Success and tragedy are two bipolar stepping stones consistent with musicians and bands around the world who have tread the line of fame and fortune with the ultimate goal of “Making it”. This analogy is no more apparent than with Paddy Usher, who has recently re-emerged from temporary music exile with a fresh sound and new ambition to finally capture the dream that has, on countless occasions, slipped through his fingers. We caught up with Paddy and his new band to chat about past, present and future plans, and specifically the upcoming launch of their single You Are So Much Better Off.
1. Your First taste of success came when winning the 1997 Hot Press Demo Marathon. What doors did that initially open for you?
This was an opportunity to meet and talk with an industry panel, most of which were Industry Experts and D.J’s. I suppose the most interesting guy I met was Johnny Lappin who was very open and easy to talk to. He liked the vocal approach and song ideas I had which was uplifting as he has worked for many major Irish artists like Aslan, Sharon Shannon and Liam Reilly (who might I add is one of the best Irish song writers and his contribution to music is just not celebrated enough). There was great exposure throughout the midlands via radio stations, news papers and small record stores. We had a good following at this stage anyway and seemed to be packing out shows which were great, but the exposure through Hot Press was the best thing as it gave us better access to bigger gigs in Dublin.
2. Your version of “Play That Funky Music” gained you notoriety, but what were the pressures that came with that?
We were playing rock/funk and the whole way through the 90’s as I remember it the charts seemed to be dominated by dance music. We wanted to capture or do a tune which would get the attention of all music lovers and this seemed like a great tune to do. The pressures were firstly taking on such a big and well know song, trying to put our twist on the tune and hoping that people would like it. There is a big vocal presence in the original so trying to do that justice was a big thing also, I also changed the backing music and put a monster bass line over it to make it even more dance floor friendly, it seemed to work for that time and space.
3. You have played with some big names in Irish music, most notably Shane McGowan, Aslan and Kila. Do you prefer the stage or the studio? Which one is taking up more time presently?
It has been a great experience supporting Kila and Aslan, great guys, supporting Shane McGowan was an experience. Let’s just say there were some images I will never forget. I always like going into the studio because you get better clarity on what you are recording and tend to find different directions and production ideas for the song or songs your working on, but generally song is structured and pretty much finished before I hit the studio. The other thing is it depends where you are recording and who you are working with, it’s very important for me to feel comfortable with whom i am spending the time with as I will have an infinite amount of ideas and roads to go down, this of course is to make sure I get the best of myself and the best for the song.
Currently I am spending just as much time on stage, the new experience of “The Paddy Usher Band” is quite challenging and lots of fun. The band are second to none and are all great lads, fantastic players, very versatile and great guys to work, full of ideas, they really have a great spirit about them and I think it’s really reflecting in the new recordings and live shows, they are really rocking.
4. You were enjoying success and a US tour when a professional and personal tragedy struck, when two of your fellow members of Jacuzze Jungle died in a vehicular accident. Can you tell us of the events leading up to and surrounding this? How did affect you and you music?
We were rocking all over N.Y & N.J for over a year, met some great people and worked with others that had a great love of the songs I was writing and playing live, wow the shows over there were very energetic. The crowd loved us wherever we went because we were like lunatics on stage and always gave em something to talk about, word spread very quickly and the shows were electric.
We came home for two weeks to do a few shows and see loved ones when disaster struck, David Clinton (Bass) my lifelong friend was struck by a car in the early hours of the morning and passed away, approx two months after that Kevin Tuomey (Percussion) another lifelong friend was also struck down by a drunk driver whilst cycling home, we were just after having a quite pint and a chat. It was a terrible tragedy to lose two great guys that were a huge part of my life. That was a very dark period and a troublesome time for us all.
Things slowed up quite a bit and the Jacuzze Jungle band that so many people had high hopes for began to dissolve and fade away, there were some other occurrences that were unforeseen, and played a big part in the withering away process, (I need not go into now) when you have played music with people like Dave and Kev all your life and have such a great understanding of each other, well let’s just say they were irreplaceable.
After a rest period I began to write again, got some new guys and got back out on stage again. The tunes were a little different and I went down a more Southern Rock & Acoustic/Bluegrass/Folk road. I suppose no matter how many times you are struck down you have to saddle up and ride that horse again, and keep on riding until you break em. Lots of people just say to hell with it, but music is my love passion and life, if I gave up music I may as well set the concrete boots and head for the river.
5. Judging by your website, you seem to have quite a few new tracks nailed down. What is your writing process?
Ah the classic question, I have an abundance of material and I’m always adding to the collection and putting down as many ideas as possible. My song writing process is usually generated from acoustic playing and then laying melody, having said that the ideas for writing can come from anywhere so if parts are working great, if not pick another bottle and try again. I try to keep things as simple as possible, I think with song writing, you either have it or ya don’t.
6. What can we expect from Paddy Usher after you launch your new single, “You Are So Much Better Off” on May 8thAcademy?
The Paddy Usher Band are hard at work, and the first single release 8th May I the Academy (“You Are So Much Better Off) is going to be a very exciting time for us, we will have dates listed on the website www.paddyusherband.com of shows up and down the country and were trying to get the songs to as many ears as possible. We would really like the get good Irish music back out and on the radio, as opposed to the nonsense that I’m hearing in the charts all the time, times are a changing and we as a band are going to be pushing as hard as we can to open up the channels for Rock n Roll. Please come and check us out.
The Paddy Usher band will Launch their new single You Are So Much Better Off in the Academy on May 8th.
For More information on Paddy Usher visit www.paddyusherband.com or www.myspace.com/paddyusher