After a couple of interviews with fellow Walker Roaders Ted Hutt and Marc Orrell, our man in NYC, Ray Ball, finally gets round to the main inspiration for the band, James Fearnley. There at the very beginning, on the 4th October 1982 in Kings Cross – James is best known from his days in The Pogues. However, he has had a long and varied musical adventure including as guitarist for the Nipple Erectors (the Punk band fronted and founded by Shane MacGowan), the critically acclaimed Low and Sweet Orchestra, and Cranky George (with brothers – screen writer Kieran and award winning actor Dermot Mulroney) before forming The Walker Roaders and releasing their self-titled #1 Celtic-Punk debut album.
So I may not be easily starstruck. Through the course of writing here and being part of music in general I’ve been able to make contact with some pretty amazing people.
However, I just got off the phone with James Fearnley, accordion player for the Pogues.
I’m still a little bit dazed.
As with anyone I talk to, I try to leave the card blank to sign by them-what is important to them is important to me as part of the Celtic music community and to share with you.
James got his start playing piano, I think about 10 he said, and he was a choir singer. I think I caught him off guard, when I said he played as I imagine Jerry Lee Lewis would sound on an accordion. I think he was amused by that, but I think understood what I was trying to say.
Somewhere in there we got to talking about his first accordion playing. I think he said that Shane had brought the instrument up in a laundry basket. I don’t think the point of it ever was to be the best accordion player, but to flesh out some of Shane’s songs. He had heard traditional playing in pubs etc, but sufficed that he couldn’t play like that.
We talked for a while about the Pogues years, and I made a point to ask how they ever kept that many people together whether in the studio or live. He just said there was a core group that just practised and practised, until the mayhem of that big lineup was gone.
At one point I asked James about the tune ‘London Girl’. In no small part because it’s got one of the fiercest accordion parts I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t paid close attention to it, trust me and do it. It’s insane that when I talked to Marc, I asked him if he’d ever learned the part and laughed in agreement that it’s really just a ridiculously intense and speed of light part. All James had to say about it was that when he was in the studio doing overdubs, someone came and put a note on the booth that said “Go Cajun”. I imagine the next take he just went wild and came to one of those moments after that was “holy hell, what did I just do?”.
Interestingly enough that was the only remark he made about certain styles of playing. The accordion player from a group I gig with, references styles that half the time (and sorry Tom) I don’t even know, much less understand. But, I enthusiastically at one point mentioned that the Pogues were the godfathers of Celtic-Punk.
He immediately disagreed and said to them they had just taken apart what the Dubliners and reassembled it just a little differently. He continued that he thought a lot of punk was like that. Taking things apart and putting them back together, just differently. He cited the Dropkick Murphys as very Punk, with the truly loud roaring guitars that sound, especially on their early records, in my opinion sounding like a mashup of the Buzzcocks melody and Washington hardcore intensity.
He talked a great deal about his band mates in the Pogues. We both especially paid attention to Phil Chevron’s “Thousands are Sailing” as a brilliant piece, may Phil rest in peace. Evidently-I had no idea of this-Cait had never played bass before. But then on the other side of that coin, neither had Paul Simonon from The Clash. Paul’s heavily Jamaican influenced lines are some of the most iconic in rock history. I suppose what I can take from that is you don’t have to have virtuosic abilities. It seems like the Pogues all learned and honed their instruments and just practised. And practised more.
The Walker Roaders were a street gang when James Fearnley was a kid growing up in Manchester who would slit your thumb with a knife if they came across you and felt like it.
It’s hard, if not impossible to capture all the Pogues years, but I brought it into the present with how the Walker Roaders came to be, his friendship with Ted Hutt over time and how Marc joined in. I think he must have found it refreshing to be able to write lyrics, but cited Shane’s prowess on the matter.
I asked, and I think I’ve asked the three Walker Roaders I’ve talked to, if there was anything more on that front. I told James that the album was something I think we all needed but didn’t know we needed. He had a good laugh at that.
From what I can tell, Ted, Marc and James don’t sit still long, there’s always a project on. But I think all three wanted to do more on that front.
Whatever comes on that front, or any of his projects, James was a pleasure to talk to and had a wealth of stories to share.
I can’t wait to see what comes next out of everyone, and I hope you all had a great and safe St. Patrick’s Day.
Our enormous thanks to Ray Ball. He has already featured on these pages as the driving force behind The Fighting 69th and his new band Ravenswalk from Buffalo. One of the most prolific and diverse artists in the Celtic-Punk scene we are proud to have Raymond on board our team. Writer, artist, musician he is a credit to the American-Irish community and you can find a wealth of his material available at his Bandcamp or the Ravenswalk site.
Hows this then? With the release of the new Dropkick Murphys album ‘This Machine Still Kills Fascists’ due in a few days Matt Kelly has kindly taken the time to take part in our regular feature – The Celtic-Punk Q And A. Turns out he had ‘Rainy Night In Soho’ as his first dance at his wedding too and we have the same favourite Pope but he’s also sadly West Ham! So with out further ado…
Name / Nickname : *** Matt, MK, Kelz, Kel, Mutt, Magic, etc.
First job : worked for the family business that did vinyl tops, pin striping, and auto care stuff.
A job you would have loved to do : Philologist
What / Who makes you laugh : Regional comedies, gurning contests, atheists
Favourite movie star : Patrick McGoohan
Favourite film / TV show : Only Fools and Horses
Favourite band/s : Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Stiff Little Fingers, the Who, Agnostic Front, Judge, the Chieftains, Straw Dogs, Bull the Buffalos, Strong Style
Favourite Celtic-Punk band : The Pogues
Up and coming Celtic-Punk band to watch : Blood Or Whiskey.
First and last record you bought : Led Zeppelin II in 1980; more recently(two weeks ago), I found a nice clean copy of Iron Virgin’s “Rebels Rule” single.
How many instruments can you play : Play well? One. I also play bass guitar, bodhrán, and murder the guitar once in a while.
How many bands have you been in : Ten. Late ‘80s/early ‘90s: GSP, Common Sense, Dive, Pressure Point, Mid-‘90s: Bound, Hatchetface, Grade H, Fit For Abuse, Late ‘90s: Get High, Dropkick Murphys.
Favourite venue / gig attended : W.A.S.T.E.D. festival in Blackpool at something-Gardens in 2006. Filled in on drums for East End Badoes. Saw most of the top UK Punk and Oi! bands all in one weekend and my liver fell out. Hell of a time!
Favourite venue / gig played : Dropkick Murphys at Voorst National outside of Brussels in 2019. Absolute magic.
Describe yourself in 5 words : Annoying, flippant, serious, quiet, foolish.
Most embarrassing moment : Most nights when I drop a drumstick in the most obvious of spots.
Favourite song and why : That is tough. It can vary. Sometimes it’s “A Rainy Night in Soho”, which was my and my wife’s first dance at our wedding reception; sometimes it’s “Nothing” by Negative Approach; sometimes it’s “Heaven and Hell” by the Who; sometimes it’s “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles; sometimes it’s “Because You’re Young” by Cock Sparrer; sometimes it’s “Warrior’s Law” by Bull the Buffalos; sometimes it’s “Moanin’” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers…. Dunno, extremely difficult to answer.
Favourite album and why : AC/DC “Powerage”. It’s the pinnacle of perfect rock and roll.
Favourite song you’ve been involved in: when Dropkick Murphys recorded a cover of Angelic Upstarts’ “Never Again”.
Team/s supported as a kid : Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox, New England Revolution, West Ham United
Favourite sportsperson : Patrice Bergeron
Favourite sport : Ice Hockey
All time hero : G.K. Chesterton
Favourite book : Tie between the poem Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton and The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Best friend : My Wife
Biggest influence on career : Probably my Dad. He’s a drummer and that influenced me to take up the sticks.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given : “Try out! What have you got to lose?”— Dave Pratt, upon telling me I should try out for the Dropkick Murphys.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be : Right where I live, in the mountains, with my family and our dog.
Your five dream dinner guests : My Grandfather Bill Kelly, my other Grandfather Bob Lucier, my Grandfather’s Bill’s Aunt Tessie, St. Pope John Paul II, and Hilaire Belloc.
Your favourite quote: “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it” —G.K. Chesterton
Anything to plug / promote : Dropkick Murphys have a new, acoustic, album coming out Sept 30, it’s a bunch of unpublished Woody Guthrie lyrics put to music by the boys. it’s cheekily called “This Machine Still Kills Fascists”…. Guthrie’s guitar had a bumper sticker on it that read “This Machine Kills Fascists” on it, then he painted another guitar with the slogan. Please don’t kill ANYBODY, but check out the album!
