Category Archives: Interview

INTERVIEW WITH WOLVES FOLK-PUNK BAND UNDER A BANNER

With just over a week to go before their biggest ever London date London Celtic Punks interviews Under A Banner. Purveyors of passionate, powerful and poetic folk-rock and with a new album to plug and a headline tour we wanted to find out a bit more about them.
First things first can you give us a history of the band? The who, what, why and how? Were any of you in any other bands previously and what happened to suddenly make the leap to forming Under A Banner?
Under A Banner began as a duo around 6 years ago and other musicians were steadily gathered to fill out the sound and make the band a more viable proposition for recording and performing the music I always envisaged the band making. I am the only original member of the band now. I started the whole thing as I desperately wanted to return to performing original music live. I’d previously played in a fairly short-lived band called Approach and have also played acoustic covers in pubs; the termination of the latter course of action triggered a visceral response to what I saw as virtually non-existent local scene for original music. Although I hail from Wolverhampton, the five of us live in three different counties.
You’re from Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. Can you tell us a bit about what its like there to be in a band round there. Is there much of a music scene? What about for celtic music?
The unfortunate demise and subsequent closure of Wolverhampton’s Varsity venue hit the local live scene quite hard. We still have the Newhampton Arts Centre, The Slade Rooms and, a little further down the road, Bilston’s popular Robin 2 venue. Each of these regularly play host to both tribute/cover and original music. Without deriding the former too much, it seems that original music (in particular folk infused genres) is once again spearheading a palpable fight back against the nostalgia or copycat music market in the Midlands.

How would you describe yourselves. Folk-punk, English-folk, celtic-punk? Do you think it matters in particular. Who has been your biggest inspiration for Under A Banner?
When asked about Under A Banner’s genre we normally plump for ‘alternative folk-ish hard rock’. This is because we fit into a number of brackets and exist outside of them simultaneously. We draw our inspiration from a very far-ranging and eclectic pot of music. The single unifying genre is metal, which presumably explains the heaviness of a lot of our material, but my own personal influences include New Model Army, Tori Amos, Loreena Mckennitt, Tool, Ambrozijn and Alestorm – to name but a few. Other sources for inspiration include Opeth, Rush, Iron Maiden, Clannad, The Stranglers and Thin Lizzy. A number of these bands and artists have made significant contributions to the continuing popularity of music with a Celtic flavour.
I think it’s fair to say that you are a part of the same scene of big ‘folk-punk’ bands like New Model Army and The Levellers and more recently Ferocious Dog but do you think it’s more important to connect with their fans or get away from the folk-punk ‘ghetto’ altogether and get your music out to new people? What has been the reaction from their fans so far when you have played with them? Do they give you a fair crack of the whip or are they only interested in seeing the headliners?
We were fortunate recently to support TV Smith (formerly of punk heroes The Adverts) and a week later New Model Army. It’s often been noted by fans, reviewers and bloggers that we belong in the ‘Celtic folk/punk’ ‘club’. However, we’ve picked up as many new fans playing to rock and metal crowds. We went down well with the New Model Army crowd, in spite of an incipient chest infection which had begun to weaken my voice a couple of days before the gig. I managed to sing over and through the congestion and got the audience- quite a number of whom at least knew who we were- singing along. I have always known that followers of long standing cult bands like NMA are very devoted to their favourite bands, so, under the circumstances I think we did rather well.
Traditional folk music obviously influences Under A Banner so which individuals or bands do you think have been the important links between rock and traditional folk music in the past?
 In my opinion bands like Steeleye Span and Oysterband did wonders for the synthesis between folk and rock. Speaking personally, I prefer it when bands step out of genre boundaries so frequently that critics can’t pigeonhole them.

