Journey back to the Wax & Seal Studio Diaries – II

Welcome to the second part of our Wax & Seal Studio Diaries retrospective!  (If you’re starting here, you might want to go back and read the first part.)



By this time in the recording, I was struggling badly with my voice.  I was lucky enough to never have any real issues with my voice in the past.  If it was ever hoarse, it recovered quickly, and I was used to getting a fairly clear sound.  This all went awry in Freiburg.  I tried everything from homeopathic treatment to coating the back of my throat with iodine*, but we were clearly trying to treat the symptoms of some other problem which went undiagnosed.  Whenever I returned to Ireland everything cleared up – and whenever I was there I began to suffer again.  I realised a year or two later that I used to get a slight upset stomach from Weizen (wheat beer) when they started serving it in Dublin.  It was not enough to be very noticeable – but I eventually put two and two together.  I had been suffering from acid reflux overnight, after drinking weizen beer – which explained why my voice was at its worst in the mornings, and began to improve as the day went on.  So, to this day there are certain vocals on the album that I’m not happy with because I can feel the effects of my suffering vocal cords.  At least I figured it out in the end!


* I do not recommend this.  It is RANK! 


Wax & Seal – Day 237 – 6 September 2004 – Freiburg

For “Withnail & I”, Bruce Robinson wanted to describe Marwood’s current state of mind and his surroundings to the actors. (If you haven’t seen it, do so immediately). He wrote something like this…

Dostoyevsky described hell as probably no more than a room with a chair in it.  This room has several chairs.

Niels, Shane & Mitch outside Ivy Court

Niels, Shane & Mitch outside Ivy Court

We’re knee deep in backing vocals country right now. Experimentation and a little bit of messing going on. Not sure what it will sound like. It’s kinda funny when you’re in the middle of it, because you have the backing vocals up unnaturally loud in the mix so that everyone can hear what you’re doing… This has the strange effect of turning every song into Bohemian Rhapsody. Which I have no major objection to really, but it does sound a little out of place.

We’re moving to Temple Studios on Thursday. It will be good for everyone methinks. The change of scenery will lend an air of progress to the proceedings. It will be nice to hear everything in a different environment too.

As Nigel Tapley once said, “anything starting with ‘this bloke…’ is bound to be legal”. True enough….

Philipp Rauenbusch laying down bass on Live What You Feel

Philipp Rauenbusch laying down bass on Live What You Feel

[NOTE:  This next paragraph was prompted by me waking up to a text message from an old friend from Dublin who was at the time living in the UK.  I decided to recount the tale without mentioning too many names for fear that they may be identified.  Harmless fun, but still not strictly legal!]

So, this bloke and his mate, decided after having a nice little lock in, to go down to Asda at about four or five in the morning. So, they get some grub and a mini-golf set (obviously). Then they stroll across the car park to a very well known English Premiership football team’s grounds. They proceed to scale the wall (still drunk) and make their way onto the hallowed turf, where they commence a game of mini golf and their own little mobile-phone photo session. They then stroll out the large gates of the ground at about seven in the morning (Yes, in broad daylight. God only knows what the night watchman was up to).

Der Teigi



T & Shane breaking bread, with the hallowed Hofner (?) guitar Willie Brady played.

T & Shane breaking bread, with the hallowed Hofner (?) guitar Willie Brady played.



NOTE :  Around this time, we moved from Ivy Court studios in the centre of the old town of Freiburg, to Temple Studios which was a bike ride or tram/walk along the Dreisam river past SC Freiburg (the local and impossibly tiny Bundesliga team stadium).  Temple Studios was a mastering studio, and had the right equipment for the job.  It was a bad fit, and the process took FAR longer than it should have, which took valuable funds away from our promotional budget and funnelled it towards needless studio days.

Wax & Seal – Day 246 – 15 September 2004 – Freiburg


I have begun to pick up the strange and unusual (to me that is) local dialect, adding “le” to the end of words, like “Hallöle!”. Or using shortened everyday expressions like “Tach” which is how they seem to pronounce Tag or Guten Tag. It’s interesting (to me alone, probably).

I’m over in Temple Studios now. I have a routine. I set out on a bike I borrowed from Shane and ride alongside the Dreisam River all the way out to the studio (which is situated on the Schwarzwald Strasse … or Black Forest Road). It’s a lovely ride, and It’s downhill on the way home which has got to be a plus.

Temple Studios

Temple Studios

We’re transferring all our recordings over from Ivy Court to Temple Studios, getting every track lined up and ready to go, and in the meantime listening to albums and songs we like to help keep us focused. I’m in good form and enjoying the change of scenery and fresh forest air. The equipment in this place is pretty cool. The kind of place where you wouldn’t mind go shopping with decorating your bachelor’s apartment in mind. It’s wall to wall iPod, iMac (the one that looks like half a football lying down with a screen sticking out of it on a protruding metal bar… nice), PCs, scanners, faxes, … that’s before I even mention any of the sound equipment which I must admit I do not understand or even recognise… only that it must be good. There is an implement Shane brought over called a Joe Meek Compressor, named after a mad London-based sound engineer and producer who revolutionised all sorts of sound equipment and produced some of the strangest records of his time… Met a sticky end too if I remember correctly.

I’m reading a book called Stasiland, about East Germany and the effects the Stasi had on its members, informers and victims. It’s essentially a collection of the personal accounts of these people’s experience written by an Australian writer who interviewed them while working in Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There are some mind numbing tales about how far a state will go to retain control. Brilliantly written. I haven’t been able to put it down, which makes eating tricky.

I’m beginning to think about lunch… mmmm

Der Teig (mmmm… bread…)

Wax & Seal – Day 284 – 23 October 2004 – Freiburg

Shane Brady

Shane Brady

George’s St Arcade is done now too. Monochrome will be done within the next hour I would estimate. We’re working at tremendous speed now. We need to. It’s a bit of enjoyment finally after so much stress and worry. Worries not over… but then sure if they were, where would the excitement be?  Suppin’ tae in the Phoenix Park tea rooms bored out its mind after seeing the barmy polar bears, no doubt.

The deadlines are encroaching so we must work fast. Apparantly Monochrome sounds like something Pink Floyd should have done. I don’t know about that. I’ll tell you later when I’ve formed an opinion. In the meantime the view is quite nice from the fence.