Many thanks to Matt for doing this. Much appreciated!
Return in the next few days for a special feature on Woody Guthrie and then our review of the new album written by a special guest writer!!!
In part 2 of our Ian Prowse special, we’ve interviewed the man himself. Ian’s fourth solo record One Hand on the Starry Plough comes out on February 11th, which is mere days away! If you’re familiar with Ian’s back catalogue, or ya wanna know more about him and his contributions to Celtic music, then check the interview further down ☘️
If ya missed our very recent review of Ian’s upcoming album One Hand on the Starry Plough, be sure to check that out HERE. Other than that, let’s get into the interview, and see what Ian himself has to say about the new record! Here it is…
We would like to congratulate Ian on a job well done, especially during the terrible lockdowns that have affected so many musicians’ lives. One Hand on the Starry Plough is available now on Kitchen Disco Records, you can get it HERE. You can also get a taster of what the album has to offer, by checking out the official YouTube video to track #1 “Battle” below:
There is always one thing that I’ll keep within me / Deep in my heart, a furious devotion / The love of old Ireland, and Mother Mo Chroi.
In part 2 of our Shane MacGowan special, we’ve interviewed Richard Balls, the author of the new Shane biography A Furious Devotion: The Life of Shane MacGowan. The interview was recorded, so if you’ve read the book, or if you plan to, or if ya need a last-minute Christmas present for someone special, check out the video below ☘
If ya missed the recent release of A Furious Devotion, then be sure to check out part 1 HERE. It provides a bite size overview of this Shane biography. But apart from that, let’s get the full low-down from the author 😎 Without further ado, here’s the interview…
We here at London Celtic Punks have a passion for music but what about those who use music to try and achieve a higher goal than just pure enjoyment. The Chinese Celtic-Punk band SMZB are such a band and here Michael X. Rose interviews WuWei their lead singer/ songwriter and reviews their latest album, Once Upon A Time in The East.
Interview with Wu Wei, vocalist and songwriter for SMZB. January 2021.
I was discussing Once Upon a Time in the East, with him, the latest LP from SMZB released in August, 2020. It’s a great album and a fantastic follow up to 2016’s The Chinese are Coming.
If you haven’t heard SMZB before, their sound is a blend of classic Punk- energy and chords- with Celtic rhythms and instruments. They use bagpipes, tin whistle, banjo that give it the Celtic feel. They also add brass trumpets on some which give those songs a kind of totalitarian terror, like the Communists are about to kick down your door.
I asked WuWei about the band name, what does it mean? There is a microphone called an SM7B, was it related to that? I was curious. WuWei replied,
It is the abbreviation of the band’s earliest Chinese name Pinyin SHENG MING ZHI BING, Chinese name means “BREAD OF LIFE” or “BISCUIT OF LIFE.” In 2002, the Chinese name was no longer used, only the acronym was retained, and the band’s logo (attached) was a four-letter acronym, we love it!
Biscuit of Life, there you have it. I love it too!
If you go to purchase the album on Bandcamp, don’t be afraid of the 78$ price tag, that’s in Hong Kong Dollars, and is only about 10$ US/Euro or so.
Many of the songs on Once Upon a Time… are listed on in Chinese, so here are the translated titles, the * means its in Chinese only on the Bandcamp;
1. Red Riot
2. All Red the River *
3. Lumo Road
4. Slap Like Teen Spirit
5. Old Guns *
6. Great Hall of Rock ’N Roll *
7. Brewing Freedom *
8. Get the World Drunk *
9. Emma the River Dolphin
10. Mao’s Great Famine
11. Happiness Camp ( Slavery Manifesto) *
12. A New World Of Misery *
13. Three Women *
First, Thank You for doing this interview. I’m so excited about this. I am a big fan of SMZB ever since I heard The Chinese are Coming.
Red Riot, first song on the album. The siren intro is amazing, it’s like the Bell tolling Doom. You mention several times kids and parents ratting out on each other, and not being able to trust anybody. What is it like to live in a Police State?
My feeling is that there is no safety or dignity in China.
SMZB – Red Riot (Fight Or Die)’ Official Video
There are six members of SMZB, a large group. Where are you all from, is anybody Irish or of partly Irish descent? How did you get into doing the Irish Sound? Personally, I hear a Chinese influence you bring to the Irish Punk, and it fits well and adds a new dimension.
Our band members are from three different cities in China, Wuhan, Beijing and Changsha. None of us have Irish links but enjoy the music from the Pogues and the Dubliners. That began my interest in Irish Punk.
How many LP’s does the band have out? When did you switch from “plain” Punk to Celtic Punk and why? What converted you?
The band has 10 albums. I wanted to do Celtic punk from the beginning but it was difficult for me to find the instruments or the musicians. But in 2005 I met the bands bagpipe player and we toured Europe where I was able to buy some instruments such as the tin whistle. From then on we made the Celtic Punk music.
Who writes the songs, is it collaborative, or separately?
I write the lyric and melody and then work together with the band to complete the songs and get their input.
I hope you don’t mind me asking, your songs are so clearly and strongly against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) which is fantastic, how do you not get arrested? Are you worried about that?
Well so far I haven’t been arrested but my social media and phone is under surveillance. Probably my band is not big enough to cause the CCP much trouble, if I was too famous then perhaps I would be arrested by now. But it doesn’t worry me.
What do you think of the One Child Policy and the deaths that it caused? Is the Common Chinese person fed up with the CCP? Will there be Freedom for the good people of China anytime soon?
The one child policy was scraped a few years ago now, it was a stupid policy and of course had tragic consequences. Most Chinese people are content with the CCP, they don’t question them. I think one day there will be freedom in China but who can say when, although my thoughts and hopes are that it will be soon.
Where is the band from? I think it says Wuhan on Bandcamp, do you still live there? Sometimes it says you are located in Hong Kong. Do you think you need to defect? Where are you located currently?
The band began in Wuhan, at the moment there are two band members still living in Wuhan. I moved to Portugal last year and other band members live in Beijing and Changsha.
How has the Corona Virus impacted you in ways we may not expect? Is Wuhan devastated? Are you aware that it was made in a CCP lab as a Bio Weapon? Is the average Chinese citizen aware that the CCP created this virus?
Thankfully the virus has not impacted me or my family and friends very much. Other than we of course stay home more. Wuhan has recovered very well since last year and the virus rate is low, most daily life is back to normal. I believe the virus was created in the bio lab but most Chinese people do not think this.
Slap Like Teen Spirit, fourth song on the album is such a great song. My reflection on the lyrics is; Do you feel like China is one giant prison camp? Do you know about the Uighur prison camps and their extermination by the CCP? What advice do you have for Westerners now that CCP style censorship has come to the West?
Yes my feeing is that China is a prison camp, I know about the Uighur camps but most Chinese people are not aware of it.
Lyrics: Sit around a table with your classmates, Remember how people fight on the streets, Watch violent videos on your cellphone, No one is your friend, everybody is your enemy.
You can learn nothing, waste time in your school, Make yourself brutal and cold-hearted, Practice abuse, Insult and bully, Laws and rules mean nothing to you.
Stand in a circle, rip off your uniform, Slap each other, then kick kick harder. Spit like a gangster, speak like a rogue, Stare like a killer, hurt like an avenger.
Track 6, Great Hall of Rock ‘N Roll, the chorus musically references an Irish song The Waves Down in the Ocean. I love it. Can you talk about its inspiration?
I hadn’t heard the waves down in the ocean, but the song is inspired by traditional Irish music. This songs title translates to ‘Great hall of rock and roll’.
Emma the River Dolphin (Track 8). You sing a lot about pollution, Communist China is well known as one of the most environmentally polluted countries on Earth. What are your goals here? Can China be saved?
China is developing fast and it is destroying the nature. But nature is strong and it can be saved if things change. I hope they do.
SMZB – ‘Mao’s Great Famine Official Video
The song Mao’s Great Famine. I’m sure many Chinese know how Mao killed over 100 million Chinese and the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. Most Westerners don’t know this history and may even hang paintings of Mao on their wall by Andy Warhol or carry a Little Red Book. Tell me about the Lyrics for Mao’s Great Famine for the Westerners reading this interview.
Most people in China know about the famine but they don’t blame Mao, they have been taught it was a natural disaster.
Song 11, Happiness Camp. This song is so great. There is a slide guitar lead break in it, maybe mixed with a woman’s vocal on the breaks? It’s a very ghostly haunting sound. Can you tell me about the production of this song a little bit?
Track 12,this songs title is ‘Happiness camp’ with the camp referring to the prison camps. The women’s vocal is with the guitar solo, it’s a tribute to Ennio Morricone.
