collective promoting celtic music especially celtic-punk and unofficial Celtic supporters club for drunx, punx 'n' vagabonds!
London Celtic Punks and UrbanKelt interview Boston Celtic Punk band ‘Micky Rickshaw’ before they took the stage at their first ever English gig at The Stags Head in Hoxton London as part of their European Tour.
Thanks to Bunney for the interview and John Murphy for filming.
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Now Comrade X has been around on the music scene a lot longer than any of us have been so we thought we’d give him a chance to fill us in (not literally!) and give us the benefit of his knowledge. Now there may be a small handful of people reading this who are not aware of your contribution to the world of alternative music so want to enlighten them? What started your interest in music and how long you been playing and what bands you been involved in up to now? I was 14 when the Pistols appeared on Bill Grundy and it just blew me away. Till that point I was wearing tank tops, Oxford Bags and DM’s and fancied myself as a boot boy with an aspiration to be a face on the Shed End at Chelsea. After Grundy I wanted to know more about these punks. I bought New Rose when it came out and that was that – but it was really the first Clash album that shifted everything for me. After that I bought a guitar out of a junk shop in Leatherhead and started rehearsing with my first band Discipline at the Cabin Club down on Longmead Estate in Epsom. That would have been some time in 1977. We had guitars that chopped your fingers off and 5 watt Woolworths’ practice amps – we were dire but a fire had been lit.
As I say you’ve been performing for a hell of a long time in bands and now as a solo act but it has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone! Yep, nowhere to hide! That is a bit of a downside but on the upside there’s no one to row with other than yourself and the odd sound man who thinks that every solo artist with a guitar should sound like Cat Stevens.
What bands are you listening to at the moment? Do you follow celtic-punk at all. Any bands out of the scene that you like? I’ve already bigged up The Lagan, Matilda’s Scoundrels and Black Water County but I can add to that Mick O’Toole and of course the old troopers Neck who I’ve know since time began. I pick up loads of stuff from your recommendations from around the globe and I think that the Irish influenced punk/folk scene is healthy as fuck – cant wait to see the Cundeez down in Brixton as well.
There’s always been a big debate about celtic-punk and whether or not it is cultural appropriation and politically correct for non-Irish bands singing about the Irish getting pissed and fighting and pubs and what have you. Personally I love it. The idea of the likes of Indonesian or Brazilian bands getting into The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones after listening to the Dropkick Murphys. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? I think its just a case of snobbery but do you think it’s ok? I agree. I’m sick of being told what is and what isn’t acceptable and until everything is narrowed down to a tiny spec. I like covering Holy Spook by the Popes – “…I wrecked my life on whisky, bad wives, taking pills and cursing…”. That’s just the blues mate and it doesn’t belong to anyone. This “cultural appropriation” stuff is just more hand-wringing, liberal bollocks.
A fast, ruthless, uncompromising sound with influences from far and wide. Material that embraces traditional music and sometimes frantic Bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery.
We are extremely happy that Johnny took time out from megabussing it around the country from gig to gig to do a little interview for us.
The obvious one to get us started so can you tell us how long you’ve been playing music and what bands you have been in before?
Johnny- I’ve been performing live for a decade now, and for the last couple of years as a solo performer. Before those ten years I was playing a battered classical guitar to Bad Religion live albums pretending I was in Bad Religion.
You have played in a celtic-punk band before with Three Sheets T’Wind so how do you see the celtic-punk scene here and abroad?
Johnny- I haven’t performed in other bands to any full-on level of commitment, apart from numerous and humorous side projects and filling in space for musicians who couldn’t make shows…and once trialing for The Popes as a fiddle player but that was a long time ago… I personally feel the scene in the UK is much broader, encompassing Anti-Folk, Alt-Folk and other offshoots. Though across the underground in The Netherlands for example, there are a number of fantastic ‘Folk-Punk’ bands using Banjos, Mandolins, Accordions that you couldn’t label as ‘Celtic-Punk’. It is great to see people’s horizons to ‘Punk’ don’t just start and end with an Electric Guitar.
I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present?
Johnny- For me yes. Right back to Planxty, Hank Williams or even contemporary folk like Julie Fowlis. The ‘Celtic-Punk’ fans I’ve come across like their fair share of Tom Waits and other artists that are hard to define by genre. I think if you’re into niche music, as in ‘Celtic-Punk’, you’re probably going to be listening to some other interesting styles!
