Tag Archives: Thin Lizzy

THE HISTORY OF CELTIC-ROCK MUSIC

Today the 30492- London Celtic Punks web zine is four years old today so what better way to celebrate our birthday than to give you this small but perfectly formed potted history of Celtic-Rock. We have never just wanted to be a place that only reviews new records we want to celebrate everything that makes us celtic-punks. Our love of our roots and our history and our traditions and the love that those with no Celtic ancestry have as well. Celtic-Punk is for all that share our common values of friendship and solidarity and the love of a good time. Music cannot change the world but it can certainly make it a better place to live in and in these uncertain times that is something we all need. The roots of celtic-punk should be important to us as that is where we come from and we must never forget that.

The London Celtic Punks Admin Team

Celtic rock is a genre of folk rock, as well as a form of Celtic fusion which incorporates Celtic music, instrumentation and themes into a rock music context. It has been extremely prolific since the early 1970’s and can be seen as a key foundation of the development of highly successful mainstream Celtic bands and popular musical performers, as well as creating important derivatives through further fusions. It has played a major role in the maintenance and definition of regional and national identities and in fostering a pan-Celtic culture. It has also helped to communicate those cultures to external audiences.

Definition

The style of music is the hybrid of traditional Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Breton musical forms with rock music. This has been achieved by the playing of traditional music, particularly ballads, jigs and reels with rock instrumentation; by the addition of traditional Celtic instruments, including the Celtic harp, tin whistle, uilleann pipes (or Irish Bagpipes), fiddle, bodhrán, accordion, concertina, melodeon, and bagpipes (highland) to conventional rock formats; by the use of lyrics in Celtic languages and by the use of traditional rhythms and cadences in otherwise conventional rock music. Just as the validity of the term Celtic in general and as a musical label is disputed, the term Celtic rock cannot be taken to mean there was a unified Celtic musical culture between the Celtic nations. However, the term has remained useful as a means of describing the spread, adaptation and further development of the musical form in different but related contexts.

History

Origins

Celtic rock developed out of the (originally English) electric folk scene at the beginning of the 1970’s. The first recorded use of the term may have been by the Scottish singer Donovan to describe the folk rock he created for his Open Road album in 1970, which itself featured a song named ‘Celtic Rock’. However, the lack of a clear Celtic elements to the self-penned tracks mean that even if the name was taken from here, this is not the first example of the genre that was to develop.

Ireland

It was in Ireland that Celtic rock was first clearly evident as musicians attempted to apply the use of traditional and electric music to their own cultural context. By the end of the 1960’s Ireland already had perhaps the most flourishing folk music tradition and a growing blues and pop scene, which provided a basis for Irish rock. Perhaps the most successful product of this scene was the band Thin Lizzy. Formed in 1969 their first two albums were recognisably influenced by traditional Irish music and their first hit single ‘Whisky in the Jar’ in 1972, was a rock version of a traditional Irish song. From this point they began to move towards the hard rock that allowed them to gain a series of hit singles and albums, but retained some occasional elements of Celtic rock on later albums such as Jailbreak (1976). Formed in 1970, Horslips were the first Irish group to have the terms ‘Celtic rock’ applied to them, produced work that included traditional Irish/Celtic music and instrumentation, Celtic themes and imagery, concept albums based on Irish mythology in a way that entered the territory of progressive rock all powered by a hard rock sound. Horslips are considered important in the history of Irish rock as they were the first major band to enjoy success without having to leave their native country and can be seen as providing a template for Celtic rock in Ireland and elsewhere. These developments ran in parallel with the burgeoning folk revival in Ireland that included groups such as Planxty and the Bothy Band. It was from this tradition that Clannad, whose first album was released in 1973, adopted electric instruments and a more ‘new age’ sound at the beginning of the 1980s. Moving Hearts, formed in 1981 by former Planxty members Christy Moore and Donal Lunny, followed the pattern set by Horslips in combining Irish traditional music with rock, and also added elements of jazz to their sound.

