David Turpin is an enigmatic character. The softly spoken musician and screenwriter has been releasing music since 2008, under his own moniker and as The Late David Turpin following a near death experience.
Four albums into his career, Turpin has released ‘Offerings (2008-2020)’, a collection of his favourite tracks from across his catalogue. The collection is only available for streaming and purchase for one day only, May 1 2020 on Bandcamp.
I socially distanced while catching up with Turpin for a bit of a natter.
Hello David, how are you today?
I’m okay, thanks. With one exception, I haven’t spoken to another person face-to-face in six weeks, which has been a trip.
You seem to have turned into the most prolific releaser of Irish music in 2020.
So far you’ve released 2 singles (including ‘Burn Everything’ with drag artiste, Veda), 2 previously unreleased tracks including a cover of Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’, one instrumental album and now.. a ‘Greatest Hits’. What was the catalyst behind these?
I’ve released a lot of material over the years, and I also have a lot of unreleased material. I don’t like to look back at or listen to my own music, but being locked down on my own for the past six weeks, I’ve braved a backward glance and found that there were things I was actually proud of and wanted to share. ‘Greatest Hits’ is pushing it, though! I would diplomatically call it a ‘Retrospective Collection’. Perhaps somewhere in the infinite universe they were hits.
Before even listening to the album ‘Offerings’, I can see from the titles that you seem to be influenced by the Greek and Roman classics and by the animal world. How do you join these together to be a happy partnership?
That’s a very interesting observation, and I’m flattered you have made it. One of the texts that’s had a lot of influence on me is Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which is a compendium of classical myths related to transformation, often into animals. I think I’ve always been attracted to the idea of transforming into something else, perhaps because I’ve never felt at home in my self.
Most artists will always prefer their latest work as it’s what they currently have a more emotional attachment to. How did you choose the tracks for the compilation?
By memory at first, as I really don’t like listening to myself. In a way it was liberating never having had any ‘hit singles’ – if such a thing even exists any more – because I was free to choose the songs I liked. I haven’t always got it right, by a long chalk, but I think these 13 songs are ones where I got pretty close.
‘Offerings’ is only available to purchase for one day. Will we be able to stream it in the future or is it really a one day deal?
I kind of like the idea of it being there for one day and then gone. Part of looking back is recognising one’s own impermanence, so in a way it makes sense that it doesn’t hang around.
How do you describe your evolution or growth as an artist? We can all change a lot in 12 years.
I think, for a lot of people, getting older is seen as a process of loss. But those parts of us that we think we lose – our ability to ‘play’ and to ‘daydream’, for instance – don’t disappear, they just migrate to other places. I’ve tried to keep in touch with them by remaining curious. That’s why, as time has gone on, I’ve worked more and more with other people, and other vocalists.
If you could write to your 12 year younger self, about to release your first album, what advice would you give.
I’m not sure that I’m in a position to advise anybody, least of all myself. I might tell him not to listen to creepy middle-aged men, including the one claiming to be a future him.
You have worked with an amazing array of musicians and singers on your records. If you could write up a wish list, who would like to collaborate with?
For me, it’s less about particular individuals I’d like to work with, and more about kinds of ‘otherness’ I would like to be in contact with. I’d like to work more with vocals in non-English languages, for instance. I would also like to be able to work more with older singers. We don’t often hear the voices of the ‘aged’, aside from a few canonical figures, and it’s a shame because we are losing out on a great deal, sonically, texturally and thematically, by privileging the ‘young’ voice over all others.
I hear that ‘The Lodgers’, the film you wrote and scored is also getting a soundtrack release? It’s not often artists get to meld their two different disciplines like that.
Yes, it’s getting a digital release via a UK label called Burning Witches, and there’ll be a vinyl release to follow. The bulk of that score was by Stephen Shannon and Kevin Murphy, and I just kind of floated in and out. It’s hard with a film because the writer is the first one on, and the music team are the last ones off. So if you do both, you’re with it for a very long time. Being honest, I probably wouldn’t do it again.
How do you separate screen writing and making music. Are they different types of artistic cravings?
They’re different animals entirely. I am mainly working on film projects at the moment, and I do find myself longing, at times, for the freedom of doing music. Film can be a lot more circumscribed. But when you manage to navigate within that and still preserve what you wanted to say, it can be incredibly satisfying.
What three films would you recommend we watch this weekend?
Maybe the most useful thing to do is to recommend things that are easy to access. I know a lot of people have recently subscribed to Disney Plus, so I would recommend the original and best, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was the first film I ever saw, and which continues to be somewhere in the roots of everything I do. If you’re using Netflix, I would recommend another classic, Blue Velvet. I think it’s one of the best American films of the 1980s, and time hasn’t dimmed its power: it’s still as scary, as sexy, and as strangely humane as ever. For people using Amazon Prime, one of the hidden gems there is a 2006 stop-motion animated feature by Christiane Cegavske called Blood Tea and Red String. I watched it late one night and was mesmerised by its power.
What are you working on (musically or filmically) right now?
At the moment, I’m working on a lot of film projects. I’m also beginning to develop my first feature to direct, which is something I’ve needed to do for a while. It’s a long road, of course, but I’m making a start.
Have you any new film material or music releases planned for the rest of the year?
Well, the Covid-19 crisis has changed a lot of plans in the film industry. The last feature I wrote, The Winter Lake, will be coming out soon, but it’s hard to say any more until we know how the situation develops. I’m looking forward to people seeing the film. It’s a mystery starring Emma Mackey, who I think is a very interesting actress.
What have you learned about yourself during lockdown?
I remain a mystery to myself. But I think lockdown has simple lessons to teach us all: Try to be considerate of others even when they aren’t there to remind you; try to be more comfortable in your own company; and if you need to have a wank, go for it.
Finally, can you make banana bread?
Any cooking involving bananas unnerves me. I remember once a man coming into my school to talk about first aid, and he told my class that – within the column of bone – the spinal cord itself has the same consistency and fragility as a banana. So now I can’t eat bananas without shuddering.
Send us a lockdown selfie?
I daren’t, but I shall.
EDIT May 4 2020: Since May 1 has passed, David has actually made the track ‘Pony Tears’ available as a Name Your Price track on Bandcamp