At heart I’m still an old hippy. I veer between cynicism and idealism.
My biggest faults are laziness and procrastination. I can’t do anything unless I have a deadline. I’m essentially a bad combination of a workaholic and a lazy person.
At 16 I was playing the tin whistle.
My dad was a city kid from Belfast, my mum from Roscommon. I grew up an only child in the Liberties in Dublin.
My father had a butcher’s shop and worked all the hours God sent him. My mum was big into reading and poetry and took me to the theatre and got me music lessons.
After school I went to UCD. In those days what you did at university was quite arbitrary - most people picked their subject on the day.
I did politics - which the hippy leftist part of me enjoyed - and economics which gave me an insight into how the world works. It made me more rational and let me see the big picture, which is why I try not to react too emotionally to news stories.
At the end of my BA I thought, I don’t want to get a job, so I did an MA and then some lecturing and then I thought sure I might as well start a PhD. But I’d started playing with Horslips and then the band really started to take off, so, I ran away with the circus.
My parents were hugely supportive of my move, even though I’d got scholarships and done well in college.
I’ve led a charmed life.
Some traditionalists misinterpreted what Horslips were doing and hated it. We were trying to develop Irish music for us - not to sound like delta blues or The Beatles.
We came from a culture that included opera and traditional but we were listening to Radio Luxemburg at night and we wanted to incorporate everything that we were hearing into our music, it was all equally valid.
Some people thought we were making a joke of traditional music, which we were not, but others thought it was worthwhile.
It was a privilege being paid to be in a band and go on the road with such a funny bunch of guys. Sometimes I’d be a bit shaky before we went on stage - everyone feels nerves once in a while - but the performance is always its own reward. You feed off the audience. The difficulty is trying to come down after a good gig.
I met my wife Franny in UCD. I lusted after her from afar until a mutual friend pushed us together in McDaids and said we should talk to each other.
My biggest challenge was picking up and starting from scratch after the band broke up abruptly in 1980. It had been totally full time for me up until then. It came as a bit of a bath of cold water, not just the having to get a job piece, but the whole lifestyle change - we’d been living in a bubble, an artificial environment, always being petted and catered to.
Someone suggested I might enjoy radio and I was so lucky to walk into RTE Radio 2 as a producer when it was just growing, the energy was coming from the ground up, with people like Ian Wilson, Dave Fanning, Mark Cagney and Gerry Ryan. It was a gorgeous time. Doing outside broadcasts was the closest thing to being on the road in a band. We were a gang. I moved on to producing other types of radio after that, not just music. I felt so at home in radio because I’d spent so many years in studios.
Horslips made 12 albums in 10 years. I can never say which came first, the lyrics or the music - sometimes the two would meet magically. In 2009 we got the chance of a comeback. We’d been thinking about regrouping for a while so when we were offered The Odyssey in Belfast and The 02 in Dublin we couldn’t say no.
Reforming has been utterly brilliant. Horslips really did mean a lot to so many people. In The 02 that first night we played a long set of two and three quarter hours, it was the most extraordinary night. Grown men were weeping in The Gents.
I like to stay healthy. I cycle a lot. I enjoy theatre and reading and poetry and, like 26,000 other people in Ireland, I’m in a choir.
It’s impossible to be definitive about an afterlife, who knows?
I grew up being taught about original sin - that we all start off bad and have to be saved - but I tend to believe in the essential goodness of people. I believe that those who do evil were hurt themselves and are working out their own hurt and injury.
If I could be someone else for a day I’d be Mozart because I’d love to experience his vision, how he understood the suffering and divinity of humanity - and to be able to express it all in a multilayered harmony.
Horslips ‘the band that defined a generation” will explode onto the stage at Knocknarea Arena on Saturday, October 25, 2014 as part of Sligo Live Festival www.sligolive.ie
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