We’re all on this bus trip together

Posted on: 5th November, 2018

Category: Music Box

Contributor: Gary Hannon

Gary Hannon plays with the Clonakilty Jazz Collective every Monday night in the Emmet Hotel and once per month on Sunday afternoons in De Barra’s, both in Clonakilty.

Clonakilty man, John Fitzgerald is a busy man in the music scene. His professional life is equally divided into three parts: playing, live production, and recording. John gives an example, “Take August and September: I had Hudson Taylor in Germany, Interference and Glen Hansard in the Czech Republic for a week, the Rose of Tralee, The Pope’s visit, Gilbert O’Sullivan in the UK, Electric Picnic, Other Voices – playing some, mixing others…and mastering Johnny McEvoy’s album as well. Busy, but it’s the way I like it!”

In at the deep end

Trumpet and drums would have been the only formal training that John had — “with Brawny Wycherley in the Clon Brass Band, all those years ago.” But how did you learn to play the other instruments? “I was drumming in Shanley’s at about 15. It was a great education – developing your ear. Noel Redding [ex Jimi Hendrix bassist] was playing guitar in the Kilty Stone, and the owner of the Kilty, Martin Kingston, would be playing bass on the Thursday night sessions. I’d started sneaking in at 16 or 17, catching the first hour of the gig before having to go home. And if the bar got busy, after ten Martin had to go behind the bar. One night, Martin gave me the bass and said ‘Follow his [Noel’s] hand’. That’s how I started to play bass. I never played before that! It was real baptism of fire at the time to be around. Drumming with the Hot House Flowers in Shanley’s when you were 17, when they were at their peak. It’s of great credit to this town, that musicians are drawn to it, and if you’re playing music, you’re playing music — you’re all at the same level. T’is great!”

How did you get into sound and lighting stage production? “Having De Barra’s — that’s where I developed my sound. I was doing the sound for Christy Moore in 1993, I was 17. I got the call the day before. That was the first, most nerve-wracking gig! Christy came in —I’ll never forget — he was wearing a donkey jacket, a guitar over his shoulder. He goes, ‘If you can make me sound good I’ll be happy. With the lights, if you can make me look good I’ll be even more happy!’ That was it.”

You’ve recorded Roy Harper, Christy Moore and other legends. Describe your recording studio? “Lettercollum Recording is a light airy space that I try to make feel ‘not’ like a studio. It’s one big open room and the whole front of it is glass, so you’re looking out on Courtmacsherry Bay. So people forget they’re in a studio very quickly. I try to go for the live, organic sound. It’s the true art. It’s a photograph of time. I say with recording, if you’re not happy take another photograph.”

You have unbelievable gear! Do you have a favourite piece of kit? “I have a Danelectro bass, which was Noel Reddings, which he played up until he died. His partner gave it to me when he died.”

What’s the best bit of kit to start off with? “I remember the biggest step up for me was getting a good-sounding set of monitor speakers. It’s inspirational.” Have you any advice to budding producers? “My advice is a simple set-up. A good mic, a nice-sounding interface and good monitors. Technology stifles creativity. People with complicated set-ups could be 10 to 15 minutes trying to sort out the problem when all they want to do is record. And then they’ve lost the spark. As a producer, you should always push yourself.”

How difficult is it to make a living from music? “It’s hard. The development deals aren’t there anymore. That’s why there’s great respect to Brian Deady to go off and learn to produce and mix his latest album [Black Diamond—see October issue of the WCP]. That’s the highest credit you can give — to have the vision and the stamina to stay with it, because it can be easy to get disillusioned with the whole thing. It’s a new reality for the industry.”

Finally, have you advice for punters who love music? “Support your gigs. They are the difference between people doing it or not. It’s a labour of love and it has to be supported. People in West Cork, they’re well-educated and used to having access to really good quality music — a lot of it for free. And it’s just to remind them of that, you know? It’s good to pay as well. Paying would be the norm. It’s okay to feel good about paying for it as well.”

Special note

Rosscarbery’s own singer-songwriter, Marcella O’Sullivan has just released her second album, The Well. It follows on from her outstanding debut album, Wood of the Pilgrims. She has shot a lovely fitting tribute to unnamed women for the song ‘Where Have all The Women Gone?’ Check out all details at marcellaosullican.com.

My gig of the month is: This Is How We Fly in Connolly’s of Leap on November 9 . If you want to see a truly original band — and with a percussive dancer — check them out. Tickets are €15. Full details of all gigs are at: thisishowwefly.net

If you have any comments or events, you can contact me by email gary@westcorkpeople.ie.

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