The Mahones - Finny McConnell Interview | ThePunkSite.com
||Members: Finny McConnell
|Label: True North Records
|Date: January 13th, 2012
||Interviewer: Bobby Gorman
The Mahones are a Celtic-punk landmark. Formed in 1990 at an off-hand request to play a Saint Patrick's Day celebration at a local pub, Finny McConnell has kept the band going for 23 years - travelling across the world and sharing his love for punk fueled music with the globe.
As the Montreal by way of Kingston band kicked off their Western Canadian tour in support of their newest album, Angels & Devils, we exchanged some questions with the enthusiastic front man about the tour, the Grey Cup, their appearance in The Fighter and what we can expect from them in their 23rd year.
So you started this Canadian tour in November at the 100th Annual Grey Cup in Toronto, how'd you get involved with that and how was it?
We were contacted a few weeks before the show and asked to play. We immediately accepted - it was pretty exciting to be part of the 100th anniversary game. We've played for the Toronto Argos twice, and both times they've won the Grey Cup - must be luck of the Irish.
Is it different playing a massive sports show like that compared to an underground punk show?
Definitely a different crowd, but no matter where we're playing, we give it 110%. Whether there are 10000 people there or 1 person, if someone paid to see us play, we're going to give it everything we can.
Do you approach it differently at all?
I guess we swear less at the family shows. Some of us have kids. It's not fun to explain what a drunken lazy bastard is to a 6-year-old.
You hit Toronto again on New Year's Eve but played the Bovine Sex Club - was it a good new year's celebration?
It was a great night! The show was sold out and the crowd was amazing. A lot of our friends were there, and it was a great way to start the New Year. The Bovine is a punk rock institution in Toronto, and some of us grew up in that bar. It's nice to go back.
After that you’ve had ten days off before the Western Canadian leg of the tour starts on Thursday in Vancouver, why did you decide to place the ten day break in there?
We took some time off to spend with our kids, pets and families before hitting the road again.
Like many Celtic Punk bands, you guys always do one hell of a St. Paddy's Day tour - what do you have in store for this year?
We'll be flying home from Europe just in time to hit Canada and the USA for the sacred day. We'll be playing at Shamrock Fest in Washington, DC on March 16th, and we've been invited to join our good friends Dropkick Murphys at TD Gardens in Boston, and for a couple of dates in NYC, Philadelphia and Washington. We'll be announcing the details shortly on our facebook page at facebook.com/themahones. Needless to say, it's going to be fantastic.
This year also kicks off your 23rd year as a band, did you ever think it'll last this long?
The band started as a one-off - a party band for St. Patrick's Day at The Toucan in Kingston in 1990. We're still kicking! I don't know that it was ever planned to last this long, but thank God it did. Best job ever.
Many bands break out and last for a few years before dismantling and breaking apart, how have you guys been able to keep it going for so long?
Our love of music keeps us going. We're a bunch of punk kids who grew up and got the chance do what we love for a living. Music is our passion, and we believe in a punk-rock DIY approach. Doing it yourself kind of increases your commitment. We love what we do and we hope we can do it forever. Respect for our scene and eachother keeps us going strong.
What's the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome in your 23 years together?
We lost our bass player and dear friend Joe Chithalen on tour after a show in Amsterdam. He was allergic to peanuts and went into anaphylactic shock. It was absolutely devastating. His family and our late friend Wally High set up the Joe Chithalen Musical Instrument Lending Library (Joe's M.I.L.L.) in his name in Kingston, ON. They lend musical instruments to children who would otherwise not have access to them. We do an annual benefit show and donate what we can every year to keep his legacy alive. He was our friend and brother, and we think about him every day.
How do you keep it fresh night after night? Ensuring that you never do feel the need to go your separate ways?
We have 8 studio albums and a whack of material to play, which makes it easy to switch up the set list. We love music and find different obscure covers to throw into the mix once in awhile too. Keeps things fun.
Do you think the fact that you've toured globally, hitting 30 different countries last year alone, has helped develop the band?
We certainly hope so - we're exhausted. Ha! We love it, and it was definitely worth it for all of the amazing friends we made all over the world.
