After a gap of half a lifetime, Steve Wall is back living in the house he grew up in and learning to love DIY. He also recalls his days as a greyhound. Photography by Cathal Dawson
Call to the Walls' household in Harold’s Cross in Dublin any time these days and if Steve is at home you’ll most likely find him dressed in grubby overalls and looking like a Jackson Pollock painting. “We’ve a baby due in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been ripping up old carpets and painting and all those kind of stuff I’ve been meaning to do, but since I’m a natural DIY man I usually leave things until they have to be done,” he explains.
Steve has actually lived in this house for two years now, but his connection with it goes back to childhood. It was built in 1956 and he was brought up in it when it belonged to his grandparents. “I have really fond memories of this house, so when the chance came to buy it myself two years back I grabbed at it," he says. "This house is where I got my first stirrings in music. My grandfather had lots of records and the house was usually full of music. We had an aunt who worked for the record company K-Tel, so we had lots of compilations they released too."
In that sense little has changed, for the house is still likely to be full of music at almost any time during what passes for waking hours in Chez Wall. “If I’m doing a bit of repair work around the house I’ll have the stereo on full blast. Then again, after a gig if I’m still wired and don’t want to go to bed I’ll chill out, maybe with something like Joe Chester’s new album, which I think is really terrific, or something by Planxty or the Spanish cellist Pablo Casals.”
Some of the objects in the house have been there since his grandparents' days, so this is a family who really know how to get value for money. “I tend to have an attitude that says that, until something actually breaks then it’ll do to be going on with," Steve admits. "I’m not one to buy things just for the sake of it. Some of the chairs have broken while people have been sitting in them, so we just throw them on the fire and buy new ones!”
While some musicians use their home base as a haven that allows them to escape from the world of rock'n’roll, Steve actually allows some of them into the house. “Yeah, Ollie Cole from Turn or Mundy or Nick Seymour from Crowded House often drop in for a session," he says. "Usually we’ll play each other new songs we’ve written. Ollie nearly always brings a guitar with him and I’ve a few in the house. Bronagh Gallagher is another regular too, so we can end up with anything, from The Who to Elliott Smith. Ollie’s a big fan of Elliott.”
The house boasts a sizeable collection of vinyl, cassettes, CDs, DVDs and videos. “I still have the first album I got," Steve says. "I was five when I got a record player from Santy and with it I got a Four Tops album with ‘Light My Fire’, a couple of Bacharach songs, Lennon-McCartney’s ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ and so on. I still have that album.” Another album he got from the same Santa was a collection of children’s songs called Clinton The Clown. I decided not to ask him if he still has that record too. Some things should remain private. Forever.
Not that this long-term collecting comes from any commitment to order or tidiness in the Wall household. Steve’s “office” looks like a mountainous pile of faxes, contracts, papers and magazines, under which they’re just might be a desk or some other item of furniture. Nor will you find any pets about the place. “I’d love to have a dog some day, but when you have to be away for days or weeks on end, and sometimes at short notice, it’s not really practical, but someday, maybe,” he confides.
I mention gardening. He laughs. “Not only have I no interest in gardening, but I don’t actually notice flowers. My girlfriend might put flowers in a vase on the table and she’ll ask what I thought of them and I won’t even have noticed them. I’m not big into worrying about what’s a weed and what’s a flower."
Apart from an enviable collection of classy music, Steve also has an impressive pile of documentaries he’s recorded from the television over the years. “I don’t really like soaps and I’ve never watched a reality tv programme in my life," he says, "but I love documentaries and I generally try to tape them and keep them.” Among the ones that come easiest to hand are programmes about Michael MacLiammoir, Luke Kelly, John Lennon, Keith Moon, and with most video stores now dumping their video stocks at really cheap prices, Steve has been trawling them for interesting stuff. “I picked up a copy of Toto The Hero the other day for next to nothing. It’s great!”
