Revise Guy: Damian O’Neill is proving he’s refit for pupose with his latest LP (Photo: Rosa O’Neill)
The term ‘reluctant frontman’ seems to neatly describe unassuming Undertones guitar hero and songwriter Damian O’Neill.
Whatever bands he’s featured with over the years – not least fellow notables That Petrol Emotion and The Everlasting Yeah – he’s always been more than happy to let someone else take centre-stage, while he just gets on with doing his thing, be that with guitar, bass or keyboards.
Of course, he’s not alone in that reluctance to step forward. It seems to run in the family, judging by older brother John, also seemingly content just to write great songs then get someone else to belt them out (in his case including The Undertones’ entire late-’70s single output and seven of the first eight TPE singles before he left). And those are just the O’Neill brothers who went public (one of the other two, Vinny, was an Undertone before Damian, but opted to knuckle down to O-levels while his bandmates marvelled at wonderkid bro Dee – then 15 – actually owning an electric guitar, albeit a £14 Woolworth’s one, inviting him to join).
Between them they’ve come up with so many great songs, Damian’s best-known ditties not only including those memorable openers on the first two albums, Family Entertainment and More Songs About Chocolate and Girls, but also three singles co-written with Mickey Bradley – the band’s biggest hit, My Perfect Cousin, then It’s Gonna Happen and The Love Parade. And I’ll get back to the latter two shortly.
Busy as he’s been with The Undertones and The Everlasting Yeah this last decade, it seems we’ve not seen many of Damian’s songs aired, other than 2013 Record Store Day single, Much Too Late, for the former act, and the following year’s splendid solo 45, Trapped in a Cage/Love Makes the World Go Around (it wasn’t a AA-side, but both tracks deserve mentions). But a few months without shows of late have at last allowed Dee the chance to … erm, ‘Sit down, relax, and cancel all other engagements,’ putting heart and soul into a solo album … of sorts.
I say ‘of sorts’ because the sleeve title on this Dimple Discs wonder reads, ‘Damian O’Neill and the Monotones’ – something of a nod to Dee’s past live shows with brother John and Paul McLoone as The Semitones, apparently – and there’s a real band feel here. The multi-talented Sean O’Hagan (piano, backing vocals), Kev Hopper (electric saw), Brendan Kelly (Dee’s That Petrol Emotion and Everlasting Yeah bandmate, on additional bass) and Dave Hattee (drums, percussion, piano), are among those also featured, but it’s your main-man supplying all the guitar parts and doing the singing, while adding bass, organ, vibraphone, percussion, bells, toy glockenspiel and even Stylophone – all to great effect, on an album he co-produces with Stereolab’s Andy Ramsay (with extra mixing by Paul Tipler and mastering by Noel Summerville).
He’s not the only family member involved either, his daughter Rosa providing backing vocals as well as sleeve photography. And what a great LP cover it is, although Damian did come clean in a quality ‘retrosonic podcast’ with Steve Worrall at RetroMan Blog and reveal the design – put together by Bruce and Mary Brown at Arthole – was based on a 1967 easy-listening bestseller, channeling the spirit of a certain Waterford crooner on the wonderfully-titled Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently.
In some cases, it was a case of Damian cleaning up old demos at home in his loft in Peckham, South-East London, with the help of his GarageBand Apple Mac program on his laptop, at others cycling over to his co-producer’s Press Play studio in nearby Bermondsey.
The songs themselves are the accumulation of a few years’ work between other projects – spanning all his main groups in recent years, hence the Refit, Revise, Reprise title – and include reworked versions of five songs originally aired with The Undertones and That Petrol Emotion. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty more great Dee O’Neill songs still waiting to see the light of day, but these will do more than nicely for starters.
