Image by Ruth Medjber [Used with permission]
Harry from experimental folk band Carriages on the soundtrack to his life.
What was the first album/single that you bought?
The first album I ever bought was a double tape called The Michael Jackson Mix back in 1987. I saved up my pocket money for months and went into Virgin Megastore with my mam to pick it out. Michael was my hero at the time and I was too young to know the difference between this and a proper album. It was made up of 4 dodgy megamixes of Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 songs. One tape was the Love Mixes and the other was the Dance Mixes. I loved it and played it to death. My granny bought me Thriller around the same time. I had a framed picture of him on my wall too. Good times.
What is your earliest musical memory?
That would probably be Michael Jackson related. I used to make my mam put on The Michael Jackson Mix in the car and I would sit in the back singing along. Other popular albums in the car were Paul Simon’s Graceland and Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms. I also have a very vivid memory of U2 playing on top of the Berlin Wall when it was being torn down, which never actually happened. I think I may be mixing it up with footage of Live Aid in my head. This interview is showing my age more than any I have done before.
Is there a particular song/band/singer that made you want to be a musician?
I was sent to piano lessons when I was 5 but I didn’t want to play in bands until I was around 10. By then I had left Michael Jackson behind and had moved onto the sordid world of Guns N Roses. That was when I started dressing up as Slash and playing guitar solos on a tennis racket. When I got my first guitar Nirvana were the biggest band in my life so it was probably a mix of Slash and Kurt Cobain that made me want to play in bands.
Is there a song/band that you love that was introduced to you by someone else?
I would say the vast majority of songs and bands that I love were introduced to me by someone else. Maybe the most meaningful were the Beatles who were introduced to me by my Uncle Paul. He had an incredible record collection dating back to the 60s and I used to spend hours going through all his old Beatles records. He died about 12 years ago and now his Beatles albums are hanging on my sitting room wall.
Is there a song whose lyrics resonate with you and why so?
My favourite lyric is in the song Only Skin by Joanna Newsom. The line is “Scrape your knee. It is only skin. Makes the sound of violins” I love it because its so positive. When you’re a child, the worst thing in the world is falling and scraping your knee. Its your biggest fear. And this lyric is saying that you should just go ahead and face your fear because it makes a beautiful sound and the skin will grow back anyway. Myself and Michelle (whose in Colour Canyon with me) are having our first baby in October and everytime she falls and hurts her knee I’m going to say those words to her.
The band/musician that you grew up listening to?
It has always changed as the years have passed. Michael Jackson led to Guns N Roses and Faith No More. Then Nirvana took over my life. Green Day came along when I was just hitting my teens and introduced me to punk music. I loved the Clash, NOFX, Rancid and the Sex Pistols. I also loved Ska bands like Sublime, The Specials and Operation Ivy. I was in a ska punk band at the time called Woodrow. We were very popular in the Kilcoole area.
What song do you wish that you had written and why?
This Must Be The Place by Talking Heads because it is my favorite song. They wrote it by swapping instruments and playing somethig they wouldn’t normally be comfortable playing and what came out was the most beautiful and simple melody that the world has ever heard. The lyrics are perfect too. I’ve never heard anyone describe love and the feeling of missing home the way that that song does. And the line “You’ve got a face with a view” is the best compliment ever put into a song.
What song transports you back in time and why?
Magic Dance by David Bowie brings me back to all sorts of times in my life. I know that the Labyrinth soundtrack is never considered to be a proper David Bowie album but that song and Underground are two of my favourite Bowie songs. When I was a kid, Labyrinth was my favourite film for years and is still easily in my top 5. It also reminds me of Homebeat’s Fading Light festival which are some of the happiest weekends of my life. A group of us have been renting a house down there each year and for 2 or 3 years there, our house was the official party house and Magic Dance was the highlight of our parties,for me anyway. That song reminds me of that group of people in that amazing house. They know who they are.
Which song makes you dance when you hear it?
Again, Magic Dance and anything from Prince’s golden years in the mid 80s. Also the DJ that makes me dance most is DJ Hula Hoops. She plays this remix of Africa by Toto that has this ridiculously long teaser of an intro and that makes me dance all the time. She’s the best DJ. My friend Derek Dodd saw her DJ once and came over to us and shouted “She’s amazing, I want her to DJ at my funeral.”
Which song makes you sad when you hear it?
It’s Over by Roy Orbison. Its the most devastating break up song of them all. Its painfully direct and final and is basically saying “She has no interest in you and she never will again. Get over it and move on” That mixed with Roy Orbison’s voice makes it the most heartbreaking song I’ve ever heard.
What was the first gig you went to?
Faith No More and L7 in the Point Depot on the 30th of November 1992 and I didn’t even have to google that date. I was 11. It was on the Angel Dust tour and it was incredible. Its imprinted on my brain. My friends Ross and Seamus used to listen to them with me constantly. I don’t know why they weren’t at the gig but Ross met them in Virgin Megastore at a signing that afternoon. I remember the photo he had of Mike Patton. For years I was able to boast about seeing them live and then they ruined it by getting back together. I didn’t get tickets to see their reunion gig in the Olympia so I found the keyboardists husband on Twitter and gave him a sob story and he made them put me on the guest list. What a band Faith No More were. I don’t care for their new stuff. Faith No More, The Pixies and At The Drive In should not have been allowed do what they did to their flawless back catalogues.
What was the first song that you ever performed/played?
Basket Case by Green Day in the Bayside Community Centre with a band called David Bookless And Band. It was probably around 1994 and it was called The Living Rock Festival. There were three guitarists, myself, Derek Tannam and David Burke, which is far too many guitarists to play Basketcase. We borrowed a bass player and drummer from David Burke’s brother’s band and Robert Corcoran sang. The three guitarists and Rob spent weeks practicing in my sitting room. The plan was to play Basketcase and When I Come Around by Green Day and Smells Like Teen Spirit but there was only time for one in the end. Anyway, my neighbour at the time was an evil, angry man who hated me and he would call the police whenever he heard us. So my memory of those practices was the police calling to the door to tell us to stop. They came in and I explained my relationship with the neighbour and they sat down and listened to us play for a while. The gig itself was a star studded affair. One of the bands had a drummer that went on to be Neil from The Redneck Manifesto and another had Kormac from Kormac’s big band in it. Before we played, my friend Shona played a tin whistle solo. Rob Corcoran is now trawling the London folk scene and putting the finishing touches to his first album and the band would go to change our name to Sniffer and have Ian from legendary folk band Lynched/Lankum on vocals. There was something in the water in Bayside back in those days.
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