Meet one of the freshest bands on the Cork scene; Dead School. This a four piece alternative rock band that is creating a stir on the local scene. Dead School was formed in August and comprises of and Donal McDonald (vocals/percussion), James McDonald (guitar/drums /vocals), Cathal Maher (guitar/drums /keys) and Ruairi Dale (bass). Having spent an intense few months holed up in various flats and practice rooms writing the songs and honing their sound they are proving themselves as genuine talent. Wanting to delve deeper into the mindset and mood of this band I jumped at the chance of an interview.
How did the band form and where did the name come from?
James; The name is taken from a Patrick Mc Cabe novel, The Dead School, that we all love. The band really came about as many bands do. We were all friends, all completly on the same wave length and all hugely passionate about music. We had really wide and varied tastes in music. We found that there was a connection in all the bands that we loved… they had a heart and honesty that came across in their music. We knew we wanted to create something that would be as important to people as those bands and their music are to us. We were sick of having to hear of so many new bands getting record deals that were just rubbish. Bands that are making music for music’s sake, it should be more than that.
Cathal; This is an impossible one to answer without sounding completely pretentious. We all love music and want to write songs that mean something to people. There are some new bands making great music like Wild Beasts, the XX, and Warpaint but there’s much more bad than good. Every magazine is crammed full of mediocrity and music is becoming disposible, a trend. It shouldn’t be like that, it should be important to people, it should mean something. There’s a sea of synth pop bands that are so awful yet, get so much attention. Most of it is vacuous and devoid of substance.
Donal; The Irish scene is in a pretty poor state too, despite the fact that there’re more bands about than ever before. Some people are calling it a ‘Golden Age’ but quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Bands like Bell X1 and The Coronas are being taken as serious artists. They’re light-weight, utter shite, no balls whatsoever. You couldn’t hang your hat on what they put out.
James; Yeah. There have been very few bands of recent times that have made music that could compare to the music of the artists we love from previous generations. Like Donal said, the Irish music scene, apart from Villagers and one or two others, is not in a great place at the mintue. I don’t think it is as powerful as it was in the 80s and 90s. It’s lacking in passion.
Who would you consider to be your biggest musical influence?Cathal; I guess it’s impossible to pick any one artist because we listen to and love so many different types of music. Without wanting to avoid answering your question though, I’ll give you a list of some of our favourites: Killing Joke, Depeche Mode, REM, Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, Fatima Mansions, Whipping Boy, Stone Roses, The Horrors. That’s just a few.
Which come first the music or the lyrics?Cathal; It’s different with every song. Sometimes a few lines jotted on a page might inspire a song, sometimes they start from a riff, sometimes a jam. Each song has a different foundation.
James; Yeah, it’s rare that one of us comes with a fully finished song and if they do it usually ends up being completly different than it was at the start. This allows for our songs to encapsulate the entire bands personality.
How important do you think the style of the band is in developing your image and success?
Cathal; Well obviously the music comes first. We realise image is important so we try to reflect the style of the music in the art work and photo’s. It’s often, these days especially, that’ll you’ll come across an image or a photo of a band before you hear a note. Image can reveal so much about who they are and what they’re doing with their music, it can entice your interest immediately… or it can leave you completely uninterested!Donal; If I see a photo of a band and it looks like they’ve put some effort into it, I’m much more likely to click on it than on a band who are just standing up against a wall looking embarrassed ‘cos someone’s taking a picture of them.
What were the first and last albums you listened to?Ruairi; The first album was Gorilliaz, self-titled. Last album I listened to was ‘The Fool’ by Warpaint.*
Cathal; The first album I ever bought was The Beatles, Red Album, ’62/ ’66 on cassette when I was eight years old. I can still remember listening to it on my brother’s walkman and dancing around the house. The last album I listened to was Warpaint’s album, ‘The Fool.’* It’s really impressive.
James; The first album I ever remember listening to was Sgt. Peppers. Donal had his albums stowed away, so when he would leave I would raid his collection. The cover grabbed my attention (being 6 and it being colourful). It flew completly over my head but I remember knowing there was something special about it. Last album I listened to was Warpaint’s album, ‘The Fool’.* It’s definitely one of the albums of the year.
Donal; First album i remember listening to was ‘Dire Straits’ debut which my Dad owned and constantly played when i was a baby. Not my choice. Last album I listened to was Wild Beasts, ‘Two Dancers’.
*It should be noted that the band were all together when listening to this album.
If you could interview somebody, dead or alive, who would it be and why?James; Ian Curtis, simply because I find everything about him, from his lyrics and his voice, to his life, compelling. I would love to see what was really going on inside his head and what he would be doing now.
Cathal; Martin Gore (songwriter for Depeche Mode). He writes about love and sex in such a unique way, he’s a fascinating lyricst… and he manages to compress all this into four minute songs. That’s a true legend right there.
Donal; Marlon Brando, because he’s Marlon Brando.
What is your favourite lyric?Cathal: It’s got to be Leonard Cohen.
‘I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.’
I could pick a million other lyrics by him, every word he writes is perfection. His work has had a huge impact on me in every way.
Donal; ‘Somebody’ by Depeche Mode, the whole song.
James; “I’m free to be whatever I, Whatever I like if it’s wrong or right is alright.” Just a lyric that’s stuck with me ever since I was really young and one I constantly come back to.
Ruairi; “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” by The Smiths.
“In a river the colour of lead
Immerse the baby’s head
Wrap her up in the News Of The World
Dump her on a doorstep, girl
This night has opened my eyes
And I will never sleep again”
With this song, Morrissey took cues from Shelagh Delaney’s first play, “A Taste Of Honey” – this track could be considered something of a tribute. The imagery never fails to move me and it would be fair to say that, upon my first listen to Hatful Of Hollow some six years ago, this was the song that made me realise The Smiths would change the way I thought about music.
What can we expect from you in the coming months?James; We’re playing our final gig of the year is on the 28th of December in ‘Crane Lane’. Then playing the brog on the 26th of January. We have a busy schedule lined up for the first half of next year gigging and we will be heading into the studio to lay down some tracks. You’ll be seeing us at some festivals over the summer aswell!
Photgraphy by Samantha Hunt