The Mining Co. is the musical project of Ireland born, London based singer/songwriter Michael Gallagher. Having released a series of albums inspired by folk, country and Americana Michael decided to make a left turn into electronic arrangements for Phenomenology and his deep love of science fiction and story-telling made the move into electronics an obvious next step.
Phenomenology is a concept album of sorts, the central protagonist Talby was the lead character of the 1974 cult sci-fi film Dark Star by John Carpenter and the album depicts a metaphorical journey into the unknown where one has no choice but to face one’s fears, a hero’s journey indeed. Musically Michael is a long-term fan of Sparklehorse as well as The Magnetic Fields and eels and the influence of these artists can plainly be heard across the album. With Phenomenology Michael further cements his talent as a songwriter and story-teller par excellence, whether singing with guitar or keyboard he is clearly one of the UK most singular talents.
The songs for Phenomenology were written by Michael at home in London throughout 2020, and rehearsed and recorded in Andalucía, Spain in 2018 with his long-term friends and musical collaborators at Paco Loco Studio in El Puerto de Santa María, Spain. Phenomenology was produced and mixed by Paco Loco, famed producer who is acclaimed for his work with luminaries such as Josh Rouse, Gary Louris (Jayhawks), Josephine Foster and Hinds.
Who are some of your musical influences?
My musical influences are Feist, Gillian Welch, Mark Linkous, Jason Lytle, Gary Louris, REM, Howe Gelb, to name a few.
Phenomenology is your 4th album. Where did the title come from?
Phenomenology comes from the film Dark Star (1974), where the dead Captain of the ship tells Doolittle to teach the bomb ‘phenomenology,’ as the bomb has a malfunction and is determined to blow up the crew. The character Doolittle tries to teach it purpose and meaning.
There’s a dark undercurrent to the album. There are mentions of accidents, crashes, disasters, blood, etc., scattered through the album. It’s a bit grimmer than your previous albums. Any particular reason? Is it because of the grim pandemic time we’re currently muddling through?
The album’s undercurrent has nothing to do with the pandemic. I was brought up on Hammer and 80’s horror and have an obsession with dying in a plane crash. I think these themes run through all my writing, but less obvious and more tonally lighter. There are lots of lived experiences in the songs, personally and from close friends, from childhood, right up until now.
The first track on your album is titled “Unexpected” and it actually has something unexpected. Electronic beats. What brought on the change?
The change comes from the simple reason of trying something new. I’d done an ‘Americana’ sound on previous albums but was listening to a lot of Post Malone and Billie Eilsh around the time of writing, which was influencing me a lot, plus the theme in the Phenomenology album is based on a sci-fi narrative, it made sense.
Considering your three previous albums which were heavily acoustic and occasionally featured a band, I expected your album to drift back to the acoustic realm. Instead, your excursion into computer generated sounds goes much deeper as the album progresses. It kind of culminates in Submariner-Freaks-Storyline. Were you ever tempted to just go back to your comfort zone? Did you discover something new about your music through a different sonic landscape?
I discovered that it can open up more possibilities if one tries something different. The only real difference is swapping a guitar for a Moog and drum machine. The more we got involved in the recording process, the more fun Paco (Paco Loco – Producer) and I had, experimenting with weird and unique sounds, and it became liberating. The album is a concept album, a series of stories and travels. I enjoyed working in the electronic genre and felt free from having to conform to previous album’s sound styles.
Generally, what is your process like? How do you go from a nascent idea to a finished product? Do you start from a melody? Or a lyric? Or do you hear something else?
I first try and find a good, catchy melody, once I’ve got that I know I’ve got a good song. As I start writing words and sentences the song finds its way and meaning. I like to keep the lyrics unpredictable and add changes to keep it interesting and the listener engaged.
How do you know when a song is finished?
I believe a song to be finished when I have the lyrics down and have included everything I want to say, usually around a 3 minute bracket.
What’s next for you?
I’m always writing new material, but at the moment I’m working on new songs in a pop/folk/psychedelic/electronic vibe. I’m also going to release a 5 track acoustic Phenomenology EP.
IMAGE CREDIT: The Mining Co.