Interview: Fearghal McKee
Fearghal McKee of the Whipping Boy discusses the upcoming Heartworm tour, new material and their past exploits, in a conversation with Mark Roche…
Whipping Boy was possibly one of the most influential bands of the 1990’s. They arguably released one of the greatest Irish albums of our time. Infamous for self-mutilation, nudity and off the wall comments, Fearghal McKee talks to Mark Roche about Whipping Boys past, present and future; an upcoming Heartworm Tour will surely set fans young and old alike on edge.
How was the tour during the summer?
We had a great time man; we weren’t expecting anything but were really thankful. Playing live is our bread and butter. It’s fantastic to see faces that range from age 16 to 66 in the audience.
Each time ye play is different? Is there much archival material left?
There is I guess, I mean…were always reinventing ourselves. Whipping Boy never play the same gig twice, each time we play we feel a different vibe from the audience. Arrangements change; I mean this isn’t the original line-up so things are always going to be different. We totally respect that the lads have other commitments but Colm [Hassett] and I just had an itch to get the fuck back out there.
What have you done aside from your musical endeavours?
I’ve had children, raised a family. I was a chef; I’m a damn good chef, but it’s impossible to get work. I cannot get work in this country, so what else am I supposed to do? Music is my expression of self.
Has family life calmed you?
Absolutely not, I’m sure I’ve changed. I want to protect them but they wind me up a hell of a lot too.
What do you say to those who say you’re in this for the money?
Look, we have 10 people to pay. We fight for everything, we fight to be heard, we fight to create; hopefully it leaves an impression, if not then so be it. We’re 15 years older, the commitment to this band is more evident than ever. We’re all broke, we need this in the current climate and everybody on our team from the soundman to the roadie deserves their cut. “It’s important to share the money around”.
What do you think of the current state of the country?
It’s a state of confusion. Nobody knows what’s happening. We don’t want to preach; we want to inspire and to fight back. Because if we don’t stand up, we’re finished! The future is going to be a cold place; if we wait around we’re going to get fucked.
Is Heartworm especially relevant today; it seems timeless?
We recreate Heartworm over and over again. Today, it is in ‘the now’; we feel ‘the now’. As a 7 piece band for this tour, Heartworm won’t sound the same. We could never re-record that album. We never set out to make a great record, we just wanted to make music man; it wouldn’t be the same today. If we were ever to experiment with Heartworm, I’d like to get the RTE Philharmonic Orchestra to fill everything in and make a massive sound, y’know? Kind of like what Elbow did.
Will the live gigs be just as wild? [My friend told me you once through a Hoover into an audience at Witness]
I hope so. (laughs) I remember one time, we hoovered up some baking powder on stage alright. We had just met someone like Lily Allen or somebody, and in honour of Lily Allen or Keith Allen or whoever it was, we staged this memorial to the big-business cokeheads that run and ruin the music business.
Would ye ever consider a big label again such as Columbia?
There’s big money in these labels; they’re almost like Pyramid Schemes. They know how to destroy bands and careers so I say fuck them. I think we should destroy every big label and every corporation in this country. If we don’t do something we have nothing, they’ve taken everything. We need to realise that life is not rosy. Whipping Boy are going to help the independent smaller labels as much as they will help us. We hope to release our new records on FIFA Records.
What will keep Whipping Boy busy until Christmas?
We release ‘No one takes prisoners anymore’ in early December; there will be a B-side ‘When Earth’s Last Picture is Painted’ [Originally a Rudyard Kipling poem circa 1892]. Hopefully, we might get to release an acoustic version as well but it is set down right now. I’m really excited about this new stuff, I’ve been really lazy this time though; I didn’t write any of it. An old friend of mine, Martin Egan basically handed me the tracks and said ‘Here, sing these will ya?’; and that’s exactly what I did. It’s fascinating to see how such old material can resonate so clearly in the present to me. Come the New Year, we’ll try travel to England and Eastern Europe, then who knows? Russia? China? Ha-ha!
How do you feel about Irish campaigns such as Occupy Dame St. or Occupy Cork?
I love it man. I just hope they stay there. This whole state is a test of time right now and those peoples commitments are what matters. The government have taken everything we have, what else is there to do but get in the way? “We need to occupy the stage, our minds, and our individuality, everything…” The more positive we are the more change will occur. Nobody is currently happy with all this doom and gloom but it’s as easy as changing that ‘No’ to ‘Yes’ that will take the first step to fixing this.
The Whipping Boy ‘Heartworm’ Tour will begin in Galway and follow to Cork. Fans can expect to hear one of the most influential Irish albums in its entirety at both gigs, while Dublin will be more varied. Ticket prices are listed below. With only three live performances, and only two of Heartworm in its entirety these gigs will be a unique experience to witness Whipping Boy’s return.
Rosín Dúbh, Galway – 15th December; €13 on the door, €15 online
The Pavilion, Cork – 17th December; Same Prices Apply
The Button Factory, Dublin – 21st December; Same Prices Apply
Dead School will provide support on all dates.