On Thursday morning, Cormac Neeson from Down band The Answer took time out to talk to us about their new album, GAA and the state of soccer in Northern Ireland. I began by asking them how excited they were about their new material.
Cormac: We’re about as excited as we’ve ever been on the eve of the release of this record, y’know. It’s been a long time coming for us. We’ve had it recorded since last Christmas, so we’ve been kind of sitting on it. It’s definitely our best record to date, and it says a lot about where the band are right now, on a creative level. And also, the overriding message on the record is that we’re back and we’re ready to go.
So far, the reviews have all been fantastic and we’ve got this tour coming up starting the 11th of October in Belfast and then Whelan’s in Dublin on the 12th, and that kicks off a 40 date European tour which should be a lot of fun because live shows are really where the band tend to come into their own
Me: I know that you’ve supported the likes of AC/DC and the Rolling Stones – I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like…
Cormac: The ‘DC tour especially was a year and a half of touring around so it was a big chunk of our lives. It was fantastic. If I could do it all over again, I’d do it all over again, y’know?
Me: I’ve heard you guys are big in to your sport as well. Now, if you had to pick one of your own songs to describe the state of soccer in Ireland and Northern Ireland, what would it be?
Cormac: Probably “Baby Kill Me”!
Me: It wouldn’t be “Keep Believin’ ” no?
Cormac: Perhaps, yeah!
I was over in Paris recently doing promotion, and somebody was asking about the state of soccer in Northern Ireland. It’s not the best, but yet there’s such a loyal support base. I mean, I live across the park from Cliftonville’s ground, so I’ve been to a couple of games. I mean, I remember when I first moved here, and I was getting out of the car with my girlfriend and I thought there was a riot coming down the street! So, I went round the corner, and the street was empty, and so I followed the sound a bit further and realised it was coming from the bright lights of Solitude!
After having such a great season last season, there’s such a good feeling for Northern Ireland soccer around from where I’m from and where I’m living.
Me: Which is good to see. I know The Answer has albums called “Rise”, “Revival” and now ‘New Horizon” – a lot of your music seems geared toward fresh beginnings and new starts. Can you tell us a little about that?
Cormac: Yeah. I suppose every record for us is a new beginning. We’ve never been a band to go into the studio and make the same record twice. This is often the danger in rock and hard rock. But, y’know I think, on a personal level, bands have a responsibility to enhance your audience’s state of mind whenever they come down to see a show. I mean, when I go to a gig, I want to leave on a high, y’know? So, the music we write and perform, it sparks certain emotions in me, and those emotions are generally right up there.
Me: Well, it sounds like you’ve got a real passion for it, which is something a lot of people don’t have with their jobs. Is it a bit of a dream?
Cormac: Well, I think you’ve got to have the passion, man or you shouldn’t be doing it. Also, y’know it’s not always the kind of life that you read about in the magazines, or people think that it’s all plain sailing, and just long parties. There’s moments when you have to really believe in what you do in order to motivate yourself to keep going.
I’m sure it’s like playing in the Irish league at times! On any Saturday afternoon, you’ve just been beaten 4-0, you kind of have to ask yourself a few questions. So, if you don’t have the passion, y’know, you shouldn’t be there.
Me: That’s very true. So, if you had to rate your own sound based on a particular county in terms of GAA – who would it be?
Cormac: Y’know, the red and black of Down – slick and stylish! I think a touch of our native county’s style and maybe the aggression and persistence of Donegal. It didn’t work out for them this year, but I’m hoping we’ll share a similar fate to Mayo next time.
So, let’s say the style of Down, the aggression of Donegal and the success of Mayo!
Me: I think anyone would take that. And, with a band name such as your own, you’ve got to know – who’s going to replace Giovanni Trapattoni?
Cormac: My first choice would be Martin O’ Neill, hands down. I think, y’know after all the stories that came from the dressing room, they couldn’t even understand what he was saying half the time, it would make you think that maybe someone a wee bit closer to home is the way forward. Even though Martin didn’t have the type of success he’s used to at Sunderland, I still think he just gets the best out of his players.
I don’t know if going back to Big Mick is the way forward, y’know it seems like they’re grasping a little bit at past glories, but yeah if it was down to me, it’d be Martin O’ Neill all the way.
Me: I think you’re probably right. Interestingly, on a GAA note, Down haven’t won an Ulster title in 19 years – do you think maybe an anthem from you guys might help motivate them?
Cormac: Well’ y’know they’re welcome to listen to any of our four albums, and pick their favourite. I don’t really know what it’ll take for Down to win an Ulster. It depends who turns up any given day.
But, I know a couple of the Down players personally and I know there’s no lack of hunger or passion, as I’ve mentioned. But it’s like any championship – once you build up ahead of steam, momentum can carry you a long way.
Me: And, speaking of momentum, you’re going to have to have some of that yourselves ahead of your busy schedule…
Cormac: Yeah, a Belfast and a Dublin show first. It’s going to be a hard slog and it’s proper going to be getting on that tour bus and hold your breath until you come out the other side. But at the same time, it’s a big part of who we are – getting out on the road and playing as many gigs as possible. We’ve obviously got an album full of brand new tracks that we’re excited to get out on the road and test, so it’s going to be a great couple of months.
Me: Absolutely. And the best of luck with everything and thanks for taking the time to chat with me this morning.
Cormac: It’s a pleasure mate any time, I’ll talk about rock ‘n’ roll and football all day!
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