Hi Gerard, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Can we start with your musical history? Where are you from, who are your inspirations, how did you get involved in Celtic-rock?
Hey, John, I was born in Detroit, however, my parents moved us to a Christmas Tree farm in the township of Emmett, Michigan, about fifty miles North of Detroit, when I was three years old. I grew up out in the country.
I was tuned in to music from a young age, and when I was really young I was a big fan of The Beatles. I’m also old enough that I recall the advent of progressive rock, and in retrospect, it seems I enjoyed music that combined different genres from an early age. I also liked early metal, and folk rock, classical, jazz…pretty much everything, I guess. My early influences as a musician and guitar player would include King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, T-Rex, Yes, Blue Öyster Cult, Rory Gallagher, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, and Deep Purple. I’ve Absorbed lots of other stuff since then.
I got involved in Celtic music during the period following the breakup of the Post Punk/Hardcore band I was in, Kuru. I had also just finished a stint in an Avant-Garde Jazz band named The Pluto Gang Conspiracy. I figured that I wanted to learn music that I could play on my own, and I had just finished playing Jesus in Cotton Patch Gospel at The Detroit Repertory Theater, so I had access to an acoustic guitar and a mandolin. I got a bunch of material together, and started performing out with the drummer from Kuru, who is also now the drummer in Bill Grogan’s Goat, Jude Closson, on guitar and melodica as a duo called The Geezers. Our duo version of “Cruiscin Lan” had a real metal sort of feel to it, so that led to the idea of transitioning to Celtic rock.
Can you tell us about your band Bill Grogan’s Goat history? How did the band get together, who is the band? What releases have you put out?
Bill Grogan’s Goat was formed in 2005. The original idea was to perform a sort of Celtic rock that wasn’t like what was the expected idea of Celtic rock at the time, which seemed to be either Punk versions of the of pub songs, or renditions of these songs that was pretty close to the original, but with drums and bass. We wanted to illuminate the songs through the prism of other genres of music. The current version of the band features Jude Closson on drums, percussion, and vocals, Norman Rosenbaum on guitar and vocals, myself on guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, tenor guitar, and vocals, Matt Twomey on bass and vocals, and Mindy Whalen on fiddle, highland pipes, tin whistle, and vocals. Matt, and Mindy replaced original members Dean Western, and Terry Murphy previous to the release of our second album, Second Wind. The first album was titled Bill Grogan’s Goat, and the most recent album, from 2017, is “Third Eye”.
Your band Bill Grogan’s Goat mixes traditional Celtic sounds with the industrial heaviness of Detroit – is this a fair description?
That’s a pretty fair description. We also incorporate some funk, and, if you give the albums a listen in order, I’m sure you’ll notice a trend of including more progressive concepts, like unexpected spots for instruments to come in, and odd time signatures. There’s definitely a heaviness. though. I confess, personally, anyway, to being a metalhead.
When you write a song how do you determent what song is solo material and what is Goat?
When I’m writing songs, I sometimes think immediately that a song is definitely not a Goat song. Most of what I write, though, I bring in to see how it would work with the band. If they don’t want the song, I keep it for a solo project. I think that both of the demos you’ve heard were offered to The Goat first. Half of the upcoming solo album were originally proposed as Goat material
Any plans for new solo or BGG material?
As I mentioned above, I have the demos complete for my third solo album. I’m working with Paco Higdon at his Tuxedo Avenue Recording Studio. We look forward to getting started on the actual recordings as soon as the Michigan corona virus lockdown is lifted. I’m about to start looking for musicians to play on the album in June. There are currently no plans for The Goat to record at this time. Thank you so much for the opportunity to shed some light on my history and process, John. I really appreciate it!
#1 Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. First off, can you give me some background on the band (history of the band, where are you from, when did you get together, who’s in the band, influences, where did the band name come from, etc.)?
Hi John, Thanks for reaching out and letting us spew! We’re from Ulster County NY, the New Paltz area. Bruynswick, NY specifically, but that’s a speck on the road. I live out by the Shawangunk Ridge, a kinda well known spot for hiking, rock climbing, and rattle snakes.
