Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Mahones interviewed by Christine Leonard


The Mahones 5

"Pogue mahone!" is a variant of the Irish phrase póg mo thóin, meaning "kiss my arse"

Keelhauling ancient tradition and giving it forty lashes with a punk rock twist, The Mahones are a notoriously Irish band that just happens to harbour some very Canadian roots. Conceived in Kingston, Ontario one fateful Saint Patrick’s Day, the long-running outfit can proudly boast a 23-year history of music and mayhem. Running the gambit from dirty ol’ town murder ballads to hard-charging hardcore fisticuffs, The Mahones have come to embody the respectable revolutionary. With his ninth album on tap, the quintet’s lead singer/guitarist/mandolin player, Dublin-born Finny McConnell, admits he had a difficult time penning an album that could contend with their previous effort, 2010’s The Black Irish. He decided it was time to for The Mahones to raise the bar, instead of just polishing it with the sleeves of their coats.

“We started working on Angels & Devils almost as soon as we had finished recording The Black Irish,” McConnell reports. “There was no break, which is odd for us because we usually take a few years off between records. A couple times we’ve taken as long as five years in between. Of course, I was drinking a lot more back then. Now, things are coming out much faster for us. We wrote the songs for the new album around springtime, recorded in the summer and we were absolutely thrilled to be able to release it in November of 2012.”

The Mahones, Finny McConnell and his lovely wife Katie “Kaboom!” McConnell (accordion, vocals), Dom “The Bomb” Whelan (drums, vocals), Sean Winter (mandolin, banjo, vocals) and Paul “Cuzo” Mancuso (bass, vocals), each came to the table with big ideas for the dichotomous follow-up.

“You could say that Angels & Devils is a really big production. We felt it was the only way to take things further than we had already gone on The Black Irish,” he confirms. “We moved to Montreal two years ago and the best part is that the studio I work at is just across the street from our house. I get to just roll-out of bed and roll-in to work. That’s what allowed me to put so much time into the album. I worked closely with our producer to engineer and spent a lot of time in the studio adding more layers into the sound. I knew I wanted two things. One: really fucking big stadium sound. And, two: no shortcuts. Up until now, I’ve always wished we’d done more on each record we’ve put out. This time, I made sure we did things the right way and put the cherry on top.”

Applying their love of classic Celtic arrangements to their equally evocative politico-punk railings, The Mahones arrived at the crossroads of good and evil, where saints and sinners reconcile over Guinness and boxty. From the frenetic celebration of “Shakespeare Road” and the spirited “Spanish Lady” to the live off-the-floor feel of “The King of Copenhagen” and “Whiskey Train,” The Mahones throw an enthralling party. Purists can rest assured, pipes and strings a-plenty festoon the inexhaustible céilidhs that comprise the reeling hub of the album’s heady track list.

“I don’t remember the ’90s very well, the drunken heyday when we started up the band. It was all about ‘Drunken Lazy Bastard’ and ‘Paint the Town Red.’ I’m happy to say that I’m very focused on my music at this point. I’m married, I’m a father and I’ve matured a lot over the years. I’m a positive thinker and I think that, despite the fact that there’s a lot of darkness in the world, we’ve got to motivate people to reach for the stars. I always tell people that they can do anything and never to let anybody hold you back. I’ve had teachers who told me I couldn’t sing, let alone lead a band, and I’ve toured and performed all over the world. Never take ‘no’ for an answer. And, most importantly, follow your genre. I knew I was an Irish punk, so I followed that road… past the pint of no return.”

Catch the Mahones at the SAIT Gateway on January 18.

By Christine Leonard

Originally published in BeatRoute Magazine 14 January 2013

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