• The Hot Touches

Colm O'Mahony & The Hot Touches; The Process

Our maiden blog focuses on the Hot Touches recently released self-titled debut album. We’ll hear from Colm about how the album came together overtime and learn a little about some of the songs and where they came from. We’ll also have some insight on the band’s work with producer Brendan O’Connor of Little Dylan studios and how he helped the Hot Touches achieve the sounds and feel they were going for with the record.

Above: Album Cover for The Hot Touches self-titled debut

“Initially I thought it’d be an acoustically driven record” muses The Hot Touches front-man Colm O’Mahony. “I’d never even played an electric guitar, really but the songs seemed to suggest something bigger. As in a big band. Y’know, drums, bass, electrics, keys the whole lot. That was definitely a departure. I’d been making my living playing covers solo on an acoustic, and now I had these songs that were more suited to a bigger outfit. I really didn’t even know where to start!” This left O’Mahony with quite a lot of work to do, as he explains; “well, how do you work an electric guitar? Haha. So I went on-line and started to research and found myself jumping down an incredibly deep rabbit hole. The internet is amazing for getting up to speed on things, but there’s so much information that it can be hugely overwhelming, and there’s no shortage of opinions on what’s right and what’s wrong. So you’re wading through reams and reams of information and you’re reading more than playing or testing what it is that you’re reading about, so you really haven’t found out much about the gear, at all.”

But all that would change and, as O’Mahony tells us, soon he had acquired some relatively inexpensive electric guitars and was beginning to understand what it was that he was looking for. “By way of my research on-line I had found out a little about the different types of electric guitars, their pickups and what they will do for you, etc. So I bought 3 electrics for €100ish each online with some classic pickup combinations, single coil, humbucker/coil split, and filtertrons. That that way I got a fairly good understanding of what each guitar was about. And they were decent!” It didn’t stop there, however. “If you have an electric guitar, you need an amp also,” explains O’Mahony. “This opened up a whole other can of worms, but I read somewhere that Tom Petty played through Vox amps. I thought to myself, if they’re good enough for him, they’re good enough for me so I bought a little practice amp they made. It’s a mini rhythm 5, I think! It has all these different amplifier models including Vox’ own legendary AC30 type. I liked that one the most so I found out what I liked in terms of amps fairly quickly.”

Practice amps are all well and good but soon the Hot Touches front man would have a Vox AC10, 10watt valve/tube amp and was testing an array of effects pedals and pick up combinations trying to figure out the rhythm sounds for each song. “That was incredibly frustrating because I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, I still don’t haha”, says O’Mahony. “I sold an acoustic to fund the purchase of the [Vox] AC10. The minute I got it I knew what all the fuss was about. Valve amps are amazing sounding. And loud, they’re really loud! Over time I learned about and purchased some effects pedals and was beginning to come up with combinations that I liked. At that time, I still hadn’t settled on a track listing for the album so I was playing all the songs I had for friends. One friend was fellow musician Tom Moran. Tom was great because he’s honest and that’s really what you need. So with his help and that of some others the album was slowly beginning to take shape.” Something was playing on O’Mahony’s mind, however. “Well, music is best consumed in a live context. That energy and feedback from the crowd and the interaction between performer and audience are what it’s all about. I wanted to know if what I had would work in a live setting. I didn’t want to go into the studio without doing that first. All I needed now was a band, haha.”

Tools of The Process

Above: VOX AC10 Amplifier, Epiphone Les Paul, Effects Pedals

The Hot Touches hometown of Killarney, in Ireland is surrounded by areas of outstanding natural beauty and attracts high volumes of tourists each summer season. In search of a band to play the live night, O’Mahony knew that he could draw from the well pool of talent right there at his disposal; “We’re a tight-knit community of musicians in Killarney and we all get along really well. For years I’d sang in a band with two guitarists and asked if they would help out. Adrian Healy played lead on the night and did a great job. Ray Kennedy, a Roscommon man living and playing in Killarney played the drums and my brother, Jackie helped out on 12 string and harmonies. An old school friend David Lynch played keys and his brother, Kieran, helped out on bass. Special mention goes to Kieran as he only had 5 days to prepare and he was awesome. We played the gig at a really quaint little Irish bar in Ballyfinnane, Co. Kerry called the Shanty. My landlords at the time had just taken the bar over so I said, why not? It turned out to be a great night and in the end I was really satisfied knowing that the songs worked in the live context. We also took some footage from the night and put it up on YouTube so it served a double purpose. To finally get to play the songs was great after all the research, etc. It made everything worth it!”