Which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?
Johnny- Obviously The Pogues…but I think we all know that. The Tossers are in my opinion, the logical progression from The Pogues taking influence from Behan and Joyce and managing to create it in their own American sound. Silly Wizard (possibly Scotland’s Planxty) manage to create an equally ‘rocky’ feel to their sound which leads neatly onto artists like The Horslips, Thin Lizzy and Moving Hearts.
Bit of an odd question this but how would you describe what you do on stage?
Johnny- I describe myself in my write up as an ‘Alt-folk’ musician. This is about as broad as I could make it. It isn’t a musical ‘style’ it is simply a way of saying ‘It is folk music…but a bit different.’ Some have said that shows can differentiate from stand-up comedy to thoughtful political song. I’ll do traditional Irish Anti-war songs like Arthur McBride to A Cappella songs about getting blind drunk and catching STDs from ladies of the night.
It has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone!
Johnny- There’s a certain amount of balls/ego in there to get up and ask people to listen to what you’ve got to say for an hour, definitely. If you manage to fuck up the set, then it really is your own fault. That’s something that is pretty daunting but a challenge to relish I suppose, as the credit (if there is any to give out) is all yours.
At the moment there is a big ‘folk-punk’ thing happening in the UK that seems to have a lot in common with celtic-punk like the politics and aspirations but without major celtic influences. Have you noticed this at all?
Johnny- Because the genres are getting broader and ‘Folk-Punk’ is the easiest umbrella to put yourself under if you perform anti-authoritarian/alternative Folk music… I think that is how it is coming about. Celtic/Irish music has transported well as there is a mythology built up around the Irish. But also the way we can consume music nowadays, we can search for Mongolian Political Folk Punk on Youtube and get an instant response. Which is broadening our intake very quickly. I speak for myself here when I say 10 years ago, when I was 18, the only Folk-Punk you could really find was Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and anything else on a major label as you had to go to the local (if you had one) independent record shop. Now we are blessed with so much choice, which is generally free which brings its own negative impacts like de-valuing a product and other factors.
It would seem sometimes, and there is certainly a history of it in England (the band that must never be mentioned!), that bands who play Irish/celtic tunes won’t label the tunes as Irish/celtic and would instead categorise it as English folk (so as to not be seen as Irish I suppose) but do you see this as cultural appropriation or not? it sometimes reminds me of Prince Charles roaming round his billion acre estate in Kernow/ Cornwall wearing a kilt!
Johnny- Hmm, it is an interesting one. I don’t think anyone would get offended if you said a tune was English when it was an Irish tune if you believed it was initially. I think it is important to try and research a song or a tune and find out its origins and to recognise it. I can also see some cultural appropriation in there as it is a small way of denying heritage by simply taking is as your ‘own’. I think we must be more concerned with things like the far-right using traditional folk music and making a patriotic gesture with the songs.
You have a new album due out soon I hear. What’s the latest on that? Is it purely yourself or will you be aided and abetted?
Johnny- It’s been a long process, I haven’t released something with new material for about three years. I’ve had writer’s block for a while and since I’ve been on the road the last couple of years I’ve picked up new influences which has come out on the record. I am aided by Kieran O’Malley, a violin player from Leeds who performs with Spirit of John and many other acts..he’s also performed on a Shane MacGowan’s release ‘Rockier Road To Poland’ and backing vocals from Exeter singer/songwriter Rosie Eade. http://www.rosieeade.co.uk/ It will be released early October.
You seem to be on a non-stop tour of anywhere and everywhere so where does the future take you and do you think you will be able to keep it up more importantly?
Johnny- I’m sure I’ll be able to carry on for a few more years as long as my legs still carry me. I only use public transport and we managed to get from Istanbul from Yorkshire in 28 days on public transport on the Summer European tour with James Bar Bowen and Cosmo. We hit squats and social centres through eight countries and the final show in Istanbul got cancelled as the promoter had left to go and fight against fascist ISIS and didn’t tell us! We had about five days to waste in Istanbul because of the cancellation. This was during Ramadan which is an amazing spectacle. We decided to imbibe the culture by visiting mosques, walking the streets and eating kebabs. As long as the gigs keep being interesting, I still have some life left!
