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A Conversation With Dave-id – Part 2

Continued from part I

So when the music was changing in that way and then the band when back with Over The Rainbow to releasing more of the experimental stuff, do you think that made it harder for a lot of people to accept The Moon Looked Down And Laughed very shortly after, when it was obviously coming from a very different place?

I think it did in a way, for some people anyway. But I think we were in a situation, whatever we did, we couldn’t win. If we didn’t put out an album people would be saying “why didn’t you put out a record”, so we were trying in a sense to please people.

And I suppose with any band like the Virgin Prunes that inspired strong opinions and strong loyalties, there would be fifty per cent of people who loved anything that you released because they weren’t so much into it for the “scene”, they were into it for the people.

Yeah, there was total fans and then there was nutcases! Like in France, when we were touring there in ’83, a man came up to me who must have been in his forties and said “I’ve burned all my records except Heresie, I think Heresie is the best record I’ve ever heard”! And there were people when we were touring who’d put pigs heads on the top of our tour van. So there were a lot of mad people out there. And then there were normal people too.

You can just imagine fans thinking “I must buy the band a present – I know, a pig’s head!”

There were two girls in England that read in an interview that I liked apple pie and so for three different gigs that we played in England they made me an apple pie! I think the fan wants to know everything about you. Some of them get obsessed, they take it to heart – [puts on “mad fan” voice] “he likes apple pie and he’s coming to town to do a gig, I’d better roll me sleeves up and make an apple pie!”, you know?

I’d imagine a lot of the Virgin Prunes fans would have been unconventional in some way – it wasn’t mainstream music and a lot of the ideas were not mainstream ideas.

For anyone who went to a Virgin Prunes concert, it wasn’t just a musical thing, but the stage as well. I mean, Gavin, Guggi and myself were very talented performers! It wasn’t just like going to see a band playing, they knew that they were going to get something special. They were probably going “what are they going to get up to tonight?” They were getting good music, but they’d also get a good show as well.

So what about the performances at that time? There was a lot of talk in interviews about the band’s spontaneity and that’s obvious in certain respects, but then you see the Sons Find Devils video and some of the other footage that fans have recorded and there did seem to be certain things that were repeated night after night. How did that process work, of deciding what you were going to do on stage?

A lot of it originally would have come from during the concerts. Like Come To Daddy, with Gavin jumping on Guggi, that would have come from doing it at one concert and saying “well, that worked, so we’ll do that the next time”, but there was always things that… like, very rarely would I have any plans of what to do, but there might be some evenings where I’d done something good the night before and I’d think, whatever. I think that would be the same for Gavin and Guggi to a certain extent too.

So it’s a case of feeding off that spontaneity?

Kind of, I suppose. We’d keep on developing. At the start of the tour you do a few things and some things work and you develop them more as you go along on the tour. Gavin did a lot of helping U2 to develop things like I just mentioned, with one or two of their albums, saying “do this and do that”, kind of thing, helping them with some ideas.

Yeah, I’ve seen him credited as “Consulting Poptician” and that kind of thing on their album sleeves. There certainly seemed to be a time when U2 went beyond their serious stuff like The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. They disappeared for a while and then came back almost totally altered and I think if you knew anything about the relationship between the two bands and specifically the Virgin Prunes, you could certainly say that maybe this isn’t exactly ripping off the Virgin Prunes, but it’s certainly going more in that direction than they ever have done previously. That’s why I find it interesting when the two bands sometimes cover similar ground.

Yeah, when Bono did that thing with the horns [Macphisto], that was a totally Gavin thing, that was Gavin down to a tee, that kind of idea.

Yeah, at the time I remember seeing a Macphisto picture and thinking it looked uncannily like the picture of Gavin as a Pig Child on the 7” sleeve of Pagan Lovesong.

So getting back to the history, then Dik left the band. I mean, Guggi had left and then Dik left and we probably could have went on and kept it going, but I think it was right after The Moon to call it a day, really.

So if Guggi left because he wanted to carry on doing stuff more in the vein of If I Die, I Die, what was the reason for Dik leaving?

