing should apply to the digital side of things, where it should also have its own part of it that’s separate and, in a way, kind of unique,” he said. “The possibility that a piece of music can be re-imagined should be part of the process of putting it out into the world.”

Keeping with this train of thought, he mentioned something he refers to as “digital ephemerality.” This concept speaks to the idea that although it might seem as though the age of the Internet provides endless opportunities, the sense of permanence that it communicates is, in actuality, false. This is why the hard copy exists, in addition to the digital download.

Currently, Sky Histoire’s only permanent member is O’Doherty, although there are a variety of other musicians regularly going in and out of the picture.

“It started out being just me, but I never wanted it to be just me…so it usually ended up being me and sort of whoever of my friends I could like temporarily kidnap into it,” he said with a laugh. “[Now] it’s sort of a bit of an open question at the moment about if it’ll become more clear and more definitely a band.”

Part of that open-endedness has to do with the fact that O’Doherty is already deeply involved in a handful of other projects. In addition to his work and other bands, he also regularly collaborates with Hungarian dancer Kata Kovács for a project known simply as Silences.

Additionally, he admitted that he does have his own set of misgivings and fears that naturally accompany the process of being artistic.

“I have eternal doubts about every creative attempt I make in the world,” O’Doherty shared. “But at the same time, they’re not really doubts on the kind of practical level of, you know, whether [or not] a piece is worth doing.”

Instead, he often struggles with the cathartic power of creativity and the way it juts up against his own tendency to be a private person.

“It might feel weird to put it this way because I’m obviously putting a record out into the world, but…I’m not somebody who feels particularly comfortable with being openly kind of emotional in music,” he said. “I’d never really written anything sort of personal [before ‘Sunlight’].”

Not only that, but O’Doherty said that sometimes he worries about putting too much of himself into projects that – monetarily at least – have very little payoff.

“It’s not a new or innovative conclusion…and it’s probably not very interesting to hear about, but it’s something that I’m trying to figure out for myself at the moment in a very boring practical way,” he said. “[But also], it’s like, almost dangerous to even think about the possibility of [earning a living from music]…because if you start trying to think of it as something that’s going to pay your bills, it’s really easy to just destroy the reason that you want to do it in the first place. Which is like, that being in a band is kind of fun, and interesting, and everything in life that’s simultaneously fun and interesting usually costs you money rather than pays you money, you know? People who manage to figure out a way where they have a fun and interesting thing to do that also pays them well have really got it figured out.”

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