Hello Brian, how are you? It’s early morning here, but I’m grand.
We’ll start you off with some quick ones: What’s the last book you read? I’m a collector of books and at the moment I’m reading The Irish in Australia.
What’s your poison? I like a pint of Guinness. I also like a pint of lager. Last night I was drinking Fosters.
What do you have in your pockets? Well, I’m in bed, haha.
What is it about the Irish that makes them such great travellers? The Irish have always been travellers really, you know. In the fifth century they went out and discovered America, and set up monasteries in Europe and educated half of Europe. Being an island nation, people try to get out there and see the world.
You wrote a song for Celtic Football Club, at their request, but then they banned it… [The song] was kind of painting a picture of what I think Glasgow and Celtic supporters are, and everything like that. I kind of made up a little story surrounding Celtic supporters… But there’s a great big anti-Irish bias in Glasgow and some people complained about there being an Irish group in Celtic Park, they made a big furore over it, there were headlines in the paper and everything else. That’s the way it is in Glasgow, there’s this anti-Irish, anti-Catholic vibe there.
You’ve complained that the media goes to “great lengths” to try to ignore your existence. Why is that? Back in the 1960s The Wolfe Tones were singing all kinds of songs, like anti-apartheid songs. The nationalist people of the Six Counties were being discriminated against in housing, employment and every walk of life. So we decided we’d support [them] in the struggle for civil rights, which had transferred from America and Martin Luther King. When we sang songs that were reflecting what was happening in the Six Counties some people took it as fact that we were part of the uprising or the revolution in Ireland. Rightly or wrongly we were blamed… At the time there were a lot of bombings. People would say “they’re doing everything but shooting and bombing people”, but, you know, it wasn’t the case. Ballad singers [just] reflect what happens. At one stage a politician brought in an act that banned anything that mentioned the IRA and things like that. Now, traditionally in Ireland we sing songs about [the 1916 uprising] and other times. They included things like that in the ban and we were mentioned by the minister, [he] said “songs like the Wolfe Tones”… They tried to suppress the story of our country.
Do you feel that your music is still relevant now Northern Ireland is enjoying peace? Yeah, well it’s historic based. We sing songs about every aspect of Ireland: emigration, it’s laughter, it’s love, it’s folklore, it’s revolutions, it’s heroes. We do a slideshow with the songs to sort of explain them as we go along… People love it. It’s the story of Ireland and everybody’s interested in it. It’s a unique thing that we’re doing.
The rock clichÃ© is sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Is it the same for a folk band? Definitely not, hahaha. Well the drugs and the rock ‘n’ roll would be out, and the sex? I don’t know. We’re a bit old for that now.
Do you ever get underwear thrown at you, or any strange or obsessive fans? I think it would have been in our younger days, haha. Not any strange fans but we’ve had people follow us for years and years. There’s one girl who’s seen us 1,500 times. The Wolfe Tones tour Oz for the last time in January, playing Sydney (16th), Melbourne (22nd), Brisbane (23rd) and Pert] (24th). Tix at ticketek.com.au You can also take part in Wolfe Tone Idol, to become the 4th Wolfe Tone…. for one night only. more info at www.shamrocknroll.com.au