Saturday 26 October 2013

Something Happens was one of my favourite bands of the late 80's /  90's. I loved songs such as Burn Clear, Parachute, Room 29, Select and Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello. I was lucky enough to catch the band live and they didn't disappoint. Standing outside the Olympia waiting for the appointed time I was nervous. This felt like going for a job interview as opposed to waiting to talk to one of my drumming heroes. However I needn't have worried because meeting Eamonn was a joy. He is such a decent human being and I couldn't ask for more as he was great in giving of his time and energy. Thanks Eamonn.

Musically Eamonn, how did you get started?
My family is musical. I am the youngest in the family. I have two older brothers and a sister. We all kind of fecked around on guitar, piano at home, traditional music, folk music and rock music , The Rolling Stones were an influence, I was really in to them. The musical taste in the house was very good. Everyone played at home. I can't say what started me of on drums. I know I got a tiny drum kit, a cardboard one at Christmas so I had some sort of interest from early on. I had drum sticks, played on the arm of the sofa at home. I was interested from early on but not playing properly. As I came near secondary school my friends and I decided to start a band. First time I ever got close to a musical was with a school production of Joseph. I was introduced to the drummer and he was great, he was a trainee priest, a guy called Terry Callita. I don't know what became of him. He was from Limerick and he let me sit in, not play, but just let me sit in. I probably got to play the triangle or something but I was around guys that could play music properly. I got the bug for it then. We went down to do Godspell in Maynooth. When I was in Maynooth college it was still a closed clerical, training college and it was just beginning to open up to become a proper college and having girls in so that was an interesting time. That was around 1977 or 1978

What was your first drum kit?
The first drum kit I bought was a good one. It was a premium Olympic drum kit. I bought it from Larry Mullen. At that stage |I was going to see bands. U2 would have been at the point of the Dandelion Market. They did several gigs. I went to see them in McGonagles and they were just about to record 11 O Clock Tick Tock. I was on nodding terms with Larry, no more than that. I got talking to him after the gig. I was looking to buy a drum kit and at that time he was after getting a deal with Tama. I met him down at Windmill lane studios and U2 were just about to record 11 O Clock Tick Tock with Martin Hannett and he was taking in delivery of the Tama drum kit that morning, getting it set up for the studio and I did the deal with him, gave him £200 for the kit and I had to collect it from the rehearsal studio out in North Dublin at the time. I bought it from him and kept it for a few years.

How did the band start?
We went in straight from the beginning trying to do the right thing. I literally couldn't play in the beginning, I was very uncoordinated. Alan was part of it at that time. We practiced and got it together. Myself and Alan began to practice together for a couple of years, bass and drums, not very exciting to listen to but it probably did us no harm at all, just locking in. We did the classic ad in the paper and we went through a plethora of people and we got one lad who came along, Ray Harman. I remember him walking up the driveway with a little cap on. He was a good player and we liked him. To make a long story short I knew Tom Dunne. He was in a band called The End. I gave him a shout and asked him if he would be interested in joining up and we put it together after that. I liked the immediacy of punk and the fact that you didn't have to be technically great. The music that I grew up around was like Genesis, Lindisfarne and Yes, like more progressive rock bands. I liked New Wave which came from punk. I loved the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. I loved bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes. Gary Dwyer was the drummer with them. XTC, I loved them Gary Chambers, great drummer. Pete Thomas with Elvis Costello who I ran into a year later, he was very nice to me, he gave me cymbals actually. I copied what they had and got ideas from them.

What was the biggest progression from the time you started?
When we started we played everything too fast, the choruses got faster. I still stand over the band raw as it was at that time, it was still exciting. To us, bands like The Lookalikes were big bands, they were playing the Baggot Inn and what they were doing seemed very proficient compared to what we were doing. But we knew we were on to something. We had a bit more excitement then they had.

When it came to writing songs, what were your influences?
In the writing process everyone was allowed to suggest something to everyone else. If you look back at everything that we wrote, everything has a four way writing credit. The music was a mix of four lads banging their heads together. We treated rehearsing like a job. We booked a place just off Eustace Street and we used to go in Monday to Friday. We would painstakingly pull things together. Sometimes things came together quickly, sometimes it took weeks or months for a story to come together but everybody was pushing. I was good for arranging with those other guys and the care we took at the start, everybody was allowed to say anything and the care we took in bringing the band together at the beginning meant we weren't having these terrible rows.