Thanks Johnny for taking time out of your busy touring schedule (where are you as you write this?) so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank?
Johnny- I’m currently in the South West for a week between shows and getting ready for the release of my album ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ which will be released on my website and Bandcamp in early October! I will be doing a UK and USA East Coast tour in March 2016 with Tim Holehouse www.timholehouse.com (UK tour) and James Bar Bowen https://jamesbarbowen2014.wordpress.com/ (USA tour) but in the meantime I have shows across the UK and The Netherlands with Rob Galloway http://www.theyallayallas.com/rob-galloway which can all be found on my website! Cheers and beers! x
(you can listen to Johnny Campbell’s debut solo EP below)
Well here’s a first for the London Celtic Punks web-zine… we have for you a video interview with Mick O’Toole a five piece southern cider swilling folk band from the deepest darkest Shire! The latest in our ever growing roster of bands we love.
Now it wasn’t intended to be like this no. I expected a reply by e-mail but I had seriously misjudged how lazy they are and instead they done a video (anything to get out of typing)! Anyhow on reflection it seems a lot more fun and it had me creasing up. So grab yourself a big cup of tea and a packet of biscuits and settle down to hear the who, where, why, what, when and how of Mick O’Toole.
Sooo pretty much all you need to know about the Bhoys for now. You can check out their great EP ‘Deep In Cider’ by simply clicking play on the Bandcamp player below. OR the lads are playing in London next Saturday in Camden or in Kingston on Sunday with our good mates The Lagan and Matilda’s Scoundrels. Both gigs are free…yes *FREE* so you have no excuse to miss them! You can check out the event page here…
You can read our review of their excellent second EP ‘1655 Pitchfork Rebellion’ here.
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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?
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.
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.
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. 😉
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.
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…
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…
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?
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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traditional Irish music with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach
Every Day Above Ground was released way back in March but as I only just got to hear it I’m rushing it in before the year ends. Don’t want to break the rule of only reviewing albums in the year their released do I? The Fighting Jamesons come from the resort town of Virginia Beach in Virginia, the 39th most populous state in America, and they embrace their Irish roots with obvious relish. The band inhabit the folkier side of celtic-punk and play mostly acoustic but like the band they probably sound most alike, Flogging Molly, they can kick up a real storm and would leave plenty of punk bands in their wake. Heads down and fast as humanly possible is how The Fighting Jamesons like it and we have to say we bloody love it too!
The band members have an interesting history as lead guitarist Geo tells me
“we have always been an interesting mix of dudes when it comes to our musical backgrounds. Of course we have Irish and then it gets fun… punk, metal, hardcore, alternative, classic rock, classical, old time folk, new folk, reggae, world & Kiss. Hahaha”
I got their first album last year and was suitably impressed. A eight track mini album with three covers and five original numbers that comes up just a few seconds short of half an hour. Have to say though it was a wee bit disappointing to hear so many covers that were the usual celtic-punk standards. This is no way a slur on the band as they’re no way on their own as virtually all celtic-punk bands seem to kick off their recording output by overdoing the most popular covers.
Geo again told me by explaining
“I’m originally from New York from a proud Irish family who loves this music! There is no better feeling than hearing Ronnie Drew, Shane MacGowan, Luke Kelly or Liam Clancy sing. So here we are playing our own form of Irish Music. We love to reconstruct the Irish classics. It’s always a challenge to come up with your very own version of these timeless songs”
So the feeling that I had was can The Fighting Jamesons produce the goods themselves. The signs were there on that first album and with the release of Every Day Above Ground we can safely say that the bhoys can take their place amongst the American celtic-punk greats!
As singer-songwriter Michael Powers puts it
“the new album is darker than the first one. I feel as if we built off the first album, arranged better songs with a lot more depth. I wanted to make a real honest record. I had been writing the album every day of my life for about two years. If I had an idea or inspiration I stopped and wrote it down or played/hummed the melody into my phone. Sometimes life throws you a giant curve ball and everyone deals with it differently. I wrote my way out of it with this album”
The album starts of with ‘Year Gone By’ and its a manic start with the accordion to the fore and the rest of the band rocking out alongside. It has a slight ‘gypsy’ touch to it and is one of the most celtic-punk tracks of the entire album. In fact those comparisons to Flogging Molly are undeniable but its the Molly’s as trapped between 2000 and 2005 which lets face it was easily their best years. ‘What Does It Mean’ follows and the quality of the lyrics hits you hard as their mostly downbeat despite the music so they demand a proper listen. This is the albums standout song but hard to choose believe me. The albums first cover is ‘Rocky Road To Dublin’ a 19th century song about a immigrants experiences as he travels to Liverpool in England from his home in Ireland. Made most famous by The Dubliners, the lads certainly give it a good seeing to and whip up quite a frenzy that will leave you unable to keep up with the words by the end.
