This year marks the 35th anniversary of The Radiators from Space’s first single Television Screen. It’ll also see the release of their fourth studio album, Sound City Beat. As such, I thought it would be no better time to sit down and have a chat with lead singer and songwriter Philip Chevron. In my opinion, one of the greatest songwriters ever to come out of our fair city.
A shortened version of the following was printed in the latest issue of Rabble, here is the full thing.
Were your parents from Dublin?
Yep, both inner city kids. My mother was from the Liberties, hence the Hugeunots. A lot of them ended up in the Liberties … as artisans and tradesman. My Dad was from Ballybough. So basically they were North and South inner city. Absolutely dyed in the wool Dublin, going back several generations. My father’s mother was from Drogheda. That’s the only Culchie blood at all.. and that only counts as North Dublin now anyways!
In my Mother’s case, her Father was a trader in Dublin Corporation Fruit Market. He traded in potatoes .. and supplied Tayto crisps. It was one of the big contracts you could get at the time. That elevated my Grandfather into the frontline of the new middle classes in Dublin. As soon as they could, they got the hell out of the Liberties and moved to Terenure. My Mother was still a Liberties girl at heart though. She loved the fact that she moved up in the world.
My Father stayed in Ballybough all along. There is that strange reverse snobbishness in Dublin as well, where my mother would say, “We live in Terenure but we’re from the Liberties”.
I heard your Father’s Mother was politically active?
Yes, She was in Cumann na mBan … but I found out after she died that her view of it was that it was great way to meet fellas. There was a bit of craic involved in it, hiding the guns in the prams. Innocence that only a seventeen-year-old girl could have really. That’s probably why they got away with it. Like everybody she hated the Black and Tans and wanted to see the back of them but more than anything it was “I wonder will your man be at the dance on Saturday night”.
My grandfather on my Mother’s side, the potato merchant, was one of those Dubliners who covered all angles. He was in the Knights of Colobanus, in the old IRA I think but also the Masons. People then were pragmatic. They weren’t dogmatic or ideologists, idealists maybe though. They did what they had to do. If you’re a tradesman in Dublin, you had to keep everyone happy. Strangely, in his funeral in the early 1960s, he had fifteen-gun salute from the IRA. I was like ‘what the fuck’. Nobody knew. People thought ‘well then, I guess he must have been in the IRA’. I thought well ‘they don’t take the guns out for the fun of it’.
The Civil War caused such a rift in this country. It’s as solid, in its own way, as the one that still separates America. In a sense, the Irish were incapable of talking about it. I suppose we all went through our lives not talking about it. Truth is, we will never know if there were 25,000 people in the GPO in 1916.
Or to see U2 in the Dando!
Yes, exactly. I mean Lotte Lenya says about the opening night of the The Threepenny Opera in Berlin – “If everybody who said they were there, were there, we’d have to tear down the theatre and build it again”.
Do you think those Civil War wounds are finally healing now? Is this the first generation that we can see that?
I wonder about that. Maybe the De Valera generation is dead. I don’t know. They might go away for a few years but they’ll be back. Hopefully, it is a generation thing. I know one of my uncles still praises Bertie after all this time. It’s because these family bonds die very hard. Saying that, I don’t know anyone personally under seventy who thinks like that. I think we’ve got through the worst of it. We’ve had a century of bullshit from the politicians, priests, teachers and everyone else as well. I genuinely believe that people are moving forward. It feels like people aren’t so easily prepared to take the bullshit, on face value anyway. The whole generation that came up during the time of The Radiators, not just musically but in literature, art, film and theatre, were the first to have had the courage, or the space maybe, to say, “Let’s change it! It’s crap!”
It was kind of tentative because we all felt we were kind of transgressing in some deeply important way. In that we were almost being anti-Irish, anti-Catholic and anti-everything.
