Unpredictable Pogues

Publication: OregonLive.com (special to The Oregonian)

Author: Ed Condran

Date: October 8, 2009

Original Location: Link

You never know what you'll get when the Pogues perform, and that's just one of the reasons why British music rag Q Magazine calls the band one of the 50 acts you must see before you die.

Vocalist/tin whistler Spider Stacy explains via telephone from his London home why the unpredictable Pogues, who perform Sunday at the Roseland, may or may not be making their Portland debut; what it's like to share the stage with charismatic vocalist Shane MacGowan; and why the band has likely recorded its final album.

Q: The Pogues don't get to the Pacific Northwest too often, so this show figures to be quite an event.

A: That's true. I didn't think we ever played Portland before, but then yesterday a guy told me that we played in 1995 at some St. Patrick's Day show in Portland. I told him that he was thinking of Shane and the Popes. He said, "No, the Pogues played Portland." (Note: The Pogues played a St. Paddy's festival here in'95). I'll have to find out. The truth is out there.

All right, Agent Mulder ...

Ah, another "X-Files" fan.

Yes, but forget about where you played 14 years ago. I'm sure there are times it's not easy to recall where you're playing the night you're onstage. Do things get a little hazy for the hard-living Pogues on the road?

You can say that. The worst or best example of that happened about two years ago. (Multi-instrumentalist) Terry Woods hadn't touched a drop, so there's no excuse for this. We were playing a show in the heart of Basque country. Terry says, "It's great to be back in Spain." That's probably the worst thing we could have said to those in Basque country, but Terry said it.

That's beyond Spinal Tap.

It was met with a roar of disapproval.

I'm sure they forgot all about it once you started the show.

Yes. Once we get going, it's all about the music.

What's perhaps most appealing about Pogues shows is that you never know what's going to happen. Your shows are spirited but not flawless, and that's a good thing in the era of canned "live" shows.

One of our strengths is that we're really playing live. We never have been note-perfect. That would be a shame. I would hate to be in a band were everything is pre-planned and choreographed. That's not rock 'n' roll.

That's Broadway.

Yes, it is, but not that there is anything wrong with Broadway. It's just different than what rock is about. Rock is about being raw and taking chances.

The music business has changed considerably during the last generation. It's much more conservative.

Yes, it is, and that's a shame. I wish the music world would take a chance. Everything is so safe and corporate. The most interesting music is on the margins.

But there are some bands that are genuine.

The Libertines were completely genuine. They self-destructed and they spawned a slew of imitators.

There are imitators, but you can't imitate Shane, who is one of the most unique frontmen in rock history.

Shane really is the Pogues, and there's no one else quite like him. There aren't that many individuals out there, but Shane certainly is an individual. It's great looking over at him onstage. You never know what he's going to do next.

It's been 13 years since the Pogues released an album. Will you make another one?

I wouldn't rule it out, but it's not likely.

How come?

It would involve getting the songs written and recorded, and then we would have to go on tour behind it. What if people didn't like the songs so much? I just don't know if there is a reason to put out an album at this point. If we could put out an album as good as the first five albums, then, great, let's do it. But in all honesty, Shane wouldn't be writing the same kind of songs that he would have written 25 years ago. They would be different kinds of songs. They wouldn't sound like Pogues songs. There would be no continuity. It's not because of our age that we're a bit reluctant to record a new album. It's because we haven't made an album in a long time. Look at (veteran) guys like Tom Waits and Nick Cave. They can still do it because they keep putting out albums. We're not in that position.

So the show is a greatest hits set?

It's kind of like that.

Will you toss in some deep album cuts?

Well, it's hard to do that because it's an issue getting Shane to a rehearsal. Shane has good intentions, but he generally shows up during the last few minutes of rehearsal.

So, Shane hasn't changed much.

Shane is still a character, and he has a lot of fun up there and so do we. If that wasn't so, we wouldn't still do this.

Copyright © 2009 Oregon Live LLC
All Rights Reserved.

Your intrepid maintainer is DzM.
Transcribed and made available by Zuzana.