Aboot in Freiburg

Aboot in Freiburg

We took some nice photos with Britt recently. Some great ones. Maybe one or two will find their way onto the album sleeve. No decisions made yet.

So, that’s all for the moment. I may write something this evening too, depending on my mood. Take care now.

Mind yourselves
Der Teig


Wax & Seal – Day 287 – 26 October 2004 – Freiburg

Shane & Philipp

Shane & Philipp

Six O Two was being tackled this morning. It’s nearly done now. It sounds sweet with all that pedal steel madness going on in and Niel’s other guitar bit too. Very nice. Like a lullaby.

Just heard that John Peel, the DJ on BBC Radio 1 has died. A sad day for the music world. He was only 65.

So anyways, Frank is eating a banana beside and making me feel a little bit hungry. What to eat? What to eat?

There’s a sign by a part of the train station in Freiburg used for dropping off passengers, that I was told said “Kiss & Ride”. Disappointingly, it says “Kiss & Rail” or something like that. I thought I had stumbled upon the best thing since sliced bread. The Irish would be queueing up for it.

Kiss & Ride

Kiss & Ride (20 minute limit!)


While We’re on the subject, English phrases have infiltrated almost all aspects of life over here. It’s disturbing. A lot of the phrases are completely misused too which adds to the peculiarity of it. TV is the worst though. It’s like watching the Fast Show sometimes… “welcome to dee Big Show”. Don’t get me started on MTV though. Such abuse of the word music I have never before encountered.

Um, yes… sorry about that rant.

Der Teig


NOTE: This was the final entry in the diary.  The end of a tough marathon… and the start of a fight to get the album out there onto the airwaves, into the newspapers, and magazines, and your CD collections.  Never underestimate the struggle you’ll have.  Never mistake another starting line for your finish line!


Day — – 11 November 2004 – Freiburg

By a church door in the centre of Freiburg. This shot featured in the album booklet. By Jenni Henke

So we’ve secured the album release for early 2005. Probably february. We’re still planning and adding dates to our tour of Ireland (and the town of Freiburg!) at the end of November. Rehearsals are going well.

Big congratulations to Phantom FM. They’ve worked hard for that licence. Of course all of us Irish artists are selfishly rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of more airplay… well, We’re not all saints! I’d write something entertaining now but Bell X1 beat me to it (can you find that post & hyper link?!). They’ve started recording their eagerly awaited third album in Dublin and their studio diary is worth a read if you have a few minutes. Anyway. Congrats again to the Phantom crew.

Everyone is rallying around getting stuff done at the last minute for our flights, van rental, accomodation, music gear, etc etc etc. Times have been pretty frantic lately. I don’t know where I am. The main thing is that We’re now at the “selling” point of the record’s lifetime. I’ll get myself together sometime soon I hope. Sure there’s always Christmas. As Phil Hayes would say I’m looking forward to a Whopper Chrimbo.

By Jenni Henke

In lieu of having the liner notes to read now, and before we start entering the crazy period of touring and radio gigs, I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in the production of the record. Also, a big hug to all the people here in Freiburg who have been real friends to me during my stay. Without them it would have been really really tough. Also, to all my friends and family who have gone through a lot of hard times in the time that I’ve been away. I shouldn’t gush… but yeah, they’ve all been fantastically understanding and supportive, when they had enough strife of their own. Anyways. Yiz all know who yiz are.

Adieu, Adieu, Der Teig


With Gerry Anderson in BBC Radio Foyle's studios in Derry/Londonderry

With Gerry Anderson in BBC Radio Foyle’s studios in Derry/Londonderry

And so to conclude, and to finish disputes…  that was the final entry in the Wax & Seal studio diary.  The rest is history.  (Well it’s all history, technically.)  The album was released on Friday, 4th March 2005.  It received some great reviews, but got very little airplay in Ireland until we released the second single, “Know You Hate Me”.  That got a lot of play which was heartening.  Probably the best support I received was on BBC Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle, which I’m forever grateful for.  Honorable mention for Cherrie McIlwaine, and of course, the late great Gerry Anderson who played me every morning for months.  

If you find yourself wanting to read the diary in full, and in order, you’ll find it here ( It’s as it was typed back in 2004 on the hand-coded php-driven website). I haven’t gotten around to making those pages prettier, replacing all the question marks with apostrophes (damn german keyboards), or slotting the entries into proper individual blog posts, but some day soon I will.

I made a playlist of some of the songs we were listening to, inspired by, or obsessed with around the time of the record! It’s really all over the map, but I’ve tried to arrange the playlist so the transitions don’t jar too much. You can listen to it on spotify here.

Wax & Seal is available to buy here and you can stream it on spotify here.

Official FacebookInstagramYoutubeSpotify

Wax & Seal Studio Diaries I

Tadhg - By Britt Schilling

By Britt Schilling

Somehow, this month, my debut album, Wax & Seal, has turned twelve years old.  It’s on the cusp of secondary (high) school.  It’s slamming doors.  It has an attitude, hormones, and doesn’t take any advice from its long suffering parents.

I’ve been digging through the archives here at The Cooke Report and I’ve found some of my studio diary entries from the recording sessions in Freiburg!  I figured I would compile some of the entries here and share them. They’re erratic, and they’re numbered from the very first day I went into the studio so while the numbers make it look like I was there for an absolute age, that’s not the case. Frustratingly we spent more time out of the studio than in it, for various reasons, but it was all worth it in the end, and if you’re here, you’d probably agree!

I’ve really enjoyed putting these together. I hope you enjoy reading them!

NOTE :  The night before flying to Germany to begin recording Wax & Seal at Ivy Court in Freiburg’s Altstadt.

Wax & Seal – Day 1 – 14 January 2004 – Home

Schwabentor, Freiburg.

Schwabentor, Freiburg im Breisgau

So it’s the night before recording and none of the children can sleep. Just like Christmas. I’m listening to Buzzin Fly and trying to imagine what my album is going to sound like when It’s finished while trying to relax my mind in order to get back to sleep and I’m simultaneously making mental notes to remember socks, strings and this thingummy and that whatummy.

It’s clear to me now, before I do my first gig in Germany, that there is something perverse or at least ironic about spending your college life and a year abroad learning french and then going to record an album in Germany, a place where understandably they don’t speak too much french.

