Aaron Corcoran, a 22-year-old, up-and-coming DIY Dublin artist better known as Skinner, began gaining momentum after releasing his blissfully genuine mixtape, Skint, all of which he wrote, recorded and mixed himself.
The musician recalls that while creating the album, he “didn’t really think anyone was going to listen to it”.
“It was just something to do to practice recording for the first time, and then people seemed to like it so it was good.”
His relatable lyrics – “not gonna pay €5.50 for a single pint, I sneak in six cans of Tesco Lager and a skimpy joint” – captivated Dublin audiences. Skinner has since gone on to feature in Hot Press and Fred Perry, as well as remaining a live staple of Whelan’s and Workman’s.
Skinner explains that for his latest single, “Dislocation”, which was released in June, he drew inspiration from the techniques of Thom Yorke and David Bowie in his lyrical composition.
“I had the verse straight away, but I couldn’t write the chorus. So I basically had a bunch of different songs where I just snipped out lines from, pieced them all together, and just threw them in”, he says. “Most of the time when I write something, the meaning usually makes sense afterwards, not really during it.”
“Dislocation” is also the first work by Skinner to be mastered externally, courtesy of Seán Corcoran. “He’s been teaching me how to mix a bit better, more by the book. Although I’ve always tried to do it as professionally as I could by myself, unless you’ve got lots of money it’s never going to sound really nice.”
Although the album was mastered externally, Skinner was involved in every step of the process.
“It’s not like I give him the tracks then disappear”, he says. “I sit down – we do 12 to 14 hour days of just going through it. We used a lot of the templates for stuff I already had, especially for reverbs and delays.”
“Headroom”, Corcoran’s 2019 comeback single, surprised some listeners by being darker in tone both lyrically and sonically than Skint. Fly-on-the-wall observations were exchanged for intimate, emotional anecdotes.
“Nowadays I tend to look a lot more inwards”, he says. “I suppose when I was doing the Skint stuff I was almost afraid to talk about myself in the first person because I didn’t think anyone really cared that much, to be honest with you. The more it went on, I got a better feeling when I was writing of how I actually felt, instead of just looking around the room and seeing what people are doing.”
Skinner cites “a culmination of the feelings” as the catalyst for his natural change in musical style. “I used to not want any effects pedals – just plug it into the amp, crank the reverb and that’s it. Then after that year, I wasn’t getting the anger and aggression out through just playing guitar anymore.” In his newer work, Skinner began yearning for something “more distorted, more powerful”.
This development can also be attributed to Skinner’s desire to blend a variety of genres into his work. “Headroom” depicts a programmed drum groove, as opposed to a classic kit. On the topic of incorporating new genres without shocking loyal fans, Skinner claims that “if you lead people in slowly, you give yourself a lot more breathing room to be creative and try new things”.
This can be seen in the melancholic ballad “Sometimes My Brain is Goo”, which features a saxophone interlude. “I picked it up and I taught myself how to play it”, explains Skinner, noting humbly that his proficiency is “not great, but enough to get by”. “A lot of the newer stuff has a lot of brass sections in it, with multiple harmonies on the saxophone. I’m just trying to branch out.”
Skinner’s latest single “Dislocation” is available to stream on all major platforms now.