Master Class: Damian mastering the LP in Peckham with, from left, Noel Summerville, Paul Tipler and Andy Ramsay
As the blurb on his Pledge Music page has it – with a nod to Slade, I like to think – ‘There’s some old, new, borrowed and blue on this record. You’ll hear new songs and instrumental tracks guaranteed to thrill and melt your heart, plus Damian’s delved into his musical past and revamped selected self-penned Undertones/That Petrol Emotion songs too. It’s glam/stomp/dreamy pop, with a cascade of guitars, vibes, organ, bells and whistles.’
When I spoke to Damian, the album was about to be shipped out to the first ‘pledgers’, myself included …. not as if I hadn’t had a sneaky listen to the downloads first. And I was already loving it. Had that been the over-riding reaction?
“Yeah, most people who’ve heard it … although not many have so far. It’s early days. This week is pivotal. Most pledgers will be getting it, and then … fingers crossed. Let’s hope I’ll be getting positive reactions.”
A typical response, out of step with the hyperbole afforded by those of us who got in there quick. But I let that go. It seems, i suggest, that a lot of musicians are still trying to get their heads around the idea of Pledge Music and other crowd-funding platforms.
“Well, yeah, but as the Everlasting Yeah we did it to good effect. Raymond Gorman dealt with all that, and we raised £12,000, a little over our target figure. That was amazing. My thing’s not about targets though. It’s more about pre-sales. That’s why I’m not offering guitar lessons and all that.”
You’ve probably still got a few pledges to meet from last time, I suppose.
“Well, three years later, we still need to take people out for a curry. Isn’t that mad?”
We soon got on to another crowd-funded project I recently shelled out on, Pete Wylie’s impressive, superbly-named LP, Pete Sounds. Watch this space for something on that. In the meantime, though, talking of the seminal 1966 LP that inspired that title, there’s more than a hint of Dee’s appreciation of Brian Wilson on his own release.
“I guess you’re right, especially Angels in Tyrconnell Street and Everlasting Breath, both of which date from the ’90s.”
We’ll come to those fine numbers and the other 10 that grace Refit Revise Reprise right now, in a track by track appreciation of the album, running alongside Dee’s thoughts and explanations for tackling those compositions, starting with a re-imagining of the lead single from the Sharkey-era Undertones’ The Sin of Pride, an album which still divides fans 35 years after its release.
There’s no dipping your toes in when it comes to this LP, old Undertones fans like me plunged in head first with Damian’s fresh take on The Love Parade as the opener, sounding more like an outtake from Lenny Kaye’s feted Nuggets compilation of the first wave of US garage and psychedelica, from its Who-like guitar intro right through, including plenty of super-charged organ, Dee’s breath-of-fresh-air lead and backing vocals, and buzzing bass touches. Is this how you originally envisaged the song when you first shared it with the band in the early ‘80s?
“That track was written before The Undertones did it, written for The Wesleys, which was me, Mickey Bradley and Ciaran McLaughlin in this short-lived, ‘60s spoof band in 1982, when we weren’t doing much. We only played three or four shows. I was playing organ and we had these great names. I was Leslie Wesley, Ciaran was Elvis Wesley, and Mickey was Wesley Hunter. I recorded our shows on a crappy recorder. We played this pub in Derry twice, then the Orchard art gallery. I always loved that version – it’s faster, more snappy than The Undertones’ version, which I felt took away from the tune. I decluttered it, sped it up, and it’s more or less like The Wesleys’ version.”
It works really well. And much as I love 1983’s The Sin of Pride – an important stepping stone for me in musical terms, turning me on to so much more, not least The Isley Brothers and The Miracles from your choice of covers – I think the time’s come for you to go back and re-record the whole thing. Take out the ‘kitchen sink’ production, as you’ve described it, and try once more with songs like cast-aside bonus track Bittersweet.