The generation, who are now in their early 50s to early 60s, all felt individually that we were the only ones who felt this way. But when you got to meet people at The Project Arts Centre, you realised that other people were speaking the same language as you. In some ways, Geldof knocked down the last wall by saying “I’m going to talk about this – whether you like it or not”. Had we be been more aware that there was this greater movement towards change; it probably would have been a lot louder and angrier.
But we also had a thing when just on the cusp of change it was ‘one step forward, two steps back’. Look at the reaction the pope’s visit in 1978. I remember thinking ‘hang on, thing’s aren’t going the right way’. Suddenly there was a while generation being named John Paul. It was strange.
I thought Killing Bono visually illustrated that quite well in that scene when the band are in the empty bar while it seems the whole of Ireland are at the Phoenix Park.
Oh yes, absolutely. I had left by then, The Radiators had moved to London in 1977 but when I came back I felt that something, albeit temporarily, had gone wrong.
I was even meeting people like Agnes Bernelle who said ‘It was wonderful, you should have seen it’. I thought ‘Why the fuck are you talking about? This guy is an utter bastard. Fuck off!’
We’re hosting the Eucharistic Congress this year and things literally couldn’t be more different than the one in 1932. It will be interesting to see that in action. It will be firm evidence to show that the country has changed. To see a film of the 1932 Eucharistic Congress is terrifying, I’d rather watch the Nuremburg rallies. It feels less regenerated and more artistically valid!
Moving onto The Radiators first album TV Tube Heart, I thought the two trends running through it were the idea/impact of TV and the feelings of boredom/prison. Was this intentional?
First of all, regarding the aspect of television in the album. You have to understand that we were the first generation in the country to have TV introduced to us in our lifetime. We were not born with TV. Unlike say American kids. So, we had this strange phenomenon of being introduced to TV. Inevitably it had a hold on the imagination.
At the time, The Late Late Show acted as a sort of ‘secular pulpit’. It genuinely opened up the doors for people to talk about things at the breakfast table that weren’t being talked abut. Suddenly, the words ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’ and even ‘atheist’ were becoming topical because of TV.
But TV also reduced people. While it was freeing people, it was reducing people to commodities and units of commerce. Essentially we were saying ‘What is this fucking thing?’. It was still an object of awe. We recognised it that it helped changed Ireland in our lifetime while similarly acknowledging that most TV was crap and the whole thing with Gary Gilmore. In the sense in ‘Electric Shares’ that even execution was a commodity.
The big cliché that the Radiators always came out with in interviews was “We’re an Irish band and we’ll always be an Irish band” to distinguish ourselves partly from the London and New York punks but also because Steve (from The Radiators) really believed in it. We’d seen how Horslips had managed to make a go of it in Ireland without having to move to London. They were the first band that happened to. The idea was that we were going to be the second band but it didn’t happened. When the lad got killed at the Belfield gig, we couldn’t get any gigs. So, we didn’t have any option but to take the emigrants trail. The band who did capitalise on the Horslips thing was U2.
What’s interesting in songs like Press Gang and Sunday World was that they were written from a particular Dublin perspective. The end of Press Gang we sang ‘Press or Herry’ which used to be the street cry of the newspaper vendors. Similarly, we managed to work in the Sunday Wold advertising jingle into that song.
And what about the theme of boredom? Was this connected to the idea of TV?
If it was, it was unintentional. We didn’t set out to do it. We found ourselves recording that album without planning to record an album. We had just put out Television Screen and were thinking about our second single when the Belfield incident happened and it soon became obvious that we didn’t have a career in Ireland.
So, the record company said ‘why not do an album?’. We absolutely weren’t ready to do it but the pressure forced us to make an album that we hadn’t really sat down and gave any thought to. In those circumstances, I think we did a pretty good job. Possibly if we waited a bit or longer, or given the chance to wait a bit longer, we could have made a more thoughtful album.
If The Radiators’ TV Tub Heart was The Clash’s 1977 self-titled album then Ghostown was your London Calling?
Yes but the difference would have been that we skipped to like our third or fourth album doing without doing something like Give Em Enough Rope.
