A lot of the songs for that album, you already had them demoed going into it, yeah?
Colm: In total there was about 18 songs to choose from…
Fearghal: We recorded the initial demos, then went into RopeBox and recorded them and were finally told, okay go into Windmill Lane and over to England then to mix it.
Colm: It was quite a long, drawn out process in the end. It took about three months to record and mix it.
There’s a delicate balance there, where you can say “okay, then the arrangements are going to be the definite thing, but also you’re afraid you lose the passion of a first recording.”
Fearghal: Lou Giordano (who mixed Heartworm) looked after that. He knew what to strip back. He came in for the mix and Warne (Livesey – Heartworm producer) had been in the studio with us for a long time…his ears were frayed I’d say! So Lou came in and himself and Warne, they got it right in the end.
When we heard it for the first time, it was like “Jesus, did we do that?!” I remember just saying ‘that’s not me singing that!’
Colm: The whole dynamic of recording is totally different from playing live. You have to almost analyse every single part of the song, but yet make sure it’s still the original song
And just like that, you can be so absorbed in the recording that you need someone to come in with fresh, independent ears and be able to judge the stuff.
Were you as shocked as Fearghal when you listened back?
Colm: Yeah, I still am years later. You look back and you listen to that sound and think, “it’s just right for that song, it’s the right sound.” To have someone like Warne come in and to know what the right sound is it’s amazing. The man was a scientist.
Fearghal: We were a relatively young band at that stage as well, who wouldn’t have had that knowledge either – how to go into the big studio and create something big.
We were lucky to get that opportunity. In a way you have to thank the record label (Sony/Columbia) for allowing that to happen. The rest of the record label was abysmally rotten, but at least they helped us make a great album.
Fearghal: It was shooting to another place and because of…I don’t know what it was, changing management over there (in England), we didn’t get to make another record like that.
The following record (the band’s eponymous third album, self-released in 2000), it’s not a million miles away – with great songs and even better lyrics I think than Heartworm; more of a sense of mischief and purpose.
Well you’ve been playing a lot of material from the album Whipping Boy this summer. Would you ever consider re-releasing it, or selling it at gigs? Personally I can’t get it anywhere, it’s hard to find
Fearghal: Probably what we’ll try and do is release some new stuff and record some of the old album as well and just redo it y’know? You can’t even find the masters, so we can’t release it! (Laughs) It’s disappeared!
Well tell us about the new material.
Fearghal: ‘Imperial Venereal’ is the lead track. ‘Fuck Off Bad Energy’ is the second track and ‘No One Takes Prisoners Anymore’ is another one, but the lyrics for that were written by (performance poet) Martin A Egan.
Colm: We’re working in tandem at the moment. There’s a few things’ happening.
Fearghal: There’s a lot of collaborations going on. I’ve got a song coming out called ‘Look Da’ No Hands’ with C. O’Neill…Colm’s got his project Cold Comfort. We’re trying just to give everybody a voice along with all this, ‘cause it’s good energy we’ve got and that’s what we want to give out.
Something that’s been spoken about in numerous interviews over recent months, is the ecological issues…would you consider yourself an eco warrior Fearghal?
Fearghal: No I’m not an eco warrior; I’m a human warrior! I wouldn’t refer to myself as anything like that, but I am being confronted by some bad stuff that’s gonna happen up in Leitrim and Sligo with this hydraulic fracking thing (this being plans to introduce hydraulic fracturing in the Lough Allen Basin – a contentious process for extracting gas from the ground).
There’s no good in allowing this to happen. It’s just one big dirty scam. If they allow it happen here, I’ll have to defend myself.
So that’s something informing new material?
Fearghal: Well the ‘Imperial Venereal’ is a perfect case in point; it’s about Michael Davitt and the Land League. We were playing in Castlebar and the hotel where one of the original meetings of the Land League, that changed the destiny of Ireland, was there in ruins with a big ‘For Sale’ sign.
Does nobody in Ireland have a care about their past? Are we afraid of our past? In that sense, the land war, what we had to take back for ourselves – the same shit’s going on now.
After the summer tour and Academy show in September, can we expect any more live dates?
Fearghal: New material, more ways of doing things. I mean, if we could we’d love to a do a ten-pound ticket all around the place and introduce loads of new bands along with us. There’s a load of towns all around the place that have nothing there. Create a good cheap ticket, get good bands on the bill; we’re going to create a great little scene.
Colm: Ticket prices need to come down; they’re still too high. The bands don’t benefit from high-ticket prices. It’s ridiculous.
Well how do you feel about the music industry, what’s your take on it now?
Fearghal: Well it’s an industry that’s dying. It got too big. It’s like the old Roman days, a perfect example. So all that’s happening again, but the great thing is you can start new things that will grow bigger in time. At least now we have the hindsight to see how these things can develop properly and what not to do. If you keep on walking down that wooden idle path and keep on cutting down trees just to make more money and keep everybody in debt, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to have a strategic sense of what you want as a people or a race, in order for the goodness to come on.
Fittingly, our interview ends here. Although their summer tour is winding down, there’s a feeling this is only the start for Whipping Boy MK II. Buoyed by the feedback of fans throughout the country, Fearghal and Colm seem intent on a new beginning. Where it will go, no one can really tell, though the twinkle in their eyes’ suggests there’s far more to come.
Whipping Boy play the Garden Sessions in Offaly on August 8th and the Academy in Dublin on September 17th.