The stories of the Happy Monday’s producer who dismantled an entire drumkit because he was unhappy with the sound in the room, only to reassemble it again on the roof, keeps popping into my head.

mr t

Wax & Seal – Day 8 – 21 January 2004 – Freiburg

Note : After some heavy days and nights in the studio, we finally finished George’s Street Arcade, a song inspired by the doorstopper sandwiches and cosiness of Simon’s Café. Here’s the morning after we wrapped on the recording.

We finished up at midnight last night after some inspired mandola playing from Niels. He

Niels playing melody harp on George's St Arcade.

Niels playing melody harp on George’s St Arcade.

picked it up and played it the whole way through after one trial run. He’d never played mandola before. It’d make you puke and feel inadequate in the way that the good musicians always do.
The guitars sound great. Really chugging along yet sitting nicely in the groove. The drums are fantastisch – those half beats have transformed everything. It’s a straight-forward song really, so I think we’ve succeeded in pulling it away from the standard approach, although it is quite traditional at the same time. So we have the basics down and I’m doing vocals tomorrow.
And now for something completely different. I had this really dramatic new tune that I wasn’t really sure if we’d do but it seems to have struck a chord (puntastic) with everyone. As we speak, or rather as I type and you read, Mitch is sitting in control room with a Korg machine on his lap about the size of a Milk Tray but much more offensive with loads of flashing lights and dials and buttons all over the shop. It looks like he’s playing a game. But It’s no game I assure you. Not sure where this will take us but I have this vision of an electronica backing an acoustic guitar track with haunting vocals and samples of people chatting on their way between stalls and coffee shops somewhere in the city. I’m half expecting Thom Yorke to come in for guest vocals.

Alex, Tadhg and Mitch in the hallway of Ivy Court Records

Alex Paeffgen (keys), Tadhg, and Michael “Mitch” Schillinger (drums) in the hallway of Ivy Court Records.

I got some jumpers to keep me warm earlier today. Plain and functional. Very peaceful here right now. It’s amazing how many times a day you can use the phrase “Ich habe keine Deutsch”. My other most useful phrase is one I borrowed from a BBC language website. It’s for car owners. “Volltanken Bitte” means “fill ‘er up” basically. However I can use it at the pub, having tea with the musicians… so useful. I get strange looks but sure what the hell. I feel really bad about not knowing German.
Oh yeah, the song title is George’s St Arcade.

Wax & Seal – Day 14 – 27 January 2004 – Freiburg

It’s 02:02 local time in Freiburg. Late night again tonight. So I suppose technically this is the 28th but sure we won’t get all technical this late in the day.

Flo Galow (Kontrabass)

Flo Galow (Kontrabass)

Shane Brady, producer and captain of the ship, in the live room.

Shane Brady, producer and captain of the ship, in the live room.

I’ve been talking about the snow for days now… but the snow stuck today in the town. We stumbled around town a few hours ago when we went for a little break. Quite amusing. I expect much mirth and merriment will follow tomorrow. I have scheduled an afternoon snowball fight tomorrow with schnapps for everyone afterwards.
We finished the basic Ivory Heart stuff today. The guys seemed impressed by the level of madness in the basic tracks. I must say they are very patient fellas. My timekeeping is a little erratic at times. History is always kind to the writer. Bear this in mind when reading these diaries.
Florian, as usual, has been bouncing off the walls dying to play more stuff. So while the iron was hot we laid down a basic track for Like A Stone. It’s a lonely sort of song, yet not depressed… I don’t know… almost glad to be sad…. or something.. melancholic… but not in the bad way that many songs described as melancholic can be. Mitch got some beautiful deep snare sounds due to some nice miking and yet another of his fine crazy ideas that he is becoming known for. To protect his genius I cannot reveal his secrets. Niels has some beautiful playing on this too. Really sweet.
Anyways, It’s time to go home now, and I’ve got an aching head. So eh… yeah. Later kids.
Herr Cooke

Wax & Seal – Day 22 – 4 February 2004 – Freiburg

Today started with a few guitar bits. It was all running well as usual. Niels on top form.
The evening session was dedicated to Wax N Seal. We took a much more gentle

Mitch, Niels & Shane discussing the finer points.

Mitch, Niels & Shane discussing the finer points.

approach than last time. Due to some early jamming we decided to use twin acoustic guitars, live and with vocals. Bit mad. Took us a while but we got it. Bottled it. Mitch’s egg playing is fantastic. We played sans-click too so god only knows how he kept up with speedy gonzales (that’s me by the way). Bless the whole team’s patience! It’s cool. It’s all Ballerina and Independence Day Van Morrison… Who’s cooler than cool?
Ice Cold T

Wax & Seal – Day 127 – 19 May 2004 – Freiburg

Dear Diary,
I get the feeling we’re being watched. Call me paranoid, but…
My new thing is hats. I buy hats. I look like a cross between Franz Ferdinand (the band

Argh, mein Augen!

Argh, mein Augen! – by Jenni Henke

not the dead guy from the 1910s), Robin Hood and one of Bertie Wooster’s more stylish friends.
I have my own personal translator and tour guide here in Freiburg who has also become my official make-up artist and language tutor. Although you should probably ignore the language bit because I severly doubt that she would like to be associated in any way with my piss-poor German.  I got some shots of Freiburg from the top of the Schlossberg (the big hill that is basically an ant’s foot away from the centre of the town). The sun is out and everything looks great. I’m experimenting with photography. If anything at all comes out properly I’ll be extremely surprised and very happy with myself. I’ve decided to develop my inner-Luddite in order to balance my increasing nerdiness – what with all the writing, diaries, reading, learning languages, etc. So I’m using a completely manual camera. Completely manual. It has a slot for batteries that you can use for a light meter… but I’ve thrown them away. Who needs em? Well, we’ll see on thursday when I get the first batch of photos back. So now that I’ve got pictures of the outside of Freiburg I’m gonna take shots of the city and the city-zens.
Mitch bought a new car. He’s very happy with himself. As he should be. Niels is in the

The Feierling Brauerei. Cause of, and solution to, all of my problems.

