In this new interview, we chat to The Red Painting’s Trash McSweeney about his band’s inspirations for new music, as well as ideas for the future.
“I love creative people who live by their art”
S] Talk about what types of things inspire your work outside of music – what day to day happenings keep you motivated?
T] “Finding new painters to fall in love with, small art galleries, caring for our battery hens who we save from slaughter, supporting animal rights organisations, finding new ways of presenting a song. To be honest this band is like its own universe, there is so much constantly going on to make, create or debate that it keeps me constantly on edge and busy. Thinking up and creating new stage shows takes up lots of our time, we are also touring most of the year now, so being on the road keeps you busy!”
S] Can you talk us through any new material you are writing at the moment? What types of things are inspiring you now, within music and art?
T] “Time. My infatuation with it and trying to work out if I’m running out of it or if it’s abundant in our next life – or if there even is a next life. I’m working on a new album called ‘Do We Have Enough Time?’ Most of the content is of the idea is that we are living on a planet that is shrinking as time runs us a closer to a supernova. Something that I could write about for hours on end to you, but I think best to leave it to the music and when I finally get to making it and communicating what I’m feeling, hearing or seeing.”
S] How are you looking forward to coming over to the UK?
T] “Well we can’t wait! Being able to tour big theatres and play and collaborate on stage with painters and human canvases each night through so many towns and cities across the UK, Europe and Russia. I’m sure is any artist’s dream – and we are living that dream. I am honestly so excited more than anything to be on stage watching what fragment of time fits the moment for each and every artist and what they feel and respond in colour on canvas to my songs and our energy as a band. That is what I thrive on as a touring artist. It is what keeps me fired up to keep the dream alive.”
S] With the show being a fairly big thing, how have you coped previously when playing 400/500 cap venues?
T] “We have played all kinds of venues before. From all the touring we have done now, you just learn to adapt the show from small to large rooms or arenas or festivals. Since day one I had an artist and painter on stage. Nowadays if a venue or band we are supporting doesn’t allow us to do the art side of our show, I feel naked on stage. But it’s not the end of the world. I have had TRP play all over the globe in many different formats and it still seems to work – or I’m told it does anyway. It’s very important to me to have our fans collaborating with us on stage in real time and to let themselves go on a canvas or body canvas. This has been the most successful way for us to bring unity between us and our audience. Plus I’m obsessed with new and old art!”
S] How difficult is it to manage a band of your size on the road – any entertaining stories?
T] “Finance is always an issue. Keeping people happy and content on the road is not easy. Having my crew deal with all the crazy antics and demands is exhausting I’m sure. We have more things to deal with and fund than your typical act, as we like to be able to supply all that an artist would need on stage creating with us – canvas, paints, brushes and paint pallets. There is also the forever rotating new stage show and costumes, string section gear and much more. I just learned how to pack a truck show into a suitcase or two and trained myself to get on and off stage in 10 mins. Trial and error you could say. Upset venue managers are a thing of the past though, as now we tour with a trained art supervisor and crew. People do seem to enjoy taking drugs and taking their mind to other places at our shows and in the past we have had people paint moving cars while we play, venue walls, naked bodies in the crowd, drink the paint and then spew it up on the canvas, drop their body waste on the canvas, paint their shoes and walk paint over the floor – so many stories to tell, you have all day to hear them?
S] Talk to us about how your stage show has evolved over time, and what inspires you to make these extra efforts?
T] “Good question. It has evolved in many ways. The original lineup of TRP I had put together was with DJs and a violin, drums, bass, guitar and vox, with my painter friend Ademski Pavorotti painting on the wall on stage with fish and chip shop paper we scored for free as we had no money. Years later we have an act in full costumes, with professional cello and violin players, painters on huge framed canvases, human canvas painted live to the music on stage, visual projections and the list goes on. We just fine tuned and added even more to the stage show and band’s sound tour after tour. It was about going back to the drawing board and trying to outdo our own minds each and every time with every single element of the act, digging deeper and deeper and finding what most wouldn’t think to find. We also struggled to find artists to create with us but over time and word of mouth we now have artists submitting artworks which we showcase to the public and who then work with us at each show. Sometime we also look at taking on an artist to tour with us as a resident painter over a whole tour.
The spontaneous art side of TRP is really the core of the band. I also have to say though, the band and I have been ridiculed for many things over the years, which has been a blessing is disguise, as it just makes me more focused to create a larger than life experience each and every time. Sometimes adding fuel to the fire is the perfect ingredient to take your art to a place you never dreamed it could fly to. But as they say what goes up must come down so a reality check is always in play!”
S] When did you first become a Dr. Seuss fan, and realise that his ideas would have a great effect on your musical output?
T] “Dr Seuss is amazing, but all my influences actually came from other places. I didn’t really study and become obsessed with his work and underlying messages until a few years go. Then I saw the close connection between Seuss and my visual and creative art with TRP, which inspired me to create one epic stage show where we turned every song into a revolving stage show based on each Dr. Seuss book. 18 books, 18 stage show changes. It was exhausting to put together to say the least, but we had a great time doing so.”
S] You’re trying to get people to have an experience and create a community – a harmony between art and music – how challenging is that to do, really?
T] “To be honest it’s not really a big challenge as we now find people are really open to it and itching to get on stage and either paint or be painted as a human canvas around our live energy and in front of an audience. People tell us the experience has changed their lives forever, which to us, is just amazing. That was always my mission in TRP – to inspire people to want to create something in their own right that will change the way people think.
When we do arrive in a new town or city, if no one really knows us or has submitted to paint or be painted, well, we just hit the streets talking to people and in time we make a new friend, find a new artist and the show begins! We never allow the rules or just one way of thinking to hold us back, we believe in letting this flow down the stream and the idea is to grab onto whatever you can for dear life and hope you don’t drown in the process. As it stands we are still here floating down the river but I think we’re picking up more steam day by day.”
S] Are there any other “art-rock” bands on the planet that excite you as much as your are excited and passionate about your own music and imagery – anyone doing it to an inspiring level, for example?
T] “My answer to this would be actual painters or visual artists and my focus and influences come from them first and foremost so here are some of artists around the world I love to sit and fall into and create my music with – Mark Ryden, Scott Sheidly, Ana Bagayan, Sue Coe, Salvador Dali, Adele Walker, Clint Lewis, Alex Gross just to name a few. As for bands I’m going to say Something For Kate, Arcade Fire, Bjork, The Dirty Three. I just really love creative people who live by their art wearing not only their heart but their daily sacrifice for it on their sleeve.”
What’s the next evolution for The Red Paintings?
We’re on the lookout for new stage painters and human canvases to join our unique 1940’s government conspiracy live show. Email email@example.com to join our artistic delirium! We will also launch a large geisha-shaped helium balloon in 13 capital cities across the world during The Red Paintings’ world tour for ‘The Revolution Is Never Coming’ album. All the info is on the balloon launch page at https://www.facebook.com/theredpaintingsspaceballoonalbumlaunch. There are so many things we are working on, to be honest I don’t even know where to start! Actually I should seriously get back to ordering my new hats on ebay. Thanks for the support!”