I think at the time it was girlfriend problems, his girlfriend steering him in the wrong direction, telling him “you should leave the band” and all this kind of thing. So then Pod came back into the band [on drums] and Mary started playing the guitar, but he only played guitar on Don’t Look Back and Betrayal, I think and possibly The Moon Looked Down And laughed, but the rest of the guitar playing would have been Dik. And Pod only played drums on Don’t Look Back and Betrayal.

I noticed that Pod isn’t credited anywhere on the re-releases, even Binttii got his credit.

I think if you look carefully on The Moon Looked Down And Laughed he’s on there, maybe in the thank-you list.

I’ll have a look again.

Or it could be in Over The Rainbow, I’m sure he’s mentioned somewhere.

I’ll check it out. [Having checked, maybe I’m blind but I still can’t see him anywhere.] I know I missed Binttii’s name the first couple of times that I looked at them.

Well Binttii was only in the band for a short amount of time, so we put his name separately.

How did Pod end up coming back into the band, having left very early on?

I’m not sure really, you’d have to ask Gavin that one. He’d been away or something and he came back to Dublin and he was asked would be re-join. I’m seeing Gavin tomorrow, we’re being interviewed for RTE. I think Mute have put me and Gavin and Guggi together for all the promotions, we’re sort of the talking people of the band…

To what extent are you still in touch with the other members of the band?

Well Mary’s living in France and he’s doing soundtracks for some French films, so he’s in another country and he can’t do a lot. Dik’s quite absent-minded, so he probably wouldn’t remember things in the same way as the rest of us and then Strongman’s kind of a quiet sort of person. I think you’d get more out of Strong over a few drinks than when he’s sober!

Which is difficult to do over the phone.

Yeah.

I was in touch with Dik by e-mail in the mid-90s and I was asking him all kinds of questions as research for my planned book that ended up becoming a website and even back then he said very politely “I’m sorry, I don’t remember much”. It was frustrating, because I wanted facts. I liked Rolf’s book, but it wasn’t factual enough for me. It was 1985 and I was trying to find out more about the band – I didn’t even know where you guys were from, I was listening to the accents to try to work out if you were English or American or German…

That could be very hard!

Yeah, and I used to keep all my copies of music magazines like NME and Sounds and so on, so I went back through a few years’ worth of back copies and discovered more about you. With Rolf’s book, it was a great book, full of images and ideas, but it was creative and subjective. I’m more of a historian and I wanted to know what you had done, so eventually I decided I’d have to write a book myself. It never happened in the end, it became this website and I’m still not happy with the amount of detail that I’ve researched and written up, I always intend to add more.

By the way, on the website I’d like you to thank on my behalf Daniel Miller and all the people at Mute. And Olivier’s been a great guy, the way he’s been working with us.

Yeah, particularly the artwork and the selections for the An Exhibition compilation, I thought they were great. I suppose anyone who makes a Virgin Prunes compilation will come up with different tracks, but I was especially interested in his perspective as the guy who has to present these re-releases commercially and try to make some money out of them, interesting to see the tracks he chose with that kind of thing in mind. It was also interesting to see a brand new sleeve design.

The sleeves are a big thing with these CDs. The Moon has gone back to the original, like it was supposed to be before Guggi left the band. With New Form Of Beauty, we thought the original cover, Guggi’s, didn’t work, it was too small, so Gavin chose a different picture as the best way to go and I have to agree with him, I think he’s right and I think it was right to change Heresie’s cover as well.

Wasn’t that just because you couldn’t get the rights to the photograph?

We couldn’t get the rights, but in some ways I’m glad because it’s a fresher cover now.

Yeah, I’ve always liked that picture of Gavin on the stairs, in the original Heresie box, so it was interesting to see the similar one of Guggi as well. Speaking of rights, it would be great to hear the Dave Fanning RTE session stuff properly, I’ve only ever heard that on crappy cassette recordings. They weren’t good recordings in the first place and when you listen to them twenty years later they sound fairly bad. There was a lot of stuff that you did for those sessions that you never released, stuff like Trust, for example.

Well, RTE own them, like The Late Late Show footage as well.