What it be fair to say that you were tackling the issues of Irish nationalism and the Troubles in Ghostown?
Anything interesting to say, we said it in Ghostown. Partly because we felt, rightly or wrongly, that there were other bands North of the border who could deal with the issue better than us. Plus, we had seen The Clash in their photos in Belfast and laughed heartily at the sheer ‘commie-chic’ of the whole thing.
I think they regretted doing that after?
Strummer did definitely. I talked to him after about it and he said it was ‘pathetic’. They didn’t understand, they weren’t fully informed at the time.
If The Undertones or Stiff Little Fingers wanted to come up with something to say, that’s perfectly valid. In fact, The Undertones didn’t. They did the most wonderful thing possible and said ‘We love girls and chocolate’. They had, what I thought, was the better response. SLF I didn’t like for loads of reasons. I liked Jake Burns quite a lot personally but not the band and especially that journalist guy who was writing their lyrics and pushing them in that direction.
We certainly weren’t going to be accused of pretending to be something we weren’t. We were affected by The Troubles as much as anyone in the South was but we felt we didn’t have particularly anything interesting or useful to say about it.
Would it be fair to say that more London punk bands, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, were talking about The Troubles than Dublin bands?
That’s probably true.
But not only that you had Tony Parsons of the NME reviewing Television Screen and saying something like ‘Um, well. This band is from Ireland. I guess they might have had more interesting things to talk about but their content to do this. This is a band that will get people dancing but have nothing to say’ and I thought ‘Who gives you the right to say what WE should be talking about? It’s complete bullshit. Who the fuck are you? Tony fucking Parsons. In ten years time, you’ll write shite novels about what it’s like to be a Father and your ex. Wife will bully you from the other side of Fleet Street’. Incidentally, that’s exactly what happened!
Me and Jimmy (the Radiator’s drummer) went to London first to do a recce. Somebody took us to the Speakeasy, the Roxy and all the other places. Speakeasy spoke volumes. It was the 1960s club where all the old tarts had hungout and were still there. Snorting coke off the tables and whatever. You had Rod in the corner, Freddie over there and Elton on the other side and so on. The punks were there too. I thought at the time ‘What the fuck’s changed here?’ Why are the punks hanging with these coke-snorting assholes. The London scene was a) bullshit and b) nothing we wanted to be involved in. But when you get talking to these people, they’d say things like ‘Oh, so you’ll be writing about the Troubles then?’ and we were like ‘No, we won’t actually but if we decide to do so, it won’t be because you say we should’.
We rejected it when it was felt we had to do something. What’s it like to be growing up in 1960s/70s Ireland? We can talk about that. We can’t imagine what it’s like to be growing up on the Falls.
What about aspects of Irish Nationalism in Ghost Town? Specifically They’re Looting The Town?
Like a number of the songs from that album they appear to go in one direction and then they divert completely, which was deliberate.
I loved Ulysses but I never got through the whole thing. I loved the idea of it. Kitty Ricketts is directly out of it. I loved Strumpet City because it was the first novel that manifested, in an interesting way, the people who were involved in the 1913 lockout and how people responded to the Rising.
The Jim Larkin statue was probably a catalyst. It was unveiled in ’77 I think. It was the first ‘real’ person we had in that street. O’Connell and Parnell were all in the ‘pre-history’. The Jim Larkin statue chimed with Strumpet history.
I remember thinking that these people were fucking pagans! They liked to drink, shag and went to mass if they had to. Essentially they were a socialistic people who wanted their country back but not in a violent way if at all possible. James Plunkett was the first to animate it in a literary way. I felt that this was a country which had long been under the thumb of not just the British Empire but also the forces of the Vatican. Pretty much equally. Shane feels the same way, incidentally. There’s a real, living, breathing culture of actual people who feel things and think about things in a certain way underneath these ciphers of twentieth century Ireland made up of paupers, patriots and priests.
