Paddy Moloney, one of the busiest folk musicians around, was busy again during the last few months: Last summer marked the launch of his new World Music label Wicklow Records, with the first few albums produced by Paddy; he has toured with the Chieftains, and found the time to guest on quite a few recordings. And then of course he has put together and recorded the new album 'Tears of Stone', which will be released in late February. After lots of other collaborations - like the one with Canada's musicians 'Fire in the Kitchen', this album is the long awaited new album of the Chieftains.
Still, Paddy finds sometimes the time to answer the questions of all those interested journalists. Actually, when you talk to Paddy, your questions aren't the important part in the interview - Paddy knows exactly what he wants to talk about; he always comes very soon back to his passions.
Having been the Chieftain of today's best known Irish bands for several decades, and still not getting tired of it all, what keeps Paddy going? "Ah, I don't know - you press people, and the audience, people who listen, who like music. I just like to go out there playing; and it's so exciting the whole thing..." - "I remember 30 years ago playing in London with a bunch of Indian musicians, with citar and tabla and we had a terrific session with them, but you wouldn't put it on record in those days. We did play in concert alright, but we did never put it on tape."
Collaborations - this is Paddy's favourite theme. He reminds of 1983, the first break-through with such kind of project, in China, the Chieftains with 40 musicians on stage for a jam session. Or - "just as an example" - playing in Japan, with Loreena McKennit and Carlos Nunez as special guests, and a Japanese singer and a bunch of singers and musicians from Okinawa which Paddy considers a completely different world of music - all playing together for about 20 minutes. And the Chieftains did just the same in China, they have folk orchestras, which consist of maybe 240 musicians...
"But to come back to the question - what keeps me going. You know I just love it. This is my third or fourth time in Tonder, and always it's been sort of a blast. Carsten - his charismatic way in coming on - he turns up at the most obscure places. The last time we saw him was in Sydney, Cape Breton, and there was the Celtic Colours Festival - it's just terrific. We were recording "Fire in the Kitchen" for 10 days, with all the musicians in the studio, and we were all after that at the Celtic Colours, it's been absolutely amazing."
"Fire in The Kitchen" is an amazing collection of collaborations of the Chieftains with several of the best or best known (mainly Celtic based) folk musicians from Canada, with the aim to catch the special spirit of the kitchen parties that are still found in Nova Scotia. You find a stunning tune with Québec's finest, La Bottine Souriante, songs with Mary Jane Lamond or the Rankins, tunes with the fiddlers Natalie MacMaster or Ashley MacIsaac. Paddy says enthusiastically in the CD notes: "Even now I can only begin to scratch the surface of this delightfully unique and seemingly endless pool of talent. Everywhere we went, I'm happy to say, the traditions were alive and thriving... and like all great traditions, well on their way to the future."
This was by far not the first collaboration of the Chieftains with Celtic cousins; Paddy has been interested in traditional music with Celtic roots from the European mainland since he first heard it. In 1960 he went to Brittany for the first time, and heard Breton music and Galician music - "that just took my heart away; I said ‚My God we are related'. I didn't understand anything else, the music spoke for itself."
Paddy finds that a lot of the countries, the different nations, have parts that are nations in themselves - they have their own unique customs, they have their different food and way of living. "If you go to Galicia, to Bilbao, the Basque Country, and stay with these people and get to know them... to me it's a totally different culture." Still, it has a connection to Irish music - no doubt about it. "But I find it somehow different - treated different, and a different approach to the music."
In the Seventies, Paddy started to do himself Breton music and music from Galicia. It took a long time until Paddy showed the fruits of this interest. In 1986, after a long time of work, the album Celtic Wedding was finished, with Breton music. These days, Paddy feels very much at home in Brittany. He has a little house in Brittany for 20 years now; he goes there every year just to stay some weeks there. "To me it's just like Ireland 50 years ago, they don't want to catch up; they have their own customs, their own life. And this is Brittany to me, and that's one of the reasons I thought I'd go there every year."
The appreciation of that part of world, he says, is great. The Bretons insisted that he would come down and have a little house - he didn't want that. He was getting into a little village to hide, but as he is a not too unknown and unpopular face over there, the following year, the ‚maire' gave a great reception and made him an honorary citizen - "which was great".
The Santiago album, with Galician music, took Paddy six years to do, with plenty of help from Carlos Nunez, the Galician piper who has been for quite a time the 'seventh Chieftain'. Carlos shares Paddy's amazement about the Galician-Irish connection; he remembers: "When I was 13 I met the Chieftains, first time that they came to Spain, they came to Vigo. And when I met Paddy Moloney, I told Paddy: 'Well, Paddy, you should make an album with Galician music, Galician and Irish music is very, very similar - listen, listen this is a Galician tune.' - 'Oh, that is really, it is true, it could be Irish, perfectly.'” After this meeting, a very good friendship between them arose, and finally the Galician album of the Chieftains was recorded. Paddy also set his young friend up with a record and a publishing deal, and coproduced the album.
In Galicia, Paddy also has a very high reputation - the last great experience of the appreciation came from the president of Galicia, when he came to the show - "he never does that kind of thing".
All the collaborations, also the ones with the rock/pop stars, he emphasises, are always a project. He doesn't just come up "Oh I should do something with Steve Nixons cousins" - he never would do it that way; it has to have a project, and then he approaches people. "I would never do something that wouldn't fit. I would embarrass any member of the Chieftains."
The new album of the Chieftains 'Tears of Stone', which will be released on 22nd February has as project to feature an impressive line up of international acclaimed female vocalists including Sinead O'Connor, The Corrs, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, The Rankins, Joan Osborne, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Natalie Merchant and Loreena McKennitt. It sounds to become once again one of the top selling albums featuring Irish music. While he loves all the collaborations and projects with other cultures, he has not forgotten his own background; one of the next albums Paddy plans is Chieftains in Ireland. "Maybe we go around the different regions, the different styles, I mean - quite honestly, I am caught by the other musicians, some of the younger musicians, they are just frightening in what they are doing - it's great stuff, it's terrific you know."
"You have to keep moving" - so Paddy has started a new venture to live out his passion for different traditional music and projects from around the world. He is now the head of a new label that BMG called him around for.
Wicklow Records is the name of the ambitious label; Wicklow like the county where he lives. Formerly, this label was known as Unisphere - "but we had to drop Unisphere because of Hemisphere." Paddy has already good experience working for a record label - for eight years he managed Claddagh Records, and produced 46 albums during that 8 years, "some of them are not even out yet..."
"There is plenty of young talent, new people out there playing music, and a lot of them are not getting a chance to get a proper record deal. And that's what I want to do now with this new label. I don't want to make it feel like World Music; it's special projects from around the world - that's really what I am after. And younger talent from different places, they could be singing rock'n'roll or they might come from Japan, you know it wouldn't make any difference."
Photo Credit: All photos by The Mollis: Paddy Moloney & Seamus Egan, Carlos Nunez
Latest published CD: The Chieftains 'Tears of Stone'
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