Concerto for Constantine Interview – Rock returns to Ireland
If ever there was a night in my life I should have been prepared for, this was it. An exclusive interview with one of Irelands newest and most exciting groups ‘Concerto for Constantine’ and (as I discovered later), their first since forming last August. The band comprises of Mark Greaney (Vocals, Guitar and formally of JJ72), Gavin Fox (Bass and formally of Turn, Idlewild and Vega4) and Paul ‘Binzer’ Brennan who was played drums for Mundy, The Frames and BellX1 among many other’s. To say the prospect of sitting down with Concerto, at such an early stage of their career, is exciting would be an understatement and topped with it being their first interview (Minus Binzer) made it all the more special.
However, half way through the dart journey into town, I discovered that the trusted blank tape in my recorder, that was supposedly sitting idle for the last eight or nine months, was missing. The notion of doing this interview by shorthand did not sound appealing, so once in town I went on the search for these relics of the 80’s and 90’s. After several unsuccessful attempts I finally found MoJo records in temple bar, was open. I managed to purchase a very rare album entitled ‘Goodbye Diana, I’m tired of climbing mountains’. I’m sure this album was very special to someone at some stage and will soon be on the crest of a new wave that will forever change music as we know it, tonight however, It would serve as the first official introduction to Ireland’s newest hope for an Rock N’ Roll, When I finally arrived, ‘Goodbye Diana’ ready to go, Mark informed me that Gav was running late, so we ordered drinks and had a chat. After awhile Mark told me Concerto had been given the support spot for the Smashing Pumpkins Dublin and Belfast shows. ‘A dream come true’ in Mark’s words, who came very close to supporting Zwan when they toured Europe, however faith stood in the way, only to give him his chance again.
Once Gavin arrived, we settled in for a night of rock stories, memories that all revolved around Def Leppard, types of wood and Walkers crisps. Not to mention a few questions thrown into the mix.
· How did Concerto for Constantine come about?
Mark – Myself and Gavin have known each since for years and we were always saying ‘Oh we have to form this band or that band’ basically that we had to play music at some stage together.
Gavin – Even, Mark at one stage hinted that I might join JJ72 and play guitar on tour with them, but at the time Turn had just formed and were kicking off and JJ72 worked well as a three piece. Eventually the chance came up when I left Vega4. Mark was in New York working on his solo album and I gave him a call and said ‘Let’s do this, lets form a rock band now’.
Mark – Gavin got Binzer to come down to the first rehearsal and I had never met him but I knew as soon as I heard him play he was right, perfect for the band.
· Are any of you working on anything else at the moment or, are all your energies invested into this group?
Mark – Well I was working in New York last summer on my solo material when I got the call from Gav. I was doing a lot of writing and trying to capture a different sound from rock but at the same time, not appearing like a singer songwriter. When Gavin called and said he was freed up, I thought ‘well, my solo material will always be there and I should do this now while there’s a chance.
Gavin – I had left Vega4 just a few months before I called Mark. Binzer is still working with Mundy, BellX1, The Frames and loads more, but a lot of them aren’t touring at the moment so he had the time to start this with us.
· What do you want to achieve from this group, are you aiming for the top, or do you just want to and enjoy yourself without any pressures?
Mark – I think we’re realistic in what we expect to achieve from this group. Off course we want to be a big band, but our main aim is to play in front of a lot of people. To get out there to the biggest crowds we can. I see a lot of bands out there and think stage presence has begun to slip away from newer groups. When I go to a show, I want to rock out and get blown away by a live performance. We are playing music I’ve always loved and I want to play that music for big crowds.
Gavin – I don’t know if what we do is capable of hitting the type of masses it used to, but you see acts like Queens of the Stone Age and they’ve managed to keep growing in popularity despite very little involvement with the ‘mainstream’. It shows that it is possible. I’d just hope we do get as much out of this as we can.
· Mark, you originally found fame with JJ72, Binzer has played with almost every established band in Ireland like Bell X1, The Frames and Mundy, and Gavin, you started your career 10 years ago in Turn, before moving onto Idlewild and then Vega4. Would it be unjust to call Concerto for Constantine an Irish indie Super Group?