The Feierling Brauerei. Cause of, and solution to, all of my problems.

wars. He had a little accident with his eye. So I’m hoping all will be okay in a week or two. Alexander came around with all his keyboard bits again. So we have every piece of the puzzle now. Florian is still terrorising the Med. I got an email from him recently. Didn’t understand one word. Shane translated it for me. I still didn’t understand a word.
Last night I learnt a new phrase for “goodbye and good luck”. It comes from just south of Hamburg, or at least that’s where Mitch heard it. It goes like this: “Hau die hühner” which means “Hit The Chicken”. I’m busily incorporating it into my daily speech.

Der Teigelheimer

Wax & Seal – Day 128 – 20 May 2004 – Freiburg

Note : There were a few tracks we recorded which didn’t make the final cut for Wax &

Ivy Court Records

Ivy Court Records

Seal. One of the tracks was an early incarnation of Elvis in us All, which eventually found its way on to Fingertips of the Silversmith. My reference to the Bell X1 diaries, I think, referred to their tour diaries from an Eastern European jaunt they were on with Turn. There was a hilarious video they made of the event on their website. Would love to see it now.

Tadhg and kontrabass

There was a considerable age gap between us…

After our very slow start this time around We’re now flying through the material making great progress. The songs are sounding better every time I hear them. Maybe It’s because of the sun. I don’t know. Elvis & Foolish Part sound funking fantastic.
Mitch is due to arrive in about half an hour. We’ve had this old Korg beat on “George’s St Arcade” that sounds almost but not quite entirely unlike coconuts (to borrow a phrase from DA). It’s been niggling away at us ever since we used it. Breaking point arrived yesterday when we decided that it was time to get the biggest filthiest thonking thumping mother and father of all drums to replace the little Korg. So with Mitch being *just a little bit* more experienced than us at playing drums, we decided that it was only fair that he should play it!
I have since been informed that my hat is Dean Martin all over. So there.
Big up to DP and Phil keeping diaries alive and well over on the bellies site. Check out Phil’s science tip of the day. I think there’s a book in that somewhere. If in doubt, plug it out. Suddenly all those electricity black-outs in my area while I was growing up in the bad old eighties make sense to me now.

Der Teigelheimer

Tram in Freiburg - By Jenni Henke

Tram in Freiburg – By Jenni Henke

Thanks for reading this far!

We’ll post one more selection of the diary entries soon, with some photos. If you find yourself wanting to read the diary in full, and in order, you’ll find it here ( It’s as it was typed back in 2004 on the hand-coded php-driven website). I haven’t gotten around to making those pages prettier, replacing all the question marks with apostrophes (damn german keyboards), or slotting the entries into proper individual blog posts, but some day soon I will.

If you’re liking this trip down memory lane, I also thought it might be a nice to make a playlist of some of the songs we were listening to around that! It’s really all over the map, but I’ve tried to arrange the playlist so the transitions don’t jar too much. You can listen to it on spotify here.

In the meantime, Wax & Seal is available to buy here and you can stream it on spotify here.


Official FacebookInstagramYoutubeSpotify

Albums versus Podcasts

I find it extremely difficult to switch off at night.  While on tour with Storyman, or The Guggenheim Grotto as they were then known, Kevin & Mick dubbed me “tippy tappy”, such was my penchant for being interrogated by the glow of my teeny netbook, clacking loudly on the keyboard, while everyone else was trying to sleep.  (More about Mick in a sec.)

Two years ago, I wrote a little post with some links to some things I had been listening to.  One was an intriguing podcast called “Find The Conversation”.  I never explained why I was recommending podcasts.  I had discovered around that time, that listening to podcasts helped me to fall asleep more easily than ever before.  Listening back the next day, or the following night, I’d sometimes realise that I only made it ten minutes into the show.  It was effective because it allowed my mind to focus on something without having to respond.  I was paying attention until I conked out.  It worked like a dream.  (Sorry.)  Anyway, there are a few podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, which I thought I should recommend / thank, if anyone out there suffers from a similar affliction.

Firstly though, I’d like to link to just a few Irish friends who have released albums in the past few months.  They are marvellous people, and make fantastic music.  There are loads more, but I’ll give you three for now, in no particular order.  Support them if you can…

Mick Lynch
I met Mick & Kevin of Storyman about ten years ago.  On one particular US tour, all three of us spent 1440 hours in a row together.  That’s two whole months.  Yet, we’re still firm friends.  At least, that’s what their lawyers tell me.  This is Mick’s solo debut.  (I highly recommend Many Moons – it’s a heartbreaker.)

Oliver Cole
Ollie is a fellow Meathman, and was a member of Turn, whose album Forward had a lasting effect on me.  Always positive and confident.

Patrick Freeman
Paddy’s debut is a little gem.  Often at sessions, when Paddy’s breaking out in song, other musicians will audibly mutter “bastard!” in appreciation of the man’s talents.  I think, in these parts, that’s pretty much the highest accolade going.

Albums versus Podcasts

So they’re some albums to keep you company for a while.  I will never be able to listen to music while nodding off to sleep.  I get too involved in it, and it just ends up keeping me awake.  So, hence the podcasts for bedtime.

Second Captains (podcast)
I would normally never watch or listen to shows solely about the to and fro of sport.  They usually speak in very grave terms about things which really don’t seem awfully important, like Mitchell & Webb’s Sky Sports ad parody.  However, I love the Second Captains’ podcasts.  Yes, it is about sports – but they make it compelling with their wit and intelligence.  I got hooked on the show around the time the Lance Armstrong case was finally blowing apart.  Also, they pepper the show with fantastic sound clips.  Here’s one from Japan’s incredible defeat of South Africa in the World Cup featuring commentary from New Zealand, Japan, France & Italy.  I will freely admit, my eyes well up every time I hear it.  (For some reason I’m unable to link to the exact time in the podcast.  Jump forward to the section in question – it’s at 1h 02mins and 41secs – just before the end.)

99% Invisible (podcast)
This is a podcast about design.  If you like amazing stories, or have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, this will be right up your street.  To be honest, the presenting style annoys me a little.  But the content often more than makes up for it.  My favourite podcast so far has been this gem about architectural engineering gone wrong, and then covertly made right – the Citicorp building in NYC.

No Such Thing As A Fish (podcast)
QI is a show on TV in the UK.  The QI Elves are the researchers behind the scenes who seem to have the same obsessive need to collect stories and interesting facts, for no reason other than to just know them.  Extremely entertaining and informative.