Back to They’re Looting The Town, the lockout started off that song. Irish Citizens being slaughtered for being involved in a trade union. In the 1960s and 1970s, the tenants of Sean O’Casey plays were still living in the same slums. Somehow, people had been left out of this social bargain. We talk today about the 99% and the 1%, it’s not that different at all.
How about Faithful Departed?
It always interested me that the first person to pick up on that song was Christy Moore. At the time, he was very much involved in the H Block campaign. I asked him why did he choose to cover the song and he said “I love the images in it, they dance around in my head and creates other pictures” and I thought that that was a fair enough answer. It meant to stir people not to preach to them. We wanted to fuck up people’s heads. However, you do it. Fuck up with their heads and see what happens.
Ghostown is very much a Dublin album but it was recorded in London. Do you feel that you had to be that bit detached?
I wonder about that sometimes. First of all, some of the Ghostown stuff actually predates TV Tube Heart. Those songs I’d be working on since I my teens but I never knew how they were going to emerge. Secondly, we had no choice but to record it in London. Because we were forced to emigrate because there was no work for us in Ireland. But we found we quite liked it in London. We did 18 gigs in London in the first month, that’s how many we did in Ireland in the year previously. We were then offered the Thin Lizzy tour. We felt ‘this is great. We can work and play here’. Plus, I genuinely love London. I think it helped that we were at a slight distance when recording the album, when it was actually a distance. When flights were expensive and you thought up going home maybe just at Christmas. Now, I can fly over to London once or twice a week if I want to.
Recording it in Chinatown in Soho helps you concentrate your mind a bit. You think about what you’ve left behind and if you want to go back to tit. It’s like how I always said that The Pogues could never have happened in Ireland.
Those things require a distance. I should have thought of The Pogues! I really should of. In some ways The Radiators, if we had gone on to do a third album, might have went down that path. We were working on what it was about being Irish in London.
And then then the split. How did that come about?
The business hassles and our innocence and naivety. The naivety was something that Geldof never suffered from because he never understood why people thought the Irish were in any way inferior. But we had grown up in this whole culture of inferiority which came in two ways. Firstly, a directly feeling of inferiority. Secondly, a sense of superiority for having to put up with all that. The Irish always had this very alcoholic way of thinking, that was both grandiose and lacking in self-esteem.
Business problems delayed the album. Think of the time scale, we played our first gig in UCD in November ’76, recorded our first album in the summer of ’77, started our second album in the start of ’78 and had finished it by the summer of that year. At that point, waiting a year to release Ghostown felt like an eternity. These days that’s an incredibly short space of time for any band and would be acknowledged as such. We felt robbed of a year. The one time we did a gig with the Ghostown material, the Electric Ballroom supported by SLF, the audience hated it. We couldn’t have put ourselves through that again. We could have kept on gong and took any gigs we could for as little money as they’d pay us but we decided not to.
Another issue was the Thin Lizzy tour; we lost momentum after doing that. We knew we would though because we’d gone off track to play to a completely new audience. But we also knew that the experience would be stronger and better for us. It felt like we’d lost an album because we lost that sense of urgency.
In terms of Ghostown, nobody had done an album that interesting at that time in the Punk and New Wave scene. Nobody had yet made that leap of fate out of the three chords. We were moving ahead and that set us apart from the punks. By the time the album did eventually come out, other people had somewhat caught up with it and that led to even greater misunderstanding of the album that we were expecting.
Nick Kent, an ally and Dublinophile, from the NME was supposed to review of the album. At that time, if Kent gave a good review you might make the front cover. In a classic Kent move, he went on a smack binge and forgot to do the review. So, NME had to get someone else to do it. Mark Ellen did it, he hated the album, he didn’t get it. Even the reviewers, who liked it, didn’t get it. Melody Maker called it a “teenage pop classic”.
Until The Hot Press reviewed it, there was no sense that we achieved what we meant to do. Thankfully Niall Stokes and Bill Graham both got it but the Hot Press review wasn’t enough to sway the people.
All of those things added up and we lost or morale.
