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Spider Stacey Of The Pogues Interviewed
The Quietus , December 13th, 2013 06:16

Nathan Mcilroy talks to Spider Stacey about New Orleans, the Irish diaspora and Russell Brand

The Pogues are due to embark on a mini tour this Sunday playing Rum, Sodomy & The Lash in full. Nathan Mcilroy catches up with Spider Stacey before they set off.

You live in New Orleans at the minute. What prompted you to move over there?

Spider Stacy: We’d always had an idea of getting a place somewhere in America. The usual suspects; New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles but if you live in London and think about moving somewhere like New York, you’re almost swapping somewhere like for like. We came here in 2009 and it just felt right. It’s got a unique quality that suits us.

I read about you playing the Voodoo festival there in 2009. Was that one of the more eventful gigs you’ve played?

SS: It was yeah. Shane went missing for the best part of a day beforehand and things just escalated and got a bit out of hand. It was just one of those aberrations that crops up every now and again. Nothing bad happened it just could have been a little more controlled [laughs] and we were worried. This place has got a reputation which is deserved in some respects and then in other respects blown completely out of proportion.

You’ve moved to downtown New Orleans post Katrina. Has the community spirit prevailed?

SS: I think there are a lot of people who still feel that the government really did behave in a particularly reprehensible manner after Katrina. They certainly didn’t cover themselves in glory and there are a lot of people who feel very resentful. Having said that, it’s a very resilient city and people don’t really let it bog them down. When you consider the population after Katrina went down to around 60,000, it’s now back up to around 350,000 and it was about 500 pre storm. Its spirit is one of the things about New Orleans that’s very apparent.

You’ve appeared in David Simon’s Treme with Steve Earle. Is there any more acting that you’d like to do?

SS: Yeah. There’s a lot of films and TV being made down here, in Louisiana in general. They get very generous tax breaks so the movie industry down here is pretty big. I’d love to do more stuff.

Are you not slightly jealous that Shane is going to be on Coronation Street this Christmas singing in the Rovers Return?

SS: I am a little jealous. I think he deserves Coronation Street, I think he’s earnt it so I’m happy to let him have that.

'Body Of An American' is quite a popular motif in The Wire, played at the policeman’s wakes of which there are many in the show. Do you think Irish Americans are sometimes more obsessed with heritage than their European counterparts?

SS: It’s pretty hard for me to answer that really because I’m not Irish but I could hazard a guess. I think it’s the distance. When people were leaving Ireland, particularly in the 1840s and 50s and throughout the 19th Century - as far as they were concerned they’d left and Ireland was gone. I think it’s very different from people who may have moved lock, stock and barrel to Britain but you’re never really 300 miles away wherever you are whereas here you’re an ocean and a continent away. There’s such a sort of severance.

I read an article written by James Fearnley [Pogues accordionist] last month. It was the 25th anniversary of the Thatcher administration issuing the broadcast ban. Your song 'Birmingham Six' was banned on the premise it could incite terrorism. How did that make you feel at the time?

SS: I remember feeling a bit bemused that Channel 4 had cowed down so willingly to a government directive. I felt on the whole it was nonsensical obviously. You couldn’t have for example Gerry Adams’ voice reading a statement but you could have an actor reading Gerry Adams’ words. It just seemed completely ludicrous anyway but I also felt that I didn’t see how that song fell under that remit. It’s a song talking about people locked up for something everyone pretty much knew they hadn’t done. It’s not inciting terrorism to point out when an injustice has been committed.

It’s quite scary how the crackdown on free speech has become more subtle and sophisticated.

SS: It’s entirely depressing. [Like] the treatment being meted out to Russel Brand at the moment.

I've warmed to him a lot since his appearance on Newsnight

SS: I think he’s everything he says. It comes from a place of honesty. It’s just common sense really. I don’t think there’s any need to analyse him. He really is just stating the bleeding obvious. There’s some real steel there. There has to be to do what was done. Anyone who’s dealt with addiction and come out of the other side so strongly has gotta have something inside them that will not break very easily.

My first Pogues gig was at the Manchester Gmex with Billy Bragg supporting. Do you think there are any modern political bands in the lineage of Bragg or The Pogues that are active now?

SS: I know there are. It’s kind of under the surface, underground and unpublicised. I think there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t front page news. A lot of people are getting very active and organized. There is this realisation that things are pretty fucked, that there’s no one speaking for anybody. If you want anything done, people are realising they need to do it themselves. British politics is just a self-electing club that we’re shut out of and people are prepared to do something about it. I think the way that politics is developing in South America and potentially Africa is very interesting. Certainly in South America where you have these governments that are distinctly left of centre and are far more representative of the countries indigenous populations than previously might have been the case. People are realising that you don’t have to tie yourself to the Western Capitalist model or indeed to the Maoist, Stalinist view of communism. All that awareness, spirit and energy is being reflected in music. Something’s going on and that’s all tied up together with music.

There’s been a seismic change in the way we consume music. There is no money.

SS: It’s geared towards maximizing profit and although it was always its raison d’etre it used to be a more sprawling messy affair where it was easier for the misfits and mavericks to squeeze through the cracks. There was an outlet for them. Now, really you have to find that yourself. It’s difficult to be doing that and making a living. Before there might have been a situation where a label knew you might not make them much money but having you on the rosta made them look better. Anton Newcombe put a statistic online; over 90% of digital music released in 2011 sold less 1000 copies. That’s the reality young bands are facing.

Finally, as well as The Pogues you’ve played music with Steve Earle, Patti Smith, the Dropkick Murphys and numerous others. Have there been any that have stood out for you?

SS: I’m gonna say the So So Glows, a punk band from Brooklyn who are fucking excellent. They’re coming to Britain next year. Also, Sparrow and the Workshop from Glasgow are a great band.

The Pogues will be performing their seminal album Rum, Sodomy & The Lash in full on the following dates this December:

Sun 15 - Manchester Apollo
Tue 17 - Glasgow Academy
Thu 19 - Brixton Academy
Fri 20 - Brixton Academy

The 30 Years Box Set is out now