As the saying goes, ‘no man steps foot in the same river twice’, and the same could be said about the musical journey of Irish DJ and producer Kormac over the years, with the Dublin native having ventured from hip hop to electronica to sampledelia to big band swing over the course of a 15-year career.
Now, Kormac has just completed arguably his most captivating work to date – Equivalent Exchange, an eight track album that sees him team up with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, along with a myriad of vocalists, rappers and musicians including Jafaris, MayKay, Jack O’Rourke, Shahab and Shayan Coohe, and Loah.
It’s his first long player since 2014’s Doorsteps, and evolved out of a live project that Kormac and the Irish Chamber Orchestra undertook in 2018 (again with a merry band of artists) – so expect plenty of ethereal, cinematic moments… as well as a couple of good, old fashioned stompers.
Check out the single Carry Weight feat. Loah, which was released on 14 October, for a taste of what to expect.
Equivalent Exchange is released on the Always the Sound label – a collaboration between Kormac, All City Records and CWB Management – on 11 November 2022, with a vinyl edition coming in early 2023. You can purchase it here.
Ahead of a launch party for the album in Dublin on 19 November (more details below), 909originals caught up with Kormac.
Hi Kormac, thanks for talking to us. Equivalent Exchange started as a live concept – how did that evolve into the current album?
Yes it was written as a one-off, live show where I was given the chance to write a full suite of music for orchestra and collaborators.
We ended up performing the show several times and I continued to refine and edit as I went, ending up with a collection of tracks that I was ready to present as a cohesive body of work.
When did you start working with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, and when it came to writing music for them, how did your approach to music change?
It all began when I was commissioned to write the closing show for the St. Patrick’s Day festival. I’d been thinking about attempting to write for orchestra for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
My manager knew and worked with the ICO director, introduced us and it went from there. I was, initially, quite worried about how the players might view the type of music I write – or was writing – but found them to be so open to trying new things. It goes without saying that they’re phenomenal musicians… and they’re tremendous fun.
I remember reading that the Equivalent Exchange live project was truly collaborative, in that you ‘let go’ of aspects of the project in order to take it in new directions and surprise yourself? How is that reflected on the album?
Before this project, when collaborating, I tended to send artists tracks that were, in hindsight, almost finished and asked them to work with those.
This time around, I sent work at an earlier stage; demos, sketches etc, and asked them to record any and all ideas that came. That way, I’d get a lot more material to work with but, probably more importantly, allow the collaborators much more space to contribute, leading to better music.
One thing that strikes me about the album is that it is supposed to be listened to in its entirety – Carry Weight leads directly into Bottom of the Ocean for example. Is that the approach you took with it?
Absolutely. I’d love for it to be listened to from start to finish… and in Dolby Atmos, if possible!
I’m trying to place the listener in a concert hall for 45 mins. Row 4, to be exact!
At times, the album feels like a movie soundtrack – cinematic strings on tracks like Ondes and You’ll Stay, that repeated vocal mantra on This Is Where We Are. When producing the album did you visualise it like that?
I would say no, but, having said that, I’ve just completed the score for a thriller/drama series for Disney Plus called Red Election, starring Stephen Dillane and Lydia Leonard. It’s my first feature film and I’m currently wrapping up the soundtrack for another six-part drama which will be on your screens next year. So all that probably had something to do with it!
Much of your previous work leaned heavily on samples. With that in mind, is this your most ‘original’ work date, or are there still lots of samples in there (that are perhaps better hidden)?
I really love the art of sampling and I think that’s fair to say about my first album, Word Play, and the EPs that came just before it. The thing is, sampling actually takes ages and costs a fortune.
I’ve been recording live instruments since I was about 12, so when it came to making Doorsteps, my second album, it made more sense to just record things and treat them as samples, chopping and twisting them into something new.
This time around, I had such a large palette of musicians to work with, sampling anything wasn’t really required.
What are your plans for the Always The Sound label – will it be an avenue solely for your own work, or are you planning to bring other artists into the fold?
The next few releases will be ‘me and mine’, let’s say. My solo work, projects that I’m involved in etc. I’ve put a lot of work and investment into the look and the infrastructure behind the label. The plan is also to have each release presented in Dolby Atmos/Spatial Audio, as well as vinyl and traditional formats.
Does a project like Equivalent Exchange mark a turning of the page for you musically – are we likely to see further work along this theme? Also, does this mean that we are likely to see fewer Big Band or A/V shows going forward?
I’ll certainly be performing this record for the foreseeable, but that definitely doesn’t rule out more solo/AV shows or band shows. Plans are afoot!
What are your ‘live’ plans for the new album? Should we expect festival appearances in 2023 or will it be more of a selective schedule?
Yes, we’re currently starting to book festival shows for next year. I’ve been doing so much writing/studio/scoring work for the last couple of years that I feel more than ready to do a good run of shows.
Thanks Kormac for talking to us. Equivalent Exchange is out now on Always the Sound – click here for more information.