History, you have been on the road for a long time?

-The Whisky Priests was founded in 1985 by my twin brother Glenn and me, so yes, weíve certainly been Ďon the roadí for a long time, playing many concerts in many countries. Our busiest period was 1992-6 when we played over 600 concerts in 5 years, released 5 new albums of new material and re-issued our first 3 albums, all on our own ĎWhippet Recordsí label.


Have you had many members changes? Why or why not?

-Yes, we have had an enormous amount of line-up changes, on a regular basis throughout the bandís existence. Glenn and me are The Whisky Priests; it is our concept and we have been the only constant elements throughout the bandís history. In the 17 years since the bandís formation I would estimate that we have had over 50 other people through the ranks of the bandís line-up. The only other seriously long-term member we have had is Mick Tyas who was with the band from 1989 to 1995; he has returned periodically since and has been playing with us again recently. A lot of people have joined The Whisky Priests without any concept or experience of the commitment and workload required to be in such a band and have been unable to stay the course on a long-term basis. Having so many different members has certainly held back our progress over the years, as itís made it impossible to maintain any kind of consistency to the group.


I have always thought that bands like Pogues, MTCH and so on have a
punk nerve in their music and so have you? What does punk mean to you?

With relation to The Whisky Priests, Glenn and me have always remained fiercely independent throughout our career and never compromised our musical or professional stance for the sake of commerciality, so I suppose you could call that a kind of punk attitude. Weíve certainly made a lot of mistakes by doing everything our own way and not having the kind of professional advice, guidance or backing that management and record companies can provide. At the same time, however, this is what has made us what we are. Iíve always been proud of the fact that everything weíve achieved has been down to our own hard work and commitment.


I got two live records, Think positive and Life Tapestry from you. How can I get the other stuff you have done and what other stuff have you done?

-There were about another 5 studio albums prior to Lifeís Tapestry and Think Positive!, plus more recently Glenn and me recorded an acoustic album as a trio with Joseph Porter of Blyth Power under the name ĎMad Dogs and Englishmení. One of the live albums was also released on video. All our albums are available to order direct via our official secure online store at: www.townsend-records.co.uk/whiskypriests


Please rank your five favourite record, five favourite concerts and five
most important things in life?

-I canít think of five favourite records or concerts but over the years Iíve come to appreciate that it is the most fundamental things in life that are most important, such as family, health and happiness. Iíve never been motivated by financial or material gain. I also think itís important to have a focus and a set of goals in order to be inspired to personal achievement but Iím only too aware of how destructive ambition and ego can be.


I wrote somewhere that you sounded a little like Blyth Power, comment (it
was on Life Tapestry)?

-Well, there have been a number of connections between The Whisky Priests and Blyth Power over the years but personally I feel that both bands have their own unique and distinctive sound and style. Weíve certainly never made any attempt to sound like Blyth Power and vice versa and Iíve never considered our Lifeís Tapestry album to sound like them at all. Iíve always felt that Lifeís Tapestry was our most original and distinctive sounding album.


First, last and the most expensive record you ever bought?

-I bought a lot of records when I was a teenager by such artists as XTC, The Jam, The Clash, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Madness, The Stranglers, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, The Undertones, etc, as well as a lot of older stuff. I canít remember the first one or the most expensive one. I donít buy many CDís now that I have a family because I canít afford to and I donít have the time or opportunity to listen to music as much as I used to but I do have a very broad taste.


I understand that many people say that youíre sounding like Pogues, what about that?

-People said this at the very start of our career when The Pogues were at their peak. The people who said it were looking for comparisons and seemed to have no other benchmark for a comparison. At the time it was an easy option for those people to compare us to The Pogues because we had a similar instrumental line-up, particularly the accordion, plus we included traditional songs in our early repertoire, in the same way that The Pogues did, although the traditional songs we played were from our home region of North East England as opposed to Ireland, as with The Pogues. Later, of course, lots of other bands arrived on the music scene that began to draw Pogues comparisons and we inevitably became ďpigeon-holedĒ by the media into this whole new scene that seemed to be contrived. We never felt part of any particular scene and we never intentionally involved ourselves with any bandwagon that may have developed. We were only ever interested in forging and following our own path and werenít particularly aware of what other music was going on around us at that time. As a result the whole thing became an enormous albatross around our necks and coloured peopleís perceptions of the band, leading to a lot of misconceptions.