“The boys of Liverpool, when we safely landed
Called myself a fool, I could no longer stand it
Blood began to boil, temper I was losing
Poor Old Erin’s Isle they began abusing
Hooray me soul, says I, me Shillelagh I let fly
Galway boys were by and saw I was a hobble in
With a loud hurray, they joined me in the affray
Quickly cleared the way on the rocky road to Dublin”
‘Mid The Green Fields Of Virginia’ comes next and starts off with a real country feel to it before going off on one and the guitars come in and kick off. A great mixture of Irish, country and punk rock its a song over eighty years old from The Carter Family and pays tribute to the place they all call home now. ‘Last Thing I Remember’ keeps up the pace and even more darkness envelops ‘Every Day Not Wasted’ the well known story of a life lost in alcohol and oblivion. Slow and angry this song is for wrapping your arm round your mates and swaying with your beer held high. There but for the grace of God…
“Every day not wasted is a wasted day”
‘How I Ended Up This Way’ tells of drinking with your family and how it can get out of hand. ‘Around The Bend’ is a banjo led fury of a song and once again Michael’s great voice dominates. The Fighting Jamesons are one of a select group of bands (fortunately we have most of them in celtic-punk) whose lyrics are as important as the music wrapped around them. Each song is a story worth telling and hearing and lucky for us the musics just as good too. Next up is another Irish classic ‘Johnny I Hardly Knew You’. Made most famous in celtic-punk by The Dropkick Murphys who play a version in each live show. An anti-war anthem for each generation since it first appeared in 1867.
“You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg,
You hadn’t an arm, you hadn’t a leg
You’re a armless, boneless, chickenless egg
You’ll have to be put with the bowl to beg
Johnny I hardly knew ya”
‘A Song For Letting Go’ swiftly follows the whispered last words of ‘Johnny’ and banjo begins the familiar story of a selfish man and his wife/girlfriend. The song again moves at a grand old pace and it would be interesting to see if the bhoys can keep it up live as its wearing me out just listening to the fecker! ‘Isn’t It Grand’ slows things down and its in right proper traditional country’n’Irish territory but still with that punk twist on it. Originally recorded by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem there’s a nice bit of dark humour here before ‘The Ramble Home’ brings the album to a close with a rather jolly uplifting fiddle led tune that draws you in before punky guitars leap out of nowhere and before we know it we’re listening to a song Flogging Molly would have loved to have written back in their Swagger/Drunken Lullabies days.
Every Day Above Ground is twelve tracks lasting a staggering fifty minutes that barely pauses for breath for a minute. Even the ballads have a sort of haste to them and as soon as their finished there’s another blistering track of full on Irish following straight away. Bands like The Fighting Jamesons earn their bread and butter on the live circuit and its there that they are best experienced so to be able to even capture a small bit of that on record is a great achievement and this they have managed. Their hybrid sound of American and Irish really hits the spot but if i could redefine them even further I’d guess I’d call it Irish-country-punk as even at their most punky or most Irish there’s still a wee something underneath that anchors it down. Once again Geo tells us
“I’m really not sure how I would categorize the band anymore. We have a ton of punk elements especially live. We tend to play a bit faster when we get out on the road (never a bad thing) but, I know we are a band that plays Irish music…. after that it’s up to the individual listing to put us in their own Irish category. The Pogues are a great example of this…. they play Irish music and then mesh it with so many different styles. As a songwriter I love that and hope people checking out the new album can hear it. So if someone hears Irish Punk when listening…awesome. If someone else hears Irish gypsy music that’s awesome too”
This is a fantastic album and will send you into uncontrollable foot tapping if you’re anything like me and if you’re a bit more normal you’ll be jigging round yer living room! The Fighting Jamesons are made for a good time plain and simple.
