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Hail hail wash and roll
Thomas Walsh was the underappreciated genius of Irish rock until his Duckworth Lewis Method hook-up with Neil Hannon put him on the map. One Ivor Novello nomination later, his band Pugwash are signed to a major and he’s receiving fan mail from ELO’s Jeff Lynne. As he gears up for his date at the inaugural Homegrown festival at INEC Killarney, the songwriting wizard talks to Olaf Tyaransen.
Olaf Tyaransen, 25 Aug 2011
Hey man, I’m really sorry I’m late,” says Pugwash frontman Thomas Walsh, ambling into the Central Hotel’s Library Bar. “You can blame Jerry Dammers. I was out with him ‘til all hours in Galway last night.”
It turns out that the affable Dublin singer was invited at short notice to do a DJ set with the former Specials keyboardist in the Róisín Dubh for the final night of Galway Race Week. Galway, of course, is where I live.
“Oh shite!” Walsh laughs, putting his head in his hands. “I totally forgot that you live in Galway. We could’ve done it there. I was only asked down at the last minute so I didn’t even think to call you.”
It’s lucky that Walsh is one of the great Irish rock ‘n’ roll talents – otherwise I’d be very miffed!
In truth it would be impossible to get the hump with Walsh, who is a nice guy and a genuine wit – as well as being the closest thing Ireland has to a bona fide pop genius. It’s three years since the release of his highly praised Eleven Modern Antiquities, and – just a week before his 42nd birthday – the Drimnagh-born musician is back on the Pugwash promotional trail to promote the band’s fifth studio album, The Olympus Sound.
While Eleven Modern Antiquities fell short of setting the world alight commercially, the intervening period has been an extraordinary one for Walsh. In 2009, his cricket-themed collaboration with Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, The Duckworth Lewis Method, was released to widespread acclaim.
Although the death of Michael Jackson kept the album out of the UK Top 30 (they’d mid-weeked at No. 28), the unlikely Irish duo got lots of radio play, sold records by the crease-load and were subsequently nominated for an Ivor Novello. As a result, the new album is being released on EMI. Walsh is visibly chuffed at the implied shift in fortunes.
“It’s a step-up in so many ways,” he says of the band’s move to a major. “I did Duckworth Lewis when I wanted to give up everything, you know. I just did it for a laugh, and a bit of experience. In another way, the last Pugwash album was a last hurrah because I couldn’t go on making those big records that didn’t sell. It takes too much out of you. And it takes too much out of the people who trust you and invest in you.”