It’s been a while since we spoke to Blood or Whiskey so with Paddy’s Day coming up we took the opportunity to speak with founding members Dugs (guitar and vocals) and Chris (drums) about their new album Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil and the struggles of the last few years. Hat’s off to the toughest band on the planet.
Shite’n’Onions: It’s been a while since the last the Blood or Whiskey album studio album, Cashed Out On Culture, about 8 years I’m thinking and I know the band has had many struggles over the last few years with your health, Alan Confrey’s (tin whistle) tragic death, line up changes and record label shit. Can you share with us some of the going ons with the band over the last few years?
Dugs: Yes its been a while alright since Cashed Out on Culture our last studio album, too long in fact! But as you said various reasons where contributing factors to that, poor Alan’s untimely death back in 2006 and legal issues with our last record company kind of stopped us in our tracks because we were building up a nice head of steam back then and then all these problems started to manifest themselves and it halted us in our tracks. When you lose a band member due to death its a bitter pill to swallow because it opens up a lot of doors inside of yourself that you wouldn’t usually think of but when you lose a band member and a friend I may add, its kind of hard to put rhyme or reason on a lot of things not just band stuff but life in general as he left a young family behind and also his parents and brothers and sisters so you do ask yourself all sorts of questions like should we carry on? should we keep going? A lot of “what if’s?” and so on ,so we carried on and started to tour again playing big supports, tours and big festivals, the Reading and Leeds festivals, Rebellion etc and just when things started to look good again I got diagnosed with cancer and that stopped us again in our tracks which was a battle for 2 years and in a way in those two years I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know about myself and about life, so before I got cancer we had a bunch of songs ready to go to record in the studio but the cancer put a stop to that. But now when I look at it clearly, I would have got cancer even if I wasn’t in this band, but shitty things happen in this life to all and sundry and that’s the painting from the cradle to the grave such is this big mountain we climb we call life and when life hits you hard and you fall down you just got to take it, get back up and move on because you never know what tomorrow brings some good and bad that’s just the way it is, and we have a song on our new album called ‘Rutland’ about that, but the lads in the band showed their metal by sticking around and seeing this album out as we are all very excited about it but to say it wasn’t easy to keep it all together is an understatement but I’m so glad we roughed it out and it now seems to be getting back on track again, fingers crossed.
Chris: Yes it has been way too long but with all that has happened we are delighted to have had this chance to get this new album ready for release. What happened to Al and Paul was a tragedy for us because when you are in a band on tour with friends you become much more than just band mates you become a family, so it hurts when something happens to any of us.
Things like the record label shit as you put it are insignificant when it comes to life, so then when Dugs got back on his feet we knew the only thing to do was keep going at what we love and are lucky enough to do and give it another real hard shot for Al, Paul and thank god, Dugs.
It wasn’t hard to hold the band together because we had a common goal and that was when Dugs gets better to get this album out so we were in studio a lot over those dark days and got this album to where it is now.
Shite’n’Onions: Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil is the title of the new album. I haven’t heard it so can you describe the sound of the album and how does it compare to the previous releases? Cashed Out on Culture had a much harder punkie sound then the previous two albums have you continued in that direction?
Dugs: Yes the new album is called “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil”, an old Irish saying I picked up from the old school in pubs and hanging out a lot down the west of Ireland. To describe its sound from previous B.O.W Albums its our most advanced work in terms of different styles of music and sonically, a lot of ska , punk, Irish , I like to think a cross breed of the Dubliners / Clash / Pogues / Specials etc in places, would describe the new albums direction best. I honestly think its our best work by far for me personally because as you say Cashed Out on Culture was a lot harder than the previous two albums by Bow, the first two albums were from their time and for various reasons line up changes etc that’s why they sounded like that but we have evolved in our music as each album progressed , no band is going to write the same album over and over again because of various reasons, who is going to write the same song as they did when they were a teenager to when they become an adult? Because you don’t think the same way for one and secondly you meet a lot of hurdles in life that you have to cross when you get older, so of course your music is going to change, develop and mature.
So this album is a different direction from all our previous releases. I know one thing I’m sure of, change is inevitable regardless of what you do in life, that’s just the way it is. But I’m very proud of this album because it took a lot of hard work to get this on the table after what we have been through as a band, but if you like punk, and ska with a topical feel I think people will like this one, there is even a Johnny Cash sounding song on it called ‘Montpelier Hill’, about the devils appearance at a card game in the hellfire club in the Dublin mountains, hence why the album title fitted so well, I think most styles that influenced us all to be in a band is on this album, we hope you all enjoy it.
Chris: The sound of “Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil” is a progression from “Cashed Out” in my eyes and ears, our usual influences are still in there beating there way out: (The Pogues, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Specials etc). We collectively as BOW love similar music, yet have very different tastes at times and when that all comes together, BOW is what comes out the other side. As for how does this album compare to our previous releases, to me its the best we have ever done which is not in any way knocking our previous albums, it is just where we are now. As musicians you always try to create something you can be proud of and stand over which is what we have done again. “Cashed Out” had its differences alright but at the end of the day it was still very much be BOW to us. To answer your question, yes we have continued to progress in this direction and really feel we’ve nailed it again.
Shite’n’Onions: One of the things that always struck me about Blood or Whiskey was the attitude and realism in the lyrics. Given the shit the band has been through in the last few years how are the songs/lyrics on the album influence by what’s happened to the band.
