Festivals

Tipp Classical – Interview with Tom Dunne – Part Two

Tipp Classical – Interview with Tom Dunne – Part Two

TIPP CLASSICAL – Harking to Feile days, but with a mix of contemporary Irish artists performing with the Irish Chamber Orchestra, this 2 day festival, is a real celebration of the best of Irish music back on hallowed Semple soil! Tom Dunne returns to the helm as chief organiser.

Fri 20th & Sat 21st Sept 2019

SULTANS OF PING / THE STUNNING / THERAPY?

TRANSVISION VAMP’S WENDY JAMES

MUNDY / THE FRANK & WALTERS

SOMETHING HAPPENS / PICTUREHOUSE

THE FAT LADY SINGS / ELEANOR MCEVOY

All performing with the Irish Chamber Orchestra

You’ve had a health scare recently, I’m glad to hear you’ve recovered, do you want to talk about it?

I’m happy to talk about it. I’ve been getting emails to the show (on Newstalk) from people in a similar position telling me their stories.  It’s kind of a recurring theme that there are no symptoms. I had no symptoms and that was a very dangerous position to be in. If I’d had a few symptoms I might have been worried but I wasn’t worried.  So in the run up to this I was finding on the Thursdays I was tired but I had done four shows in a row late at night, who wouldn’t be tired. So what was on my mind was to try and get fit. There was an opportunity for me to try and get fit fast.  If I had done that it could’ve killed me. The valve in my heart was stiffening at that point, severely. The danger was if I exercised really hard it would try and pump and it would lock, and that was me gone. I didn’t know that, I was very close to signing up to this thing to try and get fit and then Audrey hassled me to go back to my cardiologist.  I knew I had a problem but I hadn’t been for a check up on it in two or three years. So I went and he was looking at the readings for the echocardiogram and he said hold fire on that (exercise). The readings have changed and it might be a good idea for you to meet the surgeon. Even when he was saying that I was thinking, ‘yeah, down the road, a year or 2 years’.  Even when I met the surgeon I was saying ‘how do you feel about this fitness thing,’ and he was the one who gave me the very bad news about surgery in four weeks and a 70% chance of dying in two years.

All of that went through my head, it’s a condition that one in 50 people have, there’s enough of it around and if you happen to go through life without having a major check up or going to the doctor you could be completely undiagnosed going into your fifties and you’re at enormous risk.  I’m happy if my experience makes people think: ‘I’ll go and get myself checked out.” Ask the question: do I have a murmur? Is my heart ok? Murmurs are very audible. Your doctor can put a stethoscope on you and say, you have a murmur. If you have a murmur than you have to go to a cardiologist, and find out what kind of murmur you have.  Some of them are benign and some of them aren’t. If it makes people do something then it’s worthwhile for me to talk about it.

Blokes are not great at talking about their health.

No we’re not.  It’s funny, my experience of going to my doctor – I never went to him.  Even in the last few years, there was nothing wrong with me so I never went to him.  As I was doing the various bits with the cardiologist I was constantly asked who the family doctor was and I kept saying the name of this man.  Finally, when we were checking into the hospital I gave it and they said ‘you know he’s dead Tom, don’t you? He’s been dead a year!’ That’s everything you need to know about my relationship with my doctor.  I knew nothing.

You’re fully recovered now?

I am.  I’m full of beans.  I’ve physio still to go because I don’t know how hard I can push it.  I’m doing really long walks with the dog, they’re all well within myself.  But I want to run. I did a small run, it went great, but I want to be able to run and I want to be able to go to the gym.  I’ll be going to physio for the next 4 to 5 weeks in the hospital, in the cardiac unit. Getting the confidence to see how hard I can push myself.  The prognosis from the doctor is you can push yourself as hard as you want, you can run a marathon. People have run marathons.

Something to aim for?

I’d love to do that.  This idea that the shadow is gone is just incredible.  When I heard the 70% chance of dying in two years I could picture a world where I was gone from it, I could.  My kids are only 10 and 12. To think now that I can go swimming with them and enjoy them and that dark cloud is completely gone is amazing.

Having gone through that, has it changed your perspective on things in your life, apart from family obviously?

I think I was in a good place before it because I really love what I do, and I really love my family and my life.  I like where I am in it. I was just really glad to get back to those things. I probably value them even more now.  I even value the show more, I’m finding to be able to play music such a privilege. I find it such an uplifting thing, music, it’s such a spiritual thing.  It does your heart good. I’m loving that. I did get rattled during it. I had felt bulletproof going in and I don’t feel bulletproof anymore. There’s a bit of me thinks, you’re not an exception, you’re not going to live forever.  That’s on my mind. What I’m going to do with it I don’t know. It’s just there now, it was never there before. I’m determined that the time, however long I have, is as nice as it can be.

You’re enjoying the show as much as ever?

More.  I wouldn’t say I was going through the motions, but I’ve been doing it a long time and I was getting very used to it.  Since going back I’ve noticed there’s a moment during the day that I really want to put my mind to it. You kind of wait for a little spark to come from the songs, the things people send in.  You just have to be confident that someone is going to write something sensational. And everything else in the show just falls into place around that. I’m loving that, it’s something I’m looking forward to.  I don’t feel any sense of needing to get the show out of the way at all. I’m just savouring it. Long may it continue!

How does discovering new music work for you these days?

It’s all internet now. I don’t know where we’re going to be in a few years’ time.  I really feel the middleman being squeezed out of the equation. Once an artist has an album, they just put it up, you can stream it, you can play it.  The idea of owning music is really starting to become, even in my mind, a bit of a crazy idea. I’m looking at the CD collection and the vinyl collection and thinking what’s the point?  It’s easier to just play it off the internet. The sound quality is perfect. I’m reading online magazines and following artists to see what’s being released.

Live has taken over so much.  If you just follow who’s playing and what they have out you won’t be far off what’s going on in the world.  That’s what I’m doing. I’m very excited about a girl in the north of Ireland, Naomi Hamilton, I think she’s about 19 or 20 and she’s so confident, so good with lyrics, it’s amazing.  I find those things, they’re always there, you find them, it never runs out. You just need to be confident and listen to loads of music. I do about two hours a day of pure listening, trying to find stuff.

As regards Something Happens, apart from the festival have you plans for many gigs?

We’ve a good few other gigs, they’re all starting in June.  Which I’m a little bit annoyed about because I want to do a gig to get back into it.  Like a Whelans or something. Whelans seems to be booked out forever. We’re trying to find somewhere, possibly Bray, it’s been mooted as a possible venue.  I want to go on stage and do an hour and a half set and sing those songs again. That’s on my agenda. When I finish this interview I’m going to be emailing the guys and seeing what’s the story on the Bray gig, I really want to do it.  The festivals are great but the intimacy of a gig in a room is a different kettle of fish completely. Festival sets tend to be half an hour, you can’t do an awful lot of damage in half an hour. Sometimes we’d use the first 4 songs to warm up, and then you get serious, get comfortable on stage.  It’s all very exciting.

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