  • THE POGUES AND IRISH CULTURAL CONTINUITY (here)

Scotland

There were already strong links between Irish and Scottish music by the 1960s, with Irish bands like the Chieftains touring and outselling the native artists in Scotland. The adoption of electric folk produced groups including the JSD Band and Spencer’s Feat. Out of the wreckage of the latter in 1974, was formed probably the most successful band in this genre, combining Irish and Scottish personnel to form Five Hand Reel. Two of the most successful groups of the 1980s emerged from the dance band circuit in Scotland. From 1978, when they began to release original albums, Runrig produced highly polished Scottish electric folk, including the first commercially successful album with the all Gaelic Play Gaelic in 1978. From the 1980s Capercaillie combined Scottish folk music, electric instruments and haunting vocals to considerable success. While bagpipes had become an essential element in Scottish folk bands they were much rarer in electric folk outfits, but were successfully integrated into their sound by Wolfstone from 1989, who focused on a combination of highland music and rock.

  • HOW THE IRISH AND THE SCOTS INFLUENCED AMERICAN MUSIC (here)

Brittany

Brittany also made a major contribution to Celtic rock. The Breton cultural revival of the 1960s was exemplified by Alan Stivell who became the leading proponent of the Breton harp and other instruments from about 1960, he then adopted elements of Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditional music in an attempt to create a pan-Celtic folk music, which had considerable impact elsewhere, particularly in Wales and Cornwall. From 1972 he began to play electric folk with a band including guitarists Dan Ar Braz and Gabriel Yacoub. Yacoub went on to form Malicorne in 1974 one of the most successful electric folk band in France. After an extensive career that included a stint playing as part of Fairport Convention in 1976, Ar Braz formed the pan-Celtic band Heritage des Celtes, who managed to achieve mainstream success in France in the 1990’s. Probably the best known and most certainly the most enduring electric folk band in France were Tri Yann formed in 1971 and still recording and performing today. In 2017 celtic-punk band Les Ramoneurs De Menhirs fly the flag for Brittany singing in their native language and playing regularly and often accompanied on stage by Louise Ebrel, daughter of Eugénie Goadec, a famous traditional Breton musician.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: LES RAMONEURS DE MENHIRS- ‘Tan Ar Bobl’ (here)

Wales

By the end of the 1960’s Wales had produced some important individuals and bands that emerged as major British or international artists, this included power pop outfit Badfinger, psychedelic rockers Elastic Band and proto-heavy metal trio Budgie. But although folk groupings formed in the early 1970’s, including Y Tebot Piws, Ac Eraill, and Mynediad am Ddim, it was not until 1973 that the first significant Welsh language rock band Edward H Dafis, originally a belated rock n’ roll outfit, caused a sensation by electrifying and attempting to use rock instrumentation while retaining Welsh language lyrics. As a result, for one generation listening to Welsh language rock music could now become a statement of national identity. This opened the door for a new rock culture but inevitably most Welsh language acts were unable to breakthrough into the Anglophone dominated music industry. Anhrefn became the best known of these acts taking their pop-punk rock sound across Europe from the early-80’s to mid-90’s.

  • TRIBUTE TO WELSH PUNK ROCK LEGENDS ANHREFN (here)

Cornwall and the Isle of Man

Whereas other Celtic nations already had existing folk music cultures before the end of the 1960s this was less true in Cornwall and the Isle of Man, which were also relatively small in population and more integrated into English culture and (in the case of Cornwall) the British State. As a result, there was relatively little impact from the initial wave of folk electrification in the 1970’s. However, the pan-Celtic movement, with its musical and cultural festivals helped foster some reflections in Cornwall where a few bands from the 1980s onwards utilised the traditions of Cornish music with rock, including Moondragon and its successor Lordryk. More recently the bands Sacred Turf, Skwardya and Krena, have been performing in the Cornish language.

  • ALBUM REVIEW: BARRULE- ‘Manannans Cloak’ (here)

Subgenres

Celtic Punk

Ireland proved particularly fertile ground for punk bands in the mid-1970s, including Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones, The Radiators From Space, The Boomtown Rats and The Virgin Prunes. As with electric folk in England, the advent of punk and other musical trends undermined the folk element of Celtic rock, but in the early 1980s London based Irish band The Pogues created the subgenre Celtic punk by combining structural elements of folk music with a punk attitude and delivery. The Pogues’ style of punked-up Irish music spawned and influenced a number of Celtic punk bands, including fellow London-Irish band Neck, Nyah Fearties from Scotland, Australia’s Roaring Jack and Norway’s Greenland Whalefishers.

