SnO – Palace of the Fiend is in my list of top 5 Celtic-punk albums of all time (and depending on the mood sometimes it’s #1). After six plus months of spinning your newest release, Down and Out in the City of Saints, it is catching up fast on Palace of the Fiend. Looking back on the album, were you happy with it? How do you think it compares to Palace? It must have been a disappointment not to be able to go on tour to support.
Dave – Hey John, I understand the question in terms of the tonal differences between the two albums, ‘Down & Out’ being much more guitar driven, and I see how that could isolate fans of ‘Palace’, much like that album is different from ‘Liquordale’. The most obvious explanation for the disparity between the two, is what I was going through at the time; ‘Palace’ is a darker album. I was dealing with some personal issues when I wrote it and that’s evident in the lyrical content. ‘Down & Out’ is me coming to terms with a lot of that, and I think it’s a much more positive album. Maybe that’s why it’s more aggressive?
I am happy with ‘Down & Out’, it’s the album that we needed to make at the time. I think first and foremost, it’s a well written, well performed, and immaculately produced album. The personnel in the band has changed, and that’s a part of the evolution of the sound as well. There are currently only two original members in The Peelers, me and Eric (Irish Whistle/ Organ). When we started the band in Glengarry County in Eastern Ontario, Canada, the players were mostly local musicians whose background was rooted in traditional Irish and Scottish music, and I was as well… but I was also a punk, a fan of The Ramones, Clash, Two-Tone and Oi, and for me ‘The Pogues’ were the perfect melding of both genres. The writing on ‘Boots and Suits’ and ‘Liquordale’ reflects both the lineup and the influences in my opinion. It was always my goal to get a little dirtier in terms of guitars and you can see that through the progression of the last two albums.
The band is now based in a major city, rather than rural, and in a definite way the sound has followed suit. I can tell you that there was a conscious decision to push the guitars on ‘Down & Out’. This was due to the musical stimuluses at the time of writing, so there are some songs with a more traditional punk feel. It was also a concession to the constraints of touring as an independent act. It’s almost impossible to put a seven-piece traditional Celtic punk band on the road in 2021, for a myriad of financial and logistical reasons I’m sure you understand. Driving the sound electrically fills in the holes when you’ve only got one or two trad instruments on stage.
Having this album as the first release for our label Stomp Records, has opened our music up to a whole new audience as well. That is important to me and I was aware of this during production. The last thing, nearest to my heart, is that I made this record with some of the best and closest people in my life. And in the end, that’s what I’m most proud of. And yes, it’s been disappointing not to have toured to support the album yet, but we’ll just call it a delay, and that’ll happen beginning in March. We began recording it in December ’19 and like everyone else, we had no idea what was coming. We just played our first show in 617 days, since we had everything cancelled mid-tour in March 2020. It felt great.
SnO – 617 days! Quebec City, right? How did the show go?
Dave – Quebec City, the old town, very beautiful. The actual performance was ‘acceptable’ lol, a few hiccups here and there but that was to be expected. We could’ve used a few more bodies in the room, but with the Covid numbers jumping back up a bit recently up North, I think people are still a bit wary.
SnO – You mentioned Down & Out being the peelers first release on Stomp and that it’s opening your music to a whole new audience. Who is this new audience? Down & Out also came out on vinyl. Has the vinyl release been successful? Any chance the peelers back catalog gets the vinyl treatment?
Dave – When I say “a whole new audience”, I mean it in terms of music fans being exposed to us who might not have been without the exposure of the label, lovers of our genre or not. I feel like we’ve always kind of floated in this netherworld doomed to wander aimlessly between trad and Celtic punk with no real definition. Stomp Records, have given us a platform and admittedly credibility on the scene and we’re grateful for that. I’ve had people say, “we had no idea there was a Celtic punk band in Montréal” lol despite the fact we’ve been around for 22yrs. So yes, visibility has been a big part of the label experience.
The vinyl release of “Down & Out” has been successful in as much as people are actually buying records anymore. Record sales are still not staggering, but we’re stoked to have the option. And moreover, as child of the waning years of the heyday of vinyl, it’s still hard to believe there’s a 33 rpm option with our music on it. And we had fun doing the artwork and content. As far as the back catalog; I have spoken to our business manager Eric, who also plays Irish whistle and organ in the band, as well as our producer and it’s a definite possibility. At least for ‘Liquordale’ and ‘Palace’. We wanted to wait and see how the new album worked out first. The problem with vinyl right now, is that Covid has created a massive backlog in production. So we’ll concern ourselves with the upcoming album and then address the old stuff later.
SnO – You mention the upcoming album. Where are you in that process and what can we expect from the new album?