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Irish In Virginia WebSite
Nyah Fearties are the hidden gem in Scotland’s rich musical strata! In the 80’s and 90’s they ploughed a lone path through the mire of bland music and created a lightnin’ fast, metal bashing, feedback drenched noise… all the more surprising because they were a duo and they played ACOUSTIC instruments!
Nyah Fearties were a Scottish band hailing from Lugton. Davey Fearties was kind enough to answer a few questions about the band and to give us permission to post a few of their songs.
— Nick Rogan
1) How did you all come up with the band name Nyah Fearties? I think it’s great. Were you all fans of dub and reggae at the time?
Yep, the original band played a few reggae covers. Keith Hudson’s Smoking was one.
2) What bands were you listening to when you formed Nyah Fearties?
We listened to all sorts from Nick Cave, Pogues, Violent Femmes, Alex Harvey, Suicide, Einsturzende Neubueten… and lots of Reggae. Reggae music was so alive in the 80’s. It’s so overlooked when people mention 80s music.
3) What bands did you most enjoy playing shows with? Have any good stories about playing live?
The Pogues has got to be my favourite. We were a pair of hobo street musicians when they took us on tour with them.Andrew Rankin, the drummer, used to play the last 2 songs of our set with us, and Spider would play whistle sometimes.
But there was one night when we got to the last song, and I looked across the stage and there was Shane beating on a plastic chair with a stick and doing some crazy rockin roll dance, Jem on Banjo, Phil on Guitar, Spider singing, Daryl on plastic chair, Andrew on drums just giein it laldy (it’s a Scots saying that means letting go and giving it all you’ve got) to the song Drunken Uncle that we did as our last song – cartoonesque.
The other band which, like the Pogues, had that live magic about them was Mano Negra, the most energetic live band on the planet at the time. A Mano Negra gig was like an early Clash gig for atmosphere.
4) Your music is clearly very political. At the time were you and Stephen involved in politics in any other way?
No, I was never a good liar. But Stephen would have made a great prime minister. He couldn’t have messed it up much more than the previous few in this country.
5) I’m not entirely familiar with Scottish politics in the 80’s and early 90’s. I was wondering if you could explain the meaning of a few songs: “Radiation Reign,” “Rantin’ Sonsie an’ Free,” and any other songs you particularly like.
This world’s gone crazy. ‘Radiation Reign’ was about Chernobyl and the effect that disaster had on places as far away from Russia as Scotland and Wales where for many years mutated livestock were being found on the high ground due to the spread of Radiation..and that feeling when it happened of “what have they done” and the despair of it..A bit like the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
‘Rantin Sonsie An Free’ was about how in Scotland the main language is English, even though you might doubt that when you hear what we do to it. The common tongue people speak with is a colourful mix of Scots, and when as a child you would speak Scots, you would be told it was bad English and there is always a negative spin to it. Even on TV and Radio, characters who speak that dialect will be portrayed as alcoholics, or mainly very negative role models. There’s a Scottish comedy show called ‘Burnistoun’, and a sketch called ‘Real Guy’. YouTube it, and you’ll see what I mean.
6) How did the song writing process normally work for Nyah Fearties?
It varied on what Instruments we had at the time, embelish stories, or whatever inspired us at the time. There was no technique. Most were spontaneous. Stephen had a great gift for coming out with these crazy comical rants which seemed to spring out of nowhere.
7) Your instrumentation is pretty unique. What did you two play?
Stephen played Ganjo, which was a 5 string guitar tuned like a banjo. He played Banjo, and found percussion. I played acoustic electric bass and a bit of guitar.
Most gigs we went for a walk and found percussion on the street. Could be a shopping trolley, oil drum, tin bath. It was great to see the look on the soundman’s face when he had to mike up an electric fire or a sheet of corrugated iron.
8) Nyah Fearties was together for around a decade. How did the band change over time?
We found other musicians, added fiddle and accordian, became more musical and less industrial. We went from an acoustic bass and a Ganjo to a full 5-piece band. But with a band it was more difficult to get to and play gigs.
9) What bands did you and Stephen play in afterwards?
Stephen did his Mr Luggs songs. I did Dub Skelper which was Scottish folk mixed with reggae and ska. Then Junkman’s Choir which Stephen played drums in for a few years. Junkman’s Choir is now a 2-piece and still playing mainly around Scotland.
10) What musical projects are you all currently working on?
