On the Turn:::An Interview with Kerbdog

Kerbdog were that rarest of things a hip Irish act who had songs that actually rocked. They first made their impact as Britpop held sway and carved out their own particular rock niche thats stayed long in the ears of their fans and critics alike.Veterans of the Irish music scene, the Kilkenny rockers made a serious dent in the Irish music landscape back in the 90s before spliting in 1998, going on to form Wilt, and then reforming for a number of live shows since 2005. It’s 15 years since the release of their seminal album ‘On the Turn’ and they’re playing a series of Irish dates. I spoke to Darragh Butler about the band, getting back together and what the future holds for Kerbdog

Fans are suitably delighted with the upcoming shows. How did the new gigs come about?

We are asked every day to do stuff, sometimes the stars align and it makes sense. Long story short, we love playing, love catching up, but we individually lead very different, very busy lives at the moment so hence the small number of gigs we do these days. We will play whenever we can. We’re also aware that we cannot play the two albums for ever so unfortunately turn down 10 times more than we accept.

Is it a strange experience to be playing together again?

It can be. We get on great, we were close friends before the band, and still are. I spent pretty much everyday with Battle and Billy since we were nine years old, then getting to know Colin through indie cover bands before Kerbdog. That will always be there. Through Kerbdog relationships took a battering but its like the early days again, doing it for nothing more than a party with your buddies, creating havoc and blowing as many people away as we can:)
When we play the first tune at rehearsal, normally we are looking at each other laughing, remembering various incidents or shenanigans the song became linked to or associated with, or the fact we’re in a remote studio on the middle of nowhere, not playing with Helmet, Therapy, living in LA or wherever. Then, the tunes take over, and its all about that. Certain Kerbdog tunes are fun, like Sally, they make us smile for all the right reasons. Some tunes are darker, like severed or end of green, I when hearing and playing these, and I know the boys, even though we never talk about it feel a little sad for different reasons. We were all affected by what happened to some extent. Its good to feel something from your songs, we always had the fear that would have dissipated. That would be a depressing empty experience. Ultimately, playing as we have done over the last few years have put a lot of the demons in their box and fun has raised its welcome head, again. Bristol earlier this year was possibly the happiest gig we ever did. We enjoy it again, a lot!

It’s hard to believe that it’s fifteen years since ‘On the turn’. It’s a really popular record. What do you think has been the key to it’s longevity?

Its a great record. Its got some huge tunes on there, lots of energy and recorded by the best rock engineer/producer on the planet, Gggarth Richardson mixed by an equally talented Joe Bareisi. I remember an Interview back then, when we know we had gone way over budget recording it in Los Angeles. We were asked what we wanted from the record.
The response is something we can be proud of in 15 years. Job done. Commercially it didn’t get what it deserved as it took so long to write and record, the team at the label pushing for Kerbdog had in the waiting left, been fired etc. Bar the UK rock press we got pretty much no coverage, especially on national Radio. Being Irish was always a hindrance there with radio. Naturally UK stations will play UK bands. (Wilt got b listed until they found out who were were). My only regret is we didn’t spend enough time in the US, we were making big waves there, and there was a proper rock scene with all our peers involved, people got us, then we came back. “Oi, who do you prefer, Oasis or Blur” and that was pretty much that….

Because of all the above, there has always been a big admiration for the record, people believe its better than a lot of “big” albums, its never got any support and we never got the chance to tour it properly. We never got the chance turn crap and destroy it like most bands do which also helped. On The Turn was ahead of its time in the UK. Both albums have just been re-issued, maybe the penny will drop this time haha:)

What can we expect from the Kerbdog live experience in 2012?

We will be playing a bunch of tracks from both albums, the Dublin show will be the entire On The Turn album played in reverse. Looking forward to this as there’s a few tracks we haven’t played since ’96. Most shows are sold out or selling out so its going to be buzzing with energy. We’ll have the rocking Zero Pilot from Bristol on board for both Dublin and London. Also I’ll have the bizarre role of supporting Kerbdog, playing with Souls, which also features Billy from Kerbdog. Think I’ll resort to my powerbar vodka combo for that! Billy will be joining us on stage during the Kerbdog set too. It feels amazing that we can turn up 15 years later and sell out venues. There will be an additional 3 shows early 2013. Its purely down to our hardcore fans that we can take time out and do this every once in a while. Some vindication right there.

As veterans of the Irish scene what advice would you have for any bands starting off?

Write good tunes, be super critical, opinions outside the band are wrong. Dump the mediocrity, practice hard. Do what you do well, don’t try be someone else. Don’t feel you are owed anything, your not. If you are on the dole you are NOT a professional musician, get in the van. Get off Facebook, your group of friends telling you how great you are doesn’t matter, go convince the strangers. Don’t do it for money. Value your family and friends at home. There’s no “I” in band. Split everything evenly. Go see Therapy or Metallica, that’s how a live show works. Enjoy every minute of it.

Go to America.

Lastly , I have to ask this, any plans to record any new material together?

We have a live album due out pretty soon, recorded by Dave Draper at our Bristol show earlier in the year. It sounds HUGE and a few labels are after it. I cannot wait for that, the 3rd official Kerbdog album.
One show last year was intended to be a live unplugged album with a new track. But, we got an hour to practice which was spent looking at how broken Colin’s amp was. We decided to kick that can down the road!
Gggarth and Simon from Biffy Clyro want to re-record On The Turn, so we might do that and add something. We would all love to do more, we feel there is unfinished business there but we are rarely in one country at the same time, never mind town. We’ll see…

Many thanks to Darragh for taking the time to talk to me.The albums “Kerbdog” and “On The Turn” are re-released on East World Records You can catch Kerbdog live at Cyprus Avenue, Cork Sat 10 Nov & The Acadamy, Dublin on the 8th of December

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