Paul Rooney is based in Liverpool and makes music with words, for record releases and for galleries. The words of his sung and spoken pieces deal with ordinary moments and familiar places that are made strange by music, by fictive daftness (particularly fictions and mythologies related to music) or by other kinds of artifice, stressing the complications and absurdities of our attempts to make meaning out of the world.
A current ongoing project is Owd Scrat Records, a label founded in 2014 by Rooney and other collaborators in which all of the artists are fictional personae with often longstanding and interrelated backstories (or semi-fictional backstories in the case of one of the artists, Rooney himself, who is often implicated within his own fictions). The next release, for instance, is by fanzine writer and composer Alain Chamois, who has previously appeared in a number of Paul’s works since he wrote the sleeve notes for a 1997 EP release.
From 1998 to 2000 Paul Rooney released three lo-fi experimental pop CD albums as ‘Rooney’, in which every song’s anti-lyrics simply described mundane life, from looking at found photographs to doodling on a call centre shift. The ‘band’ Rooney, despite being initially a fictional entity, were real enough to record a session for John Peel’s Radio 1 show in 1999 (which was re-broadcast on BBC 6 Music in 2016) and they appeared in Peel’s Festive Fifty in 1998. Paul Rooney’s next public release, under his own full name, the 2007 post-punk dub 12″ single Lucy Over Lancashire, featured an unreliable narration delivered by a satanic Lancastrian sprite. Paul’s pieces have been broadcast on BBC Radios 1, 3, 6 Music, Cymru and Scotland amongst many other stations. His first full length album since 2000, Futile Exorcise – sung and spoken word post-punk experimental folk revenant songs featuring ghosts playing poker and haunting toilet seats – was released in 2017 on Owd Scrat.
Paul Rooney’s museum and gallery artworks have been commissioned by organisations such as Film and Video Umbrella, The Drawing Room or Tate Liverpool, or have been made during artist residencies at places like DCA, Dundee; Proyecto Batiscafo, Cuba; and University of Oxford/Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne. He has shown work at Tate Britain; The Arnolfini; BALTIC; Whitechapel Gallery; and ICA; and has exhibited internationally at places such as Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo (Mexico City); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Seville) and at the Shanghai Biennial.
Works by Rooney were included in the British Council show Electric Earth: Film and Video from Britain, which toured to eighteen international venues from 2003 to 2006; British Art Show 6, which toured around the UK in 2005-2006; and Running Time: Artist Films in Scotland 1960 to Now, shown at the National Galleries of Scotland in 2009. Other projects include solo art exhibitions at Site Gallery, Sheffield, Matt’s Gallery, London and the Liverpool Biennial; a site-specific sound ‘lecture’ in Leeds for Sound and Music and MAAP; and a museum object divination website for University of Cambridge Museums. He was the winner of the second Northern Art Prize in 2008, and two of his video installations were purchased for the Arts Council Collection in 2015.