THE UNDERTONES 2003

THE UNDERTONES
Eat lots of biscuits, clean your teeth and wash your face


Five Perfect Cousins. Wer moechte nicht gerne einen von diesen Spitzbuben als Cousin haben wollen? Haende hoch! Oder, fŘr immer schweigen!

Nach dem ich ihre Show im Koelner "Prime Club" gesehen hatte (Gig-Review, Seite 30), musste natuerlich ein Interview her. Durch die Unterstuetzung unseres Ex-3RD-Schreiber Blank Frank (thanx dude!) konnte ich nach einigen Anlaufschwierigkeiten den Kontakt zur Band herstellen. Frank "warnte" mich noch, indem er meinte, das sind halt Iren, bei denen kann es unter Umstaenden etwas laenger mit einer Antwort dauern. Da ich aber ein zaeher Bursche bin, lie▀ ich natuerlich nicht locker, und so nahm alles noch ein gutes Ende.

Seitdem die Band um ihren neuen Saenger Paul McLoone ihre erste 7"inch "Thrill Me" im Mai diesen Jahres veroeffentlicht hatte, drehte good old John Peel, wie einst zu "Teenage Kicks"-Zeiten wieder tuechtig am Rad, und spielte den Song sogar zweimal in einer Show! Hier seine Original-Ansagen aus seinen Shows vom 10. Juni bis 12. Juni.

"And this is really the only record with which to end tonights program." John Peel on Tuesday night (10.06.03).

"I know that I played you this track last night but that's no reason not to play it again tonight. You'll recognise it I think by now." John Peel on Wednesday night (11.06.03).

"Hello and welcome to Barcelona . . . Well those are the Undertones of course, good Barcelona boys through out and the current single which is 'Thrill Me'." John Peel on Thursday night (12.06.03).

Uebrigens: Am 27. Oktober erscheint die DVD "Teenage Kicks" - The Story Of The Undertones" auf Sanctuary Visual Entertainment. Mehr Informationen zum aeu▀erst vielversprechendem Inhalt findet ihr auf der schick gestalteten Webpage der Band: theundertones.com

Und nun zum Interview, welches ich im Juli per eMail mit Gitarrist Damian ┤O Neill und Drummer Billy Doherty fuehrte.

It┤s an absolute honour for me, that you agree for an interview in "3rd Generation Nation". Since I was a kid and heard "Teenage Kicks" on John Peel┤s BFBS programme "Rock Today" in the late 70ties, I was into your music. Over the last two decades I just saw many bands from the punk movement, but I never got the chance to see you guys, until you stop this may for five gigs in germany. I was really surprised how fresh you still are and that your new singer Paul McLoone perfect fit in to replace Feargal Sharkey. So, how was your impressions about your days in germany? And will you come back?
Damian: We loved being in Germany.....I think what really helped was that our manager lives in Berlin and booked us some of the best clubs to play which really helps of course. We were absolutely surprised by how well we were received and how young the audience were!
Billy: Germany was excellent. Can't wait to get back. Most definitely one of my all time highlights was playing in Germany. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Is that right, that you are now living in London? What were the reasons to move? What do you miss from your irish hometown, Derry?
Damian: I moved here from Derry exactly 20 long years ago.....I was 22 then and London seemed a lot more exciting compared to Derry. Obviously I'm quite settled now here in London especially since I now have a family but I still miss the humour and the slower pace of life that you find in Derry. What I certainly don't miss is the weather!

Today, do you have any contact to Feargal Sharkey? Or in other words, what are you opinion about him today? I heard that he had in the early days a nickname, which he really hated: fish face. I know this info from Brian Young of RUDI who wrote about five years ago a detail story about the important irish bands in "3rd Generation Nation".
Damian: I last seen Feargal at John Peel's 60th birthday party about 3 years ago....we said hello and wished each other well and that was it really.
Billy: No contact with Feargal. I really don't know what he is doing but whatever it is I wish him all the best. Correction, his nickname was Pish Fish because he seen a dog pissing against the local chip shop owners delivery of fish which was left outside his premises.

Could you remember how you met the first time Feargal?
Damian: Through our drummer Billy because he was in the same class at school as him.
Billy: Feargal is a relation of mine so I kinda new of him anyway. I really only got to know him through school.

What made you stop your band engagement; what caused the breakup in the early 80ties?
Damian: Continued lack of success with the Sin Of Pride record dented our confidence and the general feeling that it was only going to get worse.
Billy: I didn't want the band to break up - maybe take a break for a while though. I suppose Feargal was fed up with our care free attitude.

How did you find such a great replace like Paul McLoone?
Damian: Again through our talisman drummer Billy who happened to be in a band with Paul a few years ago called 'The Carolines'.
Billy: I made him in the science lab at school by crossing a lama's DNA with protonic alkaline.