Irish Postcodes

These two shaded areas are, unbelievably, the same postcode - P51.

These two shaded areas are, unbelievably, the same postcode – P51.

Today, I’d like I must write about the need for a proper Irish postcode system, and to outline the reasons why the €27m #Eircode project is being considered such a shambles and yet another missed opportunity.

The Post
Unless you’re in the transport industry in some shape or form, the only experience of postcodes you’re ever likely to have is with the postcode that Eircode assigns to your house.  The natural assumption is to associate these postcodes solely with An Post delivering letters to your door.  That assumption is wrong.  Your Eircode will not help An Post for the foreseeable future.  They’ve been delivering to your address, in some cases, since P&T was formed in 1922.  They’re doing okay.  It wasn’t perfect though.  So An Post developed their own geolocation system in conjunction with the Ordnance Survey. (See for yourself at :  For every BUILDING in Ireland the geodirectory provides “a unique, standardised address in the form of an eight-digit number, each pinpointed to an exact geographical location.”  These services needed a unique standardised code – so they developed one.  But that code is not Eircode.  So, if An Post and the security, fire brigade, and ambulance services already had a working geocode, then why were they involved in developing a new one?  I could speculate until the cows come home, but that’s what twitter is for.  I’d prefer to focus on the reasons why those of us who actually could use these codes are so livid at Eircode’s poor design.

Online Shopping & Deliveries
I’ll assume that the vast majority of you would have no experience of actually processing postcodes in business.  I’ll try to give you some insight into how they’re used in the transport industry globally.  This happens from the tiniest courier place in London, to global giants like DHL or FedEx who have a 45 billion dollar annual turnover.  (Yes, 45 billion.  They’re so big, their aircraft can afford to pop wheelies.)

Let’s take online booking.  You know those delivery charges which appear after you’ve bought your high-end triathlon gear from Chain Reaction or Wiggle?  (Or your Fifty Shades of Grey from Amazon?)  They’re calculated using postcodes.  In the UK if you’re in BT28 (a Belfast postcode) and the goods are being shipped from a warehouse in WD8 (a Watford, UK postcode – go on you ‘orns!), the following can be figured out :

  • A cost for delivery from a very small geographical area.
  • An estimated date of delivery judging by that company’s usual service standards.

So far, so logical.  This is an old system, but as you can see, its simplicity makes it extremely useful.  Now, larger transport companies will have warehouses in all corners of the country – and those warehouses will be responsible for covering deliveries to particular postcodes.  By assigning postcodes to particular warehouses, the entire country can be covered accurately, without conflict or overlap.  Due to the lack of postcodes in the Republic of Ireland, many transport companies have their own internal version of postcodes.  This was entirely necessary for most of us, as Irish county boundaries are problematic.  (Cavan’s panhandle, for example, is best covered from Leitrim or Fermanagh, rather than Cavan county.)  The problem remains that an internal sortcode is fine, but without the sort code being adopted by the entire country, its usefulness is limited.  It doesn’t help with locating ambiguous addresses, etc.

Geographically Distinct Areas
The first few characters of a postcode are usually the sort key.  The French postcode 75013 uses the first two digits as the sort code, with 75 being central Paris – the final 013 bringing you to the 13th district.  (Incidentally the first two digits were being used by the French for their small administrative areas over 150 years ago.  They understood its usefulness.)  In the UK, the tiny area of HS1 gives you Stornoway, an island area in the Hebrides off the east coast of Scotland.  This is the beauty of having a sensibly defined sort key.  Anyone who has lived or travelled to an Irish or Scottish island knows that things work differently there.  Deliveries may only be carried out twice a week.  Ferries may only operate on certain days, at certain times, and may have strict weight restrictions, etc.  Sometimes deliveries are only made as far as the port – with islanders organising the remainder of the trip.  The cost and time it takes to deliver to an industrial estate outside Glasgow is often quite different to the cost and time of delivering to an island in the Hebrides.  You may be a city dweller who wonders, who cares?!  But without the postcode being of use to every address, there is no point in adopting it.  We will only have to replace it when saner heads prevail at some point in the future – no doubt at considerable cost.
Without having a distinct SORT KEY for a geographically distinct area, a postcode is of no real benefit to any type of transport firm or agency.  To take one example, Eircode have used the same sort key, F92, for Arranmore (Donegal’s largest inhabited island) and the north western Donegal mainland.  Cill Rónáin, Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, has the same sort key H91, as Connemara and Galway City.  Galway city and the Aran Islands may be in a relatively small geographical area, but keen eyes may have noticed that the Aran Islands are separated from the mainland by a small section of the Atlantic Ocean.  Sort codes which ignore clear and obvious boundaries, like seas or oceans, need to be redesigned.
In two seconds a website could tell a Hebridean that his delivery will take 4 days at a cost of fifty quid by using the first three characters of the postcode.  The Eircode-using Irish equivalent website would need to lookup a large database to tell an Arranmore resident the cost and time for delivery – and they’d need the full exact code.  Any mistake made here, and your estimated delivery time, and cost for delivery will be wrong.

Unique Identifiers
Now, the pro-Eircode people, be they government departments, An Post (who won’t use it) or Nightline (the only one of approximately 3000 transport companies in the country who were consulted and the only one who claim they could use it), say that this new Eircode is unique to your address.  Unique identifiers would be fine, but they’re of little use to anyone who hasn’t bought the latest version of the updated postcode database from Eircode.  This is because the last four characters of the code are completely random – there is no geographical information contained in it.  This means that in data terms it’s an expensive system.  Rather than the code carrying the necessary information, with a simple grid system, you MUST carry out a data lookup to see what geographical location relates to the Eircode you’re trying to deliver to.  Your code is useless without a fully up to date database which can provide the longitude and latitude co-ordinates.  Think about it – when was the last time you updated your sat-nav?  Even with the now 40+ year old UK postcode system, you could get within a few streets of any new house – regardless of whether you had all your devices up to date.  (And regardless of whether you had a decent data or satellite reception.)  Apart from one delivery company who have been given access to the entire database, the only non-governmental agencies who are promoting the Eircode as useful seem to be direct-marketing companies.  Now whenever direct marketing companies are enthusiastic about anything, it’s time to pretend you’re not at home, or at the very least pretend you don’t speak English.  (That reminds me of the snub Eircode have given the Gaeltacht areas and Irish addresses too, but I won’t deal with that here.)

