Previous to the concert of the Mahones in ‘de Melkweg’, Amsterdam, I had an interview with these Canadians and with their support act: Circle J. I’m not an insider of the folk punk scene and the gentlemen of Circle J seemed not to be very talkative. But, when they were warmed up a bit they talked a lot.
How is it for you guys to be the support act of a band which is seen as the pioneers of Celtic punk (the Mahones)?
Hm, I don’t agree with that completely. The Mahones are there for a long time, and it’s great fun to play as their support, but I wouldn’t call them pioneers. The Pogues were there before them.
How come a bunch of sober Dutch boys ended up in Celtic punk?
Flogging Molly. When I first heard punk with Irish influences, I was lost immediately. We come from a punk band, at a certain point this became rather dull and Flogging Molly brought us the idea to throw this elements in the music ourselves.
But when I have to chose between raw punk and Tweedledee Tweedledum I’ll chose the real punk. But the two styles fit perfectly together and can be mixed easily.
At a certain moment you have chosen to use this traditional sound and use other instruments as well for this. Did you decide that day to learn to play all these instruments of did you already have that in you?
Tommy was already in the traditional music and he was the guy who came up with the bouzouki. Then I Jasper) joined the band and I could play the banjo a little because I was bored a little by the guitar. Until I decided to get some lessons forget everything I had learned myself. Marjan played bagpipes and flute. She found the flute at her loft, and 10 minutes later she could play the ting. That’s about how it all went.
You have released a number of EP throughout the years. The last one is a while back, are you planning for something new?
Yes, indeed, it’s a while ago, since we released something. We have some plans, but we haven’t really decided what it’s gonna be. We’re busy for a while to rehearse with the new members (then they find out it’s 2,5 years have past since the last new member joined the band). That’s why we haven’t released a lot lately, but we played live a lot.
About the band-name, where’s the J coming from?
That’s a mystery, you can fill in the answer yourself. The three J’s, Jesus, Johan, Jimmy White.
Jimmy White? What has a snooker-player to do with this?
Snooker is green as well and he sniffing a lot of coke too and is drinking lots of whiskey.
J is from White, pick that one.
The big folk punk names are all from Norther America, while the folk metal bands are mainly from Europe. Do you have an explanation for this?
Pooh, that’s a good question.
Metal is was always well fed on the European main land by the metalscene which was there all the time. This is less in American culture then it is with us. They always come over here for the festivals.
The time is different, folk metal is about ancient times and America doesn’t have that. Besides this a lot of Irish people live in America, they took the folk with them and blended it with punk.
Another difference is, folk-metal sounds well at an album most of the time, but lack some atmosphere live, because of the use of synthesizers. In folk punk it’s almost the other way ’round, it sounds better live.
Do you try to give your listeners a serious message, besides a nice party, in your music?
No, not really a message. We only give advice how you can get as much alcohol as possible inside in the shortest time. We play at a festival in Germany soon, where left and right oriented people attend, we’ll try to mix them.
Circle J exists for about 10 years. How do you look back at those years?
Nice, it are the most beautiful years of my live. It’s a pity you don’t get more handsome during all those years.
Which were the ‘highs’ in those years?
Performing with the Dropkick Murphy’s. And a gig in England, which was very special.
Do you notice any difference between the audience in England and in the Netherlands?
Well, we mainly noticed this backstage. In the Netherlands we get a room with a well filled fridge. In England we got some beer and cider once every hour and we have to call for the rest.
Regarding the audience the difference is, the Dutch want to be entertained. In other countries people come to listen en party. In Holland the people what’s it’s going to be and you have to ask them to step forward a bit. The Dutch are more the ‘wait-and-see’ kind. A big difference with the people in Spain, they want to party.
Living the good life
And how about the ‘lows’? Or aren’t there any?
Well, of course there are always lows. The moment you are on time for once and you have to wait a long time (just what happened today).
What’s the funniest thing you experienced during a gig?
When a small boy was put on the stage who wanted to play along with us. I went on my knees and let him play something. In between the songs I asked if he wanted a beer and a cigarette, which got him very enthusiastic. The audience went wild.
We played at a bikers-festival once, before about 4000 people. Fences everywhere and we played after Saxon. We were a bit afraid of all those bikers, ‘here we’re coming with our flutes en merry Celtic punk’. But while we were playing some dude fell asleep and fell on a fence. His friends taped him to the fence. It was a nice gig after all.
A nice ten years so far! Do you have a last message for the readers?
Listen to Celtic punk some more, not only to Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s. There’s so much more!
And a moral one?
I don’t think I’m that important, people would listen to me.
Thanks for the interview! And my tip to the readers, Circle J is worth listening too. When you can visit a gig, because the atmosphere during a gig, is even better than it is on an album.