At The Shanty

The Hot Touches play their first gig at The Shanty Bar, Ballyfinnane, Co, Kerry Pic: Breeda Daly
At The Shanty

The Hot Touches Play Their First Gig Above. Pic: Breeda Daly

As Colm was recounting the details that went into refining the songs for ‘Colm O’Mahony & The Hot Touches,’ we asked him to tell us a little more about their composition. “I heard Jackson Browne say in an interview years ago that he ‘accumulated’ songs. That’s how the album came about. I kinda just write when the feeling hits and I guess over the years I’d built up a good few songs. There was a difference with some of the newer songs that I was writing, though. They were more up tempo and probably more reflective of the music I used to listen to when I was younger and was getting into again. More rock based music. In 2013 I returned home from a stint working in the Middle East and it was around September/October, raining and the field behind my mother’s house was flooded. This after having seen no rain in months, haha. I had a guitar in my hands and just started to repeat what I was seeing outside. That resulted in a song named ‘Damage’, which we are all pretty happy with how it turned out! For a song called ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ I was out in India doing yoga I remember, and I was listening to a lot of Tom Petty at the time. I was especially taken with his song, ‘Even the Losers,' and was learning it. Then one day I rearranged the chords and I got the first verse and just followed where it went.” He tells us that the acquisition of the electric guitars and some accoutrements also led to some inspiration. “I wrote ‘Gotta Let Yo Go’ and ‘Young Love’ on the electric guitar. On the small little Vox amp with the chorus effect on. Those were so much fun to write because the gear I was using was new to me. A lot of the time song writing is frustrating, but those two were fun.”

Promo Pic For The Hot Touches First Single; 'Young Love.' Pic: Henry Pham - Unsplash

By the time the band entered the studio the track listing was settled on and the songs were all sent to each musician contributing to the album. “We were all set and ready to go,” O’Mahony recounts. “I had emailed all song demos to our producer, Brendan O’Connor too.” When questioned about choosing a studio and producer for the album O’Mahony informs us that, “I’d worked with Brendan on a couple of things before so I knew that he was good and I felt comfortable with him. He’s a musician too, and most of the others had played or recorded with him at some stage so the familiarity extended beyond just myself. That’s very important. You want to be able to make mistakes and lay whatever you have bare, and do it in a secure enough fashion that you won’t feel like you’re not comfortable enough to get to the root of what it is you’re trying to get at. Brendan affords you that.” O’Mahony tells us that his previous work with the producer was all acoustic. “That was another reason I wanted to work with Brendan. Not knowing how to articulate exactly what kinds of sounds I was after was going to be a challenge, but again I felt comfortable doing that with Brendan. I knew he’d have the patience and ability to unearth what I was after.”

The Hot Seat

Above: Little Dylan Studios; Faha, Killarney, Co, Kerry Ireland

The recording took place at O’Connor’s Little Dylan Studios just outside Killarney and took the best part of a year to finish. “Everybody’s operating on different timetables so you have to schedule accordingly,” says O’Mahony. “That’s what took the time! We all knew the songs from the live night and from the emails that I sent. The only person that was drafted in apart from the live night was Frank Culloty, a guitar player. He got up to speed quickly and did some great lead work on ‘What to Believe’ and ‘Same Old Mistake.’” When asked to detail the recording process we are told that it was all pretty straight forward. “If you can’t produce something yourself, you hire a producer,” opines O’Mahony. “Likewise, if you ask guys to come and play on a record that’s what you should let them do. Apart from a few ideas that I had expressly asked for everybody just played or sang their best and I was really happy with how things turned out. You shouldn’t get in the way of that, these guys know what they’re doing. And Brendan is great at getting a performance out of people.” When asked for a particular highlight of the process, O’Mahony had this to say. “There were some great musical moments, the live night, some of my brother’s harmonies and the performances of all the lads. At one point or another there’s a thing I can remember each of them doing and thinking, ‘wow, this is great!’ But really the highlight was that everybody gave of their time and helped out. That’s pretty touching when you think about it! People are busy, jobs, families, etc., but they give of their time to help you complete something. That’s really special! So, yeah, the collective effort. The whole thing. That’s the highlight. And I think we made a pretty good record, too!”

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