WHISKY PRIESTS

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Interviews

NCRV, Radio 2, Netherlands, 18th August 2000 

 

The following interview was conducted by Fer Abrahams at Byton Studio 1, Oud Loosdrecht, the Netherlands on Friday 18th August 2000 for NCRV’s Radio 2 show ‘Music’.


The interview followed live acoustic performances by The Whisky Priests of the following songs: ‘Side by Side’, ‘Car Boot Sale’ and ‘Soldier on the Mantelpiece’.



In the studio are Glenn and Gary Miller. Thank you very much for playing and singing (Gary & Glenn: "You’re welcome") as The Whisky Priests.

You exist for 15 years already. Congratulations!


Glenn:

Thank you. Thank you.


How did you do that? How did you stay together?


Glenn: (laughs)

I don’t know! With immense difficulty. I think when we started we had a vision of what we wanted to do and that’s carried us through all the way really. Just this determination and this vision. This creative force I suppose, that’s tied us together over the years and has pulled us through all the hard times and all the hardships and kept us going. A love of the music. It’s what we do really. It’s become our lives and (laughs) we don’t really know any other way to exist anymore!


Gary:

I think to put it in more basic terms; the fact that the two of us are twin brothers and since we founded the group we’ve had so many dozens of different members coming and going over the years but what has always been the constant thing about The Whisky Priests is Glenn and me. We formed the band, we’ve done all the work, we’ve done everything to build the band and I think anybody else in our position, would have struggled on their own but the fact that there are two of us who are very close as twin brothers and the fact that we have a shared vision, it means that whatever happens, all the bad times that we’ve had along the way, it’s the fact that the two of us have kept together that’s allowed the band to continue really. That’s to put it in very simple terms. It’s the two of us together, we’ve held each other together, you know.


What is the vision you share?


Glenn:

Well, it’s difficult to explain it. It’s difficult to really conceive of it.


Gary:

It’s not something we discuss, is it.


Glenn:

Yeah. A vision or whatever we might have isn’t something that we’re really aware of. It’s only talking about it now that we’re aware that, well maybe there is a vision and the vision simply is just to continue with what we do, making the music that means something to us. Our vision is kind of to create a music that is relative to how we feel. It’s very much coming from within ourselves and part of the vision is just displaying ourselves in our music. I don’t think you can explain it in more depth than that or even try to make it sound like it’s any cleverer than that. It’s purely and simply the fact that we’ve just continued making the kind of music that we want to make and saying the things we want to say and just actually being in control of our own kind of musical destiny really, in the way an artist would use his canvas to get out what’s inside him, we’ve got our music to do that.


Gary:

The way an artist would maybe start with maybe an empty canvas and with as broad a canvas as possible, if you like, in which to paint, with no particular vision beforehand, it just comes and that’s what we’ve always done with The Whisky Priests. We’ve never had a distinct vision about where the music’s going or where it actually is at any given time. It’s just been purely a natural sort of growth for us, a natural continuity and there’s never been any particular plan or anything like that. It’s just a natural sort of thing really. It’s just the way we live our lives.


Gary, you also have something to say in your songs.


Gary:

Well, again, with what I’m saying in the songs, it’s just I’m saying the things that, you know, are coming from within me. I don’t sit down with the intention to write a particular song or write about a particular subject. I’m just, you know, putting across in the songs what I’m feeling at a particular time and again, like the band and like the music in general, the songs themselves are just a kind of tapestry for what we feel about life. We’re not making any bold statements or any political statements or anything like that. We’re not sitting down with any kind of manifesto about what we’re going to say. We’re just singing about life, as we perceive it at a particular time or about how life might affect us or the people around us. It’s very honest; it’s a very straightforward way of working. We’re not trying to dig deep or anything. We’re digging deep within ourselves but we’re not trying to be pretentious or what have you and trying to sing about things that don’t mean anything to us or things that we know nothing about. It’s just purely and simply another branch to what’s inside us. It’s just the way we express our creativity. Nothing more, nothing less. I know it almost sounds arrogant to say it like that and it’s not meant to be. It’s just the way it is. We don’t have a plan and we don’t think consciously about the songs we write. If I feel there’s something I want to get out of me, you know, with how I feel, or something in my head, it just comes out. To me, writing, it’s just thoughts coming out that, you know, becomes a song.


Glenn:

Sometimes writing a song is a good way to get something off your chest isn’t it.