Did you get opportunities to drum elsewhere?
I was offered an opportunity to join another band who had a professional deal as The Happens was going along. The name of the band was Light a Big Fire and I went for that but it was a really big mistake. I lasted about two weeks in their professional set-up. I went to London to record and to be quite honest I wasn't up to it at the time. I was able to sit in for them live that's how the job came about because their regular drummer was ill at the time and I sat in with them but when it came to going into a studio I wasn't up to it and it became apparent to everybody I wasn't happy with them, they weren't happy with me and within two weeks I was home and I rejoined The Happens. Thankfully there wasn't any damage done. This would have been very easy on pre-first record, pre-everything. It meant one very important thing for me - I was absolutely certain that The Happens was right for me.

Did you like the recording process?
Yes, it changed over the years and I got better at it. The first album we recorded in Windmill Lane we got in Tommy Erdelyi, Tommy Ramone, who was a sleepy character and he never got over his jet lag for the five weeks he was in Ireland. We were in Windmill Lane which was amazing. It was like wanting a Ferrari and getting a Ferrari or a Yamaha 9000. The first album was effectively the band playing live and we listen back now and it is hilarious as the tracks were played so fast and we don't play them that fast now. For the second album, we recorded in Los Angeles. We were really trying to push it then. That was without a doubt the best record. People were playing a bit better and people had confidence. We were a popular band at the time. The album was expected to do well and people were looking forward to hearing it. We had a good relationship with Virgin and they had a reasonably good A & R man. The point that was made to us was that we had to up the game obviously. You've got to make a record, make every song interesting and that was the brief. 'Stuck Together' was to have songs that didn't sound like the next song. The idea was to have 12 or 13 interesting songs. We recorded the album in some great studios. I lived there for 3 or 4 months while we recorded the album. It's a great sounding record.

Your sound got harder as the records progressed?
They got a bit darker, you're right, the sound got harder. The melody got a little bit left behind. The immediacy of getting songs together started to go and the way we rehearsed and worked on songs started to go. We began using home recording and it went from using a little 4 track to an 8 track and we had rehearsal rooms set up for a long time and we would set up the year and leave it set up. To me, at that stage, it started to get a little bit over complex, even though at the time of the 3rd album , my mother got quite sick but she's still alive God Bless her. Tom's father died during the recording of the album and all that went into it. We recorded the third album in England but it wasn't a choice for us as we hadn't a good relationship with England. We never toured well there. We toured well loads of time but we never enjoyed it. I would say we were a bit too naive for the English market, more knowing. The English audiences were quite cynical. That cynicism wasn't there as much when we toured America or did festivals in Europe. We were always seen as a bit more pop. Bands like A House came along afterwards and they had their eyes more on the Setanta label. They were a little bit more leftfield. We firmly believed that we were always trying to do the right thing. We actually go back to the 3rd and 4th albums and pull out songs and actually play them better now. It's years since we played them and we can play them fresh.

You always had a wicked right foot. Was that a conscious thing?
No one has ever said that to me before and part of the reason for that was rehearsing with Alan and the locked in stuff at the time. I was very influenced by Peter De Freitas, drummer with Echo and the Bunnymen and he was a very strong drummer. Unfortunately he is dead now, killed in a motorcycle accident. I saw De Freitas play and I didn't realise it was possible to play that heavy, he was unbelievable, so that was a huge influence.

You took that heavy influence and applied it to your own playing?
I never thought about it very much. It was meant to be direct and came from punk. I think I play better now but not as heavy. You're supposed to play for the music. I loved Stars in Heaven and I actually played in the band when Bernie wasn't available. I actually recorded with Stephen Ryan when he was in The Revenants. I actually played drums on some of the singles.

Apart from the Happens what other sessions were you doing?
Not very many because I felt I wasn't good enough at the time. Like I said, I recorded with the Revenants; Marry Money was one of the songs I recorded with them. Playing with Light a Big Fire probably burnt me as regards the idea of playing with other people. In later years in order to make money I did quite a lot of work with RTE and I did Kenny Live and I got in on that circuit. I cannot really claim to be a session drummer.

Is that something you regret now?
I don't regret not getting lessons all the time and I came in from that new wave thing where you come in and make it up yourself. I wasn't interested in technical drumming. I'm still not. There was a period in the last ten years where I didn't play at all apart from the occasional Something Happens gig.

