Pat Dooner on collaboration, the meaning of home and tracks to cosy up to this Winter

We caught up with Pat Dooner from The Broken Orchestra, ahead of the first performance of Home, commissioned for Hull Jazz Festival. We chatted about the creative process behind his collaborative work with band-mate Carl Conway-Davis and poet Vicky Foster, a busy year for The Broken Orchestra and Pat’s recommended listens for cozy Winter nights…

Hull Jazz Festival: The three of you have collaborated on a few pieces now. How did you first start working together? 

Pat: Our first collaboration came when Vicky asked Carl and I to provide the sound score to her one woman poetry show ‘Bathwater’ for BBC Contains Strong Language 2018. It felt really natural working on that and Carl and I felt really invested in the project. We both felt very lucky to be involved in something that was clearly such a raw and emotional aspect of Vicky’s life. When creating art, the best you can hope for is to make an impact on the audience and ‘Bathwater’ certainly does that from the start!

From a music point of view we knew it was important to subtly embellish the huge emotion that was already in the piece. The success of that first collaboration really sparked the idea that we could do more with Vicky, our styles and ideas seemed to blend quite nicely.

HJF: How do you find the collaboration process and what’s your starting point when you’re working on a new idea? Do Vicky’s words come first, or is the music? Or do you develop ideas together?

Pat: It totally depends on the project. For ‘Bathwater’ Vicky came to us with an emotional chart and quite a bit written down in terms of content. It was then our job to weave musical textures in and around her words without stepping on her toes. We did this mainly together in relatively small evening sessions.

For the track we did for our album (Tapping) it was totally different. We presented Vicky with an almost finished track and asked her to put something over it. We then spent time crafting it further. And for our recent project ‘Fair Winds’ we all sat together, discussed the concept, then went away to work on things, only coming together towards the end to make sure it all fit properly.

HJF: The piece you’re creating for Hull Jazz Festival is called Home. ‘Home’ means a lot of things to a lot of people, what does it mean to you?

Pat: I’m really lucky that home to me is safe and loving and secure. For many people, home is none of those things, it is unstable and confusing and unsafe.

Home for me is somewhere I feel happy, it’s filled with people I enjoy spending time with, people I love and is a place where we can all be ourselves together. The addition of my little girl in the last few months has meant that home is definitely not as tidy as it once was, but to come home to her, whatever mood she’s in, is a real blessing.

For some people home is a place, a building or an area and I guess to an extent that is true for us all but I think we adapt as long as the people that make us feel like home are nearby.

HJF: It’s been a busy year for The Broken Orchestra, with a new album and new commissions (not to mention a new baby!) What’s on the horizon for the next year?

Pat: It has been a very busy year this year. I must give my huge appreciation and gratitude to my wife (Kirsty) who has been amazing holding everything together at home with our (now not so new) arrival. I started gigging about two weeks after she was born and that run of dates added to the commission-based stuff made for a really hectic summer for us but she’s extremely understanding about what I do, most of the time.

Next year could well end up being a busier one though. At the moment there are lots of things being planned but nothing we can reveal sadly. We’re planning to work on more commissions and we’re planning to do more work with Vicky and other poets also. We’ll be back out on tour as a band to continue pushing our album Pathways and hopefully be playing plenty more festivals over the summer. I suspect we will also be jumping back in the studio to start early planning on more music for release too!

HJF: As the nights are drawing in, we’re on the hunt for some tunes to cosy up to and/or get us moving this winter. What Winter Warmers would you recommend, and why?

It’s always great to be able to share music with people. In honesty though I’ve not been buying loads and loads of stuff recently. Here are my top 5 buys from this year so far. I’ve probably missed loads out, so, apologies.

  1. The Cinematic Orchestra – To Believe
  2. Hania Rani – Esja
  3. Portico Quartet – Memory Streams
  4. Jonathan Jeremiah – Good Day
  5. Olafur Arnalds – Re:member

You can catch the premiere of Home by The Broken Orchestra & Vicky Foster at Hull Truck Theatre on Saturday 16th November, part of a double bill with Numb Mob. Tickets cost £8 (£6 for students and under-26s) and they’re available from the box office online, in person or by calling 01482 323638.