In the UK, the postcode database used to be proprietary.  They database was available at 4000 GBP per year, before they were advised to make it open source.  The government were eventually convinced that making it available to businesses was of huge benefit to the economy and most significantly to small businesses.  4000 GBP was a fairly large fee for a small start-up to have to bear.  They opened this up 2010.  Five years later, Ireland is introducing a brand new closed system.

The problem of new buildings
When you build your new dream house out in the countryside, and you’ve been assigned your new postcode – people can start sending you mail and deliveries.  Now because the only actual geographical information in the Eircode is the sort key, not all companies, or devices will have your eircode information.  (In fact, at time of writing no sat-nav/GPS manufacturer, nor google maps plan to implement the Eircode system at all.)  So, the best that you can hope for is that your delivery will arrive in your postal area, and you can direct them from there.  Now you can see where it’s advantageous to have smaller geographical areas than “north west Donegal”, or the beautiful P51 eircode in which is actually split in two as shown below.  In case you’re wondering, it would take 1 hr 40 minutes to drive across this Eircode which stretches from Cappoquin, Co Waterford all the way to Ballydesmond, Co Kerry.  You’d also have to pass through two other postcodes on the way.

P51 postcode

P51 Postcode. East and West?


Alternative Postcodes
There have been alternative postcodes put forward.  Both look promising.  The most commonly suggested ones are and  I don’t know a whole lot about either one.  What I do know from the papers, radio and Irish Government committee recordings which were uploaded to the web, is that the Loc8 Code was excluded from the tendering process by the government.  Illegally so, according to the EU.

Both of these systems however are examples of postcodes that give valuable geographical information, without total dependence on satellite or internet look-ups.

Likely Outcomes
In the modern era, no politician or government agency is ever permitted to change their mind.  We’re subject to the leadership qualities of the World War I Generals.  You must proceed in a straight line towards the stated target.  Even if 100,000 soldiers lie dead in no-man’s land before us, we must not waiver.  In the modern era, to change your mind is seen as a fatal flaw – not as the result of consideration, reason and common sense.  It ends, or at the very least, stunts careers.  That’s why the Eircode disaster will probably be pushed through regardless of how awfully inadequate it is.


Some More Illuminating Reading  (I might update this over time)
A Crowd Sourced Google Map of Eircodes

Gerry Anderson – Keep At It, Kid

I grew up far from any flavour of BBC.  I was reared in two-channel land.  Our television aerial was blown down during Hurricane Charlie in 1987.  Exposure to the BBC, UTV, Channel 4 or their radio equivalents went the way of the aerial.  For us it was RTE 1 and 2 – Glenroe, The Angelus and adverts for Ivomec-B :  “kills immature fluke, early immature fluke, and stamps out scour”.  (To this day I have no idea what any of that means.)  As a result of this, I didn’t know Gerry Anderson until later.

When I heard that Know You Hate Me, the second single from my debut album, Wax & Seal, was being played regularly by the BBC, I was ecstatic.  Technically, this was international exposure!  After a month or two, some sterling PR work by Bernie Divilly, and a visit to Broadcasting House in Belfast, I was finally on my way to Stroke City (Derry/Londonderry) for a live session on a daily morning show presented by Gerry Anderson.  As I’m coming over the Sperrins fumbling to find Radio Foyle on my crappy car radio, I hear the flügelhorn solo from Know You Hate Me.  As the song closes, I hear a voice saying, “… that waaaas Tadhg Cooke.  And with a name like that… he won’t be marchin’ on the twelfth!”  And bang – straight into another song.  He had epic delivery.

Most radio shows I’ve known featuring phone-ins and multiple guests were carried out with military precision.  The producers/engineers did most of the organisation and logistics, making sure the guests are lined-up and cued and the presenter was being handed the right things at the right time.  Meanwhile the presenters were cocooned in their soundproof fishbowl, understandably focussing on when the next ‘bit’ is coming up, where they need to be, what line they’re on, etc.  Some shows would issue you with call times literally hours before the radio show even started.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  So, it was a surreal experience to be collected from reception by an almost suspiciously relaxed Gerry Anderson.  He made tea for us both, and sank into the sofa opposite me.  We chatted a little about music, influences, and god knows what else.  It must have only been a minute before his show started when he sat up and said, ‘well, I have to go now… I’ll see you in a wee while!’  A moment later he was on air.

Some presenters (and admittedly, an awful lot of guests), are incredibly awkward with any kind of banter, off-the-cuff remarks, wordplay, or surreal threads of conversation.  They just can’t handle it.  But Gerry had a way of putting everyone at ease with his particular brand of banter – even the regulars who used to ring in especially to argue, complain and debate with him…  and consequently, the listeners loved it too.

While playing one of my songs live in studio, out of the corner of my eye I see Gerry leaning back with his feet up, eyes closed, and a smile on his face.  I’ll never forget that.  That’s the image of Gerry Anderson that I’ll always have in my head.  A man seeming to quite enjoy his job!  It’s something to aspire to.

On 6th August 2005, I wrote to him from an internet café in Clifden, the next stop on my little tour, to thank him for the radio session and for promoting a lunchtime show at Café Nervosa in the Nerve Centre in Derry by the city walls.  He replied, “Keep at it, kid. You’re on a winner.”  Gerry was very kind and supportive to a very green young version of me, and I know he must have done the same for a thousand other local musicians and bands over the years.  Sadly, that’s now a remarkable thing on this island.  Ní fheicimid a leithéid arís.

Some absolute geniuses went and animated sections of his radio shows.  Apparently they aired on BBC a few years back.  I’ve some catching up to do!  They’re well worth a watch/listen. This one’s called : Fainting Hen.

A tribute from The Thin Air : 30 years of serious mucking about Gerry Anderson 1944-2014.
BBC on Gerry Anderson

Van Morrison – The Bang Sessions

Van Morrison – Blowin’ Your Mind.

I have just received the strangest, actually genuine, email ever. I’ve been asked to “help spread the word” about a pledge campaign for a limited edition release of Van Morrison’s Bang! sessions, because like many Irish musicians, I’ve mentioned Van on my website probably more than once.

