Extended Q&A with The Pogues’ Spider Stacy
The Pogues never should’ve existed. Not in 1982, not forcing tin whistle and accordion on the pogo-ing faithful. And it seems faintly miraculous the famed Celtic punk outfit’s core members stayed together for nine years and five albums. Late-to-the-party devotees (the Pogues, all spit and sentimentality, have never been a young man’s band) flocked to increasingly dissipated performances by former vocalist Shane MacGowan and gave spin to his bandmates’ museless vamps. The ever-growing cult of the Pogues traded out-of-print albums and rumors of bootlegs and thought not at all about the chances the band would get back together: Odds of the Pogues playing Portland ranked somewhere between a reunited Beatles and Irish rapprochement. But with the impossible now just days away, founding member Spider Stacy talked with WW about the group’s four-years-long-and-counting comeback tour, the lapsed investigation surrounding the death of Kirsty MacColl (female vocalist on beloved Christmas anthem “Fairytale of New York”) and the post-Shane Pogues’ unremembered visit (“you don’t have a monorail, do you?”) to Portland 14 years ago.
Willamette Week: So you’ve played Portland before …
Spider Stacy: No, actually, we haven’t. Which is a severe oversight on our part.
But … I remember … didn’t some of the Pogues play Kell’s on St. Patrick’s Day, back in 1995?
As far as I was aware, we hadn’t … you don’t have a monorail in Portland, do you? Oh, then, it was Seattle that we hadn’t played before. My niece has got a hair salon in Portland. Her name’s Taylor Lucas. It’s the best hairdressing salon in Oregon. In fact, it’s the best hairdressing salon in the Pacific Northwest!
How’s the tour?
Things are going really well, actually.
The last shows were in the Spring?
In March, yeah. We played in Miami … no, we didn’t actually play in Miami at all, we played somewhere called Langerado. We played in an amphitheater – Pompano Beach or something – and we’d never played in Florida before, so that was a first. We also had a really good show in Atlanta where we’d only ever played once before, that was really good. I think the shows tend to follow a pattern, you know, like we all go out and have a good time.
Is there a difference in the crowds, different parts of the states?
No, generally speaking, I’d say not. We haven’t played Detroit since we got back together, and Detroit always used to be a really, really fantastic audience. Generally speaking, the crowds are pretty good, I’m not seeing anything different, but there was something about the Detroit audience that was almost like a sort of Glaswegian audience. I guess if the question had been who’s your favorite crowd in the States, it would’ve been Detroit, but that wasn’t your question, was it? Our audiences are all pretty much the same wherever we go, you know, they’re really sort of up for it, and have a good time, you know? The Miami show wasn’t a typical sort of gig, but let’s say between a Boston crowd and a Los Angeles crowd, not really an awful lot of difference. I mean, in Boston, you see a lot more flat caps.
And the LA crowd is probably more tan.
Totally more tan! Of course it’d be a little more like that than Boston, but I don’t want to deal in LA stereotypes unfairly. Generally speaking, Pogues fans are Pogues fans the world over … and they’re wild in the sack!
Any difference between fans in the States and fans in Japan, Australia?
Not been back to Australia since the early nineties. The Japanese audience is an interesting one, because Japanese audiences used to be quieter. At the end of a song, you were never quite sure whether they liked you or not because they were very, very quiet, and then they sort of burst into applause. It was always a bit, “Oh yeah, they do like us”. Now, they seem to have just embraced the whole thing, they really go for it. The Australians … the Australians are Australians and behave accordingly. They’re not really different than American audiences except, obviously, the accents, and they’re probably more tanned.
And in Europe, any differences? Russia?
Never played in Russia. In Europe, no, they’re all pretty much the same – depending where you are, some people are more tan than others.
Sorry I mentioned the tanning. We’re a very pale people, here.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I appreciate that, really, but about the only noticeable difference is the degree of tan-ness. In terms of the fervent lack of decorum, they’re all pretty much the same.
Also, reading up for the interview, I didn’t realize you played on [Kirtsy McColl's UK hit] “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis”
I didn’t, actually, but I did play the very last gig that she did. She was doing a version of “Fairytale of New York”, and she asked me, “Spider, I’m doing Fairytale tonight, I was just wondering if you’d like to play whistle”. Of course I did, and then I was allowed to stay on the stage with her while she did “Chip Shop”, but I didn’t actually play on the record, no.
Just after her death, it was in the news that members of the Pogues were trying to find out …
When Kirsty was killed, the boat that killed her belonged to a guy who was the owner of a very large supermarket chain in Mexico. I found out that his son was in the boat and I think the allegation is that his son was actually driving the boat, people actually saw the son driving the boat, but they got the boat-hand to say it was him because the boat was in a restricted area that was reserved for people snorkeling or scuba diving. Under Mexican law, the boat-hand only had to pay a fine related to his wages. It was basically to avoid any sort of scandal related to the family. And Kirsty’s mum, who’s now got to be pushing 90, just wasn’t having this, and she launched this campaign to actually get to the bottom of the story. We’ve had shows, we’ve been collecting for the Justice for Kirsty campaign. We can give you an email if you wish to include it in your piece – http://www.justiceforkirsty.org – because it’s still yet unresolved. These people pull strings, they’re very well-connected, they know the right people in Mexico, and so far they have managed to wiggle out of taking any sort of responsibility for their actions, except for the poor fucking boat hand who was just a patsy, y’know? The fight goes on, and we will get them. But we need help.
Changing topics … have you guys been working on any new songs?
No new songs, but lots of good old ones.
Which have been the most popular?
It’s a bit hard to say, really, because we’ve been playing the same ones, and those seem to go down pretty well … pffff, I don’t know. Shane’s singing “Rainy Night in Soho” really beautifully. I’ll say that one because I think it’s worthy of mention. He’s really giving it something extra these days.
After this … more touring?
Yeah, I think that’s the plan for the moment, just continue what we’ve been doing for the last 5 years and see how it goes.
We thought there’d never be a chance of seeing you guys in Portland again.
In all honesty, we’re really, really pleased to be coming to Portland. Like I said, I actually thought we hadn’t been there before, so I was like, “Great, Portland’s somewhere we’ve never been”, but I guess it turns out we’re delighted to be coming back. It just sounds like a really nice place anyway. I’ve heard nothing but good about Portland. And I’m not just saying that ‘cause I’m talking to you. As I’m sure you know, Portland has a pretty good reputation.
Hopefully we can live up to it.
Yeah, we’ll find out, but I’m sure you can.
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