“Well, remix it, yeah, get rid of all the … You’re right, strip it down … we could do, as well. If we really had that attention, a bit of money maybe to go into the studio, do it really quickly, spend maybe a week on it …”
Now there’s food for thought. And there’s not a duff track on that LP for my liking, including your songs. You just need to somehow bring the soul out a little more – forget the Celtic Soul Brothers, concentrate on the Derry City Soul Brothers. But I digress. I love the tremolo guitar touches on this version.
“Ah, that’s new, and it really works, as it does on Sweet ’n’ Sour. I always loved tremolo guitar. It’s there on Angels in Tyrconnell Street too. You can’t beat it.”
There are certainly some nice electric guitar flourishes on the mid-tempo, stomping Sweet ’n’ Sour, which I really love, with some glorious late-Petrols-like six-string moments in the closing stages.
“Yeah, some nice little guitar hooks, and that was all done up here in the loft, on my GarageBand program on my laptop, with cheap mic’s. When we got to the studio we made it a little better, but a lot of the album was done on the laptop. Instead of re-recording everything I wanted to keep as much of the originals as I could.”
So how close is Andy Ramsey’s studio to you?
“Ah, really close. He’s in South Bermondsey and I’m in Peckham. I’d cycle in every day. It only takes 20 minutes to get there.”
Damian first met Andy when he released his Trapped in a Cage single in 2013, The Everlasting Yeah doing their Anima Rising album in the same studio.
“It’s taken me two years really to put this all together, and it was very piecemeal. I’d be in for a few days then there’d be a few month’s gap, and so on. It’s very frustrating that it’s taken me so long.”
There’s also a delightful psychedelic middle-eight on Sweet ‘n’ Sour, further reminding me of this album’s Nuggets-like feel in places.
“Definitely, yeah. It’s got this sort of stompy thing going on.”
And you were a big glam-rock fan, weren’t you?
“Of course! All The Undertones were. Looking back at old interviews, we were always talking about T-Rex and Sweet and stuff in our formative years, listening to all those great singles.”
You’re in good company too. Listening to Bedazzler, the first single by Stag, Steve Mack’s band out in Seattle, I get the impression it’s time for a glam revival.
“Do you know, I didn’t even know about that until I made the video of the single and put it up on YouTube. Someone said, ‘It’s just like that Stag song. I thought, ‘What?’ I looked it up, and they were right – it’s really glam as well.”
Well, I suppose it makes sense. For one thing, you’re blokes of a certain age. Face facts.
“Yeah, I guess!”
There’s a nice video too, shot in a tunnel between Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. If you haven’t seen that, try this link.
The first of the former That Petrol Emotion songs reimagined here is Gnaw Mark, which seems less frenetic, more brooding, and definitely shorter than the 1990 version.
“Yeah, it was my song, and again I went back to the source and listened to the original four-track version of me doing that. It’s much slower and more like The Jesus and Mary Chain, with the tune kind of nicked from Sidewalking. But it’s much more sinister, my four-track version. When I listen to the Chemicrazy version I find it far too fast, and the key’s brought up for Steve’s voice. But what dates it most is the talking sample that goes on through it. It’s kind of like a Big Audio Dynamite, late-‘80s, early-‘90s thing.”
I have to say, I’m a fan of that version too. Perhaps I’m just a little time-dated. But your stripped-down version, including atmospheric one-note piano touches, is closer to 1986 TPE track, Mine, your somewhat quirky co-write with Steve Mack, tucked away on the It’s a Good Thing 12″. Did you write those tracks around the same time?
“Gnaw Mark was written in 1989, but Mine is a great track. I always loved that. There’s another thing – funny you should mention that – I’ve got the original four-track demo of that, and might do something with that as well.”
Well, you can’t beat a nice bit of wonky guitar and keyboard.
“Yeah! Raymond plays guitar on Mine, but it was my part. On the original there’s a lovely feel. The Petrols’ version is great though – I don’t think you could better it. It was an instrumental first, then Steve added the words, hence the co-credit.”