Dave – We are still in pre-production. Songs and lyrics are written, and tracked for recording. Drums are up first, probably just after Christmas. I would say it’ll be similar to ‘Down & Out’ in style, maybe a bit less guitar driven. But it’s hard to say until we start laying down tracks and hearing the songs develop in the studio. I think I mentioned before that there’s a big backlog on vinyl production right now, so we want to get it recorded asap, but also not compromise anything by rushing
SnO – Thanks Dave. Final question. Will we every get you across the border and playing shows in the US (esp. Boston) when the world gets back to normal?
Dave – Ha!! Well we used to play quite a bit in the U.S. before we took that hiatus. But strangely enough, we’ve never played in Massachusetts. I’d like to, Boston is a city close to my heart, wandered her streets many times. So yes, we want to get back to playing U.S. dates, and we’ve been looking for a booker down there. We have Canada and Europe covered, but nothing stateside, as we always booked ourselves. So if anyone knows a good agent… wink wink.
The other impediment to crossing the border that no one likes to talk about is the red tape for Canadian bands. A work visa is required for all members, and the initial admin and application costs before we even set foot there put us way behind before playing a show. It’s not easy. And it’s disappointing. I understand completely the goal of keeping jobs in country, but I love travelling stateside. I write about the places I’ve been before, and we just want to spread the love and see all the faces. It’s not a monetary thing at all. Hopefully we can get back at it once the border opens up fully. And we’ll make Boston a priority. Thanks John
Shite’n’Onions – First of all apologies for being so late to the game – I read a write up on you in London Celtic Punks a couple of months back and was so impressed by what I read that I ran out and bought your album “All Manner of Ways”. After a few spins, I really like it but I’m struggling to put a label on your sound. I hear outlaw or alt-country – you remind me of people like Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley, yet I also hear Christy Moore – it’s almost country with a Celtic soul. How would you describe your music and who influenced you?
Dylan – Yeah, Eddie & London-Celtic-Punks do great work in raising awareness for artists, glad to have had their support recently. You know yourself, most publicity is bought & paid for, so when people like yourselves reach out to an artist, on your own time, purely based on the fact that you’re actually interested in the artist & their work, well, it’s more of a genuine thing isn’t it? I’ve never paid for PR myself & I self released that record, so I expect it to continue to reach people as time rolls on, rather than it having reached a lot of people from the get-go. Naturally, when you first release a record, after all the hard work that goes into making it, you do what you can to get it heard. My drive for getting an album heard, is always geared towards the gigs. I’m a live artist, not so much a studio artist, so other than working on the songs themselves, I’m always thinking of the gigs. As much as that record is considered a studio album, my own performance is completely live on there, I didn’t use click tracks, headphones or overdubs or anything like that. I sat in the room, in front of a couple of mics & played the songs live. With having moved to Nashville from Dublin, via London, I did have distribution issues in getting hard copies across seas to folks, but we live in a digital age, so it was available to be listened to anyways. I’m sure all this played a part, in the album reaching people quite some time after its release, but a lot of new listeners found that album during the pandemic.
I guess All Manner Of Ways is the sound of my life’s journey. That album wasn’t designed with a certain audience in mind, like how a lot of genre based albums are. When other musicians join in on my songs, I only really know when it’s not right, which is more of a feel thing, I don’t to ask them to play a particular way. I’ve never had a contemporary sound either, so I think that record will always sit a little outside of whatever is current, ye know? Songs inspired me, not genres. In my formative years, I just followed the songs. I was brought up on Christy Moore & at that time, I wouldn’t have even known what a genre was. Of course, eventually, we learn more about the journey of songs & where they came from, which helps us to describe their sound, but artists like Townes & Blaze just had great songs & I believed them, that’s what was most important to me. Townes sang Dirty Old Town & Christy sang Song To Woody. A lot of the Irish folk song pioneers, of the 60s & 70s, were immersed in American song traditions in their formative years & of course, Irish music is a root of American Roots music, so I never really felt any restraints in that regard. It was immediately obvious to me, how connected it all was. Van Morrison would be the most obvious example of that. As soon as I became aware of genres & the likes, I knew the artists that communicated important things to me, wrote outside of those restraints. I enjoy the fact that you mentioned Celtic country here & that you came across me in a punk article. That makes me feel good. ‘Celtic soul got country’, we’ll go with that for All Manner Of Ways.
Shite’n’Onions – You are originally from Dublin and you followed the natural route of many Irish musicians to London but now you are based in Nashville. How did you end up in Nashville? I’ve been there a few times and it’s a culture shock to me (and I’ve been in Boston 25 years). How do they accept an Irish guy playing in Nashville? Is there a good alternative scene in Nashville (outside of Music Row and the Broadway Honkey Tonks?
