THE CHRONICLES OF CHRISTY

Dignam 2

Dignam 2Back in the mid-Eighties when U2 were taking the world by storm and other Irish acts such as Cactus World News looked like the next big thing, another Dublin band quickly made a name for themselves. Aslan were massive in 1986, with their debut single This Is becoming the longest ever play-listed single on Ireland’s RTE 2fm and the band taking out The Stag/HotPress ‘Most Promising New Band’ award. It seemed nothing would stop them.
Nothing, that is, except for front man Christy Dignam’s heroin addiction. Unable to go on, the band split up before they could release a second album.
However, in 1993 and with Christy making progress to overcome his ‘demons’, the band reunited for what was supposed to be a one-off gig and have been together ever since.
BBM’s Dan Jeffery learns why Aslan have stayed together this time around, why Redemption Song doesn’t sound right in an Irish accent, and the pitfalls of meeting one’s heroes.

 

BBM: Hi Christy, how are you?
CD: Very well thanks. We’ve been in the studio, writing.

So you’re doing a follow up to Uncased, last year’s album of covers?
Yeah, that’s right. It’ll be our first studio album – our first original album – since Uncased. Uncased was just an aberration.

What prompted you to do a covers album then if that was an aberration as you say?
Well, when we did the Made In Dublin album, we wanted to put on two songs by bands that inspired us when we started off – that’s how Angie and Wish You Were Here were there. Afterwards, on our website, fans kept suggesting songs so we used to throw the odd cover song on B-sides. So we said we’d do a covers album at some point and we went on the website and asked people to nominate songs. There were hundreds.
You know the Bob Marley song, Redemption Song? That was one that everybody thought would be a good song, so we rehearsed it. I went to do the vocals and, obviously, I had to take the Bob Marley out of it because I couldn’t sing in a Jamaican accent, could I?
But as soon as I went to do it, it was like “Oh poirates yes dey rob oi…”, like the fucking Wolfetones or something. So we had to knock that on the head. There were a lot of songs that sounded like good ideas but ended up not being.

Were you ever worried before you did them about what the original artist’s reaction might be?
Oh yeah. The Rod Stewart one was the one for me. I said, ‘we can’t do this’.
(Christy explains that there are some artists such as Bob Marley and Jeff Buckley whom he considers sacred).
And Rod Stewart, I felt, fell into that category. Maggie May is such a great song because of Rod Stewart’s vocals. So I thought, when we did the song, ‘this is a fucking mistake’. But we do things democratically in the band, you know, so when decisions were being made, I was outvoted on the thing. Then, when we did the album and we were getting feedback on the thing from fans, Maggie May was one of their favourite songs. I wasn’t expecting that at all.
You get caught up in your own ego working in a band, so when you do work things out democratically it does take the ego out of it.

I read that you’d lined up a duet to do with Gilbert O’Sullivan, but when it came time to do it he fobbed