Interview with Keith Fay of Cruachan
Back from a break after parting ways with one vocalist, Irish folk metallers Cruachan are back with a mission to be heavier than ever. Their latest release "Blood on the Black Robe" marks a return to a more extreme sound. I talked to vocalist (who also plays the bodhran and mandolin) Keith Fay to discuss the new sound, the current state of Ireland, and a nasty attack he recieved by thugs. A transcription follows.
Buick Mckane: How are you doing today?
Keith Fay: I’m fantastic. I have been looking for job interviews, and I got a job offer today, so I’m happy about that.
Buick: That’s always a good thing. I’m looking for another day job myself.
Keith: It’s a bit of a pain, especially living in Ireland with the recession. I worked at an IT company with computers and stuff, and I resigned two weeks ago. You just do not do that in this country.
Buick: Right. I have a few friends there, they tell me exactly the same thing.
Keith: Yeah, IT work is fine. There are a few jobs out there so I’m not worried. And I got an offer today, so it’s off to the pub tonight to celebrate.
Buick: Absolutely. I’ll have one for you here. How about that?
Buick: Awesome. And I have to ask you. I read recently that you got beaten up by a gang of assholes when you were at a bar. Are you doing okay after that?
Keith: Yeah, I’m fine. That was just a bunch of little scumbags here in Dublin who…I don’t know if it was the long hair or whatever, but it was myself, my younger brother who also has long hair, my sister, and a girlfriend of mine, and they started slagging off the girls. So naturally, as any man would, they step in to defend. Next thing I remember waking up in a pool of blood on the ground. Just unbelievable. Obviously, when they knocked me out, they just kicked the fuck out of me basically. So my worry was I had a tour of the Ukraine in three weeks after that. I was fine. I went to the hospital after that and they looked after me. But a week later with broken ribs is just a nightmare. That’s why I was worried I wouldn’t be able to sing. But we did the Ukraine tour without any bothers.
Buick: Anyway, back to band business. Your first album in four years called “Blood on the Black Robe” will be coming out sometime this year. Do you have a date set yet?
Keith: Yeah. Well, I’m not sure if it’s the world release date, but in Europe anyway it’s coming out the 18th of April. I’m pretty sure it’s coming out in the U.S. and South America the same time.
Buick: That’s great. Can’t wait to hear it. I heard a clip of it and it was really awesome. The thing that’s different about is it won’t feature your female singer who left in 2008 and is supposed to sound like your first albums that came out. How do you think people are going to like this change?
Keith: That was a tough one. When Karen left…she left on good terms. She’s still a great friend. She had her reasons for leaving and we respect that. But leading up to her leaving, I always wanted to go back to the more extreme stuff. I just…I look at folk metal in general and it just started becoming funny and it’s all drinking songs and jaunty, Spongebob Squarepants type of tunes. So I wanted to move away from that anyway. So when Karen left, I thought that now was the ideal moment. So we stepped up our game,we went right back to the style of “Tuatha Na Gael.” But, you know, we’re almost twenty years older and twenty years more accomplished on our instruments, so it sounds a hell of a lot more professional, if that’s the word to use. It sounds very different to “Tuatha Na Gael,” but it is back to the extreme kind of stuff. And you could hear, certainly on “The Morrigan’s Call,” you could hear the bit of extremity was starting to creep in there on that album as well.
Buick: And how did yall learn your respective and very interesting instruments? Did yall set out to learn those instruments?
Keith: Well…see the thing with folk music in Ireland, it’s not like most of Europe where you don’t hear folk music most of the time. We grow up listening to folk music; it’s always in the pubs, our parents would be playing it. And, you know, it wasn’t the coolest thing. We didn’t associate with it until we were much older. It’s like all these... myself, my brother John who plays the flute and the tuba, so we just learned ourselves. Just picked up instruments and started playing and that’s it. None of us went for lessons or anything like that.
Buick: That’s really interesting. So when will you begin touring for “Blood on the Black Robe” across Europe and in America, like, the big, long tours?