I was travelling in India and recorded a whole load of Indian influenced music in a toilet in New Delhi, under the name Lugtone. You can find it at lugtone.bandcamp.com, or check out Lugtone on YouTube. Basically its an audio visual postcard.
thanks to WFMU’S Beware Of The Blog where this interview was first published.
there’s a great article on The Nyah Fearties here in Plain Or Pan blog zine.
there’s an hour long tribute to The Nyah Fearties here on No Men FM.
Junkman’s Choir are a two man band offering a big mix of cajun, country, rockin’ hillbilly, twists and turns on the works of Rabbie Burns, with some waltzes, jigs an reels thrown in for good measure. Look out for them on the street, on a stage, anywhere they can find, stomping out their steel-toed rhythm…
Check their facebook group here.
I’m pretty sure I can place the exact moment when Monday’s Dropkick Murphy’s show stomped into my Top Five List of Kick-Arse Concerts.
The ever-popular ballad “Boys on the Dock” had just finished and the crowd — fueled by pints and punk — decided to storm the stage like a bunch of World War I soldiers attacking a bunker. Two minutes later, band members were in the air and the stage seemed more crowded than the floor.
It was wonderful, beautiful chaos.
But the charge didn’t surprise me. Punk shows, Irish punk shows in particular, always spiral into rowdy, beer-soaked affairs — usually before the first band gets off the stage.
What got me was the number of people — never had I seen the House of Blues so packed. Which got me to thinking — has Irish punk, my favorite niche genre of music, completely lost its niche status?
To answer my question, I decided to look at the twin towers of Irish punk: Dropkick Murphys, a bagpipe band with harder punk leanings, and Flogging Molly, a lighter, seven-member group with more traditional Irish instruments.
And I turned to America’s premier expert on Irish punk — University of Colorado sociologist Carolyn Matthews.
In addition to being my little sister, “C” has an extensive knowledge of Irish punk supplemented by a recent interview with Flogging Molly.
M: OK, Ms. Matthews, a little background: Where’d you grow up?
C: Umm, right down the hall from you, idiot. In the same bloody Irish Catholic home you did.
M: OK, let’s say I like the music on the radio. What’s the broad appeal in going to a concert like the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly?
C: Basically, like all punk, it’s the release. And Irish punk rockers are a little different. They’re more lighthearted and more out there to have a good time. And look at the lyrics: it’s drinking, barroom heroes and drinking.
M: So, then, has mainstream culture taken hold of it?
C: Well, I was at a show in Denver and saw two drunk college girls whose only piercing probably was their belly button. And they were next to punk fans who were obviously upset about it. They didn’t have the same appreciation for the music.
M: We talking sell-out then?
C: I wouldn’t dare say that Flogging Molly has sold out. It’s just become more appreciated by more people. And I wouldn’t argue that it’s gone mainstream although I do see a lot more Flogging Molly T-shirts around campus.
M: Like how everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? Or like that one article in The Onion that talked about the dude who was proud of his, like, 1/16 Irish heritage.
C: I think I asked Dave King [the frontman for Flogging Molly] about the popularity and stuff and how they keep getting bigger. He was on The Jimmy Kimmel Show recently and he had “No War” taped to his guitar. And they got a lot of hate mail for it. He said, `I don’t want those people at my shows. I want people who want to embrace everybody.’
M: Sounds more hippie than punk. When I talked to Ken Casey from Dropkick Murphy’s, he mentioned something about being “just a punk band” that oftentimes tries to ignore the celtic angle and just be hard-core. And I seem to remember a shout-out to the troops during Monday’s concert too.
C: Maybe it has the do with the roots of South Boston.
M: Yeah, the working-class roots.
C: Or maybe it’s just the maturity factor of the bands.
M: So then, with the increased popularity of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s has Irish punk lost its niche status?
C: Hmm. Is the specialty no longer special? I guess because of the diversity of instruments — modern and traditional — the sound is going to always sound fresh.
M: And think Ken Casey had it right. The Pogues started it out, but there are a lot of bands that try to do it but don’t do it well. So maybe quality Irish punk is still a niche.
So there you have it. Most definitely celtic-punk is about passion but gotta say that flat caps do look cool as feck!!