On my first listen to Someone Like You, I wrote on my notepad, ‘Understated rock’n’roll rumble,’ and when I tell Damian this, he laughs. I also mention that, despite the added vibes, bells and TPE menace, there’s a rather retro Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent or Johnny Kidd feel to the song.
“Yeah, it’s got that kind of lovely slap-bang guitar and rockabilly sound.”
And there are some neat, trademark Sympathy for the Devil-like ‘woo-woos’ late on, which I think you’ll find you’re legally obliged to provide now and again. We’ve written them into your rock’n’roll contract.
“Yeah, it’s very Petrols-y at the end, isn’t it.”
Maybe he should recruit Undertones fan Richard Hawley (who guested with the band on a couple of tracks in Sheffield last year) for his live band, I suggest. It would be right up his street. And when I suggest this, he tells me he should get a copy of the album to him via their mutual friend, fellow Belfast-born Candida Doyle, of Pulp fame.
So what about that further ‘Beach Boys at their most inventive’ number I mentioned earlier? The first thing I wrote down after hearing the delightful Everlasting Breath – other than a note about Stump star Kev Hopper’s impressive contribution on the saw – was ‘Brian Wilson’. But at the same time I can hear something of Ciaran McLaughlin’s equally-gorgeous Everything’s Beautiful from Anima Rising. I’m surprised in retrospect, I add, that he didn’t do the song with The Everlasting Yeah.
“I didn’t really even think about that. Perhaps there were just too many ‘everlastings’! But it was actually a demo from the Petrols days, and came out when Fireproof got re-released, as an extra bonus track, but just a demo.”
That was for the 2000 reissue of the band’s 1993 final LP, incidentally.
“We did record it for Fireproof, having various attempts, with Steve Mack singing, but it never really came out well, and it was always in the back of my mind to go back to it. I always knew it was one of my best songs. I had to do it again, and this time with just me singing.”
It’s interesting you say that. I really like your voice on this album, and particuarly on this track, but there are three or four songs where I can almost hear Steve singing and three or four others where I could potentially hear a female vocal. I get the idea you remain a reluctant frontman.
“Oh, definitely! Everyone’s been asking me about playing the album live, and I keep hesitating!”
Well, I think you should.
“I know, everyone’s saying that.”
At least get a band together to try and hide behind.
“Well, that’s what I’m going to try – get a band together, do rehearsals, at least attempt it. But it takes a lot of balls … even singing in the studio! This album, and singing in the studio, has made me realise just how difficult it is to be a singer and pull that off to make it good.”
Getting back to the song in question, I could also see Mickey Dolenz covering this on a follow-up to The Monkees’ lovely 2016 comeback LP, Good Times! And Sean O’Hagan’s atmospheric piano brings to mind Mickey Gallagher’s dreamy tinklings on Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ You’ll See Glimpses.
Talking of dreamy, we have a further ’60s-like instrumental delight next in Mundanian Dream before the needle reaches the middle and we’re turning over for part two. Softly lilting throughout, yet chock-full of emotion and reflection. Time flies, and it’s somehow been 17 years since Damian’s A Quiet Revolution LP for Alan McGee’s Poptones label, a fascinating collection of sample-led tracks, very filmic. There was also his No Flies on Frank EP three years earlier, with the track Moon Tide being picked up for 2000’s film adaptation of Hamlet, with a stellar cast led by Ethan Hawke in the title role, Damian rubbing shoulders on the soundtrack with The Birthday Party, Bob Dylan, Morcheeba, Primal Scream, Brahms, Liszt, Mahler and Tchaikovsky.
Which is all a very long way around of me saying that side one closer Mundanian Dream would sit very nicely on a film soundtrack.
“Well, it would be great for someone to pick up on one of the instrumentals, for instance.”
Who knows, maybe recognition could follow for a new genre, Film Noirs. And I’m guessing that’s Dee’s toy glockenspiel on there again.
“It is indeed, and that’s personally my favourite track on the record.”
