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Reverend Mick Finnegan - Finnegan's Hell

Interview with Reverend Mick Finnegan from Finnegan's Hell
by Kira Schlechter at 01 April 2020, 5:52 AM

FINNEGAN's HELL recently released their latest album titled "Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class." Metal Temple writer Kira Schlechter recently caught up with the band to discuss their latest album, and more. Check it out here!

I wondered first what a bunch of Swedish guys would be doing playing Celtic punk/rock/metal, and what I mean is, do any of you have Celtic or Irish heritage that would draw you to that kind of music? I’m definitely aware of the Viking invasions of Ireland in past centuries – is that or was that any sort of inspiration?

We don't have any connection to Celtic music other than our appreciation of The Pogues and The Dubliners. We wanna play the kind of music they play, but a lot faster.

Obviously I’m familiar with “Finnegan’s Wake” and your name is a play off that – so where did it come from exactly?

We talked about where Joyce's character Finnegan ends up after his wake, and we figured he probably didn't make it to heaven but ended up in a much hotter place. That assumption rubbed off on our band name.

Where did each of you who play traditional instruments learn how to play them and from whom? What drew you to the particular traditional instruments you play and who are the players who influenced you?

I taught myself to play the tin whistle and the banjo, after being inspired by The Pogues and The Dubliners. Old Roxy has played the accordion since he was a kid. His dad showed him how it's done.

How did you all find each other in the first place? What kind of Celtic music community is there in Sweden and perhaps in your hometowns?

Celtic music is not that popular in Sweden, but most of us ended up in various bands performing traditional Celtic songs, since it's good pub music. Then we got fed up with playing pubs. We wanted to speed the music up and take it to the big stage, and so we did.

I wanted to ask about a few songs: The title track is obviously about the narrator’s father passing away after working hard his whole life and never having time for fun, and it’s also a commentary on working hard and never really getting ahead or being able to enjoy the fruits of your labors – how personal is that song with regards to those points specifically?

"Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Class" is a song which sums up our view on how work gets in the way of drinking. It's very personal, and could also be viewed as a political statement.

You get a lot of notoriety for your “drinking songs,” but they all seem to have this subtext to them, whether it’s serious (like the title track) or humorous (like “Six Feet Under” or “King of the Bar”) – is that intentional and can you talk about that more?

When people go out drinking, they want to have fun. That's why we have written a number of songs which put a smile on your face and makes you wanna buy another round.

You make plenty of funny references to Shane MacGowan in “Whiskey, Rum, Gin and Wine” – talk about his influence on you, what you take from him as songwriters?

Shane MacGowan is the most talented writer in the Celtic punk genre. We admire his ability to pen down songs, and we respect his uncompromising lifestyle. To try to copy him is doomed to fail. We like to pay tribute to him though.

Back to that earlier question about the Vikings and Ireland – most of your material is about fairly modern history (the Molly Maguires, the Irish diaspora, etc.) – do you think you’d ever go back and write about ancient history at all and why or why not?

We won't be writing about ancient Irish history, because we know nothing about it. We will stick to our guns and write tales of life, death and alcohol - the holy trinity of Finnegan's Hell.

I really enjoyed the “The Promised Land,” and as I said in the review, I think its message is just as relevant today as it was in the period you are referring to (“I thought I reached the promised land/But there is no such place,” like there’s still no prosperity despite a lifetime of hard work, true now as then) – was that your point and did you have maybe a specific current event you may have been referring to as well?

That song is about the American dream becoming a nightmare, something which many people have experienced the last 100 years, or even longer. It's also a song about the hardships that face immigrants in general.

You use a very traditional Irish songwriting technique with “Friends and Foes,” that of having verses that repeat in structure but change in sentiment (like they sound the same and are repetitive, but each verse moves the story along) – where did you learn that technique?

That song is our take on the blues. I guess Leadbelly's music was the inspiration for it.

The three songs that talk about relationships are interesting in that “The Last Dance” and “Tokyo Town” are kind of fantasy scenarios and “Parasite” seems decidedly more personal, like it may have actually happened in some form or another – can you talk about those tracks?

"The Last Dance" is a bad dream about falling for the wrong woman and being fully aware of it from the very beginning - a scenario some might be able to relate to. "Tokyo Town" is a sort of drunken love story about meeting the barmaid of your dreams and making love to her in the bathroom of the pub where she's working. It was inspired by at trip to Japan. "Parasite" was inspired by Ace Frehley's classic song with the same title, and it is also inspired by an acquaintance who lost everything in a divorce.

You are really skilled at pairing rock and traditional instruments in different ways, like in “Parasite,” with the duet between the guitar effect and the concertina, and you also explore the moods of the banjo, which people might not be used to hearing or familiar with (it’s fun and happy, but it’s also sad, and it can also sound vaguely Asian, like in “Tokyo Town”) – can you talk about that more?

The banjo is a very diverse instrument suitable for many moods. When we started Finnegan's Hell in 2010 I had never played the banjo. I've fooled around with it for ten years now, and I'm still surprised by its possibilities. The accordion can be used in many different ways too. Old Roxy puts distortion on his accordion and uses a wah pedal from time to time. The two instruments go good together, as does the tin whistle and the accordion.

“When I’m Dead” is a perfect example of that sort of Irish fatalism, like no one cares, no one will mourn me, and if you do, I won’t know because I’m dead anyway – where did that song come from, and there’s a definite sobering of the mood as the album goes on – was that intentional?

"When I'm Dead" is a poem by the British poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). Pabs Finnegan found her poem by chance when he was cruising the internet, and he decided to put music to it. I think it's the perfect song for ending an intense album such as "Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Class".

I saw on your social media that you have a beer available (not surprising!) – how did that come about? What type of beer is it, what style?

We have been talking about making our own beer for as long as the band has existed. Then we finally managed to get a brewery interested in making the Finnegan's Hell brew. It's a porter with a rich flavor, and we are very pleased with it. The only problem is that our brew is too easy to drink. There is a demand for it which exceeds the supply. But we are working on that.

I also saw that your touring has been canceled through May because of the pandemic – are those dates rescheduled, or what do you think you’ll be doing in the summer, or have you not planned anything because of all the uncertainty?

The virus has really screwed things up for us. Hopefully most of the shows that got canceled now can be rescheduled. We'll see what happens. The only thing we know right now is that we'll be doing festival gigs at the end of the summer. Since we can't perform right now, we focus on making new songs. I have come up with lyrics for at least ten new ones during the last two weeks, when I've had to be isolated myself because of suspected covid-19.

All the best

Reverend Mick Finnegan


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