Then Pete went off and got married. We were geographically split. Mark, the bassist, left. We didn’t replace him because we weren’t playing any gigs. There wasn’t any point. It all fell apart. Morale was the biggest thing. You don’t realise until you’re much older how crushing that kind of situation can be when you’ve just turned 21.
You were still very young…
Yes and vulnerable. We thought we were on a roll and we’re gonna stay on a roll. Everything had gone well up to that point.
We then made a dreadful mistake. The record label said, “Look, we spent a lot of money on this album…” (Which was true. So much money that they couldn’t pay the bills. This was one of the reasons why it got delayed because Chiswick was in the process of becoming part of EMI.) “… We can’t afford to have another Ghostown. We love it but we can’t do it again”.
At that time, Video Killed The Radio Star was in the charts and we met the keyboardist of The Buggles. Chiswick wanted us to work with him.
While we weren’t The Buggles, nor did we want to be, we appreciated what Chiswick were doing to help us get our record on the radio. We had a few near misses with Million Dollar Hero and Kitty Ricketts. We fell foul of the system in different ways. It’s too boring to get into now but it counts for why Million Dollar Hero was released three times!
If people weren’t going to buy the album, we felt we had to put out a radio friendly single. Those two tracks, Stranger Than Fiction and Dancing Years, cost between them twice as much as Ghostown. Essentially, Chiswick said we’d give you one last push. It didn’t work, that’s the bottom line.
We gave up just after a (pretty successful) Irish tour in 1980. The band had run its course.
You then went from making records to selling them in a shop? I heard you loved that job?
Absolutely. It was like going to college and doing a course in music. While I knew my stuff, there’s nothing like the exposure you get from working in a record shop (Rock On). I spent four years listening to records. If there was ever a job I’d go back to, that would be it.
(Phil filmed in Rock On record shop where he worked in the documentary Completely Pogued from 1989)
And then The Pogues came along? Did you find them or did they find you?
Well, if you have to understand that the Irish do quite well (for the most part) when they emigrate. It explains why they had a foothold in political power in America right from the outset. They gravitate towards each other in migration and construct a support system. By and large the infrastructure is there if you want it and you can attach yourself to the ‘Murphia’ for want of a better term.
It very much applied to the music business. Ted Caroll and Roger Armstrong were at Chiswick and Dave Robison was at Stiff. They were all finding, managing and producing bands. The Irish and Jews have always been very good at it. The Jewish element is interesting because both Bernie Rhodes (founder/manager of The Clash) and Malcolm McLaren (founder/manager of The Sex Pistols) were both of Jewish stock.
But to The Pogues. I knew Shane. He came to The Radiators very first gig in London. We obviously knew his band, The Nips, as well and at one stage we were both on the same label (Chiswick) together.
The important thing about Rock On was that it became a job that allowed me to do other stuff. All the time there I was producing – Agnes Barnelle, The Prisoners, Tall Boys, The Man They Couldn’t Hang and The Atrix. Essentially, I was in permanent part-time employment and I never felt detached from the actual music business.
The Pogues thing was weird because I had never played Banjo in my life but I found myself volunteering to play it for two weeks while Jem was on paternity leave. It never occurred to me for a second that it was going to be a long-term arrangement. I loved The Pogues as a fan first and foremost. I loved going to see them and thought they were the greatest live gig in London.
I got through the two weeks by playing the banjo as a guitar. It was only after a few months that I realised I wasn’t going to be leaving.
You just slipped into place?
I had made it clear that I wanted to stay and they’d made it clear that they’d love to have me. It was bit like when people used to ask John Sheeran of The Dubliners how long he’d been in the band for and he’d reply ‘I’ve been playing with him for twenty years but I’m not sure if it’s been formalised yet’.
I had already turned down an offer at that time to join The Virgin Prunes, which I also thought, could have been great but they couldn’t pay me the equivalent of two weeks pay from Rock On.