Gavin – Yeah, because it’s kind of embarrassing. When you look at super groups out there you notice that in general, they don’t come close to the quality of their original bands. This can lead to bad name for the band before they get a chance to show what they have to offer. We’ve all been in bands, but not on the level of Rage Against the Machine merging with Soundgarden. Almost all musicians play in loads of groups before hitting it big.
· Concerto for Constantine recently went out on the road around the country to play your first shows on the ‘2FM 2MOROR 2OUR’. How did you go down with the crowd?
Gavin – The first show in the Sky Venue, Portlaois, was a bit shaky. It was our first live performance together and it didn’t come together on the night. After that everything started to get better and the people at the shows seemed to really like us and the type of music we’re doing.
Mark – I think the really satisfying thing about it, is that we are doing something that was really unexpected, Rock bands aren’t really out there any more, (and As the tour went on) You could see the crowd’s faces just go Huh! Really surprised looks and then they would get really into it. There was this feeling of ‘Brilliant an Irish Rock band’
· Which do you think was the best show?
Gavin – Ballyshannon (Co. Donegal and birthplace of Rory Gallagher) was pretty special.
Mark – Ballyshannon was mad, really great. We played in this converted cinema and it was great fun.
· I have to ask this, but how did you come up with the name of the band?
Gavin - Well, we needed a name really quickly because we had been offered a place on the 2FM 2MORO 2OUR.
Mark - We were confirming the details and they asked ‘what’s the name of the band’ because they were doing up posters for the tour, so I said yeah it’s ready…I’ll call ya back in a couple of Hours’.
Gavin – So I started looking through I Tunes at names of songs for some ideas. Eventually I came to the classical section and I saw a title ‘Concerto for…’ It sounded cool, so I told Mark and he completed it using a name from a dream his mother had just a week previously. So Concerto for Constantine was born.
· Obviously you guys are in early stages with this group and you’re still finding your feet, but have you any immediate plans for 2008? Will we see material released or will you spend some time collecting a fan base first?
Gavin – Well we have some shows coming up in February. We’re supporting the Smashing Pumpkins in Dublin and Belfast, the Futureheads in Sligo and we’re playing our own show in Fibber McGee’s on the 22nd February. Hopefully those shows will attract some new fans and some industry attention.
· Are you going to try and release a single or an EP at all?
Gavin – We’re recording a song at the moment and we’re going to do it to a really high quality and release that as a single and make a video for it. At the moment there’s nothing out there for us with regard to radio, apart from a session we did for 2FM.
Mark – We want to make a record as soon as we can. If a label steps in and offers a producer that we want to work with, it’ll just make things move along faster.
· So what is your opinion of the current state of Irish Music? Do you feel the music you guys are writing is still relevant today?
Mark – I think the thing about bands that do something special is, initially their not relevant to the whole ‘what makes a band good’ definition of their time. I personally feel really exhilarated doing this, from our very first rehearsal I thought, that this was something different, something special that I haven’t heard in Irish bands in a long time.
Gavin – There was a scene in Dublin in the 90’s, like now, where every band is following one major influence. You can’t blame anyone for this because it’s those influences that inspire people to start bands in the first place. We were into bands like Nirvana and the Pixies and we started bands because of that. The difference is, we’re still into that music and haven’t been as inspired by the newer groups in the same way as The Pixies.
It’s also great to look around at other bands and think ‘Wow, we’re the only ones doing this’.
· You both come from very successful groups who have played all around the world. Between you, you have toured with The Rolling Stones, The Pixes, R.E.M and countless others. Is it hard adjusting from that life style back to basics?
Gavin – Not really, I miss it, I want to record and tour all the time. When I left Vega4 I started to get withdrawals from not being on the road and that was hard but then we started up Concerto and its building back up again and it’s something to look forward to and get excited about.
Mark – I really miss the extent of touring I did when I was in the JJ’s. The feeling of being so young and walking down the street in Osaka, Japan and 20 girls start following you down the street was incredible but, anytime I’m playing makes it for me. When you can’t do that anymore, when you cant give people the best version of yourself it gets very hard. During the summer some girls, who were about 14 years old, came up to me in the street and started going on abut JJ72 and it turned out, one of their older sisters had given them a JJ72 album and they had gotten into us. That when it’s worth while, when you know you can affect people like that.
Be sure to catch Concerto for Constantine at their up and coming shows around the country,
17th March – Fibber Magee’s
18th March – London – Dublin Castle
19th March – London – Club 328
15th April – Whelan’s