Interview with Andy Irvine, by Paul Magnussen


[This is a fragment from an interview that music journalist Paul Magnussen had with Andy Irvine, well known Irish singer, mandolin- and bouzouki-player. The interview as a whole was never published, and I have included Paul's explanation why below. This fragment was also posted on the rec.music.celtic newsgroup in a discussion on Irish music and bouzoukis.]

Paul Magnussen wrote:

It (this interview) took place in November 1982, in London. It was done for Guitar
International; but by the time I had transcribed it, GI went through
one of the lurches in editorial policy to which it was prone, and I was
told that it would now only be interested in classical and flamenco
guitar.

Around 1990 it lurched back, long enough for me to do the interview with
Alec Finn (and transcription of De Dannan's version of Carrickfergus)
that appeared in the October 1991 issue. I had intended to contact
Liam and/or Andy to see about revising the old interview and using it;
but before I could do this, the editor had died and the magazine folded.

I'd still kind of like to use the interview, because I think it's a good
one. I tried Folk Roots at the time, but they didn't seem interested.

If anyone can suggest a home for it...

Paul Magnussen

GI:  Who was your first idol?

AI:  Woody Guthrie.  I tried really hard to get all his mistakes
absolutely right!

(Laughter)

GI:  Yes, those were the days when there was no editing--they just
stuck you in front of a microphone, and if you made mistakes that
was too bad.  I have a record called "More songs from Woody and
Cisco", where they forget the words, so they tell Sonny Terry to
play it again...

AI:  Well, there's more mistakes on that record than you could shake a
stick at.  There's a great ending--they all end together except
Sonny Terry...

Of course, those recordings were made at two or three different
times, some of those albums are confusing.

GI:  So did you start playing Woody Guthrie in clubs?  Or had you moved
on to something else before you started playing in front of
people?

AI:  No, I played Woody Guthrie--I think the first time was in 1962.

GI:  And then you just got caught up in the "Folk Revival"?

AI:  I suppose I did, yes.  There were other people with like minds at
the time: Johnny Moynihan used to sing "Van Diemen's Land",
accompanying himself on 4-string mandolin, which is an incredibly
tiny sound, but very effective.

I played the mandolin a bit, and I stuck by that, accompanying
myself on traditional songs.

I'm not quite sure when Woody Guthrie faded out--he hasn't exactly
faded out, it's not too long since I got up and did Talking
Dustbowl Blues, or something like that.

GI:  So this led to Sweeney's men, did it?

AI:  It did, yes, a direct chain of events.

GI:  And then of course Johnny brought the bouzouki along.
That's quite a lot to answer for--guitars are disappearing.  He
unleashed the bouzouki on the folk world!

(Laughter)

AI:  Well, he wasn't... like, the band that was the forerunner of
Sweeney's men, which went under the name of The Fo'c'sle Folk Group
(because it played six nights a week in The Fo'c'sle bar in
Galway)... he wasn't actually in that band, but Johnny was working
as an architect, and he used to come down from Dublin at weekends
and play with us.

One day he turned up with this bouzouki; and we said, "What in the
name of Hell is that?"

And he said, "I've swapped my mandolin for it".  And he played the
bouzouki with us, and our first reaction was "Jesus, Johnny,
that's awful!  Could you not get the mandolin back?"  It largely
sounded brutal, because it was always going out of tune.

GI:  Was that a four- or three-course bouzouki?

AI:  Four.

GI:  How did Johnny tune it?

AI:  Between us we had two tunings: one was GDAE; and one was GDAD,
which is the one I use exclusively now.  But I think he's gone
back to GDAE.

Paul Magnussen
(Interview fragment used with author's permission.)
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