Interview : Dave Murphy of MAEL MÓRDHA Posted: 16/10/2014 by John O'Brien
Taking place twice a year on the Sunday of each Easter and October Bank Holiday Weekends, The Siege Of Limerick festival is one of the most anticipated events on the Irish Metal calander. And with the next ‘Samhain 2014′ installment rolling around once more on Sunday 26th Ocober, the city will once again be set upon by hairy, bearded hoardes of metallers hungry for their beer-fueled fix of all things heavy.
So! In anticipation of the upcoming festivities, the Irish Metal Archive has taken it upon itself to hand pick a few of the participating acts to poke a stick at and see how they react!
Last time we spoke with up and coming retro-metallers STEREO NASTY!
Next up we have summoned the mighty MAEL MÓRDHA to our inquisition. The band need no introduction, as they are one of Ireland’s leading metal exports. But their camp was rocked, literally to it’s foundations, earlier this year with the surprise announcement of Roibéard Ua Bóghaedhil’s departure. The Irish Metal Archive cornered the bands bassist Dave Murphy for interrogation…
No worries, thanks for the interview and all the support of ourselves and Irish Metal over the years!
I’m gonna go straight in and first ask about Roibéard Ua Bóghaedhil’s departure from the band. It must have come as real shock to the rest of you? What were the reasons behind his leaving?
It was something of a shock alright and it’s taken us most of this year to process that and get things sorted within the band. Especially coming after last year, with the positivity surrounding the release of ‘Damned When Dead’ which was the culmination of a lot of hard work over the previous couple of years. We were in the process of making plans for 2014 when Rob decided he was leaving the band so that really put everything askew at the time.
I suppose there were a few reasons behind his choice, but I’m not sure I’m the best person to try and explain the situation. I think there was some disillusionment with the development of the band over the years, that some things hadn’t been done right in terms of management of the band and the way we had been working to promote and raise the profile. I think we all hoped that the positive responses to ‘Damned When Dead’ would open a few more doors for us but that hasn’t necessarily happened. I suppose the old ‘musical differences’ cliché comes into it as well, in the sense that there has been a change in the band’s sound and style over the years and I think Rob wasn’t as comfortable with this as the rest of us.
And finally, none of us are young lads anymore and there are pressures in life, external to the band, that just make it too difficult to commit the time and resources to the project on a constant basis.
Rob was the last remaining founding member from the bands demo period back in the late 1990’s and very early 2000’s. But the period of album releases was relatively stable with the four of you being at the band’s core for about a decade or more with each of you contributing to the bands music. Was this the reason that you decided to carry on as MAEL MÓRDHA rather than opting for a name change and basically starting again?
Rob was the founding member, and the creator of the band in that sense. But as you say, myself, Ger and Shane have been on board for all of the albums and for more than a decade at this point. We did consider disbanding or starting up a new project, but after a while we realised that we’re not finished with MAEL MÓRDHA yet.
We’re proud of the four albums we’ve recorded and we’ve worked on creating a strong live show with this music. The feedback we got from fans was that there is a demand for more recordings and gigs from MAEL MÓRDHA, so we decided we would continue once we found the right person to join us.
You were lucky that you weren’t really searching for too long for a new vocalist? Did you have much of a response for the position?
We had quite a bit of interest alright. We made it clear from the outset that we weren’t looking for someone to come in and do an impression of Rob, we wanted someone who would bring their own character to the band. We had some very good singers audition, with a surprising diversity of approach to the songs, which was really interesting and also what we were hoping for.
It was a very challenging process for us as well. When you’re playing with the same people for a long time you get used to how the songs sound but when you bring in a new singer it’s an opportunity to reappraise the songs in a sense and take the opportunity to try different arrangements of parts.
The audition process also cemented in our minds that we wanted to keep playing these songs and working as this band. So while we probably approached it with some trepidation it was actually a very useful thing to do.
You announced a while back now that you would be introducing your new vocalist at the upcoming Siege Of Limerick – Samhain 2014. But only announced in the few weeks before the Siege that it was in fact Stíofán De Roiste, who is also vocalist and whistle blower for CELTACHOR. Was there any particular reason for the wait before the official announcement?
We did announce that the first gig with the new singer would be the Siege and some people took from it that we would be revealing the identity of the singer at that point. That was never the intention and would be just gimmicky – we’re not GHOST – and we had no intention of hi-jacking an event like the Siege for our own publicity. It was just a matter of trying to get things sorted in the time available.
We had hoped to record a new song with Stíofán before the Siege but that didn’t work out timewise. Also we had hoped to have a full photo-shoot to coincide with the announcement but we each had too many commitments over the last few weeks to make it work. The timing is just how things panned out in the end, there was no particular scheme behind it.
Well! I’m certainly looking forward to catching the new re-vamped MAEL MÓRDHA on stage. How are you and the rest of the band feeling about it? Are you nervous? Excited? Bit of both?
We’re excited I would say, yeah! The rehearsals have been going well and I think the sound is as good as it’s ever been. We’re looking forward to playing with Stíofán and seeing how that goes down with people. It will be different of course, I think when a new singer comes in that has to happen for a band but we think the direction we’re moving in is a good one. Unfortunately we don’t have a new song to air at the Siege but we will be playing an old song that has never been performed live before.
As we develop the sound with the new line-up it’s given us an opportunity to re-examine the back catalogue and see where we can take particular songs in terms of arrangements. I’ve always strongly believed that an album recording is just one version of a particular song and the live environment allows you, as a musician, to present further variation and development of the song. So I think in the future, we will be performing new songs and revisiting old songs with the dynamic as it develops with Stíofán in the band.
And what about reactions from fans of the band?
Have you had much feedback on that front yet?
The feedback so far has been great. A lot of long-time fans of the band have been in touch to let us know they support what we’re doing and look forward to new music and gigs. Also, people who already know Stíofán from CELTACHOR and his other bands appreciate that he’s the right person for MAEL MÓRDHA and fits in perfectly. It’s very encouraging and has convinced that we made the right choice in keeping the band going.
We have a few things in the pipeline already, we’re playing at the North of the Wall festival in Glasgow next March and we’re hoping to put a couple of gigs together in England around the same time. We’ve put a lot of work into playing in the UK in the last couple of years and building an audience there so it’s important for us to get back over there and build on that. We want to get back gigging as much as possible as this band thrives on live performances so look out for some announcements in the near future.
And what’s the long term plan for MAEL MÓRDHA? Will you be concentrating on a new album? Or will you be taking some time to adjust to the new set-up?
The long term plan is to get back into writing and gigging. We’ve had a disappointing year so far but there’s a new energy and passion in the band now that we’ve established the lineup and we’re looking forward to getting to work. We’re already working on music and lyrical concepts for some new songs, continuing in a similar vein to ‘Damned When Dead’. Rob was previously the lyricist as well as the vocalist in the band so there will be a change there, but there won’t be any radical departures.
We’ve defined a particular aesthetic for this band over the years and any new material will fit in with what’s gone before. With Stíofán in the band this won’t be difficult, as he is someone who understands the motivation and inspiration that underpins the band’s concept musically, lyrically and culturally. We couldn’t have asked for someone better really to continue on the band’s legacy and take it to new places.
Well! that’s about it, Dave!
Thanks a million for the interview.
Good luck and all the best with the next chapter for MAEL MÓRDHA.
Thanks very much!
See you at the Siege!