What themes do you write about for Under A Banner? Do any of you have backgrounds in folk music and if so does this influence your writing and performing? The folk music scene is very stuck in the mud in my opinion and not very open to change so how has the folk scene been towards Under A Banner?
When writing new songs (I pen the lyrics and chordal skeletons of our songs) we draw upon a number of themes. Not all of our songs are agit-socio-political commentary, and not all are angry. I suppose we write about the same things (life, the universe and everything) as a lot of other bands do; the trick is in being able to express these ideas and abstractions in new and original ways. We at least try. Regarding the repetition of themes on the folk or folk-rock ‘circuit’, there’s something of a tradition within these genres to rage against the system, whatever that actually means.
One thing I have been very impressed with is the connection the band has with it’s fans. Do you think its important to foster a sort of family relationship? 
It would appear that in today’s musical climate, the most successful of bands – especially those without significant financial backing of major labels or other benefactors – are those who foster an ongoing two-way conversational relationship with their fans. This is something that we are acutely aware of and happy to participate in. We make regular use of both a Facebook band page and a gig group as well as Twitter (which appears to be on the decline actually) and a mailing list. The maintenance of each of these is key keeping people abreast of the band’s plans. We have made quite a few friends this way, so it doesn’t feel too arduous.
Now Wolverhampton is a very working class town and like most of the industrial parts of England outside the south-east has suffered under both Labour and Tory governments over the last few decades. How has this changed the town. It’s still massively pro-Labour and was pro-Brexit but what is the town like. Has regeneration achieved anything for the ordinary man and woman in the street. What is their that makes you proud to be from Wolves?
As I previously touched upon, being from Wolverhampton is a mixed blessing. The city doesn’t have such an active and enthusiastic live scene for original music as other places we’ve played, although metal bands seem to have plenty of opportunities to combine forces and work with local promoters. Having said this, Wolverhampton is far from a cultural dead zone. The resurgence in the popularity of real ale and craft beer here has begun to improve the city’s nightlife experience, with several new real ale bars and micropubs springing up in and around the city centre. When these venues host open mic nights at least some small gesture is made to revive part of the live music scene. The recent regeneration projects in the heart of the city’s shopping complex are also beginning to gentrify my hometown. The expected and ubiquitous giants of commerce are still very much the major players, but while some smaller independent retailers have given up their long-held plots under the hammer of ever increasing ground rent, some have clung on and continue to flourish. Metamorphosis has to happen in cities, whatever their size; there are of course winners and losers in this process. On the whole I’m happy to be part of it all. If we, as a band, can make more of a mark with what we do then I could definitively say that Wolverhampton has played its part; it is, after all, where we draw our largest crowds outside of festivals and big support slots.

Now the question that’s caused more rows on the London Celtic Punks Facebook page than the “who hates Maggie Thatcher the most” one. What do you think of Frank Turner? Folk-punk troubadour or spoiled posh brat who hangs around with the royal family?
In answer to your Frank Turner question, from what I’ve heard he’s done quite a lot to give less wealthy musicians a platform. I do like some of his music too. I think it would be churlish to dislike someone on the grounds that they may or may not have had a ‘leg up’ in their chosen cultural or artistic field, that is, if their own brand of art is worth taking heed of. I do, however, have a problem with vapid and vacuous celebrity, especially when its derived from equally facile junk TV shows. Now there’s something to kick against!
That’s it then Under A Banner. Anything you would like to add and people you would like to thank…
 Under A Banner have just embarked on a Spring tour with folk/punk comrades Headsticks. We are also playing festivals right up to Autumn and will continue to write new material. As ever, massive thanks to all the people who’ve connected with us and travelled to see us play live. See you out there.
(have a listen to the latest album from Under A Banner ‘The Wild Places’ by pressing play on the Bandcamp player below)
Contact Under A Banner

INTERVIEW WITH BOSTON CELTIC-PUNKERS MICKEY RICKSHAW

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.

Contact The Band

Facebook  Bandcamp  YouTube  Twitter 

INTERVIEW WITH COMRADE X

Hitting home with the force of a police raid on a late night lock-in at the dodgiest South London boozer Comrade X emerges from the rubble of political failure, X Factor and wall to wall mediocrity to raise a pint of Guinness to the spirit of 1977!
Over the last couple of years it has been our pleasure to make the acquaintance of a good few people, who we are extremely proud to say, have become part of the extended London Celtic Punks family. If you have attended a London Celtic Punks gig over the last few years then I am sure you will have witnessed our auld mucker Comrade X starting off proceedings by kicking up a storm with his own unique brand of acoustic-punk. Best described as “one geezer, one guitar, three chords and the truth” and, my own favourite, “Woody Guthrie meets Oi!” he’s just an ordinary bloke with an acoustic guitar and the truth to tell. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about what he does, but what does he think on the important matters of the day? We asked yer man a few questions over a few pints of stout so read on and find out…
Comrade3

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. 

