Horslips Legend Rides again

LEGENDARY IRISH traditional/rock band Horslips are officially releasing their classic eight albums for the first time on CD. The quintet - Barry Devlin, Eamon Carr, Jim Lockhart, Charles O'Connor and John Fean - formed in 1972 and they packed out famed venues like Dublin's National Stadium and the Wembley arena in London. Tyroneman Devlin played bass guitar in the combo, perhaps best known for Dearg Dorm and is now a film director and scriptwriter.

Horslips are a classic Irish band - what are you up to now?
We're issuing our albums on CD for the first time. They were only ever released on vinyl, All the CDs of our work that appeared prior to this were pirated.

So if you went to the Virgin Megastore up to now you wouldn't have been able to buy a Horslips CD?
You would, but it wouldn't be a Horslips album that we would have had anything to do with. They were mastered up, production copies or in some cases, cassettes. It was being done in Belfast and we have been in a protracted court case for 13 years to get this stopped. We're net beneficiaries of the peace process, in terms of finally bringing forward the court action.

Didn't that happen about two years ago?
Yeah. But we had started the procedure in 1987. The law is a slow process. It was 1992 when we got into court for the first time, seeking an injunction. That's how long it took, and it ended up taking another six years to get back into court. At that point, we were able to get the rights to our music back again.

So you didn't get any royalties or anything?
None of that stuff. It was really crazy. It’s the stuff you hear about. We were so careful of I how we did stuff while we were a band, we really were careful. It's just we always thought that world never happen us, but it did. Our manager Michael Dee, was and remains a friend. This was just a kind of statistical blip that was connected with the fact that it was in Northern Ireland. It was very hard to do anything about it and the law took a long time to give us our rights. To be fair, we were given back-payment of royalties, which was good fun! Then there was the opportunity once again to put out tracks that were properly mastered and repackage them, but most of all, for the artwork to be redesigned and properly done. Charles always designed all our album covers and whatever you make of them, they were interesting.

Why are you not playing together again, not even a one-off?
Too old and too fat! We do get asked. We thought about this, quite a lot, and there was a suggestion that we do something for the millennium.

Would you not have done something in the style of Moving Hearts?
Because the music was kind of symbolic in a way, it really required careful rehearsal. It took me months, because if you're a bar band and you want to play the blues, great you can go back and do it, but to learn something like New York Waits again or the entire contents of an album like The Tain, is very difficult and it would be more difficult to actually do a gig. I could probably put together six songs, but who’s going to put you on to do that? What we have done, is we've got back and we're recording some stuff. 1 don't know what we'll do with it yet. I haven't decided what we’ll do. Charles has a studio in Whitney, which is very nice, and we went over in February of this year and put down seven tracks. We have to work on them now but its nice to have them in the bag. They're not new tracks. They’re kind of old tracks; its kind of unplugged and it was fun playing together.

Can you still gel as a unit?
Yeah. We always loved each other. You can hear roaring and laughter. We got on well. It’s funny when you go back into studio. We haven't been in a studio for 20 years. What's really bizarre is how habits that you thought you'd cured come back twice as bad. You’d pick up the guitar and you'd suddenly go. ‘Good Christ, am I really saying this, because I used to say this 20 years ago.’ You'd think you might have grown up but you don't.

You started around 1972?
Our first appearance was actually on February 12,1971 and we were on a TV show called Fonn, which was bizarre. It was a bog standard RTE variety show of the period and it was presented in Irish, so it had a voice choir, then a fiddle player, a tenor and somebody singing Irish songs to a guitar. The stuff we were doing was bizarre. So we kind of kick-started, in the sense that people saw it and went: ‘That's really strange.’

You were pioneers in mixing rock with folk. Where did that influence come from?
When we were good, we were very good and when we were bad, we were hard. But the thing you can't deny is that it was strange that nothing like that had been done before.

Did you get some hassle from the folk community?
Yes, but most of it was deserved (laughs). if you do something strange, people naturally want to say what you are. We were f***ing about with traditional tunes, so suddenly there were arguments that this was the new face of Celtic music or the new face of trad, while others would go: "Well, no they’re not, they’re crap!"

You've worked a lot with U2.
I have. I did a lot of their videos and I did their first ever studio session. Actually we were playing Wembley arena and Paul brought over Adam Clayton to say hello and then he asked whether I would go into a studio with the guys. At first I said I wasn't a producer, then I agreed but I said: ‘Paul,

you've got a life, punk's about to be over - are you sure you want to be doing this?' He said: ‘Well, go into studio and see what you think.’ I went into the studio and that was the night that Larry was taken away by his father because he land to go to school the next morning and I produced three tracks. I could see straight away that these guys were really something, just what the Edge was doing, what Bono was doing, and the chemistry that they had. Nobody could have anticipated what would happen but I knew that they were very, very serious and that they had all the stuff done, that they were going to be something.

You have been working in the film business?
Yeah, that's what I do now. I'm currently supposed to be shooting a film with Melanie Griffith in March of next year, Limo Man. I'm also working on a film with Pedro Amoldovar's producer, Andres Vincente Gomez. The film is called Do You Understand Mr O’Hira, which is a bizarre film about a Japanese guy that comes to Ireland. Of the films that I've done, I directed All Things Bright and Beautiful myself, while I wrote the script for A Man Of No importance and I've had a number of mini series for the BBC. I work away, I love it, it's fantastic. Writing was always my great base, I wasn't a natural musician (although if you play it for ten years, you have to get good) but I'm a reasonably good writer and I have the great privilege of being able to work from home and be with my kids.

in conversation with Eugene Masterson