YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY...
In 1992 after a show in Dublin, I met a man from Chrysalis publishing. He didn’t like the show, but I insisted he wrote his address on the back of a cigarette packet. I sent our demo tape to him, he offered us a deal, and a few weeks later – at the age of 21 – I moved from Ireland to London. I had £45 in my pocket and the promise of a floor to sleep on for a week.
As a teenager, my friend gave me a cassette copy of The Velvet Underground’s first album. That night I listened to it in bed. That first listen both shaped, and in a way ruined, the rest of my life. It gave me the courage to destroy any chance of a secure future. In November of ‘92, my band Rollerskate Skinny went to New York to play the CMJ festival. We were now signed to Beggars Banquet and had released our first album. We had momentum, so Warner Brothers decided they wanted to poach us from our label.
They invited us to a party at a nightclub called Nell’s, where we were greeted at the door by grinning strangers. Amazingly, they knew all our names and seemed really excited to meet us. I thought, “Wow, these guys know how to bullshit” – but we played along. Once inside, we realised it was a party for the Velvet Underground’s reunion.
I got to meet Sterling Morrison and tell him thanks for ruining my life. I also met Danny Fields, who originally signed them, The Ramones and The Stooges. He told me, “Don’t listen to anybody kid.” The next day, The New
York Times picked my band as one of the highlights of the whole CMJ festival. We got offered a giant contract from Warners, which we signed. Success was just a matter of time away.
In truth, what was to follow was a 16-year mess, in terms of the music business at least. I fell out with everyone – labels, managers, band members, agents. Every label would take me out and fill my head with nonsense. Studio time was so expensive, you had to have a label to get into one. So I played the game, and every three years I would get to make an album. The last real record contract I had was with Vice Records – I didn’t even know who the hell they were. I stood on the corner with two of the label guys and said, “All I want you to do is promise me you will make two albums with us.” They shook my hand and promised: we made one album and they dropped us. The point is, it’s easier now – we are in control. About four years ago, I met John Rauchenberger and formed August Wells.
We made a record in his living room. We played a hundred shows in the first year, booked them all ourselves, and sold a lot of records to people at the shows.
In Ireland, Eddie Kiely with FIFA records heard our album and loved it. He released our four singles, and booked us four different tours of Ireland, Germany and England. We have our new August Wells album, Madness Is The Mercy, out now.
As Danny Fields told me, “Don’t listen to anyone kid.” The great thing about now is, you don’t have to.