The Reformation of That Irish Band From England: The Pogues
With legendary bands who have proven they can stand the test of time, the patented music catch-phrases that keep people like us in business just seem redundant. So let's cut to the chase. The Pogues just released a new album called Pogue Mahone which, as some of you may know, is the Pogues original name and is Gaelic for "kiss my ass." These are important facts to keep in mind when looking at the band's notorious history and they are more than a little indicative of the attitude and determination that have kept this band together through its numerous personnel changes. On Pogue Mahone the band welcomes three new members, James McNally, David Coulter and Jamie Clark, who have stepped in to fill the shoes of James Fearnley, Terry Woods and Phil Chevron. Together with core members Spider Stacy, Darryl Hunt, Jem Finer and Andrew Ranken, they have created Pogues album number seven featuring some cool-ass songs that are well worth your time. And although Spider Stacy's vocals, while exceptional, never quite erase the memory of Shane MacGowan's hellbent bellowing, this is nevertheless The Pogues, people. I had an opportunity to talk to Darryl Hunt, longtime bass player for The Pogues, via a very bad phone connection to Germany and to garner his thoughts on a wide variety of topics.
After Waiting For Herb came out in '93, there were rumors that The Pogues were on the verge of a breakup. Any truth to that and if so, what changed your minds?
At that time we were quite happy with that album and the response we got. We had a hit single over here with it and we had a good American tour. But what happened was that two members left and one member got a bit too ill so that he couldn't perform anymore. When we came over to America we were quite together but we had to get a couple of new people in. At the time I suppose people thought the band was breaking up but really it was just that two people had left. James, because he was living in California and Terry, because he had just reached the point where he didn't feel like it was the right vehicle for him.
Are you living in Germany permanently now?
I live part of the time here. My girlfriend is studying here. We were living in London but she has to study here so we live in both places now.
Do the rest of the Pogues live in Europe or...
No, one of our old members, James Fearnley, lives in California but he's not in the band anymore. He used to have trouble getting to rehearsals from Los Angeles.
I can imagine...
It's one of the reasons he eventually left, because he just couldn't do it. But no, most of the band live in London apart from one that lives in Darbyshire, which is up north.
Do any of you ever go back to Ireland?
Well, I don't go back to Ireland because I'm not from Ireland. Most of us are from London with some Irish connection.
So none of you are actually Irish. I didn't think you sounded very Irish. I just thought you had lost it from being away.
No, we're actually all English. Shane was born in England. He did spend some of his childhood in Ireland but he was born in England. Spider's English. Terry Woods and Phillip Chevron were born and bred in Ireland but they're not in the band anymore. They were the nearest thing to Irish. The band started as a London/Irish band, but the emphasis is on London because that's where we came from, that's our roots.
Well, that puts a different twist on things. Sort of ironic.
You might get a band from, say, Boston or New York that's got a lot of Irish connections but that come out with an American angle to things as we came out with an English, London, post-punk attitude. I don't think we could have started out and had any success in Ireland, really.
How are things going with the new members?
What did you think of the new album?
Well, I've just heard it, just got the advance tape. A couple of tracks really stand out immediately.
Which ones are those?
I really liked "The Sun And The Moon" and also "Amadie."Everybody's got different ones. Everybody says there's two or three that stand out. But they're always different ones. There's a couple that never get mentioned. A lot of people like "Amadie" and "The Sun And The Moon" and they like "Love You Til The End" and "Oretown" and "Four O'Clock In The Morning." They're all very different, different writers you know. So that comes out. I'm fond of most of the songs on the album. On the previous album there were some songs that I wasn't really that keen on.
Did everyone share in the songwriting?
Well, just about. Jem did a little bit more. Me and Andrew did about the same. Spider wrote "The Sun And The Moon" with the guitarist Jamie Clark. It's spread a bit more evenly than the previous one.
Who wrote "Amadie?"
Andrew wrote that. Do you know the story on that?
Not really. I was just about to ask. I read that it was about a black Cajun singer who was famous in the South, but it wasn't anyone I had ever heard of.
He used to sing in a club, I think it was in the '20s and '30s, and there was some story that one night he was in this whites only club and he was sort of like this token black musician that could play there. And he got a handkerchief off a white woman one night to wipe his brow and she got it back off him and all that but the load of rednecks in there thought that they were a bit too intimate over it and they followed him out after his show--this is all in the song but it's in French--and after the show they grabbed him and tied him down on the road and drove a car over his throat. So basically he could never sing again and that's what it's all about.
What a gruesome story.
A horrific story of the racist South. Sorry to say that but...
Well, it's true.
A lot of these stories come out of America and I think it's sort of unfair because this sort of racism exists everywhere, it's just more subtle. Maybe in America it's just more obvious and people can make a lot of copy out of it, it's a good storyline. But there's a lot of racism that went on in the '30s and '40s in Europe other than the obvious places like Germany and Italy. It existed very heavily in England and France and it still does.
