How to make music and influence nobody
Patrick Freyne recounts how he lost his twenties to a band
We made a video in which we pretended to rob the late-night garage where Paul worked. The real police were called. “Be more careful with your ‘art’,” said the sergeant angrily.
One day we got a phone call from a drumming schoolboy called James Byrne. He’d heard us on Phantom, and his band, Deputy Fuzz, were making an album with an eight-track recorder. We put it out on our label, Catchy Go Go Records. We started releasing records by other artists – 46 Long, Adrian Crowley, Herm – alongside our own.
Just like Motown
Our headquarters was a house Daragh and I shared in north Dublin. We aspired to be like Motown and got our address listed in international music-industry directories. People sent us tapes. Once we were visited by two Norwegian musicians who were perplexed to discover that Catchy Go Go Records was just some scruffy young men in a red-brick terraced house. I was sporadically on the dole.
Listen up: NPB in the wild
We worked hard – harder than our friends with real jobs. We wanted to create and to be successful and to mean something. Being part of a band is all about wanting, really. So we had big theatrical fights about what we wanted and stood for. Once we argued into the night about whether we would accept money from Guinness to do an ad. (“It would be a lot of money.” “But they’re a corporation!” “But we drink Guinness.”) Incidentally, Guinness had not offered us money to do an ad. We just thought it was an important principal that needed to be argued about.
We churned out hundreds of songs, losing ourselves in eight-track overdubs in a big garage in Paul’s family home. We made punk songs and swing songs and country and hip hop. We’d raid the Clancy family fridge while pontificating about anarchism and far-left politics. We had notions.
Paul’s lovely dad advised us to start pensions and to think about the future. He was clearly worried; he’d inherited two new adult mouths to feed several days a week. We did think about the future, but in it we were politically correct DIY millionaires – like Fugazi , only rich. I never started a pension.
Still, we had more bureaucracy than the Civil Service. We took minutes at exhaustive daily band meetings. We would censure each other for breaking step sartorially. “Was that an appropriate shirt choice, Jeremy?” we’d say, in what amounted to a show trial. Daragh had a hardback ledger filled with impressive to-do lists, charts and financial calculations. His mathematical projections were based on magical thinking, but he made them sound reasonable. He convinced us to tour Britain five times with no money. He took to wearing a cowboy hat like JR Ewing in Dallas .
We slept on couches and travelled in a hatchback and a minivan that had been illegally made to look like a police car. Our friend Ian, who drove the latter, didn’t have an operational driving licence. On one occasion he and Daragh were detained by customs at the ferry port in Holyhead, in north Wales, until Ian convinced them that driving legislation was more lax in the colonies. “They’re basically racist,” he concluded.
Being on tour with your friends is like running away with the circus. And, like running away with the circus, I thoroughly recommend it. We played to five people in Cardiff, three in Manchester and a full house in Dublin Castle, a pub in Camden. We watched the sun set over cornfields from a trailer in Oxford. In a moonlit bay in Cornwall we swam in a phosphorescent sea. We sang karaoke with a Roy Orbison lookalike in Penryn. We marvelled at Britain’s many motorway service stations. In Camden, Daragh and Paul spent the tour budget on designer trousers that looked like chaps. “They go with the cowboy hat,” Paul explained. Back home I ordered an impractical tailor-made white suit. Several sweaty gigs later it could walk from car to venue by itself.