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M Stevens & The Ghasts | IMRO Creative Rooms

April 13, 2023

IMRO Creative Rooms is an online content series that invites artists to share an intimate insight into their creative process, by showing the spaces they create in.

M. Stevens & The Ghasts is the latest project from Popical Island co-founder Mike Stevens who has previously honed his craft across a string of Irish alt folk & indie pop bands like Settler, Groom, Lie Ins and Skelocrats. The Ghasts are Mark Jordan, Hugh McCabe, Ciaran Canavan, Donagh O’Brien.

How important is it for you to have a dedicated creative space?

Interesting, that one. During the pandemic, I was confined to my bedroom, pretty much, as every other room in my house is taken up. So I would write and demo everything in there. If I look out my back window, even though I live in Dublin there is a decent patch of gardens, scrub and trees, where city foxes nest and many species of birds circle. So this bit of nature found its way into my songs. Now that normalcy has returned, I find myself back in this dedicated, standard practice-room space – playing with a band again and working the traditional way once more – and, while I would say now that it would be impossible to get by without it, clearly one adapts.

What makes this space work for you?

Although it’s airy and spacious, most of the floor capacity is occupied by musical equipment strewn like the end of a game of Jenga. But I like its feng shui and you can almost see the creative energies working their way through the clutter like living smoke. Occasionally other musicians stop by. The death metal bands that play next door are friendlier and less nihilistic than their conceptual output would suggest, and there’s a kitchen downstairs with couches and tea. One has a chance to relax. The building itself is in the midst of an estate dedicated to businesses of various sorts. There are pro wrestlers across the way who throw each other about and shout. They’re not unlike the death metallers in that they’re friendly-ish and I wonder if the two groups would feel a certain brotherhood if they were to meet; the primal howls both emit are, I suspect, therapeutic for those gifted with more testosterone than is conducive to peaceful living in the modern urban environment. At the wrestling space you see matches being advertised and it’s odd in that I imagine they’re all friends and yet, when they compete, they must become mortal enemies for a time and stomp on each other’s heads. Altogether, it makes for an interesting time, though I’ve not written any songs about pro wrestling yet, nor death metal.

In what ways does this space influence your output?

It makes it bigger, more band-centric, as opposed to when I was in my bedroom and it was intimate, quieter. That’s something I fight against. Not sure if that tension is good or bad. We share with other bands but we have dedicated time slots and its easy going. Ross, who collects our rent, is a tall fellow with glasses and a laissez-faire manner. You get the evening to yourselves. Not being rushed is great for thinking of ideas. A good idea can redirect the timbre of your day. That and a proper cup of tea.

What’s your favourite instrument/piece of kit? And why?

I’d either go for my Recording King acoustic guitar, which has great intonation and beautiful resonance, as it lacks lacquer (I like saying that). I’m not really a technical person and hold the belief that anything that gets between your brain and the brains of your audience has the potential to be an impedance – whether that’s a pen, typewriter, a recording interface, a reverb unit or my sausage fingers that won’t do what I want them to do. But my guitar feels like an extension of me. It looks nice too.

What would make this space better for you?

We’ve been on to Ross to install a rowing machine as we all need to work on our cores/glutes and look even more like Greek gods than we already do.

M Stevens & The Ghasts’ latest single ‘Go Gracefully’ is out now:

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