Behind the Scenes: Artist Q&A with Chris Guilfoyle, Oxygen Thief
Guitarist Chris Guilfoyle says Oxygen Thief's music aims to reimagine the traditional confines of the jazz guitar trio by blending elements of math rock and electronica together with jazz. Ahead of Oxygen Thief's performance with vocalist Aleka at Signal Series, 26th March at The Wild Duck, Chris shared some of his thoughts about political motivations for music-making, thinking of breath when working with singers, and inspiration from other musicians.
Q. What motivates you as an artist, to create music?
It varies a lot. Sometimes it can be something that is happening in the world that I feel I need to write about. Or it could be a cool chord progression I come across either on guitar or piano. I also play the drums so it could also be a groove that I come up with.
Q. Who or what inspires you at the moment - be it in music, arts, politics or your personal life?
I’ve been really impressed with Greta Thunberg and the energy she has brought to the climate movement. I went to show my support to the primary and secondary school Strike for Climate Action and was really moved by the number of people there! I also find myself constantly going back to Propagandhi who are one of my favourite punk bands. Their lyrics are super political but very intelligently thought out.
Q. Can you tell us about a seminal experience, project, or encounter that had a significant impact on your career?
Definitely getting to play and study with David Liebman. His dedication to the music is incredibly inspiring and infectious and when you play with him he just makes you play better and tries to bring the best out in you. He has given me lots of great advice over the years and I still use a lot of that advice now. Also Craig Taborn’s concert at the NCH a few weeks back was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.
Q. How has Oxygen Thief developed from your other work, with Umbra etc? How different do you find it creating in collaboration with Aleka?
Oxygen Thief is a little bit more of a collective when it comes to the music we play. We try to do a little bit of everyone’s music as opposed to Umbra where I do all the writing. The compositions tend to be more short-form pieces which is also different to the longer form compositions I write for Umbra. It’s great working with Aleka because she’s such a phenomenal singer that you can kind of throw anything at her and she’ll be able to sing it! But of course, you have to be mindful of things like having room to breathe, which is something I never have to worry about as a guitarist! I’ve always liked working with vocalists and it just adds an extra dimension to the music and tends to connect a little bit more with the audience which is also very important.
Q. What direction do you see the music industry headed towards in the next 20 years?
I think it’s going to become increasingly more musician lead, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I would like to see some sort of streaming model that is better than Spotify when it comes to paying the artists. I think something like the Netflix model would work really well.
You can hear Chris Guilfoyle and Oxygen Thief, along with vocalist Aleka, in a double-header with the Kevin Lawlor Quintet
In March's Signal Series, Tuesday 26th (Doors 8pm) at The Wild Duck, Sycamore, Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.