  • FROM OPPRESSION TO CELEBRATION- THE POGUES TO THE DROPKICK MURPHYS AND CELTIC PUNK (here)

Diaspora Celtic Punk

One by-product of the Celtic diaspora has been the existence of large communities across the world that looked for their cultural roots and identity to their origins in the Celtic nations. While it seems young musicians from these communities usually chose between their folk culture and mainstream forms of music such as rock or pop, after the advent of Celtic punk large numbers of bands began to emerge styling themselves as Celtic rock. This is particularly noticeable in the USA and Canada, where there are large communities descended from Irish and Scottish immigrants. From the USA this includes the Irish bands Flogging Molly, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys, The Young Dubliners, Black 47, The Killdares, The Drovers and Jackdaw, and for Scottish bands Prydein, Seven Nations and Flatfoot 56. From Canada are bands like The Mahones, Enter the Haggis, Great Big Sea, The Real McKenzies and Spirit of the West. These groups were naturally influenced by American forms of music, some containing members with no Celtic ancestry and commonly singing in English. In England we have The BibleCode Sundays, The Lagan and others.

  • THE EFFECTS OF NEW DIASPORA CELTIC PUNK: THE CREATION OF A PAN-CELTIC CULTURE (here)

Celtic Metal

Like Celtic rock in the 1970s, Celtic metal resulted from the application of a development in English music, when in the 1990s thrash metal band Skyclad added violins, and with them jigs and folk voicings, to their music on the album The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990). This inspired the Dublin based band Cruachan to mix traditional Irish music with black metal and to create the subgenre of Celtic metal. They were soon followed by bands such as Primordial and Waylander. Like Celtic punk, Celtic metal fuses the Celtic folk tradition with contemporary forms of music.

  • CELTIC-METAL’S TOP FIVE BANDS (here)

Influence

Whereas in England electric folk, after initial mainstream recognition, subsided into the status of a sub-cultural soundtrack, in many Celtic communities and nations it has remained at the forefront of musical production. The initial wave of Celtic rock in Ireland, although ultimately feeding into Anglo-American dominated progressive rock and hard rock provided a basis for Irish bands that would enjoy international success, including the Pogues and U2: one making use of the tradition of Celtic music in a new context and the other eschewing it for a distinctive but mainstream sound. Similar circumstances can be seen in Scotland albeit with a delay in time while Celtic rock culture developed, before bands like Runrig could achieve international recognition. Widely acknowledged as one of the outstanding voices in Celtic/rock is the Glasgow born Brian McCombe of The Brian McCombe Band, a pan Celtic group based in Brittany.

In other Celtic communities, and particularly where Celtic speakers or descendants are a minority, the function of Celtic rock has been less to create mainstream success, than to bolster cultural identity. A consequence of this has been the reinforcement of pan-Celtic culture and of particular national or regional identities between those with a shared heritage, but who are widely dispersed. However, the most significant consequence of Celtic rock has simply been as a general spur to immense musical and cultural creativity.

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INTERVIEW WITH PAUL ‘Mad Dog’ McGUINNESS FROM THE POPES

A couple of years back the whole celtic-punk community were shocked to hear that Paul ‘Mad Dog’ McGuinness, vocalist with The Popes, has been involved in a serious car accident in east London. The Popes were best known originally as Shane MacGowan’s backing band but also became a God damn brilliant celtic rock/punk band in their own right too. He was hospitalised for quite a long time after the accident so serious were his injuries so we are delighted to let you know that Paul is back on the road again and is playing a series of low key acoustic gigs but more on that later. We are totally blown away that Paul has taken some time out to answer a few questions for us and let you all know how he’s getting on and his plans for the future.

MadDog

Now Paul first thing we have to ask you is how are you doing since the accident. Its been a long road to recovery but its great that you’re finally coming out the other end. There was a lot of shock in the Irish music community and it was heartening to see it come together to give you some support.
Mad Dog- I’m doing fine since the accident an with the help of my therapy sessions I keep getting better.
Now their may be a small handful of people reading this who are not aware of your contribution to the world of celtic-punk/rock 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?
Mad Dog- I started playing music in the mid seventies an I played with Irish punk an new wave bands D.C Nien an Tokyo Olympics eventually I came to London an got a job as a roadie for The Pogues an when Chevron was ill I started playing guitar with them then I joined The Popes which Shane started when he got sacked from The Pogues for a short while then when he went back to The Pogues I took over as lead vocalist.