I love that. I had a cassette recording of the audio for years and then in February 1999 I got my hands on a video copy. I’d just got back from a week in the States, it was a Sunday morning, I was jetlagged and needed to go to bed. It was sitting on the doormat waiting for me and I put it in the video almost immediately. It was so odd to finally see it, having wanted so desperately to see it for fifteen, sixteen years. With the audio only, you can’t really visualize what’s going on and the only footage I’d seen of the band had been from a much later period, 1982 onwards. The thing that struck me about the Late Late Show performance was how bright and colourful it all was. And the table too, with the two women sitting at the table. The table thing seems to be a bit of a Virgin Prunes theme and Gavin has used it quite a lot in the past too.

And even when I did a solo show when Smegma came out, I had a table and roses. I dunno, we seem to be drawn to the table and chair thing!

Is it a kitchen thing?

[Laughs] I don’t know, it’s just a table and chair and flowers. With Sick For Love I had a phone on the table too. I think we always end up back at the Virgin Prunes, when I’m on stage I think “I must have a table!”

It was unusual though and I think it’s one of the things that drew me in at the time and keep s so many people interested now, there were so many different ideas coming from the band.

Well, with six people with very good imaginations… I know Guggi had a very good imagination and Gavin has and I have and so does Dik,.. we had enough weird ideas. And Strongman just stands there on stage coming out with these brilliant bass lines, like on Theme For Thought, absolutely brilliant.

Yeah, I hope that the Mute re-releases will be an opportunity to get people more in tune with some of the band’s ideas, with a bit of distance and maybe positioning them a bit differently by releasing them alongside Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire – it takes it away from that whole Gothic thing, which I never thought the band fitted into. I think the re-releases will allow the band’s stuff to be re-evaluated. I mean, it’s been twenty-odd years now.

It’s been twenty-odd years, but when you look at it, has there ever been a band like the Virgin Prunes? In Ireland, especially, I don’t think so.

Well I’m not the world’s biggest expert on Irish music, but I can’t think of anyone. You have very few peers. What do you think about, moving into the ‘90s, band s like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, some fans talk about them as the heirs of the Virgin Prunes?

Well, Marilyn Manson has said he liked the Virgin Prunes and yer man from Smashing Pumpkins said he was influenced by us and even Björk at some stage said her favourite album was Over The Rainbow. I know she’s a bit mad at times, but all these people seem to… and the singer from REM said the Virgin Prunes were a brilliant band, so all these people have a lot of suss or they know something good when they hear it.

I’ve said only recently on the website that Björk’s former band Kukl seemed to be operating in similar territory to the Virgin Prunes. It’s very difficult to find bands that are very like the Virgin Prunes, but in terms of the range of the ideas and the material, I think maybe Kukl and The Pop Group were in similar territory. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s incredibly hard to point to any particular band and say “yeah, that’s a Virgin Prunes influenced band”. Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine said he was influenced by you, but would you listen to a My Bloody Valentine record and say “yeah, this was influenced by them”?

There’s a girl in Canada, Gavin told me recently, that’s done a version of Bau-Dachong…

Yes, I’ve heard that. Have you heard many of the covers of the Virgin Prunes’ songs that various bands have done over the years?

Caroline sent me a copy of this various artists album from Italy.

What did you think of it?

[Chuckles] Some of it’s very interesting… And someone in Germany did a version of Sweet Home and it’s the oddest version I’ve heard in my life! It totally… it took the song to a new level, completely. It was like dance and drums, that kind of thing. They changed the bass and… it sounded like they were drunk, or something! Also at some point when I was touring, it was either in The Prunes or solo, there was a girl band doing Walls Of Jericho. I cracked up laughing, I’ve never laughed as much!

How were they doing it?

She hadn’t got the voice, she was screaming her head off!

Did they know that you were watching them?

I don’t think that they did. The owner of the venue said “what are you laughing at?” and I kind of insulted him a bit because I told him what I thought about it.

I have to say that there are not a lot of covers of Virgin Prunes material that I like, but it’s always interesting to see what people choose to do and how they choose to do it. I’m not really keen on a lot of the Italian stuff though.

It’s kind of amusing, isn’t it, but it doesn’t do a lot for me, really.

And this version of Bau-Dachong, I find it a bit too serious. It’s quite a relaxed song in many ways and I feel she over-articulates it. I did like the Puri-do version of Sandpaper Lullabye though and I think Kiss The Blade did a good job with Deadly Sins. I’ve thought about my fantasy cover versions over the years too. I’d still love to hear somebody do a really heavy hip-hop version of Caucasian Walk. I always wanted Public Enemy to do that! Getting back to the re-releases, I wonder whether the fact that the material is twenty years old means that everyone who would ever have wanted to hear it has already heard it, or whether there’s actually a whole new generation out there who are about to become acquainted with it?