Dugs: Yes our lyrics on this album are pretty true to life and very self autobiographical in places, so in that aspect yes the new album doesn’t change in that respect, we basically write about what affects us from a personal point of view to what happens in our country and the world around us, there are songs about sickness a song about cancer diagnoses (Rutsy), our old unwelcome friend called emigration that has been a blight on Ireland from day one both of the past and today pop up in places on this album with Seanie o Keeffe, Emigrant, Cannibal Economy, Gone and Forgotten, to world issues in Dirty Auld War, Gernika, to some light-hearted tales of the devils appearance in Dublin at a card game in the hellfire club where the rich and the elite used to get up to all sorts of skullduggery back in the day (Montpelier Hill), so yes I think we touch on a lot of important issues but we also like telling a tale or two as well but yes nothing has changed in that regard of Blood or Whiskey with the lyrics.
Shite’n’Onions: BoW are one of the longest running bands on the Celtic-punk scene and in fact predate the scene. Are Blood or Whiskey part of a Celtic-punk scene and does the scene influence you? As a band from Ireland what are your thoughts on the scene? What hasn’t there been any other bands from Ireland playing Celtic-punk?
Dugs: Yes, thanks for reminding us were ancient hahahaha , when we started there was no term for this music, I certainly didn’t hear the term Celtic Punk, or Paddy Punk, I think folk punk was the most consistent when people labelled it, and there was only a handful of bands doing this, but did the scene influence us??? , Well hell yeah there would be no BOW if we hadn’t heard The Pogues, but it wasn’t a movement back then like it is now, The Pogues, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, I suppose are the first that spring to mind, but as I said it wasn’t a big deal like it is now, The Pogues were regarded as more of an alternative act because the term Celtic Punk hadn’t really been invented then and if it had we didn’t hear it much in the media, but also I have to say there would be no Blood or Whiskey without the punk scene and ska movements from the Pistols, Clash, to The Specials who were equally as important to us as The Pogues were as making us want to be in a band in the first place, regardless of what style we were playing, because in Blood or Whiskey we always wrote about personal stuff or stuff that effected our lives, we just happened to be Irish and could play those instruments like the tin whistle, accordion etc because we were force fed them at a young age either in school or by our parents, it was just part of growing up in Ireland, so we basically used what we knew and started to play this kind of music with a punk attitude and that’s how we started to play this celtic punk which now kind of reminds me a bit of the 2 tone movement or punk explosion all of a sudden there is loads of bands doing this music from all over the world which is pretty cool as it shows are little isle has touched many hearts around this globe with its songs , but I don’t really think about it too much to be honest, I like some of the bands in this scene and don’t like others but in general that goes across the board in all types of music, some songs you like some you don’t but in general I don’t have a real view on it ,as I’m a big fan of all types of music from across the world, but hey if people want to be in an Irish celtic punk/ rock/ folk/ band well good luck to them enjoy the music but your right in Ireland there is not many paddy punk bands as people were brought up with this kind of music at a very young age and its ingrained in their psyche at this stage they would rather be in bands that don’t celebrate their Irishness because they know their Irish if that makes any sense.
Chris: Yes we have been at it a long time kind of makes you feel a little old, in saying that we have just arrived home from watching the mighty SLF in Dublin tonight and they proved yet again that age doesn’t matter whatsoever when you love what you do, they are around a good few years more than ourselves and you wouldn’t tell from looking at them tonight they were brilliant.
Yes we are without doubt a part of the Celtic Punk scene simply by the instruments that we have in the group and that is a good thing, it always makes me smile when I see how far Irish music and our culture has travelled, we have played everywhere from the US to Japan and all over Europe and every where we go there is a love for this small nation it makes you proud to be Irish and proud of all the great music and musicians from Ireland that came before us and managed to influence people all over the world. Going from what I have just said the Celtic punk scene makes me personally proud to be Irish as it shows me how the rest of the world loves and enjoys Irish music and culture. I’m not sure why there has not been many other bands from Ireland playing Celtic Punk because you do get other bands mixing folk with rock etc just not so many doing the Celtic Punk thing. Maybe it’s because the Punk scene isn’t as big here in Ireland as it is in the likes of the US and Europe, mainly due to the size of our population I suppose.
Shite’n’Onions: Is Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil going to be available in the US and on what label?
Dugs: At this initial stage ‘Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil will be available by download on iTunes etc as we were talking to various labels that wanted to take this album but we decided to bring this out ourselves on BOW records and its 100 percent self-funded by our own personal pockets, we could have gone down the pledge route that a lot of bands seem to be doing these days, but for various reasons we didn’t feel comfortable with that alternative, so we scraped what little savings we had and recorded this album ourselves. But I am sure in time you will be able to buy this album in whatever record shops that are left these days as the music landscape has dramatically changed since we last released a record, but you will be able to buy the album via iTunes and the other digital download sites and if you want to buy physical copies you can buy directly from BOW records or catch us on the road at gigs.
Chris: We absolutely want to release this album in the US and are working hard to make it happen, not just for download but also physical copies in the shops, because lets face it there is nothing like having the CD or Vinyl. We have great fans in the US who come out to see us anytime we make it over to play, so we want to make it as easy as possible for them to get there hands on Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil.
Shite’n’Onions: Can we expect Blood or Whiskey back on the road in support of Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil and especially the US as it been a while?
Dugs: Yes of course we are going to tour this album as much as possible , and we hope to be back in America as well hopefully all going well, hope you enjoy the new record first and foremost and we get to play it to you all in a city or town near you, peace and love, Dugs.
Chris: One thing I can say for definite is that we (Blood or Whiskey), want to tour the hell out of this album, we love touring and want to play this new material and the old classics to as many people as we can reach. As for getting back to the US if we were told the flights were booked for tomorrow morning we’d be on them. So here’s hoping we see you very soon in a town near you. Securing the right booker would speed up getting back to the US.