March 4, 2012
It may have taken nearly 30 years for the seminal Irish punk band Radiators From Space to cut their third album, but don’t tell Phil Chevron that they sound any different than before. “To me, it doesn’t sound any different,” says Chevron. To him, even though their debut, T.V. Tube Heart, had a sound more like their contemporaries in the late 70’s punk scene, the fact that their latest, Trouble Pilgrim, has slower-tempo songs and more of a pop sensibility has more to do with their growth as musicians, as well as their changing influences over the years. “When you’re young, you start out playing what you can, and eventually you end up playing what you want.”
And don’t call this a “Reunion Album.” “We really never actually split up,” he says. “We just ran out of road…but it was always the idea that, when the opportunity arose, we would get back together. And we have done a few times before this.” The difference now? Says Chevron: “There isn’t that sort of pressure to return to the hamster wheel of commercial grunt work. We do what we like, without the pressure of having to have a career plan, as such.” And in that spirit, the Radiators have gotten back together several times in recent years. Does the fact that they’re older, and not trying to compete in the same markets as younger bands? “Oh, of course,” he says. “None of us, at this point, have any interest in going back in the factory line. We’re competing with no one.”
Chevron, as a member of the Pogues, has toured the world many times over the years. Are the Radiators planning on touring behind this release? “If someone wanted to arrange that, we’d definitely be interested, but it doesn’t seem very feasible at this point.” And as for the gap between the new CD’s release in Ireland and it’s appearance in the States, Chevron says this has more to do with the fact that the band has no plans to try and sign with any major distributors. “The album’s been out there, available for anyone who wanted to release it. We knew that Shite ‘N’ Onions were champions of the album when it was first released. When you own your own masters, which we do now, you have the freedom to license to whoever you want.”
That the album makes references to US foreign policy is only natural, says Chevron, but “America has such a huge footprint on the world, it has to accept people commenting about it.” He points to the fact that Shannon airport is now virtually being run like a US military installation as a reason that someone from Ireland might have cause to make their feelings about the conflicts going in the Middle East known.
The track most likely to get people’s attention this time around is the song “Joe Strummer,” the subject of which should be obvious to anyone with ears. According to Chevron, it’s a kind of musing about what the great Clash front man and solo artist (and, for a brief period, a member of the Pogues) would have to say about the state of the world today. “We started out admiring him, as everyone did at the time, to working with him as our producer, to being mates with him. We introduced him to football.” Strummer’s ability to, as Chevron puts it, “put that point of view across,” makes to world a completely different place for not having him in it.
Trouble Pilgrim may not sound like your classic 1-2-3-4 punk rock album, but the subject matter is as passionate and as pointed as the Radiators From Space have always been. The nearly 30-year gap between albums has only served to ensure that the band put its best foot forward.
Trouble Pilgrim is available in the US from Shite’n’Onions
Interview by: John Curtin – Comedian, Irish Musician, Dork