Matt Clark: Gary, welcome to Australia. What do you think of the place?
Gary Og: It’s a great place. Good fun and great weather. Obviously I’ve not seen a lot of it because I’ve been playing, but I’ve certainly enjoyed my time here. It’s certainly a lot warmer than back home.
MC: How did you come about touring Australia?
GO: Well I guess I’m easy enough to track down. The boys sent me a couple of emails and persevered with me and eventually I made my way out.
MC: Where in Glasgow are you from?
GO: I’m from the South side of town, the Gorbals area. Traditionally it’s been a huge Irish community, maybe not so much anymore, but certainly in the past. Many people who were just off the boat from Ireland in the past, settled in the Gorbals.
MC: Obviously the majority your songs are of a republican nature. At what age did you form these political opinions? Were you influenced by your parents?
GO: Um, actually I wasn’t influenced so much by my family. It was more by pure chance. As I went along I just started opening my eyes to certain things, I was probably around 16 years of age. I went to Belfast a lot of times when I was younger and I saw a lot of things there. Also, I was involved in Eire Og (his former band) and one step led to another.
MC: Who are your musical influences?
GO: Bob Dylan for sure. Basically lots of guitar folk bands. Paul Brady, Christy Moore, Deccy McLaughlan. I’ve got a large collection of Dylan albums. I think he’s brilliant. MC: I’ve read on the internet that you travel almost monthly to Ireland. What are your favourite parts to visit?
GO: I don’t actually get across as much as I’d like to, or as much as I did in the past. When I was involved in Eire Og I’d get across monthly because we were playing a lot of gigs there. I love the North, Belfast and Derry especially. I certainly like visiting Derry, it’s a wee bit more relaxed.
MC: You’ve already played a gig in Sydney, a couple of days ago. How did that go? Was the crowd mostly made up of Scots and Irish or were there Australians as well?
GO: There were plenty of Aussies there actually. The gig went well. About 600 folk came out to support, which is fantastic. We had a great night, the crowd was enthusiastic and seemed to be having a great time. I think we set the record for most bar sales that night as well!
MC: (Laughs) I dare say they’d like to get you back then!
GO: (Laughs) Hopefully!
MC: What part, if any, do you believe Australians can play in Ireland’s struggle?
GO: Bobby Sands said ‘Everyone republican or otherwise, has their part to play’. I think if people just take the time to find out what’s going on in Ireland, to see what’s happened and still happens over there, that would be fantastic. Just basically becoming aware of what goes on, opening their eyes and just finding out a little more.
MC: What do you think of the IRA decommissioning and turning in its weapons?
GO: I think it was inevitable really at some point. I’m not a huge fan of the IRA surrendering its weapons. It reminds me of the story with the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and the American general, who said to Villa: ‘give me your gun and I’ll give you this gold watch.’ So Villa gave him his gun and the American gave him his watch. As soon as the American had the gun he pointed the gun at Villa and got the watch back! Once you give up your weapons you’re at a serious disadvantage. But I think that you also have to explore every possible option, which is what they’ve done.
MC: Do you have faith in Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein, that they will be able to create a lasting peace and to end Britain’s occupation of the North?
GO: I have faith in them, absolutely. I think they’ll try everything in their powers to get Britain out of Ireland. These are people which have devoted their entire lives to the struggle. I don’t think for a minute that they’re sell outs. Whether or not it will happen, well, we will just have to wait and see. But certainly I think they’ll be giving it their best shot! MC: Which 3 songs would you most like to be remembered by?
GO: Gee, that’s a tough one! Wow, ummm. I guess I’m most well known for ‘Go On Home British soldiers’. I think that’s the song people most associate with me. As for the other two’ hopefully I can add two more in the future and hopefully I can write them as well!
MC: Gary, thanks for taking the time to talk to me this evening. Good luck with the gig!
GO: No problems at all, Matt. I hope you enjoy the show.
Gary Óg and Declan McLaughlin are two singer-songwriters, from Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively, who are making the lengthy flight to Australia to spread their folk rebel anthems.
The musical passion of both troubadours was cultivated from a young age. “My earliest memory of music was my ma playing Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, which was very influential and has stuck with me for life,” Gary remembers.
“While I take influence from the usual suspects such as Christy Moore, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits, the greatest influence came from my surroundings,” McLaughlin adds. “There’s a great tradition of music in my family, and of course in Ireland there’s always musicians playing sessions.”
The political landscape in Scotland and Ireland provides a constant source of subject matter for both McLaughlin and Óg.
“I don’t consider my songs overtly political, but I find it near impossible not to write about the day-to-day challenges facing ordinary people from my community,” McLaughlin says. “In the past, I have been branded as this or that by the media because of my involvement with groups engaged in the social and economic regeneration of Northern Ireland. As a musician, I think it’s hard to draw a line between what drives you in your daily existence and performing.”
“A few years ago Glasgow was the rebel music heartland of the world,” Gary Óg recalls. “But then politicians criminalised the music and branded everyone involved ‘sectarian’. I don’t feel I have to justify myself in this regard though, as that was never the case. However I have a particular set of beliefs regarding the music of struggle and I’m unapologetic about those beliefs. So expect me to say what I mean and mean what I say, regardless of who might disagree – or deport me for it!”