Dylan – Yeah, I was born & raised in Loughlinstown, a very working class area on the south eastern outskirts of county Dublin. From an early age, I had a hunger to experience the diversity I imagined a big city would offer. By my late teens, I had my eye on New York, but I ended up in London instead. For the guts of ten years, I lived all over London, in places like Kentish Town, Crystal Palace, Tottenham, East Finchley, Acton & Forest Hill. I had arrived in London with a guitar & songs to sing, but it was during my London years, that I learned how to be a live solo performer. Towards the end of my time in London, I began to venture over to the continent of Europe, which led to me performing at Muddy Roots fest in Waardamme, Belgium in 2013. Muddy Roots fest is run by a label of the same name & they are based out of Nashville. In 2014, I was invited over here to the States, to play some gigs & record for that label. During that visit, I met my now wife. So initially, it was music that brought me over here to Nashville, but eventually, I moved here to be with my wife.
Nashville is an interesting town, it’s very much its own thing. There’s nowhere else like Nashville, not in my experience anyways. You could draw some comparisons with Austin, Texas maybe, but even then, Nashville could still be considered, to be more of a self-interest-music-biz-town in a lot of ways. Many people move here, in an effort to further themselves within the music industry, but I don’t tend to be around those people much, as it’s not really where I’m at in life. I become friends with people, for who they are, not for what I think they can offer me, ye know? I think you can find alternative scenes in most towns & Nashville has a lot going for it, but you would definitely have to dig a little deeper, to find alternative scenes here, especially if you’ve lived in a place like London, or even Dublin for that matter. This isn’t Country Music City, It’s Music City, but in fairness, you’d be hard pushed to even find some of the more mainstream genres, like Reggae or Celtic Punk. Bill Herring of 1916 just moved here from Rochester, New York & there’s a strong possibility, that he may very well be, the only active Celtic Punk singer currently living here. No joke. My wife & I love Nashville & it’s a town full of great people, but we do keep an eye out for other places to live though too.
Speaking of honky tonks, Broadway & alternative scenes, there is a very healthy local honky tonk scene here in Nashville, away from the downtown areas. Over towards East Nashville, there are important events like Honky Tonk Tuesdays, which have to be seen to be believed. It’s a revival of sorts I guess. You could also maybe say, that there’s another folk revival currently in bloom too. When it comes to traditions, I’m not much of a fan of the term ‘revival’, continuity has always been there for me, but those traditions have been entering mainstream culture again, in an obvious way. There are a handful of honky tonks on Broadway, that the locals will still go to, like Robert’s Western World or Layla’s, & some of the best & hardest working musicians are in those places to, but for the most part, locals don’t tend to visit the majority of honky tonks on Broadway or the bars over on Music Row.
All in all, we’re spoiled rotten here for music, both in quality & in quantity. It’s a very vibrant town & like everywhere else, it’s fast changing. As for myself, I really haven’t played in Nashville much, during the time I’ve been based here, but that’s about to change.
Shite’n’Onions – Speaking of Celtic-punk you have written/recorded with James Fearnley of The Pogues and The Walker Roaders. How did that come about? Any plans for future collaborations? And you have toured with Flogging Molly, The Mahones and the odd metal band – how did those tours go?
Dylan – Well, most of those things would be linked. I met Flogging Molly here in Nashville in 2016. We got chatting, they had a listen to my music & I got an invite to perform on their punk rock cuise in 2017. The Flogging Molly Cruise was an amazing experience. The cruise ship left from Miami & it travelled through the Bahamas for a few days, with bands like DeVotchKa, The Skatalites, NOFX, The English Beat, Voodoo Glow Skulls & of course, Flogging Molly too. Flogging Molly’s accordion player, Matt Hensley, is also a renowned skateboarder, so they had a skate ramp up on deck, between the pools & the stage. Matt got his old skateboarding crew together & they skated away while the bands played. The cruise ship had various venues throughout its decks & we all performed multiple times over the course of the few days. By my last performance on there, quite a crowd had gathered for my set. Flogging Molly’s singer, Dave King, joined me on stage too & that helped a lot with the momentum of things. Dave & his wife, Bridget Regan, couldn’t have been more supportive of me. I’ll always be very grateful for that. Once I finished out, the last song of my last set, Dave & Bridget told me that they wanted to take me on tour with them. Later that same year, they did just that. I went on a US & Canadian tour, as the third & opening act, with Flogging Molly & The White Buffalo.
I didn’t write with James Fearnley of The Pogues, but James did add accordion to two of my songs from from that album, All Manner Of Ways. I’ll try not to make this confusing, but again, it’s all linked up. My actor & musician pal, Zander Schloss, was also performing on The Flogging Molly Cruise. Zander had his then manager, Tom Barta, on board with him too. Zander has been in many bands, such as The Cirlce Jerks, The Weirdos & The Latino Rockabilly War with Joe Strummer, but Zander & his then manger, Tom, were also in a band together, known as The Low & Sweet Orchestra. Well, James Fearnley was also in The Low & Sweet Orchestra. So Zander, Tom & James were all in that band together, they are all friends & they are all based out of LA. Are ye still with me? Hah. Just to further confuse things, at that time, Tom had also started to manage James Fearnley’s new band, The Walker Roaders. While I was on the punk rock cruise with Zander, Tom said that he also wanted to manage me. So, for a time, Tom Barta ended up managing Zander, James & myself. My tour with Flogging Molly & The White Buffalo, started at the Fox Theater in Oakland, California, so my wife & I flew out to LA, a day or two before the first show of the tour, to meet up with Tom Barta & James Fearnley there. I kept in touch with James after that & he added accordion to a couple of songs on All Manner Of Ways for me. We’ve already spoken about the flavour of that album, so it was important for me, to have someone like James on that record. Especially on the songs that he performs on. I grew up on The Pogues & having James on Where Dublin Meets Wicklow, the only song on that album that references home, really grounded the spirit of the album for me. James used the same accordion, that he used on The Pogues album, Rum Sodomy & The Lash too. Back in Nashville, I had recently opened for Spider Stacy, who was also in The Pogues, so it was all a real buzz for me & a serious honour.
