- 29 Aug 18
Keith Fay of folk-metal supremos Cruachan on their electrifying Blood trilogy, being produced by Shane MacGowan, and the band’s unlikely soundtracking of Eastern European weddings.
“I always thought Ireland and England were anomalies compared to the rest of Europe,” says Keith Fay, frontman of folk-metal maestros Cruachan. “In Scandinavia and Germany – in their regular music charts – you’ll see obscure black and death metal at, say, the number five and Lady Gaga at number four. But I think things are changing.”
Fay is sitting in the Porter House with Hot Press, sipping coffee and mulling over the state of metal in Ireland. Cruachan have just unleashed their eighth album, Nine Years Of Blood, and will celebrate their 25th anniversary with a September 15 date at the Button Factory – their biggest Irish show to date. Their latest LP is the final installment in the band’s “blood” trilogy, and is filled with vivid tales relating to the nine years war between Ireland and England.
“The reality is, it’s a very loosely connected trilogy,” notes Keith. “The only common factor is the use of the word ‘blood’. It reminds me of the Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. The only thing that connects them is the cornetto in the films. We just thought it would be cool to do.”
The group have always incorporated many styles into their music, but Nine Years… is their most eclectic offering yet.
“There are a lot of classical elements,” nods Fay. “It’s interesting, on that note of heavy metal not being taken seriously, many of the musicians in the genre are almost virtuosos. Compare it to Ed Sheeran – now I don’t mean to pick-out him out, it’s just a lot of people love him and he plays very simple music. There’s stuff that we’re doing, and we’ve almost symphonic things going on – we’ve got a full-time violin player. From the outset, we always did incorporate something a little different to your average heavy metal band.”
One of Cruachan’s most successful releases over the years was their version of Jimmy McCarthy’s ‘Ride On’ – and it’s a recording that’s taken on a life of its own.
“We’ve seen videos of weddings, all throughout Russia and Eastern Europe,” says Keith, “where people have it as their main wedding song, but it will always be our version. They have no idea who Christy Moore or Jimmy McCarthy are! On YouTube, you see so many versions of ‘Ride On’ and in brackets ‘Cruachan cover’. We always found that so funny.”
The cover was featured on their 2002 album Folk-lore, which was produced by Shane MacGowan.
“We had a mutual friend in Peadar Gaffney who introduced us,” says Keith. “We went down to meet Shane in the family home and had a few drinks with him. It was brilliant.” The recording process was quite the experience for the band.
“He wanted me to shout ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’ during ‘Bloody Sunday’ – which was a bit odd, considering we wanted to draw attention to the events on that day. He kept at me, so I eventually did it. I remember him saying, ‘That’s the best ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’ I’ve ever heard’ (laughs). It didn’t make the album, which he wasn’t very happy about.” Over the summer the band who all have full-time jobs will be active on the festival circuit. But Keith is most excited about the impending anniversary show.
“We’re bringing back former members,” he explains, “and working with some battle re-enactment groups, who will be part of the stage show. It’s going to be a very special night.”
Nine Years Of Blood gets a live airing on September 15 in the Button Factory, Dublin