The Pogues really wanted to be the very best. All they needed was the experience. Now we’d be the first to say that we’re one of the best live bands in the world when we’re not fucking it up but the attraction back then for me was the vibe and the punk attitude.
I saw a great deal of musical ambition there and that’s why it hurt so much when we came to Dublin and people said to us ‘You’re a joke and a bunch of plastic paddies”. No doubt that attitude was prevalent amongst people like De Dannan and Noel Hill. Even people who should have known better thought that way.
I became acutely aware that the foundation for considering The Pogues second rate or plastic was entirely false. I knew from being in a punk band that reverence was a very overrated virtue.
The best thing for Irish music was to kick it up the arse and hope it survived it. I’d seen this movie before with Horslips with actually the same people. The Radiators had gone through it before with ‘official’ language that has very fucking little to do with how Irish is spoken or loved or cherished. It’s all the same, so-called ‘official’ Gaelic, ‘official’ history ‘official’ religion and ‘official’ music. It was set up for you to hate it.
After a while you just stopped arguing and you had to say ‘come back when we’ve done the next album and see if you feel the same way’. To be fair a great number, including Noel Hill, said ‘I don’t feel that way anymore, I see what you’re doing, it’s great and McGowan will go down as one of the great Irish poets’. Though De Dannan were still in Valhalla still looking down at everyone. Even The Chieftains had a bit of that attitude. They liked us enough to do a gig with us at the Brixton Academy. We all got on very well but they slagged us behind our backs our backs. “Oh, The Pouges? No! Too loud! They have drums!”. That sense of superiority is completely unearned.
Touring with The Pogues taught me that if you say your Irish, I’m in no position to say you aren’t.
The Pogues are in a quite unique position in that they are one of the few bands who can say started their own sub genre – Celtic Punk. What you do make of it?
There are hundreds of bands that are essentially spin offs of what we do. We never set out to do that. I once asked Barry Devlin of Horslips “What makes it work?” and he said “Essentially Jigs n Rigs are the essence of Rock n Roll and the foundation of Country music”.
Personally, I don’t like most of the Celtic Punk bands. It’s disappointing that they don’t take it further or onto another stages. Some of them do. Spider is more au-fe with them than I am. I know he likes The Dropkick Murphys. I’m indifferent. I only seem to hear them on the soundtracks of American films and I think “hey, that sounds like us” and I check the credits, obviously knowing its not, but it invariably says the The Dropkick Murphys.
I’m not interested in any of these bands though they think we should be because we’re the Godfathers or whatever. Occasionally you do get invited to produce or guest vocal on one of their albums and you find polite ways of saying “I’d love to, if only I had the time”. I’ve done some though. The interesting ones. There’s even bands in Japan! The Cherry Cokes, they’re quite good.
There’s one really great band that we discovered in Barrow, East LA. They’re Hispanic and every St. Patrick’s Day they get together and play ‘Rum Sodomy and the Lash’ from start to finish. When we heard them, myself and Spider immediately said “these guys are fucking fantastic”. Better than us! So we got them to open for us at some dates. Genuinely, they were doing something different.
So, The Radiators have a new album?
Yep, Sound City Beat. It’s out on April 30. It was on our minds for a long time, almost as long as we’ve been together. We’ve always felt a connection with these bands that have preceded us. A sort of kinship. We weren’t kicking against old music, just the bloated old music.
Can we expect any gigs?
We hope so. We have to rehearse for at least a week before any gig, which is tough, and we’d only do it if there were a few gigs planned for the end of it. That requires an enormous amount of co-ordination with schedules etc. We’ve learnt that there’s not really a gigging market for us here.
In my opinion, one of the few other bands in that period that were addressing Dublin as a subject in their music were The Blades. What did you make of them?
I very much admired Paul Cleary. He appears to have retired from Irish music, which is a huge loss, but I don’t blame him. I know how difficult it is. I have utmost admiration for him and the band. They were addressing local issues in a local way that few other bands were doing.
When you first saw U2, did you expect them to go far?
