|Interview with Mandy Byrnes,
project coordinator of
IRISH REBEL HEROES
Hearts On Fire was just out last year and now we see another one coming up, Irish Rebel Heroes. Aren‘t you afraid that this is too much, especially for the non-pop-market?
Mandy Byrnes: I don‘t see this problem.
After all, Patsy Watchorn is a recording artist and his releases are in demand. You hit instantly with an album, you got a big success, or you get yourself a slower-but-steady seller. Patsy is doing all that so there is no reason to stop — on the contrary: We hear about the need for new material all
the time. Look around and tell me how many other artists of his generation are able to release a new album each year.
Looks like this confidence in Patsy as a recording artist can be traced some years back?
Mandy Byrnes: Absolutely! In 2002, we had THE VERY BEST OF PATSY
WATCHORN, very significantly with four all-new songs as already back then demand for new recordings has been tremendous. You hardly find anything that‘s not at least 10 years old on a Best Of, with Patsy it was different. In 2003, we fulfilled Patsy a dream when we produced HEARTS ON FIRE ourselves
and made sure that every song and every arrangement is exactly like Patsy wanted it— everybody with just very little insight into the music biz will know that this 100% fulfillment of the singer‘s expectations is rather uncommon. It is rewarding to see that we have not only a steady seller at hand,
but that it also was critically acclaimed very highly. Then there was the idea of another album floating around for at least as long as HEARTS ON FIRE: That is the new IRISH REBEL HEROES.
Does this imply that IRISH REBEL HEROES is not exactly what Patsy wanted?
Mandy Byrnes: Not at all; John O‘Neill of Ceol Music listened to our vision, took up the idea and lived through it with us to see it come true.
We had to compromise nevertheless—Patsy had picked so many songs that we could have done a 20-CD-anthology! Seriously, that means of course that John and Patsy agreed very easily on the song selection. John even gave us mostly free hand on the presentation, that means, how the cover will look like.
Fair play to John, who, what should be mentioned here though, had a great idea to suggest which we happily followed.
Could you explain that a bit more?
Mandy Byrnes: John had the belief that the embodiment of Irish rebellion visually is the G.P.O. here in Dublin. That
sounds trivial at first glance, but if you consider the vast amount of places in Ireland connected to our fight to freedom, you‘ll find that it is very hard to single out a motif for your front cover. The idea came alive in the hands of a dear friend from Austria, Jutta Schittler, who did a painting
of the GPO and also the inside painting of O‘Connell Street; she did a fantastic job on these and we were very touched when we could see the album design for the first time. We feel it‘s just perfect.
And that picture of Patsy goes along very well?
Mandy Byrnes: Oh yes, as everybody who ever was here in Dubin will realize that Patsy is standing in front of the main gates of
Kilmainham Jail! I also want to mention the liner notes—usually the place for some lucky bastard to unfurl himself, we wanted that the link between Patsy, his love for Ireland and the music he‘s recording is becoming even tighter through the text and I think we have accomplished that.
That‘s the cue for speaking about the music and let‘s start with the song selection: It is not strictly „most popular rebel ballads“ when examined: God Save Ireland * Rising Of The Moon * Dublin In The Green * Upton Ambush * James Connolly * The Irish Republican
Army * Broad Black Brimmer * The Sea Around Us * The Ballad Of Billy Reid * Boys Of The Old Brigade * Robert Emmet * Irish Soldier Laddie * The Patriot Game * Sean South Of Garryowen * Come Out Ye Black And Tans * A Nation Once Again.
Byrnes: That‘s correct. We had a few that were out of discussion, like Robert Emmet, Patsy‘ favourite rebel.
To much extent was the song selection influenced by titles like God Save Ireland or A Nation Once Again which seems they must be on any rebel album to bow down before the customers‘ expectations, but at
the same time by doing so, doing what everybody else does and haveing to be compared?
Mandy Byrnes: A very good question indeed that allows to explain our philosophy when recording Patsy! First, I honestly feel we did not bend over as Patsy wanted to
record all of these himself. Some of these he has done already, yes, but that was in donkey‘s years and if you listen to it today, you just can‘t help to observe that engineers have improved, studios have, musicians have improved, everything has made big steps
forwards in the past decades; not to say they didn‘t do good music back then, but just the sound alone is hopelessly out-dated. So there is a need for our great freedom songs to be presented and to be enjoyed with today‘s equipment. Then, Patsy doesn‘t have to shy away from being compared to
anybody else in the business. The reviews of HEARTS ON FIRE proved that convincingly, crediting Patsy with accomplishing the task of redefining eternal classics like Raglan Road or Step It Out Mary and saying, let me borrow a quote: „Patsy makes the classics his own.“ But let me point out that
nearly half of the songs have never been recorded by Patsy before, so even our long-time fans will marvel over completely new material.
You have concentrated on Gerry O‘Connor and Dick Farrelly as musicians on the album.
Mandy Byrnes: Yes, and Dick has produced it as well. There‘s no doubt about the wonderful skills of these multi-talented musicians,
and working with these two has allowed us to create those rich yet highly to-the-point arrangements we wanted.
So what sets this rebel album apart from the many others out there?
Mandy Byrnes: The voice. That uniquely distinctive voice and the man behind it, adding amazing warmth and credibility to these songs. Then, of course,
his sincere love for his homeland that transforms these ballads from what they had become back to what they are in truth: Expressions of a country that wanted to be free; peoples, events and stories that shaped our land, treated with both the respect and the joy necessary to make real good music. I feel
that sums it up. Patsy wanted to entertain his audience as he always wants and at the same time creating musical monuments of historical events.
Patsy with Jutta who did all the sketches and painting for I.R.H.