In playing a drum kit, what is your preference?
The first kit was the Premier Olympic. I had the Yamaha 9000 which was my working kit and Zildjian cymbals and I had a Pearl kit in America. We were in America so much that it didn't make sense hiring stuff and it was better to buy. I also had a Ludwig vintage kit and I rationalised it down to the Yamaha. In the last few years I bought a DW kit, a beautiful little kit and it was Zildjian all the way. You associate big kits with heavy metal, progressive rock but I loved Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Levon Helm of The Band those guys that kept it really simple. You have to be more inventive when you have fewer drums. I sometimes play now with no rack toms or floor toms just to keep it really simple and keep it to the enth degree

If you're asked for your three most favourite songs, what would they be?
I would probably pick Hello Hello as it has a strong arrangement and we worked hard on that song. I think it still sounds good today. I might pick maybe Kill the Roses. Mick Blossom was the producer and he was very exact. That was an interesting one. There was one thing I would mention and at the time you had to record B Sides. When you finish an album you would have to do B sides. The way we did it was to record a scatter of them. We would go in, not in to an expensive studio and at the end of Stuck Together With God's Glue we went into a little studio in Ringsend, which was a good studio but cheaper and we went in with 12 to 15 songs and we recorded them in three days. We did that session and it was on the basis that we wouldn't play our own instruments or if we did, we would play them as differently as possible and we recorded about 12 songs to go out on an album. That was my favourite recording session.

Is there any likelihood that Something Happens will record new material in the future?
For years I would say no but as a band we still all get on, I don't laugh as much as with those gang of fellows. Everyone is older now with kids and I don't think we have any illusions as regards doing a comeback, but when we play it still works. We are enthusiastic after a gig especially one which we do every year in Whelan's in Dublin, we say to ourselves "wouldn't it be nice to sit down and come up with ideas for vocals and guitar and just to show we can still do it".

You have managed to stay in the music business though?
Good music still excites me. I have grown up through year and year to perhaps be cynical about the process and cynical about the business. I've seen good musicians go under and bad musicians go further. I've seen people who aren't nice people do really well and vice versa. I still really see a lot of shows, particularly a lot of support bands.

Are there bands that currently impress you?
Midlake, I love what they do. Band of Horses, I think they're going to be a big band. David Kitt is one of the great local talents not particularly drum heavy but when he went major label I think he lost his way. I would love to play with David Kitt.

Was there much of a live circuit at the start?
When we started out there was no live circuit. It did improve. I remember 'The Baggot Inn' was the penultimate of doing a show in Dublin but again it was coming to the end of the punk thing. There were venues back then that don't exist anymore like the Halfpenny Market and the Ivy Rooms as it was at that time, The Underground, which was our home from home when we first began to make a connection then everything just opened out to the Stadium and the SFX. A circuit opened up around the country and it was easier for promoters as well as you could do a four week tour and you had bands like The Four Of Us, The Stunning and An Emotional Fish. This was quite a healthy live circuit which doesn't exist anymore.

If you are advising someone getting in to drumming, what would you say to them?
Well first of all I think you would be making a choice either a session player or be in a band because it is two different things. If you want to be a session player you obviously have to get your chops together and you have got to make yourself this amazing player and you have got to network, take jobs anywhere. That wouldn't be the way for me. Maybe a simpler way for someone who is in to drums is to play your own style, don't get too over complicated with it and get guys that are interesting to play with. Try and avoid playing covers as it is an easy trap to get caught up in. Playing covers is ultimately a blind alley and it might seem like the only way to go but it is not. Although you might have slow progress doing your own stuff if your own stuff is decent you will connect. You will get out of your back yard. Some of the best technical drummers I know are not able to be in bands. They overplay and they can't play for the song. They do too much all the time. Being technical is great and being able to do it is good but you have got to leave it behind in order to do the song.

What are your favourite drumming songs?
I love New Rose from the Damned. The ride cymbal is like overbearing on the track and he is just hitting it too loud and you don't need it to be that loud but it is brilliant. As I've got older I've gone back to stuff that you weren't allowed to listen to in the punk era so I can listen to a Steely Dan song now and kind of hear the brilliance on it. It's not the way I play, it's not the way I would be able to play, but I can hear the amazing groove but I still have no time for bands like Yes or ELP, Genesis or exceptionally well played jazz or fusion but where the feel is good and that would be Levon Helm from The Band. He's almost an anti drummer and he is singing as well. Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones, John Bonham from Led Zeppelin. It goes without saying. I think any drummer would pull these people out but the ones that had the most influence on me learning was Pete De Frietas (Echo and the Bunnymen), Gary Dwyer (Teardrop Explodes), Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello) and Martin Chambers from the Pretenders. Another guy I like is Chris Sharrock, who used to play with The Las, then he went with World Party and now he is playing with Liam Gallagher. I met him and I remember when he was playing with World Party he was very flamboyant and he was the first guy I ever saw hitting the cymbals with an upper cut and just thinking outside the box like that. I do that now and it's purely from seeing him do it. Some jazz drummers physically play the kit and stands and I like that, as it is different.

Date; 24th July 2012
Location; Olympia Theatre in Dublin