I was at a disadvantage though because everyone had told me that they were going to go far before I’d seen them. So, I was tainted and inevitably disappointed when I did see the,
However, when The Pogues supported them at Madison Sq. Garden in 1987, it was one of the most amazing gigs I’ve ever seen in my life. It was transcending. It was like seeing someone at the prime of their life knowing that they’ll never be this good again. And they never were …
I admire that they keep trying to change it up; I just don’t think they do it very well. Bono was always a bit off putting. Sometimes, I feel like saying “Shut the fuck up and play you’re music!”
Same as Geldof?
No, I have loads of time for Geldof. The Rats and The Rads were always great spoof rivals.
Geldof did a sleeve not for a Pogues reissue and he singled out me as someone who had gone through the phase of dissing his elders and betters. I thought “he fucking thinks I’m not in his generation!”. * laughs *
Ah no, I really like Bob. I’ve never known him to consciously bullshit anybody. It’s not to say that he didn’t at the beginning but that was professional bullshit. Nothing that mattered. When he talks now it’s from a place of utter self-belief and sincerity.
What did you think of Dr. Feelgood?
I liked them for being able to narrow rock down to its lowest common denominator. They stripped it down to the bare essentials. They supported The Pogues in Paris once, after Wilko had left. They were still an amazing band. Very liberating.
The Feelgoods did play the National Stadium in ’76 which everybody who would go onto be in the Dublin punk scene were at. Everybody.
You said in Television Screen ‘Can’t afford the records, so I steal them when I can’. Do you condone illegal music downloading online?
* laughs *
I’m not being disingenuous but I have absolutely no idea how that all works.
I had an email from John Kelly last night asking if it was ok to talk about the new album on Twitter. I don’t fucking now, is it? You tell me. Twitter and twatter all you like. “Is it a big secret?” he asked. Well, the Radiators whole career has been the big secret, the biggest secret in Irish music. By all means, tell people about the new album! Twatter to the word about it. * laughs *
I’m told that if someone downloads your music on a pirate level, nine times out of ten, they’ll end up legally buying your music at some point or buying a ticket to one of your gigs etc.
Packaging for CDs is so important these days. If people are going to spend €10 or whatever for a Radiators CD, they’re entitled to an informative booklet and value for their money. Not just ‘here’s a piece of plastic’. Enjoy. It’s definitely changed the market in that regard.
It might be an old fogey thing, lamenting the demise of the LP album but it really did smell a certain way and you loved holding the cover. They were fantastic artifacts. Our last album ‘Trouble Pilgrim’ just came out in the U.S. It was genuinely exciting to see it in vinyl. I forgot how much I loved them and not just because they were handy to roll joints on!
I’m a big fan of Billy Bragg and I know you’re an old friend of his. Do you think he got inspiration from Enemies (‘I don’t want to change the world, Just my own, But sometimes I feel so alone’) for his classic New England (‘I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a New England, just looking for another girl’.)
Our history goes way back. Riff Raff, his first band, supported The Radiators a couple times. I really like Billy. He’s someone you bump into at the BBC or wherever.
I was disappointed that the only thing that he had to say in his autobiography about The Radiators was that they “were a band who favored themselves a bit like The Clash”. Which was a) not true but b) it suggested he never actually listened to many of our records. I’ve since forgiven him though! He supported us a couple of times in the U.S. where’s he not so big. It was spellbinding.
Speaking of autobiographies, do you think you will ever write yours?
I’ve too many things to do at the moment! I have been asked a few times but I’d only like to do it after I’ve written my three plays, my musical and my next album! Those things come first. To bump it up, you’d have to give me a lot of money but Irish publishers won’t. You have to be in a position that you’re so undeservedly famous that you can name your price. It’s because you have a brand name and not because you’ve led an interesting life or have something interesting to say. Has Justin Bieber written his yet? If not, he should get his skates on.
Thanks for that Phillip.
It was a pleasure. Keep up the great work with the blog.
Sound City Beat is out on April 30 on Chiswick records.