Firstly, can you tell how you guys decided on your name?
Oh, we had a short phase in which we brainstormed about naming our band, shouting out names at random. Somebody suggested The Sporting Jennies, another said: Let’s search the lyrics of the songs for something. But our accordion-player remained silent – and when we finally stopped shouting he said: The Rathmines. Why? ‘Cause he had lived there a while ago while in Dublin. He liked it there very much and had heard stories about it being the artist’s borough and so on… So we said: Okay, even Berlin has bands naming themselves after boroughs of the city (like Pankow for instance). Why shouldn’t we? With that we’re paying respect to a part of Dublin, the past of one of our band members – and we have all the people in Germany constantly asking: What does that mean? How do you pronounce it? What is this? – And it sounds sooooo cool, don’t you think?
When did the band form and what inspired you to start the band?
The bass-player, Marcus, and the singer/guitar-player Martin had a band called Stainless Bones, which kind of broke apart in 2011. We two attended a Pogues-concert in August 2012 , wanting to see Shane for at least one time before he kicked the bucket. Afterwards we sang (or maybe: growled) Irish Folk in the underground on our way home. As we got off the train, a guy approached us asking: You guys make music? So we met our accordion-player, Egidio. He had attended the same concert and rode the same train. The three of us exchanged numbers and decided to focus on Irish Folk which we all liked very much. Some obstacles had to be overcome (Egidio forgot his cell in a cab that very night, so for a while we heard nothing of him and he couldn’t be reached), but we managed to play some small gigs in Berlin. On a gig in January 2013 we found out that a friend of ours, René, had played punk drums years ago. We offered him a Cajon and he agreed. Hence: The Rathmines completed.
Describe your music in three words?
Stolen Songs (of) Struggle
There’s so very much to say right here. We kind of ‘stole’ our material for the most from The Dubliners, The Pogues, Clancy Brothers – from your rich and colourful history and culture. And even when we produce our own stuff, it’s assembled with bits and parts of the tradition of folk, country, rock, blues and punk that already exists. What we do is mostly songs, telling stories of tragedies, wishes, longings, achievements, fights and fates. And struggle? We struggle with the instruments, stages, lights, electricity, audiences, landlords, bartenders, pints, cigarettes, ashtrays, cabs, each other… the audiences struggles with us and among themselves… and the material speaks of struggles way across centuries, ringing on to this very day, and we try to connect them with present struggles. For still the oppressed are fighting their state of existence. You see them when you open the news… We’d like to be one of their voices.
Have you guys ever played in Rathmines, and if the answer is no, why the hell not?
Egidio has. The rest of us? Well, frankly, we lack the means and, yet, the courage. Although we once played ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ in a very small venue in Berlin and afterwards a guy walked up and said: “Hi, I’m David, I’m from Athenry. Can I get you something to drink?” That was kind of the knightly accolade for us, you know? We’re slowly building up the confidence (and band fund) to come. In fact, we were planning a trip to Dublin this summer, but due to money problems we had to put it on ice for now. Would you like to invite us? We’d love to put in the travel costs, if Rathmines offered beds and meals and drinks. 😉
Tell us who are all the members of the band and where are you all from?
Okay, who we have here?
– Marcus – plays bass, acoustic as well as electric, and sings the second voice in many of the songs. He was born and raised in Eastern Berlin (GDR) and works as a nursery school teacher.
– Egidio – plays the accordion. He’s from Italy, was raised partly in Kassel, Germany, and travelled a lot more than the rest of us Europe-wide. He’s currently jobbing his way around Berlin for the summer but usually works in sales.
– René – plays the Cajon – he regularly gets the most attention for doing what he does. Everybody is astonished by what he can do with his hands on a box. He’s also from the GDR, Brandenburg – that’s kind of the landscape surrounding the city limits of Berlin (we tease him by calling him peasant). He works in an Internet Gaming Company.
