As BBM’s Alex Vucelich discovered, Og is a supporter of Irish-Republicanism. He is anti-fascist. He is one of Europe’s finest folk artists. He is a veteran guerilla in the art of “rebel music” and he is touring Australia this June…
The Glasgow born Og has been carrying on the tradition of haunting, politically driven Irish-folk music for over a decade and a half and is returning for his fourth tour of Australia.
He dubbed his hometown the “capitol of rebel music,” but feels the scene has had better days. Og blamed U.K. politicians for trying to portray Irish Republicans and their music as anti-Protestant and anti-British.
“The truth of the matter is we’re not anti anything. We’re just anti British imperialism.”
When asked what his initial reaction was when a publication dubbed British Balls requested an interview, the 32 year old Og chuckled and said in his thick accent: “It’s a bit unusual, I’ll give you that. I mean I don’t mind, you know. It’s a sign of the times. We’ve all moved on a bit.”
The song Og said he is most known for is a song he didn’t even write. Go Home British Soldier Go Home, is a song about British troops’ occupation of Northern Ireland in 1969, and is one that Og said he doesn’t play much any more because he played it so many times in the 1990s, a highpoint of IRA fervour.
“It just seemed to say everything that rebel-music was trying to say. And it did it in just the first two lines. ‘Go home British soldier go on home/ Have you got no fuckin’ homes of your own?'”
Og landed in Perth last week and before this tour, the last time he was in Australia was March of 2009. Og said he sees his fan base growing each time he visits the country. Even though this is his fourth go around of the continent, he hasn’t had much of a chance, because of the compacted nature of his appointments, to go beyond that of the typical sightseer.
“Each time I get to see a little bit more, but I’ve pretty much just had to do the whole tourist thing,” Og said.
Og has been playing music professionally since he was 16 years old with his former band Erie Og (meaning Young Ireland) and said he really can’t see himself doing anything else but playing music for a living.
He isn’t the type of person to make long term plans. When he started out, half his life ago, he said he never thought he would’ve lasted this long in an industry that chews artists up and spits them out at a double quick pace. Og’s staying power is in large part due to the fact he has a passion and a message that his fans have clung to over the years.
Og said he isn’t a fan of a lot of today’s music, but prefers the icons of yesterday. Bob Dylan is an influence he doesn’t hesitate to reference. He said Tangled Up in Blue is his favourite Dylan tune.
“It’s on an album called Blood On the Tracks, which my mum used to play all the time when I was young.
“He’s just such a prolific song-writer of immense quality. If I could write one of his bad songs I’d be satisfied with my career,” Og said.
When asked what he hoped people would remember him for whenever he was ready to wash his hands of the music business, he said he hoped people would respect the fact that he had a set of beliefs and that he stuck by them, even when they weren’t popular.
And so Og takes to the Australian highways singing his rebel music, and we here at BBM just couldn’t help but think that the last lines of Og’s favourite Dylan song are somehow symbolic:
“But me, I’m still on the road / Heading for another joint / We always did feel the same / We just saw it from a different point of view / Tangled up in blue.”
See Gary Og as he travels the country:
13-14 June: National Celtic Festival, Port Arlington, VIC
18 June: P.O.W bar, Ipswich, QLD
19 June: Mick O’Malley’s, Brisbane, QLD
20 June: Penrith Gaels, Kingswood, NSW