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Listen to the lions
In 1982, a band emerged on Dublin’s northside that would go on to write some of the biggest songs in the Irish rock canon. Still going strong thirty years on, Aslan are about to embark on their busiest period ever. As they ready themselves for the fray, the iconic Dublin rockers tell their remarkable story.
Olaf Tyaransen, 18 May 2012
At the conclusion of this interview in the conservatory boardroom of EMI’s salubrious Ailesbury Road HQ, Christy Dignam and Billy McGuinness bid your Hot Press correspondent a fond farewell. Although we’d sailed through some choppy waters during the conversation, the Aslan singer and guitarist appear to have enjoyed the chat.
“Cheers, man!” says McGuinness. “You live in Galway, don’t you? Do you want me to put your name on the door for Monroe’s on Friday?”
“Thanks a fuckin’ million, Olaf,” Dignam enthuses in his undiluted Northside accent, shaking my hand so vigorously that our silver bracelets jangle in unison. “Lovely talking to you. I’ve been reading your stuff for years, man, so it’s great to finally meet you.”
To which I can only reply, “Er... but we have met before, Christy.”
“Eh?” The singer sighs and shrugs guiltily. You can tell he’s used to this one. “Have we?” He laughs. “Ah look, fuckin’ sorry, man, but you know...”
No need for apologies. For a start, it was almost 20 years ago. Besides, as a former full-blown heroin addict, Dignam can be excused the occasional memory gap. Now aged 52, he’s actually looking damned good for a man of his experience, but he’s undoubtedly scarred on the inside. He makes no bones of it either. Aslan made some brilliant music along the way, but in many respects he’s lived the rock ‘n’ roll nightmare, rather than the rock ‘n’ roll dream. He’s also painfully aware that sometimes they’re one and the same thing.
But let’s be clear about this: all things considered, in the Aslan Chronicles, the good so far has outweighed the bad.
Let’s rewind an hour or so. Or more to the point, let’s rewind 30 years to a time when five musically precocious young Northsiders came together, formed a band, and named themselves after the lion in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. All things considered, even just to still be going three decades on is something of an achievement.
“It doesn’t feel like 30 years at all,” laughs McGuinness. “It’s a bit mad to think it’s been that long. Like, looking back at the 30 years that we’ve been together, the stories and the shit that we’ve been through... No matter if we break-up tomorrow, we’ll always have those. Some of them are so funny, some of them are so sad. We nearly had a plane crash in Sligo and we nearly shit ourselves! We’ve been through everything a band can be through. We’ve all stayed kids, even though we’ve no right to be kids. Like, I’m 52. I don’t know what I should be doing with my life, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m glad I’m doing this!”