I think it has a lot to do with how many different races you have packed into one country. America is a very multi-cultural country so there are going to be a lot of racial tensions. It's not going to be as dramatic in racially homogenous countries.
And America is based on the fact that it was for all races to come to, to escape from that very thing that existed elsewhere in the world.
I've read a lot about Neo-Nazism re-surfacing in Germany as well...
Well in Germany here there is such a fear and hatred of what went on in the '30s and '40s. When anything like that happens people come out in such large numbers to protest it like you'd never see anywhere else. Here they have it actually in their constitution that you can't legally be a Nazi. You can be arrested for it. You can be arrested for doing anything on the street that can incite that sort of political thinking. We don't have that in England. In a way it [Germany] is one of the cleanest countries in terms of that. I go to football matches here and I never hear any racist abuse. I've been to French games and I can't believe the things that they say. Germany has this history, but the French and the English got away with it because they were on the right side.
So you joined The Pogues after Caitlin O'Roirdan left. Was that before or after the Rum, Sodomy and The Lash album?
That was just after, 1986, before Fall From Grace. The second album was the last one she did. I was working with the band at the time, tour managing.
Have you heard Shane's new album?
I've heard the first version of it. I haven't heard the latest version of it where he added new tracks which you've got in America. Yeah, I think it's all right. I like the rocking stuff on there. I don't particularly care for the traditional stuff and I think the band can obviously play a harder more punk style. I think that's what they should be more into because I think that's where his writing is at the moment. I don't particularly like it when they get all traditional because they're not very good at doing it.
I like the rock stuff, too. "Church Of The Holy Spook" was a great song.
And "That Woman's Got Me Drinking." I like Shane when he's in that sort of mood because that's basically where he comes from. He's very good at that sort of thing. Well, he's very good at writing traditional stuff but I don't think he can write like that anymore. He's moved on or he's moved sideways or whatever.
He played here recently at the Cat's Cradle.
And how was it?
Well obviously he was very drunk but he made a lot of racist comments that people didn't like.
Did he really? Where did he play in North Carolina?
In Chapel Hill. At the Cat's Cradle. People were leaving saying that they were going to throw away all his records and all that. People were just chuckling in the beginning and then there was just silence.
Well that's interesting about Shane. We've never played in North Carolina. Nearest we got was Virginia.
Are you planning to tour here anytime soon?
We're supposedly coming there in April. What do you think of the new album compared with the last?
This one I like better. There were cuts off the last one that I liked a lot but, overall, this is more solid. There's a lot of variation, a lot of different styles. Are you moving away from the more traditional stuff?
Well, if you listen to all our past albums, we're always moving away from it. Look at Hell's Ditch. It's right off the cuff. We don't worry about how we're writing. We don't sit down and discuss what style we're going to write our songs in.
What have you been listening to lately?
Well, I'm playing tonight in a house club in Munich so I've been working out a hard house set. I listen to a lot of house music. I like people like Oasis and Pulp, all these new British bands. Stereolab, they're very good. Let's see, American bands. I was really into Nirvana and Pavement when they were still playing a lot, when he was still alive. I still like Pavement. I thought the last album was brilliant. I'm not keen on Smashing Pumpkins. Everyone says they're brilliant. Never really grabbed me.
I concur wholeheartedly.
You should check out the new Stereolab.
What is it called? Which one?
It has a sort of brown cover. Just hold on a sec. Hello, I've got it here... Switched on Volume 21...I saw them with Pulp and I was very impressed. And I like stuff like Warren G, the good gangsters, Paris is brilliant.
Oasis has become really huge here. Here in America, they weren't that huge until just the past couple of months. They've really exploded.
They've gone absolutely massive and they're probably going to break up just as they make it.
I hear they pretty much hate each other.
They don't like each other but the two albums are brilliant, classics of their generation. Do you like that sort of gangster music?
There's some of it I do like, yeah. Some of it's a little heavy on the "bitches and hos" side for me.
A lot of Americans come over here and get a lot of work because they get treated so much better. A lot of the DJs come over here because they don't get work in New York. And they come over here and get treated with a bit of respect and get paid decently. It's a shame really because America produces so many good talented people in the dance field but they never get an outlet. They have to go to Europe to be appreciated. A lot of bands from Chapel Hill go over there. There's a thriving music scene here and yet a lot of the bands still say that they get more support overseas than in their own towns. I like the fact that there are a lot of bands again, people writing songs and things. There was a time when it seemed to be getting out of fashion. I like the fact that there are a lot of good groups around now writing good songs.
And there are a lot of bands that are getting started that might never have gotten started except that people are supporting them in clubs and giving them a chance.
That's why people like Shane should make an effort. Because a lot of these people work really hard just to get a few gigs and when you come over to America and people put you in good clubs, you have to make an effort. It's too easy to treat it like just another gig.
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