Way back in 2009 I trotted off to a Neck gig down County Holloway way and, having finished my can and a roll-up, wandered into the venue only to catch the last couple of songs of the first band on. Well having been suitably impressed I set out to track them down and after a short while i found The Lagan doing their stuff in Kingston on the south-east fringes of London and have been booking them to play gigs for no money ever since!
So we’re as happy as Larry to give you an interview with founder member and vocalist/guitarist Brendan.
First things first can you give us a wee potted history of the band? You know- the who, what, why and how? Were any of you in other bands previously and what happened to suddenly make the leap to forming The Lagan?
Well, Me and Matt met about ten years ago when we were playing in a 3 piece band called “Doin’ Time”, so we go back a fair way, around that time I met Gareth (either at gigs or in the pub) then we were playing in a ska band (Danny Fontaine and The Horns Of Fury), and it was around that time that I met Andy. I got a bit restless and moved on and joined a punk band (Beyond Reasonable Doubt). Thanks to all of us being slackers, that fell on its arse. I had been getting back into folk music around that time, and had only recently gotten into the folk punk thing, so I put together a band which turned out to be The Lagan.
Just as The Lagan seemed on the verge of taking off quite spectacularly you had bit of a run of bad luck with a couple of members leaving. Are things now back on a even keel or you still casting your net out for replacements?
Yeah, that was a bit of a fucker! That’s the way it goes, though. We never really planned on it taking off the way it did, so the boys couldn’t put in the same amount of time as the rest of us. We’re still looking for a permanent fiddle player, but Stan and Morgan help us out whenever they can.
You’re based in Kingston but is there much of an Irish community there? People say that the Irish population of London is getting smaller and the most obvious sign of that is Irish boozers closing down but has there been a noticeable decline, especially with emigration from Ireland reaching all-time high records again?
To be honest, I don’t recall there ever being much of an Irish community around here. But, even the areas which had a high Irish population aren’t the same, Over the years, every community will get absorbed. Might not be a bad thing, I suppose…
You play a good few trad Irish songs in your set. Obviously that’s been a influence in The Lagan but who do you think has been the important links between rock and traditional folk music?
I’ve always thought that The Dubliners are the ones who started it all. They had the rebellious attitude and the delivery which would later define punk. But, Moving Hearts, Planxty (anything with Christy involved), and the Pogues, obviously!
The celtic-punk scene is very parochial in my opinion, as evidenced every year we do a Best Of chart! Brit/Irish bands dominate our chart, Euro ones dominate CelticFolkPunk (from Spain) and the American blogs are full of North American bands. I suppose this is only natural and touring is a big part getting around this. Whats your plans to leave blighty’s shores and whats the story with the aborted 2014 St Patrick’s tour of the US of A?
We’re off to Germany in July, Austria in August and anywhere else we can. Just need all the pieces to fall into place, really. We all still have day jobs, and if one person doesn’t have holiday time, another’s fuckin’ skint ‘cos they’re self-employed and not earning fuck all while we’re on tour. The US thing fucking blew, but we wanted to do everything above board, and the visas might not have gone through, and we’d only have found out 5 days before the tour started, which would have meant 6 grand down the shitter. So we had to bail. Really fucked off about that, still. Mike Bermingham (Rockin’ Irish) had put in a lot of ground work for us, and we felt like shit for bailing.
How have sales of the album been going? Have you been happy with the deal with Banquet records? Its only garnered f’ing great reviews as far as I’ve seen. It landed quite high in all the various celtic-punk blogs Best Of charts but, pray tell, what exactly is the story behind the albums title ‘Wheres Your Messiah Now?’
Better than we expected, but we only recorded it to have something to sell at shows, and just to have done it, really. “Where’s Your Messiah Now?” is line from Sailin’ East, but I might as well come clean and tell you it’s a quote from The Simpsons! Banquet records are great, but if they hadn’t asked, we’d have just gone DIY. We went with them ‘cos they’re local, we trust them, and they rule.
When you began as a band, only Neck and yourselves played the kind of music you do in the whole of London. Since then a couple of other bands have come and gone and now again its just Neck and youse. Do you consider yourselves a celtic-punk band anymore or is it even important to label yourselves as anything?
I guess I’d look at us as Folk-Punk, but I don’t think it matters. Well, not to me, anyway. Celtic punk/Folk punk, whatever people want to call it, it’s all good. Actually, as long as it’s under the ‘punk’ banner, it doesn’t matter to me
Does it piss you off the dominance of the Murphys/Mollys in the celtic-punk scene. Are you out to impress their fans or is it more important to get away from the celtic-punk ‘ghetto’?