How has the crowds changed for you over the years? Are you seeing a diverse age range now or does it stay rather consistent?
We definitely get a diverse age range - young to old! Every show is different. We're able to cross over different genres pretty well, too. Sometimes we're at Celtic festivals and we fit right in, and sometimes we're at hardcore festivals, and we still fit right in (after the hardcore kids stop staring and pointing at the accordion).
At the same time, do you think that having this more traditional/Celtic influence in your sound enable you to pass more generational gaps? Where the merging of punk with traditional elements to create a more unifying sound that many generations can relate to?
Definitely! We have fans that are 10 years old and fans that are 80 years old. The great thing about Irish punk is that it seems to transcend age - there's something in it for everyone.
I'm sure you're well aware of the unwritten punk rule of you don't wear a band's shirt to their own show. An odd little tradition but one that many people live by. However, for Celtic punk, that seems to be an exception. It’s rare that you go to a Flogging Molly or Dropkick or Mahones show and not see a slew of those very same t-shirts - why do you think that is?
We're not sure, but it's great to see so much support for our scene. When people buy and wear our band's merch, it makes us awfully proud. It's nice to see people flying our colours. Joe Strummer always wore Clash t-shirts onstage, and there's no one cooler than him. If it's OK for Joe, it's OK for the rest of us.
Over the years you guys have had your music in several films, most recently is David O Russell’s The Fighter in 2010 with a re-recoding of Paint The Town Red - how'd you get involved with that?
They reached out to us in December 2009, and we were ridiculously excited. We knew that Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale were involved in the film, and we love both of those actors. We were so honoured to even be asked.
Why did you re-record the song rather than use the original version?
We didn't re-record it, we just remixed it. We wanted to freshen it up a bit, and make it a bit more punk rock. Loud guitars, an electric accordion, and Irish war drums were added.
Is it kind of surreal watching these big Hollywood films and hearing your music as the soundtrack?
Absolutely. Surreal and amazing. We're very grateful.
In 2010 you guys released "Whiskey Devils - A Tribute To The Mahones" with 19 bands covering you guys. How'd that come about and what's your favourite cover on it?
Bands had been reaching out to us to ask if they could record our songs on their albums, and since it was our 20th anniversary, we thought we'd put together a compilation of all of their amazing covers. Together with our friend John Murphy from Shite N Onions, we assembled a bunch of submissions from a bunch of great bands. It's our favourite Mahones album.
You guys are touring in support of your 10th studio album, Angels & Devils - can you tell us a bit about that?
We'll be touring worldwide all year! We're currently making our way across Western Canada, and we're starting our first European tour of 2013 on February 7th in Moscow. We'll be touring across Europe in February, we'll be doing some pretty spectacular shows in March (details TBA), and then touring the USA in April. We're hoping to make it to South America, Australia and Japan in the next year or so as well.
You have a bunch of guests on it as well, Ken Casey from Dropkick Murphys, Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers, Katie's uncle Grek Keelor of Blue Rodeo and I believe The Brains play on it too - how'd you get everyone involved?
We asked nicely - ha! When we started recording, we reached out to our good friends and asked if they could contribute their talents. Luckily, they all said yes. We have some pretty great friends.
Do you think having these guests bring an extra punch to the record?
Definitely! Jake Burns is Finny's guitar hero, and an absolute legend. He's from the best punk band in Irish history, and sometimes it's hard to believe that we're buddies with him. Ken Casey's vocal tracks on Spanish Lady are outstanding, as are Greg Keelor's vocals and guitar on Shakespeare Road. The Brains do psychobilly like no one else, and we were thrilled they could be a part of it. Felicity Hamer leant her angelic voice to Angel Without Wings, and it turned out beautifully. Our good friends, Jonathan Moorman and David Gossage, played throughout the album, and they're two of the finest musicians we know.
Do you tend to give them a part and say "hey play this" or give them a song and say "hey, what can you add to this?"
Definitely the latter. We sent out the tracks, or played them in studio, and we were open to whatever they could contribute. It worked out beautifully.
Anything you’d like to add?
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Much love.