Lyrics: HAPPINESS CAMP(SLAVERY MANIFESTO) Cleanse your brain, or change its makeup, and use your anger as needed at all times. No more extra complaints, no more words, let them play and emasculate you, cooperate with their hand-to-hand combat. You suck what they exhale and eat what they shit, nothing is important, as long as you can flirt. Even the cold will be proud, the hunger will be proud, and it is here that you will have equality and still feel the embrace of God.
Sign this declaration of slavery, there is no bottom line to happiness here. Serve your master with all your heart and soul, and you will be happy in this concentration camp.
Be reluctant to open those doors and windows and let the sun shine in front of you, be infinitely loyal to your leaders and help them move bricks and build walls. You say you are all sober, you are all calm, and say forget those sufferings and enjoy the happiness and peace that you have now.
Sign this declaration of slavery, there is no bottom line for happiness here. Serve your masters with all your heart and soul, there is only happiness in this concentration camp.
Track 12, A New World of Misery. I really like the stripped down songs you do. They remind me of Spaghetti Westerns. This song is so great with just acoustic guitar, tin whistle, and fiddle, it refreshes between full punk blasts. Tell me about this one.
Track 13.This song is called ‘A new world of misery’. It was inspired by a visit I made to villages in the Sichuan province in China 25 years ago which had a huge amount of poverty. What really shocked me was that when I returned to the same area, the situation was the same.
Are there any other great Chinese Irish Punk Bands we should know about?
There are some good Chinese punk bands but no Irish punk bands in China. (Editor – China is a BIG BIG country so a big shout to Grass Mud Horse here!)
SMZB – ‘Happy Concentration Camp (Declaration of Slavery)’ Official Video
What does the band like to drink Guinness? Whiskey? What brand? Or is there a Chinese brand of Stout we should all look out for?
I like Guinness and whiskey, Jameson is my favorite for the price. Recently the craft brewery business is expanding in China, there are now many good craft stout made in China. But Guinness is unique.
Thanks to Wu Wei and the guys and to Michael for the interview. Michael also sings and plays guitar in New York state Celtic-Punk band The Templars Of Doom whose latest album Hovels Of The Holy is still available (and now out on vinyl too).
Ten years old but what a great show. SMZB play their 15th Anniversary Show @ VOX Livehouse, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Christmas Day 2011.
Little over a year ago a new Group appeared on Facebook called Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans and considering 2019 was a bad year for Celtic-Punk media with two of the biggest sites closing it has been an invaluable place for fans old and new to share and introduce music to each other. Despite the shortcomings of Facebook the group has grown and continues to and Mike the groups founder agreed to answer a few questions on all things Celtic-Punk and the Irish community in the States.
Hello Mike! You set up the Facebook group ‘Celtic Punk, Folk And Rock Fans‘. What was your main purpose in doing that? How has it been? Has the scene got behind you? I did notice it exploded after the St. Patrick’s Day Dropkick Murphys live stream show.
Hi and thanks for asking me to do this. Hopefully I can give you what you were hoping for. I started the Facebook Page Celtic Punk Folk Rock first when I was doing a small online radio station thru live365.com, hoping to get more listeners and help to spread the word about all the great music being put out in the genre. I myself didn’t really get into it until 2006 when I started discovering the music thanks to the P2P programs that were popular at the time, like Limewire for instance. The first group I found was the Pogues, who I remembered hearing about back in the 80’s from an English guy I was working with at the time, although my musical tastes were in a different place at the time so I never really got into it then. From there I started discovering more Celt music thanks to John B of Paddy Rock and also Shite n Onions, and from there my love of the music began to grow. When I just had the FB Page there was some interest from fans, but it took almost 6 years or so to get 1000 followers, and then I saw something about making a group affiliated with the Page and got 1000 fans within 11 months. I’d say the scene has been getting behind the group, especially from like the end of February as you mentioned, ever since the post about the Murphys live stream on Paddy’s Day, and suddenly I was adding over 100 member requests a day, to where we are today with almost 5000 members, and there has been lots of participation by members which makes it more fun,discovering even more new bands than I’d known of previously.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? One glimpse at your FB page tells me you are a proud Irish-American but do you know much about your roots? Us non-Irish born Irish are often ridiculed by those whose ancestors were lucky not to be starved out of Ireland for having the most tenuous of links and sadly Irish-Americans seem to bear the brunt of it. What’s the community like where you live?
What I know of my roots I discovered on my own thru online ancestry sites, and I discovered my great great grandfather came to the States around 1850 or so, and the first American born member of my family was a great aunt who was born in NY in 1854. I found that my family was one of the first Irish families to settle in the town I grew up in which I thought was pretty cool. My mother’s family came here in 1888 and 1890 from Cork. I grew up in a mainly working class town whose main employer was the General Motors plant, so it was a landing point for lots of immigrants from Ireland as well as many other countries, so it was a real melting pot,not surprising since the town was only 25 miles from New York City.
Do you think most Irish in the States would consider themselves Irish, Irish-American or just plain auld American? Why do you think that affinity to Ireland has stayed so strong in people whose ancestors left Ireland in some cases generations ago?
I’d say most think of themselves the same as I do, as an American first with strong Irish heritage that we’re all proud of, sort of like ‘Emerald City’ by The Tossers. I’m 4th generation Irish American on my father’s side and I’ve known I had Irish blood since I was a kid, but like I said earlier, I never knew much until around 2005 or so when I got into finding out my ancestry history, and once a person knows and learns about the history and the culture of the Irish people, there’s no way you can’t be proud to be Irish.
It seems to me that the media have an obsession with Irish-Americans often showing them on TV as violent gangsters or drunken simpletons. The most obvious example is the disrespectful way that St.Patrick’s Day is now portrayed. It is still the most popular day in the worldwide Irish calendar but does it hurt when it is shown as just a gigantic piss-up and what ways are the community doing to combat this.
To tell you the truth, I don’t see or hear any of that type of negativity over here. NYC has the oldest and biggest Paddy’s Day parade in the world if i’m not mistaken and it’s the biggest parade of all of the parades in NYC. I’ve been down there three times on Paddy’s Day, two of those times to see The Pogues in 2007 and 2008, and all I saw was people having a blast and celebrating the day, with never any violence, so those people that think that way just don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about and even if anyone does say anything offensive we’re not pussies and we don’t get offended like a snowflake, we just deal with it. I’m not a PC person anyway. PC culture was created as a form of censorship in my opinion, but that’s neither hear nor there, so I’ll move on.
Which leads us onto this. Now us Irish are fond of a drink or two that much is true and there’s a current debate around the idea of cultural appropriation. Is it politically correct for non-Irish bands to sing 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?
Hell, I love the fact that there are Celtic bands all over the world, it just shows how far Irish culture is spread around the globe. Hell,there are forty million Americans who claim Irish ancestry to one degree or another. There are people in the FB group from places like Poland, Belgium, Germany, Mexico and on and on, places you wouldn’t really expect the music to be popular, and they post videos of bands people may not have heard of, so I’m all for it. Music connects everyone in one way or another so that’s a cool thing.
(we asked Mike for his three favourite Celtic-Punk videos. #1 our very own Neck)
How did you get into Celtic-Punk? For myself it was as a child growing up listening to Irish music (somewhat reluctantly it must be said!) and then later on after I had gotten into Punk both traditions met head on with The Pogues when I was 14 and that was that!
I was very late getting into it. In 2006 my son was reading the Bob Dylan book Chronicles Part One and it had a section on how he idolized the Clancy Brothers, especially Liam, so he asked me if I could find some Liam Clancy on Limewire, and that’s when I discovered the Pogues and downloaded a few songs and got hooked, and from there I just became totally obsessed with the Punk and the Trad genres.
Who were the bands who first got you into Celtic-Punk? Who are your all time favourite bands on the scene?
For me, everything started with The Pogues, and after joining the Medusa Forum (Pogues site) I learned more about them and found out about the Murphys and Flogging Molly, and thanks to Paddy Rock my Celt Punk horizons expanded. Right now I’d say my all time favorites would be the Pogues, Tossers, Mahones, DKM, Greenland Whalefishers and the Rumjacks.
Besides Celtic-Punk what other music do you like?
Rock has always been my favorite, starting with seeing the Beatles on TV on Ed Sullivan as a young lad of 7 then getting into the Stones, then in ’72 a friend of mine turned me on to Bowie, Lou Reed and the V.U., Mott, Iggy and then came the Ramones and Punk and New Wave. I’ve also gotten into the Outlaw Country stuff with Waylon, Willie, Johnny Cash, Hank and Hank Jr, Steve Earle, who has a lot of Celtic influence in his music. I also loved the Motown sound of my youth and liked some of the original hardcore Hip-Hop.