Well, you say twenty years, but the Americans have never really heard most of this apart from If I Die, I Die, and I think there’s a lot of interest in Japan, they really will love these albums. It’s hard to think what they’ll do in England, but I think there’s some countries in Europe where they’ll do very well.

I don’t think England ever really “got” the Virgin Prunes.

Some people did, some people didn’t. I think the best phrase I ever heard was when Mary Whitehouse said “Lock up your daughters, the Virgin Prunes are in town”.

You should have sold t-shirts with that on it!

I tried to get Gavin to release a boxed set [of the CDs] called Lock Up Your Daughters.

So what’s your favourite memory of the Virgin Prunes, when you look back?

My favourite memory would probably have been touring with the If I Die, I Die album, I think. I always got on with most people. I’ve got lots of good memories. I think one memory would have been watching The Life Of Brian and Come On Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners and recording if I Die, I Die. Another memory was when we were recording The Moon and someone made a great dinner and we’re all sitting down and the next minute a football comes through the window and there’s glass all over the food, I have fond memories of that. I have to say a lot of it would have been touring and seeing different people’s reactions to gigs and talking to them. You’d talk to a person and… shy girls, you’d have to force them just to say a few words. I remember we went to Holland and there was a girl who was very shy and wouldn’t talk to people and eventually I got her talking. I stuck with it, because I was the same when I first met Gavin, I was very shy and I wouldn’t talk to people.

So being in the Virgin Prunes formed part of your personal growth and development?

The Virgin Prunes and Bono would have brought me out of my shell, before that I would have been very quiet, if someone said “boo!” to me I’d probably run – very shy. At four, I went into hospital on my fourth birthday and I came out on my fifth birthday, with meningitis and I nearly died three times and so over the years I was falling into a shell of shyness.

So how on earth did you end up getting on stage? What was that like, the first time?

When I got on stage…. For some reason I had no fear of getting on stage, it would be more talking to one or two people, more casual kind of thing. Getting up on stage was kind of fine.

That’s interesting.

In interviews too, most of the time I’d have someone around me so I’d be okay. It’s funny, the first time I felt really lonely was the first solo album, when I had to do interviews by myself, I was going “Where’s Gavin, where’s Guggi?” in my head.

And yet you could get up on stage.

I’ve always been very confident and even still very confident about getting up on stage and singing. Even a month ago I was singing in a pub, I got up to sing a song and it was basically a lot of older generation people and I got up to sing a Bob Dylan song and they all thought it was great.

I saw you get up on stage last year after Gavin’s Dublin gig in the Spiegeltent, there was that comedy group that I can’t remember – The Three Nualas, was it? The Two Nualas? – and they were awful and you got up onto the stage and and started trying to take over – I laughed so much!

Gavin asked me would I do something so I went up there to sing a song and they just started losing their heads…

I think it was that kind of old Virgin Prunes response, wasn’t it? They seemed to have no idea how to react for the first few seconds, though I think they then did their best to try and deal with you.

I apologized to Gavin afterwards and he said I should have just taken over and done my songs! But I felt kind of bad about them.

I thought it was fantastic… though I suppose the Nualas weren’t that thrilled.

With that show, not having done a show for a while, I thought Gavin was really great that night.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with that one, it was a retrospective and he re-used the Liffey In A Bubble title and I was thinking that this was all very well but actually I wanted to hear new stuff, but then it was great – much more personal than anything he’d done previously. With a lot of the Virgin Prunes material and his solo material many of the personal references are quite oblique, so it was refreshing to hear so many things dealt with more directly.

Well, with the Virgin Prunes a lot of people always seemed to think they couldn’t talk to us, but actually we’re the nicest people you could ever meet in your life, the friendliest and most talkative people.

But I guess you can see where that might have come from?

Yeah, one minute we’re on stage going “huuuuuuuh!” and we’re aggressive, then the next minute we’re just… nice.

