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A Conversation with Gavin Friday – Part 3

If you’ve ever wondered about Jennifer and Mary Coote, or puzzled over the difference between a nisam lo and a vibe-akimbo, today your prayers are answered as we get stuck into the wonderful and frightening world of the Virgin Prunes’ songs.

Virginprunes.com: Time for some rapid-fire questions about the content of the songs. What was the argument about in Abbagáll? (It sounds like some kind of concern about harsh treatment of a glockenspiel.)
Gavin: It’s a row between myself and Strongman. As I was playing the glock, he kicked it over – on purpose – so the glock got thrown in the direction of his head… I missed… and Dik caught it all on tape. Strongman used to get off on making me lose the head in them days…

What was the “Emancipation Act 72/3/4” mentioned in Caucasian Walk?
A date/quote a good friend/mentor of the band used very frequently in conversation. We never knew what it meant and still don’t. The late and great Bill Graham. We dearly loved that man. A true genius.
[Virginprunes.com suspects that it might be influenced by the infamous Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.]

Is Jennifer/Mary Coote (from Down The Memory Lane) a real person?
Yes, they are both sisters. They live in an area called Bonnybrook, next door to Mrs Phillpots. Myself and Guggi were, and still are, massive fans of the Cootes and the Phillpots.

What does “Bau-dachöng” mean (and why the umlaut)?
It was part of a language myself and The Bottle of Milk invented, the language of the Beautifull People. Bo-Prune, we called the language. Bau-dachong… It means having the ‘knowledge’, a prune/village invention/ism. Very very complex, so can’t really go there.

What does “Ulakanakulot” mean?
This is the name of the ‘land’ where the Beautifull People first came from. An imaginary land, our Atlantis.

Was Abbagál the name of someone specific who you knew?
No. It means ‘curse’, or to put a spell on someone.

What does “Yeo” mean? (I note that it’s been used as the basis for the re-release CD catalogue numbers.)
Yeo was a phrase Dave-id always used and still does, especially if he is/was greeting you. Way, way before Hip Hop.

Was Deirdre the name of someone specific who you knew?
Yes, she was the little sister of Sean d’Angelo. Someone myself and Guggi took very fondly to, was little Deirdre.

What does “Nisam Lo” mean?
This means to have a dream or a ‘trip’.
While the meanings of “vibe” and “akimbo” are well-defined, can you offer any help with interpreting “vibe-akimbo”?
It is what it is: a vibe – akimbo.

Is Loved One named after the Evelyn Waugh novel of the same title, or is that just coincidence?
Coincidence. Didn’t read the book till the late 80’s.

The Mute biography says that Come To Daddy is “a frightening tale of incest”, but one of your interviews of the time seemed to suggest that it was about a housewife instead (“Come to Daddy looks at the things a woman has to go through – women who have had loads of kids and who find that love is now gone”)? Can you clarify this?
Not really about incest, more about sexual/mental abuse, but I like and always encourage people to think what they want.

I believe that the spoken section at the end of True Life Story is Fabienne Savoff, Mary’s wife. Which language is she speaking and what is she saying?
Yes it is Fabienne. She is speaking and singing in Chinese, a language in which she is fluent. The singing is an old Chinese love song. The angry narrative is pretty profane, like ‘your mother is a whore and she sucks dogs’ cocks’. Can’t remember exactly, but that type of thing…

The most obvious omission from the re-releases is the live album, The Hidden Lie. Why was this not included? Is it likely to be released in future?
Most of the band had nothing to do with this album. It was put out against my will. It is, in my mind, not really a Virgin Prunes album. Guggi and Dik had gone and the rest was dying on its legs.

Do you have much currently un-released material left from the original recording sessions? Would you consider releasing any of it?
Some unfinished works, some demos, various live recordings. Don’t know… Let the re-released albums spread their wings and see what happens. Time will tell…

Do you have any access to the tracks that you recorded for the Dave Fanning show on RTE, some of which have never been released in any form? Would you release them if you could, or were they works in progress that were never intended to be preserved for posterity?
As above. Maybe… Not negative. Not sure if RTE will let us have them. We’ll see.

It’s really great to see A New Form Of Beauty 4 (Din Glorious) being released on CD at last. What happened to parts six and seven of the project, the book & video? Were they ever completed or do they remain unfinished? Are they ever likely to be released (finished or unfinished)?
The film may see the light of day, it was never finished. We have all the footage. We handed over to Mute a lot of visual footage of the band. There is talk of DVD release. Time-wise, I couldn’t say. There is a lot to sort out. There will be a DVD, just don’t know when.
The book… Never finished and may never be. Jesus, that’s a frightening thought??? Who knows…

What is the situation regarding the Sons Find Devils CD and video/DVD? Do you anticipate the rights for this transferring to Mute in time?
No comment, the affair is in the hands of our solicitors.

Was any material ever recorded after the Sons Find Devils / The Moon Looked Down And Laughed sessions? I’m thinking of songs performed live, like She, My Dependence On You or Song For The Heartless. If so, would you consider releasing this?
‘Song for the Heartless’ was an unfinished song from the ‘Moon’ sessions. Not sure if we would release demos. We’ll see. Demos/work in progress, I see as very private affairs. The other songs were only ever played ‘live’, never demoed or recorded.

Are there any plans for Mute to release any post-Prunes work (e.g. Gavin’s & Dave-id’s solo albums, The Prunes’ albums)?
No plans at the moment. That’s not to say I don’t like Mute. Mute have been amazing, a real joy to work with.

Most of the pictures and video footage of the band are now over twenty years old. How do you feel, looking back at them?
OLD… A difficult one, very personal, lots of memories. I am a romantic fool. Surprised by the music, it has aged well. Visually I think we look pretty GREAT, especially when I see how most bands nowadays look…

Earlier this year, the team behind Virginprunes.com purchased on Ebay the paperwork for a development deal contract that you and Guggi signed in 1979 with an organisation called World Showplace Music, Inc. Can you tell us more about this? What was the proposition and did it lead anywhere or was it a blind alley?
Yeah, we signed some bullshit proposition way way back in ’79, I think. The guy was a con man, it led nowhere. We didn’t get ripped off, actually I have a memory of myself and Guggi being treated to a very posh dinner in the Shelbourne Hotel.

What do you think were the Virgin Prunes’ best and worst moments?
Best? Don’t know, not for me to say? Worst? The fucked up way we all dealt with the band breaking up.

What are the various ex-members of the band doing these days?
Guggi paints. Dik works with computers and makes music. Dave-id makes music. Mary teaches and makes music. Strongman works with antiques.

Where, if anywhere, do you perceive the Virgin Prunes’ legacy and influence on contemporary music to lie?
In an Irish context: the most important band ever to come out of the country. As for the rest, not for me to say.

Complete this sentence: everyone should buy the Virgin Prunes re-releases because…
No, no… can’t do that???????????

Gavin, thank you.
Thanks.