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
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
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
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
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