As I say you’ve been performing for a hell of a long time and it’s absolutely brilliant to hear that you are back playing music again 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!
Mad Dog- I’m going solo now and that takes a bit more balls.
Having been in bands yourself that have influenced celtic-punk dramatically 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?
Mad Dog- My fab band has always been Thin Lizzy.
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? What bands were you listening to at the moment? Do you follow celtic-punk at all. Any bands out of the scene that you like?
Mad Dog-  I’m not really up to date with the Gaelic music scene since my accident but I’m slowly getting back into the Irish music scene.

With so much music in your life. What are your happiest memories of playing. The best gig or best people…
I liked touring America the best. There was a gig I really liked in L.A. called the House Of Blues the American fans were fabulous. I have a lot of stories to tell but you will all have to wait to hear about them as I’m keeping them for a book I’m writing. The funniest stories I think was when I was touring with Shane. But as I say you all will have to wait for the book to come out. The gig I enjoyed the most was that one in the House Of Blues in Los Angeles.
Have you been following the Shane’s new teeth saga?
Mad Dog- I read about Shane an his teeth an all I can do is wish him the best of luck.
Now one of the questions that popped up when putting this interview together was whether you’re a football fan or not. Living in north London where you do are an Arse or a Spurs fan? Or do you give a shit and are only interested in the Gaelic?
Mad Dog- I’m not really a football fan but if I was I would follow the Arsenal.
Thanks Paul for taking the time to answer a few questions. I know I speak for the entire celtic-punk community and especially the London Celtic Punks crew when I say I wish you all the very best and look forward to seeing you back on stage with the lads high kicking the night away. 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?
Mad Dog- Hopefully see some of you at Lissenden Gardens this Wednesday at 15.30. Come up an say hello.
Mad Dog 2
Mad Dog GigSo there you are Paul’s well and truly on the road to recovery thank heavens and you can catch him playing a small intimate acoustic solo set at the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre (phone number 020 7267 4496), 2 Lissenden Gardens, Camden, London NW5 1PP next Wednesday 8th June. Paul is on stage about 3.30pm and the gig is on the green right in front of the centre. The Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy Centre offers music therapy and other music services to help children and adults with disabilities and illnesses. Specialist piano, keyboard, singing and song-writing lessons for people with a disability, illness, emotional difficulties or other challenges. Music groups for babies, toddlers and their parents; singing groups for children with autism and adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung conditions. The Lissenden Gardens are just between Kentish Town West and Gospel Oak and it’s free in so show your support for one of our own.

POST-SCRIPT:

A couple of us did make the gig and lucky for you Anto Morra got this great recording of Paul performing Dirty Old Town accompanied by Dave Thorpe. Wonderful to see you back giving it large again Mad Dog!

Paul accompanied here by Whiskey Mick, a fellow Pope. photo- Vicki Rowan

Paul accompanied here by Whiskey Mick, a fellow Pope. photo- Vicki Rowan

ALBUM REVIEW: BUNCH OF BASTARDS- ‘My Drinkin’ Ain’t Done’ (2016)

‘FULL FORCE FOLK’

from a Bunch Of Bastards from The Hague, Rotterdam and Dordrecht!

BOB2

I’m not sure quite what it is about the word Bastard in celtic-punk but their are a whole host of bloody brilliant bands about with it in their name. Think Mr Irish Bastard from Germany, Bastards On Parade (now shortened to just Bastards) from Galicia, Uncle Bard And The Dirty Bastards from Italy, Middle Class Bastards from Russia and Bastard Bearded Irishman from Pittsburgh in the United States. It’s just a shame we don’t have a decent band here in the UK to add! Well to this bunch of Bastards we can now add another Bunch Of Bastards from the Netherlands.

BOB

Bunch Of Bastards left to tight: Cor- vocals * Huib- electric guitar and mandolin * Dex- bass * Andries- accordion * John- drums * Peter- electric/acoustic guitar and banjo

Coming together in mid-2013 the main inspiration for the band was accordionist Andries (better known in the celtic punk scene as Mr Dutch Irish Bastard) who has graced the stage with many of the top European celtic punk bands like Circle J, Mr.Irish Bastard (and even The Mahones)  and recorded with the likes of Bastards On Parade, Sir Reg, Greenland Whalefishers and Firkin. Fed up of being a guest he decided it was time to form his own band and vision and this is what he did, over what seemed like a loooong time to those of us watching on Facebook!

