No More Workhorse spoke to former Whipping Boy guitarist Paul Page, about the forthcoming rerelease of their second album Heartworm, 25 years on.
Although it’s 25 years since the album came out, in many ways, it feels like even longer ago. Or does it?
I am not sure – those 25 years have slipped by very quickly! So in that sense, for me, it doesn’t feel like a quarter of a century since we made that album. One thing for sure, I never envisaged when the album came out in 1995, that people would still be listening, still be interested in talking about the record. But here we are, and it’s a nice feeling to know we made something that has stood the test of time, for some people anyhow.
Dublin in the early nineties felt like a turning point. It was somewhere between the old, traditional ways for those of us growing up in the seventies and eighties and the very transitory city that we have now. It was also a time when some of us started to think, ‘ok, so things DON’T have to be shit’, and there was a more positive mood after the depressing atmosphere in the 80s.
You are right, the nineties did herald a change, there was a newfound optimism after the relatively bleak decade that was the eighties. I can only really speak from my own experiences, but growing up as a kid in the eighties, the outlook was pretty grim. Post-punk music was the perfect soundtrack for that time – Dublin was so run down, the city felt like it was decaying. Unemployment was at an all-time high, emigration was seen as the only option for many, and we were in the grip of a heroin epidemic.
And I lived in an area where those issues directly affected us on a daily basis. But Ireland started to come out of that in the nineties – the change of fortune brought with it a new found confidence and belief that there was a brighter future. It is almost a cliché at this stage, but Italia 90 seemed to coincide with the beginning of that change. You look back at the footage now and it is all so joyful. And then you look at footage from the eighties, and it is all so grim – news reports talking about spiralling unemployment, drug addiction, emigration.
I suppose we lost the run of ourselves a bit during the Celtic Tiger years but the early nineties felt like a really positive time for anyone who had lived through the previous two decades.
Pre-Heartworm you had released Submarine in 1992, which had done reasonably well. How soon after this did you start writing/working on the follow-up?
We went through a pretty rough spell after Submarine. Things weren’t happening for the band at all – we seemed to have hit a ceiling and we began to question whether there was a future for us as a band. We were playing the same venues around town, we had no record deal, interest in the band was at an all-time low.
And while we had continued writing songs, it was only when we were at our lowest ebb that Heartworm began to take shape. I remember we came up with ‘We Don’t Need Nobody Else’ in this tiny, windowless rehearsal room off North Frederick St. It started off as song of defiance, as everyone seemed to have deserted us at that point. We knew we had written something good, and from that point, we went through a really creative spell, where all of the songs on Heartworm were written.
What was your view of the music scene at the time? Looking back on it now with hindsight, the early nineties feel like one of the more exciting times, with shoegaze, grunge, the rave scene, and so much different kinds of music coming out in Ireland and internationally. You could call it: “The Last of the Analogue Age” except A Lazarus Soul got there first!
It was an exciting time, but even the mid to late eighties was an exciting time on the Irish music scene. It was the one bright spot during that grim period. There were so many bands, and so many good venues, proper music venues. The weekends revolved around going to gigs. That extended into the early nineties. Alternative music started to break into the mainstream in a big way – the charts were no longer dominated by pop acts. So that was all really good. Dance music and the ‘baggy’ scene had this crossover appeal for alternative music fans at that time, so there was a lot of interesting music being made.
The interview continues in part 2…