– Martin – does the singing and plays the guitars. Occasionally he tries to tin-whistle some tunes. He’s the third born and raised in the GDR, Eastern-Berlin, and works as an accountant and employee representative.
What was it about The Pogues that got you guys inspired??
Who told you that we got inspired by… oh, okay, got us there, we did. Well, looking at the folk scene in Germany it becomes obvious that it’s not very – vivid in the area of Irish Folk. Something like The Pogues have been missing since the eighties. They were very big around these parts… I personally got to know them by my obsession with Tom Waits. His biography stated that he was a big fan of The Pogues and used to hang out with them. So naturally I thought, hey, might be worth it to look these guys up. The rest’s history… And since we got together after a Pogues concert – that’s fate, right? And their ‘Streams of Whiskey’ comes in handy when we decide to arouse the audience, shake the house, break the floorboards and tear the roof down on our heads… Let’s face it: Shane MacGowan is one of the best songwriters in history – and it’s doing his songs a favour singing them yourself rather them hear them be sung by him nowadays…
What is the biggest and smallest gig you guys have played??
Oh we never did small gigs, you know? It’s all about the attitude… In fact our biggest gig was just the other weekend in a little town south of Berlin called Jüterbog. We had been there a couple of times playing so called Pub Nights – 6 hours of playing for an audience that was barely listening the first 3 hours and kept yelling for more and louder and faster songs the other 3. This time we were invited to do the music to accompany an open air communal drinking orgy called ‘Irre Irisch’. We entertained roughly 250 people in a farm yard over 4 hours or so. A little concerned about the weather – but the only time a little rain fell was while we played ‘Rainy Night in Soho’. Lovely coincidence. The hardest gig lately was our trip to a pretrial detention jail to play for a hundred inmates – sitting there with folded arms and frowns on their faces for 45 minutes and freaking out during the last 2 or 3 songs for no special reason. Just before the concert two guards got in a fight and one lost a tooth. You can imagine the mood and the vibes in that place. The smallest gigs are usually the little private party concerts we do for friends or colleagues. Birthdays, weddings, divorces, anniversaries of any kind – we’re not too shy to get close and acoustic and intimate. Our best shows we naturally do in pubs of course. Last year we did a tour through the middle of Germany and played in Weimar in a shed called the Smugglers Pub. Really nice. So we played a couple of hours, had a couple of drinks and decided to lift the mood with the wonderful song about the British Army. You know? “When I was young I used to be…” And this song ends of course with a hearty “Fuck The British Army!!!” So we do it and afterwards a guy arises in the back of the pub, comes up to us, reaches in his pocket and holds a military ID in front of our gin-soaked eyes and says in a low-down intimidating voice: “British army.” – – – Silence. – – – We kind of apologized and laughed insecurely. He sat down with his friend and stayed for the rest of the night, sometime glancing at us with unfriendly eyes. Lucky there weren’t a dozen of them that night…
Have you ever played in Ireland at all?
No, except for Egidio. See question 4. But since this is the second time you ask, we consider that a serious invitation now. So expect to see us soon. No, sincerely, we’d love to as soon as we can manage. After all it’s kind of our Mecca, you know?
Favourite song to play at a gig and why?
Oh, depends on what you are trying to do. To get them stomping? ‘Drunken Sailor’. To get them dancing? ‘The Irish Washerwoman’. To shake down the house? ‘Streams of Whiskey’. To get them to sway to and fro? ‘The Wild Rover’. To show off? Our own stuff. To get them drinking? All of them. But you have to know that every song requires the right timing and moment to work as intended. It’s a guess every night. And fortunately every band member has his own little secret favourite he tries to push to a prominent place on the set list. Now that I think about it, ‘Leaving of Liverpool’ must be the one song that very close to a hundred percent of the times worked, was well received by every audience and was welcomed to be played by every member of the band on every occasion. It just has something to it… and not many popular bands have done it since The Dubliners.
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