On the back of that momentum, I met up with a Swedish booking agent, to arrange a solo headline tour of Scandinavia. During that meeting, the agent put the idea to me, of touring Europe & the UK in 2019, with the Swedish heavy metal band Avatar. Avatar had brought a one-man-band on their previous tour & they were looking to keep some of that flavour for their next tour. Originally, I was asked to be the opening & third act, on a bill with Avatar & a Canadian psychobilly band from Montreal called The Brains. The Brains weren’t able to do that tour in the end, but their drummer also drummed for The Mahones, so The Mahones joined the tour instead. That was one hell of a tour. I also joined The Mahones on stage for most of those shows & towards the end of that tour, I ended up being the only support act. When you’re a solo acoustic act, people can have a very limited perception or vision of what your gig can be. Some promoters, gig goers & event organisers, fail to understand, that it’s not only about the amount of people on stage, the type of instruments that are being played, how well known the act is, or how upbeat the music is considered to be. All most solo acts require, is the potential of an atmosphere to work with. All in all, it boils down to being able to communicate. There isn’t going to be much of an atmosphere, if you put a solo act on early, before a crowd has time to settle, or if you put a solo act on a tiny stage, off to the side somehwere, while a DJ in the background drowns them out. If you give any performer, the chance to communicate within an atmosphere, it can often become something far more special than any wall of sound could ever offer. I will say this though, if you do put on a solo act, in front of a large crowd, make sure their volume is at a decent level, otherwise they’re fucked. It’s not that you need to be loud to play to a crowd, but if there isn’t that loud place to go to, the performance can feel far less dynamic & attention spans may drift as a result. So, over the years, I was kind of on a mission to see how far I could take the solo acoustic thing & that was kind of it, being the direct support act to a Swedish heavy metal band, in countries were English is their second language. Some nights, I just stood there & sang A cappella, to a crowd waiting for a pyrotechnic metal show. That tour definitely divided opinions, but there were many beautiful & spirited moments & the magic that comes with that, will make any challenge worth the risk. That was the last extensive tour that I’ve done too.
Shite’n’Onions – This has been a great interview, Dylan. Final question. So, what’s next for you?
Dylan – No bother John. Thanks for your time & consideration. As for what’s next, I really don’t have any solid answers for that. Everything has been so unpredictable of late, ye know yourself. The pandemic hasn’t been a creative period for me, as I tend to do everything at the same time. Touring encourages me to write & vice versa. Like I was saying earlier, most of what I do is geared towards the gigs, but things are starting to pick up again & I’m getting out on the road whenever possible. I had an amazing gig at Muddy Roots Music Festival this year, it was my first time back there in five years & it couldn’t have gone better. That’s the same crowd I was also mentioning earlier, the same label that brought me over here to the States back in 2014. It was a very grounding & wholesome experience to reconnect with all that. I was in Maryland & North Carolina, there last weekend, doing a couple of great shows & that local Nashville residency has just started too. I’m currently booking for Europe & the UK, for March & April in 2022, which I’ll finish out with a visit home to Ireland as well. So hopefully that will all be able to go ahead come the time. I also recently started my own interview show, The Stirring Foot, which you’ll find on all the usual streaming platforms. Episode one was with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, episode two was with Steve Ignorant of Crass & episode three will be with John Sheahan of The Dubliners. It’s more of an audio montage series, than actual conversations, but it’s been amazing catching up with those artists through zoom calls. They’ve reminded me of why I started playing music myself, at a time when I really needed to be reminded. So I’ll keep my website updated with any further news & hope to see ye down the road. Thanks again pal
SnO – So, 30 Years of The Mahones! How are you celebrating?
Finny- We are doing amazing and better than ever. So crazy right? We are all glad to be alive and rocking all over the world. We managed to have two albums released, 30 Years and This Is All We Got To Show For It (Dec) and Unplugged (April) in 2020 on Canada’s best (and one of the world’s best) record labels, the legendary True North Records which has been around since the 1960’s. All the Canadian legends are on that label, so we love it there. It’s been a great year record wise in 2020 for The Mighty Mahones!!!!
