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Interview with Fergal (1996)

Translated from French by Jani Juvonen

SOUNDI: I guess you have read quite a few stories of successful bands, and now you are one. How do you feel about it?

FERGAL: Well… Frankly, it doesn’t bother me or anything. We have been so busy touring and everything, that there just haven’t been much time to think about how great it is. And I think it’s better that way; usually things start going wrong from bands when they start thinking about their success too much. They, like, get drunk from the success, and change. We don’t want that to happen to us. We’ll concentrate on what we are going to do in the future… The fact that we are still living in Limerick, where we all are from, helps. Well, Dolores lives 60 miles south from there… But anyway the situation in there is very normal, we meet ordinary people in ordinary everyday situations.

SOUNDI: Do they still speak Irish Gaelic there, in Limerick?

FERGAL: Not usually, but yes, some people do still speak it. They teached it to us in the school. I can speak a couple of words of Gaelic…

SOUNDI: Great. It would be a pity if such an old and musical language would be forgotten.. But back to the curse of fame: When you come home from tours nowadays, do you notice that your friends would behave somehow differently with you?

FERGAL: Naa… I know what you mean, but it doesn’t happen with real friends. It happens mainly with people who you have once known, but who you haven’t met lately. Like the guys with whom you went to school. And besides, we are very close friends with each other in this band. I’ve known Noel and Mike since we were little kids. We didn’t go to the same school, but we were a lot together otherwise…

SOUNDI: When and how did Dolores appear to the picture?

FERGAL: She came via one of our friends… 1990. We had the instrumental music for “Linger” – that’s our first song – and “Sunday” and we asked our friends if they knew anybody who wanted to sing… Then Dolores came to our practising session. We played her our stuff, and she played her stuff. They just somehow fit together immediately.

SOUNDI: Is Dolores responsible for all of your lyrics?

FERGAL: Yes. It just wouldn’t be right if we put words to her mouth…

SOUNDI: The way Dolores sings is quite special. And one remarkable thing about it is, that she sounds, like, completely white and European.

FERGAL: I’ve never thought about it like that… But I know Dolores has been listening a lot to – for example – Real World’s ethnic records. Especially African and Indian stuff. That’s where she got the idea of the way she whines… The way her voice strangely breaks like it does… She’s been singing since she was three years old, in church choirs and pubs. But she has never been to a voice therapist. She thinks they just say that you can’t do that nor that either… Limit the singers freedom of expression… Dolores wants express herself freely, based on her feelings, not on the technical performance.

SOUNDI: Is that so? What kind of musical taste do you guys have in general?

FERGAL: We all like the Smiths, Cure and R.E.M. All kinds of stuff. I used to listen a lot of reggae, especially Bob Marley. Now I like Grant Lee Buffalo. The Stone Roses’ and Neil Young’s new albums are great. I love lots of old stuff too… the Beatles, Kinks and Clash… Nowadays there is a lot of crap on the charts, like 2 Unlimited and other stuff like that. I think most of the so-called rave and techno is completely mindless. Those guys aren’t even musicians. Anyone can do that kind of stuff. All you need is a sampler and a drum machine…

SOUNDI: Do you dance, Fergal?

FERGAL: Yes. I used to go to some raves too, and they are OK if you want to take lots of drugs and have fun for hours… But I don’t want that.

SOUNDI: Do you Cranberries have healthy lifestyles? The Irish often have a tendency to drink a lot…

FERGAL: (laughs) Yeah, but we are not typical Irish paddies. We live a quite healthy way. Of course we sometimes get a bit wild when we go to a pub with some friends, after work. But when you’re on tour, you can’t drink much. You couldn’t work anymore…

SOUNDI: Say, what kind of people the Irish really are?

FERGAL: An average Irishman is quite down to earth kind of person, and don’t like pretension… nor bullshitting…

SOUNDI: My own experiences are just like that… but on the other hand, don’t the Irish have a philosophic and mystic side too?

FERGAL: Yes, indeed… It’s interesting: when you leave the cities in Ireland, and go to the countryside, you’ll find some really interesting people who have experienced all kinds of weird things….

SOUNDI: Are there still people who believe in fairies…?

FERGAL: (laughs) No, not really… We tell those stories to American tourists only…

SOUNDI: Catholicism is the main religion?

FERGAL: Yes, but the younger people are not so into it anymore, like they used to be. They are not afraid of what their neighbours think if they don’t go to the church. But religion is still a big part of being Irish. Including politics. The good thing about it is that there’s not much corruption.The people are quite honest in Ireland, and it is relatively safe place to live in…

SOUNDI: Unless you happen to live in Northern Ireland.. What do the Irish think about Zombie?

FERGAL: It’s a very popular song there. It’s about a bomb in London about a year and a half ago, when the explosion killed an innocent child. It’s not about IRA, it’s about what the terrorism and wars do to people. It’s about people’s feelings, it’s not a political statement.

SOUNDI: None of the bands you mentioned a moment ago was Irish. And actually there isn’t much Irish in the sound of the Cranberries, except some features in Dolores’ singing…

FERGAL: Um, well… I think U2 is a really good band, but… I think it’s a kinda cliche for an Irish band to use traditional instruments…

SOUNDI: Does it bother you if people think you are English? I can imagine that it may happen abroad…

FERGAL: Yes, in a way… I mean, we are Irish. It’s really amazing when we meet people who don’t even know where Ireland is. And on the other hand in America it sometimes feels like half of the people there are Irish…

SOUNDI: Isn’t there any new bands in Ireland you would like to mention…?

FERGAL: Mmm, Err… When you have been on tour for about two years, you don’t quite know what’s really going on at the homefront… Do you know An Emotional Fish? I liked their first album a lot, but the next was quite poor… Unfortunately there really isn’t any scene in Limerick anymore. Five years ago, when we started, there was 5-6 good new bands, but now they have all broken. Gone to school or got families… Now there are only restaurant and cover bands. There’s no place for rock bands to play in Limerick. It’s really quite sad…

SOUNDI: That’s surprising. Usually when some band becomes a success, it refreshes the music scene… Well, in what kind of mood did the Cranberries begin their career? Did you have any idea that it was going to be like this?

FERGAL: No idea at all. We were just going to play music what we felt was good, just like we are still doing. We didn’t think should we play rock or jazz or something else. We just played, and this was the result. We rehearsed three times a week and thought that this is fun. Nowadays we are still working like that, except that we work more… Playing gigs all the time has improved the band. In the beginning we were just staring at the floor onstage, but then we realized that the audience was there to have a good time and that we should do so too. We are more self-confident now, and it can be heard from the album too. The songs on Everybody Else are good, but otherwise the No Need To Argue sounds a lot stronger.

SOUNDI: It sounds a lot darker to me. Innocence is often mentioned when talking about the Cranberries, but I think there’s a lot of bitterness in Dolores’ voice on the second album.

FERGAL: That’s true. No Need To Argue is not a happy album, it has a lot of bad feelings in it. Our music is almost like a diary of our life. Everybody Else was about teenage. NNTA is about growing up to be adults. And at that time we, especially Dolores, happened to have lots of bad feelings. But now we are making new songs for the third album, which will probably be released sometime during the spring ‘96.

SOUNDI: So, what’s going to be the style of the Cranberries then, and is Stephen Street going to produce the third album too?

FERGAL: Stephen has done a good job, but we’d like to try another producer… for a change… I can’t really say anything about the style, because we haven’t made even demos of the new songs yet. We have just played around with them in rehearsals…

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