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Non-Prog Interviews

Black 47

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview With Black 47's Larry Kirwan from 2002
MSJ: Living in New York City you probably have a unique perspective on September 11th. Would you care to share your experiences?
Well, I live about 12 blocks from the Towers so was startled by the sound of the first plane coming overhead. I actually stuck my head down into the breakfast table - I thought it was going to crash into my own building, such was the noise. From the roof of my building I watched the whole thing transpire. I think everyone knows the facts by now, so I'll spare you those. However, one thing that gets left out is that the rumour was that there was a third plane on the way, so that made everyone very jumpy. Also, because the buildings fell so neatly, we on the roof, at least, thought that explosives had been placed in the basement - which gave the perpetrators the aura of supermen in those first few hours. I went down close to the site in the first hour. The scene was not panicky, as you might expect, but very shocking.
MSJ: I know this is an old question, but what is the origin of the name?
It's from 1847, the worst year of the Irish Potato Famine.
MSJ: Can you give me a run-down of the history of the band?
Oh dear. It's been long, varied and quite eventful. I will attempt a short thumb-sketch but for anyone who's really interested, I wrote a very detailed and somewhat honest account at It's in the "albums" section. Just click on the first cassette, Home of the Brave and it will take you up to the present. But for those who can't be bothered doing that, the band was formed in October 1989 to fulfill a few gigs in the Bronx. It's been going ever since. To tell you the truth, I don't have the stomach for this right now. Just enter "Black 47" at and you'll get more than you ever want to know about us.
MSJ: Who are the members of the band?
Geoffrey Blythe - Saxophones Fred Parcells - Trombone, whistles & vocals, Joseph Mulvanerty - uilleann pipes, flute, whistles & vocals, Thomas Hamlin - drums & percussion, Andrew Goodsight - bass & vocals
MSJ: How would you describe your music?
I normally wouldn't but if you insisted I might call it Irish-American Rock with just about every other music thrown in, including jazz, folk, Irish traditional, reggae, hip-hop, downtown noise with a healthy dollop of attitude. If anyone can describe it any better please let me know at I'd be delighted for a short description.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
They are legion.
MSJ: Do you do the same show every night, or mix it up?
No - the show is different every night. I couldn't bear to play the same songs in the same sequence. I write up a set list immediately before going on but usually change it during the set.
MSJ: What can people coming to the concert expect to see from the band?
A different show every night. A lot of passion, a lot of politics, rowdiness and hopefully some inspired musicianship.
MSJ: Where would you like to see yourself and the band 5 years from now?
If I didn't have the band's calendar in front of me, I wouldn't know where we are going to be in 5 days. I expect to be married to Britney but sometimes these things don't quite work out.
MSJ: What was your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Well, my worst moment was forgetting the words of James Connolly on Conan O'Brien. Actually, it was just a line and I covered pretty well. But I thought I was having a heart attack at the time. I probably have Spinal Tap moments all the time but just don't realize it. That's what Spinal Tap is all about, isn't it?
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended?
I can't remember. I don't go out much anymore. I go to the theatre quite a bit but never to rock & roll shows. I wanted to see Ray Charles a few weeks ago but was on the road.
MSJ: How about the first concert you went to?
I've no idea. Perhaps, it was the Kinks.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought/what have you been listening lately?
I just bought a Patricia Barber CD. To say that she's the most talented singer/songwriter/musician around right now would be an understatement. I bought Leonard Cohen's new CD but haven't listened to it. I also bought a Dick Gaughan CD recently.
MSJ: What about the first album you bought?
It was probably a Beatles album. Although which one I'm not quite sure of.
MSJ: What is the one thing you would really like people to know about the band?
I don't have any ambitions in that direction. I would like them to get something out of the songs and the performance. Apart from that, I'm at a loss. We're a band that's out there playing all the time. If people would like to see us, they can come; if they would sooner stay home and watch TV, well that's their choice.
MSJ: Is there anything you would like to add?
Not really. We've played over 2000 shows at this point. It doesn't matter if we're playing in front of 70,000 or 70 people; we still give it 110%. The day we stop doing that - then we should chuck it in.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 3 at
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