First Encounters: Donal Lunny and Paddy Glackin
Donal Lunny has been a major figure in traditional for close to 50 years. The guitar/bouzouki player was in Planxty, the Bothy Band and Moving Hearts. He was a founder of Mulligan Records and worked with artists such as Kate Bush, Paul Brady and Elvis Costello. His new band, LAPD, includes former Bothy Band and Planxty members Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin. He lives in Rathgar
There was a concert to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Gael Linn and Micheál and Triona Ó Dhomhnaill were involved. Paddy was playing with them and the Bothy Band grew out of that. I don’t remember exactly when I first met Paddy.
I hadn’t decided on traditional music as what I was going to do, was still casting around in all directions. I became involved in a band with Shaun Davey and I found that really exciting, but unfortunately it never took off – then the Bothy Band ran away with me. That was 1975. About 18 months later, we were getting ready to record our first album. Was I surprised when Paddy said he was leaving? Disappointed, of course, but it wasn’t really questioned.
After that, our paths crossed regularly without our even planning it. There was always great energy and force in Paddy’s playing. That excited me.
We get on brilliantly well, and probably speak every week. I might get a text if Dublin wins a football match. We like to share a glass of wine, both like Indian food.
There was always music in my family. My mother came from an Irish-speaking area of Donegal. My poor parents worried about me [when I decided to become a full-time musician]. I’d gone to art college for five years when music really took over; it made up my mind for me.
LAPD came about last year; I was playing with Andy Irvine; Paddy was playing with Liam O’Flynn. It seemed to me that it would be a good idea to get together. The opportunity to do a concert came up and it was surprisingly easy. I’ve done producing, arranging, all of that; I think playing is the most important thing, it energises everything else.
Paddy’s life has been more stable than the general run of musicians but he has a very open mind towards his music, from things like working with John Cage, to an album he made with Jolyon Jackson, that was a kind of explosion, revolutionary.
I love Paddy dearly, he’s somebody who I seem to have known nearly all my life. I’d trust him with my life.
He’s a very constant person of personal integrity. Even though we don’t turn to each other in crisis, I would depend on him to help me if it came to it.
Paddy Glackin is one of Ireland’s leading fiddlers. He was an original member of the Bothy Band, but left to work as a producer in RTÉ Radio 1, eventually becoming its sports editor before leaving a few years ago. He is now in LAPD which was formed in 2012. Originally from Clontarf, Dublin, he lives there with his wife Máire and three children, Donal, Iseult and Sorcha
I don’t think Donal remembers our very first meeting: it was in the basement of the Shelbourne Hotel. Planxty was doing a concert, I was in the same concert and the basement was the dressingroom. I was playing downstairs, getting warmed up, and Donal joined in and began playing along with me. That’s the first time we met – of course I knew of Donal and knew Liam prior to that. I was still in secondary school, doing my Leaving – it was 1972 I think.
After that, I was involved: we were asked by Tony McMahon to do some theme music for the Long Note; little bits and pieces came up here and there where our paths crossed – and then eventually, there was the Bothy Band. I’d joined the band; it was going great and we were going to make our first album. However, about a fortnight before we recorded it, I decided I’d better pull out out; it was the honourable thing to do because I wasn’t prepared to make myself available to tour. I was in college; going full-time wasn’t on my radar.
I remember the night I told the guys I was leaving the band – down in the Palace Bar – it was quite matter of fact. I suppose they were a bit taken aback but there was no acrimony whatsoever. My life took a different path, although I still played music.
There was no loss of friendship after I left the band, it has always endured. I’ve played with everybody in the band, Donal has produced an album for me, we’ve done gigs as a duo. We did a couple of gigs in Japan last year, just the two of us. Playing was always the core of it. An energy emerges when I’m playing with Donal.
Donal is a pretty easygoing guy, doesn’t get in your face, respects your space. We’d both have a strong interest in social justice issues, would talk about them in quite a lot of detail.
His best quality for me is that he’s incredibly generous with his art, has made himself available to so many causes over I don’t know how many years.
I don’t know of any other musician who’s been that generous. Our lives are so absolutely different, yet we have a connection with each other that’s very easy. Now LAPD has brought us a lot closer again.
If I rang to ask him to do something, the answer – nine out of 10 times – would be yes. And I hope he feels the same about myself. The friendship is there and goes well beyond the music.
Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin and Donal Lunny, aka LAPD, perform at Sligo Live music festival on October 26th; sligolive.ie