Comrade1Like most Londoners there’s more than just a drop of Celtic blood coursing through your veins. Do you think that has effected or contributed to how you play or why you play or your beliefs? Well, my grandad was from Kilkenny and arrived in Liverpool sometime in the 1890’s before heading to the East End. Of course I never knew him – he was dead by the time my dad was ten years old and he was orphaned and bought up by his older sister. The family name was changed by my grandad and I only know what my dad and his older brothers told me. Grandad sang rebel songs in pubs around Stepney and his favourite was Bold Robert Emmett so I was told. I think there’s a fair drop of that spirit in what I do. What? Singing rebel songs in a pub? I’d say so!!
Having been in bands and played solo yourself 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? Biggest influence on me is Joe Strummer – his catalogue from the 101ers to the Mescaleros stands the test of time. The Mescaleros picked up some of Joe’s Celtic connections back to his own Scottish roots. He also introduced a lot of us to Woody Guthrie and through that Leadbelly and some of that deep roots Americana which of course all tracks back through the Celtic immigrant trail. I remember seeing the Pogues in their early days and for loads of us with an Irish/punk background lots of bits started dropping into place. Great to see new bands tipping their hat to that pioneering work by the Pogues and the Men They Couldn’t Hang. The Lagan are the tops for me, that might be a Surrey thing, but they are run close by outfits like Matilda’s Scoundrels and Black Water County. Steve Earle deserves a nod here as well – I was lucky enough to get to work with him a few years back. Top fella
 How you find the London Irish scene these days? Obviously the old community has shrunk and the new arrivals seem, to me anyway, not to be interested in Irish music. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. I certainly hope so. Is there still a community out there? So many pubs have closed or changed and communities are much more dissipated. I’m from Epsom where there used to be five big mental hospitals and they were staffed throughout by Irish immigrants working alongside colleagues from across the Commonwealth. My dad worked his way up to managing and inspecting the quality of those NHS services. Those hospitals have all closed but the social clubs in those places were something else. The sense of community was massive. The loss of those big centres of employment has had an inevitable impact.

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.

Comrade2There’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.

Now London Celtic Punks have always had the by-line of ‘Folk Punk Football’ and football is very dear to your heart as we know. Obviously the modern game is shite and the only real football fans are to be found in the lower divisions and non-league. That about right? ha ha – no, you are completely wrong and modern football, as invented by Sky TV, is brilliant! What’s the matter with you?
How long you been going to Sutton United? Do you think supporting a team that has never really won anything has made you a better person? Does learning the value of defeat and pride in losing but trying your hardest teach you something that is missing in the Premiership or even society? I’ve been going to Sutton since the early seventies. My old man took me down there to try and wean me off Chelsea and a career as a hooligan. He wasn’t totally successful but I always kept a link with the U’s. About ten years ago I jacked in the Chelsea season ticket and now it’s Sutton home and away. I love it. I meet loads of old punks who see the connection with those old values in the non league game. Never won anything? We won the bloody league last season! And did I ever tell you about the time we beat Coventry City in the FA Cup? 
As well as football you are heavily involved in promoting trade unionism. The decline of the unions is a terrible thing but what do you think can be done to reverse that trend. My own union is a waste of space and I may as well throw my money down a drain but as a good friend of mine (a Scouser of course!) once said joining a union is like having house insurance you don’t expect the house to burn down tomorrow but what do you do if it does. I got involved in NUPE in the early eighties when I lost my job as a sparky and took a job as hospital porter. Brilliant days and we were solid as a rock before everything was ripped apart and privatised. You’ve got to have that strength in the workplace or you’ve got nothing.
With so much music in your life. What are your happiest memories of playing. The best gig or best people… Tolpuddle main stage last week was one of my best ever gigs. Strummercamp and that night at the Water Rats with you lot, Anto Morra and Pogue Traders is up there as well. The rest is just a blur of fast living. 
Comrade4Right you have hinted at this every now and then on stage so lets get the full unabridged story out of you now. How did you manage to get Neck’s anti-racist single ‘Every Bodies Welcome To The Hooley’ into the national charts? Ha, that really was the wide boys revenge mate. I pulled in favours with every journo I know and got the band on BBC prime time TV and radio and we had people targeting the record shops that used to file returns for the official chart. It was some proper old spivery and I am rightly proud of it.
What’s the immediate future hold for Comrade X. Any gigs/ festivals we should be looking out for you at? What about recordings. Ain’t it time you got something down on disc… or vinyl’s coming back you know? I’ve got a mate up in Luton who has built an analogue studio and I’ll be doing some recording up there in the autumn – some great shows coming up very shortly with you lot and the Veg Bar, The Lagan at the Fighting Cocks and Undercover Festival. And I will be helping my old mate Noel Martin from Menace with his bands 40th anniversary bash at the 100 Club. I’m enjoying myself and you can tune in through the Comrade X Facebook page.
 

