INTERVIEW FROM THE
DECEMBER 1990 BY: KENNETH KELLEHER
Rory and his band played Cambridge last night (Tuesday), will play in Nottingham tonight, then Manchester tomorrow the 20th, Redcar on the 21st, Wolverhampton on the 22nd and London on the 28th and 29th. They will tour the world in the new year. "We have a fan club in Tokyo" says Rory ,"and we're going there in February and then on to America. We're also going to Australia and New Zealand."
No Irish dates have been confirmed yet, but there is a possibility that he will do a television show in Belfast in mid January. "Ideally, we would liked to have done a Christmas show tour at home and one was sort of semi planned, but it didn't work out. After the concerts in 1988, I thought we'd be back in Ireland sometime this year, but it (didn't work out that way, unfortunately ," he says.
He should have happy memories of his Irish concerts. His Irish tour of 1974 gave rise to a best-selling double album and a feature film that "was premiered at the Cork Film Festival. On June 26,1977, he made history in Macroom, Co.Cork, by playing the first ever outdoor rock concert in Ireland. He played at the Self Aid Concert in 1986 and the Cork concert of his 1988 Irish tour was recorded and screened by RTE. He also played at the Nelson Mandela birthday concert in Dublin.
He has strong memories of some of his concerts in Belfast, where his fans come from both sides of the political fence. "I lived there a lot in my early days so now ,thank God, there's no divide in my following. When it comes to music and entertainment, the last thing you want is further bias either way. Sport and music and things like that can cut down a lot of friction," he says.
"Because you're in your homeland, you feel more comfortable, but you also feel the audience is going to be more demanding, because they only see you every couple of years", he says. "Irish crowds have become more sophisticated over the last ten years. An Irish crowd is not so narrow-minded and they can listen equally to blues, rock, folk or whatever", he says.
That suits Rory, who mixes blues with rock and, more recently ,even Irish traditional music. He played on an album by uileann piper Davy Spillane called "Out of the Air" and enjoyed the experience very much. "He sent me a cassette of the track he wanted me to play on and I was keen to do it because I liked what he did anyhow. This project was to take Davy a little further away from Irish traditional and into blues and rock and things like that. I ended up recording three tracks with him, including one we composed on the day. Davy is very pleasant and the other musicians were great. The project turned out quite well. It was my first time ever working with uileann pipes", he says.
He lives in London, but misses Ireland. "I used to go back a lot more", he says. "A few years ago I'd go back every couple of months for a weekend or a week. I am the real exile. I get Irish newspapers and I'm constantly checking out what's going on at home after all this time. The plan at one stage was to have a home and to commute. But it might happen next year when we get back to world touring.
"You would miss Ireland, there is no doubt about it", he says. "You miss the people. I never entirely mentally left Ireland. That might be because when you're touring for years and living in hotels in Germany and France or whatever ,you have to apply yourself to the road and become gypsy-minded, in a sense. In the long run, I'll go back to Ireland. But I'm trying not to think about retirement yet, I still have a few years left in me", he says with a slight laugh.
He still listens to RTE radio, "when I can get it .I have trouble picking it up lately, but I heard it one night when I was in Munich and another night after a concert in Florence. I picked up the election results from Dublin. That was great, I felt I was really up to date with what was going on at home."
He keeps up as best he
with new Irish bands, he says, but that is not easy as he rarely has
opportunity to see them live. "They all seem to be veering towards rock
and pop so there's not that much blues music coming from Cork or Dublin
or Belfast," he says. "Mary Stokes is a pretty good blues singer with a
good band and Gary Moore's, "Still got the blues" album is good. In
I like him playing that sort of music much more than metal and rock he
was playing. He is a great speed player, but I think he felt better
getting off the Eddie Van Halen syndrome for a while. Some of that can
be all right, but there are so many bands playing it that one band
too much like the next."
Rory has a big following on the continent and he seems to be more famous there than either the UK or Ireland," it has been true, off and on," he says. "I think they understand my attitude better in France, Germany ,Holland and places like that, I have a faithful following here and I have a good following in Ireland, but for some reason on the continent they understand my attitude to commercial music and pop music," he says.
"I don't push myself that well in publicity terms. We don't go for big media or video things. Maybe we should push ourselves a bit more, but I don't think that's more helpful, because with me the music comes first and I don't like to sell my personality or my private self as some sort of product. Some people sell their personalities and their views. I have a limit to how much of that I will do," he says.
But he does not agree with the suggestion that he keeps his politics entirely out of his songs. "l would not say that I am completely apolitical," he says. "I have political views; personally, but I won't write a song that has a standard cliched political line that has been turned out a million times before by other people. I wouldn't be adverse to writing something semi-political, if it was original and inventive, but very few people can do that. The only people who could do that were people like Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan, at certain times. In recent times, Elvis Costello has written things that are interesting. Politics and music can work very well, but sometimes it is disastrous, no matter how well the point is made.