SnO –Tell me more about the new album?
Finny – It’s a 30 year retrospective of all our best work, I really had a great trip down memory lane when we were remastering all those classic Mahones songs for this album in Toronto at the legendary Telejet Music Studio. One of my favorite studios in the world. Love that place. Anyways, it’s now my favorite Mahones album and the only one I listen to hahahaha, but I say this every time we release a new album. I just love it. A very happy album and It’s also our very first album on coloured GREEN VINYL!!!!
SnO –There are 10 songs on the new vinyl album. Do these songs represent the true sound of The Mahones?
Finny – Awww jayzuz I hope so, as we wrote them all. I think it really represents of the sound of The Mahones in 2020. Our are always trying making better music on every new album we do. It’s all killer and no filler brother. Turn it up loud to eleven!!!
SnO –Out of all the 100’s of songs in The Mahones back catalogue, what was the deciding factor on what songs to choose?
Finny – Well I find it very easy to make this kind of album, so I really go first with the fan favourites every time as this is what they really want. That’s what the music business is all about really, looking after your fan base and trying to spoil them with some really amazing albums for their music collections. I also go with my favourites and check to see what the fans are listening to on the internet on sites like Spotify and Apple Music. You can see there what you fans are streaming etc., so that’s also a very handy new too for us bands and songwriters these days. I do love the internet for what we can do with our music these days. So much easier than back in the 90’s. We now have access to the entire world.
SnO –This new album is on vinyl and cd. How are you liking the new vinyl resurgence?
Finny – I LOVE IT. Let me just flip over my new David Bowie Pin Ups picture disc now. OK, I am back. I think it’s really great and I think we should put out our award winning Black Irish Album on vinyl now too as it’s the 10th Anniversary of that Mahones classic. We just sold out of the new Mahones 30 Years album in 2 days, so YES I love the new vinyl resurgence. It’s AMAZING!!!!
SnO –Beyond the new retrospective album, how have you been keeping busy during Covid?
Finny – We I have been very busy cancelling and postponing gigs and tours with our amazing agents at MAD Tourbooking since March this year, so that has been very terrible, tough and messy. The Mahones are supposed to return to touring Europe in Feb 2021, but I believe that tour will probably also be moved to fall 2021 now, but one again I am not sure so stay tuned. It’s our fecking 30th Anniversary Tour too, so it would be nice to do it one day. Anyways, The Mahones will return in 2021 as soon as we are allowed to play live again and we have booked a recording studio for two weeks next summer 2021 in Berlin, Germany to record our next studio album. That’s exciting news.
SnO –It must be difficult for The Mahones being a full time gigging band?
Finny – Yes, this whole year has be a huge disaster for everyone in the music business from musicians to technicians, road crew, clubs, venues, pubs, promoters, agents, managers, merch companies, festivals etc you name it. We all have to just stay strong, help each other and get through this together and wear a mask until this virus is shut down in 2021. Such a hard time for everyone mentally, financially and stress wise also. I really think when live music comes back, everyone will appreciate it more this time than ever and show more support as the entire world just got a taste of what it’s like to have no live music. It’s horrible. Here’s to a better future and 2021 for live music all over the world!!!!
SnO –I see you have been doing solo gigs. How have they been going. Different material?
Finny – Yes, I have also been doing a solo acoustic thing for the fist time since 2005. That was my last mini break from The Mahones touring cycle. The solo show is 50% non Mahones stuff and the rest is acoustic versions of Mahones songs and deep cuts with stories added. I did a short 10 date tour in Europe which was sold out and got amazing reviews, and then the Canadian tour was postponed by the second wave of Covid19, so I am locked down in Toronto again right now. The good new is, I am always working on something, so I have been in the studio working on a new “Finny McConnell – Live in Hamburg” solo acoustic tour live album. Hopefully I can make it sound great and release it to the public in 2021.
SnO –Plans for 2021. We will see you back in the USA?
Finny – Well, like I said we are still moving tours and dates around so looks like yes we will try to make it back into the beautiful USA in 2021. We sure miss you all down there. Fingers crossed, wear your mask, wash your hands, stay safe and see you all in 2021. We can’t wait to get back on the road for our 30th Anniversary World Tour. Slainte everyone!!!
Johnny Piper answers some question on the loudest band in Celtic-punk.
Can you give us some background on the band? Your musical history, who is in the band and how did the band come together, what release have the Alternative Ulster put out?
In January of 2015, I met our original bass player for the first time at Ulster County AOH Pipes and Drums practice. He was a student piper and we got to talking. When the talk turned to why we started piping, I made reference to Dropkick Murphys, The Real McKenzies, etc… I told him it was my goal to start a bagpipe punk rock band. To illustrate my point, I pulled up the YouTube video of Pipes & Pints performing The Gael. Another AOH piper, Jerry McCluskey, was also a long-time guitarist in punk rock bands. Jerry joined and recruited his friend to play drums. Jerry came up with the name “Alternative Ulster” which tied Old School 70s era punk, ala Stiff Little Fingers, together with our home, Ulster County, NY.