Again, there’s that kind of Brian Wilson feel.
“There is, and I never get bored with that one. I love it. Again, that’s mainly all from the GarageBand program, but enhanced with the toy glock and that. It was always going to be an instrumental. And the actual guitar riff – I remember coming up with it, then thinking, ‘This must be me copying something or plagiarising somebody’. But for the life of me, to this day, I can’t place it.”
Answers on a postcard, pop kids. Meanwhile, there are some distinctive touches on this track and Everlasting Breath from guest artist Sean O’Hagan. I seem to recall seeing his breakthrough act, Microdisney – and what a band they were – supporting That Petrol Emotion at some stage in the late ’80s. Did you get to know him well then?
“I didn’t really know Sean too well, other than to say hello. It wasn’t really until I moved to the East Dulwich and Peckham area that we got to know each other better.”
For no apparent reason, it’s taken me a while to properly catch up with his next band, The High Llamas, but – albeit a little late – I’m loving their material. And I shouldn’t be surprised, judging by my appreciation of all those glorious Microdisney tunes and hooks.
“The High Llamas were really under-rated, and Sean’s a musician’s musician. He’s so good, great for harmonies and arrangements, and great to have around in the studio to help out. He puts me to shame with chords and musical knowledge.”
Dee’s Inspiration: Gently did it for Val Doonican
Starting side two in style we have Just Wanna Be With You, which to me is nothing short of glorious, and relatively-simple, three-minute pop, with searing guitars, gorgeous harmonies and a melody to marvel at.
“Yeah, and that’s the most Undertones-like song, I guess.”
I hadn’t really thought about that, but yes. And your voice works really well on there.
“That’s good! I agonised for months and months over that and kept changing the tune to the verse. The chorus is great and really uplifting, but the words were really trite and I kept changing them, and was never happy until finally I had a deadline and had to do it. I still think it could have been better, but …”
Funny you should say that. I think Damian O’Neill of say 20 or 30 years ago may have worked a bit too hard there, ensuring there was deeper political meaning behind the track.
But the best songs are sometimes just the less cluttered ones.
“Well, exactly. With this one I knew it was a good tune for a long time, but … I nearly brought it in for The Undertones to do, actually, for a new Record Store Day song, then decided to keep it for myself.”
There’s no reason why it couldn’t be slotted into the band’s set. In fact, that’s the case for a couple of these songs, not least your version of The Love Parade.
“We actually do a mean version of The Love Parade now, compared to what it was.”
I agree, but it would be nice to give Paul a rest, let him shake a tambourine while you sing it. And while the glock and vibes suggest more poppy ’60s moments from The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed would have made a good fist of this too, I reckon), it’s also something I heard from mid- to late-’80s indie-pop bands like The Primitives. Actually, it brings to mind one of my favourite tracks by them, 1988’s Carry Me Home, sung by their guitarist, PJ Court. But back to Damian, and if you’re looking for a second single for the album, I’m recommending this (to paraphrase that Michael Bradley fella).
Seeing as he mentioned The Undertones there, Much Too Late is a song I’ve heard live from them a few times, and was released to mark Record Store Day in 2014. But once again, his version here suggests a little more of that garage/underground ‘60s psychedelic feel.
“Again, it was a case of going back to the original demo, slightly slower with a more shuffly, rockabilly feel about it. I was listening to a lot of Holly Golightly ‘90s material, and wanted a song like that. And I really like the words.”
And who could resist those bells? Lovely. But hang on – two minutes and it’s all over, short and succinct. I’m all for that, yet felt it was a false ending and was just waiting for him to come back … if only for another couple of bars.
“Do you know what – that’s funny, I should have! I regret it now.”
Dee Notes: Damian O Neill, for whom there’s no time like the Noir time (Photo: Rosa O’Neill)
I’m guessing No Time like the Noir Time was borne out of your time with the rock’n’roll band you were planning to play shows with when we spoke back in November 2014 (with a link to that feature here).