How is to live in England right now, musically? Does anybody understand
your music there?

It is very difficult for the likes of us; in fact it is getting tougher and tougher. There is less and less respect and recognition for creative artists with original ideas. I think more people misunderstand our music than understand it.

Politically in England?

-We now have a Government masquerading as ĎLabourí but by calling themselves a Labour Government they are getting away with the kind of attitudes and policies that even the Conservative Government were unable to get away with because they would have been seen as too right wing. Itís a very depressing situation.


Which other bands are you being compared with?

-Well, youíve just compared us to Blyth Power! Iíve heard lots of different and varied bands and artists mentioned in comparison to us over the years, which can be intriguing and amusing sometimes, but Iíve never really paid any serious attention to any of it.


How did you react when the terrorist attack was, with anger fear or
what? Have it changed your life something?

-I remember reacting with shock and disbelief. I canít say that it changed my life in any direct way. Whatever the state of the world you just have to get on with your own life and live it the best way that you can.


Why havenít I heard of you before, I thought that I was into all music, you have no distribution in Sweden or?

-Although we have constantly toured and established a reputation and following throughout most of Europe we have never performed live in Sweden, or in fact anywhere in Scandinavia (other than at Skagen Festival in Denmark in 1994). Neither do we have distribution for our CDís in Sweden. Itís difficult to have one without the other. Weíve also received very little media coverage that I am aware of throughout Sweden, compared to other countries. So, compared to the rest of Europe, for example, The Whisky Priests seem to be relatively little known in Sweden. We almost toured Sweden about 12 years ago but sadly the tour that had been arranged was cancelled at short notice. The cancellation was a fault of the tour promoter, not us.


What do you know about Sweden?

-Iíve never been to Sweden so my knowledge is very limited.


Have you heard any Swedish bands worth to mention?

-No, sorry. I am not aware of the current Swedish music scene.


Do you have any plans to come here and play?

-Not at the moment but I would love to. Hopefully an opportunity to do so will present itself in the not too distant future.


Have you been much outside England and played, where īs the best place to be?

-Weíve played many hundreds of concerts outside England, in about 17 or 18 different countries; for example, weíve played over 300 concerts in Germany alone. Weíve had some great times over the years playing in many different places at many different types of venues and festivals to many different types and sizes of audiences. It would be very difficult to single out specific places, weíve been so fortunate to play in so many.


Whisky Priests, which whisky is the best one and what shall I do when I
donít like whisky to start to like it? Is it so that people who sing and
play this sort of music drink more than other people?

There is an uncountable number of brands of whiskies and different people will have differing opinions as to which is the best. If you donít like whisky, then my advice would be donít drink it! I certainly donít think you need to drink a lot of alcohol to play a particular type of music. I no longer drink alcohol myself and yet I still very much enjoy playing music and it hasnít restricted my creativity in any way.


Have you any plans to release a new record?

-Not at the moment. We are taking a rest from The Whisky Priests and waiting for what we feel will be the right time and opportunity to consider making a new Whisky Priests recording. In the meantime, I have plenty of other ideas and projects to occupy my time.




Future plans otherwise for the band?

-Glenn and me are currently taking a long break from all band activities. Itís important for us to do this after so many years during which time The Whisky Priests has completely dominated our lives. Weíre recharging our batteries after years of constant touring as well as handling the behind the scenes business affairs of the band and allowing time for other aspects of our lives, particularly our families. As for the future, who knows? The very nature of The Whisky Priests has never allowed us to plan more than a year in advance.


What drives you to play music?

-Iím a creative person with a vision and music is a vital form of expression for me. I donít feel I have come close to fulfilling my true creative potential and that is the main source of my motivation.

