Irish punk rock legends The Mahones are set to release 'The Very Best: 25 Years of Irish Punk,' a compilation of their greatest hits from the last 25 years - in which they have inspired countless musicians. We had the chance to talk with Finny McConnell about the album, The Mahones appearance at The George Street Festival in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, and everything in-between.
Crowdsurf Central: You recently recorded a new version of "Ghost of a Whiskey Devil," what can you tell me about the song?
Finny McConnell: Ghost Of A Whiskey Devil is a very special song for me. I wrote it about my late and dear friend Barry Williams. He was pretty much my musical mentor as a kid. He got me into all of the best Irish artists and bands like Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, The Undertones, Horslips and Stiff Little Fingers etc. He loved Irish music, and he was from Dublin like me. He played in many bands and I met him while his was playing with a band in my parents' Irish bar called Muldoon's, and from then, went on to become life long friends.
It was Barry who convinced me to form The Mahones for a one-off St. Patrick's Day show (he played drums) in his Irish pub in Kingston, Canada called The Toucan. The gig went over so well that here we are 25 years later. I miss him all the time and think of him pretty much every day, so I wrote this song as a tribute to him. He passed away about 10 years ago back home in Ireland. His son, Kevan Williams, played bass with The Mahones from time to time, and is a dear friend. I love singing this song and remembering all of the great times we had together.
Crowdsurf Central: What went into selecting the tracks for "The Very Best: 25 Years Of Irish Punk?"
Finny: We pretty much went with the songs we were performing live on The Hunger & The Fight world tour (2014 / 2015). We did mainly fan favourites and a few new songs on that tour, so when we finished the tour in December 2015, we went straight into Telejet Recording Studio in Toronto and recorded about 40 songs (there is another acoustic best of album coming out next year). We were so tight from touring that most of these songs were recorded on the first take. I really love these new versions. I think I may even like them better than the originals!
Crowdsurf Central: How does it feel to know that you inspired a generation of new Irish punk rockers?
Finny: Absolutely honoured. Anytime anyone says that they're influenced by The Mahones, I'm grateful and humbled. When we started, there wasn't very much out there at the time as far as the genre goes - I remember that there were The Pogues, The Waterboys, Black 47 and The Rogues March in 1990. We were kind of pioneering the new Irish punk scene and I do remember the "Celtic scene" and "Irish folk scene" not liking us very much, but that just drove us to work even harder and take Irish music in a new and more punk direction. I think we achieved that and now I see there are hundreds of Irish punk or Folk punk bands all over the world these days, and it's wonderful. They even have new names for Irish punk now like folk punk, speed folk, and Celtic punk. It was very difficult to get gigs in the early days, but now the phone is always ringing, so I guess we did a good job.
Crowdsurf Central: You said The Ramones self-titled album was the best punk rock album ever. Why?
Finny: It really is the best punk album, as far as I'm concerned. The way they sang, played guitar, bass and drums was just so fast, so easy, and yet so perfect. You could learn how to play like that and you could learn how to write songs like that. It wasn't very hard, and it made you feel like you could do it too. They had the image and sound down perfectly. The first song on that album (Blitzkrieg Bop) is still one of the best punk songs of all time. Pure perfection by four punks from Queens, New York. I just love it! They've have always been a huge influence on me and The Mahones. Notice how close our names are...
Crowdsurf Central: Does it feel like it's been 25 years?
Finny: Not at all. Time flies when you're having fun! Playing in The Mahones is a dream job: I get to make records, tour the world, and I get to play guitar everyday. My talented and beautiful wife Katie Kaboom has been in the band for the past ten years, so we get to be together. I owe it all to our amazing fans and friends that have supported us for over 25 years! Here's to the next 25!
Crowdsurf Central: What are some of your best memories from the past 25 years?
Finny: There are so many stories that I am starting to forget some of them. I really need to write a book soon and document all of this stuff. We are actually making a Mahones documentary with a production company from Calgary, Alberta right, it's currently in the planning stages.
Hanging out with Shane MacGowan, Lemmy, Joe Strummer and Jake Burns are times I will never forget. Touring with Stiff Little Fingers and Dropkick Murphys was amazing. Playing huge festival all over the world to crowds from 5000 to 50,000 is a dream come true, and the list goes on and on. Writing The Mahones' magnum opus The Hunger & The Fight with my wife Katie Kaboom is my greatest achievement so far. I am very proud of that album. Having our song Paint The Town Red in The Fighter was a dream come true. Who would have thought they'd called us?! 15 albums and countless tours - it's what I always dreamed of doing, and now it's what I do. I am very lucky and I feel very blessed.
Oh yeah, here's a fun story: I met Marilyn Manson with my kid a few weeks ago in Toronto, and I said "God Bless" to him as I was leaving and shaking his hand. He looked at me with a really funny look on his face, and that's when I realized I had just blessed the dark lord himself! This is how us Irish say good-bye and we don't even think about it. Anyways, he burned a bible onstage at the show shorty after our meeting! Ha!
Crowdsurf Central: How was/are you looking forward to The George Street Festival in St. John's, Newfoundland?
Finny: The George Street Festival in St. John's, Newfoundland Canada was amazing. It is and will always be one of Canada's best festivals. George Street is like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It's all bars from top to bottom, and it's a non stop party. Newfoundlanders are some of the best people in Canada, and the world. They're unbelievably kind, and they love to party. We've done this festival twice now, and I can't wait to do it again. I would say, hands down one of the best festivals in the world!
Crowdsurf Central: What are you looking forward to most about the Irish Punk Brigade Tour?
Finny: I'm looking forward to playing some shows again and getting back onstage again. It's been a long time, and The Mahones haven't toured since last year. We took some time off to work in the studio, and get some long overdue rest from a few years of relentless touring. Things really took off when we did The Black Irish album, so we kept touring and recording to ride that wave of success. By the time we finished The Hunger & The Fight world tour, we were all exhausted and had various injuries from all the gigs and road work. Katie had to have five different surgeries this year, and has to take it easy for awhile, so we have stayed off the road. I think we've only done about 7 gigs this year, and Katie's only done about half of them. She won't be able to tour full time again until she is 100% healed, so we will only be doing a few short tours without her. She's getting better now, she is doing a few upcoming shows, and she'll be back full time by next year.
On the bright side, we now have Scruffy Wallace (he played with Dropkick Murphys from 2003-2015) back in the band, so that is very exciting for both us and the fans. The Mahones have never sounded better. Wait until you see the full line up together! We're pretty stoked for the upcoming year!