Thanks Comrade for taking the time to answer a few questions. It’s a privilege to include you as a member of the London Celtic Punks crew and work with you over the last few years, so here’s to many many more!
CundeezVegBarColour (2)
You can catch Comrade X playing live at our next London Celtic Punks gig later this year on Saturday 3rd September on home territory in South London. He will be supporting Dundee based bagpipe punk band THE CUNDEEz on their London debut gig. All starts at 7-30pm sharp and costs just a fiver on the door. You can check out the Facebook event here to find out all the details of the venue and the other support bands or go to our What’s On- Upcoming Gigs & Events here.
Contact Comrade X

INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY CAMPBELL

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.

Johnny2We 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.

Johnny CampbellYou 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)

Contact Johnny

Facebook  WebSite  Twitter  Bandcamp  Blog

  • keep your eyes peeled for a review in the next couple of weeks of ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’. I’m lucky to have had a sneak preview and can guarantee its an excellent debut record!

INTERVIEW WITH WILTSHIRE BAND MICK O’TOOLE

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.

Mick O'Toole

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.

(from left to right)  Arron Heap, Mandolin and Vocals Tyler Shurmer, Guitar and BV's Johnny Edwards Vocals, Banjo, Accordion and Penny Whistle Guy Shergold Bass and BV's Jamie Squires Drums and Bv's

(from left to right) Arron Heap, Mandolin and Vocals
Tyler Shurmer, Guitar and BV’s
Johnny Edwards Vocals, Banjo, Accordion and Penny Whistle
Guy Shergold Bass and BV’s
Jamie Squires Drums and BV’s

Contact The Band

Facebook  Bandcamp  ReverbNation  YouTube  Twitter

INTERVIEW WITH THE RATHMINES FROM BERLIN

The Rathmines

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?

(left to right) Marcus - Bass, Vocals; Rene - Cajon; Egidio - Accordion; Martin - Guitar, Vocals

(left to right) Marcus – Bass, Vocals; Rene – Cajon; Egidio – Accordion; Martin – Guitar, Vocals

When did the band form and what inspired you to start the band?

Text?

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.

The Rathmines

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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ALBUM REVIEW: THE FIGHTING JAMESONS- ‘Every Day Above Ground’ (2014)

traditional Irish music with an aggressive and energetic modern-day approach

The Fighting Jamesons- 'Every day Above Ground' (2014)

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”

The Fighting Jamesons

that first album

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,
Hurroo Hurroo
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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INTERVIEW WITH THE NYAH FEARTIES- 80’s AND 90’s SCOTTISH FOLK PUNK LEGENDS

Welcome to 30492- LONDON CELTIC PUNKS 100th post. The last couple of days I’ve been wandering around shellshocked that 55% of the Scottish people still consider themselves as serfs and are servile to a foreign government. We must continue the fight and keep agitating for a Scots republic free from outside influence. To that end we give you a post on the original Scottish folk-punk band The Nyah Fearties and remind ourselves what we were fighting for in the first place!