Not at all, they’ve worked their arses off at it, and they write great songs. Obviously, playing to their audience would be good, as not all punk fans want o hear diddly diddly, but getting heard by as many people as possible is a good thing.
Got any bands you can recommend to us? (and remember its a big worldwide scene out there!!!)
Against Me!, The Wonder Beers, Gaslight Anthem, Roughneck Riot, The Forum Walters… erm…. too many to mention!
Well thanks lads for your time anything else you’d like to add or plug?
Thanks to Martin Bell, Matt McConnell, Stan Stan Stan Stanley (or whatever he’s calling himself these days) and Morgan Shaw for helping us out over the years and being our pals. Yourself and the LCP family for all the support, anyone who has put us up or booked us, BCS for being great to us, Mike Bermingham (Rockin Irish) and Banquet Records for their support.
We were so blown away after reviewing their debut album last week we thought we’d ask the lads and lasses from Irish Moutarde a few questions so heres their replies!
What’s the music backgrounds of IRISH MOUTARDE? – In the band, we all have specific music backgrounds, but I guess that it is safe to say that we all like punk and metal music in general. Christian and Dominic really dig celtic and traditional music, Sebastien and I love progressive music, Andréa-Anne really love the Beatles, Fred has a strong background in punk music and Jérôme has a strong background in metal music.
Do any of the band come from celtic backgrounds? Where did the idea come from to start a celtic-punk band? –
Nope. Apart from Dominc and Christian being in a traditional celtic music band, we have no other celtic backgrounds. – Irish Moutarde was founded in July 2009. Before that, myself, Fred Vandal, Andrée-Anne McHalley, Jérôme Bélanger and Sébastien Malenfant were playing in a band called Eerie. I was also involved in the newly re-established St. Patrick’s Parade in Quebec City in March 2010, and I suggested to my fellow Eerie members to put together a tribute to Irish and Celtic rock. Everyone in the band responded enthusiastically to the idea. Four years later, we got an album that we are really proud of!
As Quebecians (is that right?) where do you stand on Quebec being a independent nation/republic? Is there much support for independence? – I think that the right word in english in “Quebecers”, though I’m not 100% sure. As a band, we do not have any political stance (we strongly believe that our shows, our public pages and the band as an entity are not appropriate for statements regarding politics). That being said, I can say that we had a referendum in 1995 that got very close to separate the province of Quebec from the rest of Canada (50.58% “No” to 49.42% “Yes”). But it’s something of the past now, people have moved on and the majority of the people who live in Quebec want to stay united with Canada.
Is their much of a Breton population in Quebec do you know? As a celtic nation it would be nice to know that their traditions and culture are surviving in Canada, much like the Scot’s. – As far as I know, there is not much of a Breton Population in our province. Most of our Celtic traditions and culture comes from the Irish.
Montreal has the largest Irish population in Canada i read once. How have the Irish influenced Irish Moutarde and if so why? – Most of our inspiration comes from the Irish and Scottish folklore. We just like the old traditional songs, the history of both nations, as well as their modern folklore. 3 or 4 of us have recently been in Scotland and Ireland, and these two countries are just beautiful.
You have had some amazingly good press recently but has it led to anything that could see you break out of the ‘CP’ bubble! – We are of course very happy that our album got good reviews all around the world. Even though we are a celtic punk band, it does not prevent us from playing all kind of festivals that are not centred around celtic music or even punk music.
The Canadian scene has thrown up some amazing celtic-punk bands over the years but who among the newish bands is worth looking out for? – All of these bands already have a few albums out, but I really like Sir Reg and Paddy and the Rats. I also recently discovered a fellow Canadian band called The Stanfields, which I find really amazing!
What’s the future got in store for the band? – We just released our album “Raise ‘Em All”, so the next year will be to directly support it. We will be playing 5 or 6 shows this fall across the province of Quebec, and 2014 will be a big year for us. We will have a lot of shows in March (for St-Patrick’s Day celebrations), and then the summer festivals will kick in in May. We will also be working on new songs already, we left some great ideas on the table, and we want to develop them for album 2 as soon as possible! Thanks!