Interview with The Dubliners September 2007




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Some weeks ago, before The Dubliners came to play Vienna, we invited the fans at the Dubliners forum to send in their questions - a free for all to bring up whatever you always wanted to know but were afraid to ask. 

Out came a mixed bag of questions of all sorts, group-related, individual, about the music, about sports, about touring. We brought these forward to the band and with the big hearts they have for their fans, they answered quite a few. 

We emphasize that we did not seek out for your typical interview situation - we just slipped in the odd question now and then, trying to keep it as easy-going as these evenings in Vienna.


Will there be more Irish dates in 2008?
John Sheahan:  Probably weekend gigs similar to this year; we wouldn't do a full tour.

Speaking of tours, will there be more gigs in England in 2008?
John Sheahan:  We have sort of neglected France and Spain recently so we need to put something else a bit on hold. There may be the occasional gig like Liverpool (Note: 19th Oct. 2007), but there are no plans for a full tour at the moment.

Out of the current program, what are your favorites a) you enjoy hearing the most and b) enjoy performing the most?
Eamonn Campbell:
For enjoyment, the sailor song Patsy does, All For Me Grog, musically Cill Chais, strictly from a guitar's player point of view.
Patsy Watchorn:
St. Patrick's Cathedral by John Sheahan, fiddle and tin whistle, that's a beautiful piece, would be my favourite, wonderful piece of music. After that.... that would be very hard to pick. One of my favourite songs, Seán sings it, as the songs goes, The Night Visiting Song would be my choice. Out of those I sing, it would be The Dublin Minstrel and my hit The Rare Old Times.
Seán Cannon: I think all of these songs I do, because I wouldn't have learned them if I didn't like them, I liked them when I heard them first. Out of mine, I'd say The Night Visiting Song I really like singing. Which actually is very easy to do, a small range (laughs). It's amazing how simple it is.
John Sheahan: So that couldn't be the same one? (laughs) No no, that would be what Barney calls incest. Which one I enjoy playing the most?
Seán Cannon: The last one!
John Sheahan: The last one (laughs again), yeah, I love Molly Malone, means we're closer to the bar! Now for a serious answer, last night I probably enjoyed St. Patrick's Cathedral the most. Haven't played it in a while and it felt fresh with a new kind of energy in it. And which one do I like to hear the others playing? The Dublin Minstrel and Cill Chais.

Would you consider an album "Ciaran Bourke With The Dubliners"?
Eamonn Campbell: 
I honestly don't think there's enough material. Some of it is so old and the recordings are awful. If you try to digitally remaster it it's gonna sound worse because if you clean it up you're gonna be left with nothing - that's the problem with the very very old recordings. You can remaster up to a point and then you ruin them.
John Sheahan:  I'm not sure if there is enough individual tracks of Ciaran, but it would be a nice thing to do.

Did you know Ciaran Bourke, Patsy?
Patsy Watchorn:
I did of course, yes. I followed the Dubs when Bob Lynch was with them. Then I started my own band, The Jolly Tinkers and on to The Quare Fellas and on to the Dublin City Ramblers, then on to me own, Patsy Watchorn Agus A Chairde and then on to The Dubliners - so, what's next? (laughs). But Ciaran Bourke, I knew him very very well, God be good to Ciaran, he played the guitar and the whistle and sang some great songs. As you know, I still do All For Me Grog. He sang a couple of Irish songs, and The Dublin Fusiliers, a couple of good rebel songs. Given how it was back then, I too doubt there is enough material suitable to today's quality standards.

Eamonn, considering that you were one of Ireland's most sought producers before  becoming a Dubliner,working with simply everybody, have you ever regretted joining The Dubliners?
Eamonn Campbell: No, I'm enjoying what I'm doing. It's great to play for people. It was all studio work before, it's different, it pays the rent and you get a great satisfaction to know that you have done these arrangements: You heard these arrangements in your head, you write 'em down on paper and then you hear them played, it's a great feeling. But as soon as that's done, it's gone, as soon as the concert is over, the music is gone. You get something from the audience. 

You've been among other things with Dermot O'Brien And The Clubmen, who also wrote Dublin Town In 1962.
Eamonn Campbell: Yes. I started with him in 1964. Sadly he passed away three months ago. I got to see him four days before he died, took a taxi up from Dublin, spent hours and we had a great chat. Then I went on to play with other bands, but in fact, that's how I met them - I met The Dubliners when I was with Dermot O'Brien. He had a huge hit in 1966 with a song called The Merry Ploughboy and we were doing a concert tour of England, which for an Irish showband was amazing. The Dubliners started to get a break at that time and then Seven Drunken Nights was released. So that was how we met, I played with orchestras, lots of TV and radio, and we kept in touch all over the years. 

