In May 1983, Microdisney produced a single 'Pink Skinned Man' that ought
to have stunned the music world. It didn't, and after a slightly disappointing
first Peel Session it looked as though they would disappear with only
that one classic record and an excellent debut single 'Hello Rascals/Helicopter
Of The Holy Ghost' to remember them by.
A year later however, Microdisney look here to stay with an LP and single,
'Dolly', out on Rough Trade, which together with two further peel sessions,
provide more than enough songs that come close to emulating 'Pink Skinned
So what was the history of the band, given that there had only been two
singles in about two years?
Cathal: 'We started in about 1980 as a very noisy five-piece in Cork in
Southern Ireland. Eventually we sacked everybody else in the group and
started doing everything with just the two of us (Him and Sean). We did
the first record on Kabuki because our friend, Gareth, was working in
Rough Trade and he had access to facilities. We did the two singles for
Kabuki and got a bit of attention, even though they were pretty far apart.
'Then we moved here last July and we recorded most of the LP last September
with just the two of us. It was recorded for Balnco Y Negro with whom
we eventually parted company, although not before we started using a conventional
rhythm section. Just after Christmas we started using John and Tom and
lately we've started doing some gigs'.
So the move to England was a serious attempt to further the band's career?
Cathal: 'Yes, it was pretty serious before but we had to do other things
to earn enough money to keep going. But we've been lucky in that we've
got a good publishing deal and enough money to live on.
What's been your impression of England?
Cathal: 'There's a lot of things you have to ignore. It's OK- the government's
fucking disgusting and pop music's disgusting, but it's a much better
place to live than in Southern Ireland. It's much easier to find a place
to have a good time and I don't think that applies just to London.
'Over there the only thing you can do is go down the pub and get pissed,
which can be fun or it can be soul-destroying.'
What sort of music do you have over there?
Cathal: 'Eurovision-type pop mainly. Totally Uninteresting'.
Sean: 'The market is very much the same as the British market, except
over there everyone's so lazy they wouldn't bother to go out and buy a
Cathal: 'When you think that a Smiths single that's a big hit over here
would sell about a thousand copies in Ireland, that's the kind of market
you're looking at. The people who make the money are the show bands who
do the ballrooms, which are like the Workingmen's Clubs circuit in the
North of England. They just go on doing covers, but they're less adventurous
than in the Workingmen's Clubs because they just do a combination of bastardised
country music and whatever happens to be in the charts at the moment-
all this kind of shit. They make lots of money, but no-one else does really'.
Sean: 'When we were there we had no intention of continuing in that environment.
Our intentions were always fixed on 'when we eventually leave', and that's
basically what happened'.
Microdisney provide a wonderful contrast of moods, ranging from the slightly
world-weary, reflective songs through to a more bitter and even angry
sound. But this is always combined with a sense of humour and poetic licence
that avoids pushing anything too hard. The lyrics are refreshingly original,
avoiding all the tired old clichés, and stand up on this alone,
but with the added bonus of relevance and understanding. This is complemented
by Cathal's vocals, the variation in expression further emphasising the
lyrics, and all with a sound that manages to stay just the right side
of pop music.
What do you see as the main themes of the songs?
Sean: 'The songs have reflected the immediate past history. A lot of them
are stories and are pretty inanimate'.
Cathal: 'It's whatever happens to crop up, I don't think there are any
Sean: 'Most of the songs sum up what we're thinking at the time- whether
we're happy or on a binge or if we're pissed off or whatever'.
Looking back, what do you think of the material you've produced so far?
Cathal: 'It's getting progressively better'.
Sean: 'We're happy with everything when we record it. The LP is dated
because we recorded it nearly a year ago- that's got to be stressed. The
stuff we're writing now we're happier with because now we're a four-piece
working band. For a long time we said that what we don't want to be is
a four-piece working band, but now that we've got a good band together
we're quite happy doing it'.
