Mozaik

Archive: DRAÍOCHT BLOG – 2008 Interview

DRAÍOCHT BLOG

MUSICIAN INTERVIEW: Andy Irvine  / 3 April 2008
Q&A with Andy Irvine and Nicola Murphy, Draíocht’s Marketing Manager 

Andy appears in Draíocht on Saturday 12th April 2008 at 8pm with his group Mozaik, truly a World Music band, which fellow musicians Donal Lunny (Ireland & Japan), Bruce Molsky (USA), Nikola Parov (Hungary) and Rens van der Zalm (Holland, soon to be Australia). He chatted with Nicola Murphy by email from Japan ahead of the gig next week.

Brief Introduction:
Andy Irvine: Forty Years on the Road
Andy Irvine has been hailed as ‘a tradition in himself’. Musician, singer and songwriter, Andy has maintained both personal integrity and highly individual performing skills throughout his 40-year career. From Sweeney’s Men in the mid sixties to the enormous success of Planxty in the 70s, to THE Irish super group, Patrick Street, in the 80s, Andy has been a world music pioneer and icon for traditional music and musicians. Irvine occupies a unique place in the musical world, plying his trade as archetypal troubadour, with a solo show and traveling lifestyle that reflects his lifelong influence, Woody Guthrie. Few others can equal his repertoire, Irish traditional songs, dexterous Balkan dance tunes, and a compelling canon of his own material that defies description.
Taken from: http://www.andyirvine.com


Q&A

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from and where you live?

I have been playing music for my livelihood for over 40 years. I was a very good child actor who became not such a good juvenile actor. I play the Irish Bouzouki – an instrument that bears little relationship to its Greek origins. I also play Mandolin, Harmonica and Hurdy Gurdy. And I sing. I live in Dublin, though I spend most of my time traveling elsewhere. I am in Japan at the moment.

Q: What or who inspired you to become a musician?

My first inspiration was Woody Guthrie, the Oklahoma balladeer and song writer. Subsequently I became interested in all folk music.

Q: How old where you when you started playing?

I was 13 when I received my first instrument – a very poorly made guitar. I studied classical music for four years but decided it was not for me.

Q: Why did you choose your particular instrument to learn?

I wanted to play all the instruments that Woody played. The mandolin became my foremost instrument but after my good friend, Johnny Moynihan introduced the Bouzouki into Irish music, I gradually became more drawn to that.

Q: If you weren’t a musician, what would you like to be?

A novelist.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a musician?

Practising when you haven’t played for a while. It’s like running through a field of porridge.

Q: What type of music do you enjoy playing the most?

My music.

Q: Are there any famous musicians that you would really like to work with?

Yes, Woody Guthrie but unfortunately he’s dead.

Q: What’s the most unusual place you’ve ever played a concert or made a recording? 

Kilmainham Jail with all the ghosts looking down from the cells above.

Q: Have you ever tried other art forms like drawing, painting, sculpting or dancing for instance?

No, no good at any of these.

Q: What other musicians or people have influenced or inspired you, and in what ways?

I have been inspired by many people who rose up and fought against injustice. People who spoke for those with no voice. From James Connolly to Joe Hill.

Q: How do you keep motivated if you’re having a bad day?

Imagine myself to be in a worse position.

Q: How have you handled the business side of being a musician, promoting yourself and getting exposure, selling your gigs to promoters etc?

Like most musicians I am not a big self promoter. My first band, Sweeney’s Men was a minor success but my second band, Planxty was a major success. I have never felt the need to sell myself since then.

Q: Do you have any advice you could give to a musician just starting out?

Don’t expect to be a success. But believe in yourself and keep doing what you believe in.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Still battering around the globe with any luck.

Q: What are your interests and hobbies in your spare time? 

Football, Cricket, Rugby. Anything with a ball except Basketball.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your forthcoming performance in Draíocht?

It’s with Mozaik, a fiery blend of Irish, Balkan and Old Time American music that should keep the audience in excitement. Between us all the band plays over 20 instruments with Nikola covering a bewildering range of East European instruments that many people will never have seen before.
I started the group 5 years ago, and we rehearsed for the first time in Australia and finished the tour that followed with a live recording at the Powerhouse, in Brisbane. That album conveys the exciting sounds that the band creates on stage. Since then we’ve played at many of the world’s major festivals and concert halls in Australia, Japan, USA, Ireland, Italy and the UK. (Vicar Street, National Concert Hall, Cork Opera House notably). Each member of the band has recorded extensively during their musical careers – Nikola solo and with numerous Balkan bands in Hungary; Bruce with solo albums and collaborations with Pete Seeger, Martin Hayes, Bill Frisell and many others; Dónal with bands ranging from Planxty and The Bothy Band to Moving Hearts, and more than 100 albums that he has produced and played on for other artists; I’ve played with Sweeney’s Men, Planxty and Patrick Street, solo and with Paul Brady; Rens has also recorded with me, and many Dutch bands like Wolverlei and Fungus.