But people would be wary, at the very least, especially if they’d seen something like Pig Children. If you’ve got that very traditional artist and audience relationship where the audience just stands there and consumes and the artist is on stage doing their thing, to come face to face afterwards on a more one to one basis I think is always difficult. I find that I don’t tend to talk to performers after their gigs, even when I have the opportunity, because it’s a chance in the balance of the relationship and I just don’t know what to say, a lot of the time. Imagine doing that after you’ve just watched the Pig Children and Come To Daddy – you’d have no fucking clue what to say, would you? “Oh… okay…”

[Laughs]

How did the band work together, was it quite harmonious? I mean, you’re all quite strong-willed characters in various ways, were there disagreements or where you fairly well in tune with each other?

There would have been a certain amount of disagreement, but I think overall we all gelled pretty well together. I think my three arguments all happened live on If I Die I Die just basically down to lack of sleep. Once with Gavin and my back… I think Mary and Strong egged me on to throw an orange at him or something and he hit me in the back with a broomstick, that was probably the heaviest thing. Guggi once gave me a real kick. And Mary, Mary decided to throw a girl into my room and I lost the head and nearly strangled him. They were the three kind of… Dik was very easily wound up, Strongman threw something I think at Dik and he thought “hmm, if I throw this back is he going to throw it back at me?” He thought everything out, Dik, everything had to be thought out – if I do this, what’s going to happen? But most of all, the main members got on pretty much very well, overall. Like, Uncle Arthur originally just came from Strongman, myself and Dik just sort of sitting down originally and I had this kind of melody and I was just humming it and then Strongman joined in and then Dik would join in. Some of the stuff, even on The Moon, started off just jamming – we were very good at that kind of thing.

Interesting. I think The Moon is a very different album now, in the way that it’s been re-released. When I bought it in 1986 it was the first new material that I’d heard after exploring the back catalogue and it seemed very different – more kind of slick, in the sense that the ideas were still there, but it was using them in a more kind of polished way, but now in the re-release with some of the harder material on like True Life Story and Day Of Ages and with the clearer, punchier sound it’s very…

Well those are the kind of things we were going to put on and we were going “will we or will we not?”. Originally we weren’t sure if it was right for the album but now we thought that it was. We wondered about White History Book and said “shall we put that on Over The Rainbow?” but I think that changing the albums has been good, I think Over The Rainbow’s really good now.

It’s interesting to see it all shuffled around, you realize that the whole way you’ve looked at it and related to it over the past twenty years is defined by something as simple as the running order. And also, the relation of some of the tracks to each other – for example, I had forgotten that Just A Lovesong was from the sessions for The Moon, because it was out on Over The Rainbow originally so I used to assume it was from the if I Die, I Die sessions.

With that, one day, we were talking about Barry Manilow and all his love songs and I think I’d had a few drinks and I think I said [adopts drunken bolshy voice] “I can do that, I can go in and write a love song” and so I came up with Just A Lovesong and I played all the instruments and went up for these high vocals.

So, is there much stuff left that hasn’t been included on these releases?

Not a lot, but there’s a few bits – a few surprises. As I said, there’s the whole Fanning sessions and some other pieces left. I know there’s a song that we did, Mad Man, from The Moon as well. It hasn’t been released, so we might tidy that up and there’s a few little bits and pieces of things that we’ve done that we’ll probably look up and see if they need to be tidied up. At this stage we just want people to… like, our albums were never out properly all around the world and this is the big chance for people to hear them.

And it’s great to see it on a label like Mute, which has the capability to do it and is well respected. I didn’t like the thought of the Virgin Prunes being on Cleopatra, with black skulls on the CD sleeves – that’s just not how I see the band at all. And have you seen that Cherry Red Records sleeve for their Sons Find Devils release? Fucking hell…

Yeah, that one’s ridiculous.

It must have taken at least three minutes to design!

And the music sounds like they just taped it off the video.

Yeah! It’s in mono, for a start. Who on earth gets away with releasing mono CDs in 2004? It’s a real shame. But enough of that, let’s finish off the chronology. Guggi left, Dik left, at that time what kept the band going?

Well, in my heart I knew that although they had left, The Moon was still a very special kind of album, still ahead of itself for the time it was out.

So it was about making sure that The Moon got released.

