We meet up with JJ72 on their tour bus outside The Grand Theatre, Groningen, Holland, a few hours before they go on stage for EuroSonic 2001.
What immediately strikes you about the Dublin three piece, apart from Hilary’s change of hair colour (black) is how pleasant they all are.
Polite introductions are made and we sit down for a wee chat…
JJ72 on the festive period…
What did you get up to over Christmas?
Hilary: “It was a quiet affair, after everything that has gone on in the last year it was good to have a break.”
Mark: “We have been on the road so much it was good to catch up with family and friends”
Any New Year’s resolutions?
Mark: “I’ve broken mine already”
When pushed we discover that Mark was attempting to lay off the booze but didn’t manage to last a week.
Mark: “I suppose it’s also to be good…”
Fergal “…and stay out of trouble.”
A little nod to each other suggests that it won’t be long before this is also cast aside. Hilary’s reply is a little more adamant.
Hilary: “I don’t need any.”
We move on!
– Mark on the best band to support.
What were you doing this time last year?
Hilary: “Preparing to go on stage at The Monarch”
Mark: “It all seems so long ago we were scratching around, we had only released one single and there was all this hype surrounding us but at that stage that was all it was. We hadn’t even made a video. All the bollocks was based on nothing, now at least we have an album to back it all up.”
Hilary: “I’m glad we didn’t know then how much hard work it was going to be.”
Mark: “It still is! Last night we were in Paris playing some jazz coffee house for French radio, today was some Dutch record store and tonight it’s Holland’s answer to the Eurovision song contest”
Fergal: “It’s also a lot more daunting now we have lost the naivety, that sort of protected us”
Mark: “Yeah without sounding pretentious, we have a lot more to lose now.”
Which band have been the best to support?
Mark: “I think it was the imaginary Joy Division gig I did in 1980!”
Fergal: “I don’t really care, I get so into what I’m doing that, I think lets blow them off stage, lets kick their arses they are shit!”
Mark: “We played with the Dandy Warholls in the summer and …. Um …. No I’m talking bollocks, that was shit really”
Hilary: “We did the tour with 13:Thirteen supporting us and we got on with them really well.”
And your favourite gig?
Mark: “It’s a shame there isn’t going to be a Glastonbury this year, that was sort of special for us last year ‘cos it was our first festival. We went into it expecting just loads of hippies and lentil burgers, which I suppose it was but we really got into it and became little hippies for the weekend”
(He’s obviously forgotten telling Channelfly last year that they were really glad to have been in a Hotel!)
Mark: “Witness was really good though, It was really successful and it’s going to be even bigger this year. Being the best band in Ireland we should get top billing”
What are your aims for this year and beyond?
Mark: “We don’t want to set ourselves objectives and say we will be doing this in x years and be here in y. We just want to carry on enjoying it and keep moving forward.
Do you think It’s A Sin to do cover versions? (…In response to recent reports that their next single will have a cover of The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘It’s a Sin’ on the B-side)
Mark: “Nice one. (sings) It’s A Sin, they have stopped us, record label stuff”
What about new material?
Mark: “We will release probably one more single off the album, we will be going back in the studio sort of August/September. Maybe have an album out for December/this time next year. But I don’t really want a huge gap so we may put out something in-between. We are going to hopefully have two or three new songs in the set for the NME Carling tour, so long as the rehearsals go well”
Reports state that your voice cannot put up with the way you sing, will it last the year?
Mark: “I lost my voice last year and I was really scared, but they got me this throat specialist, the one they found turned out to be Madonna’s! After a thorough examination I was told my vocal chords were in perfect condition, just tired. I also went to a voice coach and she was obsessed with humidifiers and shit like that. She asked me to play a song so I played her Oxygen and she said it was fine, then it came to the chorus and I thought she was going to have a blue fit! She made me do these exercises. I do try to do them when I’m on stage but as soon as I get into it they go out of the window and I go back to screeching!”
Can you play the tin whistle?
Mark: “No one does that any more except in darkest Dingle down the South West – oh, and the Corrs. That really gets my goat, like I am really proud of Ireland but they just wheel it out and bastardise it for their own commercial gain. Westlife’s video had them walking down ‘typical’ Irish Streets that really don’t exist anymore. They are playing up to a version of Ireland that is not there any more, realistically Dublin is like a little London. We are just West Brits.
So what do you think of Westlife?
Fergal: “Um very shite”
Hilary is quiet and the other two look at her accusingly. Mark saves her an interrogation on her previously reported dodgey musical tastes:
Mark: “So many Irish bands are stuck in the 90’s and regurgitating the same old pap”
What’s it like going back to Dublin to play?
Mark: “Playing the Olympia was really weird, it’s where we grew up and where I saw bands like Sonic Youth, Primal Scream…”
Fergal: “Yeah that was a brilliant buzz”
Were you surprised at the huge response?
Mark: “Yeah and no, I was surprised that we could have sold twice as many tickets.”
And that sums JJ72 up, confident in what they have got to offer whilst not letting their success go to their heads. They are coming to terms with what they have achieved so far and I am sure if they can keep their combination of high energy and level headed approach this year will see them sell out many more performances and hopefully deliver us an excellent follow up album.