Now, here are a few reasons why I find the email a little strange.  Instead of numbering the list, I’ve decided to use exclamation marks, which seem more appropriate to my state of bewilderment right now :

! – Please help promote Van Morrison.

!! – Please help promote a re-release of already heavily exposed 50 year old recordings. (Including such unknowns as half of the material from “Astral Weeks” plus a little known tune by the name of “Brown Eyed Girl”.  Obscure, I know.)

!!! – … which as a bonus, on its very own vinyl, includes the deliberately “unreleasable” crud that Van recorded in order to get out of his contract, featuring lyrics like “Oooh aah you got ringworm”, in the knowledge that it would, could nor should ever be released. Except that it was.

!!!! – Since Van Morrison usually wouldn’t need to run a pledge campaign, and Bang! no longer exists as a label, and the Berns family still own the recordings apparently…  who exactly is doing this?

!!!!! – I refer back to exclamation mark one. I’m still not over that.

Of course, in expressing my puzzlement at the email/campaign, I have also unintentionally shone a light upon it.  However, I couldn’t avoid saying something about it.  It’s just too bloody weird.

Nollaig 2013

C'mon 2014 - I'll fight ye!

C’mon 2014 – I’ll fight ye!

“The Christmas” as we tend to call it in Ireland (like old folks speaking about a new technology… the facebook, the twitter, the email) is upon us.  It’s time for evaluation and introspection, celebration and mourning, festivities and preparation.  2013 is almost at an end.  But I won’t delve too deeply into that.  I’d just like to share a few developments with you.

I’ve recently moved to a new job which is slightly more flexible and more amenable to the musical side of my life.  The switch was pretty hectic, but things are settling down now, and I’ve begun to play shows again and reacquaint myself with the outside world.  I’m extremely grateful to get the opportunity again.  With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, we’ll meet on the road or over the airwaves soon.

In the past month, I’ve played a few shows – a full show at Tricky’s McGarrigle’s in Sligo, a guest slot at the Apollo Sessions at The Bleeding Horse (no horses harmed), and an opener for my old touring friends Storyman (formerly The Guggenheim Grotto) at The Workman’s Club.

I’ve also had the exhilarating experience of treading the boards at Ireland’s national theatre, The Abbey, to close a performance of The Risen People, written about the worker’s lockout in Dublin 1913.  (Being 2013 of course, it’s part of the centenary commemoration of the event.)  It’s a strange experience to walk onstage cold and with pure uncut adrenalin pumping through your system, as everyone else is on the downward end of their curve, to play a song… and then be left with nowhere to put all the excess adrenalin at the end of your 4 or 5 minutes!  I wanted to go out and lift tram carriages over my head afterwards.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, which I was honoured to seize.

The Abbey Theatre

We’re currently drawing up plans for 2014, and I can confirm that we will be visiting Germany in March.  We’ll leak further details through all the usual channels as soon as we can.

Thanks so much for your emails, support and belief throughout 2013.  Onwards and upwards.  I promise to follow through on my commitment to more writing and blogging, posting and sharing in the new year…  I swear!  I really need to ease up on my self-editing.  Considering that most people will be focussing on what Rob Ford or One Dimension are saying/doing, my behaviour here should be fine…  Should be.

Nollaig shona agus áthbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh!




New Popshifter Interview

I recently did a little phone interview with Paul Casey from a pop-culture blog called Popshifter.  It was published a few days ago, so here’s the link :

I really enjoyed it.  It’s been a while since I’ve done a full interview, so I apologise for my meandering, scattergun descriptions, overuse of pronouns, and general messiness of thought.  I have a tendency to spew verbiage out as quickly as it appears in my head, lest I lose my train of thought, or the words go out of fashion.  I know this is not wise… nor pretty to listen to… although it can be amusing at times.  Sometimes it even gets me into trouble, as it does 24 hour news anchors when they’re asked to riff on a topic for 2 hours straight.  Inevitably random words will align themselves into an unintended insult, a slur, a slogan or a Shakespearean play.  (Yes, I am that group of monkey typists locked in a room.)

Nevertheless, Paul ably wrangled my musings into some sort of structure – so fair play to him!

Find The Conversation

At the risk of contributing to your information overload, I wanted to share some things I’m reading, watching and listening to at the moment.  Inspiration is drawn from many sources, and even if something doesn’t inspire anything directly, a bit of knowledge can’t hurt.  Okay, it can hurt a lot.  Still… go for it!

Austerity Debunked
For citizens of Ireland or anywhere else that espouses austerity, you may like to know the influential paper that has been the  the whole reasoning behind austerity programs has just been blown to smithereens.  The Colbert Report demolished Reinhart and Rogoff in typically hilarious fashion last night.  It’s accurately described here in Business Insider, but you’re probably better off just watching him do it :
and the interview with the grad student who spotted their “error” :

Find The Conversation
If you’ve ever felt that humanity is on the wrong track, then you might wonder whether we’re taking the necessary steps to right our course.  This podcast goes some way towards addressing this.  Their website (and the start of each podcast) explains it better than I could, so dive in and take a listen.  Warning : may provoke thought.

From April to December of 2012, Aengus Anderson traveled America and recorded long, unstructured conversations with a cross-section of thinkers and doers, from transhumanists to neoprimitivists, urban farmers to musicians. The resulting conversations were wildly diverse but unified by a few themes: critiques of the present, hopes for the future, and discussions of what each thinker considered “the good.” The results may not yield any existential answers, but you’ll hear thoughtful and often provocative discussions emerging from a cacophony of ideas.

Find them on Soundcloud:
Or their website:

The World Is A Battlefield
Contradicting Pat Benatar’s assertion, it turns out that the world is a battlefield.  Also on soundcloud, I heard this interview via “Democracy Now!”, an independent news organisation based in the US.  The reason I’m posting it is because it introduced me to the phrase “forward deployment”, meaning invading a country and preparing the ground for battle before you’ve actually “started” the war.  There are several levels of creepiness laid out here, describing the drone wars, outsourcing of secret prisons and torture centres.  I’m not sure if you even SHOULD listen to this.

I Like Your Manifesto, Put It To The Testo!

“I like your manifesto, put it to the testo” – The Sultans of Ping F.C.