“That’s exactly it. You got it in a nutshell – you know more about it than me! I had that as an instrumental when I tried to get The Noirs together, which didn’t actually happen. But I still felt that was a great name for a band, so used it as a title instead. And there’s a song on the Nuggets compilation called No Time Like the Right Time (by The Blues Project).”
There’s a nice Stranglers-like feel too (and not just because of Dee’s approximation of Dave Greenfield on stylophone, but also his Hugh Cornwell-like low vocal hum), maybe again borne out of that appreciation of a Joe Meek kind of sound. And for me, there’s also an element of ‘show opener’ about the track. It’s as if the band are announcing their arrival and waiting for the lead singer to step out on stage, only realising a couple of minutes in that he’s already there, and just happens to be hiding behind his guitar.
”Do you know, I even thought about putting that up as the first track on the record. I was so close to doing that, But Brendan persuaded me to do The Love Parade instead.”
I can see that both ways, but still ssee this as the song that would draw people away from the bar and get them down the front.
“Well, if I do get this band together and play it live, I’ll definitely do that first. It would make sense to get the sound right, give the sound-man time to adjust volumes. I think that’s a great idea.”
So how about Angels in Tyrconnell Street, a thing of great beauty and another highlight for me on this impressive album. And it’s really evocative of …. well, something. Tell us more, Damian.
“I did an instrumental demo of that track in the mid-‘90s, giving it to Raymond (Gorman) during his Wavewalkers era. He added a melody and we called it Higher Grace. We demo’d it but never put it out, so it kind of languished for a bit.
“Then I re-did it for another project I was involved with, X.Valdez, a short-lived project with an English girl singer. We went to Paris with this French producer and did that and Everlasting Breath. It did actually get a release on a small label, but not many people know about it.
“About a year ago, when I was recording the new songs and some old stuff, I thought I’d listen back and felt if I enhanced it and took away the added melody completely … I always loved the harmonies and the feel of it, so we copied it over from the original, and it was all there, basically. All I added was a wee bit of guitar, while some friends who happened to be there in the studio did a bit of piano and I added toy glockenspiel. That seemed to give it a new lease of life.”
And the title? The song suggests some form of spiritual awakening, but it also seems rather geographically-specific. I did a little research and see that address is part-way between your old family home and Undertones base and Derry City FC’s Brandywell home.
“Basically, it’s the street where I grew up, before we moved to Beechwood Avenue. I was born in Belfast but we moved back to Derry in around 1966 and lived in Tyrconnell street until 1970. I just loved the name. Tyrconnell was an Irish kingdom, and I wanted something Irish in the record, and there’s that ethereal feel of the angels … It’s about going back to your childhood.”
High Octane: That Petrol Emotion Mk.I, from the left, Ciaran, John, Steve, Damian, Raymond
Then we have one more contrast with penultimate track, Don’t Let Me Down, a far more frantic yet slow-building, broody number, as close as we get to krautrock here, I guess, and yet also including some lovely harmonies, so perhaps more Sparks-like – and it seems to be you harmonising with yourself.
“It is. And yes, that song’s different from anything else on the record.”
I wasn’t sure where you were going with it at first, but that kind of adds to the sense of anticipation, the song borne out of that deceivingly-monotonous beginning section, darkness seemingly leading to light and ultimate inspiration, with more than a few swirling moments of electronica en route.
“That’s true. And I think you can definitely hear Wire in the middle section … and a bit of Buzzcocks, with the bass.”
Yep. I hadn’t thought of that, but spot-on. And what’s not to love there? Furthermore, that’s clearly Damian on bass. Having seen him live many times in the early days of That Petrol Emotion, it seems to be a distinctive style. Brendan Kelly was involved on two tracks here, but that’s clearly Dee. And it would make for a perfect last song once he gets this band together as a live act.