Q: Do you have any performances coming up after this one in Draíocht?

Yes, Draiocht is the second gig of a nine day tour in Ireland with Mozaik.


What the Press have said:

“This was glorious music that raised spirits, roofs and not a few pulses along the wayYet another magnificent musical detour that unleashed our imaginations and our energies, free to roam where passports and language barriers hold no sway.”
Siobhan Long, The Irish Times

Further info about Andy Irvine & Mozaik can be found on his website:
www.andyirvine.com 

 

Mozaik
Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Bruce Molsky, Nikola Parov, Rens van der Zalm
First envisaged by venerable vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andy Irvine (Planxty, Patrick Street), Mozaik is the ultimate global string band- a truly international ensemble who can not only perform music from a wide array of cultures, but interweave their myriad influences into an entirely new sound. Mozaik moves effortlessly from Celtic to old-time to Eastern European music, with intricate string arrangements complementing Andy and Bruce’s vocals. The line-up boasts musicians as versatile and eclectic as the music created between them, whose traditions and styles are distinct, yet blend beautifully to form a cohesive work of art. Long time fans from Irvine’s Planxty days, will be aware that he has been experimenting with Eastern European melodies and rhythms for a long time now, which is a style he incorporates magnificently into this band.

Main Auditorium
Sat 12 April 2008, 8pm
Tickets: €22 / €20 conc

For media information please contact:
Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht
Tel: 01-8098021

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Archive: Mozaik – Changing Trains (2007)

Changing Trains

Compass Records 7 4468 2; 53 minutes; 2007

This isn’t a review, but the unedited version of an article based upon interviews with the band.

It’s some ten thousand miles from Brooklyn to Blackheath, NSW, and six of the same mathematical breed from County Fermanagh to Okinawa, though neither the crows nor the various flight paths are likely to pass over Budapest on these journeys.

Once only a fool would ever consider forming a musical quintet whose members were drawn from these five locations, but the world is now a much smaller place than when Andy Irvine first embarked on his musical travels. Those initial ventures took place in the late 1960s, when he decided to quit Dublin and his successful part in the band Sweeney’s Men and head for Eastern Europe on a musical voyage whose import continues to impact upon his music today. As he would later write, ‘I hit the road for the Balkans and spent a year and a half travelling around, sleeping in orchards, taking in the sounds and falling in love with the music and the people. I hauled a bunch of records back to Ireland, locked myself away and tried to get the hang of the rhythms. Not only have I been trying to play the music ever since, but I’ve been trying to get half the musicians of Ireland to play it as well.’

One of those Irish musicians, and far more than a significant half in terms of his later career, was the guitarist (and later Irish bouzouki maestro) Dónal Lunny who’d learnt the music industry’s ropes as a member of the folk-pop Emmet Spiceland. As Dónal recalls, “Ever since Andy introduced me to Bulgarian music I had a desire to play it. I was already interested in different time signatures from listening to Dave Brubeck and other jazz players.” Though whether Brubeck would ever have considered combining the 9/8 rhythm of an Irish slip jig with the 9/16 of a Bulgarian daichovo horo, as Irvine and Lunny have found and enjoyed themselves doing is open to question.

On said Balkan travels, in Ljubljana Andy also bumped into a young musician from the Netherlands, Rens van der Zalm. The Dutch fiddler and guitarist Rens had become immersed in “the music of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger and the New Lost City Ramblers and more..” in his teens and started to play this music in coffee houses with older mentors, though “his violin teacher was not very amused”.

Rens and Andy would meet up again during the 1970s when Planxty (formed with Dónal, uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn and Christy Moore) toured Europe. By which time the fascination Andy and Dónal shared for those Balkan rhythms had become a substantial element in the band’s repertoire.

