Remember The Good Things I’ve Done
“I started out in search of ordinary things…”
The Quarter Inch collective started in the Spring of 2010. Which doesn’t seem like that long ago when I think about it now but when I try to think about all the things that have happened since – related and unrelated to this little venture – I can’t even comprehend how so much living has been done in these past three years. So much of this period of my life has been defined by Quarter Inch; the bands, the ideas, the gigs, the friends, the parties, the failures. So much came out of so little; one minute you’re sitting very bored and very broke in a freezing house in Maynooth with nothing but a speedy internet connection and the next you’ve got to figure out how to get 7 bands on and off a small stage in four hours. With no sound checks. And it’s the first gig you’ve ever organised.
“How much of a tree bends in the wind?”
I had no idea how much I would put into this label, or rather just this idea. In many ways I think the idea of Quarter Inch as a label is kind of secondary to what actually went on. I mean, sure, we put out some tapes (and even two CDs) and I will always be immensely proud of those releases, but it was being in the crowd at a gig or sitting around with friends that really mattered. That first, chaotic Ginola gig in Mark’s house. Getting fired around the ceiling of the Lower Deck during Squarehead’s set at the first Quomp launch. Storming the Twisted Pepper stage when C!ties played on Record Store Day. Blowing up balloons for people to burst during a Scout Hardcastle set in the Loft. Iceage in November. I could go on. It was being, feeling, breathing, living every second of everything happened that made it all so amazing. It was always such a surprise that anything ever worked. You give everything and sometimes you get it all back, ten times over. I even got a nickname out of it and I never had one of those before.
“I started telling the story without knowing the end…”
When it started, I couldn’t have imagined what transpired; all I wanted to do was make and support some music. I didn’t even know what music yet. I didn’t know how long it would last, or if anyone would ever pay any attention to it. Not that many people ever really did, and that’s perfectly ok. It started with some music, morphed into some mixtapes that my friends made and then into actual cassettes and gigs and opportunities to do really great things that I tried to take with as open a mind as possible. Other people from other places got involved, wings were spread. It ends with a load of friends under one roof making noise and jumping around to each others’ music, much the same way as it became real in Mark’s living room in November ’10.
“I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again/Something to be seen was passing over and over me…”
I’ve gone through cycles of enthusiasm and despair because of Quarter Inch. I’ve been overjoyed beyond compare and I’ve been heartbroken beyond belief as a result of things related to this label, this idea. If I hadn’t done this, if I hadn’t got involved how and when I did, I would not be doing any of what I’m doing now. I would not be writing about music for a living. I would not know most of my dearest friends. They’ve seen me go up and down with this, go days with little food or sleep, go to extreme lengths for nothing but the love of it. For every up, a down, and vice verse. Everything passes and you move on. This is life and this is my life.
“Well it seemed like the routine case at first; With the death of the shadow came a lightness of verse…”
I’ve often found myself thinking about how to make the label bigger and better, how to make new links with other people, how to get journalists to write about the music, how to get more people to come to gigs; the business end of things. More often than not, this stuff would get me down. This makes me a pretty terrible person to be running a label. I would never hide what I think so that more people might want to work with the label, so that sensibilities would not be offended. I’m as stubborn as anyone you’ll ever meet and I certainly don’t know what’s good for me. That tends to snap back into laughter, and knowing the importance of a good joke whether to lighten the mood or deflate an ego (mostly my own).
“But in the darkest of nights, the truth still dazzles…”
You can always come back to what’s real though. Even as you watch the things you do get passed over or forgotten by people you’d really like to be interested, you’ve always got the people who are interested and you learn that those people are the ones who matter most. You might not know them from Adam, but they showed up at your gig, they bought a tape, they told you they enjoyed something, they booked one of your bands on the other side of the country. And suddenly it’s all worth it.
“And I work myself until I’m frazzled…”
So you go back to the drawing board again. You lie awake at night thinking up ridiculous plans that shrink in the morning light. You try again and again. You fail and then fail better. Because it’s all learning and there’s no shame in learning, ever. I read recently that “Life is a percussive endeavour” and sometimes you’ll hit so hard that your hands become blistered and your mind gets messed up. Priorities get hazy, you can’t focus on anything because there’s too much going on. Remembering what’s really important, remembering why you started doing any of this in the first place; that’s the way back to clarity.