A lot of it would have been about The Moon, yeah. But people started changing and girlfriends would have come into it and at the end I think Gavin would have felt that we’d just taken it as far as we could go. We were talking about it the other night and saying that there’s no way ever that we could get back and start working with each other again.

Yeah, that was going to be one of my final questions: would you think that could happen!

Not a chance!

No, I think it would be a disaster. You’ve moved on.

We’ve all moved on and we’re doing different things. We’re all that much older – can you see Gavin and Guggi wearing dresses now? That’s what people would want to see, they wouldn’t want… I think people would want us to go back to playing things like the Pig Children, Come To Daddy. They’d want all the early stuff and basically our voices have moved on. I was saying to Gavin, even The Children Are Crying, to get it in the same vein I’m not sure I could do it, but I’m not sure I would do it either, it’s been so long since I’d done that song.

Yeah, I think if you were to even think the unthinkable and do something together again, it would have to be new material.

Well, the minute you stepped on stage you’d be hearing people shouting for Walls Of Jericho, Caucasian Walk, Deadly Sins, or whatever.

Yeah, there’s all this reform-and-play-all-the-old-hits stuff that every band from the ‘80s seems to be doing right now and I just cannot see you guys doing that at all.

And they’d be going “ah, new song there, don’t really want to hear it”.

Mmm, they’d stand there and clap politely and look a bit bored and wait for something they knew. So, the band fell apart in ’86 and then in ’87 The Hidden Lie was released.

The Hidden Lie was more or less done between Mary and Strong at the time and at the time they were a bit annoyed with Gavin and I know if Gavin would have had his way he would have wanted my songs to be on that album as well.

Yeah, I thought it was a shame there was nothing on there, it seemed to be almost like a different band.

Basically The Moon was the last album and that was just something, a live concert in Paris, the band had really changed, even then there were signs of things going down a bad way, away from the Virgin Prunes.

Obviously it’s not been re-released and in his interview Gavin mentioned that. I think there’s some stuff on The Hidden Lie that’s not particularly good – I don’t think the versions of Caucasian Walk or The Moon Looked Down And Laughed are particularly stunning versions.

My favourite songs from The Hidden Lie were probably Lady Day and God Bless The Child, probably.

Yeah, I was going to say, the interesting things about it are the cover versions – which are great and if you hear bootlegs of the band’s performances of that time they’re favourites and it’s good to get a good quality version of them – and the two previously unreleased tracks, Neverending Story and Love Is Danger: I think they’re good, I think they really stand up well.

But I don’t think either of them were really breaking new ground, they were kind of continuing on from The Moon, in a sense. Don’t get me wrong, I like the two songs, but I don’t think they were any more important or more special.

I guess I know what you mean. The other thing now is that if you listen to The Hidden Lie alongside the re-releases, it sounds so tinny – there’s almost no bass on it, by comparison, which is a shame because – to use an appropriate word – it’s strong, the bass is very strong in the songs but it’s almost not there in the recording.

Yeah, the new ones are so clear, now you can hear the bricks being scratched on Pagan Lovesong and Dave-id Is Dead.

Oh God, that’s what it is! And Caroline said she could hear the lyrics properly in Sandpaper Lullaby for the first time.

I know with Pagan Lovesong there were people who used to think the line was “I had a wet dream…”.

[Laughs] I have to admit, when I first heard it, that’s what I thought it was too.

Mute have done a great job. I love the Colin Newman remix too. I don’t know whether you noticed, there’s a bit where he put some of Gavin & Guggi’s vocals backwards.

Yeah, though there’s a bit that I don’t recognize that I digitized and played backwards on the computer and it makes no sense in either direction, so I think he did something else to the lyrics too. It sounds great anyway. When the New Rose stuff was re-released in the early ‘90s there was that “Tormentallama” remix of Pagan Lovesong and it sounded like one of those bands of the time, Senser, which I really didn’t like.

Yeah, I always thought that wasn’t too good. It was trying to be too “industrial” or something.

Yeah, like EMF on steroids or something. It seemed to be trying to take the material and update it, but it didn’t really work for me, whereas what Colin Newman has done with Baby Turns Blue to me sounds quite fresh. I think the good thing is that when you first hear it, it sounds like he’s not done that much to it and then the more you hear it, you realize that he’s actually taken it apart and put it back together again completely differently.

