1 of 3
2 of 3
3 of 3
I grew up in a suburb of Dublin. When I was in school, we set up a band—like in America, everyone had a band—and I knew at that stage that’s what I wanted to do. After school, I started playing the pub scene in Dublin. I was a 17-year-old kid playing with musicians in their 30s and 40s. Nobody wants to play bass, I don’t know why. I did. So I was able to play with these guys, and got a lot of experience from them, but by the time I was 22 or 23, I saw there weren’t gonna be a lot of options for me there to further my career. Ireland is a really small country, all the slots were already taken by musical families or more well-known musicians. But Irish people pretty much know that if you wanna do something, you gotta leave.
I came to Barcelona because I had been playing in Mallorca and Andorra. This was ’94. My friend John and I came to see what was here and see if we could get our foot in the door and make a go at a music career.
Los Stompers is my main group. I started it with John and Frank, the banjo player. In ’94 and ’95, the Irish bar scene started to grow and Irish bars began to open up in Barcelona, and all over Europe. The Celtic Tiger period was underway—the rapid economic growth in the Republic of Ireland that lasted from 1995 to 2000. I didn’t know about the Celtic Tiger, though, didn’t know what was happening back home since I was here.
So the Guinness Company and the Irish pub companies exported the Irish bar scene all over, taking advantage of Ireland’s economy doing well. It became a big thing, and these bars required live music. We were playing for tourists, but Irish music was popular with Spanish people as well. Then the police came and told all the bars they had to stop playing live music, but luckily we were already in. We had been here for maybe a year and were established. Then we started touring the Irish bar scene. We did that for a couple years until we could record our first record, learn how the festivals and Festes Majors worked here in Barcelona, improve our Spanish and do all the things we needed to do to be established in Barcelona. That was always what we wanted: to live in Barcelona.
What I loved about Barcelona when I moved here was the old-time feel it had. There were shops that just sold chicken or chickpeas, that sort of thing; all the old bars; the dirt-cheap midday meals. There was a lot of life on the street. I lived in the Born until 2009, so I witnessed all the changes that happened there. The Born in ’95 and around that time wasn’t that popular, wasn’t that touristy. It was a nice place to be. Even though when I left, I was sick of it and ready to move, I liked seeing the transformation of the neighbourhood. Then my wife and I decided to buy a flat and we came across Poblenou, another neighbourhood that had been growing and changing. We found a new flat with a swimming pool and everything. It was marvelous so we moved in.
Now I lead a totally different life. I used to live for the night. I went out every night, had a few pints with my friends, hung out at Pipa Club til dawn, and then crashed into bed. I think the most responsible thing I did was read. I’ve always been interested in history, and we had a sort of book club in the band when we first started and were out on tour. We would bring loads of books with us and read. Books about the Roman Empire, classics I never got around to reading in school, everything. It was a great life. I didn’t get up until two o’clock in the afternoon because I didn’t have to. Now, I have to get up to get my daughter ready for school. I even know all the kids’ parents at her school. But it’s good. I like being a parent. And I’m lucky to have found someone who accepts the instability of a musician’s lifestyle and has a steady job herself. Even my daughter’s used to it. You know, it’s 10 o’clock at night, daddy’s off to work. That’s when I have a gig. But otherwise I’ve definitely calmed down from how I used to be.
Realistically speaking, I never thought I was going to be famous with paparazzi following me around. Being famous is a job in itself. You have to dedicate yourself to becoming famous. One of our shining moments, though, was playing with Los Manolos, the famous rumba group who sang ‘All My Loving’ at the Olympic opening ceremony. In the mid-90s, when they got tired of being Los Manolos—with the colourful suits, patterned shirts and wearing sunglasses inside—when they wanted to do something more serious, they set up a record company, Ventilador Music. A series of circumstances led us to signing with them for three albums. We were able to use their studios and got them to play with us. So they play in our first album and appear in the music video dressed up as Los Manolos.
We’re doing all the things that have to do with being famous without being famous, or rich, which is the only slight downer. But we’re on the radio loads, our videos are played on TV, and when we release an album people take notice. We play at festivals as Los Stompers and get to share our own music with the crowds there. So although we don’t have the rich bit, we’re content being Catalunya’s Irish group, the guiris’ Irish group, who when they hear Los Stompers mentioned, say, “Oh, we love them. They’re ours”