Fragment Q&A: Dom Coyote, Composer

Dom Coyote is an award‐winning musician and theatre‐maker. He is a Kneehigh Associate Artist, most recently appearing in Tin Drum. He’s composed the music for Fragment, The North Wall’s co-production with double award-winning Iron Shoes, which premieres this month. Director-in-Residence Emily Collins spoke to him about song-writing, collaborations and gig-theatre:

What appeals to you about fusing music and theatre together?

They just come very naturally to me. They’re the tools I work with as an artist, so it feels strange not doing it. When I was writing music and playing in bands it always felt quite story based; and then I made my first piece of gig theatre and I suddenly went ‘Oh, this is what I do’. This is what I need to do and it feels very natural to me.

Art is all one thing. It’s about expression, creativity and expressing things that we know about the world that we can’t explain in any other way. Or it’s about exploring things that we don’t know how to solve. There are lots of different forms to do that in and the things that I connect to are music and storytelling.

I know that Fragment started at ArtsLab in 2014. How has it been developing it from a large piece that weaved different stories together to a much more intimate show focusing on one narrative?

Sometimes you really love something in your work that you know in your heart doesn’t really fit, or isn’t the avenue you should be going down. If it’s strong and you have an emotional attachment to it, then you’ll keep it in but eventually it’s going to go.

Because Fragment’s happened with lots of gaps of time in between, it meant that we were able to have a lot of perspective on it and not to become to emotional about leaving things out. It’s become a very stripped back and simple piece of work, and I think that’s because we weren’t too sentimental about letting things go. We could see quite clearly what worked right from the beginning.

We’re making something simpler than we have ever done before as a team and I think that’s where the emotion of it comes from. It makes it universal and taps into some deep longing that is in all of us: it’s just reality with sad songs.

How have you found the collaboration process with John and Ria?

We’ve worked together for ages and all three of us get on very well. There is zero clash which is quite uncommon in a way. Sometimes you have ones where a real struggle goes into the work and that can be great, but the way that we work together has a real natural fluidity to it.

We all just really enjoy each other’s company so there’s never been an issue. I can’t think of an issue that we’ve had between us. We work very naturally together so it’s just friends working together and having a nice time.

What inspires you as an artist?

The things which inspire me are people: relationships with people, experiences with people.  And comic books. I read more than anything so literature and comic books. I normally make sci-fi work because I’m a big geek, but the things I use to nerd out with are music and storytelling. So this is much more naturalistic than I would normally go in the story that’s told.

Song-writing wise, I think inspiration is quite fleeting. It’s that weird thing of if you have to do something sometimes it doesn’t work as well as sitting down and letting it be quite free. I’m a free writer so the best lyrics I write are generally just from writing reams and reams of stuff. I’ll write loads and loads of material then I’ll edit quite quickly, and it creates something quite abstract. Either that or I’ll spend ages and ages on a song and then I’ll write another song in 5 minutes and it’ll be much better.

My inspiration comes in a moment and then it’s there: I’m an immediate sort of person, but sometimes you can’t get there immediately. You have to do a whole bunch of crap before the good stuff comes out.

What do you hope your audiences take away from Fragment?

I hope they go home thinking about their lives and remember to take stock of where they are. To look up and around them and to deal with things that are unfinished. Hopefully it might help them think about whether they want to deal with things which they want to deal with but haven’t been able to.

Fragment was performed from 14-15 May 2018 at Battersea Arts Centre, and 16-19 May 2018 at The North Wall. Written by John Hoggarth, directed by Ria Parry, with songs by Dom Coyote.

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