"But even if you don't write about politics and just put your feeling into songs, then ultimately an element of politics creeps in. Billy Bragg's politics are very overt in his songs. I like Billy Bragg as a musician and I even agree with some of his views, but I would find that a very narrow area to work in, to be always left of centre and always writing from a socialist point of view. I might agree with him on certain things, but I don't have that vocation," he says.
Some of his songs, like "Loanshark Blues", have political overtones, he says, "but if I pushed the social or political side of that any further, I would have overstated the dilemma and the poverty of the guy in the song. I think I stopped it just when it was still subtle enough, rather than adding another verse that went on to say 'therefore' .You have to leave an element of poetry in it. If you make it too obvious, it blocks out other elements of the song.
"I don't think I could work in a narrow way like Billy Bragg. That doesn't mean I write about entertainment, about music, nor does it mean I would be afraid to write a political song, but I see things in a broader way, not in party political terms. I know that sounds like a get-away clause, but I think in twenty years time things will be very broad and we will have to look at the globe rather than just small issues. I try to write different views of the world and they can be all dark and gloomy, because there are other things going on as well, so I don't think I could write from a political platform," he says.
Rory Gallagher is on the road again following the release this year of his new album, "Fresh Evidence". He and his band are at their best playing live and Rory was looking forward to the road when he gave an interview to the Irish in Britain news recently. "We haven't toured for quite a while. The last show we did was on a TV show in Cologne in Germany, which went well. I'm looking forward to it, but you're always cautious of things like sore throats in the winter because we put on a fairly sweaty show ,"he says.
"I prefer touring to the studio, "he says," and it's good fun on the road. The studio is sterile in a way. No matter how much sweat and guts you put into the music, it's another thing to put that across on tape. And then you have to mix it right. It's a creative thing in the studio and there are some parts of the recording process that I really enjoy ,but it's not as much fun as the road."
This tour will give him his first opportunity to play some of the songs from his new album to a live audience. "When you're playing live you're on stage for two hours and you can't criticise it or you can't tear it apart or you can't go back over it" he says. This contrasts with his studio work, where he is always striving for perfection. "I tend to get very run-down when I'm mixing albums. You can get very self-critical. No matter how long you have been doing it, you never feel absolutely secure or satisfied. You are always a bit conscious that you might be able to change this or improve that," he says.
He took a five year recording break after his 1982 album "JINX", and in 1987 released "DEFENDER", reckoned by some to be his best album to date. "In those five years we recorded almost a full album, but we put it in the bin. In a way it was good to throw that away and start afresh on "DEFENDER", which brought us back to blues roots. I know that might sound grandiose and yes, it is expensive to throw albums away, but every couple of years it is good to have a re-evaluation and to see where you are going .
"We don't tour as heavily as we used to, which is a good and a bad thing. It is good because it gives us a chance to look at what you're doing. If you are touring endlessly, it's difficult to get time to think and to evaluate, but if you're off the road for too long, you start getting a little over critical and over analytical about what you are doing," he says.
On stage, however ,there is a certain magic in a Gallagher performance. "When you get a band around you for a few years you get this ESP element so you can take all sorts of twists and turns in your music without having rehearsed them", he explains.
As for his studio work, his latest album, "FRESH EVIDENCE" is the culmination of over 25 year' s experience as a professional musician. He first learned the guitar when he was nine and when he was 15 he bought the Fender Stratocaster guitar that is his trademark today.
Soon afterwards, he began playing in the Fontana showband. When it split he formed a blues trio called TASTE, which, after a couple of changes of line-up, became one of the very few Irish bands of the time to get an international recording contract.
He went solo in the early '70's and has achieved greater success and international fame on his own. Between his TASTE and solo careers he has recorded albums in the 60's, the 70's, the 80's and with "FRESH EVIDENCE", the 90's, which is quite an achievement for a man of 42.
He has a particular affection for the Stratocaster guitar he has had for the last 27 years. "It's the guitar I grew up with", he says. "It seems to have a character of it's own and I know every aspect of it. Its sentimental value is huge, of course. It was stolen once and it was recovered after ten days. It was even mentioned on "Garda Patrol", he says with a smile.
After 25 years,
tours, innumerable concerts and album sales running into millions, Rory
Gallagher shows no signs of stopping. "To play until you are 60 or 65
quite an undertaking. Not that I intend to retire or anything, but to
on the road until you're 60, as Muddy Waters and B.B.King did is quite
something. I don't know where they get the energy or the strength from.
But I'll try", he says.
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