So what did you during all the years until you reformed in 1999?
Damian: I guess That Petrol Emotion never made it in Germany.....
Billy: I had a proper job which kept me occupied.

Are you still into punk rock after all these years? Do you still follow the development of the scene?
Damian: I still get a kick out of hearing The Ramones and of course The Stooges and stuff like that.....these days though I would rather listen to Reggae than a supposedly trendy new punk band....I guess I'm getting old. I mean I do like selective songs from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs or White Stripes etc. and I do know there's always great stuff out there....I just don't seem to find the time to check it out anymore.
Billy: I'm into bicycles and cameras now.

What musicians really motivated you to learn your instrument and start a band? What was the first concert you went to?
Damian: My guitar hero's were Keith Richards and Johnny Thunders ....especially the latter as he was easier to work out on guitar and I (like hundred of others) ripped him off big time. My first 'proper' concert was seeing Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers at Manchester Poly supported by Siouxsie and The Banshees in June '77.....I was 16 and never looked back.....
Billy: My inspiration was and is Charlie Watts (drummer the Rolling Stones). My first proper concert was seeing Horslips.

Which record could I find in your CD-player or at your turn-table?
Damian: Kraftwerk's 'Computer World'.....amazing.
Billy: "Red Fish" the new album by the Moondogs as well as Curtis Mayfield.

On a picture on your website I discover one with you and John Peel sitting on a brickwall. Is this the same brickwall from your first album cover?
Damian: The very one......I hope one day this wall will mark the perimeter of a theme park called 'Undertone land'.
(info from the Undertones webpage, 22. September: As a part of a redevelopment programme at the Bogside Park, the bulldozers moved in to demolish the wall, which was featured on the cover of the first album.)

How important was John Peel in the past for the Undertones? And how important is John Peel today? By the way: John Peel was for many young people in germany the real first contact to get the chance to hear punk rock on the radio.
Damian: Without Mr. Peel I would not be writing this.
Billy: For me the holy trinity, which allowed The Undertones to exist, were Terri Hoolie ("Good Vibrations", record label owner on which we recorded "Teenage Kicks"), Bernie McAnanee (friend who altered Terri Hoolie about us) and John Peel for playing our records. John Peel is just as important to me now than ever before.

What is the story behind your film "Teenage Kicks"? I saw on your webpage that it was getting marvelous criticism.
Damian: We have a friend called Vinny Cunningham who for years has wanted to do a film on us and finally he managed to get the finance to do it.....its very charming and also very funny.

What is your fave word, that you use very often for writing songs? Any explanation?
Damian: I don't write lyrics any more......too difficult.
Billy: It, And, The are good words to use. It is difficult to write a sentence without them.

What is your alltime UNDERTONES-fave?
Billy: Oldie would be "Soul Seven", Newie would be "Shutdown".
Damian: Tough one.....I guess "Male Model". Has anyone ever covered this?

Yes, BORIS THE SPRINKLER from Green Bay (WI) did a cover of it on one of their countless classic 7"inches in the late ┤90ties.
Well, I just heard weeks ago one of your songs, "Here Comes The Summer" on a TV-commercial for T-Mobile. How come this about? Did you get any royalties from T-Mobile?

Damian: I wish....any money would go to that brother of mine. He did write it after all.

What question would you like to be asked in interviews, but you are never asked? And what is your answer?
Billy: Would you like me to give you a million pound and my answer would be yes.

On your brillant website I saw an early picture with all of the Undertones members together with the CLASH. Did you had played any show back then together? Or how come this picture about?
Damian: We did a short 2 week tour together in the East Coast of America in the summer of 1980 ....this was amazing because it was our first time over there and we were supporting one of our favourite bands. The photo of all of us together is I think sometime in '79 when The Clash originally agreed to headline a festival we were organising in Derry....the festival was cancelled unfortunately because The Clash were forced to pull out and to compensate they offered us the American tour instead.

In the last issue I had a five-page Joe Strummer - Tribute. Many musicans and label bosses, like Bob Derwood" Andrews (Generation X), Dizzy ("Detour Records"), Phil Hendriks (the Stiffs), Dave Philp (the Automatics), John Robb (Gold Blade), TV Smith, Mike Rossi (Slaughter & The Dogs), John Esplen ("Overground Records"), Brian Young (Rudi) or Tim ("Punk Aid"-Promoter in London) remind him. How did you feel when you first heard Joe Strummer had passed away?
Damian: Very shocked and very very sad.....he really was a genuinely nice person and so much respected in the music world because of his idealism and passion and lets not forget how brilliant he was as a lyricist.

How many guitars do you have? What┤s your fave one?
Damian: I'm a bit embarrassed about how many I have....I think I have 6 electric guitars and an acoustic. My favourite has to still be my sunburst Les Paul Custom....very much an Undertones guitar.