Cathal: 'It's a useful vehicle as an incentive to write songs for particular
times and we function best when we have targets for writing, because if
you don't have targets either you can't write at all or you're writing
total rubbish and scrapping it before you play it in public'.
Sean: 'When there's nothing happening and you try to write, you'll just
sit in the front room and stare at the wall and come up with rubbish.
So that affects everything- your mood, your performance and your actual
interest in what you're doing'.
Were you happy with the recording of the LP?
Cathal: 'We were happy with the album when we recorded it, although I
think now there are a few songs we'd have left out'.
Sean: 'The recording was a budget thing, done in about 10 days. We're
not happy with the fact that there's a drum machine on it- 'cos there
were only two of us when we did the recording. But it was the best record
we could have done at the time'.
Do you have to spend a lot of time finding concerts and promoting yourselves
rather than concentrating on the music?
Cathal: 'It isn't really difficult trying to find places to play, that's
not so difficult. It's the general organising- it EXCLUDES music. All
through last Autumn we were doing practically nothing musically because
we were having problems with our record situation; we'd done an LP which
so far as we could see wasn't going to be released. All these problems
kept mounting up, and we were getting more and more pissed off.
'When you've got to get up at 8.30-9.00 and the first thing you've got
to do is start phoning people. Then you've got to go into town and see
somebody, and then you go and try and make some more phone calls- and
you can't get anybody, so you're just wandering around killing time. So
you're not going to be writing any fucking songs.
'This has been happening to an extent lately, but it isn't anything like
as bad now, 'cos we've got incentives and we've got records out. We are
getting management because we simply don't want all the hassle'.
Sean: ' 'Dolly' has been getting quite a lot of airplay on night-time
radio, but on daytime radio it's just no-go'.
Cathal: 'It isn't a question of the record. I don't think we have to kiss
anybody's arse to make a really profoundly commercial record anymore than
we've done already. I think it's just a question of being well-known enough
to command respect'.
Microdisney are a band that ought to be seen live- though maybe not for
those seeking a smooth performance, for at times they stray dangerously
close to taking something away from the songs. Their aim seems to be to
give what the audience least expect, whether it be the most sickening
of Soul-Boys or their own fans.
The emphasis is on entertainment (with alcohol a telling factor), and
as they showed at The Rock garden they will perform on their own terms,
never afraid to express themselves in the face of an alien audience. They
even managed a third slot supporting Talk Talk at the Lyceum and managed
to stay out there for twenty-five minutes:
Sean: 'It was very weird. We didn't know what the fuck was going on. When
we got on stage we saw 1,500 Soul Boys and 400 EMI people who got in for
free, and we had seen the other bands in their soundchecks- everybody
was going flat out for the Duran Duran stakes.
'So we walked onstage and thought: 'Well, either we go on and try to play
as seriously as possible, or we'll enjoy it for what it is, which is a
complete mock-up'. I think changing over the guitars and making a lot
of noise between numbers and generally making a big fuss just about suited
it perfectly, because that's what the other bands would NOT be doing.
'We enjoy playing live. We'd love to play further afield, and if someone
were to ring us up and say come and play at Leeds or Nottingham or wherever,
I think we'd go'.
As the sleeve notes to the LP testify (and these alone make it worth buying),
the group are obsessed with New Wave.
Sean: 'Talking to people about New Wave all the time, and people wonder
what the fuck you're talking about. People not realising the importance
of having to keep referring to it and stressing it, and the general New
Wave thing about everything'.
Cathal: 'Like David Austin and Wham. You have to remember that they are
New Wave- that couldn't have happened before 1977. I mean Sid Vicious
DIED to make Wham possible'.
Sean; 'I think things are more defined now. A few years ago it was a bit
wishy-washy, even B.A. Robertson was New Wave, but I think we've achieved
a bit of purity, we've got it focused!
Looking to the future, with the backing of Rough Trade and a commercially
acceptable sound, Microdisney could well take New Wave back into the charts.
If they do, they seem better equipped than most to treat the whole thing
with absolute contempt, and you really can't ask for anything more than