Can we start with your musical background – who are you and who are The Placks? The Placks are a fairly new band, how did the band get together and what was the inspiration after your long punk career (if punks can have careers) to bring in strong Celtic influences to your music?
The Placks was a wee idea in the back of my head for years that wouldn’t go away. I have played in bands since I was in school and over the years have been lucky enough to have toured with bands like Dropkick Murphys, Rancid, UK SUBS, The Business and a few others, in my bands Beerzone and Control, and they all used to say the same thing to me, “Iain, being a proud Celt, you really ought to add some Celtic/Folk instruments to songs”. They all thought I wrote catchy, melodic songs so thought it would be very interesting.
When people like Charlie Harper (UK SUBS), Ken Casey and Tim Armstrong say you should try something other than just straight up punk, you tend to listen!
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.
#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.
(S’n’O) First of all, congrats on finally getting “Come out fighting” released in the UK. Why the delay and when can we expect a proper US release?
(Leeson/Neck) Thanks John – it’s a massive relief! Well, it was set to go a year ago, but there were some last minute glitches that, due to tour commitments, we weren’t around to fix. So it got postponed – which gave us & the label time to reflect & it was decided, as Wispy was back off ‘the Subs bench’ to let him overdub some bass parts, re-master it (at the right level), completely overhaul the artwork & get proper PR campaigns working behind the album – which meant putting it back to now to enable all that.
(S’n’O) The title – “Come out fighting” and the fists up on the CD sleeve. I’m guessing there is a statement there?
(Leeson/Neck) Yep – but it’s more about having a ‘pugnacious’ state-of-mind rather than going down the boozer ready for a ruck. It’s down to the title track, which is about those times in life when the shite really hits the fan & you, literally, feel like you’ve gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson & you’re on the ropes, emotionally, with the guy ready to throw in the towel. So you really have to dig deep, & figuratively speaking, get off the ropes, catch your breath, get your balance – put your guard up, set your brow & be downright bloody-minded & take the fecker on! If ye know what I mean…
(S’n’O) I heard a few complaints from long time Neck fans that while the production on “Come out fighting” is 1st class there’s a lot of older Neck tracks re-recorded. Any particular reason why?
(Leeson/Neck) Of course: rather than selling people short, we’re just trying to give them the best we can – we thought that, as this is our first world-wide release, & particularly with legendary producer Pat Collier’s alchemy at our disposal, we had the opportunity to re-visit & improve upon songs that we love & are live favourites, but the previous recordings are either really old or were recorded either so cheaply, in a rush or mixed at silly o’clock with one eye on the clock, that we find them hard to listen to now. We knew Pat could help us do a better job of them. Which we have, and which, it appears, everyone does actually agree with!
(S’n’O) We’ve been following Neck here in Shite’n’Onions for about 8 years and while a lot of bands that started out around the same time as Neck have had a lot of success stateside Neck are still a unknown quantity – do you feel disadvantaged being based in the UK? Any plans to raise your US profile.
(Leeson/Neck) Well, none of our stuff’s been widely available in the US up ’til now (apart from a Heroic effort via your very own ‘Shite ‘n’ Onions’ – named after on of our very own tunes! – with ‘Here’s mud in yer eye!’); Also, the costs of touring & promotion without big label backing make things virtually unfeasible for us. But, despite that, because of the immense support for us over there from you guys – we’ve tried to hang-in there. We know we’re a good band & things are progressing: our two U.S. trips last year were proof of that. It’s just finding a way to make sure people know about us, & now that we’ve got a U.S. label – Abstract Recordings – who are going to get behind the album, hopefully we’ll get our arses back over there & put together a tour around the album release in the new year.
(S’n’O) Finally, with “Come out Fighting!” finally out. What are Necks next plans – tours, next CD?
(Leeson/Neck) Well we’ve started the rolling UK tour & then, with the album being released in the USA the week before St. Patrick’s Day, it makes sense that, if it’s at all possible, we need to be in the U.S. for that – so we need to get onto things like ShamrockFest in DC, etc. to ensure that. Then we’ll be touring the album in Europe in April, with more dates & festivals all over the place to follow throughout the summer into The Fall / Autumn – so 2010 may be our busiest year ever! Release-wise, we’re starting to work on the next Neck album, & we promise it will defo be all new material.
(S’n’O) There’s also a rumour of a CD of covers already recorded, any truth in that?