Keith: See, that’s always a tough one for us. The longest we can kind of go out on the road would be two weeks maximum. It’s great that a lot of bands, even bigger bands than us, that live off their music are on the poverty line. I remember speaking to Chrigel [Glanzmann] from Eluvei tie, you know, saying how fantastic they’re doing and they’re so big, then he told me the struggles it took them to get there. We’re not in that position, a lot of us have management jobs and very successful careers. We have mortgages and children. Okay, we’re having a decent life and we get to do a band as well so it is a great thing, but unfortunately we can’t get out for two months at a time. So we really have to, now more than ever, pick and choose concerts that we really want to do. And needless to say, we’ve never played in the States. And we want to get to the States, we want to get to Mexico, to South America. There’s so many fans on that continent, it’s unbelievable. We’ve never played because it’s a bit of a pain in the ass.
Buick: I hear in South America, they’re crazy, and they love having bands all the time. So you do want to tour all over the world.
Keith: Absolutely. I mean, it’s the best part of being in a band. Like that small tour of the Ukraine, it’s a strange country. You go to the Ukraine to tour, and it’s just bizarre. We have loads of fans there, and for me, it’s the best part, aspect of being in a band is getting out touring, meeting your fans, people that appreciate the work that you’ve done and that are happy to see you play. You know, they always talk about the times when I’m on stage and I see somebody in the front row and they’re singing the words of the song, and I always think back to where I was in Dublin writing those lyrics. And how amazing it is now months later, years later to see some complete stranger singing my words. It’s an amazing feeling.
Buick: Did you have a fun time in the Ukraine although you may not have been in the best physical shape?
Keith: Yeah, we had a fantastic time. It’s a brilliant country, but it’s a bizarre country. Everytime we go to eastern Europe or Russia, we always come back with crazy stories, and Ukraine was no different. We were in some place called Donetsk which is hundreds of kilometers away from Kiev, and we had no tickets for the night train to get back to Kiev. The plan was, and this is perfectly acceptable for the organizers (and we were in shock), they were going to bribe the security guys on the carriages to allow us to sleep in the crew quarters of the cabins. It was just…who does that? It’s amazing, it’s bizarre. At the time we were in shock and panic. We were going to miss our plane, but now we’re back in Dublin so that’s a great story to tell people.
Buick: Well did they bribe them?
Keith: Yeah, yeah. Very successfully. I think we paid almost twice the fare that everyone else would have paid on that train. Apparently, it’s a popular train, all the government people use it to get from that city to Kiev, and it’s pretty hard to get a ticket. So, you know, you invite a band over and you can’t guarantee actually getting them to the airport is kind of hilarious.
Buick: At least you got everybody on there, I guess.
Keith: We did. We had such a good time, we wouldn’t have minded if we missed the plane. We’d just stay with all the new friends we met and keep drinking.
Buick: And you’ve played a lot of festivals over the years. Are you hoping to play some festivals this summer?
Keith: Yeah, definitely. We’re confirmed I think for the Bloodstock Festival in the U.K. and a Celtic festival in Italy. And whatever offers come in, we’ll take. That’s the great thing about festivals, they’re on the weekend. So it really doesn’t affect any of our jobs or working life so it’s kind of easier to go to a festival than to do a tour. But, yeah, we’re waiting for all the offers to come in, and, as I said, pick and choose the best.
Buick: That’s great. I would love to go on the festival circuit and just see all the mayhem during the summer.
Keith: Yeah, there’s nothing like it.
Buick: It must be a lot of fun. Anyway is there anything else you would like to say?
Keith: Not much. Just thanks to everybody who supported us and I hope you all get the new album, and I hope you like it. It’s a bit of a change from the last few albums, but I think it’s a change for the better.
Buick: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Keith.
Keith: Thanks, Emily.
Emily is an avid supporter of the New Orleans scene, often filming shows and conducting interviews with local bands to help promote their music. She also runs her own site dedicated to the New Orleans scene, Crescent City Chaos.
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