Alba gu bràth

Giein It Laldy

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! 

The Nyah Fearties

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.

CLICK TO PLAY ‘RADIATION REIGN’

‘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.

CLICK TO PLAY ‘RANTIN SONSIE AN FREE’

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.

The Nyah Fearties

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.

CLICK TO PLAY ‘ESSENCE OF SPIRIT’

CLICK TO PLAY ‘RED KOLA’

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.

CELTIC PUNK- FASHION OR PASSION?

or probably the closest we’ll ever get to interviewing Flogging Molly!
By Mark Matthews
Flogging Molly vs Dropkick Murphys

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.

Ring. Ring.

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!! 

INTERVIEW WITH BRENDAN FROM THE LAGAN

The Lagan

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.

The Lagan

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?

Brendan LaganYeah, 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.

Brendan LaganHow 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.
The Lagan

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.

Contact The Lagan-WebSite  Facebook  Twitter  Banquet Records- here

 

INTERVIEW WITH ‘IRISH MOUTARDE’

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!

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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.
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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!

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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.

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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!

INTERVIEW WITH JAY STEVENS FROM AUSTRALIAN BAND ‘BETWEEN THE WARS’

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When we heard that Jay Stevens from the fantastic Aussie celtic-folk-punk band BETWEEN THE WARS was coming over to these shores to play a few solo shows we jumped at the chance to do the London leg of his tour. so we thought we’d ask him some stuff so we did and he answered it all and here it is now for you…
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How long have you been playing with BTW? have you played with other bands previous? Between The Wars is a four year old band that I started, along with (ukulele player) Jason. He and I have played in plenty of bands before this one, but this is the longest I’ve ever been in a band. So many lineup changes, but we’ve been pretty solid for the last couple years. I started this band after hearing “Irish Londoner” by the Bible Code Sundays, who I get to play with on this upcoming tour!
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Looks like the tour is shaping up into something special now. Who are you looking forward to playing with and any places youre looking forward to going? Being a Aussie have you been over here before? As I said before, Bible Code Sundays are a massive influence on me and our band, so I’m keen as hell to see them. Have also been a huge Neck fan for years so I’m excited to play a show with Leeson! Over the years I’ve made some good “internet” friends in England so with that in mind, I’m stoked to be playing a few shows with my boys from the Lagan and Three Sheets T’Wind – and swapping Office quotes in real life with Brendan O’Prey. I’ve been to England before, but not as an adult. Really excited to see London, watch a Blades game in Sheffield (lifelong Sheffield United fan) and to also see the Scottish villages of Stranraer & Portpatrick, where I will also be attending my cousin’s wedding! If you’re looking for a decent League One side to watch you should get along to Leyton Orient. At time of writing we’re top of the league! If I was looking for a decent League One side to watch, I wouldn’t be a Blades fan.