“I ended up in search of ordinary things…”
In recent months, it has felt like a lot of things have come full circle. I feel like I’m back searching for some of the things that I started out looking for. That can only mean I need to change the course, alter the path. This is why Quarter Inch is ending. Not because of money and not for lack of enthusiasm or support. It is ending because I need to search in different ways, with new eyes and a new vision. My mind is clouded by the last three years and other peoples’ perspectives and expectations are coloured by that time too. I’m still looking for the moments of elation and joy in life, the moment of fulfilment that can keep your tank full for months. I’m looking for ways to support the music that I hear, ways to make a difference in the artistic lives of the people I know and respect. Simple things that sometimes can be so difficult to do.
“Like how can a wave possibly be?”
The most important thing is that I’m still regularly stunned by music. I’m still left slack-jawed and mash-brained by musicians and audiences. When someone makes a piece of music that captures something that I could never explain in words, I’m amazed. When someone writes something about a great piece of music that makes me stop what I’m doing and listen to it, I’m amazed. Passion is everywhere but so many things can take unwarranted precedence over it when you’re this close to a well-named “industry”. There’s a reason why it was the Quarter Inch Collective, because it was all about friends. Not one thing could have happened without the friendship and warmth of the dozens of musicians, artists and good souls who have lent a hand over the past three years.
“I started running, and the concrete turned to sand…”
I still get fired up when I listen to Fugazi or Nirvana or Bright Eyes or whoever. I really do. But more than anything these past few years, music has changed me and changed for me. The impulse and the reaction are the same but the execution can be so different. I am into things now that I couldn’t have imagined three years ago and it will probably be the same three years hence. Once you think you’re sure of something, one little sound can come along and change everything. That’s the best thing about music really. It shifts, it moves, it makes you consider emotions and experiences that you could not otherwise imagine. The best music makes you feel them more keenly than any thing else ever could.
“I started running, and things didn’t pan out as planned…”
So it has become clear that this mould, this construction of an idea, is no longer suitable for what I want to do. The shape of it isn’t right, the feel of it isn’t right. Someone once told me that all you need is a name and you can do whatever you want with that. They were right. You give something a name and then that name comes to mean lots of things to you as you go through week after month after year of life. Your own expectations won’t be met in the way you expect. Mine certainly weren’t, whenever I had the temerity to have expectations. Sometimes they were exceeded, sometimes I was disappointed. I have always been excited though, always. Plans rarely go to plan, but thinking on your feet is way more fun.
“In case things go poorly and I’m not returned/Remember the good things I’ve done…”
I have many plans for the next year or so though. Lots of gigs I want to put on, lots of music I want to release, lots of people I’d love to talk to and get to know. Hopefully some of them work out. I find the community I feel part of now is not so tied down to this physical place. Dublin is a bitch of a city but it remains home for now, with all its dive venues, incestuous, disparate scenes and small-minded attitudes. I feel less connected to it than ever but also more interested in making it better, for others more so even than myself. Some amazing people live here and some great art gets made here by people who really care about what they do. I spend a lot of time thinking about how much more great art there would be if only some changes were made. Hopefully the passing of Quarter Inch will mean moving onto a place where I can really help in making those changes. What form that will take is still very much up in the air.
“In case things go poorly and I’m not returned/Remember the good things I’ve done…”
I think this label has achieved just about everything I really wanted it to achieve. I am not one bit disappointed in what went on, I am not ashamed of anything and I am not sad to see it go. The music was stellar (if I do say so myself), the gigs were life-changing and the bands are dear, dear friends. Innumerable lessons have been learned. It will always be here, in the back of my mind as I try new things. It was, for me, a real positive force in my life. It gave me an outlet to express passion and support and friendship. It was never defined by what it was not. The future could be a million things in my mind but it will probably be the one I’m not thinking of. This label has meant the world to me for a very long time but it is time to let it go. I couldn’t possibly thank everyone who helped this become what it did, there would just be too many people on the list. They all know who they are. They are the Collective. And I will see them all tonight.
“…Done me in.”