(Leeson/Neck) Yes indeed: we’d already recorded a covers album (with Pat) before ‘Come out Fighting!’, but it was ultimately felt that it was better to put out an originals album as a first release. It was inspired by Johnny Rogan’s writings &, is, subsequently, ‘Necked-up’ versions of songs by other 2nd & 3rd-generation Irish artists – from Johnny Cash to The Libertines. It’s a testament to our contribution to popular music & how far we’ve punched above our weight! The front cover & title’s actually our best-selling T-shirt ‘Plastic ‘n’ Proud’ (‘Plastic Paddies’ is a derogatory term – so we’re turning the insult on it’s head, like black folk do with the ‘N’ word). The version of The Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy in the UK’ is already reaching cult status! (there’s a clip on YouTube of 5,000 people singing along to it at Glastonbury festival)!.
THE SWAGGERIN’ GROWLERS: Boston based The Swaggerin’ Growlers have just released their 2nd full length CD – Keep Your Head Held High. In honour of that momentus ocasion we asked Johnny Swagger a few dumb questions.
s’n’o: First off, can we get a brief history of the band and personally how did you get involved in playing Celtic-punk?
Johnny Swagger: The band started, like all good folk bands, in the pub. Over pints of Franconia Notch Brewing Companies’ Mountain Stout, in the summer of 2004. We rehearsed in Seth’s (of the Pubcralwers ) basement and played our first show on St Patrick’s day of 2005. Somewhere over the last two years we had a lot of lineup changes, as well as a relocation down to Boston. We finally locked everything down in the beginning of this year, and decided it was high time we put out a new record. Now, we’re off to take over the world.
As far as Celt Punk Goes: Flogging Molly got me interested, and the Pogues changed my life: The idea that you can cause that much intense insanity with acoustic instruments is glorious. It’s hard to avoid the influence of Irish music on the folk scene here in Boston, and in New England as a whole.
S’n’O: Your Head Held High! is your 2nd full-length. How does it compare to your 1st (The Bottle and the Bow)? Is there growth, maturity, keyboards etc., or did you go the AC/DC, Ramones, Motorhead route?
Johnny Swagger: It blows it away, outright – I couldn’t be more proud of the family. There’s a whole lot of growth on this record, and a lot more of our influences shine through considerably more: Bluegrass, Old Tyme, Ska, Swing, and Hardcore. We recorded the majority of it at the band house, behind a schedule that can best be described as insane, so we could have it out for the 17th. And we pulled it off, goddamn it.
S’n’O: I know you headlined the Middle East Club in St. Patrick’s Day for the CD release party. How did it go?
Johnny Swagger: It was a few people shy of selling out, actually – It was a complete frenetic mess. Jubilant, boisterous, brash. I’ve played hundreds of shows at this point in my musical career, and I can definitely say this was my favorite show to date. We were completely surrounded by friends and family, both on and off the stage, and the after party easily ran until 6am. Could anyone ask for anything more? I was in awe the whole goddamn time.
S’n’O: Any plans to tour to support the new release outside New England? Anyone you’d like to tour with?
Johnny Swagger: You better believe it. We plan on fully supporting this record over the next few years, in the states and abroad, starting this summer with a full US tour, then again in the fall. Stay tuned, we plan on announcing dates in the next week or so. Anyone got a van they can sell us? Growlersarus Rex is a little too battered to be roadworthy at this point.
S’n’O: myspace or facebook?
Johnny Swagger: I’ve done more social networking in our living room during a folk jam than on either of those. But Myspace is great for porn and spam and facebook is great for being a creepy stalker. so naturally, we’ve got both, and you should check them out.
S’n’O: In closing, anything you’d like to say in general?
Johnny Swagger: Check out our friends, The Old Edison and Faulty Conscience, our sister bands. They’re both gearing up for new releases in the near future. Also a big thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years, the friends we’ve made, and the bartenders that didn’t throw us out when the damn well should have. Oh, and buy our new record, and come out to a show or fifty. Cheers.
Andy Nolan is the accordion player with London’s BibleCodeSundays and a budding movie screenwriter and producer who’s first movie CLAN LONDON is in pre production at the moment. We thought we catch up with Andy and see what’s going on with the BibleCodes and how the movie business is treating him.
SnO – Andy, with the movie and Ronans solo CD what’s happening with the BCS? Any plans to start working on a third full length?
Andy – Yes we are recording our third album in the coming weeks before Christmas! Really looking forward to it as it’s been a long time coming and we have some great songs!
SnO – Ghosts of our Past was release in the US through Cosmic Trigger records. Will we be seeing a US release of Boots or No Boots (and a tour)?
Andy – Yes we are planning a US tour for May next year! We’re looking to play Boston, NYC and Chicago! We will be promoting songs from the new album so for those that haven’t heard Boots or No Boots grab a copy from our website http://www.biblecodesundays.co.uk
SnO – How’s Ronan’s sold CD doing – I was very impressed, different from the BCS but still good in a Elvis Costello kind of way.
Andy – Yes Strawberry Hill! It’s doing very well and available on Itunes so check it out! It’s always been a very strong side to Ronan’s writing and he’s glad it’s finally out there for people to hear! He’s been writing songs like that since he was a kid. I think a second solo album will soon be on it’s way! He has hundreds of great songs like that ready to record! We played on most of the first album and hopefully can help him with the next one too!