Our guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter is Rory Quinn, he is a fantastic multi-instrumentalist musician and master recording engineer. He records music for a living, doing live sound, recordings, and teaching digital studio and more. He’s whiz on guitar and does all our recording now, he’s teaching me. I started out recording the band -our first LP and parts of the second album- on my ADAT, that’s digital info on an analog tape, and I’ve recently switched over to a laptop. His brother Falco Sparvarious recently joined us on drums. He’s a young drummer with a lot of good energy and vibes that he brings to the band. For reasons I’d rather not get into, we had to part ways with our drummer on the first two albums. It was really hard, but the rest of us as a band reached a point where we had to go our separate ways. We wish Eric well.
I play bass, sing- if you can call it that, haha- and write many of the songs. Marty Shane plays Mandolin, sings, and writes songs too. I really try to encourage everyone to contribute songwriting to all our albums, as long as it sounds like a Templars song. It’s fun to collaborate, the songs go in directions you could never expect. It’s becoming a real team effort. Marty is a well known area DJ, DJ Wayne Manor, spinning Garage, Psych, Surf, and Punk. Hanging out after a local pub gig and hundreds of pints, he recollects that I asked him if he would sit in with us on mandolin, and I remember him offering to play mandolin with us, a paradox, but true. I jumped at the chance, he’s a great musician and has a real positive attitude. But first of all he’s a friend, we’re all great friends first. We’ve learned the hard way it’s better to be in a band with great friends first and they can learn to play the instruments later, than with strangers who are good musicians. Many of The Pogues, Spider and others, learned their instruments to form the band. “Maestro” Fearnley had taken some piano lessons and could tune the instruments. That’s the way to do it.
The Templars of Doom name reflects a lot of our interests and what we wanted to do in music. Fascination with the Knights Templar, Unsolved Mysteries, Ghosts, and the Catholic Church. To me, Irish music and Catholicism are inseparable. We’ve had a song about a saint on each album, Saint John the Baptist on the first, Saint Patrick on the second, and on our forthcoming third album, Saint Brendan the Navigator. My thoughts were summed up by Shane MacGowan on The Snake, The Church of the Holy Spook:
My daughter Josie Rose plays our bagpipes and tin whistles. She is also a multi-instrumentalist and attends college in NYC as a viola performance major. She played the wild viola part on our cover of Slade’sMamma Weer All Crazee Now. She has an amazing voice, and I hope to get it on our new album.
Originally our idea was to mix Oi! Punk with the Irish sound of the Pogues, as simple as that. We love bands like Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, and could see that style of stomping, Oi! Pub Rock, and UK football chants mixed with kilts and bagpipes. Those pub songs are all written in they “Key of Pipes” as we call it, mixolydian. Of course we also had The Real McKenzies and our love of marching pipe bands to inspire us with the kilts. Hard Skin is a newer Oi! band we really love.
On the Irish side, when I was growing up my Dad only listened to two bands really, The Clancy Brothers and The Kingston Trio. I loved those hard driving, hard drinking songs. I always thought they were folk-punk and could easily be raved-up with drums and bass. I think a lot of kids in my generation grew up with that music, you can hear it in the DKM’s version of Kingston Trio song The M.T.A.; The Skinhead on the MBTA, and their Clancy style version of Johnny I Hardly Knew Ya. Great versions both.
In the end though, it all comes from and down to The Pogues, Godfather. They are ground zero. They revitalized many Dubliners songs on Red Roses for Me,punked ‘em up to Hell, Mursheen Durkin, Paddy on the Railway, Dirty Old Town, Greenland Fisheries, etc. . Waxie’s Dargle, originally from Sweeney’s Men, is punk as hell. What is that crazy cymbal crash? That brings me to Terry Woods. I’m a huge fan of Terry’s work in The Pogues, so I started to back-track. I found out he was a founding member of Steeleye Span and that first album is so great; The Hills of Greenmore and The Black Leg Miner songs among others. I was able to track down all the Sweeney’s Men material and I love that too. Finally I managed to find a fantastic album that’s terribly OoP, The Woods Band, from 1971, and it’s just stunning.
Other bands we love are Blood or Whiskey, saw them play in the States in 2001 with Barney on lead vocals, they are so great. Have all their albums. A newer band we love is Brutus’ Daughters from Spain. Huge fans.
#2 How would you describe your sound – I’ve previously described TTofD as unapologetic raw PUNK rock overlaid with highland pipes – Is this a fair description?
