The Enchanting Justine Ó Gadhra-Sharp – Interview

Once there was an EP that was recorded and then it was unable to be finshed for reasons. Many years later, the siren whom created the EP, Justine Ó Gadhra-Sharp, was given the opportunity to complete it. This is very much our luck as well, as Sidhe is a wonderful eclectic mix of cabaret, sexiness and sprinklings of darkness. Justine has been a part of the New Zealand dark alternative scene since the 90s but this EP marks the lady being independent of a band, so we spoke to her about the EP, what she has been up to and find out a little about the Kiwi music scene!

Welcome/kia ora Justine, down in the Onyx burrow where we currently have an infestation of fairy folk… do be careful as they occasionally bite.

You have been involved with the New Zealand music scene since the 90s, with acts including The Gael, Flinch, Pulchritude, DiS and Artemisia. Most of these bands were involved in experimental, dark ambient styles. How did you get into this scene?

I socialised with many of these people in the 90s and we all had a similar desire for the darker and more experimental. We listened to much of the same kinda music. I have always been fairly confident socially, you could say, so I showed what I could do and it unfolded from there.

Justine Album Shoot

What was the gothic/industrial/darkwave scene in New Zealand in the 90s and 2000s? Is it similar today or have things changed?

Vastly different nowadays. Back then we were the stragglers of the 80s: the children of boomers, where we were not really acknowledged and kinda felt raised by radio and tv. So the music in the alternative scene (not limited to goth etc.) was a kinda purging of what was repressed in us. It made for some very interesting material; very raw in many ways. Nowadays I am not seeing much of this from the younger lot… I guess they have their own voice. Social media has changed things a lot. And the days of the old 4-track and analogue reel-to-reel that were always highly coveted now sit collecting dust in forgotten corners, holding memories and unfulfilled dreams. I quite liked the 90s “misfits” that wandered about looking for gigs to go to it felt quite supportive, and felt like we were kinda healing or medicating each other with music and booze: very much dysfunctional, but at the time was fun. There was however the shadow side that era came with, which was quite vampiric and deeply unhealthy. I needed to extract myself from that, so I left

The EP, Sidhe, was recorded in the early 2000s but then it was kind of forgotten about? How did Sidhe get resurrected and who was involved?

No, never forgotten about I assure you. Its state of incompletion haunted me. I would see that hard drive that was biffed in a box every time I would go looking for something and it would tug at my conscience – my obsession with tying up loose ends – I don’t like unfinished business. Then one day like an answered prayer, Josh Wood contacted me out of the blue, asking if I would be interested in doing some vocals on his EP. I was chuffed because I liked his work back in the day and was only too pleased to help. In return, he offered to help me with my EP when I was ready. He understood the bullshit that surrounded the temporary cessation of my project, and wanted to see it done. Very good guy: straight up and ridiculously talented. Another talented friend, Bryan Tabuteau in Wellington, also offered to assist. I gratefully accepted their help, and so here we are.

The style in Sidhe is different from what you were performing with other bands. Was this because you had more autonomy creating with long time friend Iva Treskon or were trying out something different?

Yea, so I was getting bored with the randomness of the other projects. Although I enjoyed these projects at the time, I suddenly started to feel like I was a bit of a puppet and wasn’t given much license to do what I wanted. I always wanted some structure and a degree of slickness – not too slick, mind you. Iva and I moved to Auckland in 2000 from Christchurch to carve out a new life together, and he is a very good drummer. I mean, the dude is crazy talented at a lot of things and drumming is just one of his natural abilities. He liked my singing and we would jam regularly in our tree house in Tītīrangi with the tūīs surrounded by native bush. His drum n bass break beat style with my drones, loops and vocal style created a lovely kind of landscape that had a nice balance of structure and experimentation. It was fun, and it happened very organically. We were highly motivated creative beings and we got a lot of creativity out back then collectively. We inspired each other. In fact his art still inspires me some 20 plus years later.

The single Red Room has been picked up by radio and streamers. You also had fellow New Zealanders, The Mercy Cage do a fantastic remix and in 2017, you recorded the single, Walking Ghost Phase with them. How did you make their acquaintance?

I met Josh Wood briefly in Auckland at some Goth gig in the early 2000s. I think he was based in Tauranga back then. I am not sure we even spoke to each other; just acknowledged each other in our introverted way. I was super impressed by The Mercy Cage and I guess my voice made a positive impression on him.

He did a huge amount of work on my EP and I asked him if he would like to do a remix of one of the songs with complete creative license. He chose Red Room and yes, he did a fantastic remix.

Justine Album Shoot

My favourite track is the wonderful Stanley’s Only Hope, a duet with Michel Rowland of Disjecta Membra. Your vocals complimented each other so well. Michel mentioned he had re-recorded the vocals after many years, so can you tell us about this song, your friendship with the delightful Rowland and is it inspired a little by Nick Cave?

I met Michel years ago, playing some shows together between 97 and 98. I was in Flinch then, and he was in Disjecta Membra, and we have been friends ever since. His voice blew me away when I first heard him sing, I was astonished. I love it. Deep and rich… I like how he seems to masticate words when he sings, and they come out kinda different, his own and yet otherworldly… hard to describe.

As for Nick – we both really enjoy Nick Cave and I think for me it’s almost impossible not to have Nick influence me creatively on some level. I wrote that song deliberately to be sung as a duet and for me there was only ever one person who could sing Stanley’s part and that was Michel. I am glad he agreed to it. Our voices do go well together. I think that’s a lot to do with getting where each other is coming from. Quite intuitive… instinctive.

You seemed to have a break from the music scene, so was this intentional?

Yes and no… Life and its twists took me down the path of motherhood, among many other distractions, both unwelcomed and welcomed.

In 2015 saw you starting to appear on recordings again. Was this the start of a return to singing for you?

Yes, dipping my toes back in, gently. Curious to see if I could still sing… seems I could.

What music or bands brought you into the fold in your youth?

As a child, early Simple Minds, early U2, Bowie, Clannad… then from 14-ish Nick Cave, The Church, Bauhaus, New Order… then latter teen years came Diamanda Galas, Swans, Skin, Jarboe, Dead Can Dance, PJ Harvey, The Breeders, Bongwater, The Specials… many more, but those are front of mind.

What or who do you listen to now that inspire you?

Still most of the above. I do like Weyes Blood, and Big Black Delta have a couple of decent songs that I return to.

Justine Album Shoot

Are there plans for more music in the pipeline due to the reception of Sidhe?

I hope so. There are some discussions about some collaborative work. For any solo stuff, not sure… I would like to, but perhaps not on my own completely.

We honestly hope to hear more from you and so do the fairies! Thank you/ char for your time!

You’re welcome. Yes, indeed the fae are never far from me… never far from us.

Sláinte! Kia ora!

Sídhe (EP) | Justine Ó Gadhra-Sharp (bandcamp.com)

Justine Ó Gadhra-Sharp | Facebook

𝐉𝐮𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐞 Ó 𝐆𝐚𝐝𝐡𝐫𝐚-𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐩 (@justinesidhe) • Instagram photos and videos

Alexander Hallag (@themusicistalking) • Instagram photos and videos

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