Where are you from? An innocent enough question that people in Ireland like to put to other people in Ireland the first time they meet. But just how do you answer, if you'd attended 4 different primary schools in Canada and England before turning 12? Since Eamonn Lenihan has been based in the Mid-West of Ireland for most of his life, these days he merely answers "Co. Clare". Things can become unnecessarily complicated, otherwise. The wanderlust of Eamonn's parents certainly contributed to his general detachment from hometown sentiment. It may even explain why he found himself listening to the music of Miles Davis from such an early age.
And... What do you do? Again, this isn't straightforward. The last time Eamonn studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music and was asked to describe himself, he used just the one word in his profile section: polymath. A case of talking himself up a bit in the third person, yes. But there is more than an element of truth to that brief description.
Chances are, you've landed on this site after hearing Eamonn's output for the Irish state broadcaster (presenting "The Third Wave", "Jazz Alley", "After Hours", "Daybreak" and - most recently - "The Blue of The Night" on RTÉ lyric fm). When did this interest in radio work first take hold? Eamonn can recall that, after being given a book token in advance of one year's school prize-giving and told to buy something for the presentation ceremony, he chose a paperback on being a radio DJ. (To use up the remainder of the token, he picked up another book about the French Revolution - guess which title the Mayor presented him with on the big night? Bien sur).
Eamonn writes and records his own music. Largely self-taught, he completed studio production and film composition courses at the Berklee College of Music in 2008 and 2013. Back in the day, he occasionally performed live. In truth, gigging never really interested him that much. Eamonn has since gravitated towards working in film and theatre.
He's travelled the length and breadth of Ireland with RTÉ's Lorcan Murray, presenting free radio workshops to secondary school students. In fact, Eamonn has delivered interactive sessions at the microphone to everyone from Rotary Club members to the Liberties Senior Citizens Club. You're also likely to see him inside the RTÉ stand for events like The Tall Ships Races, The National Ploughing Championships and the BT Young Scientists'. You can even hear him if you travel by jet aircraft.
Since 2011 - and he's still not certain how this came to pass - he's been grandly sitting in judgement of others.
Eamonn took formal piano lessons as a child. Never a virtuoso player on any instrument - and a performer who was always reluctant to posture and pontificate - he gradually came to realise that his real interest lay in the recording studio. Puzzles like this, when you've no-one else to tell you, can take many years to figure out. Working on mixes of his own music in the UK with experienced sound engineers like Ted Page and Colin Richardson furthered this interest (Ted spent 4 years on the road with The Cure; Colin worked at Strawberry Studios in the period when Martin Hannett was producing Joy Division). Eamonn currently uses a Cubase 7 set-up in his own project studio.
What else has played a role in shaping Eamonn's outlook? A family move to Shannon, Co Clare, in the late 1970s, certainly. With its influx of Americans and Europeans (who came to manage many of the factories on the industrial estate), and Irish who'd worked abroad, as well as refugees from Derry, Belfast, Chile and even Cambodia, Shannon was not your typical Irish town. Still isn't, in fact. In Shannon, Eamonn soon befriended Donal Fean, a music lover who lived on the same housing estate. A younger brother of Johnny Fean of Horslips, Donal was the first person Eamonn met who owned albums by Captain Beefheart, Stravinsky and Eric Dolphy. Donal had even seen Frank Zappa in concert!
Attending his very first day at university, Eamonn hooked up with a kindred spirit: guitarist Nick Knight. Nick is the only genius Eamonn is certain he's met in his life so far. (You won't have heard of Nick - such is the nature of the music business). In the early 1980s, Eamonn, Nick and drummer Paul Lehane founded the curiously-titled At the Window (curious, indeed: how many other groups do you know that begin with a preposition?). The band-name derived from a Clive James book of TV criticism: television, like "the window does not very much shape the world; only, temporarily, what we see". (Television's "Marquee Moon" album is still one of Eamonn's favourites from this period).
When the trio decided to make a demo tape of original tunes, it was recorded on Donal Fean's 4-track (portastudio) in Shannon. Created in a local hall over the Easter weekend of 1983, Donal's recording captured the essence of the band's sound far better than subsequent sessions made in professional studios in the UK. Broadcaster Dave Fanning became a fan (click on the image, below left, to zoom in). An A & R scout called Russ Conway - no relation to the piano man of the same name - twice recommended At The Window to the board of Phonogram Records (the label's roster of acts included The Fall, Big Country, Dire Straits and Tears For Fears). And, despite the assistance of a former manager of The Stranglers and an ally at Warner Chappell music publishers, nothing came of a move to London. When Eamonn returned to Ireland, he had absolutely no idea what he'd do next. So he did what many in his position have done: he renovated a cottage in rural county Clare, and started a family...
This ancient VHS video clip recently re-surfaced in Eamonn's garden shed. Audio and/or picture quality not the best. Still…
Incidentally, others have previously uploaded TV appearances by At the Window to youtube - you should be able to locate them with your respective internet search engine.
At The Window - "The Waltz"…