Insatiable curiosity has led Bren Ó Ruaidh through most of his life, bringing him into contact with all sorts of weird and wonderful characters and situations. Played Hendrix and the Doors as a teenager but soon spent time exploring the wild energy of the Gaeltacht, often ending up in Liam Clancy’s house drinking, singing and playing chess until dawn. Later, he travelled all around Europe and the Southern States with a guitar, an accordion and a headful of stories. He lived on a leaky old boat in East Anglia for a while too, surrounded by the glow of phosphorescence.
Guided always by this same spirit of adventure he has taken all sorts of jobs, repairing old boats and guitars, waiting tables, a job as a chef and a factory job making CDs. More recently, Bren has spent time as a concert promoter with acts such as Mick Flannery, Cathy Davey, John Spillane, Gemma Hayes, Liam Ó Maonlaí and David Kitt. His favourite job, though, was a contract with Hennessy Brandy where he was paid handsomely to drink and play, and to give people free booze. He was in fine company on that job too with the phenomenal South Carolina Bluesman, Major Wiley and jazz musician and actor, Liam Stack (Michael Collins, Glenroe). The same spirit of adventure that has led him to do all of these things is what inspires him as a songwriter, and his songs are rich in flowing narrative.
Bren Ó Ruaidh’s debut album, Halfway to NoPlace, is full of dark tales of love and death, at times surreal and sometimes incorporating an element of dark humour. He has performed with musicians from many different genres, including Liam Ó Maonlaí of the Hothouse Flowers, Damo Suzuki of the influential experimental rock band Can and Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers. He is also a founding member of jazz quartet, The Darktown Strutters.
Ó Ruaidh specialized in experimental music and improvisation in UCC with John Godfrey (of the Crash Ensemble) from 2004 and went on to study with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lee Konitz and La Monte Young. He has composed numerous works in a variety of genres, including commissions for the Cork Film Festival, a production of Cesaire’s A Tempest, and collaborations with dancers, sound artists, video artists and other media. In 2004 he formed and directed an outlandish free improvisation ensemble called Eachtra. The ensemble played in numerous venues all around Ireland including the Galway Arts Festival, where he spent two frantic minutes stopping his frozen laptop from echoing the polyphonic screams of his percussionist after an accidentally severed artery during the performance, while blood spurted all over the white suit of the performer (Vicky Langan). Someone in the audience kept shouting “Yeah! That’s art, that is fucking art!” Eachtra’s debut involved surrounding the audience of UCC’s Aula Maxima with strange and unsettling music. Soon after that, they were placed in the midst of a wonderfully strange Sonic Vigil in St. Finbarr’s Cathedral in Cork, curated by sound-artist Mick O’Shea. In 2006, Ó Ruaidh created an electronic ‘Dream House’ installation using a large series of pulsating prime overtones tuned specifically to the space (Ó Riada Hall, Cork). This piece was called “timedream #1: first dream in primetime since young, so please remove your shoes…”
Halfway to No Place
Bren Ó Ruaidh is a musical adventurer who has crossed many boundaries to explore many genres of music. On Halfway to NoPlace, you can hear a whole host of influences from Tom Waits and Bob Dylan through the Blues and traditional, to rock, to gypsy, with hints of all sorts of other things. This is an album you’ll want to hear again and again.
“Really beautiful, a great storyteller.” Sinead Troy (HammerToe Records).
“One of those Irish voices that is made for spinning tales.” Vick Ind (The Medicine Sessions).
“A wonderfully ragged début album.” Stephen White (The Last Mixed Tape).
“A timeless sound.” Aoife Barry (The Irish Times).