Gary:

Yeah, in a sense it’s…


Glenn:

And in that sense you have something to say, so you say it in the song.


Gary:
Yeah. You’re kind of purging yourself of all these thoughts.


Can I say that it’s now the year 2000. Were you more angry in 1985?


Gary:

We’ve always been angry!


(Everybody laughs)


Glenn:

Do you mean, have we mellowed with age? (laughs)


Mellowing. That’s not the word, I think.


Glenn:

We’re in control of our emotions a lot more now I think. Yeah, definitely. I think when you’re 18 years of age and you form a band, I think you are kind of, you know, angry young men – let’s form a band, let’s go to the pub, let’s have a drink, let’s play music, let’s get it all out of our system and I guess that was probably a stage we went through. I think, you know, when you’re young and boisterous and full of all this energy, it probably comes across that way.


Gary:

That’s right. When we formed the band it was definitely a way of us being able to express ourselves. That was the main reason behind it. When we started the band, we weren’t actually musicians at the time. We were wanting to be musicians but we were wanting to use music as a vehicle for our expression, you know, we didn’t kind of sit in bedrooms, or whatever, and learn to play and say let’s form a band. It was, let’s form a band, now we have to learn to play and we were writing songs and Glenn and me, even when we were at school, we were writing. We were very creative with our writing. So the music just naturally progressed from that, as a way of kind of presenting what we were writing. So when we were younger, when we were forming the band, we had a lot to say. We were angry, you know, we were at that sort of age where everybody is angry with the world, or whatever, but it was just a way of venting that frustration. But we weren’t preaching any kind of anger or we weren’t particularly being angry. It was just a way of channelling that frustration into something creative.


Glenn:

And I think in the early days of the band as well, because we were a band before we were musicians, we learnt as we went along musically. So the music was quite basic in the beginning and we got by with the music more through our commitment and energy rather than any technical ability and that probably made the songs sound harder and faster and angrier anyway. Whereas, as we’ve progressed musically over the years, we’ve, you know, learnt to express ourselves better within the framework of the music and I think that’s broadened our musical canvas, so to speak, so that we’re not tied down to any kind of one dimensional way of putting our songs across. We can put it across in almost any musical way that we like now because we’ve all progressed musically.


Gary:

I mean, yeah, you know, when we started, the whole point was that the music was very direct because what we were doing was very direct and it still is very direct. There’s nothing complicated about what we’re doing. We’re not trying to build a big sort of musical background for what we do. It’s all straightforward and direct but obviously, you know, 15 years is a long time of anybody’s life to be doing this to such an intense degree. So, obviously in 15 years we’ve matured as people, as anybody would. It’s part of life. Anybody who is 15 years down the line to what they were is going to be a different person, you know. So we’ve experienced a hell of a lot in those 15 years. Not only have we matured as people but the music’s matured. It’s just a kind of natural thing, you know, it’s part of living, part of growing up.


Glenn:

And that kind of makes it more exciting as well.


Gary:

We still have a lot of anger and frustration in us but it’s more controlled now.


Have you got any idea where that kind of energy comes from? If I watch you on stage, I think there’s a…I don’t know how to describe it…a kind of twin mini nuclear energy power point or something like that. Where does that come from?


Gary:

I don’t know. I think it’s something that’s been in Glenn and me all our lives. We’ve always been bursting with that kind of energy that we’ve wanted to kind of, you know…


Glenn:

...harness.


Gary:

Yeah. I think we’ve always been expressive people. We’re very strong-willed, to a degree that we’re very committed to what we do. We don’t do things by halves. It’s the way we’ve always lived our lives. We’ve always given 100% in whatever we do. If we weren’t playing music, for example, if we were doing something else in life, we would be pursuing it with, I think, the same kind of passion because that’s the way we are.


Glenn:

And once you’re up on that stage, you’re in a privileged position. You can’t let that go and it doesn’t matter how bad you feel, how ill you are, how down you are, whatever, as soon as you’re up on that stage you become a different person, especially Gary and me, and suddenly this energy seems to burst out and come from somewhere. I guess some people might say, you know, it’s a natural thing because we’re performers. Maybe we are natural performers without realising it, I don’t know but at the moment we’re on tour and I’m not actually supposed to be on tour. The doctor told me I had to lie in bed for three weeks. I’ve just had a severe illness. But I got up on stage last night and nobody seemed to notice that there was anything wrong with me but I felt awful afterwards. But while I was on stage, this energy just seemed to come out.


