The following is a transcription of an interview with Gary Miller & Mick Tyas, on Radio Brussels, on 30th March 1993, at the very start of The Whisky Priests ‘Bloody Well Live!’ Tour.
[To begin the show, the whole band performs ‘Perfect Time’ live in the studio]
The Whisky Priests live in the studio with ‘Perfect Time’. Gary and Mick from the band are here to talk with us. Hello guys.
Gary & Mick:
Hello! How’re you doing?
You’ve just released your fourth album, a live album?
That’s right, yeah.
I have the impression that like some other bands in the genre you play, you’ve difficulties to get the energy on a studio record and you can get it better on a live record?
I think the time was right for us to release a live album, at this moment in time. I think it probably is a better representation of the band than any of the previous albums. But, I mean, it’s also been a question of finances in the past as well. I mean, basically, the first three albums, we recorded in the studio, didn’t have a very big budget, so that didn’t actually help, and we also had problems with the line-up of the band. It wasn’t really the right people for the band that recorded those albums, but everyone was just right for this live album. Although we have a lot of experience of playing live, we still have a lot to learn about studio technique, but hopefully we can put that right with the next studio album. Hopefully we’ll have more money to spend on the next studio album, but I suppose, to a certain extent, we have found it more difficult to actually get the energy across in the studio. It’s not really the same as performing live, but playing live is very much what the band’s about, really.
Maybe there’s another reason, in the sense that a live record is a kind of compilation. There are three new songs and old material for the rest, of course.
Yeah, I mean, the live album is basically a representation. It was all recorded at one concert, of course, so it’s basically a representation of the live set at that time, and at the time we recorded it, most of the set was basically old material, there were a few new ones, some of which have ended up on the live album.
I think it was time to get an album together, chuck all the favourites that people wanted onto one particular album and get them out the way and sort of, in a way, clear the decks for some new material for a new album. People have wanted it for a long time, a live album, and we’ve wanted to do one from the start, because we realise that our true performances don’t come across in the studio, as we’ve already said.
And as far as the older material on the album is concerned, we also feel that the earlier recordings didn’t actually do a lot of the songs full justice. We felt that the songs deserved, you know, a new sort of airing, if you like. We felt a lot of the old songs; we were actually playing them a lot better. We’ve actually done a much better job of those songs on the live album than we did with the original versions, so in that sense it’s a matter of, like Mick says, bringing it all together and actually, you know, putting things to rights, as it were, regarding the previous stuff. But, at the same time, it’s not really a ‘Best Of’, it’s just a compilation of a live gig, you know, the live set we were doing at the time, and we just basically chose the songs from that gig that seemed to sort of have the best feel on the night. It was basically what we felt were the highlights of the gig, and the way it turned out, it was a selection of old and new.
The music you play sounds a lot of fun, but there’s a serious side to your music as well.
Yeah, definitely. It’s a way of taking a lot of more serious subjects and presenting them in a way people can sing and dance to. Obviously, we don’t set out to be miserable and dour, but there are certain subjects we hit on but in a way people can enjoy. I think Gary probably has a different opinion to me, he writes the songs, in the main.
It’s just a matter of conveying experiences; what we experience ourselves, from what we see around us. It’s just basically, you know, telling stories of life as we see it, and there is actually a serious point to a lot of it because of the sort of world we live in, I suppose. But we’re not trying to make any particular point or convey any particular message, I mean, we enjoy ourselves when we play the music, that’s important to us, and we convey that, I suppose, to the audience when we do play. And, at the same time, the lyrics to the songs are important to us, the songs themselves are important to us, and if that sort of rubs off on other people, that’s great. But we’re not actually trying to say anything specific, you know, the songs just tell stories and life as we see it, really.
If somebody wants to sit down and listen to us and make sense of the words, well that’s great. And if another person wants to get up and go crazy, stage dive to the same song, well that’s great as well.
So, whatever you want to do, however you want to interpret it.
[The whole band performs ‘Easington’ live in the studio]
‘Easington’ with The Whisky Priests live here in the studio.
Now guys, we were just talking about the seriousness in your music. You do stress a lot the region where you come from in England, the North-East of England, which is a region that is more or less neglected by London.
To a certain extent, yeah.
To a great extent.
You do make, in interviews yourself, the comparison with Scotland, but you’re not better off, are you?
No, the North-East is a region unto itself. Scotland has its own identity, as does Wales and Ireland, and, in the same way, the North-East of England has its own identity but it’s not a sort of identity that people are actually aware of outside the region. And we are actually very proud of where we come from, but at the same time, we’re not trying to make any sort of point, we’re not trying to be regionalist, and, at the same time, we’re not trying to trivialise the area. It’s just the way it comes out, I suppose. Most of the songs we write are telling stories from the point of view of the area where we come from, but they do, I suppose, have a more universal sort of outlook as well, it’s just the stories themselves are actually set against the backdrop of North-East England.
What about the traditionals you do? Are they from the region you come from, or are they broader songs?
Almost all the traditional songs that we’ve recorded or played live in the past have more or less all been from the North-East of England. There might have been one or two, I think, that have been from outside the area, I know there was one song, called ‘Jim Jones’, which is an Australian transportation song, but all the others are from the North-East of England. And they’re just songs that we know and they seemed to fit in with what the band was actually trying to do at the time. We don’t actually play as many traditional songs now as we did before, mainly because we don’t really feel the need to. We’ve actually made a point now of using the traditional songs, it was an important thing at one time. We couldn’t just be a band that was using traditional instruments and singing songs about the area where we live, using the sort of culture and the history of the area for the actual storylines of our songs, and ignore the traditional music side of it. It was important to us that we did actually play some traditional songs. A lot of those songs are still relevant today. A lot of what those songs are about means those songs are worth singing. But we don’t feel quite as much need to sing those songs now as we did maybe two or three years ago. We still play one or two traditional songs but not as many as we did.
Let’s come back to this record of yours, ‘Bloody Well Live!’ It was recorded at the Markthalle in Hamburg, a venue of 1500 people. You will be playing smaller clubs in the next days now, in Belgium and in Holland, what do you prefer, small clubs or big venues like Hamburg?
We don’t really mind, it’s not so much where we play as who we play to. The audience is more important than the venue. Obviously, some venues are more suitable to us than others. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have jus as good a concert in a much smaller club. I mean, the concert in Hamburg was great but we have a good following in that part of Europe. But we’re looking forward very much to the concerts in Belgium because we’ve played one or two concerts in Belgium before, not many, but they all been very good, we’ve really enjoyed them, and the crowds have been great. Some of the concerts in the Netherlands will be in larger halls but we are looking forward to the gigs in Belgium, I think we might have a good time, we hope everybody will have a good time.
You like playing in the studio as well?
Well, not as much. (Laughs)
It’s difficult to really get the feel of what we’re trying to put across in our music. It comes across much better in a live setting. But maybe that’s just something we’ve got to work on in the future.
Well, nevertheless we will ask you to play just one more song, but I’ll just give the dates for the listeners…
OK guys, thank you for coming to the studio.
Thanks for having us.
Thanks for having us, thanks very much.
[The whole band performs ‘Old Man Forgotten’ live in the studio]