(Mikes second song was the perfect mix of past and present)
I’m sure you get to hear a lot of modern day Celtic/Folk-Punk bands? Which bands would you recommend as the ‘next big thing’ on the scene?
I don’t see any live music. Most of what I hear as far as newer bands go I find in my group actually. I really like The Gallowgate Murders and The O’Reilly’s And The Paddyhats. Another couple of new favorites are Paddy Waggin and Grass Mud Horse.
Has Celtic-Punk been welcomed in the Irish-American community at all? I was recently reading about the explosion in young people wanting to learn bagpipes, banjo, mandolin and tin-whistle. Of course what the article failed to mention was that these are all instruments the Dropkick Murphys play!! Here in England the very mention of Celtic-Punk conjures up images of young men in Celtic tops smashing up bars and puking in the bogs so there is still a lot of fear and mistrust.
I’d say it probably all depends on what type of music people are into in the first place. If people are more into alternative type music they’d probably gravitate more to the Celt Punk. Even the Murphys and Flogging Molly aren’t filling the big arenas like a Madison Square Garden so it’s still a small loyal community, and none of the bands get played on the mainstream radio stations. I don’t really see the big explosion of young fans either. The numbers I get in my group data is that almost 70% of the members are between 35 and 54, which really surprised me.
(Mikes final video is Irish-American favourites The Tossers and their ode to their home city of Chicago)
To us in England it seems that Celtic-Punk over there is massive. It does seem there’s even more bands than ever before. Is this right is the scene bigger? If it is bigger has that made it more commercial / mainstream and is that a good thing? After the big 2 who are the next most popular US bands?
I don’t really know how big the scene here is, but it definitely isn’t mainstream or commercial, it’s still more of a subculture or cult type thing. The groups besides the Big 2 I like from here are the Tossers, Flatfoot 56, Black 47 were big when they were together. The Kilmaine Saints, Killigans, Shilelagh Law usually have big regional followings and are always popular on the summer Irish American Festival circuit. A new band I just discovered in the group is Black Irish Texas who I like a lot.
Do you think their is a particular American Celtic-Punk sound. Like the Australians their is a very strong working class ethos but also a mistrust of anything overtly political.
I think each band has their own sound, I mean nobody is gonna confuse the Tossers sound for the Murphys or Flogging Molly for Flatfoot 56. Some bands have more of the hard edged sound while others have the more trad sound just sped up a bit.
We Irish love our sport and it is football that is most dear to our hearts and we (nearly) all support the best team in the world but we all (mostly) have other (not so good) teams too. You into sport at all? Which teams do you support? Does learning the value of defeat and having pride in losing but trying your hardest teach you something that is missing in society?
I love sports,played them all the time as a kid. I played baseball and basketball and pickup football (American style) and I love watching NHL hockey even though I never played. My favorite teams are all New York teams, my favorite being the Yankees in baseball, Giants in the NFL, Knicks,even though they’ve sucked for 20 years now, in the NBA and the Islanders in the NHL. I think sports teach us how to win and lose, and nothing is handed to you, at least it used to be like that in youth sports when I was growing up, none of this participation trophy shite we see these days. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, words that still hold true today. I know one political party over here that never learned to lose gracefully, that’s not the way to lose. If you lose, it’s cool to be pissed, but lose with class and dedicate yourself to work on the mistakes you made that caused you to lose, and hopefully one day you’ll taste the thrill of victory.
Any final thoughts Mike? Anyone you would like to give a shout out to and any bands you would like to give a plug?
First, thanks for asking me to do this interview. Hopefully I gave you something you could use with my answers, and I’d like to give a shout-out to all the glorious bastards in my FB group for helping spread the word about this great music we love and participating and sharing their favorite music with everyone, and a shout out to your own London Celtic Punks which has kept fans in the loop about everything Celt Punk for so long.
Join the best Group on Facebook at the link below and why not share your most local band.
We were saddened to hear about the death of Mark E.Smith grumpy front man of the influential Manchester post-punk band The Fall. So seems an apt time to remember the time, back in February 1989, that the British music paper the NME sent two of its journalists, James Brown and Sean O’Hagan, to the boozer with three of music’s wisest (and wildest) men- Shane MacGowan, Mark E.Smith and Nick Cave… and gave them all £10 each to have a drink!
It’s not often that we mere mortals find out what the personalities of our heroes are but in this interview we can almost see them lapping it up in the lounge bar down the Montague. Nick Cave keeps his cool and his answers short and sweet, maybe down to him being the only sober one there perhaps (he had just spent seven weeks in rehab), while Shane (“… done some Ecstasy and had drunk a bottle of whisky on the way down”) is the amiable drinking companion we would always assume he would be dipping in and out and taking the piss in between bouts of seriousness. Finally Mark, at times abusive and hostile and others friendly and warm. His views were certainly militant but maybe not in the way many would like them to be but no denying the influence he had inspiring a generation of musicians from Sonic Youth to The Pixies and beyond. I had the pleasure of meeting him once in a pub in Sheffield around 1988 and he was as sound as you could expect a music hero to be when you’re a awed teenager. With more than thirty album’s and more band members than you could ever possibly keep up with The Fall didn’t make it easy to follow them but there were always Mark E.Smith steering them and always around but no more now. He will be missed.
“a kind of Northern English magic realism that mixed industrial grime with the unearthly and uncanny, voiced through a unique, one-note delivery somewhere between amphetamine-spiked rant and alcohol-addled yarn.
FEBRUARY 25th 1989. NME TALKS TO
“So the NME thinks we’re the last three heroes of rock’n’roll, do they?” laughs Nick Cave. “Smarmy fuckers,” adds Shane McGowan, “what they actually mean is that we’re the three biggest brain damaged cases in rock’n’roll.”
“Apart from Nick”, jabs Mark Smith, “Nick’s cleaned up.”
“yeah”, drawls Cave, “my brains restored itself.”
A bottle’s throw from Millwall FC, The Montague Arms, a mock Gothic fun pub for morbid tourists, plays host to a bizarre summit meeting. Amidst stuffed horses’ heads, skeletons on bicycles and mocked up corpses, three of contemporary music’s most infamous individuals are gathered at the NME’s request.
Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, Mark E.Smith of the Fall and Nick Cave all share an outsider’s attitude that informs their respective musical output. Both championed and castigated for their obsessiveness and extremism, this unholy trio are dogged by reputations that precede them.
That they agreed to such a meeting is surprising. What ensues is inspired and insane by turns. The fractured and, often fractious, conversation sprawls between the amiable and the aggressive- Presley to Nietzsche, songwriting to psychology, football to fanatics.
In an afternoon of sheer psychotic hellishness, Cave plays the diplomat to Smith’s bursts of contentious rhetoric whilst MacGowan transmits his thoughts from his own singular, rarefied wavelength.
WHAT REALLY WENT ON THERE ? WE ONLY HAVE THIS EXCERPT
NME Do you think it’s accurate to describe the three of you as outsiders? NC “I think we have all tended to create some kind of area where we can work without particularly having to worry about what’s fashionable.” MES “Yes, fair enough. But I think there’s a lot of differences in this trio here. Nick was very rock’n’roll to me but he’s turned his back on it which was cool. Shane’s more, I dunno. To me the Pogues are the good bits from the Irish showband scene, like the Indians. You had that feel, probably lost that now. Your work’s good though.” SM “Fuck it man. Who wants to work in a place where there’s all these people looking at you ?” MES “Are you talking about your gigs ? You should stop doing them, then.” SM “Can’t afford to.” MES “Fuck it, you could fight not to if you don’t like it.” SM “…and leave the rest of them in the lurch ?” MES “Nah, the rest of your band will always complain about not working. If you’re paying them a wage tell them to stay at home and behave themselves.” SM “It’s a democracy our band.” MES “Why aren’t they here with you then ?” SM “Cos the NME didn’t want to interview them.” MES ‘Cos nobody’d recognise them.” SM “That’s it ! They want to interview us because we’ve got distinctive characteristics. They just want to interview three high-brow loonies.” MES “In that case you should have brought your mate Joe Strummer along.” SM “I said high-brow loonies.”
HITS AND MYTHS
NME You must be aware that, consciously or otherwise, you’ve each created a particular myth that has arisen, in part, from your songs. SM “Nobody created my mythology, I certainly didn’t.” NC “No, you (the press) created it.”
