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Baker's Dozen

Songs Of Praise: David Keenan's Baker's Dozen
Jennifer Lucy Allan , December 2nd, 2020 09:46

Jennifer Lucy Allan hears about high-fiving Edgar Froese, frightening the neighbours, disavowing the devil and how Scottish author David Keenan is all about saying yes. Portrait by Heather Leigh.


The Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and The Lash
'Body Of An American' was a big influence on For The Good Times, it's so accurate about an Irish wake, it's totally what happened at my dad's wake. I told you my mum is Protestant and my dad was Irish Catholic. So when my dad died all his brothers came over to the house and my mum was sitting on her own in the kitchen getting progressively more annoyed, because it was raucous. The Irish men in my family shouldered this kind of archetypal role, to shepherd us through suffering. We were all absolutely distraught because my father died very suddenly, but as we were all really struggling, the brothers were so strong and so funny. It was non-stop jokes, then there'd be a song with this real falsetto, warbling style – way too much vibrato. They're all standing up giving these songs and my mum comes in and says ‘do we really think this is the way we should be behaving? A little bit too much hilarity in here?’ and walks off. But I thought: this is exactly how we should be behaving. 

The debauchery of The Pogues stands in total contrast to your mum's religious leanings.

There's an exuberant joy in life there. Joy in debauchery, heartbreak, always bringing an affirmative energy, even to heartbreak. It's about being up for it. I'm out for heartbreak, I'm out for suffering, I'm out for difficulties, I'm out for love, I'm out to say yes. I'm in for all of it. The Pogues captured that energy that Irish people can deliver a story with, the exuberance in language, and the tragi-comic sense of themselves. When I wrote For The Good Times a lot of it's pretty laugh out loud funny, a lot of it's sick humour. You might say what the fuck is funny about the Troubles, but these are survival mechanisms. Humour itself is a survival mechanism. I think you can judge how healthy your culture is by how much of an ability it has to laugh at itself.