Fast forward a few years to the early 1980s. Planxty’s career had stuttered after its genesis with Christy reinvigorating his solo career and Dónal embarking on the full-pelt sleighride also known as The Bothy Band. In the midst of this period Andy and Paul Brady formed a powerful duo, recording one of Ireland’s essential albums in the process. However, by 1979 the original members of Planxty were back together again (with the addition of Matt Molloy on flute) and the reincarnation’s first album included perhaps the best-known result of Andy’s and Dónal’s Balkan interests, the 9/16 Bulgarian dance tune ‘Smeceno Horo’.

A key moment came in 1981 when Dónal (by then involved in the nascent Moving Hearts) and the future Riverdance creator Bill Whelan combined to compose Timedance, the interval entertainment for that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. As Andy puts it, “It had dancers, it had a drum kit, a bass guitar. It had chord sequences in the last part that Planxty would never even have dreamed of ten years before! It even had a Bulgarian 9/16 rhythm at the beginning of the second tune. With its archaic unaccompanied flat set of uilleann pipes in the first section, it wasn’t a bad musical history of Planxty and the music its members had performed.”

By then Andy had also released his debut solo album, Rainy Sundays Windy Dreams and, after Planxty’s seemingly final demise (reformed for a short time this decade, but never likely to play again), he embarked upon his most ambitious project so far. This was the band Mosaic which resulted from further Balkan ventures and involved singer Márta Sebestyén from the Hungarian band Muzsikás who also played gardón , Hans Theesink (nowadays regarded as one of the world’s finest blues guitarists), singer/bassist Lissa (from Denmark) and, initially, Scotland’s Dougie MacLean.

However, Dougie decided that the project wasn’t for him so, after an abortive attempt to involve Dolores Keane and John Faulkner, Dónal Lunny arrived on the scene, bringing with him the young uilleann piper Declan Masterson. The newly-fledged band embarked on a tour whose English segment resulted in fabulous reviews, but, in Andy’s words, ‘we were a very happy band but we had the sense to leave it at just the one summer! Still, I don’t think I’ll ever forget Márta playing the gárdon, a Translvanian percussion instrument that looks like a stone age cello, on sets of Irish reels!’.

While Andy’s solo career progressed during the latter half of the 1980s, a key musical moment occurred in 1992 with the release of the East Wind album, a collaboration with uilleann piper Davy Spillane. Produced by Bill Whelan, and featuring a feast of cross-cultural musicanship, this was undoubtedly the first (and probably the last) attempt to meld Bulgarian, Macedonian and Irish music together. Its cast included Nikola Parov, a multi-instrumentalist from Sofia (proficient on gadulka, kaval, gaida and bouzouki) whom Andy had previously met at a festival in Hungary. The album was critically acclaimed, but poorly bought. Subsequently, Andy, Nikola and Rens (who had played on Andy’s second solo LP Rude Awakening) toured Europe together as the East Wind trio.

During his solo career in the 1990s Andy often toured the US and it was during one of these trips that he met Bruce Molsky, a Bronx-born fiddler with an insatiable appetite for Appalachian music.

Little immediately accrued, but while touring Australia in the dwindling years of the last millennium, an idea suddenly struck Andy. “I do a lot of driving in Australia – I own a Land Cruiser out there. Driving really makes me use my brain and it suddenly came into my head that it would be great to do a tour of Australia with a band and that led to the question ‘What kind of a band?’. That thought led in turn on to Irish, Old Timey and Balkan music and then the people more or less picked themselves.

So, there was Bruce, Dónal, Nikola and Rens and Andy’s impetus to bring them all together – “I was the common link and knew everybody. I’d played with all of them in the past and had them kind of earmarked.”

The emails began to flow. As Bruce puts it “Andy contacted me with a very simple email in 2001, and asked pretty much ‘Hey, want to come to Australia and make a band?’ Well it was a bit more descriptive than that; the whole idea sounded mysterious and pretty exotic.“ Dónal, Rens and Nikola were equally receptive and the newly-formed band, henceforth known as Mozaik, first convened in Australia in March 2002. After just several days of rehearsal it embarked on a short tour whose results can be heard in the form of the album Live at the Powerhouse which, as all the bands’ members would probably agree, only partly encapsulates the unique instrumental configuration which trod the boards on those nights.

Subsequently, there was another Australian tour, one of the US and a couple of visits to the UK, but it was 2005 before this band of musical itinerants actually spent time in the recording studio. The result was the album Changing Trains, whose title relates only partly to two of its tracks, which was released only in Australia that year. Subsequently remixed, it’s now more generally available, though it’s an absolute mystery why a band of such calibre has to self-finance its own album.