Fey

perfect timing too as Feyenoord won the Dutch Cup yesterday beating Utrecht in the Final. well done from all your friends at Celtic.

(Listen to one of the tracks from the album here but it was recorded at their 5th gig sometime ago so they have moved on and got much tighter as a band since then. Just to give you an idea!)

And so the trials and tribulations sorted The Bunch Of Bastards began to play live and picked up some nice support slots along the way before they released My Drinkin’ Ain’ Done their debut long player to an eager and awaiting public. Now Holland has some amazing bands like Circle J and LQR both of whom we have featured recently and the Dutch celtic-punk scene is famous for not solely sticking to celtic music allowing other genres and influences to seep in. Bunch Of Bastards keep it mainly celtic and punk though and is no poorer for it.

BOB3We get fourteen songs lasting exactly fifty minutes and like all the aforementioned bands its all brilliant stuff alright. From the first bars of opening song ‘Lucky Break’ the mandolin kicks it all off before the whole band join in and its great joyous sounding music even though the story is about one of life’s losers. ‘Back In The Day’ follows and ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and the pattern is forming. The music is fast and definitley on the folky side without being any less punk. Shouty vocals that fit in perfectly with gang choruses (that I especially loved) and the production is amazing. All the instruments are clear as crystal with Cor’s vocals over the top they have got everything just right here. We all here in England never cease to be amazed how well the Dutch speak English and here they sing in it as well as one or two English bands I could mention! The lyrics are all pretty damn cool as well. Mostly dealing with the downside of life but the music is never less than uplifting even if the tales sometimes aren’t! The first signs of that famous Dutch style is, unsurprisingly, next on ‘Katuska Kalashnikova’ where Andries lets his accordion do the talking and some great Russian/eastern European music seeps in. ‘Hey Barkeeper’. next and from the off its as catchy as hell, accordion and vocal led. The mix is great with the balance just right and fitting the Bunch Of Bastards sound perfectly. This is followed by ‘Sky Over Rotterdam’ which tells the moving and emotional story of the bombardment of Rotterdam by German planes during World War 2. Desperate to destroy the city and its manufacturing base hundreds of people per week starved to death or were killed in the bombing.

“The sky over Rotterdam is so peaceful now
But my old man, he still remembers how
That war made that sky such a restless place
And airplanes were never hard to trace
First them planes brought war, then they raised hopes high
And in the end, they dropped food from the sky
The sky, the sky, the sky, over Rotterdam”

The song celebrates the ending of the blockade and the allied food drops into the city that saved countless lives. The song is Andries Dad’s war time memories as a kid in Rotterdam. He wrote them down and Andries made them into first a booklet and later into this song so when I said it was moving and emotional you can bet it is. ‘Sing With Us Bastards’ sounds like a celtic-punk Toy Dolls and the humour is self evident. Not much of a story to this one but

“we are part time punks but full time folkies”

its a happy pint in the air moment before ‘Michael Malloy’ tells the true story of a homeless Irish man in New York who is famous for surviving a number of murder attempts on his life by five friends, who were attempting to commit life insurance fraud. Iron Mike (or Durable Mike) was originally from Donegal and was a fire fighter till he fell on hard times. After several attempts he was finally finished off but his murderers were caught and all bar one went to the electric chair.

“not easy to kill Michael Malloy, this tough Irish bloke was hard to destroy”

‘Run’n’Drink’ is another ode to the pint and the Bunch punk it up for this but you still get plenty of accordion for your ear holes. Not remembered much these days but Holland was very much a colonial power back in the day and like most of the European countries that dabbled in imperialism they have lots to be ashamed of. Don’t get me wrong though pretty much every country in the world has something that they are embarrassed to teach in schools. ‘The Dutch’ tells of their role in slavery in times past and smuggling in modern times. AS usual the Ruling Classes have a lot to answer for. They slow it right down for ‘Live Again’ and a beautiful song about a loved one slipping away. ‘Let’s Call It A Day’ again has a strong and positive message like a lot of the lyrics on My Drinkin’ Ain’t Done. We have all got pissed, nicked, left, beaten up etc., haven’t we but the pain soon goes and what better advice than

“head’s up tomorrow and you will be okay”

Catchy is not the word for ‘Many a Good Reason’ as again the Bunch give us a brilliant drinking song. The Dutch know plenty about the pleasures of alcohol and its celebrated here in song and ‘Many a Good Reason’ is as good as they get. Definitly one of the album highlights!

