- 04 Oct 21
The veteran songwriter discusses climate breakdown, recording with candour and his trad roots ahead of the release of the Pat McManus band’s latest album, Full Service Resumed. Photo: Keery Irvine.
Pat McManus is a musician’s musician. Since his early rock ‘n’ roll beginnings in Fermanagh in the ‘80s with his brothers Tommy and John as Mama’s Boys, the man also known as The Professor hasn’t stopped creating or playing music. Constantly collecting ideas and writing songs, the singer hasn’t slowed down and his tireless obsession with music has birthed yet another album from The Pat McManus Band, Full Service Resumed.
The project blends the old with the new in a 15-track exploration of various styles of rock. Eleven brand new songs on the ever-entertaining record are supplemented by a revisiting of four fan favourites. The album flits from heavy metal on tracks like ‘Doomsday’ to psychedelic on ‘Crystal Sky’ — a track that reignites the spirit of the era before returning to Celtic rock classics like ‘Belfast City Blues.’
It’s a trip down memory lane for rock fans as they return to the classic sounds that shape the genre as McManus pushes the benchmark forwards with his superb musicianship. According to Pat, the secret to the flavour of each song is recording with honesty and refusing to hide any flaws beneath relentless production.
“I try to be as honest as I can with the music when we record it so when we go to play it live there’s no great difference between the album and the actual live performance,” the musician tells Hot Press on the phone. Pat is laid back and excited to talk about Full Service Resumed and all things music related.
“We always bear that in mind. It was laid down pretty fast and as honestly as we could, warts and all. It’s more about capturing a feeling than anything else. It's not about how well produced the album is. It’s a moment in time and if we can capture the band doing that then it’s job done.”
It’s refreshing to hear an album that hasn’t lost itself in the recording studio during the production process. Regardless, whatever warts the singer is referring to aren’t obvious on the record. The band is tight, the rock n’ roll guitar textures are exquisite and the vocal performance from Pat is excellent. Full Service Resumed doesn’t shy away from tricky topics either, as the rock star tackles climate breakdown in opening track ‘Doomsday.’
The track number gets the album motoring immediately with Paul Faloon’s powerful drumming and the catchy licks Pat slots between each line. The singer turns preacher towards the back end of the song, with a sermon warning of the perils we may soon face. “And the sun will turn black, and the end will come,” warns the guitarist.
“People think I’m quite mad. I’d be banging on about the state of the world and I don’t think it fully dawns on people how dangerously close we are to having a situation here where the world is changed forever and not for the better — in terms of climate change,” McManus says.
“That was a little song to put that message in my own style; my own way of putting across that we’re teetering close to the edge here,” adds the songwriter, who has been conveying this message throughout his career. “I touched on that subject many many years ago even as far back as the Celtus days and the Mama’s Boys days.”
The Fermanagh man is concerned not for himself, but for those who now face the imminent consequences of the damage done to the planet.
“I’ve been on this planet a long time, but for the future generations what are we going to leave behind for them? That’s a worry, because we’ve got future generations of kids that are growing up and what state are we gonna leave them in?”
While the rock star has the where-with-all to look ahead, he’s also just as comfortable basking in some nostalgia. Full Service Resumed features four bonus tracks — ‘Belfast Boy,’ ‘Too Little Of You To Love,’ ‘Hard Headed Ways’ and ‘Belfast City Blues.’
‘Too Little Of You To Love’ is Pat’s “claim to fame.” It’s a song he dropped during the Mama’s Boys days after the trio played Reading festival. “It charted in the top 50 in the UK. It went straight in and straight back out again,” laughs the musician. “I thought it would be nice to visit that song again.”
The rock n’ roll veteran isn’t just revisiting old material to relive the memories, it was necessary for the survival of these songs after the master tapes were lost. “Those master tapes went missing; they're gone, they’ve disappeared. I don’t know what’s happened to them,” says the violinist.
Most of the Mama’s Boys catalogue was recorded in Lombard studios — now known as Westland studios — and Pat was left to cast his memory back to those sessions to try and recreate the record. Luckily there was one artefact from that time remaining.
“I had nothing to really go back on — I had only a really old, really bad cassette. I could hardly make out what was on it and that was the only copy I had. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, I just tried to remember it as best I could,” he says.
While it is unfortunate those tapes have gone missing, Pat saw it as an opportunity to bring those songs into the present and update them to fulfill the vision he always had for them. “The way we’ve recorded it now was the way I always wanted to do the song. We just didn’t know how to do it back then,” says the multi-instrumentalist.
“You’ve got to realise when we did that stuff we were complete and utter novices. We had only been in the studio once or twice before that and knew nothing about the recording process. To say we were naïve was an understatement — we were three lads from the country we hadn’t a clue,” he adds.
Between recording the album with his bandmates in a bubble — “Never mind the family bubble, it was the band bubble we were interested in!” laughs Pat — and teaching music in Fermanagh, Pat still finds time to pursue his first love: Trad.
“My background in Irish traditional music is very strong. To this day I still go to sessions, I still play at sessions. I still play the violin as often as I can. That’s one of the great loves of my life is playing traditional music,” says the singer.
“The kids growing up today should be very aware of our tradition in folk music which is one of the finest traditions in the world,” he adds. “I’m as excited today about it as when I was seven years old. I still love to play it.”
Pat is also excited by what his bandmates offer the songs and ideas he constantly formulates. Faloon and McDermot help to bring each track “one stage further” with their perspective on the frontman’s ideas. “When they get their hands on it — their interpretation of what I’ve done is great because it’s something I wouldn’t have thought of and it can move the songs in many directions. That's the exciting part for me,” says the musician.
The Pat McManus Band will follow up the release of their latest album with a show in St. Stephen’s Green on November 6th. “Anybody who wants to come along you’re more than welcome, we can chew the fat and talk about old times and play a bit of music and everybody can have a good time. That's really what it’s all about,” says Pat.
The trio are also set to tour the UK and Europe in February 2022 but Pat can be found playing in Ireland, either with his band or in a session across the country. “You can always find me playing in Ireland because that’s where I love to play best of all!”
Full Service Resumed drops on October 8th. Check out the tracklist below:
- Long Haul Trucker
- Bury Me
- Waiting For A Friend
- Rock You
- Jump Start My Heart
- Bang Bang
- Honey Trap
- Stone Cold Sober
- Crystal Sky
- His Soul Remains With Me (Instrumental)
- Belfast Boy (Bonus)
- Too Little Of You To Love (Bonus)
- Hard Headed Ways (Bonus)
- Belfast City Blues (Bonus)