Living near Harold’s Cross inevitably leads to questions about the internationally famous greyhound racing track. Given that the last people to visit a place are often the locals, I wonder had he ever been there. “Been there?” he retorts, "Sure we used to play there when we were kids. In fact I remember a gang of us went over there when we were about five or six. The man was actually oiling the hare. We were amazed! Then he let us all get into a trap each and when the hare came round he opened the trap and we all ran out exactly as if we were greyhounds! I went back only about two weeks ago and had a really good night. It’s another place that has very good memories for me”.
The Frank & Walters, Fred and The Walls will perform at the event.Read More
The Human League, The Walls, The Frank & Walters and Fred will perform at the Cork event.Read More
Third effort from former Stunning men most ambitious to date.Read More
Stop The Lights is the third album from the brothers.Read More
The band are hoping to raise money for its completion through FUND:IT.Read More
The brothers play at 8.30pm with special guests Bipolar Empire who will play an acoustic set.Read More
Official footage of the Jägermeister Freezer Sessions performers' show at half time of the International Rules championship game at Croke ParkRead More
The band will showcase their new and completely revamped live show at The Sugar ClubRead More
Rather than slapping us upside the head with an all-new sound, The Walls have gone back to basics with 'Carrying The Fire', ditching The Hives-esque rock we loved on 2005's New Dawn Breaking for a fat, old school groove. Granted, Steve Wall’s vocals aren't sounding the Mae West, but the warpy retro guitar just about makes up for the creak in the Clare native's voice.Read More
Whether it was with the Stunning or in their current guise, brothers Joe and Steve Wall have penned an impressive list of Irish radio anthemsRead More
The 2008 programme of events for Co Dublin's Seamus Ennis Cultural Centre sees acts like The Walls and John Spillane play in the coming months.Read More
After three Murphy's Live Heats, the two bands are prepared to duke it out.Read More
It took a while to get going, but when The Walls reached fifth gear; tonight truly sparkled.Read More
The Galway rockers and sometimes Shooting Gallery letter correspondants offer a Latina love-interest and the surprisingly upbeat cast-off lover. Those who enjoyed their recent gold-selling album will agree this is vintage Walls doing what they do best.Read More
The Walls, Kila, Hothouse Flowers, Alphastates, The Amazing Pilots and The Devlins will be performing for the Make Poverty History protestorsRead More
Having survived a couple of years of bad luck, The Walls are back and are feeling – and sounding! – better than ever.Read More
Five years after their Hi-Lo debut, the former Stunning Brothers return to the fray with their strongest calling card to date. Recorded largely in the famed Black Box studios in France with the ubiquitous Dave Odlum at the helm, New Dawn Breaking is an immediately impressive record on almost every level (and very nicely packaged it is too in gatefold digipak!)Read More
Newly appointed to IMRO, Steve Wall is never too busy to hang out in the Loire Valley with the boys and turn out more of that early-‘90s rock that we’re all so fond of. The first track from the new album, due late next month, is a 2005 ‘Bright And Shining Sun’: no frills, earnest, friendly stuff that the fans will love. Some of us still remember when they were playing off the back of a truck in Ballinrobe.Read More
The Drowning Pool EP features three little gems that make excellent use of new bassist Jon O’Connell.Read More
News from the domestic front, wih Roisin DwyerRead More
Hot Press joins The Walls and The Jimmy Cake on their diplomatic mission to welcome the new EU neighbours of the East [includes photo gallery and live audio tracks]Read More
The Walls are the latest band to express their support for last weekend's HWCH showRead More
Tanya Sweeney catches The Walls' Main Stage jauntRead More
The Walls are to be joined onstage by original members for "a few Stunning songs"Read More
The Walls announce Olympia date, re-release a classic Stunning LP, and get no fewer than nine tunes onto two feature filmsRead More
The Walls are about to embark on their most extensive Irish tour yet, including their biggest Dublin gig to date at the ambassador and may be about to finally break the bankRead More
The Walls - purveyors of rather excellent new single 'To The Bright And Shining Sun' (that's from the AIB advert, that is) - added to the Chili Peppers' Lansdowne Road billRead More
A collection of steadfast mid-paced songs, Hi-Lo is a major misnomer in that there are precious few highs.Read More