SM “The media has a lot to answer for, you’re all a bunch of bastards however friendly you are.” NC “Let’s not talk about the media. Why the hell are you talking about mythologies ? That tends to suggest it’s somehow unreal.” SM “It seems to me that in your songs, Nick, you’re doing a Jung-style trip of examining your shadow, all the dark things you don’t want to be. A lot of your songs are like trips into the subconscious and are therefore nightmarish.” NC “Possibly.” SM “You’re exploring the world through the subconscious. I’ve done that on occasions for various reasons, whether it be illness or self abuse, or whatever. Once things start to look grotesque I don’t write them or sing them. I couldn’t write them the way you do, I couldn’t-making nightmares into living daylight…” NC “I think you do a pretty good job of it in some of your songs.” SM “The minute it gets dark I shoot back, retreat. I haven;’t always but I do now ‘cos…” MES “Don’t give too much away Shane, don’t tell them. Hold a bit back.” SM “I haven’t told them anything yet.”
NME “How do each of you approach the actual mechanics of songwriting ?” MES “When you ask that you induce fear in a songwriter. I just go blank.” NC “It’s not a cut and dried process.” SM “For a start I’ve got to be out of my head to write. For a lot of the time it’s automatic writing. ‘Rainy day in Soho’ was automatic.” MES “Its gotta be subconscious and off the wall. He says he’s got to be out of his head, and a lot of the time I have too. Sometimes, I just wake up and do it. It’s one of the hardest questions you ever get asked. For instance, you sometimes hear things that would make a great idea for a song but you never carry them out.” SM “I do. Like the “Turkish Song of the Damned” was a Kraut trying to tell me something and I misheard him. He said, “Have you heard ‘The Turkish Song’ by the Damned”. Then I woke up. MES “My German song’s better than your yours, I bet. This is like one of those night-time discussions on Channel 4.” NC “I write songs in batches then record them and then can’t write again for ages. I try and build one song upon another, they may not look obviously inter-related but often one song acts as a springboard into another.” SM “You haven’t been back to the swamps for a while, have you ?” NC “The swamps ? Heh,heh. I’ve written a novel about that.” MES “Nick thinks a novel’s two pages long. Very novel, heh, heh.” NC “What’s it called ?” MES “It’s called ‘It’ll Be Ready in Another Five Years’. You should write more aggressive songs, Nick, you’re getting too slow.” NC “I haven’t sat down and thought about the mood before I wrote them.” MES “I find your work almost English Lit oriented, like Beckett, things crop up again and again.”
NC “And your songs are very deceptive Mark, in the way they’re sung. They might appear at times like streams of consciousness but that’s deceptive.” MES “One thing that eally annoys me is that stream of consciousness thing. I wouldn’t let on to it normally, but it annoys the shit out of me. I put a lot of hard sweat into them, I think about them. They have an inner logic to me so I don’t really care who understands them or not. I see writing and singing as two very different things. My attitude is if you can’t deliver it like a garage band, fuck it. That’s one thing that’s never been explored, delivering complex things in a very straightforward rock’n’roll way. My old excuse is if I’d wanted to be a poet, I’d have been a poet.” SM “And starved.” MES “I can write, boy, I can write. That’s what I do. People like you sit around moaning about the state of pop music…The trouble is it’s too bloody easy for people, that’s why music is in the sorry state it is. Any idiot, actors mainly, can go in there, sing a chord, bang on a machine…I’m not objecting to that but when people get at me for trying to say something in a rock’n’roll mode it’s as if I’m a freak.” SM “All this talk about the state of music, rock’n’roll, Irish music, soul, funk.” MES “Salsa.” SM “Its been proved by Acid House that anyone can make a record.” MES “We’re not thick, we all know that.” SM “Look, I’m talking about the implications of Acid House” MES “There’s nothing new in Acid House for me, pal. I’ve been using that process for years. Bloody years. It might be new for you but don’t assume it’s new for anyone else, because you’re fucking wrong, pal. SM “What the fuck are you talking about ? Have you made an Acid House record ? MES “It’s the same process, right. Have you had some sort of bloody revelation about Acid House ?” SM “Hah ! It’s obvious if you listen they put Eastern melodies over it, bits of this and that…” MES “That’s what music should always have been like.” SM “It always was.” MES “Why haven’t you been doing it for years then pal ?” NC “I think they have been doing it. I’ve heard zithers and so on. Eastern stuff and Turkish stuff.” MES “We had jazz arrangements in ’82 when the rest of those tossers were playing cocktail lounge music and fucking pseudo new wave, so don’t talk to me about it because I know what I’m talking about pal.” SM “Fucking hell, what’s he on about ?”
MES “The trouble with the music biz is that its become so bourgeois. A middle class executive business like the police force.” SM “A middle class executive police force ? You must be mad ! They’re stormtroopers nowadays, thicker than they ever were.” MES “Can we drop the cop talk ? It’s the same with everything else, like lurries…” SM “Lurries ? What are lurries ?” MES “Lurries. Containers that deliver your fucking food to your fucking house, alright ?” SM “Lorries ! Yeah right.” MES “The drivers are paid the lowest wages because everyone wants to sit in the office and be a ponce. You can’t just go into a hotel and write your name, you’ve got to fuck around on a bloody computer. Nobody wants to work anymore.” SM “Oh God ! You make me wanna puke sometimes, you do. Of course nobody wants to work. Who in their right mind wants to work ?” MES “Alright, alright, that’s obvious, the sky’s fucking blue. Soccer’s the same. None of the fuckers want to hit the ball in the back of the net. They’re all too fucking muscley. And thick. Running up and down the field like bloody morons. The England team are all bloody minor executives who can’t kick the ball in the back of the net, can’t do the bloody job they’re hired to do. I do loads of gigs, that’s my job to play loads of gigs, I’m not an executive, I don’t mind playing in front of a load of sweaty people.”
NME “Do you two still enjoy playing live ?” NC “I don’t know if I do. The first Kilburn show was a nightmare.” MES “What’s new with The Bad Seeds ?” NC “I used to hate playing live totally, just the whole physical exhaustion was too much for me.” MES “Bleeding workshy Australian. Australians never do any work.” NC “The last tour, going on stage was a release.” MES “Sexually ?” NC “As my life gets more constipated and cramped going on stage I’m able to purge myself in some way.” MES “A bowel release.” NC “I feel more relaxed.” MES “With Mick Harvey behnd you with the vaseline.” NC “Put a muzzle on this guy.” SM “The gigs I enjoy are the ones where I am so angry and paranoid, and I hate the audience so much, that I put everything into it to feed off the aggressive side of it. I don’t actually hate the fans but when I’m feeling angry, pissed off and full of hate, it’s a good gig for me.” NC “An audience is the perfect thing to unleash that hate and venom on. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate everyone in the audience but when you’ve got a so-called adoring mass in front of you, it’s a perfect target for that kind of disgust. Sometimes you find yourself in a position where you’re venting your disgust on an audience and a lot of them keep coming back because they actually like that aspect. In a way that diffuses the feeling and you don’t get the same release.” MES “You gotta reassess your audience, make sure they aren’t just coming to throw ashtrays at your head for fun. Shane says he goes on full of twist, you’ve got to. If you don’t you’re fucking fucked, that’s whats wrong with a lot of acts these days, they do fucking yoga before and go on all fucking relaxed. I’ve been with Fad Gadget and he was doing incense and headstands. The English soccer players could do with a lot of twist, they should be put in a room and made to go round in circles, and told “if you don’t do a good gig tonight then you’re not getting paid.”
NME “Shane, you obviously don’t enjoy playing live anymore, is that through being on the road too much ?” SM “I feel like I’ve spent the last five years of my life on the road. It hasn’t affected my songs but it has probably affected everything else about me. Obviously, the more you travel, the wilder the things that keep happening to you, the more likely it is that complete strangers will knock on your hotel room door.” MES “Nick and I don’t related to that ‘cos the people who come up to us either hate our guts or wouldn’t really want to be alone in a room with us. You’re a very amiable guy, Shane.” NC “I’m not sure what you’re talking about here but the way people related to me in the dressing rooms and so on was incredibly aggressive. They know every record and they seem to think they should nudge me or bump into me as they go past.It was this incredible performance that used to amuse me. I think we share something in common on that level ‘cos, like, in the early days, people were drawn towards us like they’d be drawn towards a car smash…” SM “I read about the fan mail that Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies gets-real sicko stuff, loads of letters from genuine corpse freaks and child killer types. It frightens him shitless. That sorta thing freaks me out.” NC “There is a definite relationship between that fanaticism and the fact that, as a performer, you expose more of yourself, of the undercurrents of your personality. Most rock personalities subdue that or chose not to explore it.”