The album’s ten tracks incorporate all the disparate elements that Mozaik’s members bring to the melting pot. There’s Andy’s self-composed songs (including ‘O’Donoghue’s’, his wonderful paean to the glories of Dublin’s most famed session pub in all its 1960s pomp and prime). Then there’s Bruce’s ‘Reuben’s Transatlantic Express’, reinvigorated by Nikola’s input of Rumanian rhythms. Add to that the eclectic ‘Pig Farm Suite’, first played at an Italian venue which was once a piggery, and the exceedingly rare sounding of a lead vocal from Dónal Lunny on the Donegal song ‘Siún ní Dhuibír’. The last time the Lunny larynx was heard on record was on ‘Bean Phaidín’ on the Planxty album The Well Below the Valley. Additionally, there’s ‘Sail Away Ladies’, first recorded by ‘Uncle Bunt’ Stephens in the 1920s and a wonderfully resonant version of the song ‘Reynardine’.

Nowadays Rens lives in Australia, Nikola in Budapest, Dónal in Okinawa and Bruce in Brooklyn, not forgetting Andy in Ireland. Bringing together all these disparate talents for a tour of whatever kind is a feat in itself, but, as Nikola comments ‘That’s the most exciting part of it, I think. From a practical point of view it’s hell. I mean, to organize a tour, schedule times and flights, it’s really difficult. But the freshness and the flash of creativity when we meet compensates for all the inconvenience. I can assure you I’m never bored.’

And neither should we be.

This article by Geoff Wallis originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2008 edition of fRoots magazine.

Archive Interview: 2004 – EMusic Interview – Andy Irvine – Mozaik – Event Guide

When East Meets West

As if reuniting with Planxty wasn’t enough, Andy Irvine continues with Mozaik, another musical project combining Eastern European sounds with Irish and American vibes. Úna Mullally spoke to him about the music.

‘Live From The Powerhouse’ is the new record. How do you feel about it?

I love it! I think it’s great. We were in Australia, coming towards the end of a tour and we had the foresight to rent recording equipment and record it.

The Eastern European influence – does that stem from your time in those parts in the 60s?

The Eastern European side definitely does but as well, that old-time American sound has always been a huge influence for me, and I think that comes across strongly too.

People have been predicting the death of trad for years, but it hasn’t exactly come about yet, has it?

No, not at all. There are an awful lot of bands out there keeping it going, and more. The state of Irish traditional music has never been healthier. People like Kíla spring to mind.

Of course, the big news was Planxty reforming. How did it happen?

We’d been meeting for about five years, just having dinner together and discussing old times. I think somebody just posed the question of reforming and everybody was into it. We all lept at it really. We went on meeting and recording and sometimes it seemed it would happen and sometimes it didn’t. I think the catalyst was Leagues O’Toole’s No Disco programme on us. We realised that if we didn’t get back to Planxty now, we’d all be dead in a while and never able to make that choice.

Were you disappointed when No Disco ended?

It was terrible. And RTE never explained it. I don’t know why they did it. Mr. RTE obviously has a mind of his own. They’re not doing what the people want. I just didn’t understand that decision at all.

Were you nervous about playing together after all those years?

It did occur to me that we’d get up and play it and it wouldn’t work. I thought people could’ve raised us in their memories and then be disappointed with what we actually played. But that absolutely didn’t happen. The music seemed so fresh again. 100% of the people I’ve talked to about the shows in Vicar Street were blown away by it. But, y’know, there’s no full-time about Planxty. We continue one step at a time. I suppose the CD and DVD were a last step but then we are doing 12 concerts next December and January.

What happens then?

There are no plans to record. We are going to get together for a meeting on the 1st of February and we’ll see what happens.

What’s the tour like with Mozaik?

It starts on July 18th and goes on to August 3rd. We start at the Erragail Arts festival, then Galway and so on, and it finishes at a show in West Belfast.

How do you feel about being labelled way up there as a ‘legend’ when it comes to trad?

It doesn’t bother me. If people want to call me that…well, I don’t know if I’m flattered by it. It doesn’t sway me. It’s kind of silly, really. Surely you can’t be a legend in your own lifetime?


Mozaik, with support from Dirty 3, play The Village, on Dublin’s Wexford Street, as part of the Bud Rising Festival on Tuesday 27th July. Doors 8pm, tickets €20.

http://www.andyirvine.com / http://www.budrising.ie / http://www.thevillagevenue.com / www.ticketmaster.ie
EMusic Interview - Andy Irvine / Mozaik. Event guide.

source: china2galway.com  [dead link]