Did you met some of your musical idols, in your first active time as a member of the Undertones?
Damian: Well, I did once see Iggy and Johnny Thunders talking together in a New York club although I didn't have the balls to go up and say hello (but then again who would?). Apart from that, meeting and supporting The Clash was incredible plus rubbing shoulders with Elvis Costello, Buzzcocks, Madness, Talking Heads and Tommy Ramone.
Billy: I met Ringo Starr but would love to meet Charlie Watts.

Today do you have any contact with punk musicans from the past? Did you become friends over the years with some?
Damian: Funny enough...not really.
Billy: No.

What was like to sign to such a big company like "Sire Records"? Were you all in the band involved with the contracts?
Billy: It was great as we were signed to the same label that had The Ramones.

Please give me one or two questions to ask the next band I interview.
Billy: Do you clean your teeth and tell the truth?

Which person do you miss from the early days of punk rock?
Damian: Johnny Moped.....what ever happened to him? We used to do a great version
of 'Incendiary Device'.
Billy: Joe Strummer.

Which bands do you like at the moment?
Billy: Ash, Blur.

Who is the biggest loudmouth in punk rock, that you met or knew? And why?
Billy: Jimmy Pursey. He was a hateful shite.

Your first 7"inch "Thrill Me" with Paul is really great. I bought it on the show in cologne. What kind of response did you had get from the states and the rest of europe about it? How often did John Peel played it in the meantime in his show?
Billy: I don't think that it was released in the USA. It appears that anyone who has heard it likes it. John Peel still plays the record.

On Monday 6th October 2003 we will see this long awaited 14 track CD "Get What You Need", on "Sanctuary Records", hit the shops. How did you get in touch with the label What┤s the deal?
Damian: They own our back catalogue and they liked the new one so it made sense to let them release it.

And what is the meaning behind the title?
Damian: Basically that there's a little bit of something for everyone in the record.
Billy: Eat lots of biscuits and wash your face.

Do you know if the record company will promote your record a lot in the press? Or do they have a limited edition of promos to send them off to fanzines, radiostations and musicpapers, that you in the band really enjoy?
Billy: I think it will get some form of promotion. I think it will be difficult at the start as we don't have Feargal singing.

Are you happy with your new record? Do you like how it sound?
Damian: I played it today and I'm still happy with it......will there ever be another Undertones record after this one? Only time will tell.......

Could you tell us, for example two or three of your fave tunes and lyrics you wrote.
Damian: I haven't written any songs on the new record but I'm proud of 'Family Entertainment' and 'Its Going To Happen'.

What are your favorite punk sites on the web?
Damian: I don't look at punk sites.
Billy: Haven't checked many out but I liked The Ramones and Green Day.

The most clever word you ever said?
Damian: Yes......
Billy: Please…..

What was the strangest thing happen to you on stage?
Damian: Getting pelted with stones and eggs at a free outdoor Undertones concert in a park in Derry in '78.
Billy: Playing the songs right.

Do you do anything now that you swore you would never do twenty-five years ago?
Damian: Reform The Undertones.....

What┤s the most important "pre-show rituals" that your band always performs?
Damian: Praying together to The Almighty for a good show followed by giving our bass player a good kickin'.....

You played this summer on some big festivals as a headliner? How were the reaction, when you hit the stage? Is Paul now totally accepted from the older fans of the Undertones?
Damian: I think Paul doesn't have to prove himself in Ireland cos we play there all the time and tours in Germany and Holland have been amazing.....the toughest test for Paul's acceptance will be these forthcoming British dates in October.....people in Britain can be very cynical and negative but then they can also be the absolute best....we shall see.....
Billy: A definite yes.

How would you say the younger kids respond you on this festivals? Do you see another follow, like in the 70ties, of new fans?
Damian: We played a free festival outside Dublin in the summer and the first front row consisted of teenage kids absolutely into the band.....amazing!

Do you go to Japan in the near future to play some shows? I know, from bands like the Boys and the Automatics that the crowd went nuts. I think, that would be a perfect place to play for the Undertones.
Damian: Would love to but our drummer absolutely hates flying......maybe if we get a drum machine....
Billy: I think we are going to Japan next year.

What┤s the best place to write a song?
Damian: In your head.
Billy: In the bedroom.

What┤s your all-time fave band/bands?
Damian: The Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, Charlie Mingus, Burning Spear.
Billy: Too many to mention.

What else should I ask you guys?
Damian: Haven't you asked enough?

What were the highlights of 2003?
Damian: So far.....releasing "Thrill Me" on vinyl and playing Germany (honest!).

What were your important personal not musical ways or steps in the last two decades?
Damian: Having a child with the woman I love.
Billy: Musically was discovering Synths, Personally was my family.

Any last words to our readers in germany?
Damian: Live long and prosper.....

My (very) last serious question is: Do you think my english sucks?
Damian: No, go to the top of the class dear boy.
Billy: No, it is much better than my German.

Interview: Ralf Real Shock