“It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them.” (Cave)
HEROES AND VILLAINS
NME “Mark, of the three of you, would you admit to being the professional cynic ?”
MES “No, cynicism and defensiveness are two things constantly levelled at me. Look, I’ve got time for people, I’m good mannered. I usually find that when you are down, nobody has a bloody minute for you. If I was a nobody, you wouldn’t even talk to me.” SM “You are nobody.” MES “Fuck off. It’s bloody true. Neither would you, Nick.” NC “Bullshit! That’s bullshit I take offence at that.” MES “I’m not levelling anything at you. People, in general, don’t like being upfront and civil. They hate you for it. They label you a cynic ‘cos you’re reasonable.” SM “You’re no reasonable though. You’re a rude bastard. That’s fair enough.” SO’H “Ok I’m cynical. But I’m not defensive. I’m slightly paranoid which is healthy.” NME “Slightly?” MES “Listen, Sean, do you walk around London embracing everybody? If I was in the bleeding gutter you wouldn’t piss on me. SO’H “I would.” NC “Your reaction is becoming very defensive, Mark.” MES “You’re a failed psychiatrist.” NC “I’ve analysed you, alright-defensive paranoid with delusions of grandeur.” MES “I’ve had discussions like this all the time in pubs. I end up beaten half to death on the floor. I try to be civil and people assume I’m attacking them.” SM “You attack people all the time. In the press.” MES “I used to. It became too routine so I gave it up. Nietzsche said ‘Embrace your enemies’. You two aren’t my enemies so I won’t embrace you. SM “Read a lot of Nietzsche, have you?” MES “All his stuff. I can’t quote him. I’m not into him anymore, gave up three years ago. He taught me a lot, though. We’re not all born public school boys like you.” SM “I’m not a born public school boy.” MES “Do you like Brendan Behan, he’s good.” SM “Yeah, he’s not a fascist maniac posing as a philosopher.” MES “If we’re gonna talk philosophy, that’s a load of crap ! The Nazis adopted his creed and distorted it, they misquoted him all the time.” SM “‘The Will to Power’? Try re-interpreting that statement. You can’t. It says what it says.” MES “He wasn’t a Nazi-you’re only saying that because some polytechnic fucking lecturer told you he was.” SM “I’m saying it ‘cos I read two of his books where he dismissed the weak, the ugly, the radically impure, Christianity, Socrates, Plato. He was anti anyone who hadn’t a strong body, perfect features…” MES “That’s the coffee table analysis. He was the most anti-German pro-Semitic person…” SM “His books were full of hate.” MES “You’ve just said you’re full of hate when you go onstage.” SM “I don’t go around saying Socrates was a cunt, Jesus Christ was an idiot, do I ?” MES “Jesus Christ was the biggest blight on the human race, he was. And all of them Socialists and Communists- second rate Christianity. It’s alright for you Catholics. I was brought up with Irish Catholics. Some of my best friends are Irish Catholics.” SM “listen to him.” MES “Hitler was a Catholic vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker. The way you’re talking about Nietzsche is that anyone who’s a non-smoker, non-drinker is a Nazi. That’s the level of your debate, pal. You don’t know fuck all about Nietzsche, pal.” SM “You’re anti-socialist, too, aren’t you ?” MES “Yeah. I’m an extreme anti-socialist. You don’t live on a housing estate where there’s been socialism for thirty years and they keep saying it’s gonna get better all the time and it never does. Thirty fucking years of it getting worse and worse. You obviously haven’t experienced that, living in London.” SM “What’s the alternative ?” MES “I don’t have to worry about that. I’m an adult. I’m working class, me. I come from a generation that fucking created this nation pal. You lot, you just sit around and talk about socialism, you’re the bloody problem. Eighty percent of this country are white trash, working class. How come they don’t vote Labour? ‘Cos the Labour Party are a fucking disgrace, that’s why. Engels- he was a factory owner in Manchester exploiting 13 year old girls. Learn your history, pal, learn your history. I suppose you blame all Ireland’s problems on the British. All the problems of the world are down to Britain. That’s what you think, why don’t you say it? You can’t tell me anything about oppression ‘cos, I’ll tell you something pal, if you’d been part of Germany, you’d have been liquidated. If you were part of Russia, you wouldn’t even exist. Don’t tell me about oppression, my parents and grand-parents were exploited to the hilt. Sent to wars, they had gangrene in their teeth. My grandfather was at Dunkirk and all you can see is Margaret Thatcher on my face when, actually, She’s on Nick’s face. Isn’t she Nick ? Come on Nick, help me out. Basically, I like to discuss things right down the line and I don’t agree with anybody…”
NME “This is getting a bit out of order, can we talk about something less acrimonious. Heroes ?
SM “You’re into Presley, Nick.” MES “A lot of Presley’s good stuff was overlooked. Like the NME viewpoint that he died when he came out of the army. I think the opposite, his best stuff came after the army.” SM “That figures. He was a pile of shit when he came out of the army compared to before he went in. His mother died when he was in the army. That was one of the causes. Anyway, he did some good stuff in the late ’60′s after the army- ‘Kentucky Rain’, ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘In the Ghetto’ as opposed to ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’, ‘That’s alright Mama’. I suppose that’s all shit to you , is it ?” MES “I’m not saying that but everybody writes the later stuff off…” SM “Who ever writes off Elvis ?” MES “Look, pal, Elvis was the king, right? To me, Elvis were king. He was only the king ‘cos he sustained it. You probably think he’s some kind of criminal ‘cos he went in the army for a few years. You’re insinuating that I’m pro-army and if you have anything to say on that score, say it now, pal and I’ll fucking argue right through you !” SM “What ! He’s off again.” MES “I’m into Mersey Beat at the minute- The Searchers. I respect Dylan. The only good thing I’ve heard of his is that LP he did with George Harrison and Roy Orbison.”
NME “You seem to prefer older music, is there nothing contemporary that appeals ?”
NC “It’s rare when a group comes along that has any real soul to them. Rock’n’Roll history isn’t long enough. There’s three or four blues people that I like after filtering through loads of blues. There’s about three gospel bands, a handful of country ones. I have to draw on the….what are you laughing at, Mark ?” MES “Oh nothing, heh heh, I’m really into John Lee Hooker myself. He’s great solo without a band. His bands are crap. I was always into more experimental bands- Can, Faust. I won’t say German ‘cos Shane’ll have an epileptic fit. I think Nick’s more traditional and I respect that but, I’m into things like Stockhausen, The United States of America and Gene Vincent and rockabilly. That’s my influences. And I always preferred Lou Reed to the Velvet Underground.”
NME “What do you think of the blanket critical approval of Morrissey ?”
MES “Morrissey’s another Paddy! A South Manchester Paddy. Shane’s got more to say than Morrissey.” SM “I think you guys are encouraging Mark to be like this. You journalists love it.” MES “Of course they do. That’s the NME policy, they love a good argument. Don’t you lads ?”
Things fall apart. The unholy trinity climb on the pubstage. MacGowan on drums, Smith on guitar and Cave on the organ. A jam of sorts ensues- The Velvets meets Hammer Horror with a hint of Acid House. Totally wired. Summit mental.
(Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan and Kylie Minogue sing Bob Dylan’s ‘Death Is Not The End’)
What became of them after the tape finished we can only guess but I doubt they just got up and went their separate ways! These days its hard to imagine any publication with any influence doing something like this but we learn a lot about all three gents and though acerbic and argumentative Mark E.Smith certainly gets his point of view over and is heard. Gone before his time but he lived his life hard and wild and is one of a small bunch of working class musicians of which we can truly say that when they pass we will never see their like again.
We never shut the feck up about how brilliant Australian celtic-punk is so we are pleased as punch to present to you this interview with Gareth from the Celtic Punkcast radio show. He gives the lowdown on who the movers and shakers are over there, what its like living in the bush and a whole lot more.
“The best Celtic punk, Celtic rock & folk punk from around the world on this podcast”
Right we have always said that the Australian celtic-punk scene is the best in the world and that the bands in it are as well. When any idea how the celtic-punk scene started in Oz? Who were the first bands, the first concerts or festivals. Who from overseas made the biggest impact? It’s a pretty good scene over here that’s for sure. We definitely have some world class acts here in Australia. When it comes to Celtic Punk I guess it’d be artists like Roaring Jack who got the scene going here, they were contemporaries of bands like The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. There’s always been a strong folk and celtic scene here, bands such as Claymore who wouldn’t necessarily slot into that Celtic punk pigeonhole have been playing trad influenced music at places like the Port Fairy Folk Festival for years and they help introduce Celtic music to larger audiences. As for overseas bands that have made big impacts, obviously The Pogues were and still are really well known and popular and bands like the Dropkick Murphys are massive worldwide. The Murphys have had a couple of tunes used by the Australian Football League as well. Most people know Flogging Molly as well. In terms of influence, I’d say The Dubliners had just as bigger influence as anyone though, especially when it came to people staying in touch with their roots via music.