I’d say the Gothics in France will be dancing their heads off to it.

Exactly. And the bass on it sounds amazing. God, we’ve been talking for nearly two hours. [Pauses to review pre-interview notes…] This is a really naff question, but I’ll ask you anyway: do you have a favourite Virgin Prunes song?

A favourite Virgin Prunes song? [Chuckles] You’re trapping me there!

Sorry, it’s a crap question.

No, er… I’d have to say… I’d have to say Walls Of Jericho is one of my favourites and I’d say Uncle Arthur is one of my favourites, it was originally written around the time of Children Are Crying and it’s always been dear to my heart. It was about the man who was living next door to me, Arthur and his wife, they were kind of like godparents to me. That’s where the idea of the song came from, his wife died and he was left alone. I love the start of Walls Of Jericho, you know, the little bit of guitar and then it comes in.

Yeah, it’s a real kind of “power chord” song, isn’t it? It’s one of the band’s most straightforward rock songs.

And also Pagan Lovesong would be a favourite, I think.

That was the first Virgin Prunes record that I bought and it was just pitched right. I didn’t know when I bought it, it was just random – a single rather than an album and it was just a case of picking one out of the rack – but in retrospect it was a good half-way point between the harder stuff on Heresie and the more accessible sound of the blue stuff on If I Die, I Die. [Another pause] We’re covered an awful lot of ground, is there anything that you think we’ve missed that you want to add?

[Thinks] Well, personally I would probably say that the Virgin Prunes were probably the most interesting and the best days of my life, to be honest. That would be my personal kind of input.

I can imagine, the intensity of it… it would be difficult to match that, especially experiencing it at that kind of age.

Even with my solo stuff now, I’m singing better than I ever did, but it was more than just the music – the six people together, on the road, nearly all of the time up to the end being good friends with each other and getting along and able to have laughs and getting down to the work. There was a pub on Windmill Lane which we told Dave Ball was an IRA pub and he was worried someone was going to kill him.

I can empathise with that – my wife’s from Derry and I started going over there in the late 1980s when there was still a high military presence and an English accent was not really the thing to have. She took me into a pub, not in the Bogside, but getting close to it and it was a real Irish-speaking pub and I was told to sit at the table, talk quietly and not to go to the bar – if anybody spoke to me, I was to put on a French accent or something! And it was all fine, until I needed to go to the toilet and as I walked towards the toilet doors, I realized that the “Male” and “Female” signs on the doors were in Irish! I froze, thinking “fuck, what do I do now?”, half-expecting someone to blow my head off at any second, but fortunately someone came out of one of the doors just at the right moment. When you’re from an English background, you just don’t know how to react to that kind of stuff, it’s totally outside your experience.

Well, my background is from England too, because I was born in England.

Oh really? I never knew that. Or maybe I did and I’ve forgotten it.

I used to have an English accent. My accent is a bit mixed-up now, to be honest – not typically Irish, like most of the band’s.

So where were you born, then?

I was actually born in Birmingham. Mary was born, I think, in London and Dik was either born in Wales or he lived in Wales, there was some Welsh connection.

Yeah, I knew about that one – I think they were born in Wales.

I suppose we were all Irish, in a sense, but kind of different… I was adopted in England and lived there for two years, I think, and then we came to Ireland. In fact, in the Virgin Prunes there was more Protestants than Catholics, maybe that’s where it comes from.

[Laughs, then pauses] We’ve been going for over two hours, I think we ought to wrap things up now. I think we’re doing Gavin’s interview on the website the week after next and I think we’re going to do yours after that and I wasn’t sure how much we were going to get, but I think when this is typed up it’s going to be fairly long. There’s been talk of interviewing other band members too, but I’m not sure what’s going to come of that. But it’s been fascinating to talk to you, it really has – after such a long time too, I’ve been so shy about getting in touch with members of the band.

If you need anything else, just get in touch.

I will. I’m hoping the recording of this has come out okay, because it’s the first time I’ve used this recording software and there’s no way my handwritten notes are going to be detailed enough. Anyway, I’m going to go and find out now. Thanks very much, I hope to get a chance to talk to you again sometime.

Just give me a call if you need anything.

OK. Bye.

Bye now.