Gary:

I think we’ve always performed beyond our capability, in a way. We’ve always kind of pushed ourselves beyond the limits. Glenn and me, like I say, even before we were playing music, we had that kind of attitude to life, that we always pushed ourselves, you know. We don’t have a massive constitution but we’ve got a hell of a lot of stamina. And it’s that kind of determination to succeed or, if you like, fear of failure. We’ve always been very, very committed to everything we do. And that’s what’s motivated us over the years. That strong will to kind of…


Glenn:

…beat the odds…

Gary:

…prove to ourselves that we can, you know, do things to the fullest extent that we possibly can. We’ve just never believed in half measures.


Glenn:

And somehow, when you’re on stage, you get the atmosphere and the energy of the crowd and the rest of the guys in the band and it just all comes into you and bursts out again.


Gary:

I think because we do so much work behind the scenes ourselves and, like Glenn says, we’re in a privileged position to be on stage performing, that when we do get up there, we want to make the most of it every time and totally milk it for all that’s it’s worth and get out of it the most that we can. It’s like anything in life. You only get out what you put in. So we always put in the best we can, in the hope that we’ll get the best out of it.


Glenn:

But as the years go on, the harder that gets. It does get hard. It does take it out of you more and more but you know, you just somehow manage to dredge it up from somewhere.


What made you decide to do everything yourself? I mean, you’ve got your own management, right? And you do the records yourselves?


Glenn:

That’s correct.


What made you decide to do that?


Gary:
It was circumstances, really.


Glenn:
We didn’t really decide. Initially, it wasn’t what we wanted to do at all. We wanted to do it the normal way that a normal band would. Get a manager, get a record deal, do it all like that.


Gary:

We were as naïve as anybody when we started. We had the impression that, like anybody forming a band, you have this kind of vision, through lack of experience or whatever, lack of knowledge, that everything is going to be clear cut, you know, you form a band, sign a record deal and you have this idea that everybody does everything for you.


Glenn:

But we had two or three different managers in the early days of the band, when we were very young, and it didn’t work out. And then things didn’t work out with the first record company that we had.


Gary:
We had legal problems, lot’s of disappointments with people. We gave people the work to do for us, management, record companies, etc, and we thought, great...


Glenn:
...but they just weren’t doing it properly and after a while we began to realise, you know, these people are wasting our time and they’re wasting our lives, our careers, we could do better than them. And that’s what we did. We thought, we can do it ourselves much better. It wasn’t ideal and it’s been very, very hard, very, very stressful and frustrating and it’s been very, very difficult fighting against the music business for ourselves, in the sense that we don’t have the financial backing or the time on our hands or the power to do it the way that a lot of other bands can. But, at the same time, we aren’t answerable to anybody. We are in total control of what we do and it’s a situation where it stops here with us. We don’t have to answer to anybody, nobody answers to us, and there are good things and bad things about it really. We just got so frustrated in the early days of the band; with the way things were going. We thought, we could do this better, and that’s what we did.


Gary:

That’s right. Because we’re so close to it we’ve found that when we have left it to other people, they’ve never done it to the same level that we were able to do it. We always found…


Glenn:
…that we were both feeling let down.


Gary:

And that when we took it over and did it ourselves, then we were doing just as good, if not better than the people who’d done it before. So, it just kind of all fell into place. It just happened, without any pre-sketched plan that it was going to happen like that. It’s just the road that we’ve gone down by circumstance, really, by fate, if you like. And we’ve just continued in that vein ever since.


Glenn:

And it’s probably because of that that we’re still here after 15 years.


Because it’s also financially way much more interesting, of course. (Gary & Glenn laugh).

You don’t have to pay a manager and you don’t have to pay a record company.


Glenn:

A manager or a record company could probably be better at arguing for better deals than we could ever be, you know, we’re not hard enough financially and mentally, in that sense, to be good businessmen but at least we don’t have somebody else creaming it all away as well. And at least we know where the money goes and how it’s spent and what happens but it also means we can’t get ripped off or have somebody making the wrong decisions. The only people making the wrong decisions are us. So then we have to be careful.


Gary:
I mean, for us it’s always been head down and nose to the grindstone, if you understand the expression. Because we work so hard and because there’s so much time involved, we’ve never really given it a lot of thought.


[Unfortunately the only source available for transcribing this interview, a single cassette tape, does not contain the final part of the interview]