(We asked Gareth to pick the three best videos to represent Aussie celtic-punk and his first choice was ‘Riot On Race Day by Shambolics)
Who are the main players in the scene at the moment? Are you all missing The Rumjacks? Oh yeah, we definitely are missing them! Honestly I didn’t realise how big The Rumjacks are outside of Australia. Probably after them would be The Go Set, The Ramshackle Army and even artists like The Dead Maggies do a great job holding down their part of the world. It’s been great to see some Oz bands get over to the states in recent years as well as over here too. In fact we see more of you then we do American bands!
The massive distances between cities in Australia must cause lots of problems for touring and networking but does this also mean that you have developed a certain sound or way for each area independent of each other? Interesting question and one I probably don’t have the knowledge to answer. I think that social media and the internet in general makes networking so much easier. Anyone can find bands in any part of the world which is very cool. As for touring, I don’t really know, might have to ask Benny Mayhem about that one, he’s a Perth lad! Funny enough it was Benny himself who told me that when he was over in the summer!
You run a Celtic-punk radio show? Whats the deal behind that? How does it work? Give us an idiot proof way to listen to it. Well the easiest way to listen is to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or follow on Podbean. Most podcast catchers have it on there though. Podcasts are great because of the convenience of them, you can listen whenever and wherever you want. The other way to catch the show is the weekly show on Blues & Roots Radio, which is a fairly large online radio network. Putting together a one hour podcast/weekly radio show usually takes me a couple of hours, between getting music sorted, the actual recording, editing and post production. Once I’ve done all that the podcast gets uploaded which can take about 30 minutes to an hour depending on whether Podbean is being cooperative or not. The weekly radio show when it’s done gets sent to Stevie Conner, who’s the head of BRR in Toronto and he slots it into the schedule. My show is meant to merely be a showcase for the bands who make such great music and there was a bit of an opening for another Celtic punk podcast. There was already some awesome shows like Paddy Rock, Irish Power Hour and the Shite’n’Onions podcast, so if I could complement them I’d be stoked.
How did you get into celtic-punk? Do you have Celtic ancestors. A hell of a lot of Aussies do so do they make up the bulk of your audience? Like most people my age it was probably the Dropkick Murphys who were my gateway band to the genre. First song I heard was The Warriors Code on a compilation CD and it just pumped me right up. From there I discovered bands like Flogging Molly, Flatfoot 56, Blood Or Whiskey and The Tossers who are probably my favourite band. I do have Celtic ancestry, my family came to Australia from Kernow (Cornwall) and I also have Welsh in there too. My wife’s heritage is Irish and Scottish so my kids almost have the Celtic crescent covered! As for the audience, it’s really a mixed bag, some from Australia, a lot in North America and some from the UK & Europe. Anyone who wants to listen is more than welcome wherever they’re from.
You’re based in Victoria but is there much of an Irish community there? People say that the Irish diaspora is smaller but has there been a noticeable decline, especially with emigration from Ireland still at peak levels? It does seem to me that here in London the new arrivals are not interested in Irish music. They seem to be wealthier and emigrating for ‘fun’ and in their gaps year rather than to escape poverty like in the past. I am a Victorian, I live on a property about 200km west of Melbourne, in the Grampians. Spectacular part of the world. Where I live has a population of between 350-500 people, so only a wee place. Some parts of the state like the south west you really notice the Irish influence, especially in towns like Koroit, Casterton and Killarney. Koroit and Killarney both have yearly Irish festivals. We still see a lot of Irish people come to Australia, but mainly backpackers or students. The Irish mates I have for the most part are fans of Celtic punk, and they all still have that appreciation for the trad stuff too which is cool. It’s when it comes to shite like Ed Sheeran I call them out!
Gareth’s back garden!
I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present? Honestly, I reckon it depends on the individual. If they come from families that played that sort of music when they were growing up then they probably do, but perhaps people who were punk fans first may not necessarily listen to folk or trad. But if they don’t then I’d encourage them to give it a go, there’s some great bands out there playing folk and trad.
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? I think the standard answer would be The Pogues, who no doubt have been extremely influential on a number of bands, but I’d say you’d be looking at bands like The Dubliners, The Wolfe Tones etc who were the ones that bands like The Pogues were listening to. Even bands like The Clash that embraced different styles of music and had success with it. There’s probably plenty of unsung heroes as well, like the venues that gave some of the bands that become legends in the Celtic Punk scene starts when they were just beginning.
(Gareth’s second Aussie celt-punk BIG hitter is a new song from The Bottlers)
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? It doesn’t bother me too much at all, especially if it teaches people a bit about the history of the Celtic nations and Celtic people. It also helps keep the culture alive, if people from South America or Eastern Europe for example are inspired to take up the pipes or tin whistle after listening to the Murphys or Flogging Molly then that’s great. I get some people’s issues if all they see is the drink and fight stereotypes getting perpetuated or if it comes off like that faux Celtic Irish pub stuff that The Rumjacks described so perfectly but for me if people are respectful of the music and culture and they learn a thing or two then great. Honestly I’d love more people to know the Celtic history of my Cornish heritage, so if people dive in further and expand their knowledge how could that be a bad thing? Totally agree. The ideas behind ‘cultural appropriation is bad’ can be dangerous. That people cannot share cultures or even haircuts is absurd or maybe it’s just that we Celts have thicker skins?
Gareth with Jimmy from Shambolics
As we said many times we really love the Aussie take on celtic-punk. What do you think sets it apart from the celtic-punk of say the North America or Britain? It seems to have a very strong working class ethos and a Aussie slant that I can’t quite put my finger on but involves having fun and being serious at the same time, being full of mischief and after all any country that calls mates cunts and cunts mates is not half bad! Interestingly enough I spoke a bit about this with Jimmy from the Shambolics not too long ago, he’s an Irishman who has lived in Australia for a long time and played in bush bands when he was living in rural areas. Australia has a long Celtic history, we the Celts were the ones brought out here after English colonisation and built the framework of what became Australia. They didn’t have the musical instruments from home, so they had to make do and create instruments like the bottle cap stick. They created a fusion of traditional style music with instruments created from necessity which became the bush bands that still survive in a small way today. The Australian way was we were a people who always kind of thumbed our nose at authority, enjoyed a laugh but would stand up for our mates and believed in the fair go. That spirit lives on in in the Celtic and folk punk music that comes out of this country. We as Australian people have had different experiences to people in North America and Europe and it shows in the music. When my wife was in Australia in her teens she said that she saw parliament on the TV and the MP’s were swearing at each other. That tells you what kind of place it is. My kind of place!
Celtic-punk nowadays. It seems to us that the scene over there is massive. There does seem to be more bands than before. Is this right is the scene bigger? If it is bigger has that made it more commercial/mainstream? No I don’t think it has. Outside a couple of bands like the Dropkick Murphys and The Pogues you get blank responses to other bands. Outside the Celtic Punk scene in Australia a band like The Rumjacks are pretty well unheard of by the mainstream. Although I did hear a Go Set song on an ad the other night during the cricket so who knows?
the friendly neighbourhood wallaby
Who do you think are the best Australian bands and their best records? The ‘essential’ place to start in Aussie celtic-punk? Well for me, I really like The Rumjacks, The Go Set, Shambolics, The Currency, The Bottlers, The Ramshackle Army, The Dead Maggies and Benny Mayhem. If people were looking for some Australian Celtic Punk albums I’d start with the Rumjacks debut ‘Gangs Of New Holland’, man that is a fecking fantastic album. Also, ‘Rising’ by The Go Set, ‘Riot On Raceday’ by The Shambolics and the new album from The Bottlers. My three year old daughter also told me to mention the Pogue Mahone album by the Shambos too, she has a meltdown if that CD gets changed in the car!
Any Aussie links you would recommend? Honestly the best thing to do would be to check out the websites, twitter feeds and Facebook pages of some of the bands. The Triple J Unearthed site also has some good unsigned artists, just search for Celtic Punk on there and discover something new.