How much do you sell approximately?

-It varies from album to album and there a lot of factors to consider. Our biggest seller to date has been ĎBloody Well Live!í which I think must have sold about 10,000 copies, which may not sound like a lot compared to artists with recording contracts but bear in mind that all Whisky Priests recordings are released by ourselves on our own label with very limited promotional budgets, media exposure and distribution outlets.


For yourself?

-Any personal future plans I may have revolve around my family, that comes first now. My immediate musical commitments include writing songs for a project called ĎMad Martinsí, featuring Keith Armstrong, the acclaimed Tyneside poet we have collaborated with previously (for example on our ĎBleeding Sketchesí album in 1995), a Northumbrian piper called Chris Ormston, Glenn and myself. ĎMad Martinsí features a combination of songs, music and poetry and is based on the true life of three brothers born in the 18th Century, during the industrial revolution, in the county of Northumberland in North East England near the border with Scotland. Weíll be doing some live performances and with luck weíll be able to record the material for a CD release. I also have lots of other musical ideas in the pipeline, which I hope to find the time and opportunity to pursue in the future.


How is a good concert with you?

-I always judge a concert on my own performance. If I feel I have given my best and the audience have responded to my efforts then that is more satisfying to me than anything else, such as the size of the audience, for example.


Please tell me a little about every member in the group, family, age, interests and something bad about every one?

-Glenn and me are 35. Weíre both married. Glenn has a 5-year-old son and his wife is expecting a second child in November. My son will be 2 years old in January.


How does the average WP fan look like?

-There is no average or typical WP fan. Our audience covers all age groups and types of people.



T-hink Positive!

Something more to add?

-I hope to see you in Sweden one day.


It seems like your lyrics are pretty important for you, what gets you towrite a lyric?

-My lyrics are very important to me and any subject can inspire me to write.

I lead quite an intense life so I often find it easiest to write a lyric when I have managed to switch my mind off from all other things around me and totally focus on what Iím doing, which is usually only very late at night while I am still up and about or when Iím lying in bed. On the other hand, I also get very sharp ideas and images while I am doing unrelated things and I then have to write things down quickly or they quietly disappear from my mind.



Is it better to write a lyric when youíre angry or is it better when youíre happy?

-The mood you are in can certainly affect the feel of the song you are writing; the more extreme your emotion at a given time, the more passionate a lyric you are likely to write. Itís very easy to write an angry song, for example, if you are feeling particularly angry or bitter. Regardless of anything else, the most important thing is to be in a creative frame of mind, otherwise itís very difficult to force a song out of thin air.



What is most important for you, is it to have good lyrics, a good melody or to have a refrain that people remember?

-Both lyrics and melody are equally important in their own way. They should each compliment the other and sit right together as one complete entity. When I write lyrics, the tune to fit those lyrics comes automatically at the same time; the two are very much a symbiotic whole. Although a particular refrain may help people to remember a song, I always treat a song, first and foremost, as a whole structure. Quite often, a song with a great refrain can be a generally poor song overall, whereas a good song should not necessarily need to rely on a strong refrain.



You do both traditional songs and own songs, how do you do to get the
traditional songs sound like your own?

-We mostly played a mixture of traditional songs and original songs during the early years of the band. We never consciously planned for the traditional songs to sound like our own but we certainly played them our own way. At the time, the traditional songs were a very important part of what we were trying to achieve so by doing them our own way, we kind of made them our own. One example is ĎDol-Li-Aí which we had previously only ever heard sung accapella by other artists. We therefore gave the song our very own musical arrangement from scratch and created our own unique version. Iíve since heard a number of other bands, mostly in Germany, cover our version of this song by copying our arrangement exactly.



Have you done any other covers by some well-known bands, no punk songs?

-No. Apart from the traditional songs in our early career, it has always been important to us to play our own material. We have only covered two contemporary songs and both of these were written by folk singers from our home region and we played those songs because we felt they captured the essence of The Whisky Priests as well as any of our own songs.