Finally, Compulsion is another reimagining of a song previously tackled by That Petrol Emotion in 1990, and a fitting, rather reflective way to end the album.
“Yes. Compulsion on Chemicrazy is really, really good, but I borrowed John’s old four-track and was playing some old cassettes when that original demo came on, and felt, ‘Wow!’
This one seems to be more pared-down than the recorded version, but I kind of like that whole raw quality, Damian’s arguably-stretched, top-of-range vocal really working.
“It was, and it was just before we went to the masters stage and I felt I wanted to put this on. It was a bit hissy, but we cleaned it up a little, keeping the original guitar and vocals, which are a wee bit out of tune, but it doesn’t matter – if I redid the vocals it would have ruined it. So we kept it as it was, and there’s a lovely innocence and charm …”
But that’s not quite everything. There’s an added extra on the vinyl version’s play-out that Undertones fans will love – a snippet of Damian introducing It’s Gonna Happen to his bandmates for the first time.
“Yes, and get this, that was 1980 or 1981. It was supposed to be on the LP and CD, but didn’t end up on the CD, as our mastering engineer thought I didn’t want it on there. So I’m afraid you have to buy the vinyl!”
Oddly enough, hearing that took me back to my own garage band days. In my case, we never actually left the garage, but made a couple of rough demos, and listening to that I get the impression we weren’t so far off. No offence, but it’s pretty rudimentary. And I almost sense your embarrassment at introducing the song for the first time to your bandmates.
“And that’s what it was like back then. For me it was always a case of, ‘Will they like this?’ But it’s a lovely little thing for Undertones fans.”
Band Substance: The Undertones – Billy Doherty, Paul McLoone, John O’Neill, Damian O’Neill, Mickey Bradley.
So there you go, and will Damian be playing live with The Undertones again soon?
“We’re having a bit of a sabbatical. Billy (Doherty, drums) wasn’t well over Christmas, and is still recovering now. We were due to do some European shows in May but have rescheduled them for autumn. We were also set to do a UK tour at that stage, but that’s been postponed to the following year. We’re at the mercy of Billy really.
“But that at least gives me the chance to completely concentrate on this … so I’ve no excuse not to do it live!”
Meanwhile, while you’ve taken a break from touring, love for The Undertones remains strong, and BBC Four marked the St Patrick’s Day weekend by re-screening the wonderful 2012 Chris Wilson/BBC Northern Ireland documentary on the band (if you’re quick enough and in the right area you should still find it on the BBC iPlayer).
“Yeah, that was great. I hadn’t seen that since we made it. I watched it with my family, and I’d forgotten how good it was.”
Well, there aren’t so many bands from that late -’70s era who can boast two great documentary films about them, bringing into consideration Vinny Cunningham’s equally-exquisite Teenage Kicks – The Story of The Undertones documentary film from 2001.
“Exactly – two great films!”
You mentioned Billy Doherty (get well soon, Billy), while Paul McLoone and Michael Bradley remain busy with radio commitments between live engagements. But what about brother John? What’s he up to right now?
“John’s actually working on another project at home in Derry … well, it’s been on-going for some years now. He’s back with Locky Morris, as with Rare.”
Ah, now we must be due a new album there. The only one I’ve got is 1998’s peoplefreak (including guitar from Damian on one track).
“It’s similar, but this time Locky’s mostly singing, and they’re set to play live in Derry … and that’s a big deal. They haven’t played live in … But they still haven’t come up with a decent name. They need a good project band name!”
Again, I add, answers on a postcard please.
Reprise Asset: Damian O’Neill, on the record with The Monotones (Photo: Rosa O’Neill)
To find out more about Damian O’Neill and the Monotones’ Refit, Revise, Reprise, and how to order a copy, follow this link. Furthermore, Damian has now secured a distribution deal with independent label Shellshock to give the album a later, wider release, making it available in certain record shops.