So fourteen songs and fifty minutes worth of quality celtic-punk comes to an end with the only cover and it’s a good one in both choice and execution. Traced back to the 17th century and made most famous by The Dubliners and later Thin Lizzy ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ is a classic Irish folk song and well deserving of its place too. Bunch Of Bastards give it plenty of oompf and bring the curtain down on the album very nicely indeed.

BOB UK TourWell what to say except we are not even half way through 2016 and already we have a tonne of fantastic album’s challenging for that coveted Album Of The Year award. Here is fifty minutes of some of the best celtic-punk you are going to hear this year I promise you. Now for the good (and bad) news. Bunch Of Bastards are heading over to England in early May but the bad news is they are sadly not coming to London. You can still catch them playing three gigs around Hampshire and Shropshire. They play 5th May at The Vaults in Bishops Castle, 6th May at Percys in Whitchurch and 7th May at The Bear in Bridgnorth. The support for all gigs will be Paul Henshaw and friends so if you fancy a few days away in a lovely part of the country then there’s your chance. I just might join you! 

Buy The Album

FromTheBand (merchandise page) or e-mail info@bunchofbastards.nl

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(great and very interesting interview with Andries and Peter from the band here)

INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY CAMPBELL

A fast, ruthless, uncompromising sound with influences from far and wide. Material that embraces traditional music and sometimes frantic Bluegrass style picking with self penned songs of protest and debauchery.

Johnny2We are extremely happy that Johnny took time out from megabussing it around the country from gig to gig to do a little interview for us.

The obvious one to get us started so can you tell us how long you’ve been playing music and what bands you have been in before?

Johnny- I’ve been performing live for a decade now, and for the last couple of years as a solo performer. Before those ten years I was playing a battered classical guitar to Bad Religion live albums pretending I was in Bad Religion.

You have played in a celtic-punk band before with Three Sheets T’Wind so how do you see the celtic-punk scene here and abroad?

Johnny- I haven’t performed in other bands to any full-on level of commitment, apart from numerous and humorous side projects and filling in space for musicians who couldn’t make shows…and once trialing for The Popes as a fiddle player but that was a long time ago… I personally feel the scene in the UK is much broader, encompassing Anti-Folk, Alt-Folk and other offshoots. Though across the underground in The Netherlands for example, there are a number of fantastic ‘Folk-Punk’ bands using Banjos, Mandolins, Accordions that you couldn’t label as ‘Celtic-Punk’. It is great to see people’s horizons to ‘Punk’ don’t just start and end with an Electric Guitar.

I would like to think so but does it follow that celtic-punk fans also listen to folk from the past or present?

Johnny- For me yes. Right back to Planxty, Hank Williams or even contemporary folk like Julie Fowlis. The ‘Celtic-Punk’ fans I’ve come across like their fair share of Tom Waits and other artists that are hard to define by genre. I think if you’re into niche music, as in ‘Celtic-Punk’, you’re probably going to be listening to some other interesting styles!

Which figures or bands do you think have been the important links between the past and the present and folk/celtic/traditional music and punk/rock music?

Johnny- Obviously The Pogues…but I think we all know that. The Tossers are in my opinion, the logical progression from The Pogues taking influence from Behan and Joyce and managing to create it in their own American sound. Silly Wizard (possibly Scotland’s Planxty) manage to create an equally ‘rocky’ feel to their sound which leads neatly onto artists like The Horslips, Thin Lizzy and Moving Hearts.

Bit of an odd question this but how would you describe what you do on stage?

Johnny- I describe myself in my write up as an ‘Alt-folk’ musician. This is about as broad as I could make it. It isn’t a musical ‘style’ it is simply a way of saying ‘It is folk music…but a bit different.’ Some have said that shows can differentiate from stand-up comedy to thoughtful political song. I’ll do traditional Irish Anti-war songs like Arthur McBride to A Cappella songs about getting blind drunk and catching STDs from ladies of the night.