Yes, that’s fair as far as our original intention. Our first album , Bring Me The Head of John the Baptist we really wanted that pure Oi! punk sound, with pipes.
We opened it up a bit more on our second LP 2019’s Hovels of the Holy, and we got a positive response. So we’re trying to let a bit more of the tin whistle/Sea Shanty sound break through.
Our forthcoming album The Rising of the Doom will retain our special punk and bagpipes signature sound, but also mix in originals like Liquor Store and more ancient songs like Bonnie Charlie (Will Ye No Come Back Again) and O’Donnell Abu.
#3 The album artwork is on both albums is pretty unique as are the names of the albums ( Bring Me The Head Of John The Baptist & Hovels Of The Holy), can you tell me more about the album covers?
Yeah, sure man, I am an artist, an oil painter specifically. Like any good musician, I formed my first bands in art school, haha. At that time I formed The Astro-Zombies with friends in Brooklyn, NYC. It was pure Post-Punk Anarchy. I used to blow myself up on stage with fireworks. And Kitty Lovely our other singer, (now my wife Kristi) used to disembowel herself. Our DJ would blender up mixed drinks to give out to the crowd. You can see some of that here:
The Templars wanted me to make the album covers, it really wasn’t my idea. But we are much too ugly to have photos strewn about anyway, LOL. The Legend is that the Templars located a relic of Saint John the Baptist in the Holy Land, his head, and used to pray to it in secret. It would speak to them, it made them freak! It was alive! Eventually this was used as one of the charges used to burn them at the stake, necromancy. Anyway, the cover painting of our first album shows a Templar Knight holding the Head of St. John the Baptist in Hell, in front of Salome, so she can see what’s she’s done. That’s the painting on the cover of Bring Me the Head of John the Baptist.
I have a working art studio where I make paintings and horror movies too. So whipping up art for the album covers has been fun. The title to our second LP Hovels of the Holy came about because we were mocking Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and laughing about the naked little children on the cover, and we said if that was our album it’d be a Hovel– and the rest is history. That painting shows a skeletal Templar mounted on horseback playing a flaming bagpipe and holding a bloody axe, under a full moon of course.
Our next album, our third, is tentatively titled Rising of the Doom and I’m working on an exciting painting for that. It’s a Templar corpse rising up from the grave, clawing his way out of the earth holding a bloody sword amid a crumbling and burning abbey ruins.
#4 Another thing I’ve noticed on the two albums is the great choice of covers – Slade and the Ramones – what inspired you to chose these tracks?
I’ve always though it important to choose at least one good cover song for each album, to let the fans know where you are coming from. We’re huge Slade fans and Mamma Weer All Krazee Now- I just heard it in my head building with viola and tin whistles. It was recorded quickly, right when we were doing final mixes. We do several Ramones songs in our live set, but nobody does Chinese Rocks. I was singing it one day when I realized it’s in the key of pipes, so I transcribed it and like most great punk songs ( and all Ramones songs), it fits the pipes perfectly. Chinese Rocks is a big live crowd fave.
#5 You have another band The Wild Irish Roses made up of family members. Can you tell me more about the Wild Irish Roses?
My wife and I have 8 children, 23years to 6 years and all in between, no twins, haha. Funny enough someone recently told me you only have to wait about 12 years ‘til you can create your own band. As I said, I met Kristi in The Astro-Zombies at Pratt Institute, and we got married in 1993. One of our family rules was that each kid had to learn an instrument. We don’t care what it is but you have to learn one. Everyone just seemed to seek out their own thing. Our oldest Hanna, liked drums and percussion and jumped on the bodhran. Josie, 21, started out on guitar and has now mastered banjo, mandolin, tin whistle, bagpipes, and more. Evelyn, 18, went for the concertina and accordion. Penelope, 16, has mastered guitar and piano. All the girls have great voices, as does their Mom, each voice unique and more interesting than the last.