As the singer and main songwriter of the excellent Between The Wars how did you get into celtic-punk music? Was it through family or other music? I have to hand it to old mate John McCullagh, actually. I was in a bit of a hole, musically. After having kids and whilst I was watching my marriage go down the drain, I didn’t know what to do, I just knew I wanted to be in a band again. I was teaching John’s son (John Lennon McCullagh, now signed to Alan McGee’s label 359 Music in the UK) to play guitar, and John and I would always have banter about Bob Dylan, Celtic, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis etc after the lessons. He showed me a few songs he’d written and we got together a few times and played them. One of those songs was Ride On by Christy Moore. I hadn’t heard Christy before but I am in love with him now. From there, I looked up as much celtic folk, and then celtic folk punk, as I could – I’d been a fan of the Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly for ages but never looked outside of that. I came across the Biblecode Sundays, and my musical life changed.
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I’ve always thought that Australian celtic-punk has been a cut above, both musically and lyrically, bands from Europe and the States. I cant put me finger on it but does the Oz celtic diaspora experience contribute to this or are you all just better writers and musicians? I think we bring our own style to it. There have been a bunch of amazing Australian artists over the years, both in folk, punk and rock music. Personally I’m a huge fan of an old Aussie band called Weddings Parties Anything. I’ve always looked to them for influence, as well as celtic bands that tell stories – and not just stories of drinking. The difference between listening to the Wolfe Tones rather than the Dropkick Murphys means perhaps a little bit more storytelling in the writing. I suppose any country with the legendary Ned Kelly as its symbol of resistance is gonna produce cracking music! Who are the Aussie celtic/folk-punk bands we should look out for? Heard any news on The Rumjacks getting back together? Yep, that’s definitely happening. Caught up with Johnny McKelvey at a show we played with the Real McKenzies and it looks like the album that was made at the start of last year will show its head. As for Aussie bands, you can never go past our good mates the Ramshackle Army. They are just finishing up their new record which should be a cracker. Also a fan of Paddy McHugh and the Goldminers, Handsome Young Strangers and our old mates in Mutiny who have just released a twenty year retrospective.
jay2Theres always been a lot of debate in celtic punk circles about so-called ‘foreign’ bands playing (stealing?) traditional folk music without respecting where it comes from. Do you think it matters much or at all? I don’t know too much about bands that steal or play traditional folk without the respect. We try to pay respect as much as we can to those that have come before – we’ve played the traditional folk song Barbara Allen, for example. I think ultimately music belongs to everyone – the more people that play or listen has got to be a good thing for music in general. No-one has any right to claim music as their own personal property. Providing you know where it comes from, I can’t see an issue – i’m well aware that our music represents bands that have come before like the Wolfe Tones, Dubliners and the Pogues. I know the stories behind most of the songs I listen to, in regards to rebel songs and the like. There is a lot of snobbery around especially about the drinking songs. I mean its not like The Dubliners ever wrote a song about getting pissed is it? i think celtic-punk reflects the good and bad things in the lives of ordinary people. This could be both getting pissed and being a alcoholic and lets face it it very much part of celtic culture whether we approve of it or not.

Without giving the game away too much what can we expect to look forward to on this tour? who are your influences as both a solo artist and as BTWs frontman? I’ve sat down with all of our songs and played around with them acoustically. Expect some songs to be a lot softer, and some songs to remain that raucous way that we’re known for. Influences – hmm, this is a tough one. I have a huge list of influences ranging from the Wolfe Tones, Dubliners and Christy Moore, through to Frank Turner, Matt Pryor, The Boy Least Likely To. Of course, Bruce Springsteen is probably one of my bigger influences – but more in lyrics than anything else. Too many bands these days try to ape Springsteen’s voice and it kind of shits me. I take a lot of influence from literature as well as stories of war. Anything where I can be on the side of the underdog makes me write.
 When you get back home after the tour what you going to be up to with the band? Any plans to keep up the solo stuff? The solo stuff is actually my priority at the moment, I’m in the studio recording a solo record, which will be a collection of songs – some originals, some covers, and a Between The Wars song. I’m really looking forward to that being released early next year. When I get back from the UK, I’m going to sit down with Jason and we’re going to write the next batch of Between The Wars songs. I’m keen on getting back to the roots of our sound after the last record. There’s a band from Melbourne that has actually just got back together called Catgut Mary and I think I’m looking to them as well as mates like the Lagan and Three Sheets T’Wind to give me some influence on the next lot. I’d like the band to get back into the studio early to mid-next year, with a view to a late 2014 release. Looking forward to meeting friends that I only know via facebook, and making new friends. Can’t wait to teach you all the shoey!
jayDiscography:
Carried Away- 2010
The Rats- 2011
The Aces Are Coming- 2011
New Ruins- 2012
Won’t Go Quietly-2013
Tour Details Here:
The ‘I Hear You’re In For A Cold One…’ Tour traverses the land from London to Glasgow throughout October providing solo acoustic  re-imaginings of Between The Wars songs.
Come along for a night of fun folk music about drinking, heartbreak, regret, drinking, drinking and drinking…
Between The Wars:
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