It has been said (and I am in agreement) that being a solo artist is the hardest thing to do. Just yourself on the stage and nowhere to hide. What does it take to be a solo performer. I would say big nuts and a big ego but obviously that’s not right for everyone!

Johnny- There’s a certain amount of balls/ego in there to get up and ask people to listen to what you’ve got to say for an hour, definitely. If you manage to fuck up the set, then it really is your own fault. That’s something that is pretty daunting but a challenge to relish I suppose, as the credit (if there is any to give out) is all yours.

At the moment there is a big ‘folk-punk’ thing happening in the UK that seems to have a lot in common with celtic-punk like the politics and aspirations but without major celtic influences. Have you noticed this at all?

Johnny- Because the genres are getting broader and ‘Folk-Punk’ is the easiest umbrella to put yourself under if you perform anti-authoritarian/alternative Folk music… I think that is how it is coming about. Celtic/Irish music has transported well as there is a mythology built up around the Irish. But also the way we can consume music nowadays, we can search for Mongolian Political Folk Punk on Youtube and get an instant response. Which is broadening our intake very quickly. I speak for myself here when I say 10 years ago, when I was 18, the only Folk-Punk you could really find was Dropkick Murphys, The Pogues, and anything else on a major label as you had to go to the local (if you had one) independent record shop. Now we are blessed with so much choice, which is generally free which brings its own negative impacts like de-valuing a product and other factors.

It would seem sometimes, and there is certainly a history of it in England (the band that must never be mentioned!), that bands who play Irish/celtic tunes won’t label the tunes as Irish/celtic and would instead categorise it as English folk (so as to not be seen as Irish I suppose) but do you see this as cultural appropriation or not? it sometimes reminds me of Prince Charles roaming round his billion acre estate in Kernow/ Cornwall wearing a kilt!

Johnny- Hmm, it is an interesting one. I don’t think anyone would get offended if you said a tune was English when it was an Irish tune if you believed it was initially. I think it is important to try and research a song or a tune and find out its origins and to recognise it. I can also see some cultural appropriation in there as it is a small way of denying heritage by simply taking is as your ‘own’. I think we must be more concerned with things like the far-right using traditional folk music and making a patriotic gesture with the songs.

Johnny CampbellYou have a new album due out soon I hear. What’s the latest on that? Is it purely yourself or will you be aided and abetted?

Johnny- It’s been a long process, I haven’t released something with new material for about three years. I’ve had writer’s block for a while and since I’ve been on the road the last couple of years I’ve picked up new influences which has come out on the record. I am aided by Kieran O’Malley, a violin player from Leeds who performs with Spirit of John and many other acts..he’s also performed on a Shane MacGowan’s release ‘Rockier Road To Poland’ and backing vocals from Exeter singer/songwriter Rosie Eade. http://www.rosieeade.co.uk/ It will be released early October.

You seem to be on a non-stop tour of anywhere and everywhere so where does the future take you and do you think you will be able to keep it up more importantly?

Johnny- I’m sure I’ll be able to carry on for a few more years as long as my legs still carry me. I only use public transport and we managed to get from Istanbul from Yorkshire in 28 days on public transport on the Summer European tour with James Bar Bowen and Cosmo. We hit squats and social centres through eight countries and the final show in Istanbul got cancelled as the promoter had left to go and fight against fascist ISIS and didn’t tell us! We had about five days to waste in Istanbul because of the cancellation. This was during Ramadan which is an amazing spectacle. We decided to imbibe the culture by visiting mosques, walking the streets and eating kebabs. As long as the gigs keep being interesting, I still have some life left!

Thanks Johnny for taking time out of your busy touring schedule (where are you as you write this?) so all that’s left is for you to plug plug plug and is there anything else you want to add or anyone you want to thank?

Johnny- I’m currently in the South West for a week between shows and getting ready for the release of my album ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’ which will be released on my website and Bandcamp in early October! I will be doing a UK and USA East Coast tour in March 2016 with Tim Holehouse www.timholehouse.com (UK tour) and James Bar Bowen https://jamesbarbowen2014.wordpress.com/ (USA tour) but in the meantime I have shows across the UK and The Netherlands with Rob Galloway http://www.theyallayallas.com/rob-galloway which can all be found on my website! Cheers and beers! x

(you can listen to Johnny Campbell’s debut solo EP below)

Contact Johnny

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