For many years now your name is inseparably connected with producing all the albums and arrangements of The Dubliners. That leads to the question that the last 'real' studio album is over a decade old...?
Eamonn Campbell: Yes, I did all that. And yes, it was when Paddy joined, 'Further Along'. Then a lot of the 40 years recordings was newly recorded, old songs, yes, but new recordings like Jim McCann singing Carrickfergus. And then we brought out a sampler when Patsy joined us, with seven new tracks. If I had my way, we'd be doing one a year, but then there are other things to consider as well, you know.

Which English football team are you a fan of?
Patsy Watchorn: Chelsea!
Eamonn Campbell: 
Man United! Since 1957! Fifty years! 
Seán Cannon: I'm not really a fan of any football team. I watch big matches like the world cup sometimes. I live in Coventry since 1955 and I only have been to the stadium twice. But the new stadium is quite impressive, I might go there one day.
John Sheahan: I don't have one, I'm not a football fan and have absolutely no interest in it.

Do you still practice?
John Sheahan:  Taking out the fiddle and play? I do, yeah, quite often! I find it a help to leave the fiddle case open, in the kitchen, to leave the fiddle accessible, and then I might pick it up and play a tune while the kettle is boiling. While if you leave it locked and away, it's too much of a hassle to take it out.
Eamonn Campbell:  I do actually. I'm self-taught, taught myself totally. I'm originally from a place called Drogedha, 30 miles north of Dublin, I taught myself the guitar and then I realized I need to learn to read music. So there was a brass band in Drogedha and I went to that band and I learned the theory of music. The theory is the same if you play the guitar or the fiddle or the trumpet. Then I bought me some books on the guitar, there are some excellent ones, like Sal Salvador's Single String Studies, it's an amazing book. Then there is a great course that you can get from the Berkeley School Of Music in America, three books. I got my own music room at home and I have my guitars; I have a lot of guitars, also electric guitars as I'm originally a rock and country-rock player, and I simply take out a book and open up a page.
Patsy Watchorn:
I do, yeah. I'd sit at home and I'd take out my banjo for half an hour and then put it away and then I'd take it out again. Singing some little songs, could be Country & Western, ballads, folk songs, republican songs, all depends on the mood I'm in, but I do rehearse, yes. Very seldom on the Bodhran, because it's not necessary. Also, I've always had a Spanish guitar and if I was learning a song I sort of picked the chords on the guitar first and then transferred it to the voice and the banjo. But I wouldn't introduce it on stage.
Seán Cannon: Practice? Do you mean if I'm a practicing Catholic? (Laughs). Ok, the answer is Yes, you have to.

Why do the Dubliners play the same stuff every year?
Eamonn Campbell:  Plain simple: Because the people want to hear it.
Patsy Watchorn: Listen to the requests coming up during the gigs - there are songs we don't do or haven't done in a while, but most of the requests is for the standards. We also got the Seven Drunken Nights as a request one of those days.
Heard the people shouting songs from the back last night? The Town I Loved So Well? Boys Of The Old Brigade? Sean South?
Patsy Watchorn:  Really? No, I didn't hear them. I've recorded the three of them. And I'd love to do Sean South. I gladly would love to sing that song, it's a very good one.
Eamonn Campbell:  Having said that, there is also not much new material that suits us. Songwriters have dried up, or, put it that way, the stuff they're writing doesn't suit The Dubliners.

What key does Barney play The Old House in?
Eamonn Campbell:  D. 

What's the funniest incident with The Dubliners you can recall?
Eamonn Campbell: Oh God, Jaysus Christ...
Patsy Watchorn: There are so many with Barney, he comes out with some great statements - he comes up with classics every night. I remember them telling me about a time when they were doing London, and at 2 o'clock in the morning Barney decides he wants to go to bed, so he says "Good night lads, see you all in the morning!". The lads say, "G'night Barney, we finish another beer and off we go!". Then when they went over to the lift, pressed the button and the door opens - and there is Barney standing there in the elevator, firmly snuggled into a corner and soundly asleep. So they wake him up: "Barney!" And Barney's reaction was, "Ha! What is all you doin' in my room?"
John Sheahan:  One funny incident? That's maybe something that's been told already, but one very funny incident was the day that I joined the group they broke up! The day I left my job and we got together to discuss, to have a chat about the future and where we might go from here. During the course of the meeting, there was a row between Ronnie and Barney and the group broke up! (laughs) That was the first funny thing that happened to me, but it didn't seem so funny at the time because I just had given up my good daytime job. But a day later, Ronnie phoned me and said, "Are you ok for next Friday?", and I said, "I thought the group broke up last night, Ronnie?", and he said, "Don't take any notice of that, that happens every week!"

Seán Cannon: I wondered why nobody asked the most obvious question - who's the world's greatest philosopher?
All: Barney!

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