Interview – Doomshakalaka

Introducing Doomshakalaka, maybe better known to some of you as Paul Rafferty, previously of Hot Club de Paris, the indie rock outfit once described in The Guardian as ’abstruse and charming in equal measure’. With his debut self-titled album set for release, we asked what’s gone into its 10 years in the making and got some top tips for a trip to Liverpool…

You’ve been involved in the music industry for a while now, how was the idea of Doomshakalaka as a new project born?

The idea for Doomshakalaka came about around 2011. I’d been writing bits of music here and there that wasn’t suitable for my band at the time (Hot Club de Paris) and once that folded, I wanted to make music without the compromises that you might encounter in a band. When you’re writing as a group you’re attempting to satisfy all the member’s creative visions. The reason the Doomshakalaka record took so long was because it turns out that those series of compromises is what makes writing quicker and easier.

Your album is out tomorrow, it feels like you’ve put a lot of yourself into its making – how personal is it and who else has helped you make it happen?

I guess all ‘solo’ records are pretty personal affairs but this feels particularly so as I recorded all of the material as well as writing and performing it. I mixed it and then designed all of the artwork so I’ve probably put more of myself into this record than a lot of people would. It’s certainly more input than I’m used to so there was a steep learning curve with regard to figuring out how to manage my expectations as a creative person, in line with a lot of technical stuff I was learning about how to record music. My friend Tom English played the drums and provided a much needed voice of reason / encouragement / enthusiasm, without which I might still be recording it now.

Is there a track that stands out for you and what’s it about?

At this point on a good day I love all of the songs in equal measure and on a bad day I hate all of the songs in equal measure. I’ll choose the song Black Balloons. I like the linear arrangement and organic space in it. It feels like I was writing in quite an unabashed, unconstrained way that I feel is a tough zone to get into. I think a lot of writers feel like they’re playing full-contact sport for Team Zeitgeist and it’s sometimes difficult to remember to make whatever the fuck you want. The lyric started as a joke; my girlfriend finds it amusing that I often mention people’s birthdays or birthday parties in songs, and I wanted to write something that might make her laugh. It all went a bit dramatic though and started to be about gunshots and dreaming about your house burning down.


Has lockdown affected your release plans at all?

There were no plans to play this record live as I don’t have a band as yet, so we’re just pressing on regardless of lockdown. It’s kind of tough to make videos for the singles in this situation but restriction often presents better ideas so I’m not too bothered.

Tell us about the video for lead track One Last Saturday Night which features you walking with your dog – is it right that it was shot by your girlfriend on an iPhone?

Yeah, we made it during the initial stages of lockdown. I was recovering from a particularly unpleasant surgery where I’d had a scarred nerve removed from the ball of my foot which is why I’m on crutches in the video. We needed to make something near the house, preferably whilst we walked our dog and not too strenuous, so it was the best we could muster in the circumstances. Turns out she has a very steady hand, plus we’re isolated together so she was the perfect choice for DOP.

And how’s your foot now, will we see you undertaking a series of increasingly difficult sports activities on subsequent videos?

There is 0% risk of me doing anything strenuous on camera.

Liverpool’s normally a pretty busy city – outside of quarantine where are favourite places to go?

Most of my favourite places to go tend to involve food or coffee or both. I really like eating at The Bagelry and most recently Meatless. I like the coffee at Belzan and it’s only a 30 second walk from my studio. I walk my dog everyday in Sefton Park which is beautiful at any point of the day. My favourite gallery is probably The Walker, so I’ve been missing going there during lockdown. If I’m in that part of town I love going to Lovelocks which has brilliant coffee and insane cake. Defend Vinyl is a great record shop in the south of the city and I often spend a couple of hours chatting with the owner about the second hand records he’s acquired. Venue-wise, everywhere I used to go when I was more into going out has been turned into flats, plus I barely drink now so I’m not particularly connected to any bars / pubs / venues. I have quite bad tinnitus these days, so I choose the gigs I attend quite carefully.

Once restrictions are lifted, what’s next for Doomshakalaka?

I’ve been writing a new Doomshakala record! I’m planning a different process this time; simpler songs, quicker bouts of writing and to record the material live with a band. I’ve got some excellent musicians lined up to populate my band and help me record the record so I’m very excited about it. We’re looking at recording it in October. I’m hoping the restrictions will be lifted without reinstatement by then, but you can never be too sure considering our government’s harrowing approach to protecting people’s health. Other than that, I’m thinking about getting a haircut.

Doomshakalaka is released tomorrow, 5th June, on Moshi Moshi Records. You can pre-order the album here and watch the video for One Last Saturday Night below.

Interview by Siobhan
Header photo © Nick Duckett via One Beat PR

4th June 2020