It was Evelyn’s idea about 6 years ago, when she was 12, to join the local pipe band, The Ulster County AOH Pipe and Drums. So we all learned bagpipes, me, Josie, Evelyn, Penelope. That’s about the time we started the family band, The Wild Irish Roses. Aenghus,14, went for the drums, he plays marching snare for the AOH and he is our kit drummer. Now we got 4 bagpipers in the family and the wife is learning. We put on our own bootleg St. Patrick’s Day Parade in our town on March 17, 2020. I guess we have our own Pipe and Drum Band. Gunna call it The Rose Clan Pipe and Drum Band. 16,000 views! :
The Wild Irish Roses recorded 2 albums right off the bat, an eponymous album The Wild Irish Roses, and a second There is Rest In Heaven in 2014. They are chock full of Clancy Brothers, Pogues, and Sea Shanties. One rule for them is no electric instruments, all acoustic instruments. On the third album, Fill Your Boots, Man, 2016, we began to add original material. I tried to get each of the girls to contribute at least one original song to every LP and they succeeded well.
Our latest release Full Bloom has just come out. It has been a fairly big hit on the radio, our fave station WFMU anyway. Our version of All Tomorrow’s Parties by The Velvet Underground but with bagpipes, and The Sweet’s Fox on the Run have been well received. Full Bloom is available on vinyl too and sounds so good with the 24 bit vinyl re-mastering.
#6 What are the future plans for the bands (and other projects you are working on)
Our first album, Bring Me the Head of John the Baptist is currently being pressed up on vinyl. It’s been re-mastered for vinyl and the art package has been fully revamped. It will be a deluxxxe package. Look for that in six weeks on Bandcamp:
As mentioned, The Templars are about halfway through recording our third album, Rising of the Doom. Finishing up the drums now. Several great new songs written by Rory our guitarist and a collaboration between Marty Shane and me on a song. We also got Lazarus, my 11 year old son, and lead singer of The Toolz, a teen punk sensation , to write lyrics for a popular new song that Rory wrote the music to, Liquor Store. People were digging it live at the several St. Patrick’s Day gigs we got to do before everything was shut down.
The Templars were and are hoping to get over to the UK and Ireland sometime in the future to play several gigs. Sadly, that’s all up in the air now.
On other fronts, I’ve wrapped up my second horror movie, and it should be released in June or July. It’s called Kaatskill Kannibals, and it’s the true story of how the original Huguenot settlers of New Paltz, NY decided to eat the Indians instead of the food they bought them and developed into an incestuous underground cannibal troupe through the ages. In the climax, three Catholic priests shoot them all in their den of blood and dynamite their hideous idol of carnage. It’s tons of fun. My first movie was Bloodlust of the Druid Overlords and tells the true story of Saint Patrick versus the Druid Overlords.
I want to give a shout out to The Placks, a 9 piece Celt-punk band from the Scottish Highlands. Their debut single, My Dearest Friend, came out in March and June sees the release of the follow up, Rebellious Son, as a limited edition seven inch. Check’em out.
The Tossers – Johnny McGuire’s Wake McDermotts 2 Hours – Dirty Davey Gerard Smith – The Maid Of Cabra West 1916 – For Whiskey Irish Whispa – Hot Asphalt Greenland Whalefishers – Darkness Hugh Morrison – Old Scotland Jack Daw – Pigtail Man The Mahones – Girl With Galway Eyes Horslips – The High Reel The Mickey Finns – The Ballad Of Duffy’s Cut James McGrath – Race To The Bottom Dangerous Folk – Shipping up to Brisbane Brick Top Blaggers – Witness to My Own Wake
Mick Jones Nicked My Pudding is the new digital only (boo!) single release from our favorite Boston hooligans, the Dropkick Murphys. Side-A, the title track, is the classic Murphys we’ve come to know and love – punkie, spunky, shout it out Celtic-punk. The B side is a cover of Black 47’s James Connolly, one of the songs that was my gateway drug into Celtic-rock when I heard it first in 1992, the Murph’s do a very fine job of a classic.
Some classic hard rock here for yah. Black Star Raiders have their roots in iconic Irish rockers, Thin Lizzy. BSR started life as a post Lynott touring version of Thin Lizzy, until the band then decided to write new material and did not feel it was right to put it out under the Thin Lizzy brand (the absolute right decision in my book). Black Star Riders are fronted by Belfast man Ricky Warwick, a rocker and poet in the mold of the late Phil Lynott. The guitar harmonies are pure Lizzy with one half of the BSR guitar duo being long time Lizzy legend, Scott Gorham. Fans of Celtic-rock will love the title track, Another State of Grace, which rocks out like Lizzy’s Emerald. Fans of classy, guitar driven hard rock will just love this.