For a long time, this blog was merely a repository for gig notices, occasional newsletters and photos from foreign lands.  I want more.  From now on it will be my diary.  Fairly unfiltered and concerned with everything and anything that takes my fancy.  I need a proper outlet for it rather than dumping it all into emails to my long suffering friends.  I’ll install a ‘select category’ button somewhere, so you can simply view the posts you want to read.  (“Music-only”, “all” or “daily nonsense” or something to that effect.)  So, the blog will continue to function in the old traditional way, but you’ll have the option of devouring my daily ramblings if you so wish.  The choice is yours.  (Choice.  I’m good to myself!)  And so… for a confusing explanation and brief catch-up, read on…

For the past two years, since the release of Fingertips of the Silversmith, my second album, I have felt increasingly lost.  Sitting in a vacant lino-floored laundrette, I’ve been waiting, interminably waiting, and watching my mind slop slowly against the porthole glass.  Going nowhere. I realise that I’m entirely to blame for 99% of my failures.  (The other 1% is of course your fault, as a member of that useful catch-all group : “people”!)

Yes, the music game has changed.  Few people really know if there are goalposts anymore, never mind whether they’ve been moved or not.  However, music is not to blame for my inability to make decisions.  It’s not responsible for my “financial embarrassment”.  Music is not to blame for my stasis.  Nor for the rut that I dug for myself – the one that I’m finding nigh on impossible to climb out of. I’ve heard it said that one should never invest anything more than you are fully prepared to lose.  We’re probably all guilty of breaching that guideline.  I certainly am.

By the end of the promotional campaign for Fingertips of the Silversmith, having spent so much that I was unable to fund a proper tour and pay musicians/petrol-money, I was flat broke.  Eventually, luckily, I still had a job offer on the table.  (A rare thing in Ireland these days!)  I took the job in order to rescue my situation, but it was a huge blow to find myself back working long full-time stressful hours, that finished too late and left me too tired to gig in the evenings.  I realise how ungrateful that sounds – loss of pride and self-respect when I FIND a job…  it’s ridiculous, offensive even, but that was my honest reaction, drenched of course in two gallons of guilt. A good friend of mine once shared with me the rules set by a well-known New York jazz player, whose name escapes me :  Always look a million dollars – and never let anyone see that you’re broke.  These would be good guidelines but for one thing…  If everyone follows those rules, and nobody is willing to admit that we might have a problem, then how can we change or fix anything?  We’re expected to vacantly talk everything up, like Comical Ali on a roof in Baghdad boasting of Saddam’s victories just as the American tanks roll into picture behind him.  Just like our looney Irish economy, no-one willing to acknowledge the problems.  We’re the climate change deniers.  We’re the facilitators.  Music is the drug, and we’re terrified that dissent will stem the flow of those lovely blue crystals from Los Pollos Hermanos.

So here’s the thing.  I’m no revolutionary leader.  (A bit of a relief really – Irish revolutionaries traditionally end up betrayed and executed by their own.  As any correct Irish economist will tell you.)  In truth, I can barely lead myself to get up in the morning.  But I’m officially quitting with the ludicrous put-on-a-good-face that we do so well here.  I’ve rarely done it in private – but I’ve tried to steer clear of this talk in public as much as I could.  I’m rethinking that.  Dishonesty is not helping many people, is it?  But the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you have a problem, isn’t it?  I need to do that. Our country certainly needs to do it.  On the radio every day I keep hearing people saying that they’re sick of all the negativity, and that we should stop talking the country down.  We should be optimistic, they say.  Optimism is an outlook though.  A framing or re-framing.  Optimism will not mend your car, broken leg, or nation. As if talking positively will cure the economy and encourage investors!  Investors don’t listen to desperate pleas – they’re just looking at the figures.  If the figures don’t make sense, your über-positive dodgy salesman banter is not going to help.  In fact it just embarrasses us further.  We’re the fools who can’t or won’t admit that things here need radical, radical change.  Who do you think is impressed by our failure to admit we have a problem?  Europe certainly isn’t.  Tim Geithner certainly wasn’t, when he threatened the EU with hellfire if the Irish nation wasn’t held responsible for the actions of a few small privately-owned banks.  Until we admit that we have a problem, aren’t people supposed to refuse to help us?  That’s certainly what the ECB and EU have been doing so far.

So to hell with all of that.  I’m not going to deliberately set out to be negative – but I refuse, on moral grounds, to sugar coat everything.  I’m going to call the pot black, the kettle black, and the death star : a negative development in the quest for a universal peace.  We’re all grown-ups here (aside from a few avid feline readers who I’m sure are following this intently given the vast photographic evidence of IT-savvy cats).  If things are working out, I’ll shout it loudly from the blog-tops.  But if things are shit, I’m going to describe them as not going well.  There is nothing to gain from it.  Investors and business leaders will invest when they spot an opportunity to get in at the bottom of possible economic growth.  They’re not looking for reassurances from those “wonderful” politicians of ours.

The main thing anyway is to be a bit truer to my own self… and “put myself out there” a bit.  I’m a bit nervous, but more exhilarated by the prospect of it all. For the past year and a half I’ve been playing very few shows, touring very little, and I’ve been unable to commit to anything creative properly due to the silly working hours I’m doing.  This is not good. Am I overly negative?  I’m not really a glass empty or glass half-full kind of person.  I don’t fit well into either category.  My problem is much more fundamental than that.  I’m much more likely to fixate on things like :  Whose glass is this anyway?  Do we know for certain that it is a glass?  Humans generally don’t work well with grey areas.  Our brains function like a series of binary switches : on/off, good/bad, tasty/nasty, etc…  The world is usually a lot more complex than that, but binary choices allow for useful shortcuts.  They prevent our brains from collapsing under the sheer weight of computation that would go into every moment of every day if we were not routinely making these sweeping generalisations.

Like “this wall is white” instead of “this wall is white except for 2 microns of unidentified black soot in the top right-hand corner of the wall”.  Precision can be a killer.  Again we’re back to grey areas.  We must try to maintain the beauty of observation without being capsized by its heavy load.  Science is “the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis with an ugly fact.”  I’m going to attempt to live in a grey area in this blog.  Embrace the doubt and try to allow precision to creep in… but not so much as to destroy everything!  And so, onward into the grey…