Larry Beau, or Declan Burke as he is known to some, is a singer/songwriter from Galway. A singular and unique talent on the Irish music scene he is a man of many guises. A wandering minstrel with baroque tendencies(if you will) Larry’s sound is a difficult one to pin down. It’s best to listen yourself and form your own definition.
Tell us about the album. How long you worked on it? What snags you hit along the way, and how did you overcome them? Looking back now, is there anything you'd change?
After about 5 different titles I finally settled for I Dream of Tiger Rose. The album is back from duplication now so it’s unlikely that I’ll fickle my way towards another name change. It took me a while to be satisfied with the final canvas but now I think I have an album that will age pretty well, something that I won’t drop-kick with shame 3 months down the line. I aimed for a music project that was old and new at the same time, a melody world that would chime away ignoring the loneliness of taste tantrums and fashion whims. Of course, that’s not for me to decide, but I can wish for it surely. I’ve been working on the album for the past 4 years. The normal restrictions and frustrations of a shoe –string budget, and sometimes none at all, were part and parcel of the project, but along the winding road the songs themselves got time to ripen and mature. Good friends, generous strangers and part time work kept the dimes dropping in the slot machine. I’d like to be building an album a year with a patron who trusts your vision. That’s as lofty and foolish a statement as you’ll get, but it’s a gentle dream nonetheless. I can’t change the length of my footsteps in my past but I’ll try to enjoy each step in the future. Time is sorely precious so its best keep your mind on the promise of a new dawn.
Do you still wince whenever you are referred to as a Goth? Is your image more consciously glam rock for the new album?
I’m not so sure about the image thing. I try to present myself as a Minstrel. I could be dapper white today and a black- tooth gypsy tomorrow. Whatever catches your eye in a charity shop, or a fake oriental arcade. I’ll buy a hat for a tenner and spend a week decking it out with feathers and stolen diamonds. Someone might admire it after a little show and you give it to them. The next day you’ll find a new look, a different dream of glad-rag. Goth, glam rock, gypsy, beggar, bard. You have a lifetime to drag the skeleton though them all and come up with a few strange hybrids along the way, even if you do look like a walking circus.
There’s quite a baroque feeling to your music. Where did you derive the inspiration for this? Does your voice naturally lend itself to such a style of music?
I could answer that easily if I knew exactly what baroque meant. I suppose the harpsichord suggests that era, but I would hope the music is not as stiff and regal as classical baroque. I’m a pop artist really. We are all thieves from the great composers of the past, whether we know it or not. We are watered down versions of the masters of composition. If Chopin rose from the grave he would laugh himself to madness at our dainty little attempts to express and induce emotion through melody. I’m happy enough with my own attempts, but I’d be scuttling away up a tree if the heavyweights ghosted a return. I can croon my way blindly around most melodies whether it’s suitable or not, so long as there is feeling.
If you don’t mind me saying so, your look on the video for 'Karma Blue' is very similar to Noel Fielding of the Mighty Boosh. So is it a case that you copied him or he copied you?
Karma Blue was shot in 2004, a few years before the Mighty Boosh, I think. I don’t watch TV, but I’m still vaguely familiar. It’s impossible not to be, in a visually claustrophobic society. I doubt their troupe of designers have ever seen Karma Blue, but they should have a look!
What was it like performing with the San Francisco Omni circus? How did it come about that you got to work for them and would you consider doing it again?
It was a formative strangely exciting period. I was in San Francisco looking for a place to live. I brought my guitar to this back street theater shop and sang a few ditties to the robot ringmaster and his well heeled lover. They seemed to like it and soon I was performing in their show with just a long shirt, a pair of cowboy boots and feather in my cap. I slept under the chairs in the theatre loft, to the soundtrack of junkies and thieves. The theatre space was cluttered with the owner’s robots and apocalyptic paintings. There was also a gigantic black cat and an 18 year old miniature doggy called Irene trotting around the artistic junkyard. It was summer time, little money and the hope of something new. I met a musical saw-playing soprano called Cynthia Weyuker who performed with The Punk Rock Orchestra at the time. We kept in touch and did some shows together. She plays on the new album. I might go back for a few shows next year if they need a dandy minstrel.
Outside of your music do many people call you “Larry” or are you still referred to as Declan?
If people are feeling frivolous I hear Larry. I have now become a little nervous when I hear my birth name. It’s probably a bank, tax or welfare official on the phone and you know that can’t be good. Suddenly there’s lots of crackling and hissing sounds on the line and a “can’t hear you very well, coverage is bad”, then nothing but the sound of sweet silence, except for a beating heart. Larry is best. It takes the nasty reality out of life.
Your music seems to be quite different from anything else on the Irish scene at the moment. Do you appreciate and derive any inspiration from any current Irish (or international) music or do you distance yourself from it?
I walked into Road Records yesterday. There were oodles of Irish albums spread in front of me. I blushed like a ruby red apple. I recognized little to none. I’m completely out of touch. I listen to songwriting gems of a fading era. Cohen Waits, Dylan, Kate Bush. I was introduced to the mighty lungs of the late Odetta last year. Classical music is oxygen for the ears. Old Blues. Old folk.
What are your hopes for this album and your plans for the rest of the year?
To sell it after shows, to flog it on the street to anyone willing to swap it for dimes and to get some reviews for the website. I hope not to see it in the bargain basket of a charity shop next month..
Some festivals, some high class busking around Europe and to find some diamonds in the gutter for the next album
Larry Beau’s new album I Dream of Tiger Rose is launched on the 21st of this month with a show in The Sugar Club in Dublin.