Archive: 10th Jan 2002 – Italian Keltika Magazine Interview

10th Jan 2002Italian Keltika Magazine

Sweeney’s Men, Planxty, Patrick Street: three of the most important groups in the history of Irish music of there last decades, and you have been part of all three groups: what did they give to you, what do you think you gave them, and more, what does remain, today, in your music, of those experiences?

Sweeney’s Men was my first band. It was almost of first time that I had played with other musicians, having been a fairly solitary individual up to then. It was a great thrill to play with Johnny Moynihan and Joe Dolan and later Terry Woods. We shared our ideas and ideals. Planxty took this on further and my favourite music is the music we played on our last three albums. As musicians we had evolved together and had opened up the parameters a bit. I am still playing with Patrick Street and still enjoying ti thoroughly. Much as I enjoy playing solo, I get a great buzz out of Patrick Street these days. We have a new CD almost ready. 

I have always looked at you as a great “cantastorie” (the Italian term for “storyteller”), someway as a 20th (and now 21st..) century bard. Do you recognise yourself in such a description? Any your opinion about it….

 I see myself as a troubadour, yes. In my song writing I try to write songs about brave people who have become footnotes in History but should be better remembered. My greatest success is when someone comes up to me after a concert and says “I’m so glad you sang that song about……(could be Raoul Wallenberg, Michael Davitt, Tom Barker) I had never heard of that story and it made me very interested”. 

You are known also for your great passion (and knowledge) for the music of East Europe, since the 60’s and the 70’s, years when the term “world music” was still unknown. Do you think at yourself as a “musical pioneer” about it, and more in general what is your opinion about the great interest of so many Irish musicians in music from other countries and cultures? And what do you think about the great success of bands as Afro Celt Sound System?

 Yes, I was a pioneer in Balkan Music. I’m very interested to see how many Irish Traditional musicians are now exploring Balkan rhythms. I don’t know much about Afro Celt Sound System. They make CDs but do they actually play gigs together? 

Going now to “Way Out Yonder”, we could think that Andy the storyteller is more involved with Australian and New Zealand stories….Is it just an accidental fact?

 Yes, I am interested in social history. I don’t really care where it comes from. I am an Internationalist! I just happened at that time to come across a good song from New Zealand and to write one about Australia. I get moist of my inspiration from driving around Australia so its not surprising that I should get involved with Australian social history….. 

I do appreciate particularly your “The Highwaymen”. Could you tell us whatever you like about this song, and more generally about the whole cd?

 The Highwayman is over 9 minutes long and yet wherever I sing it, it is listened to from start to finish. It’s a good story and the narrative is easy to follow. It is exciting, Romantic and ultimately tragic with very good imagery. I was pleased with the album when last I listened to it! I had some great musicians playing on it! 

Which are your future projects? Any hope to see you soon in Italy?

 I have a new band playing here in Australia in March. It is called Mozaik after the band I had in 1985 with a new spelling! This band comprises Donal Lunny, Nilola Parov, Rens Van Der Zalm, Bruce Molsky and myself. We will play Irish music, Balkan music and Old Timey American music and if its as good as the players in it, it should be pretty good. Patrick Street will have a new CD in the near future. It is nearly finished. I intend to start a new CD next summer. I am touring with the English fiddle player and singer Chris Wood in Ireland in April and with Rens Van Der Zalm in USA in May. I contacted my agent in Italy about a tour in April but nothing seems to have come of it. He said he was thinking more of the summer…. 

I hope this will do Alfredo, it’s 4am and I’m for the bed! Andy Irvine. 

A very special Thank to Alfredo De Pietra for his permission to use this article and for his kindness in sending it to me.

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