SnO – Speaking of the brother any chance of persuading Elvis and your former bosses Spider Stacey and Shane MacGowan to guest on the next BCS release – on the same track even (I know, wishful thinking)?
Andy – There has been talk of this for a while now! Yes one day I think we could get everyone in to record on one of our albums! That would be amazing! With this third album though we had around 30 very good songs of our own and we had to narrow them down to 12. We realised that we had loads of our own material we had to get out there first! I’d say the next album after this would be a good time to get Elvis, Shane and Spider in! Do watch out for Spider Stacy featuring on the Clan London Movie soundtrack though! We plan to put together The Vendettas to record one or two songs for the movie!
SnO – When you played in Spiders band – The Vendettas – did you guys record anything proper (I’ve heard live bootlegs but no studio stuff) and will anything ever be released?
Andy – Yes we did! We recorded around 15 tracks that have never been released. With the band reforming to record for my movie Clan London you will certainly hear The Vendettas on the movie soundtrack!
SnO – Switching gears. The Movie! I know you have a big interest in gangsters and especially those with Irish blood – so can you tell us what the movie is all about and how the idea of making a movie came about?
Andy – Clan London is a crime drama set in London, UK. It tells of three second generation Irish brothers growing up in 1970’s London up to the present day. Against the backdrop of anti – Irish feeling this particular family refuse to keep their heads down and become heavily involved in organised crime. So much so the rise to the top of the British underworld.
I’ve always been a huge movie fan and always thought there was a gap in the market for an Irish gangster movie set in London. It’s based on people I grew up with, real life criminals and fiction – a melting pot of ideas really.
SnO – Your in pre-production right now? How has it being going to get to this stage – from the facebook page for CLAN LONDON it looks like everything is coming along nicely?
Andy – Yes we’re in pre-production now. We’ve already had auditions in Galway City. We are holding auditions in Dublin on Sat 29 January next year and we will move on to London shortly after that. We also plan to audition in Boston as we have some scenes set in Southie. Jay Giannone from The Departed and Gone Baby Gone is helping us with that. For more details go towww.clanlondonmovie.com
SnO – I also see a couple of big names associated with the movie – boxer Steve Collins and author and ex-gangster Noel “Razor” Smith – how did you hook up with those guys and what type of parts have you got for them?
Andy – Yes Steve will play Paddy McDonagh – the father of the three boys. Paddy is The Godfather of the McDonagh empire, a role Steve is really excited about playing. Steve heard about the movie project and contacted me through a mutal friend. Steve is one of my all time sporting heroes so to have him involved is a dream come true. He appeared in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and more recently The Kid directed by Nick Moran (Lock, Stock). He is currently filming Blood Sweat and Wars with Clan London director Stephen Patrick Kenny. He is very committed to his acting career. His passion for the role of Paddy is second to none and will have you on the edge of your seat believe me!
I wrote See You at the Crossroads about Razor Smith which was on our last album Boot or No Boots. After reading his book A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun I was moved to write a song about his life. Razor is London Irish like me. Great book by the way! I highly recommend it! Razor, now a best selling author, was part of the inspiration behind the movie and has recently been released from prison. He has fifty-eight criminal convictions and has spent the greater portion of his adult life in prison. Whilst in prison he taught himself to read and write, gained an Honours Diploma from The London School of Journalism and an A-Level in Law. He has been awarded a number of Koestler awards for his writing and has contributed articles to the Independent, the Guardian, Punch, the Big Issue, the New Statesman and the New Law Journal. Razor is also helping with research to make Clan London as authentic as possible and will be cast very soon!
SnO – Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this the first movie about London-Irish organized crime (excluding ‘The Long Good Friday” which was Cockney gangsters verses Irish politicals) – why hasn’t the subject been tackled before (it’s not like there aren’t Irish families that are major players in London organized crime)?
Andy – Yes it is the first! There always been a huge Irish community in London but with the Troubles back home much of what the Irish achieved in the UK has been overlooked. I wanted to highlight that in the most explosive way possible – through a gangster movie. There have been many cockney Irish criminals down through the years. One of the most infamous was Billy Hill who ruled the London underworld for decades. He was the UK’s first celebrity gangster and handed down his empire to his proteges The Krays.
SnO – As far as Irish gangster movies and books what would you recommend to see/read?
Andy – Well State of Grace will always be one of my all time favourites along with Goodfellas and Carlito’s Way. Regarding books I would highly recommend Rat Bastards by John ‘Red’ Shea, Street Soldier by Eddie MacKenzie and A Criminal and an Irishman by Pat Nee! Amazing stuff! All three authors are fans of Clan London too!
SnO – Andy, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Anything you’d like to add?
Andy – Anytime John! Yes keep an eye out for Clan London in 2012! We plan to shoot it next year! And our third album will be released next year too!