(Gareth’s third video this time from The Go Set who have darkened these shores many a time and each time with a growing fan base)
We are just about to publish our Best Of list for 2017 so what were your favourite releases of the year? Any you looking forward to in the coming months? Man last year was a great year for albums in these genres, any year you have new albums from most of the big guns like the Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, The Tossers, The Real Mackenzies, Flatfoot 56 etc is a bloody good year, but my favourite release for 2017 was ‘In It For Life’ by Black Anemone. That was a kick arse album. Loved the new Tossers album as well as the ones released by The Kilmaine Saints, The Peelers, Matilda’s Scoundrels, Craic, Dreadnoughts and The Bottlers. The new Real McKenzies album was great too. For 2018 I’m looking forward to the new album from 1916 and the new stuff The Mahones are releasing. Four new albums this year apparently! Yeah plenty of bands there that feature in our Best Of 2017. Stay tuned!
Thanks for taking time out of your schedule so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug the Radio show and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank? Been my pleasure chatting to you guys, thanks for your support of the show, I really appreciate it. So subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or email me. Check out the schedule on Blues And Roots Radio as well to see the weekly shows schedule. I’d love to thank anyone who’s listened, chatted, shared the show and supported it, especially the bands who’ve supported the show as well as Stevie, Annie and Neil from BRR for giving the show a bigger audience and of course London Celtic Punks, Waldo from the Celtic & Folk Punk blog, the Mersey Celtic Punks, shout out to big fans Peter, Erin and Jennie and to anyone I’ve forgotten sorry. Oh and of course my wife and two girls. Can’t forget them.
You can listen to the latest January edition of the Celtic Punkcast at the link below. Simply cli for just over an hour of the best Celtic-Punk of the past and the present.
To find previous editions visit the web-site click the link
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)
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.
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…
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.
Like 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.
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.
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.
Right 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!
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.
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.
(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
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
When did the band form and what inspired you to start the band?
The bass-player, Marcus, and the singer/guitar-player Martin had a band called Stainless Bones, which kind of broke apart in 2011. We two attended a Pogues-concert in August 2012 , wanting to see Shane for at least one time before he kicked the bucket. Afterwards we sang (or maybe: growled) Irish Folk in the underground on our way home. As we got off the train, a guy approached us asking: You guys make music? So we met our accordion-player, Egidio. He had attended the same concert and rode the same train. The three of us exchanged numbers and decided to focus on Irish Folk which we all liked very much. Some obstacles had to be overcome (Egidio forgot his cell in a cab that very night, so for a while we heard nothing of him and he couldn’t be reached), but we managed to play some small gigs in Berlin. On a gig in January 2013 we found out that a friend of ours, René, had played punk drums years ago. We offered him a Cajon and he agreed. Hence: The Rathmines completed.
Describe your music in three words?
Stolen Songs (of) Struggle
There’s so very much to say right here. We kind of ‘stole’ our material for the most from The Dubliners, The Pogues, Clancy Brothers – from your rich and colourful history and culture. And even when we produce our own stuff, it’s assembled with bits and parts of the tradition of folk, country, rock, blues and punk that already exists. What we do is mostly songs, telling stories of tragedies, wishes, longings, achievements, fights and fates. And struggle? We struggle with the instruments, stages, lights, electricity, audiences, landlords, bartenders, pints, cigarettes, ashtrays, cabs, each other… the audiences struggles with us and among themselves… and the material speaks of struggles way across centuries, ringing on to this very day, and we try to connect them with present struggles. For still the oppressed are fighting their state of existence. You see them when you open the news… We’d like to be one of their voices.
Have you guys ever played in Rathmines, and if the answer is no, why the hell not?
Egidio has. The rest of us? Well, frankly, we lack the means and, yet, the courage. Although we once played ‘The Fields Of Athenry’ in a very small venue in Berlin and afterwards a guy walked up and said: “Hi, I’m David, I’m from Athenry. Can I get you something to drink?” That was kind of the knightly accolade for us, you know? We’re slowly building up the confidence (and band fund) to come. In fact, we were planning a trip to Dublin this summer, but due to money problems we had to put it on ice for now. Would you like to invite us? We’d love to put in the travel costs, if Rathmines offered beds and meals and drinks. 😉
Tell us who are all the members of the band and where are you all from?
Okay, who we have here?
– Marcus – plays bass, acoustic as well as electric, and sings the second voice in many of the songs. He was born and raised in Eastern Berlin (GDR) and works as a nursery school teacher.
– Egidio – plays the accordion. He’s from Italy, was raised partly in Kassel, Germany, and travelled a lot more than the rest of us Europe-wide. He’s currently jobbing his way around Berlin for the summer but usually works in sales.
– René – plays the Cajon – he regularly gets the most attention for doing what he does. Everybody is astonished by what he can do with his hands on a box. He’s also from the GDR, Brandenburg – that’s kind of the landscape surrounding the city limits of Berlin (we tease him by calling him peasant). He works in an Internet Gaming Company.
– Martin – does the singing and plays the guitars. Occasionally he tries to tin-whistle some tunes. He’s the third born and raised in the GDR, Eastern-Berlin, and works as an accountant and employee representative.
What was it about The Pogues that got you guys inspired??
Who told you that we got inspired by… oh, okay, got us there, we did. Well, looking at the folk scene in Germany it becomes obvious that it’s not very – vivid in the area of Irish Folk. Something like The Pogues have been missing since the eighties. They were very big around these parts… I personally got to know them by my obsession with Tom Waits. His biography stated that he was a big fan of The Pogues and used to hang out with them. So naturally I thought, hey, might be worth it to look these guys up. The rest’s history… And since we got together after a Pogues concert – that’s fate, right? And their ‘Streams of Whiskey’ comes in handy when we decide to arouse the audience, shake the house, break the floorboards and tear the roof down on our heads… Let’s face it: Shane MacGowan is one of the best songwriters in history – and it’s doing his songs a favour singing them yourself rather them hear them be sung by him nowadays…
What is the biggest and smallest gig you guys have played??
Oh we never did small gigs, you know? It’s all about the attitude… In fact our biggest gig was just the other weekend in a little town south of Berlin called Jüterbog. We had been there a couple of times playing so called Pub Nights – 6 hours of playing for an audience that was barely listening the first 3 hours and kept yelling for more and louder and faster songs the other 3. This time we were invited to do the music to accompany an open air communal drinking orgy called ‘Irre Irisch’. We entertained roughly 250 people in a farm yard over 4 hours or so. A little concerned about the weather – but the only time a little rain fell was while we played ‘Rainy Night in Soho’. Lovely coincidence. The hardest gig lately was our trip to a pretrial detention jail to play for a hundred inmates – sitting there with folded arms and frowns on their faces for 45 minutes and freaking out during the last 2 or 3 songs for no special reason. Just before the concert two guards got in a fight and one lost a tooth. You can imagine the mood and the vibes in that place. The smallest gigs are usually the little private party concerts we do for friends or colleagues. Birthdays, weddings, divorces, anniversaries of any kind – we’re not too shy to get close and acoustic and intimate. Our best shows we naturally do in pubs of course. Last year we did a tour through the middle of Germany and played in Weimar in a shed called the Smugglers Pub. Really nice. So we played a couple of hours, had a couple of drinks and decided to lift the mood with the wonderful song about the British Army. You know? “When I was young I used to be…” And this song ends of course with a hearty “Fuck The British Army!!!” So we do it and afterwards a guy arises in the back of the pub, comes up to us, reaches in his pocket and holds a military ID in front of our gin-soaked eyes and says in a low-down intimidating voice: “British army.” – – – Silence. – – – We kind of apologized and laughed insecurely. He sat down with his friend and stayed for the rest of the night, sometime glancing at us with unfriendly eyes. Lucky there weren’t a dozen of them that night…
Have you ever played in Ireland at all?
No, except for Egidio. See question 4. But since this is the second time you ask, we consider that a serious invitation now. So expect to see us soon. No, sincerely, we’d love to as soon as we can manage. After all it’s kind of our Mecca, you know?
Favourite song to play at a gig and why?
Oh, depends on what you are trying to do. To get them stomping? ‘Drunken Sailor’. To get them dancing? ‘The Irish Washerwoman’. To shake down the house? ‘Streams of Whiskey’. To get them to sway to and fro? ‘The Wild Rover’. To show off? Our own stuff. To get them drinking? All of them. But you have to know that every song requires the right timing and moment to work as intended. It’s a guess every night. And fortunately every band member has his own little secret favourite he tries to push to a prominent place on the set list. Now that I think about it, ‘Leaving of Liverpool’ must be the one song that very close to a hundred percent of the times worked, was well received by every audience and was welcomed to be played by every member of the band on every occasion. It just has something to it… and not many popular bands have done it since The Dubliners.
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”
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,
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.
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!
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.
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…
or probably the closest we’ll ever get to interviewing Flogging Molly!
By Mark Matthews
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!
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…
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!
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.
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.
Theres 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!